Monday, December 30, 2013

Warmly outfitting the Vikings in your life with style and distinction

A pattern I've had my eye on for a long time, but never got around to making, was the Dwarven Battle Bonnet and Dwarven Battle Bonnet 2 by Sally Pointer of Wales. These are super fun to make and wear, not to mention being immensely practical, essentially balaclavas with style and whimsy. I never imagined my husband would be interested, but I'd never shown the pattern to him until he mentioned the bike ride across Manhattan was getting kinda nippy now that winter was closing in. To my surprise, he was very excited for me to make him one. Then when I mentioned it to my SIL she said that my nephew would really want one as well. Fortunately it is a very fun pattern that I was more than happy to make a second time, and both of them came out quite well.

My husband has a giant head, so I actually had to make his a larger size than provided for in the pattern. I added a bunch of stitches and kind of winged the eye and mouth holes to go along with the increased number of sts. Here it is in progress:

It turned out the eye holes were too large the way I knit them, and I ended up later crocheting around the outer edges to fill in some of the space. He wanted it knit with black hair and beard (despite clearly having a brown beard as you can see).

Ultimately, I think it came out well, and he was delighted with it.

My nephew is a normal sized ten year old, so I made the child's size for him and it fit him fine, with room to grow.

Here he and my husband are together on Christmas Eve, posing together with their matching helmets.

One for my niece is on the way. She has requested blue tips on the hair and beard!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The black hat that fell flat

I have made a number of felted items over the years. Some have come out wonderfully! I love the process. I love washing a giant and shapeless loosely knit item and watching it turn into a tight piece of fabric with a solid shape and structure. Felting can hide many ills, including dropped stitches, and it results in a fabric that doesn't fray or unravel. It's a hopeful process in that regard; a lot of the time, a piece that looks all wrong tightens up and becomes a great object.

But I was sadly disappointed in the black felted hat!

Due to my choice of yarn, after felting mine ended up REALLY fuzzy. Like, pimp hat fuzzy. My husband said he would have to get me a cane, a fur coat, and a pair of platform shoes.

I used his beard trimmer to cut off the fuzz, but I still wasn't crazy about the surface even after that.

The fatal problem: The top of it puckers where it decreases. I think this is because it decreases too fast. It has you doing 8 decrs per round with no plain round between, and I think that’s why the puckers happen.

I tried to pull these out when felting but was only partly successful. Not only did they not pull out, they only increased when I felted it a second time (because it was still way too big after the first felting). Because of this I didn’t even want to waste the ribbon to decorate it (you can see I was planning on a nice brown one. But I just couldn't get past the pucker).

They can't all be winners.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sewing the Striped Tee Shirt

I mentioned a while ago that I wanted to duplicate a fancy tee shirt I saw on Pinterest: I described "designing" the fabric and creating it on Spoonflower. I ordered two yarns of the fabric. The fabric arrived. I waited for a good weekend to sew the new shirt.

In the meantime I added "take apart a shirt that fits well" to the giant stack of projects that I work on while we watch TV at night. We watch a lot of TV, and this is the only way I can feel like I'm not wasting my allotted life span sitting and staring at a glowing box. (It's bad enough that I sit all the damn time.) I found a shirt that I liked but that got oil spattered on it so it was going in the rag box anyway, and I used a seam ripper and took it apart into its component parts. Which are very simple, for a simple tee: a front, a back, and two sleeves. 

A simple tee is the easiest garment there is to sew.

Thursday night Adam hosted the D&D game, so I had already cleared the dining table of its usual four-inch layer of stacks of things. (We don't use the dining table to dine except on holidays where we host dinner for more than just ourselves.) I laid out the shirt pieces on the fabric and drew around them. Later it occurred to me that I might want to make this shirt again, so I laid out the shirt pieces on newsprint and drew around them again. In order to get symmetrical pieces I folded each vertically, including the sleeves. I cut the front and the back in halves along the fold. In fact, because usually you cut out sleeves unfolded, I made the newsprint pattern piece of the sleeve before I cut it out of the fabric. Then I laid it out on the fabric and cut out two.

