The IKEA Adventure …

ark

I’ve heard comedy routines about shopping at IKEA that are bang on, even though they are hilarious – maybe they’re so funny because we can picture ourselves in the various situations mentioned.  They do have free refills on the pop, which is the one thing that made Pat love tolerate shopping at IKEA.  He spent a lot of time waiting for me in the cafeteria.  Last time I was there, I had to smile while eating my lunch and remembering how he commented one day that a very old and bent over lady we saw walking the path with her cane had been going around and around for years and still couldn’t find her way out!

assembly

Going to IKEA always seems like a good idea early in the day when the mood strikes. I have my list to keep things organized and make sure I don’t forget anything, but I usually want to browse as well to get inspired, because I’m not a natural when it comes to decorating and I like to stroll through the rooms they have set up so I can see how things have been put together. I usually end up noticing things I wouldn’t pay attention to if they were just sitting on shelves somewhere.

But this becomes an event; I don’t try to combine a trip to IKEA with any other shopping.  It’s straight there and straight home.  I spend over an hour and a half driving just to get there, sometimes another fifteen minutes finding a parking space (I once circled the lot for half an hour while driving a borrowed van because all the empty spots were too small – committed or certifiable?). My game plan is to park near the exit for the fastest possible get away when I’m finished, as I have much more energy going in than coming out! (Remember the “START THE CAR!” lady?)

Once I’m inside, I have to ride the elevator up on one side to ride it down on the other so I can get to the place where they keep the real carts, because the goofy ones at the entrance hold those yellow bags for people who are certain they will only pick up a few things along their way to completing their recommended 10,000 steps; I’m sure Fit Bits light up triumphantly in that place every day!  Then I’m back on the elevator to head up to begin the first leg of my trip.  This preparation can take anywhere from five to fifteen minutes depending on the way other people move around the store, which brings me to one thing I’d like to suggest, and that is that there should be guidelines for shopping at IKEA (I like “rules” better but that’s just me):

#1) Just because the pathway is wide enough for your family of five to walk side by side, doesn’t mean you must.  Some of us are on a mission and want to move through the store at a pace that will allow us to reach the till before closing time, or before our legs give out, and leaving space for others is just plain courteous.

#2) If you see a cart with no person attached to it in any of the furniture sections, assume its driver is somewhere nearby trying out the FURNITURE.  Don’t steal it and make the other person walk all the way back, against the current, through the side by side families just to get another one.

#3) Have an adult steer the cart if things sticking out of it are twice as long as your child is tall.  Maybe IKEA isn’t the best place to put your kids to work for you.  Did you see the ball room at the start?  That’s for the kids, especially the hyper ones.  They don’t want to stand around while you plan your new kitchen so running around with a cart of stuff is a lot more fun, until they knock someone over or hit them in the face with the closet rod you grabbed for their bedroom.

Now that I have that off my chest, back to shopping.  It’s a good thing they have those little stands everywhere with tape measures and pencils and preprinted lists for us to write down what we see that we want to find later on in the massive warehouse full of items with Swedish names I can rarely pronounce.  If I don’t write something down when I see it – spelled correctly of course so that I don’t end up looking for a chair in the mattress aisle – there’s no way I’ll be able to tell anyone what it was, other than “that white shelf in the bedroom section about three feet high”.  I don’t think there’s a Swedish word for that.

products

At some point, about halfway through the store, I’m shortening my list to the must-take-home-today-because-I-have-a-project items because I’m getting tired. Luckily that’s right around time for lunch, which I can conveniently have right there in the store without having to leave and come back to finish my shopping. You’ve got to love the fact that they have our food and drink needs taken care of right there so we don’t have to leave the store and can just keep on shopping!

Over lunch I usually start anticipating the long drive home I will have after I go down to the main level and work through the millions of cool things I probably don’t need to find the few that I do.  These are usually in Home Organization, which requires me to slowly check everywhere so I don’t miss my items on some random end or in a bin that I’ve walked past while trying to dodge one of those side by side families or kid driven carts.

As I pass through the last shopping area into the wide open warehouse space, along with several other people on missions, I am both relieved to have made it, but a bit skeptical as to whether or not I’ve forgotten something and should turn back now before it’s too late.  It’s a fleeting and daunting thought, but once I remind myself that I will surely be back another day, I forge ahead with my list of items to find while going over them in my head with an accent until my inner voice sounds like the Swedish Chef from the Muppet Show.  The warehouse is so spacious and airy that it gives the impression we are now free and there are no more obstacles in our way…until I get to the tills, where it turns out that those side by side families are now finding everything they were looking for at the last minute and filling up a cart they didn’t have before – probably one they stole while I was trying out a couch.

