Friday, April 18, 2014

Hoodie Bear

I got a custom bear order recently. I’m really enjoying doing the custom bears – not only are the fabrics supplied, taking the color/fabric choices out of my hands, but I really like hearing the stories that go along with them. A lot of times they’re memorial bears, and I get to hear about the special people whose clothes I've been entrusted with.

This is one of those bears. The woman who purchased the bear did so for a friend's daughter, who recently had her first child. Her father passed a few months ago, and the woman supplied me with two of his hooded sweatshirts to combine into a bear for the new baby. She also included a small charm (which had belonged to the girl's mother) to stitch inside the bear. Inside the box with the hoodies was a copy of the funeral program, telling me more about the father, including the fact that he was in heaven, probably listening to Johnny Cash with his wife while wearing one of his favorite hoodies.

The buyer also mentioned the fact that he put smiley faces on everything, including his checks. I ended up using more of my vintage daisy trim to accent the bear's neck, instead of a ribbon, because I thought it worked better with the more masculine sweatshirt fabric, and also because the big daisies reminded me of smiley faces.

Once finished, the bear is being sent directly to the mom. The buyer enclosed a card for her, and I think when I wrap the package for shipment, I'll find a few smiley face stickers to put on the box.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Craft Show: Insurrection

Let me explain.

Yesterday's craft show at Lloyd Hall on Philadelphia's Boathouse Row was not exactly as planned - either by the organizers or the vendors.

There was never any clear information as to whether we'd be inside or out, but when yesterday dawned warm and sunny, outside was obviously the place to be.

Which is why, just as obviously, the organizers decided to keep the crafters indoors, in a big room used for basketball.  It's a great room, huge, with glass block windows facing the river that let in tons of light.  But all the people were outside.  There were hundreds of people outside.

About an hour in, during that uncomfortable period when the only customers are the vendors cruising each other's tables, we started talking about where we wanted to be.  One by one, we kept looking out the door at the crowds of runners, joggers, bikers, dog-walkers, couples, singles, families . . . and wanting to be out there, with them.

Suddenly, I'd had enough.  I started laying my display pieces flat on the table for easier movement, and when I looked up, there was a woman stepping briskly past, dragging her table behind her.

It was on.

Within fifteen minutes, we were all outside, ranged around the building, spaced between the trees on the sidewalk, in between the restroom doors (can't ignore us there!)

A little while later, the organizer came out and looked completely mystified at seeing us there.  He made a few noises about making us move back in, but when people said they'd go home before they'd go back inside, he went away.  Lucky man knew when he was beaten - earlier there'd been mutterings about glue guns.

It ended up being a gorgeous day, pretty profitable considering many of the people who were out there weren't dressed for shopping (hard to carry a wallet in a sports bra or a pair of bike shorts), but there were enough buyers to keep everyone happy and willing to come back.

If they ask us.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Ever since people found out that I recycle fabrics, I've come home to the occasional care package on my front porch.

It helps that I live on the same block as a really good thrift store.  They support my habit nicely, but it also works in the reverse -- friends who would normally donate to the store will leave their donations on my porch for me to pick through first, and then donate whatever is left that doesn't suit my needs.

These three dresses came from one of those care packages.  All of them were pillowcases - two yellow-and-white striped ones and a larger sham, striped on one side, the other with the really cool compass and ship images.

There were others, including some really, really large 1990s cabbage rose linens (think toddler-head-sized roses), which did make the journey to the store.  The nautical pillowcase went into the thrift bag, came out, went back in and was sitting there, waiting to be taken down the street when I sprinted down the steps and pulled it out, because I had just gotten the inspiration for the dress, and I was really hoping that Mario hadn't decided to help me out by getting rid of that bag for me.

The yellow striped dresses just feel like essence of summer.  I've had several yards of that daisy trim for the past couple of years.  I bought it to use on a dress for myself, and then I could never decide on a pattern (or use for the trim) that didn't look way too young and/or childish.

Considering how good it looks on these size 1 and 3 dresses, I think I was right to save it.  Much better for small people, right?

Show tomorrow.  Everything is packed up and ready in the hall downstairs, ready to load into the Outback in the morning.

More later.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Make Do and Mend

Today I pitched a workshop idea to a local organization whose goal is to encourage making through doing.

I called it "Make Do and Mend," and what I proposed was to teach a 2 hour workshop showing people how easy it is to care for their own wardrobes, and to stop throwing away or donating perfectly good clothes because no one ever taught them how to sew on a button or tack up the hems in their pants.  This seems to cover about 80% of the population.

The class could also potentially cover zipper replacement (jeans would be difficult without more know-how on garment construction, but standard skirt/pants zips wouldn't be too hard), some refashioning tips such as shortening sleeves, reshaping skirts, etc.

The application asked what my experience was to teach the course, and I said that I make almost all my own clothes, I run a business using recycled fabrics and I've taught an abridged version of this at every office I've worked, though usually they would rather buy me coffee and have me sew on their buttons.

Waiting to see if they take me up on it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It's that time

The scrap bag was beginning to overflow.

When that happens, I either sort through it and throw things away, or I make potholders.

Generally, I make potholders.

First, because I don’t like to throw anything away if I can help it, and second, because it’s always nice to have a lower priced item on the table at craft shows. I can keep prices low on these because it really is nothing but my time involved. And yes, my time is worth something, but the materials in this case were all left over from other projects. That and an 8” square of batting doesn’t take much out of me.

