Julie Bowersett

juliebowersett {at} verizon.net
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Tuesday
Aug112015

Vacationland

I recently returned from two weeks at our fishing cabin in Eastern Maine.  The weather was mostly gray and cool (we had a fire in the wood stove two days) but my kids enjoyed getting in the (freezing cold) lake every day.  We enjoyed time with my family, took a trip to Canada, enjoyed various water sports and generally unwound.  I love my time on this little island.  If you'd like a more complete story about my special place, read this post that I wrote several years ago.

I didn't get a lot of stitching done but I did take some nice pictures so that's what this post will be about.  I'm heading off to a sewing retreat at the end of the week and hope to have some projects to share when I get back.

Wednesday
Jun242015

Lace-Edged Baby Blankets

It's been a long time since I've done much heirloom sewing.  But a few weeks ago when I received an email from a church friend I knew it was just what I was intended to do.  I've been participating, sporadically, in the prayer shawl ministry at my church over the last year.  When a request went out for someone to make prayer blankets for twin baby girls with cystic fibrosis (CF) I knew pretty quickly that I was the one who was supposed to take on this project.  For ten years I worked in a hospital lab doing breathing tests on patients, and took a particular interest in the ones with CF.  During that time I met a college student, Chris, who was beating the odds and doing very well managing his disease.  We remained friends over the years and the miles.  I have a friend from my college years who lost his teenage daughter to this disease, and just this spring my family traveled to Richmond to attend a fund raising dinner in Lucy's memory.  CF has touched my life many times over the years.  Those of you who know me well will have also made the connection to twin baby girls.  I lost a set of twin girls at 30 weeks gestation almost 7 years ago.  You can see now why I was sure that I was the one to make these blankets.  At first, I hesitated, thinking about how slowly I knit.  Then I had the flash thought that these blankets did not have to be knit, I could sew them.  And I knew immediately what form they would take.

Years before my kids came onto the scene, I used to travel with my sister to various sewing events.  We attended lots of American Sewing Guild conferences together but our greatest times were spent in Huntsville, Alabama attending Martha Pullen's School of Art Fashion.  There I learned to sew delicate, lacy things in the heirloom tradition.  One of my favorite teachers at these schools was Carol Ahles.  Carol is a wonderful teacher who shares her knowledge and encourages students to do their very best.  One year my sister and I took a class from her on making a lace-edged, hemstitched baby blanket.  She provided luxurious cashmere flannel and Cluny lace for the project. The edges were corded and hemstitched, which gave a lovely and sturdy finish.

Here's the blanket I made in that class

and a close up of the lace edge.

I wrote to Carol and ordered several yards of light pink flannel for my project.  I decided that monograms on the blankets would serve to distinguish them from each other, and I used Hope Yoder's Fancy ABC's for the letters.  The Cluny lace came from my stash. 

The blankets measure 36" x 45" and have rounded corners. 

The edges are hemstitched using the Parisian hemstitch and a 100 wing needle. The cording is size 5 perle cotton.  Here is a close up of the hemstitched edge:

Carol's instructions for these blankets originally appeared in the November/December 2001 issue of Creative Needle magazine.  You can purchase the instructions, along with all of the necessary supplies, from Carol's website.

While I was working on these blankets last week my friend Chris lost his battle with CF at the age of 41.  He lived longer than many with this disease, and the timing of his death in the midst of my project was especially poignant.  I pray that the babies who receive these blankets will grow up in a world where there is a cure for this disease.  If you'd like to help support research into a cure, please consider donating to the CF Foundation.

Thursday
May212015

Stenciled Cork Placemats

Thursday is typically DIY-day over on the Alabama Chanin Journal so today I'm posting one of my own DIY projects, AC style. 

A while back I was tempted by some wool felt placemats on the AC site but waited too long and they were soon sold out.

And in the way my brain usually works I started thinking, "Hey, I could make my own".  About this time I also took a trip to Ikea and found packs of cork placemats which I thought would be perfect for stenciling.

Here are two of the placemats all laid out on my drop cloth-covered table

and here they are with the stencil I used.

I was able to stencil two mats at a time with the large stencil.  I used a spray adhesive on the back of the stencil to minimize the bleeding around the stencil shapes and pressed the stencil securely onto the two cork mats.

Last week my friend Jane came to visit, and we played with my stencils and air brush.  We encountered several equipment failures during the course of the day but by the end we'd figured out the best method for spraying.  Here's my mini air compressor and air brush all ready to go.

Trust me, once you experience the ease of painting with a small airbrush you will never go back.

It took me less than 5 minutes to paint both placemats.  Ready for the reveal?

Once these two were set aside to dry I hosed off my stencil, let it dry and repeated the process on the remaining two placemats.

Here they are, gracing my dining room table.

I'm super happy with how these turned out.  I've got four more mats that I am planning to stencil with a different design and in a different color.  I'm also considering stenciling the back side of all of the mats so I can have four different mix/match options.

