365 Days Handmade

Making life a better place, one day at a time


Day 161/365: Quilt Top of 28-Year-Old Blocks, Done!

As you know from my last few posts, my mom has been visiting from out of town, and I’ve been putting together for her a project that she started back in 1987.

I bought a yard and a half of the yellow cotton.  I was able to cut enough rectangular strips, but then I didn’t have quite enough for the squares.  The bummer is that I would have had exactly enough fabric if only I’d been a lot more careful with my measuring before slicing away with the rotary cutter.


Arranging the placement of blocks on the sunroom floor.

Luckily, I had remnants from another yellow cotton print and was able to use that fabric to fill in for the squares.


I sewed each horizontal row into a long strip and then sewed the strips to each other.  I tried my best to match up the corners.  (When my mom started this project 28 years ago, she used scissors and not a rotary cutter to cut each blue square, so they weren’t all exactly the same size.)


You can see where I used a different yellow fabric for the squares, but I think it turned out looking nicer that way.

I finished sewing together the strips and– Ta-da!  Completed quilt top.




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Day 130/365: Quilted Laptop Sleeve for Sean


Sean’s birthday is next week.  When I asked him what he wanted for a gift, he said, “Can you make me a laptop sleeve?”

So that’s what I did today, pretty much all day.


First I found what appeared to be a fairly simple laptop sleeve pattern through Google.  Next I measured Sean’s laptop, did some math, and cut the pieces that I needed.  Then I started sewing.  Everything seemed to be coming along all right, until I got to the part where I needed to sew the lining into the sleeve.  Then it became a frustrating cycle of sewing by guessing, inevitably messing up, subsequently ripping out the seams, and then trying again only to have the same results.

There was even a dark portion of the afternoon there, when Sean recognized that I was quite frankly pissed off with him and the world, and he said, “Today’s blog entry:  I hate my husband.”

Finally, after a couple of temper tantrums that involved screaming as loud as I could, flopping on the couch and sulking, I got up, discarded the instructions, and figured out my own way of putting the whole damn thing together.


Now that it’s finished, I’m actually a little pleased with the final product.


And there is a part of me that’s thinking, Hmm.  Maybe I could make another one.


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Day 32/365: My First Completed Quilt


I knit a lot today.  I worked on finishing this second sock, and I added several more rows to this sweater.  The problem with knitting, though, is that it takes a lot longer to finish a knitted project than it does a crocheted project.  It took me about two weeks to crochet, join, and finish this afghan, but I’ve lost count of the number of hours I’ve already put into knitting the aforementioned socks and sweater.

Anyway, rather than show you photos of my two current WIPs with one of them looking like no progress was made, I am sharing a photo of my first quilt instead.  This is the patchwork quilt that I made in my Beginners Quilting class back in September and wrote about in this post.  And that is our deck that needs painting and where you can see this view.  Today was a really beautiful day with a clear blue sky and a flat, glassy ocean.  If you’re ever in town, let me know and we can visit on the deck and enjoy the view.  We’ll talk, knit, or crochet.  I’ll pour you a glass of iced tea.


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Day 23/365: A Moment in A Day in the Life


I don’t have any photos of a handmade project today, because by the time I remembered to take a picture, the sun was setting.  So instead I am sharing a photo that I took earlier this week, on Monday, my regular day off.  You can click the image to enlarge, and you can see a few things that I’ve written about already.  There’s the fish hat that I knitted, and the jars of iced tea instead of soda, and my first quilted placemat, and the people’s favorite, the Mexican wrestling masks placemat.  There’s a pile of fabric waiting to be made into something, maybe another patchwork block table runner.  And of course, there’s Sean, who didn’t know I took this photo, because otherwise he would have made a goofy face at the camera.  I like this photo because it captures a lot about the way we spend our time inside the house– relaxing, hanging out, engaged in leisure activity– and definitely not cleaning up.


Day 18/365: What Happiness Tastes Like


Last year, I quit drinking soda.  Even though I love me some cold Coca-Cola, I made a conscious decision to stop drinking all carbonated beverages.  People have said to me, “Just drink diet Coke!”  But it’s not the same.  First of all, diet Coke doesn’t taste half as good as the real stuff.  It is a poor substitute.  And second, we all know that soda is bad for you.  So if I am going to consume something that will rot my teeth, make me fat, and leach out the calcium in my bones, then I might as well go all the way.  If I’m gonna have a soda, it’s gonna be Coca-Cola, and if I’m gonna eat bacon, it ain’t gonna be soy or turkey.  None of that low-fat, non-fat, lite, sugar-free, calorie-free nonsense for me.