If you have to stand in line for a long time, at least they have the little food stop just on the other side so you can drool and imagine what a drink will be like if you ever get across the line.  This gives you time to memorize the pictures of what you are going to order because you can’t pronounce the words.  By the time everything is paid for you just have to hope that there are no mistakes on the bill, because if there are, you need to move over about half a block to the returns and exchanges department, take a number and stand in line again.  This is where the Fit Bits start to flash and people drop from exhaustion onto benches and no longer remember whether or not they brought their kids, hoping they haven’t left them in the ballroom because they just passed the last access.

I head for the exit, and because of my carefully planned parking, I am able to get my stuff out and loaded without too much trouble.  I mean, if you have trouble, it’s not like there’s anyone to help you.  IKEA is a self-serve store.  We all know that when we go in, and we’re happy that the prices reflect the do-it-yourself strategy – after all planning the assembly project seems like fun first thing in the morning when you arrive – but coming out it’s a cruel reminder that you better be able to lift up that seventy-five pound cupboard on your own whether you got lunch or not.  Sometimes at this point, between having to load it myself and anticipating the assembly process after a long day (I’ve learned to wait on the big stuff until I’ve had a good sleep!) I wonder – briefly – why I did this yet again!

manger

My full relief and relaxation don’t come until I’ve navigated the parking lot, conquered the loop all the way up, around, and back down Calgary Trail to get to my Anthony Henday exit where I can finally breathe a sigh of relief because I’m on my way home.

It isn’t until I’m almost halfway home that I’m starting to get excited about what I’ve bought, the projects I will be able to do and how things are going to look.  And once I have it all unloaded and ready to go, despite my sore muscles, I’m glad I went and I know I’ll go back because it’s a great place to find simple and DIY stuff at very decent prices.

Life is Short; Buy the Pen (or the shoes, or whatever it is that makes you smile and isn’t illegal…)

pen

I love journals.  I mean in the “oooh look at all the awesome journals!” sense when I’m standing in a bookstore or specialty gift shop, especially when I see the leather wrapped ones with the cool buckles or string closures.  I love the way the leather feels and smells, and I love unique paper, especially the handmade stuff with imperfections, color variations, and uneven edges.  I like to hold them and open them up and just feel the paper and imagine what kinds of things I would write in them.  I want to buy them all because something in my brain gets excited; standing in the store I always  feel like I could actually be faithful to keeping a journal and writing down the little things I think about and do each day so that one day when I’m old and losing my memory I could look back through them and read about my life.  Or someone could read it all to me, you know, like in “The Notebook”.

But I have this tiny weakness that prevents me from collecting them – I won’t use them.  If I buy all the journals I see that I love, I will one day have a big shelf of beautiful journals giving my children the impression that opening them after I’m gone will invite them into a private world of thoughts and dreams, and secrets that they might not otherwise have known about me.  And all they would see is empty pages, book after book, which would probably make them shake their heads at the money I spent collecting journals I never used.  Although that in itself might tell them something about me.  I know Kate would save them anyway, because she’s like that – nostalgic and sentimental – and they would be useful to her someday I’m sure since she will undoubtedly have more adventures to write about than I ever had!  At the very least she would have a nice shelf with beautiful journals.

I have on a few occasions set out with great intentions to commit myself to keeping a journal.  I started one when the kids were very small, noting their cute ways of saying and doing things, precious moments, words they made up and what they meant.  I wrote a bit about being their mom.  I even took the time to write at the beginning what my intentions were and that later in life the journal was to be duplicated so that each could have a copy for themselves.  I think there might be about ten pages at most; the last entry is probably from about 1989 and my kids are now grown into adults.

I have another that I bought when I took a big trip several years ago, because I had spoken to an older lady who had regularly kept a diary of her days and once, when she got sick and had a memory lapse for a period of about three days, she was able to look back at her diary and remind herself what had happened leading up to and during that period.  I thought that was a wise idea, so I kept close track each day on the holiday and wrote down things about my activities, funny things that happened and were said, and came home committed to continuing it.  It’s a special leather bound one that has a pen holder and I can even buy refills for it.  Let’s just say there are big gaps (because that’s the best way to say I didn’t follow through and actually forgot about writing in it – forgot I even had it at one point – and I have the two refill books I searched high and low to find, still in plastic wrap).