I pinned the front to the back (right sides together) at the sides and the shoulders. I sewed the shoulders and then I sewed the sides. I pinned each sleeve folded lengthwise, right sides together, and sewed the arm-length seam. 

I decided to finish the sleeve hems before attaching them to the bodice, so I wouldn't have the whole shirt flopping around as I sewed the hems. I have to admit that I cheated. I know that knit fabric isn't ever going to fray much, so I didn't even turn under the edge of the hem; I just folded it toward the inside about 5/8", ironed it, and sewed it with a straight stitch. I did pull the threads to the inside and tied them together, to neaten things up. 
I pinned each sleeve to the armscye and sewed it in. To seat the sleeve properly, I located the center point at the top of the sleeve piece, and pinned that to the shoulder at the seam. I briefly debated basting it in, then decided I could do fine without it. I went slowly and carefully - and each seam turned out about as well as I've ever sewed an armhole seam.

This left the neckline and the bottom hem of the bodice to finish. The shirt I was copying was a J.Jill simple long sleeve tee, and they use a stretchy shiny ribbon to edge their necklines, but I didn't have any of that. I was planning to cut a piece of the fabric and self-finish it so that the stripes would run perpendicular to the neckline all the way round; but I showed a test strip in place to Adam and he suggested using the stripe lengthwise so there would just be a half inch wide strip of the dark gray around instead. I felt mutinous and vaguely irritated because I suspected his was a better idea.

So I took a break and went to the Fairway because we were basically out of food in the house except for some canned salmon and kippers. I could subsist for a long time on canned fish (as long as there was coffee and half and half), but Adam detests the stuff so it was just time to get some food.

When I came back, having had a little time to consider my options, I conceded that the lengthwise strip would possibly be better for structural reasons. But I went with the cream stripe showing on the outside instead. I cut a piece of fabric 1 5/8" x 21" for the self-edging. I ironed a 3/8" fold along the inner length. Then I sewed the ends together using about a 1/4" seam (I was able to get this to fit along the neckline, but would use a 3/8" seam next time). I pinned it and sewed carefully using a 3/8" seam, having cut the piece so this would result in the seam running exactly along the edge between the stripes. I felt that the 3/8" seam was a little bulky, so I trimmed about 1/8" or maybe 3/32" ;) along the edge. Then I turned the neckband inside and pinned it in place. I hand-sewed the edge down all around the inner edge.

Finally, I hemmed the bottom edge using the same method I used to hem the sleeves. 

Some notes

I don't have a ton of experience sewing knit fabric (excluding hand-knit fabric of course), and the thing I was worried about was how the fabric is stretchy, but the stitch line is not. So I found a kind of forward zigzag stitch that had lengthwise stretchiness, and I used that for all the seams. If you look closely at the pic to the right you can see it. But when I tried it on a piece folded, to see how it would work for the hem, it tended to make the fabric pucker. So for the hems I used a straight stitch. 

To finish the seams, I used regular zig zag stitch, then trimmed the seam edge close.

I pressed all seams toward the back, and the armscye seam toward the arm. For the sleeves this meant that when I hemmed them I turned them opposite directions, and then I was careful to put each into the armscye that would result with the seam pressed back. I was quite careful about this. It doesn't mean anything and I didn't win any prizes for doing it this way. It was just a little bit of OCD rearing its head. 

I added my name to the inside collar.
I wasn't 100% thrilled about how a printed stripe (rather than one dyed into the fabric) showed itself when sewn across, e.g., at the hems. You can see the white of the base fabric peeking through where the stitches pierce the fabric. I also noted that the print can be picked off, if one thinks one has a piece of fluff attached and pulls at it and discovers it wasn't fluff, it was a bit of print lifting up off the material. So probably one would want to wash these prints the same way one would wash any print they didn't want to degrade over time: Turn it inside out before laundering.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

DIY gift bottle carrier

I won't mince words: This is not an easy sewing project, despite being mostly a rectangular, open top box. It's the oval opening that makes it more challenging. I think you could make an easier version of it with handles, and I'm going to work on that, but for now we have this somewhat advanced project.

