37 by 37

Because it's getting dark so very early these days, because I read this great post about NaBloPoMo - national blog posting month - which talks about showing up here just because it's fun, because I have two years of possible posts I could share...and just because.

I'm ready for a 37 by 37 list. In 2013, I made a 35 by 35 list. This year I had a 36 by 36 list. I turned 36 in August and gave myself a two month extension on checking a few more things off that list before moving on to 37. Just because.

Like my friend Sarah does with her annual 100 New Things list, I aim for doing half of the things. And if I don't, it's not a big deal. I don't stress about it. I keep making lists because it's a reminder of things I want to try or accomplish. Like, oh hey, I totally need to make that happen. Not, grrr, I have to do this because I said I would. 

Because the list reminded me to make it happen, one of the highlights of this past year was going paddle boarding for the first time one beautiful weeknight evening on the Huron River. It was challenging and peaceful, and wouldn't have happened without the list. Other highlights were taking my niece on an overnight trip in Chicago for her 13th birthday, flying a very cheap kite on summer vacation with my other nieces which broke into sharp pieces within ten minutes, and downloading a geocaching app and going on a short treasure hunt with friends after dinner one night. Lots of good things.

Every year, I carry forward anything I'm still excited about doing and drop anything that I'm not excited about. A decent number of things have been on the list for two years. It's been a challenging two years, so going easy on myself has been super important. This is all in the spirit of self-care and showing up for myself, not doing for the sake of doing.

1.     Hike and finish #100trailmiles
2.     See a movie at the Ford Drive-In
3.     Shoot and post 50 photos from the Polaroid, Yashica, or Rolleiflex cameras
4.     Shoot and print a roll of double exposures with Matt
5.     Kayak in Port Austin, Michigan
6.     Take our bikes over to Ontario for a ride
7.     Complete an encaustic collage series with vintage women in the outdoors photos
8.     Finish 8 craft projects I planned and have the supplies to finish
         - Make a Michigan vintage postcards collage
         - Make vintage type set drawer piece
         - Sew another dress - a Staple Dress
         - Sew myself a second Ruby top
         - Sew pillows for the bed or couch
         - Sew myself a knit top
         - Sew a throw quilt with thrifted wool
         - Knit myself a new sweater
9.     Finally go to the Detroit Soup
10.   Finish decorating the bedroom
11.   Tour the Rouge factory
12.   Scan my grandpa’s photos with my mom
13.   Get into a Project Life habit
14.   Take long exposure photos of the stars at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park
15.   Ice skate on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa
16.   Attend a weekend art workshop or retreat
17.   Submit one (or more) of my dissertation papers for publication
18.   Learn to play a duet on the guitar with Matt
19.   Swim in the Barton Springs Pool in Austin
20.   List and sell something on Etsy
21.   Draw in the gallery at the Detroit Institute of Arts
22.   Skijor with Kaia (even for 3 minutes before I fall or she runs me into a tree)
23.   Set up a sewing station
24.   Hike the whole Waterloo trail (22+ miles)
25.   Visit a new museum in NYC
26.   Visit a new museum in the Midwest
27.   Spend a day exploring a Midwestern city
28.   Go to a taping of a TV show (is taping still a thing?)
29.   Buy a new-to-me sewing machine
30.   Spend a week with no screens after 6pm
31.   Try acupuncture
32.   Take a dance class
33.   Hit balls at the batting cages
34    Sleep in a yurt
35.   Fly on a trapeze
36.   Explore a state or country I've never visited
37.   Camp on an island

      When I started the 36 by 36 list in January, I immediately thought I should also keep a spontaneous list. I didn't keep one, except in my head, but I love the notion that the best things I experience in a year will be totally unplanned. Last night, I accidentally - uh, spontaneously - posted a 2014 spontaneous list before it was ready (why is the publish button right next to the save button???). I retracted it, but the original post still went out to email subscribers and news feeds. So anyway, I'll repost tomorrow, and it'll make a bit more sense then.

Planned and spontaneous fun.  Ready, set, go!