I have two – yes, two, because I have two children – “From a Mother’s Heart” books to write  in so that when I’m gone my kids can read about all the many details of my life that possibly haven’t come up in conversation over all these years (could you imagine there would be anything like that left to say?), or at least have them in writing somewhere for them to refer to if the details fade in their minds.  They are, at best, works in progress.  They seemed like a good idea at the time, but once again, my commitment to follow through lasted exactly long enough to track down and special order the second one from another store before I started the first (I had to know there would be two) and choose specifically which pen I would use to write in them (I’m picky that way), only to be challenged by the question of how to relate the same ideas and memories to each child without using exactly the same wording!  I love to plan and think about doing things like this; unfortunately, the plans are rarely helpful in actually getting started.

When I have set out to start a new journal, I’m always delayed by thoughts of how to start because I can’t help thinking of all the things I haven’t written down already, and the fact that if I actually persevere with this one there will be so much missing that I would have wanted it to contain, being the one journal I actually leave behind with something lasting in it.  In the end, I’m my own worst enemy.

The only journal I’ve been faithful to keeping is the one I started when Pat had his accident and it wasn’t even my idea.  It was suggested to me by a couple of people and I went with it, and it served many purposes, including becoming the foundation for this blog.  It was a way for me to keep things organized in my head and I’m very grateful that I did it.

So, in the words of Bill Cosby, “I’ve told you that story so I can tell you this one …..”

It’s been my desire for a while now to get back to actual letter writing, you know, doing things the old fashioned way.  If you’ve read some of my other posts you’ll know that I’m kind of attracted to the olden days, the vintage style, and a sense of the traditional.  I was a big letter writer in my youth and I enjoy getting actual mail.  I love technology and the ease of texting and emailing (partly for convenience and partly because I’m an anxious introvert who prefers to write and rewrite things before actually communicating them to someone else because all the words have to be just right, and talking on the phone doesn’t allow for autocorrect or “did you mean this instead of this?” and writing on paper just doesn’t have the same appeal with all the whiteout because I tend to wonder if people actually turn the page over to see what I was trying to hide). But I also miss getting real mail and I think I have to start somewhere in getting the ball rolling so that the art of letter writing and sending cards to people “just because” doesn’t completely die on the hill of convenience and economic decisions – we all know how much stamps cost, but can you put a price on the little jolt of anticipation we get when we open the mailbox and find an envelope without a window?

To that end, I succumbed to a sales pitch and a display of lovely modern fountain pens at a cool shop at the Lonsdale Quay market while I was on a recent holiday (I should say here that they also had beautiful journals, but unfortunately the ones I liked had the handmade paper which wouldn’t work with a fountain pen and because I compartmentalize things like this, it wasn’t the time to be drooling over something I probably wouldn’t use, especially with the new pen I was trying to convince myself to buy). I tried it out and it felt good when I was writing with it.  I’m a real Bic crystal pen fan, have been for years, but this, THIS was something special.

Trying it out reminded me of the days when my grade six teacher insisted that we all use fountain pens because it made a difference in the quality of our handwriting.  I didn’t appreciate the coolness of writing with a fountain pen at that time – of course, if you insist I do something it takes the fun out of it – but in my teens I used one off and on until the novelty eventually wore off (either that or I just got tired of having to buy cartridges because when you’re a teenager certain things aren’t worth the effort and quality handwriting costs money).

When I saw and tried this pen, various thoughts came together in my mind: it would fit nicely into my plan of renewing my lost practice of writing actual letters on real paper, it would give a traditional look to my handwriting, and at the same time I could maybe find a small leather wrapped journal with the proper paper so that I could use this pen to write down little things that come to mind each day when I’m thinking of and talking to Pat.  (OK, clearly, I cannot avoid the idea of journals.  In my defence though, I was faithful to keeping the other one about him and maybe if that’s the purpose behind it I will be better at following through!)

However, I have a strong practical sense and I don’t easily make decisions about purchasing unnecessary things, the category into which this fountain pen fit.  So after a long deliberation with myself (and with Kate who patiently waited while I hemmed and hawed), I said I would walk around and think about it.  Often this works to change my mind and I end up knowing I didn’t need the item so I’m glad I left it behind.  In this case, I was almost there – we were finished doing what we went to do at the Quay, and we were enjoying a last look out over the water before catching our bus.

Standing there in that place, which was always a favourite of Pat’s on our holidays, brought, in just a few seconds, many thoughts to mind of him, of how quickly and drastically life can change, and of how in the midst of practicality it’s sometimes important to indulge in things that make you happy while you still can, and my sudden thought was “Life is short; buy the pen.”  So I went back and grabbed it, along with a bottle of ink to refill it as I go, and I happily left with my new system of getting back to something old.  I’m strangely excited about my new fountain pen and looking forward to using it as soon as I can.  It doesn’t take much to make me happy and often the little things have a bigger effect than one would think.  And if you scroll back up now and really take a good look at that pen, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a fine looking thing.