The outer fabric I used is this sweet Prince Charming laminate by Tula Pink. I used this a while back to make a messenger bag for my niece Amanda, and I had enough left over for this project. The lining is just some flowery cotton I had in my stash.

The pieces are easy: just three rectangular pieces. The front and back are 5.25 x 16.25", the sides are 5.25 x 11.25, and the bottom is 5.25 square. These dimensions include a 5/8" seam allowance all around. I used newsprint for my pattern pieces. For the oval, I used a honey jar and traced around it. You could also do a rectangular cut-out if you prefer the look, or a circle, or something you drew freehand, if that pleases you. I'm going to refer to it as the oval, here, to keep it simple.

Cut 2 of the front/back, 2 of the sides, and 1 of the bottom piece from each of your exterior fabric, your lining fabric, and heavy interfacing (I used Timtex that turned out to be double-sided iron-on, though I did not iron it on until after I sewed). For interfacing, I tend to cut out pieces without the seam allowance, in this case 4x15, 4x10, and 4x4.

The only marking that needs to be transferred to the fabric is the oval, and you put the marks on the wrong side of the lining. I used marking paper. First I used my tracing wheel, but that leaves dotted lines, and the lining was so busy it was impossible to see the marks, plus it basically cut through the paper of my pattern piece. So (after taping the oval in place) I used an unclicked ball point to press a more solid line of marking. Here you see. It's still pretty faint, but visible enough. I ended up going over that with a pencil to make sure I could see it when I started sewing.

I started the sewing part with this oval, as one of the harder parts of the project. You place the lining and the exterior with right sides together, and sew along the marked line. After you sew, you need to cut out the interior of the oval, and clip (carefully!) to give ease along the entire oval edge.

If you click to enlarge this picture at left, you can see that I cut little triangles out all along that edge. (I am still finding tiny fabric triangles all over my house.) After clipping, pull the piece inside out, and iron the edge. If you are using _____ fabric, you'll want to use an ironing cloth to protect the surface. See this pic at right? It looks great once it's ironed, but the clipping is required to allow it to bend enough and not pucker.

The next few steps are what you would probably expect. I sewed the fronts, backs, and sides together, and then that combined unit to the bottom piece, for both outside fabric and lining.

Here is the second hard part: Before you sew the lining pieces together, you will need to flip them through one side (between the outside and lining connections at the ovals) so you can sew together inside out. Then you pull back through.

Third hard part: inserting the interfacing. This was my first time using Timtex. Since it was heavy, I didn't iron it to the lining before sewing, but the next time I used the iron-on type I definitely will. It just eliminates a whole step and all the fiddly business of inserting the pieces into a sewn-together, tight space. I had to cut a little extra out of the hole to get it to fit, and also I had to slice through the top (as you see in the third pic above) to put it into place. Meh. So, yeah, next time, attach to fabric before sewing fabric together.

As you see, I left the top edges for last, and they had to be whipstitched together by hand. To make a sharp corner, see below. Fold the corner across at 45°, then the top across that, and then the side across, and it makes a nice angle between the two folded edges. Here you can see I did that process using the Timtex as a guide. Then, because the Timtex was iron-on, I was able to iron these edges onto it, which helped a lot when trying to keep everything together with the outside fabric.

I repeated that corner folding with the outside edges, pinned, and whipstitched all along the edge between the lining and the outside fabric. If you click to enlarge this photo at left, you can see my whipstitching at the very top. You try not to make it obvious, but it's hard to make it absolutely invisible.

You can also see I added a snap.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Making a felted hat

As part of my attempt to upgrade my wardrobe, I've mentioned I've been pinning a lot of items to my Pinterest "style" page. I found Amy Ward's millinery via the Martha Stewart's 2013 'Made in America' design awards, and in particular I really like (and pinned) this little number (in her spring/summer collection):

I wanted a hat from her, but I wanted something for fall. I got in touch with her to see if she made autumn/winter hats. She politely declined, saying she only really likes working with straw.

