19 November 2015

My Better Half

About a year ago, my husband The Lizard retired following roughly 30 years in a backup career he used to put himself through college and graduate school. He's never been able to land a job in the field of his dreams due to lack of experience. (How can you gain experience when every job in your field requires three to five years of experience?)

Never in his wildest dreams did he suspect it would be so difficult for a college-educated, middle-aged male to find a new job in a new field when he retired. After much research (and a ton of encouragement/elbowing by me), he decided to try his hands at launching his own business, where he can be his own boss and do something he loves.

I've long thought this move would take him into the world of bicycle maintenance, but he repeatedly warned me it would take up all his weekend time, and instead of cycling with me on our favorite rides and tours, he'd be running the mechanic shop at a stop along the way. Every. Single. Ride.

He's been watching me knit, crochet and quilt for more than ten years now. He sees the joy it brings to both me and recipients. He sees the creative process. He's felt the explosions of imagination on every level.

For my 50th birthday, he endeavored to learn to crochet. After numerous frustrating tangles, he cried wolf. No, he did not cry like a wolf! But he did decide crochet is not for him.

He expressed interest in learning to use the knitting machine I bought used from a graduate student approximately two decades ago, but I've taken the Toyota out of the box only twice and have never tried to use it. I did join a Colorado machine knitting club a few year ago to learn how to use the machine, and I successfully knitted a swatch on one of the member's similar machines. But I've never had the time to really dive into getting my own set up and therefore have not shared much in the way of machine knitting enthusiasm or triumph.

The Lizard fashioned a quilt frame for me when I finally lost patience and sympathy for the splintered and unfinished one I'd inherited from my grandmother in 1979. He's helped me stretch quilts onto the frame, and he's helped me roll up framed Works In Progress (WIPs)to get them out of the way when we have company.

He's often said he would like to learn to quilt, but not by hand. That meant we would have to invest in a long-arm, which isn't realistic for our budget, or I would have to gain confidence in free-motion quilting in order to teach him.

Then something miraculous happened. He found a photo of a rag quilt he loved. Both of us grew up in quilting families that used up what fabric was outgrown or worn out in our own households. Both of us love using up scraps of any leftover project, sewing as well as cycling maintenance.

I have plenty of fabric for him to work with... You know the old saying. She who dies with the most fabric wins. I have more fabric than I can ever use in about six lifetimes. I think I'm winning.

However, there's something special about using fabric you pick out yourself. Especially when you are first learning.

In August, The Lizard picked out a fat quarter bundle for his first project. Three days after its arrival, he was putting the final touches on his very first quilt.

He's getting more and more comfortable with my sewing machine. He still hates my rotary cutter and still threatens to use a box cutter when cutting blocks. He marvels that I allow him to occupy the Design Floor (in the dining room/living room) where I work out my layouts (or playouts, as we affectionately call them).

He never complained when I had a project on the dining room floor for a day or two at a time. Why in the world would I ever complain if he does the very same thing???

I've long had an idea in my head for a logo and name for an Etsy shop I dreamed we'd one day run together. I'm very proud to announce it's time we finally give birth to this baby! Our first "child"!

Introducing... (drum roll, please)... ArroyoLizard. Initially, I wanted to name his shop B.D.Eyes, a cute and logo-worthy moniker. The B. and D. were for Brett & Deborah because this venture would be a collaboration some of the time, and the embroidered B.D. Eyes logo would feature Beady Eyes. Because, you know, lizards have beady eyes, and snowflake creators have lots of beads. We both have an eye for color, we both have an eye for wildlife, and we both have an eye for mountain and desert vistas. Plus, we love to work together. The plan was to have fun creating together.

We'll still collaborate, and we'll still have fun creating together, but The Lizard is doing his own quilting now, all by himself, and it's only fair his shop represents the work he puts into his creations. He's hoping to soon add "mandanas" to his shop. He has a collection of bandanas I've made for him during the last ten years. They are custom made to wear beneath his bicycle helmet so his head doesn't get burn marks from the sun beating down through the helmet vents. He's had enough compliments and interest from other male cyclists to warrant launching his own little mandana factory.

ArroyoLizard will feature creations by The Lizard. When we do occasionally collaborate, such as when he tries his hand at some of my designs, we may open that third shop. With or without B.D. Eyes, I plan to design fabric exclusively for him to use as a quilter. So that will be a joining of our talents, too.

His first few projects have been rag quilts to familiarize him first with my sewing machine, and now with his own. (We invested in a $99 machine earlier this fall when we thought my machine had permanently bit the dust, just as I began teaching him to use it. Thankfully, my 33-year-old baby is still plugging along!) The Lizard has now mastered threading both machines, winding bobbins, reloading bobbins and now is even learning all about tension. I hope to have him free-motion quilting by the end of the year. I anticipate he will have much more confidence than me because he's a good driver and a good cyclist. He can hold the pedal steady, and he can steer! He hasn't spent 20 years being afraid of machine quilting like me. I think he's going to really excel!


  1. Awesome indeed, glad he is excelling and finding a way to work for himself. That is the best way indeed. And ugg to the stupid 3-5 years thing, that annoys me to no end. Only way you can get experience is to work for free, if that.

    1. Thanks, Pat! Things haven't turned out the way we planned, but it's been a fun journey, most of the time anyway.

  2. Sounds like a great new beginning!


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