Taking Glue to Paper

I've been looking through collage books again. Thinking about paper and gel medium. I've also been doing some things I've wanted to do before I turn 36 at the end of the month. Like fly a kite with my nieces. And go paddleboarding with a friend. Giving away art for Free Art Friday was one of them. 

I don't actually want to give this one away. I like it. But I'm going to let go of it anyhow. That way, I will just need to keep making more things.

#33: Treat my niece to a girls overnight trip to celebrate her 13th birthday

Of all the things I want to do this year, this was tops. I once had a professor who took her grandchildren anywhere in the world they wanted to go for their bat mitzvah or bar mitzvah. It was a tradition I wanted to start with my own nieces - all five of them - though without the "anywhere in the world" part. Granted it would be great if I could swing an Amazonian river cruise or trip to Paris every few years.

Our first niece was just a babe in arms at our wedding twelve and a half years ago and a toddler when we lived near Chicago years ago, when I was in my early twenties and just getting used to big city living. Now she's on the cusp of becoming a teenager.

She lives in Illinois, so I gave her a few options - Chicago, Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Dells. She chose Chicago. All those years that she's been growing up, I've been navigating cities, so it was fun to show her the ropes. Since she was game for whatever, we spent our time the way I typically travel: taking the train, walking way too much, packing it in, shopping just a little, eating on the run, visiting a museum, buying tickets for a play that same day after researching every play in the city weeks before. She didn't get tired one bit. I very much needed a nap before it was dinnertime, but she easily could have kept going all night.

I love that she's in the in-between. She knows it too. Growing up is something she has to do. She kind of wants to and kind of doesn't. My best advice for navigating being a teenager was to stick with your closest small group of friends. With good luck, they could be your friends for a long time, and they'll help you get through all the stuff that isn't so great. And I told her to wear what you want to wear. And as far as make-up goes, I only wear eyeliner on special occasions.

Abundant things

I never mentioned that for 2014, the one little word I choose was "abundance." Or rather, it choose me. Over the holidays I read a book of love letters written between Matt's grandparents while they were courting. It was gifted to us by Matt's aunt and is quite a treasure, since we love them so. When they embarked on a long-distance courtship, they were both engaged in full-time professional ministry - his grandmother doing so as a deaconess in Baltimore before the United Methodist church ordained women and his grandfather as a minister in a very small town in Michigan. In the letters, they discussed their mutual commitment to abundant living. His grandma wrote, 
"I'll have to agree again with you, Mac, about the fact that city young people are harder to work with because it takes so much to satisfy them. Really for me, it takes so little (of the right abundant things) to make me happy, grateful, content! Oh! to help them catch that little bit of what it takes to be content."
Having had the pleasure of knowing Matt's grandma for nearly twenty years now, she may be the most consistently content person I've known. She was on to something.

After I couldn't get it out of my head, I looked up the phrase "abundant living" and it turns out the term was popularized by Oral Roberts in the post-war period when Matt's grandparents were quickly falling in love. The sociologist in me thinks that it makes a lot of sense that a theological discussion around abundance took hold as the country entered its most wealthy, consumer-oriented era to date in the 1950's.

Ultimately, I feel the word abundance choose me is because it actually makes me really uncomfortable. Both because of the religiosity around the term, but also because I think of myself as someone who adheres more to a simple living philosophy than to abundant living. But, when I'm honest and look around, I have a lot of stuff. Seriously, we have four computers for two of us. Some of the excess gets in the way of living the way I want to live. But mainly, I just want to more deeply enjoy and get use out of what I have. It goes hand in hand with what I was already setting out to do this year: make a clearing.

At some point well over a year ago, I made a conscious decision to hold back from sharing here the things I was making. I wanted to take the pressure off so I could experiment a little more and just enjoy the making process. I guess I made a clearing of privacy for awhile. I'm glad I did that, but I'm ready to share here more. Sharing right now seems in line with the idea of living abundantly.

So for starters, above is my version of the Simple Sprinkle scarf which is my go-to cowl this very cold winter. I started it last winter to use up yarn scraps, put it aside, and then finished it up in December. The pattern called for a few more repeats, but I thought the shorter length was cozy so I stopped knitting when I felt like stopping.