But now I really wanted a hat! It occurred to me that I could make my own. What's my go-to method? Knitting, of course. I sewed some hats many years ago, but I felt they came out homemade-looking. A felted hat, though: That can look really sharp!

I've done several felting projects in the past. I've made felted animals, mostly, but also shoes and a Dallas Cowboys potholder (a gift for a friend). And felting is FUN! There are several methods, but the way I've done it is to knit an item in an enlarged size, then wash it in a little soap and very hot water. You need to keep agitating it for a long time, several cycles on a typical washing machine, so a home machine is more convenient than a quarter-fed one. But I've done it in the laundry room of my apartment building before I had my own.

I found a good pattern on Ravelry, the Vivian hat by Lisa Cruse. The yarn I spun from Icelandic lamb and alpaca fiber that I carded together. (It took forever to card the amount I spun for this project and there was still a lot left. I sent the rest off to a mill that handles small amounts to card for me, as I just couldn't face trying to complete it myself.) Sadly, I ran out of yarn once I passed the crown of the hat ... but it's black! So I pulled some other worsted yarn out of my stash and finished with that. It took two days to knit - these go fast because the needles are so big (10-1/2's). Here's the floppy completed knit, prior to felting:

The different blacks are pretty obvious here, but I suspect they will be less detectable once it's felted.

I threw it in the washer with a little Eucalan (though Dove dishwashing detergent is mild enough and works very well too) and ran it for about 30 minutes. When you do this, you will take it out and look at it and it will have done nothing for about 22 of those minutes. Then suddenly it starts to contract and thicken. At this point it's important to check it more often, to make sure it doesn't go too far. I have read claims of stretching out a shrunken wool sweater, but I don't believe them. Once wool has felted, there's no going back.

Once I got it shrunk to what I think is enough (it wasn't like I could try it on since it was wet), I took it out and blocked it. Finding the right object to put inside it to block it was hard, too. Many real milliners carve their own blocks! For this pattern, which has a slight Mad Hatter quality to it (wider at the top than around the head), you can't use a straight cylinder; you need an upside down conical shape. I finally found a trash can that was wider at the top than at the base and put the hat on it. I worked the shape of it into how I wanted it, and then I left it alone in the sink to dry.
[This was very hard to capture in a photo, since the hat is so black, and even flash didn't really bring out much detail. In the picture on the left, I upped the brightness in "postprocessing" (i.e., using iPhoto), which makes it look like the hat is floating in a sea of white. In the one on the right, you can just see the bottom of the can that is supporting the hat.]

Something interesting is how furry it is now. The felting process seems to have affected the fibers in the yarn differently. I don't know if the alpaca felted more than the Icelandic or vice versa? Another possibility is that there are lots of very short fibers in the yarn and those may be what are standing out. There's a definite fuzzy quality to the hat now. Adam asked how I planned to get rid of the furriness, and I said "shave it," mostly in jest but sort of, maybe, considering doing it. I'd be happy to hear any suggestions you may have about how to deal with the fuzz. Otherwise I will need a big fur coat and some platform shoes to go with the hat.

Next up is a trip to M&A Trimming to get the perfect ribbon to adorn it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Spoonflower product test

Recently I fell in love with a shirt I saw on Pinterest.

It reminds me of several beloved shirts I have had over the years that have all fallen apart after years of use. It's simple and probably very comfortable. I also really like the combination of gray and cream in the stripes, which seems very new and modern to me.

It is also, unfortunately, priced at ¥29400, or about $300.

So my first thought was, okay, I can buy similar fabric, and sew my own. I have amassed a good set of online fabric store links over the past few years, and I visited them all in search of a good match for this fabric. To absolutely no avail. And I'm embarrassed to say I stayed stuck in this frustrated failure to find a good fabric - I think knit is probably more appropriate but I would have accepted woven - for more than a month. Then I remembered Spoonflower!