These fabrics practically jumped out of the scrap bag together, even though their original projects had nothing to do with each other. As I pulled them and laid them out on the table, I could see a vintage theme coming together. Think Depression-era kitchen – feed sacks and dress goods, all the bits left over from the household quilts coming together as potholders.

 I’m calling this group Americana, because it reminds me of picnics and summer and the colors lurking behind vintage black-and-white photographs.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How much is that teddy in the window?

In addition to Etsy and craft shows, I sell some items at VIX Emporium, a local craft and gift store on Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia.  (The owner also runs some of the craft shows I participate in).

It's a great little treasure trove of a store -- you never know what you're going to find, and it's a small enough space, with enough goodies packed in, that you're never sure you've seen it all.  Which is a good reason to go back, right?

Last week the spring window made its premiere, and I was happy to see one of my bears right there in the front.  I've sold there off and on for a few years, but this is the first of my pieces to make it into the window.

I hope he bewitches someone to come in and take him home!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Barcelona - Day 5

Quiet morning street
Despite the excesses of Monday, we woke up early and hungry.  When we ventured forth, bleary-eyed and with stomachs rumbling, our street was quiet.  We decided on Placa Reial again, since it was close by and packed with restaurants.  Someone would be up and available to feed us.

The outdoor tables weren't all set up yet, and most of the restaurants had delivery trucks parked outside.  We ended up at an indoor table at a restaurant we'd eaten at on the first night.  Most of the waiters were still eating breakfast in a huddle around a back table, but they were cheerful enough as they brought our coffees.  

I'm not used to feeling like an early riser at 9:30 a.m.  I could get a complex.  

Beach hotel - love the wave shape.
Tuesday was our last day.  In the morning we would be up early and heading back to the airport, so we had one day to accomplish everything we hadn't managed thus far.

Which meant the beach and the Picasso museum.  In that order, if I had my way.

It had been threatening rain, so I grabbed my umbrella on the way out, hoping that by carrying it, and inconveniencing myself, I would prevent the rain.  It seemed to work, because by the time we'd eaten and walked down La Rambla to the port, the sky had brightened, and by the time we got to the actual beach, it looked like it had never even been cloudy.

Who wouldn't want to wet their feet in that?

The temps were in the high 50s, not exactly beach weather, but after months being trapped indoors in too many layers, with Carhartt woolly socks on my feet, all I wanted to do was feel sand between my toes and the chilly Mediterranean lapping at my ankles.

I hadn't realized when I started looking into Barcelona that the beaches were man-made.  How does one make a beach, anyway?  And if it can be done, why doesn't every coastal place have a beach this beautiful?  And while we're asking impossible questions, why can't every ocean be turquoise?  Is it too much to ask that the Atlantic, practically on my doorstep, stop being gray/brown and turn aqua overnight?

Beach art - Rebecca Horn
The Wounded Shooting Star / The Cubes
We walked and splashed and picked up stones and looked at public art and other sun-starved people with their feet in the water, or lying on their backs in the sand, faces tilted hopefully up toward the light, and knew that even if it made us late for Picasso, even if it made us late for lunch, this was worth it.

The Picasso Museum.  Not a huge Picasso fan, myself, but Mario is, and I did find this museum interesting as it has so much of his student work, when he was a ridiculously talented, precocious child who painted better than a lot of trained adults.

It wasn't until later that he started painting like the Picasso we all know, and as he aged, he just kept growing and changing.  I don't remember where I heard it, but he was supposed to have said that as a child, he painted like an old man; when he was an old man, he painted like a child.

Beach art - Juan Munoz
A Place Where it Always Rains
One thing I didn't like about the museum -- no photography.  At all.  Not just no flash, but no nothing.  I know there are postcards in the gift shop, but like my talent for finding the one item in a store without a price tag, I always fall for the one piece of art for which there is no postcard.  So I didn't even look at them.  I think art should be for everyone; let people take whatever pictures they want.  No reproduction, no matter how good, is going to give you the complete feeling of the original, but let people try.  Don't keep your art all to yourself.

Matter of fact, just put it on a beach for everyone to enjoy.

After Picasso, we had lunch -- at the restaurant we'd lost and found on the first day -- and another long walk through the city.  After a brief nap, we packed, went out and found our last tapas and wine, gelato and espresso, and came back to sleep.

Barcelona - New York - Philadelphia

Day 6 was really just traveling, so it will fit in here.  We had to leave the apartment by 6:45 a.m. to make sure we got the Aerobus on time, and to the airport in time for check in.  If 9:30 a.m. was early, 6:45 a.m. was still nighttime.  There was no coffee to be had until we reached the airport.  It's amazing how easily you can face lines (minimal), security (quick and friendly) and your fellow passengers (almost non-existent at that hour) when you know there is coffee on the other end of it.

What the water felt like after
the long, long winter
When we reached our gate, no one was there yet.  Including the staff.  It was 2 hours before flight time, but I guess they were off, having their coffee.  There were certainly a lot of uniforms in the cafe down the way, where we stayed until we started seeing activity at the gate.

Flights home were good, though not as swift, obviously, as the flight over.  I do wish those tail winds would considerately change direction and push us home.  Despite how sleep-deprived I'd felt all week, I wasn't tired on the plane and Delta had a great selection of movies, so back-to-back I watched The Book Thief, August: Osage County and Gravity.  Great, too much, and better than expected.  Then, delving deeper, I happened on a documentary about Diana Vreeland, and I was happily watching that when I realized we were landing in NYC.