So that's my plan - more intentionally pick up what's calling me creatively and set aside what I'm not enjoying. Simple and abundant.

Weekend garment sewing with Rae and April

I've wanted to learn to make dresses for awhile. This Washi dress in particular. This weekend was the weekend.

I grew up with women who quilted and made dolls, but not garments. This probably saved me from having to wear a lot of embarrassing ensembles, but still, I've always been interested in garment sewing. My first sewing project was a purse that I made out of shiny bubble-gum pink spandex in 4th grade. I used it for trick-or-treating and it sagged all the way to the ground by the end of the night. In 7th grade home ec, I decided to sew a purple jersey knit dress (not an easy fabric to start with), while the other kids made pillows. I was pretty proud of myself for taking on an ambitious project, seeing that I come from a long line of women who sew beautifully, but I hit my final growth spurt mid-semester and outgrew the dress before I finished it! It remained almost done, too tight and short to wear, and taunted me for quite awhile.

Since then, I've planned a lot of sewing projects but haven't followed through with most of them. Collecting patterns and fabric was actually my hobby. Then, a couple years ago someone in my knitting group said she wanted to learn to sew a dress that could become her uniform for work. That idea really appealed to me, and when I saw the Washi dress, I thought it might be the dress. The designer lived locally so I kept my eye out for a class with her.

This past fall I took a work trip to Seattle. While looking for a place to eat dinner after a long flight, I stumbled on a very lovely fabric shop called Drygoods Design in Ballard. I'm not exaggerating even a little when I say that ending up in Ballard accidentally was like stumbling straight into Pacific Northwest fantasy-land, where everyone drove Suburus and bearded guys in flannel and chooks sold organic beet juice at a farmer's market on a street filled with coffee shops. I even went into a dessert shop devoted to molten chocolate cakes and $8 jelly jars filled with handcrafted sea salt dark chocolate pudding. I was a little more than charmed by the whole scene and lost my better sense, walking away from Drygoods with the Washi paper pattern and enough expensive fabric for two dresses and a shirt!

This time, I was on the hook to actually follow-through. So, I signed up right away when the weekend garment sewing workshop, hosted by Rae Hoekstra of Made by Rae and April Rhodes, was announced on Rae's blog. Both women design easy-to-sew patterns with a modern sensibility. Rae designed the Washi Dress, and it's been a bit of a sensation among young seamstresses. April is from Columbus, Ohio, and is quite accomplished - owning a local fabric shop with her mom and designing very stylish patterns that she sells online. 

For the whole weekend, twelve of us - some who came from as far as away as Montreal and Chicago - got to hang out in Rae's studio in Ann Arbor, getting tips from both designers on how to custom fit patterns to your body and learn other little tricks of the trade. We also got to try on their dress and blouse samples hanging on the rack. So.much.fun. It felt like a very low stakes version of Project Runway. Except the phrase "that's so adorable" was used a lot instead of "make it work." You get the idea.

My sewing is a little rusty and I'm not the best at following directions, so my progress was a little slower than some of the other women. Most were away from kids for the weekend and laser-focused on maximum sewing time. Some stayed until 11pm Saturday night. I was in a slower paced mood and stopped for all the demos and asked a lot of questions so I could learn how to trace a pattern onto Swedish tracing paper, make a muslin, adjust the fit (particularly in the bust, which involves finding your apex!), and get some tips on garment finishing techniques like shirring, hemming, pleating, and making bias tape. I also got a tutorial on using my serger, which has been sitting in my basement since I snagged it last year from a neighbor who moved to San Francisco. 

It was also fun to be a bit of a tourist in the college town next door to where I grew up. Rae's studio was next to the pizza place my parents took me to as a baby. Saturday the weather took a turn for the even-worse, and I had to call up a good friend from high school and bum a sleepover on her couch. On Sunday I wanted to finish my dress, but I decided instead to go along on a little field trip to Pink Castle Fabrics and my favorite place to eat in town these days - Frita Batidos.

I love knitting, I love painting, I love papercrafting, but I think for a little bit here, sewing is going to be my main craft.

I'll be done with my first Washi dress within a week. Hold me to it, friends. Because like always, I have a more than a few other projects in mind.