I still have to find the little journal with the right paper for the fountain pen ink, but until then, I have some letter writing to do!

 

It all started with a jelly roll …

Mom taught me to sew when I was about nine years old, and I sewed my own clothes all the way through high school and into adulthood when I also sewed for my own family until fabric finally became more expensive than buying the ready made clothes.  At the same time, the landscape of fabric stores was changing: it became harder to find dress goods as shelves began filling up with quilting supplies and I was happily moving from sewing to other crafts.  I kept my machine, of course, because there were always mending jobs to do and an occasional curtain that needed to be sewn (and it was a monumental purchase from my youth that was going to last a lifetime, but that was covered in an earlier post!) but in general, after over 25 years of making everything from tailored blazers to a wedding dress to baby clothes to home decor, I did very little sewing at all for almost 15 years.

My mom has been an avid quilter for a long time now and it was never something I was interested in doing myself – I didn’t see the point of buying fabric only to cut it up into little pieces to sew it all back together again, even though I eventually spent many days doing just that with paper after I became immersed in stamping and card making.  I pieced a couple of simple quilt tops together a number of years ago, but only so that my mom could quilt them for me because I had no desire to do all that work!  I liked having quilts, I just had no interest in making them.

Then one day last February I decided I needed a new floor mat for my kitchen and I wanted to make a braided rug like the ones people made in the olden days.  I went to my trusty idea site – Pinterest – to look for patterns, and came across a woven fabric mat that caught my attention.  It looked like a lot less work than a braided one; yes, I’m usually attracted to great ideas requiring little effort because I like to start and finish projects quickly.  Even in my youth, if a garment took longer than a day to make from cutting out the pattern to sewing up the hem, I lost interest and it sat unfinished on a shelf.

So I clicked on the woven mat and saw that the pattern called for a jelly roll.  I had no idea what this referred to but I knew they weren’t talking about a dessert (although I’ve since learned that many of the fabric precuts are named after bakery items, which makes me wonder if all quilters enjoy donuts as much as I do) so of course I then had to Google “jelly roll fabric”.  I could say at this point that the rest is history, but that wouldn’t make much of a blog post!

I browsed the many, many, MANY jelly rolls available and of course entered the world of jelly roll quilt ideas along my way.  People were sharing pictures of quilt tops made in less than an hour and I was enthralled – I could do that!  It was right up my start-to-finish in a day alley – at that rate I could do more than one a day – and I knew exactly where I could take them to be quilted at a store on a long arm machine, so I dove in and ordered a couple of rolls, along with the batting and backing I would need to complete the projects, and happily waited for my package to arrive.

In the meantime I decided that with all the ideas and tutorials out there for machine quilting, I really should at least try it myself to see how it worked and find out if I could actually enjoy doing it myself – this is important because knowing how to do something and enjoying doing it are two different things.  My crafts are therapy for me, and if something becomes frustrating or it isn’t fulfilling my need for relaxation and fun, I’m not going to do it.  So I put together some small pieces of fabric and batting, got my trusty old Pfaff onto the table, set it up for free motion quilting and off I went.

I’m not sure I have an addictive personality, at least not for dangerous things (unless you count frequent fabric orders and excitement over the lovely scents of Best Press spray as dangerous…) but I do believe that as soon as I started to free motion quilt on that sample piece I knew I was going to love it and I just wanted to keep going, which is pretty much what happened once my box arrived and I got those first two tops made.

march 2015-Diane March 2015-Tina

I should also mention here the wonder of spray basting adhesive.  It must have landed here from heaven.  I would NOT be quilting if I had to thread baste or pin every quilt sandwich I make.  It takes too long (thus it doesn’t fit into the start-to-finish quickly plan) and those nasty pins would interfere with my free motion rhythm and I would get frustrated (which means I wouldn’t finish and while putting a half finished blouse on a shelf once or twice might not have been serious, quilting fabric and supplies aren’t cheap so I’m darn well finishing every single quilt I start!).  This stuff is seriously amazing and once my sandwich is made I can fold it and flop it around as much as I need to while I’m working on it and it all stays together just the way I need it to.  But I digress …

I had a plan.  I didn’t want to calculate and plan quilt blocks, I just wanted to somewhat mindlessly sew tops easily and quilt them. Jelly rolls worked well because they sewed up quickly and left no scraps, so I didn’t have to worry about a pile of leftovers accumulating in my cupboard making me feel pressured to find ways to use them.  I wasn’t going to stash fabric; I was going to buy specific amounts for planned projects only and even at that I wouldn’t have extra project piles waiting, I would buy in small amounts that I could use up quickly before buying more.  My quilting friend with many years experience listened and smiled.

