Taming My Curls and Patchworking for the Home

I’m one of those curly-haired people who tells other curly-haired people that their hair looks amazing when they let it try naturally but,  at the same time, blow dries their hair straight pretty much all winter long. My excuse is that my naturally curly hair just doesn’t look as good as most. And it’s true that, despite the popular image of carefree, windswept waves, curly hair is actually a lot of work. You have to scrunch it and walk around with soaked strands, careful not to touch them so that the curls will maybe (depending on the weather and other inexplicable forces) come out looking decent. So yes, I often succumb to the straighter, simpler option. However, I also think of the summer as a good time to let my mane rejuvenate, soak in some moisture and take a break from the constant heat of blow drying. Since this summer has been especially rainy so far and my straight hair doesn’t always stand up to the humidity, my usual conversion to curly hair makes particular sense this year. To top it off, I’ve also taken up swimming on a pretty regular basis which means lots of chlorine exposure. Basically, all signs indicate that this is a good time to embrace my curls.

So the struggle begins. Even once dried, curls don’t tend to look all that wonderful just hanging around. After much trial and error I’ve concluded that headbands are the most painless and attractive way to tame my curls and keep them out of my face. Headbands, of course, come with their own slew of difficulties since many of them pinch your head uncomfortably or don’t stay on just right. Earlier this week, I only had one that truly met my high headband standards, a yellow polka dot one from J.Crew:

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I bought this a couple of years ago, and can’t really afford to buy a whole a new collection of headbands. Fortunately, it didn’t take me too long to realize that there’s nothing complicated about making a headband like this. After a few quick measurements, a brief search through my sewing area for some spare bits of elastic, approximately four hours of sewing, and no money spent, I came up with these:

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They’re exactly what I need, and really couldn’t be simpler to make, consisting of six inches of elastic in a nine inch tube of fabric and a seventeen by nine inch band. Each one takes about half an hour to complete at most. So I wouldn’t be surprised if my headband collection expanded rather rapidly in the next couple of months.

Headbands and curly hair also go well with one of my favorite accessories; big funky earrings. A post-lunch stroll through Harvard Square the other day led me and my friend into Beadworks (www.beadworks.com) where I bought approximately $5 worth of beads which I turned into earrings in a matter of minutes:

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Yes, I do engage in non-fiber craft from time to time. I used to be quite a beading fiend, and though I don’t find quite as much time for it these days, I’m really pleased with the results when I do. Nothing fancy, but fun and wearable.

Despite the rainy weather, I’ve been taking wonderful little trips with my Mom to various home goods stores in preparation for my new apartment. This includes BJs, Bed Bath and Beyond and my personal favorite, Concord Center, a wonderful little area full of several antique stores, and a cheese and candy shop. At The Concord Shop (www.concordshop.com)  my Mom bought me a beautiful collection of Emile Henry (www.emilehenry.com) pans in red, blue and green.  They’re currently packed away in storage, but this gives you a sense of what they look like:

As my mother pointed out, I do in fact have more than enough bed quilts (as does my entire family) so a patchwork tablecloth might be a good way to get my sewing fix over the next few weeks. I’ve gotten a start using fabrics I already had lying around, trying to stick with blue, red, green and yellow patterns. I decided to go for a very simple nine-patch pattern held together by the darker blue squares:

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However, thanks to my frugal patchworking over the past few months, my fabric stash is not as endlessly prolific as I had thought! So I went online and ordered a few yards of various different fabrics, all on sale, and await their arrival before continuing.

In the meantime, I’ve found other domestic patchworking projects to keep me busy. Enter the Pippapatchwork Pillows. I should mention that my giant patchwork pillow (seeing the Quilting and Sewing Gallery) has been quite the success, a wonderful cozy object to have around the house. Once again, my current home is sufficiently full of my patchwork endeavors, but fortunately my upcoming apartment has given me a wonderful excuse to make a couple more pillows. They’re each about 25 x 25 inches and they’re still awaiting zippers (ah yes, more zipper insertion) but are otherwise complete.

The first one is made from a pack of precut RJR Fabrics that I bought at a random fabric store on the way to Jackson, New Jersey during my January trip. I’m not going to lie; it’s nice to use precut fabrics every now and then. All that measuring and cutting gets a little tedious. I used leftover flannels to make a simple four-square back, and stuffed it with an old pillow I’ve had lying around my room for a while, meaning this cost about $8, including the cost of the zipper:

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The other one is made from a bundle of old fabric samples that I bought at an antique store in Concord Center (only $4 for the bunch of them). I used an old shawl that had been attacked by moths and is no longer wearable for the backing, and for the tassel I decided to add to the top. I also added strips of green corduroy from a pair of old pajama pants since it wasn’t quite big enough. This one has a particularly patchy work since the samples were all different types and sizes of fabric, some as thick as upholstery and many of them 100% wool. It certainly has a wonderfully homey look:

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Finally, I’ve made an important decision regarding my weekly mini quilts. Given the fact that my fabric and batting stashes are rapidly decreasing, and my life is about to become a lot busier (after a three-week trip to Australia I will be fully employed, starting in August) I’ve decided to make weekly patches instead. I’m going to sign each one with the date that it’s made, rather than the Sunday of the week, and aim for at least one a week, perhaps more. I’m also going to stick to the simple nine-patch structure, using 3 inch squares. Hard to say how exactly I came to this conclusion. Overall, my patchwork projects have been leaning toward the simple-is-better motto. I also want to use these patches to capture something about the week, my state of mind, whatever it may be, through the fabrics that I use. While at first I was trying to steer clear of the ‘journal quilting’ mode, I’ve experienced a 180 and decided this is exactly what I want to do.  This week I made a nine-patch in honor of my curly hair exploits, using a fabric that has little curly-cues on it:

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Naturally, these blocks will eventually be together into a giant Journal Quilt. I don’t know when exactly, but a nice big quilt is the goal. Perhaps then I’ll switch to a new block. I love the idea of a quilt that is by definition created over a long expanse of time, chronicling my life to some extent.

Finally, my cooking and baking adventures continue with my first attempt at homemade bread. I followed the simplest recipe for whole wheat in the Joy of Cooking, using honey for sweetening. Still, making bread is a bit intimidating. There’s the kneading, the rising, the preparation of the yeast that apparently has to be done just right or the bread won’t rise. But it’s also incredibly gratifying and sensuous, spending an afternoon covered in flour and checking on my dough every ten minutes to track its progress. Miraculously, thanks in large part to my mother’s guidance, it actually worked!

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I’m relieved and encouraged, ready to try many more different types of breads. However, just like my patchworking projects, the process is just as important as the end result which, as long as its full of love and the pleasure of working with one’s hands, need not be perfect.

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Filed under accessories, cooking, quilting

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