Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sewing with a pattern

Today, I made a small pouch by following a pattern that I bought. I did deviate a little from the pattern and made a lining for it. It turned out okay, but this taught me several more things about sewing purses and bags.

First, if I make a lining using the same pattern as the outer bag, it needs to be just a smidgen smaller in all dimensions than the outer bag. This is a big "duh" and my sewing is imprecise enough that I was pretty sure the small difference wouldn't matter. I was also afraid that if I made the lining too small, it wouldn't actually "line" the outer bag, but be its own little inner bag. But as you can see in this picture, the lining is kind of bunched up with extra fabric.

Second, working with zippers sucks. Even with a zipper foot on my sewing machine, they are a royal pain. Third, had I been thinking ahead, I could have tucked the zipper edge in between the lining and the outside of the pouch. Doh! That would have made it look much nicer on the inside and probably would have been easier to sew.

Anyway, that was today's sewing project. It's a cute little pouch, so I'm glad I made it, but I'll know better next time what to change. I also realized that I get frustrated when my seams and backstitching isn't straight. I think I expect to get better at sewing way faster than I am, which is completely unreasonable.

Take something like programming as an analogy: I wasn't an awesome programmer after my third program, so I don't know why I expect to be an expert at making bags after my third one. My theories on this are either that I'm a perfectionist, or that I think "hey, I've made clothes and bags since high school, so I should be good by now". The problem with that idea is that I don't sew for a living. If I did it every day, I probably would be way better at it by now.

But, practice, practice, practice; someday I'll get there.

Friday, January 30, 2009


The morning commute was a nightmare:
Brown snow slushing between lanes.
But in the windless morning,
The snow turned trees into fluffy white feathers
And common hillsides into comforting perfection.
The memory of the trees stays with me
Long after the snow melts.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Experiments in bag making

I have always liked bags, backpacks, pouches, and the like. This did not turn me into a purse junkie because most purses are 1) expensive, and 2) butt ugly. Over the years, I have only found a few purses I liked.

After looking through Etsy for a purse and not finding one I really liked, I decided to make one. Never one to follow the directions even when they're given, I just plowed ahead without a pattern.

First attempt

I think it's pretty because I love the Egyptian patterned fabric and I liked the red with it. But, it's way too floppy. The fabric I used was just plain cotton like you'd use for a shirt and I didn't use any interfacing or quilting.

I was really hoping the bag would be more like this. (I'm holding the handles up and I stuffed a sweatshirt in the bag to give it shape.) But, the cotton was too flimsy.

Second attempt

This time around, I used denim from old blue jeans. It's a royal pain to work with, but it's stiffer than shirt fabric and I thought it would hold its shape better. Being a bad scientist, I changed many variables at once. I also changed the style of purse, style of handles, and made a lining for it.

It ended up really cute, but just a bit too small. Here's me holding it for a bit of perspective. Things I learned today: linings aren't as hard as I thought and they look really nice. If you're going to sew near the handles after you attach them to the bag, make sure the final hem can either go through the handles or there's enough space to go around them. I had a heck of a time getting the top seam done while trying to squish the handles flat and away from the top seam.

Here's the itty bitty jean purse with some of my junk in it. I think the concept of this purse is good, so I may make another just scaled up by a few inches in all directions. I did buy a pattern for little zippered pouches today, so I may make that next. I don't think it was lined either, but having done this bag lined without much grief, I may line the zipper pouch, too.

On my quest for the perfect purse. At least it's entertaining to make all these "mistakes". :) There are a few more pictures here: Bag Purse Exercises

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Evil Old Edwina

Copyright 2009 by Laura Beegle

The old woman stood on the tree-covered hill beneath a grey and turbulent sky. The clouds boiled above, reminders of the torrential rains of the previous few days and threatening to deluge the earth further.

In the distance, she could hear children laughing and a smile tugged at her mouth that she resolutely forced into a frown. This was no time for fun. She had been sent to collect the children for the evening meal and to give them a stern talking-to for wandering so far from home. After being trapped inside for days, their young, nimble legs had carried them further into the woods than they were allowed to go.

Edwina knew the spot where they were playing, having discovered it herself as a child. As she crested the rocky outcropping, she saw the valley, just as she remembered it. There was a clearing in the trees where the underbrush gave way to jumbled rock, and the river that ran through the village fell in a heavy waterfall.

She called to the children in her strongest voice, but they did not hear her. The rush of the waterfall was too close to their ears, and their hearts too eager to play. Edwina pulled in a breath to shout again, but she heard a noise that made her pause. Lower than the water's rush, lower even than thunder, a rumble was barely audible. As she listened, it grew louder and more insistent.