So anyway, yes, I made a conscious decision to quit drinking soda.  It was a smart decision, because I can’t drink a Coca-Cola without wanting some Cheetos or kettle cooked potato chips or a hamburger and fries to go with it.  Coca-Cola is my gateway drug.

I switched to iced tea, which wasn’t so hard because Sean grew up in the South and he makes the best pitchers of fresh-brewed tea.  We drank gallons of the stuff, cold and unsweetened, and so much of it that I started buying different brands and flavors of tea bags for variety.  Then I discovered Lupicia.  If you have never tried fresh-brewed Lupicia loose leaf tea on ice, you are missing out.  Come over to my house, and I will pour you a glass.  Seriously.  This stuff is so good that it is worth the significant portion of my grocery budget that I pay for it.

Since I am such a regular customer, Lupicia sends me their newsletter every month with a Fresh Tea Sample.  Our pantry shelf of assorted teas includes several of these tea samples.  Sean was washing dishes this morning as I surveyed the shelf, trying to decide what flavor tea to drink next.  There were a lot of choices.  Then the tea sample packets caught my eye.  Among them were Muscat Decaf, Matcha Kirara Rice Tea, and January’s Tea of the Month, Happiness.

I picked up the packet and looked at the label.  “Sean, what do you think Happiness tastes like?” I asked.

He didn’t bother to look up from the bowl he was rinsing.  In his typical dry, deadpan manner, he replied, “I think there’s your answer right there.”



Day 11/365: Quilted Berry Print and Green Blocks Patchwork Table Runner


I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.  Reading about Laura and her sister Mary sewing on their quilts is what first got me interested in quilt-making.  Of course I had no clue how to make a quilt, let alone how to start the process.  This was in the early eighties, and I lived in a traditional Filipino household in rural Hawaii.  All I knew was that I wanted to be sewing on a quilt, too.

(It would have to be a nine-patch one, though, like Mary’s.  Because at least I could figure out what nine-patch blocks were.  Laura’s quilt was called Dove in the Window, and what the hell was Dove in the Window?  Google wasn’t around when I was growing up, and even if it had been– our family wouldn’t have owned a computer.  And even if we did have a computer, my brothers would have been hogging it, and then my dad would have come along and he would have yanked out the plug and maybe even broken the whole damn thing, just to shut everyone up.)

Anyway, then I read Lois Lowry’s A Summer to Die.  I must have been about eleven or twelve at the time. (Another aside– when I think about it now, that is really heavy subject matter for a kids’ book.  I mean, a story about your fifteen-year-old sister’s final stages of life– a summer to die— Really?)  So while it was a very stressful time for everyone in the family in the book, the mother of the narrator started a patchwork quilt, using fabric from her daughters’ outgrown childhood clothing.  And the idea of that quilt stayed with me.


I moved on to other books and other interests.  I taught myself how to crochet from a library book when I was in the seventh grade.  I went on to high school, undergrad, and then graduate school.  I got a master’s in creative writing.  I went out into the job market and landed in teaching.  Time passed.  I didn’t even recognize it, but looking back now– I was unhappy and depressed.  I wasn’t doing the things I loved.  It finally took some prodding from Sean and a move across the country for me to admit that I needed to make drastic changes.  Or else I would be dying the slow painful life of a central Florida middle school teacher bitterly counting the years to retirement.

In 2003, I went back to graduate school in a completely different discipline.  To deal with the stress of being a broke, thirty-something-year-old grad student, I learned how to knit.  I knitted and crocheted through years of three-hour-long classes, eight-hour-day seminars, multiple unpaid traineeships, a dissertation,  pre- and post-doc internships, four separate licensing exams, and finally, finally, I got to the point where I was securely established in a full-time permanent state job with benefits and a pension.  I was a long way away from the little girl who liked to read all the time and write stories and daydream about making a patchwork quilt out of old faded gingham dresses.




Then it happened just a little over three months ago.  Back in September, when my colleague and I should have been watching a webinar but were reading the newspaper instead, I noticed a small ad for a local fabric shop, Picking Daisies.  They were offering a beginner’s quilting class, and the featured project was a patchwork quilt made out of blocks.  After all these years, it came at just the right time.  I was in the right place.