Jelly Roll Race (or Fast & Furious) quilt

Jelly Roll Race (or Fast & Furious) quilt

Jelly Roll Race (or Fast & Furious) quilt

Jelly Roll Race (or Fast & Furious) quilt

And then I discovered layer cakes (there are also honey buns, maple cakes, and dessert rolls, oh my!) and how easy it was to make blocks that could be arranged into lovely designs with just a cut here and there and I could still sew a top easily in a day and have time leftover to build something out of wood (one of my other hobbies).  I was using what I had almost as soon as I got it home from wherever I found it, so I placed another fabric order to include a layer cake.  I had specific quilts in mind, sticking with the plan.

The list of quilts I wanted to make grew quickly and I needed to visit some fabric stores to see what was out there beyond my online source – and to actually feel the fabric before I bought it – so I picked up mom and made a couple of spontaneous trips to find pieces that I knew would be just right for certain people.  My ideas were expanding beyond the strips into various other configurations, and I came home with enough for a few more specific projects.  I was teased for calculating my yardage down to the tenth of a metre because I didn’t need leftovers, and it worked out well for me to use any possible scraps as part of the backings so they were decorative but also used up!  My quilting friend laughed and warned me that it was only a matter of time before I fell into the black hole.

 

Then it happened.  Just a little bit, but it happened.  I saw a piece of fabric in a store that was so beautiful I just had to buy some of it, even though it wasn’t for a particular quilt. In my own defense, it was neutral and usable for pretty much anything so it wasn’t really like stashing something just because I wanted it as it would match lots of stuff and already had embroidery all over it so would make really good borders and sashing … My quilting friend smiled and assured me that is how a stash starts: even just one piece of fabric not designated for a specific project but purchased because I had to have it does a stash make (just in case you weren’t aware of the rules).

The more I sewed and quilted, the more I started noticing ideas that went beyond the precuts I was finding so convenient to work with and before I knew it I was buying fat quarters and half metres and cutting them into pieces of various sizes so that I could put together my own quilt tops based on designs I liked.  I started watching tutorials and taking my free motion quilting to new levels, discovering my own favourite stitching patterns and combining them at will.  And then one day when I was about to throw away a scrap and found myself thinking “I might be able to use that for something”, I knew the plan had changed.  And I knew my quilting friend would shake her head because she knew all along that I wouldn’t be able to resist, but she patiently waited for me to succumb and admit that I was no different than any other quilter, and then she welcomed me to the “dark side”.  I think she even said “I told you so” – (are friends really supposed to say that??)

My first pieced quilt, no precuts!

My first pieced quilt, no precuts!

So now, three and a half months and fifteen quilts later (FIFTEEN? I had to go back and count…) I’m getting bold enough to try more challenging free motion designs and my favorite online fabric store in Chilliwack, B.C. knows me by name.  (I’ve filled at least two super stitcher cards…)  I have a small stash of really cool fabric and I’m on the verge of sharing an entire roll of batting so I don’t have to keep re-ordering it.  I’m always looking for new ideas and sometimes I’m actually giddy when I get my quilt sandwich all rolled up and sit down at my machine to start the fun part.

May 2015 - Kate

for my daughter

May 2015 - Michael

for my son

May 2015 - mom

for my mom

I used to be able to justify spending money on my craft supplies by reminding myself that my hobbies were cheaper therapy than drinking, smoking, or taking drugs.  When it comes to quilting, I’m not so sure that’s true!  But I’m not sure I care either because  there’s really no price to be put on something that keeps my brain active and provides me with so much enjoyment, especially given that I can share what I make with friends and family who are happy to receive handmade gifts from my heart (at least that’s what they tell me), and with others who might need a special quilt to comfort them in a time of need.

Needless to say my mom is happy about my new interest in quilting; I can now participate in and chat happily about the hobby that she found long ago, and whenever I finish a new quilt top I have to take it and show her what I’ve done so she can ooh and ahh and give me the mom-likes-everything-you-make stuff that starts to build our ego from the first time she put a crayon art piece on the fridge!  She even lets me dig into her stash once in a while too.

And if you’re wondering whatever happened with my kitchen mat, I’d be happy to post a picture but I haven’t actually made one yet!