Something clicked in Edwina and her eyes widened with terror, even as her body had begun moving down beside the rocky slope towards the children. She screamed warnings at the children, waving her arms, and pelted towards them like a banshee. The noise was louder now and the children looked up the hill towards it, and towards her. They screamed in fear and began running towards her, but it was too late.

The water came rushing over the waterfall, and through the trees beside it, an angry brown flood of chaos. It knocked rocks and debris before it, filling the valley beside the river with astonishing speed. The children screamed and struggled against the flood as it came up to their knees in seconds. They formed a human chain, grasping on to one another and crying. They made it no more than ten steps toward safety before the water was at their waist and they could no longer fight the water's pull. Edwina screamed and reached out for them as they were swept into the liquid turmoil and out of sight.

The roar of the water filled her ears and she stared at where the children had been, unable to move. Gone, she thought, just gone. She looked down at her outstretched arm and her wrinkled old hand. Too slow, she thought. The water was inching its way up the hillside and began soaking through her boots. Briefly, she considered letting the water take her away, too.

Another snap and Edwina thought belatedly of the village. They were upstream from here. She pulled up her skirts and ran as fast as she could back towards the village. The sky continued to roll in varying shades of grey and another crash of thunder spurred her on. Her lungs burned and her legs felt weak as she broke through the final line of trees.

What she saw worked its way through her stunned brain and slowly broke her heart. The fields and hills sloped toward where the village used to be. The outlines of the larger buildings could be seen only as obstacles in the water's path, like so many pebbles in a giant's stream. The smaller building were completely gone, adding flotsam to the rushing water.

Her entire village was gone. Her home, her loved ones, everyone and everything she knew had been wiped out in an instant and she stood powerless to stop it. Edwina's steps slowed as the point of hurrying was lost. She finally stopped, just outside the water's reach as a crushing feeling pushed onto her heart and she sank to her knees. A lonely howl of agony welled up inside her, as if pushed out by the force pressing on her heart. She looked at the angry grey clouds and let it go.

Edwina had no idea how long she sat there sobbing, staring at the water and the sky. Eventually, she became aware of a soft presence beside her. The air took on a silent, soft texture, like a lambskin. The rain seemed to abate, evaporating before it could touch the aura surrounding the figure and Edwina.

The figure leaned down to whisper in Edwina's ear. The air seemed to warm as he did so. "You could have prevented this, you know," he said, matter-of-factly. Anguish clutched at Edwina's heart and chest again. Before she could look up, another soft presence appeared on her right.

"Fenrick, stop it," the new presence said. "There's no point in rehashing the past." Fenrick stood upright again and glared at the newcomer, stamping his goat foot in annoyance.

"No point?" he grated. "No point? I will have my due, Adras."

Edwina's head was spinning. She looked towards Fenrick and said, "prevented how?"

Adras placed her hand on Edwina's shoulder. "There's nothing to be done, my dear, it's in the past. Let me help you move on and discover your new fate." Edwina looked up. The goddess' face was perfect, pale, smiling, but not sympathetic.

"It's always fate with you," said Fenrick, "isn't it? The goddess of the future and of fate, but somehow you forget that there's a choice and leap right to fate."

"And why not?" Adras demanded. "They never take control of their lives, they never ask what's to be done now to change the future." Adras looked at the muddy river where the village used to be and looked hurt. "They only ever want to know what their future will be."

Fenrick cocked his head to one side. "Then why fight my offer to Edwina to change this fate?"

Adras' head snapped towards Fenrick. "Because dealing with the future means accepting the here and now. You would have her looking back when she needs to be here."

"I would change this fate in a heartbeat," said Edwina, staring out at nothing.

Adras threw up her hands in disgust. "Fine, your future is yours, but don't say I didn't warn you." She vanished in a flicker of annoyed light.

Fenrick smiled at Edwina. "Now, this tragedy could have been prevented if you had honored me on my holiday four days ago."

Edwina frowned. "That was when the rains started," she said.

Fenrick laughed bitterly. "Wasn't it, though! But, did anyone think that old Fenrick was tired of being ignored?" He paced back and forth on his goat legs. "The god of wine and water. Wine and water! Everyone loves to celebrate the wine, but I there's more to me than your silly intoxication! You die without water and yet, who honors it? Who thanks me for it?" He stopped pacing and looked at the ruined village. "Well, it can be dangerous, too."

"Please," said Edwina softly and humbly, "please, Fenrick, how can I honor you?"