Day 10/365: Stitched


The sock model called last night for evening check-in.  He was three hours ahead in Florida.  He said, “What are you doing?”

“Sewing.  I’m taking a break from knitting.  What are you doing?”

“Oh, not much.  We just got home a while ago.  We went out for oysters.”

“Oysters!  Damn it!  I want oysters.”  I could picture them in my mind, a platter of a dozen raw fat oysters on the half shell, served chilled on a bed of ice.  “How were they?”

“Yeah…”  By the tone of his voice, Sean didn’t sound too thrilled about his experience with these oysters.  Sometimes, you just get a bad batch.  Not bad like food-poisoning bad, but just bad like bottom-of-the-barrel, end-of-the-season, so-sad-no-more-good-oysters-until-next-year kind of bad.  He said, “Remember when sometimes we’d get them, and they’d be all small, and kinda stringy and not so good?”

“Yeah, I remember.”

“Remember when they’d be really good.  Like that really fresh, fat kind of oyster.”

“Yeah…”  I remembered.  I waited to hear him tell me that these most recent oysters weren’t as good as the ones we used to have.  “And… ?”

“Oh, no, that’s all.  These were that really fresh, fat kind.”  Then he started laughing.  “They were really good.”

“Ha, ha,” I said.  “I’m going back to sewing.”

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Day 9/365: Putting the Pieces Together


Remember earlier this week when I told you about the missing key? It showed up.

So today that same woman was telling a third co-worker about the incident.  She said, “Usually, when I’m not using the key, I put it in here.”  She opened her desk drawer to show where she usually kept the key (which, again, tells you just how much common sense she has about working in a prison).  Well, lo and behold. There was the key.  Whoever took it the first time had brought it back.

I’d doubted before that any inmate stole the key, and now I was definitely sure that the culprit hadn’t been one of the inmates.  I was sitting at my desk when this all played out, and she turned to me with her mouth open.

“You know what happened,” I told her.  “Someone was teaching you a lesson.”  I’d heard of this sort of thing happening before.  People would leave their keys or alarms just laying around on a desk unattended, and then someone else would notice and take it or hide it, just to make a point.

“The inmates were strip searched for that,” I said.

By this time she’d recovered from her surprise and was already pushing the desk drawer closed.  “Oh well.”  She shrugged.  “At least now I don’t have to write that memo reporting a missing key.”


Day 8/365: On a Happier Note



I’d just started reading through the morning’s collection of emails when my office phone rang.  It was one of my colleagues, a social worker who had some information to pass on.

“Your patient Mr. X spoke with his attorney yesterday and found out he’s been resentenced by the court.  Looks like he’ll be going home in about five days.  Just wanted to give you a heads up.”

I knew that Mr. X was a third-strike lifer who qualified for resentencing after California passed Prop 36 a couple years ago.  I couldn’t remember the circumstances of his case, though.  I pulled up his file and refreshed my memory.  According to reports, the officers on patrol saw him sitting on a curb with his head slumped down, so they stopped to “check on his welfare” and found .08 net grams of cocaine and a glass pipe in his possession.  It was July of 1997.  He was arrested, hauled off to county jail, and charged with possession of a controlled substance.  He’d had a long history of theft-related offenses and already served five previous terms.  Apparently, he was deemed a danger to society after this last arrest.  The court sentenced him to 27 years to life.  I am not exaggerating.  That is a fact.  He started the state prison term in April of 1998, and today is January 8, 2015.  Keep in mind, too, that he’d been locked up since July of 1997, when he first went to county jail.

I picked up the phone and called Mr. X’s tier officer, who knew me and had no problem with my request that he locate Mr. X, write him a special pass, and send him over to Psych Services to see me.

Mr. X showed up within minutes.  We went over some paperwork and I had him sign some forms, including a release of information authorizing the state to provide his health care information to county mental health for continuity of care after his release into the community.  When we were done, I sat back and said, “Eighteen years is a long time to be in prison for getting caught slumped over on a curb with drugs in your pocket.”

“Aw, that’s not what really happened,” he said.  “That’s what they put in the report.”

“So what really happened?” I said.  “How’d you get arrested in the first place?”

“I was jaywalking,” he said.  “And then when I saw them, I tried to backtrack, but it was too late.  They got me.”