If you don't know about Spoonflower, and you are a sewer, you need to check this service out. There are others (e.g., Fabric On Demand), but they don't work the same way, and they don't provide the same access to other designers in addition to printing your designs. You can have your own fabric, wallpaper, removable decals, and wrapping paper printed, or you can buy fabric with designs by other people, selecting from a huge and amazingly varied catalog of patterns and pictures.

the simplest jpeg ever
I'm not good at drawing. Though I am expert at many crafts and I majored in sculpture and painting in college, I suck at drawing cute designs and patterns. But I've been sewing my whole life, so when Spoonflower came out in beta, I enthusiastically joined up as soon as I could get in. I created a design, but it wasn't especially good, and I'm not going to show it around. I would certainly never claim to be a fabric designer, even a little. But even I thought that creating a jpeg file of two-color stripes was easy. The instructions on Spoonflower are very clear and remarkably non-stringent, especially compared to other custom product makers that require super high definition files of exact sizes and whatnot. I created a 4"x4" square picture with 1/2" stripes, and I wasn't even especially careful about the colors I chose, figuring I'd see how they come out in the samples and adjust if necessary.

the samples from Spoonflower
It did take a somewhat long time for the samples to arrive. I ordered them on Sept 30 and they only just arrived on Oct 17. That's a bit long in this Amazon era of instant delivery. But on the other hand, I'm getting the exact fabric I pictured in my head, and that's worth having to wait a little while. I chose two knit fabrics to test, because I didn't know what they were like "in person," and while I was at it I also bought a giant full color display and a set of fabric samples. This is not the first time I've ordered fabric from Spoonflower, and it certainly won't be the last, so I figured it was a good time to get a set of samples.

I got test prints of the organic cotton interlock knit and the performance polyester knit. In the photo there, the poly is on the right. I prefer how the colors came out on the cotton, as well as its somewhat sturdier drape. The one disadvantage of buying a stripe printed on fabric rather than dyed into it, is that the reverse side is quite obvious. I can live with that. I'm going to order the organic cotton.

They have a whole bunch of cloth selections to choose from, depending on your use. Are you a quilter? You will no doubt enjoy the Kona© cotton quilting weight. If you want to sew a blouse, the cotton voile or the silk crèpe de chine would serve admirably. (I've used the voile, aka lawn, and it's nice, though slightly sheer.) You can re-cover a stuffed chair with the linen-cotton canvas. There are lots of options!

One last note: Spoonflower has (sadly) not paid me for this post. The opinions expressed here are 100% my own and are absolutely sincere. My only wish is that I had thought to invent Spoonflower myself.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Portland trip!

I have a group of close friends from college, most of whom moved to NYC right after school, as did I. But eventually everybody moved away to other cities. Dana moved to Chicago and married Jim. Jena moved back to San Diego and married Robert. Vicki moved to DC and married Roger. And Rosa moved back to the Boston area and married Mark. Fred lived a bunch of places on several continents, and somewhere in there he married the wonderful Jacqui, and eventually they ended up in Portland. I could tell a lot of stories about this group but I'll confine my intro thus. Given our diaspora, we began to have a mini reunion every year or two.

This year we chose to go to Portland. I've never been there, but I've seen every episode of Portlandia and have long wanted to see this city. The reunion was this past weekend. I found Portland just as lovely and quirky and homey as you would expect.

I have collected a bunch of Portland-related links and blog posts over the past few years. In preparation for the trip, I grabbed them all and made a map:

View places in portland OR in a full screen map

I made it to precisely six of the above places I aimed at, but it was a lovely weekend and I'm not sorry for the choices made.

Just waiting for the elevator is lovely
On Friday Adam and I landed in PDX at about 10:30 am. We came into the city using the MAX (train system) and checked into our hotel, The Nines. I loved this hotel! It's decorated so beautifully, in wonderful colors, which days into the trip still gave me delight. Black, taupe, silver, and Tiffany-box blue. I took a few pictures but they didn't do it justice. I have to say the bed was uncomfortable. Although Adam found it fine, my back was destroyed by it. But in comparison to our Tempur-Pedic, nothing is worthy.