Fenrick considered Edwina carefully. She was not the best supplicant he could ask for, but he didn't doubt her sincerity. "Your life," he said. "Your life in exchange for the countless years of insults to my holiday and insults to me!"

"For the whole village?" asked Edwina carefully. She was old enough to know that deals made with gods were a delicate affair.

Fenrick nodded impatiently, "yes, you for the whole village-"

"Done," said Edwina.

"Ah, but there's more," said Fenrick, smiling now. "Seamus. I want Seamus, too."

Edwina paused. Seamus was the only billy goat the village had. Without him, there would be no kids born in the spring, and without kids, there would be no goat milk for the children of the village. Without the goats milk, the children might not have enough nourishment to survive the next winter.

"What's a whole village worth, Edwina," taunted Fenrick. "It's just a few children. And besides, you don't know that they'll die without the milk. You do know they'll die if you refuse my offer, carried off in rushing brown water, like so many others of your village."

Edwina closed her eyes against the fresh tears welling up and nodded. "Done. Me and Seamus and a proper sacrifice on the hill, all in exchange for the village, the whole village, not destroyed by flood this year."

Fenrick smiled and crossed his hairy arms on his chest. "Done." Edwina relaxed slightly and uttered a half-sob, half-sigh.

Fenrick closed his eyes and concentrated. He put one hand on Edwina's head and walked around her slowly, chanting just out of hearing's range. She stood still and waited. The air around her warmed and built in pressure. Finally, she felt the bubble around her pop and everything went black. Fenrick's voice from far away said, "remember, you and Seamus, on the hill, tonight. Don't disappoint me."

Edwina found herself sitting outside her family's hut. Her hands were holding a fishing net that she must have been repairing. She looked up at the cloudless sky then down at the village around her. Joy welled up inside her and she had never been so grateful to be alive. But before she could blink, the image of water carrying the children downstream threatened to crush her again.

She set her mouth in a firm line and put down her work. She knew what she had to do. She stood up and went inside to get a water skin, and a skin of precious wine. Edwina's grown daughter looked up from cooking as she entered. "Finished the net already, Edma?"

Edwina scowled and grunted. She fetched the skins, checking that her dagger was on her hip. She reached into an elaborately carved wooden box and pulled out a bundle wrapped in oilskin. She placed the water, wine, and bundle into a leather sack and picked up her wide-brimmed hat from its hook on the wall. They would have no use for her hat once she was gone, and she wanted to be ready for a journey in the after-life.

Edwina's daughter saw this last motion and asked, "are you going somewhere, Edma?"

"None of your business, child," growled Edwina.

Misha sighed, "I'm a grown woman, now, Edma, not a child."

Edwina grunted. "You'll always be a child to me." She walked out the door and said, "don't wait up."

Edwina longed to say goodbye to her only daughter, to tell her how much she meant to her, and how proud she was. But doing so would only raise suspicion, and there was too much at stake here to make that kind of mistake.

There was not a cloud in the sky, but the wind was brisk and cold as the sun retreated for the horizon. Edwina quickly closed the distance between her family's hut and the barn. She got a rope and put it around Seamus' neck. She was leading him away from the barn when Barthas, the goat-keeper, called after her.

"Edwina," he called, "where are you going with Seamus? It'll be dark soon."

"Got a sickness," she lied. "He needs to eat some golden-flower from up on the hill, more than I can carry." Barthas frowned. She tried to make her voice reassuring. "Don't worry, young man, we'll be back soon enough." She turned and walked towards the hill with Seamus in tow. She hoped that Barthas didn't try to stop her; there was no way she could win that contest. But, fate smiled on Edwina that day and Barthas only shrugged before going into the barn.

The hill was steeper than it had been when Edwina was a child, and longer, too. By the time she reached the top, the sun had almost disappeared below the horizon. The wind had picked up and Seamus began to bleat in protest. Edwina tugged him harder until they were fully inside the stone circle. She pushed impatiently on his rear end and Seamus sat down on the chilly ground.

Edwina unpacked her bag and unwrapped the oilskin. From it she pulled a beautiful silver goblet with gold patterns. She held it with reverence as she proffered it to the sky and asked for a blessing upon it. Walking the edge of the circle, Edwina began to murmur the chant of old. Pressure built around Seamus and Edwina, pushing out the wind.

Still chanting, Edwina mixed water and wine in the goblet. She held the goblet aloft and gave thanks to Fenrick with more sincerity than she had ever had before. She drank from the goblet and then held Seamus' head, pouring some down his throat. He shook his head and coughed.

Unseen on the hill behind her, Misha and Barthas were calling to her as they climbed.