My gardening tasks are slowing down as the weather gets warmer.  I've actually had the chance to venture into my studio a few times in the last week.  School will be out for my kids in about 3 weeks which will make time to myself a lot more scarce but I'm hoping to get a few projects checked off the list this summer.

If you like this project, click on the Alabama Chanin option in the Category listing along the righthand side of this page.

Tuesday
May052015

Making

Today, I joined in a Facebook discussion about what term those of us who sew like to be called: sewist, seamstress, sewer, etc.  I have adopted the term Maker (from Natalie Chanin) as I think it best describes what I do.  I make things.  These things might come from my sewing studio (which I have not set foot in for weeks) or my kitchen, workshop, garden, computer, camera, the list goes on.  (I love how Southerners say, "make a picture" for taking a photo). 

So, while I haven't been sewing much, I have been making.  I made cupcakes for a friend's birthday (using my favorite icing recipe).  I made an attempt to organize my garage.  But mostly I have been making my garden.

I started with a greens garden in a spot where there used to be lovely flowering perennials.  Unfortunately, they were also tasty to our resident deer, and I decided that if I had to have an ugly fence to protect them, it somwhat defeted the purpose of the flowers. So instead, I planted all sorts of early spring greens along with other early vegetables and annual herbs.

Next I tackled the beds in the front of my house which contain mostly perennial herbs and deer-resistant plants.

That holly bush next to the front door houses this little home at the moment:

My apologies to mama cardinal who feels the need to retreat everytime I open the front door.

I also planted mint in an existing bed of irises

but most of the work has been going on in our new vegetable garden.  To get there, you have to meander down a woodland path

across the bridge

to the garden on the other side of the creek.

My husband has been busy making, too.  Those raised beds, made from white oak lumber, are his handiwork.

The beds have short pieces of PVC pipe attached to the inside which allows me to place long, arching sections of flexible pipe in them.  These can then be covered with protection for the plants (against bugs or weather) or to create an arbor of sorts.  I used cable ties to attach a length of fencing to the pipes.

These are summer squash plants that will grow up and over the arbor, allowing me to use less space and also improving air circulation around the plants and keeping the fruit off the ground.  Underneath the arbor I have planted carrots which can tolerate some shade.  I tried a nifty little technique to make my own seed "tape" to plant my carrots.

I started with a paper napkin, unfolded and reduced to a single ply.  I drew a 3" grid on the napkin with pencil.  Using a flour/water paste, I "glued down" 1-2 carrot seeds at the intersection of each grid line (16 spots on each napkin.)  I labeled the napkin with the variety of the carrot and let the paste dry.

Planting my seeds was as easy as laying out the napkins over the soil

and covering them with additional soil.  This ensures that the plants are optimally spaced and very little, if any, thinning will be needed.

This past weekend my husband and I really got into the making spirit and put together these bean trellises.

These were built from stock lumber and took three times as long to paint as to build.  I found the directions at this site

I did have the chance to do a little sewing a few weeks ago when I joined my sister near Surrey, Virginia for "sewing camp".  I enjoyed the company of many nice women, some fine cooking and a chance to relax in a beautiful setting.  I completed a couple of projects, a pair of pajamas which you will see soon (I'm working on a tutorial to accompany that post) and some much-needed storage for the plastic bags that seem to accummulate at my house.

These are nothing more than fabric tubes with elastic at one end and a ribbon for hanging at the other.  Plastic grocery bags are stored inside until needed, and then can be easily removed through the elastic opening.

I'm still going to be making my garden for a few more weeks, and I'm sure I'll share some pictures once it is in all its glory.  And that treehouse really needs a special flag, don't you think?  What are you making?

Monday
Mar092015

Take That, Winter

Most of you in the United States have seen some harsh winter weather in the last month (special shout out to those of you in New England).  Here's what my back yard looked like last week:

and that was before the next storm dropped about 8 more inches of the white stuff.  Kids have been home from school and underfoot which has made it difficult to get anything productive done.  But, in the last few days we've seen some warm temperatures and lots of melting, and it has put me in the mood from some gardening. The snow actually helped a bit in the garden, allowing us to tramp out various ideas for future beds and see what they would look like.  So while the weather outside was frightful, I spent some time with seed catalogs and graph paper, dreaming of gardening weather to come.

This weekend I decided to start a few seeds, mostly annual flowers to intersperse with the vegetables.  I needed some quick plant markers so I punched some colored card stock (the colors conjuring up Easter eggs) in flower shapes, wrote the plant names on the front and added a tiny dot of hot glue and a toothpick to the back.

Very quick and easy.

That's Slim Pick'ns (or Slim, for short) in the background, my garden kitty.

It still seems a long way off, which is probably a good thing given the amount of tasks that I need to accomplish before the last frost, but these little seedlings warming on my window sill (and a lone crocus) remind me that spring is just around the corner.