Jacqui and her wonderful daughter Phoebe took us to a real Portland coffee place. Then we went back and met up with Dana and Jim in the hotel's lovely lobby. We hung out there for a while talking and catching up. Eventually Jacqui left to take Phoebe to a synchronized swim practice, and we went up to the bar on the top floor, Departures. This turned out to be a glossy, highly stylized take on a yacht cabin, complete with navigation maps covering the walls and captain's chairs around the bar. Soon enough the rest of our reunion gang showed up.

Once we were all convened we went out to find a brewpub for some dinner. The first place we went, Cascade Brewing Barrel House, was kind of a drag, super packed with youths and a bit generic and a long wait. It was just chilly enough not to be able to sit outside.

So we left there and drove out to McMenamins Kennedy School, a converted elementary school in NE Portland that has been, to put it mildly, renovated. It now contains a hotel, a theater, a brewery, a soaking pool, several themed bars and restaurants. It is an entertainment complex by and for strange and quirky people. It was just amazing and delightful. There was art covering the walls of the hallways and the bathrooms and the restaurants and the bars. There were loads of funky lights and murals and door decorations and signs and every creative thing you can think of. I was blown away. It was very nearly a creative overload. We had to wait for a table there, too, but it wasn't a hardship as there was lots of room and stuff to look at. I was pretty tired by this time - it was already about 9:30 pm when we got there (12:30am Eastern time) - and all I could do was gaze about me in wonder.
Two of the many attractions at
McMenamins Kennedy School
Adam and I went exploring and found all kinds of fantastic nooks and crannies. In the back yard of the main restaurant they had a wonderful terra cotta fireplace, at least 8 ft long by 5 ft wide by 15 ft high, covered with mosaics. Further along in the yard there was another open fire pit with a blaze going and a fiery warming station. And sculpture all around. The food was good, although I was too tired to appreciate it. I urge people to check the place out for the decorations and the creative juices it will get flowing in them. It made me want to come home and make art, the bigger the better. It made Adam want to build us our own giant fireplace outside, and I do hope he does!
A map of McMenamins!

After that we headed back to our hotel and crashed. I really was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. I woke up at 6:00 (ET 9:00), but since I'm adept at going back to sleep on a weekend at that time, I knew I could soldier on back to sleep. So I did and got 3 more hours and more or less set myself on Pac time.

We went to breakfast with Dana and Jim at one of the hotel restaurants, Urban Farmer. It was fantastic! Jim reckoned it the best breakfast he'd ever had. They began by bringing us a mini loaf of hot zucchini bread and grated chocolate over it at the table. So amazing. Then we got our breakfasts. I adored my french toast, which came with these nuggets of blended dairy butter and peanut butter and blueberry compote. I didn't even notice what other people had but we all scarfed it up.

After breakfast some of us went to the Saturday Market, a craft fair down by the river. I bought some hand balm and a CD by 9Swords, a musical duo who were busking and were really good. We were agog at the bass player's duct tape repairs to his flannel shirt. I felt pretty touristy when I asked if I could take their picture!

Tiny twig dam at the Japanese Garden
Next we headed out for the Portland Japanese Garden. This was as lovely as you might expect. Though not quite as tranquil. It was fairly crowded, both with throngs of photographers with tripods, and clusters of sightseers joking about how the caretakers could ever rake the gravel without leaving footprints. It was impossible to be alone with the scenery there, so I can't really report having had a serene and contemplative experience. I wish. But they had all kinds of amazing little details, like tiny dams along the side of the path hand woven out of twigs, and about a hundred types of moss, which I really love, and the trees changing colors in all their autumn glory.