Edwina put down the goblet and stopped her chanting. The pressure in the circle had blocked out the increasing winds and muffled the crash of thunder. "Please, Fenrick," she said, "it's almost done." She lifted Seamus' head and put her dagger to his throat. A flash of blade, a gush of crimson and the first sacrifice was given. The thunder lessened but the pressure in the circle increased. Edwina took the dagger in both hands and placed the tip near her heart.

Misha and Barthas began running up the hill. They yelled at her, begged her to stop, but their voices were lost in the wind.

Edwina looked up at the sky. "For you, Fenrick, and for my village." She plunged the dagger into her heart and fell backwards with a stifled scream. The pressure of the circle let loose as Fenrick appeared and sighed. Edwina's sight grew dark and she heard him say, "your village is safe, brave Edwina." Then she heard no more.

The wind and thunder died away completely as Misha and Barthas reached the top of the hill. They looked around in horror and Misha rushed to her mother's side while Barthas checked on Seamus.

"Dead," pronounced Barthas, shaking his head sadly. A heart-wrenching wail from Misha told him the fate of Edwina was the same. Barthas hung his head, saying a short prayer for the dead and went to Misha's side.

It was senseless, they all said when the events of that evening were told to the village. Senseless and stupid. That crazy old crone not only doomed herself, but the children of the village as well. The year passed and there were no kids, and no goats milk. The next winter, three of the children died. They were mourned and Edwina cursed with the same breath. The children could have survived, if it hadn't been for evil old Edwina.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

MPG for your life

I've been told that it's a good idea to track the miles per gallon that your car gets over time. That way, if you suddenly start getting terrible gas mileage, you'll know that something's wrong with your car.

When you have a physical ailment of some kind, the first thing a doctor or webpages will ask is, "how long has it been like this?" If you haven't been keeping track, you'll probably only have a vague idea.

Several times in the last few years, stress-induced ailments have pushed me to the point of wanting help. But, since I didn't have a baseline, I had no idea when it started "getting bad" only that it was bad right then.

To remedy this, I've started taking notes in ridiculous detail. I've been using Evernote for this because it's free and has Mac and Windows clients. I went looking for an iPod Touch app for this, but they were either too specialized or too expensive. Other than feeling kind of silly for taking the notes, it's working out okay.

With luck, the next time I need to know how long I've been sleeping poorly, I'll have a record of it.

Quest to fetch the mail and broadsheet

I've been told I'm a fairly competitive person. And, like most people, I think I do more work around the house because I notice all the chores I do, but I don't notice the stuff my husband does.

After spending several days playing World of Warcraft, I made the offhand comment that I needed quests for doing the laundry and cleaning the kitchen. Fortunately, there's already a site for that. It's free, so my husband and I made characters and have been tracking chores for about a week.

It's too early to see if I really do more chores, but it's at least fun tracking it. (Oh no! Not another drain beast while doing dishes! I just fought one yesterday while cleaning the bathroom!)

Monday, January 5, 2009

New year, new focus

While I love obsessing over my garden, and while I will have some plants this year, the focus of the coming year is, sadly, not the garden.  Our old farmhouse is in need of many things, but most of all, insulation and electrical wiring better suited to two geeks.

Towards that end, I am making "redo the living room" a priority over the garden.  I have been banishing the seed catalogs to a corner of my bookshelf unopened.  When I feel I can ogle them without making gardening plans, then I will.  That day may never come, but that's the idea.

Much of the living room work is heavy on time-consuming manual labor and light on expense.  This is good.  First on the list is clearing the current contents away.  For example, the TV goes upstairs in the computer room.  That may sound like a simple task, but there are many, many dependencies in just that simple statement.

Because most of the tasks in just the initial stages of redoing tend to spiral into day or week long projects, I have no idea how long this will take.  The geek in me wanted to sit down with some project planning software and work it out, but that takes all the spontaneity out of it and makes it seem like real work.  That's no fun.  I'm going to let my right-brain take the lead on this one and just make it up as I go along.

Another purpose
Another reason I'm changing the focus of this blog is because I need to write more.  I need to write more in quantity (for the practice) and write more creative works (because I don't do that enough).  I'm not entirely sure if I'll preface each one with "this is fiction" and "this is fact", but it should be obvious from the content and whether it's in first person.  If you get confused, you have been warned.

I also have some nebulous thoughts on "online presence" and that kind of nonsense, but none so well-formed that I can even rant about them with ease.  Having something of an aggressive personality, even my writing comes across forcefully and sounds like rants at times.  That's another good reason to write more so that I can change the tone of the text at will.

So, fare thee well, my garden perennials, for you will be neglected this year.