Pano photo of the Flat Garden
After the Japanese Garden we went to Powell's Books, which Jacqui really wanted us to see. I only wish I'd had more time in it. I was looking in the crafts section and found a note in the knitting books area that Clara Parkes - blogger, luminary of the yarn world, and founder of Knitter's Review - was speaking there at 4 pm. I looked at the time; it was 4:09! So I headed quickly up to the third floor, Pearl Room, and heard a bit of her talk. The story she was telling when I got there was one I'd already read online in her project The Great White Bale, so I went nosing about the stacks. I found an interesting book on Greene & Greene (architects and furniture designers), but it was a bit on the heavy side and I didn't fancy shlepping it back in my luggage. I went down to the Gold Room, where they have the sci fi section, seeking Terry Pratchett's Equal Rites, but it's hard to find and they had no copies. So I ended up not buying anything, which Adam had decreed anyway (I am to buy no more books, supposedly, now that we have Kindles) so he was happy.

Beast menu
After Powell's, people did various things, wandering and napping and shopping. We had a reservation for dinner at Beast, one of those restaurants that has "seatings," providing a six-course prix-fixe dinner with menu determined by what they find in the markets. Here is what we were served; see menu: ------>
It was transporting, as expected. That was all we were able to do on Saturday. I think Beast consumed us, rather than the reverse.

On Sunday we had a firm plan to meet up early to go to breakfast at Meriwether's. This was, if possible, even better than the breakfast the previous morning. At least mine was: I had a Dutch Baby lemon skillet pancake, which is a kind of custard-bottomed lightly sweet pancake, baked and served in a small iron skillet. My friends reported delighting in their choices as well, though I was pretty focused on my own amazing meal to examine others' choices.

After we ate I pushed everybody to set a date for the next meetup. Dana and Jim were leaving after breakfast and I wanted to get everyone to discuss it in person. [In the past, we've typically done this over email; it's a giant pain getting everybody to reply to the email, much less commit early to a date. If the date is in one's calendar already, however, when one is planning things for the fall of 2014, for example, then one may be less likely to accept another event during that time.] So despite pushback from Dana, who protested it was way too early to think about it, I referenced advice from her husband Jim, who had said to pick a date and just stick to it. And when he chimed in with, "You should just say, Columbus day weekend next year," everybody else fell into agreement. I was delighted. I told them, these mini-reunions are a highlight of my year! I love seeing all these people so much. I get to see them far too rarely. After agreement was reached, Jim said, "And now, Barclay, when you get back, you send everybody an Outlook invite!" (Which I did today.)

After lunch Fred took Jim and Dana and Jena and Robert to the airport. Jacqui took the rest of us back to the hotel. Adam took a nap, and I went out in search of one or two of the craft destinations I had been planning to visit. It turned out that the Button Emporium was closed. What a bummer - from what I could see through the window it looked like my kind of shop indeed. But I did go to Knit Purl. I had read about them on the Juniper Moon Farm blog; they were a stop on JMF's yarn tour earlier this year. KP has its own new yarn line, containing one yarn so far but a doozy, a lovely thick cashmere. I bought a skein and they gave me a free pattern as well for a scarf they had a sample of in the shop.

Jacqui surprised us by inviting Adam and me to go with Phoebe to the Portland Timbers game on Sunday night! We were totally excited to get to go. I absolutely love that kid and we were delighted to be at the game with her. It was super fun. It was a big deal of a game, in which they beat the Seattle Sounders to take first place in their division. We sat in the North End, where they have booster club volunteers to pump up the crowd and lead sheers. They even pass out a cheat sheet with all the words. I put a couple of videos on Instagram, including one of the crowd right after Portland scored the only goal of the night! (Warning: it autoplays, in case you're at work.)

After the game, the three of us took a streetcar (their public transportation is absolutely delightful) to our hosts' home and had a light supper with Vicki and Roger and Fred and Jacqui and their kids. Their apartment is large and full of family and love. It was great to get to see it and them in it.

I love these college buddies so much and it was great to see them.

Next year in Austin, maybe, or Boston, or ... well, we'll figure it out. But at least we know when it'll be!