Thursday, November 12, 2015

It equals out in the end

So I've started this new routine lately.  Used to be, I'd get up at 7 a.m., feed the cats and the chicken, kiss Mario goodbye and then go back to bed for an hour or so.  Because I could.

That's changed in the past few weeks, mostly because I overbooked myself and the only way to find extra time is to use the time that was formerly spent cuddling with kitties and smiling because the rest of the world had to get up and go to a box, and I didn't.

But two Mondays ago, I got up when Mario's 6:45 alarm went off, fed the critters and put the coffee on.  Made him drink a cup at home and make vaguely social noises before heading off to work (he's as good at mornings as I am, just gets up earlier).

After that, I stayed up, and got a surprising amount done by the time I would normally roll out of bed, including a nice 45 minute walk around the local cemetery to get my blood and my brain moving.

I've done it every day since then, with the exception of weekends, when there are men and shows to be scheduled.

But for now, because I somehow accepted way too many custom bear orders, then said yes to a t-shirt quilt (also due by the week before Christmas), and contracted with a new shop a few days ago to give them 10 bears next week, I need the extra time.

What I'm hoping is that by the time the holidays are over, this productive morning thing has become a habit so ingrained I don't lose it once I don't need the time quite so much.

Today I got up, fed and watered everyone that needed feeding and watering, ate breakfast with Mario, went to the supermarket, did a load of wash and hung it to dry in the basement and then ran to the hardware store when they opened - at 8:30 a.m.  Then I came home, sewed a teddy bear, did some online work and took the train into town, where I delivered 8 teddy bears (the 4 embroidered ones and the 2 sets pictured here), along with a grumpy sheep Christmas stocking.

I stopped at the bank, then at the liquor store, and ended up hanging out for a couple of hours at one of the offices where I temped last year, having potluck Thanksgiving with a bunch of very nice people who don't mind spending their days in boxes. On the way home, I stopped at a local West Philly shop, retrieved some bears that hadn't sold recently to be swapped out for new ones and made it home by 4:00 p.m.

Whereupon I sat down on the sofa and was completely overtaken by a food coma.  I was still asleep on the couch when Mario got home at 6:00.

So sometimes you find time, and other times you lose it.  I guess it equals out in the end.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bear Season

Custom bear season, that is.

Last year I did a set of 8 bears for a co-worker of a previous customer.  The bears were made from a denim shirt, t-shirt and plaid fleece lap blanket that had belonged to her dad.  At the time, she said she wished she'd kept something belonging to her mom, but everything had gone.

A few months ago, she contacted me and said that she'd found her mom's favorite sweater set put away (where she could find it, of course!) and would I make her 4 more bears?  Absolutely.

There were only 4 bears this time because (a) her mom wasn't a big woman, and (b) she'd passed away before any of the grandkids were born, so unlike the dad bears, which were distributed to three sisters and their children, the mom bears were only going to my customer and her sisters.

The source fabric was a Tommy Hilfiger light blue embroidered camisole and cardigan set, size medium.  The embroidery was on both sides of the cardigan, around one wrist and on the camisole.  Which was lovely, but really limited the amount of fabric I had to work with.  My customer was hoping that I could do all 4 bears in just the blue, but I called her almost immediately and told her it just wasn't going to happen - there wasn't enough sweater to go around.  We decided to mix in an ivory cashmere blend that I had on hand, and I used a pale gray sweater for the ears and foot pads, just to add a little more contrast.

The bears - and the sweater - are really about the embroidery, which is done in ribbon in shades of ivory, pale gray and lilac.  I cut those sections off the sweater first and put them aside, and after the bears were otherwise finished I pinned embroidered sections onto each bear and hand stitched them on.  Because of the stretch in the sweater knit, and the placement of the embroidered pieces, each bear is different.

I like every custom bear I do, but I honestly think these may be my favorites right now - the colors and the embroidery just make them really special.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cemetery Sunday

Sometimes I get tired of living in Philadelphia. The noise, the crowds, the neighbors four feet across the alleyway.

First some news. Mario finally - and on short notice - rented his house, so the last week every evening was spent getting it ready for the new tenants. Yesterday we checked in on them, and they were moving in. Since there was nothing else to do there, Mario suggested we go for a walk to clear our heads, and I suggested the cemetery.

Our local cemetery is, for me one of the highlights of living in West Philadelphia. It's pre-Civil War and full of looming, draped urns, ivy and massive old trees,  Yesterday, with autumn everywhere, it was even more beautiful than usual - and it's pretty on its worst day.

There's not a lot else to say about the day, so I'll leave you with some pictures from the afternoon.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Grandpa Bears, Again

You may remember that last year I made a set of bears for two little girls from their grandfather's suit jackets and ties (he even picked them out specially before he passed away).

I was contacted recently by that same man's daughter.  It was her niece last year who had the bears done, and now this woman wants a set of 4 for her grandchildren, and she showed up recently with 3 more jackets, a bag of ties, a monogrammed shirt and 2 caps for me to play with.

He was a seriously well-dressed man, I'll say that.  It's such a privilege to work with nice menswear fabrics, even if I do feel like a criminal taking these garments apart.

On the other hand, it's like a tailoring lesson in reverse, pulling apart a jacket and looking at the stitching, chest pad, shoulder pads and all the other intricate things that go into making a piece look effortless.

I know how much work is involved, but seeing it all torn apart on the dining room table is a little alarming.

In a good way.  Mostly.

So there are either going to be four or six bears out of this lot.  We started with a four bear order, but she said if there was enough fabric, we could take it to six.

I think there's enough fabric here to make a small bear army, but six seems like plenty.

I don't have a photo handy of the ties she included in the package, but safe to say one of those is going back in its original condition.  I felt like enough of a criminal cutting up the jackets; there's no way I can cut up a Hermes tie and be able to sleep at night.

Some things are just too good to destroy, even in the name of teddy bears.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Happy Customer Photo

I enjoy my miniature dressmaking binges so much, but it's not often I get to see the dresses in action.

This black and white polka dot dress was made from a favorite skirt.  When the zipper broke, I took it as a sign that it should be repurposed, instead of repaired.  Considering that the zipper broke because the skirt was too tight, a new zipper wasn't really going to fix anything anyway.

And it made a really cute dress.  The little girl's mom is a fellow artist, and I ran into her at a show today.  She sent me these photos of her daughter and said I was welcome to share, and I'm only too happy to do so!

This really makes me want to settle down with the sewing machine and some cute fabrics, but the holidays are coming and the custom bear orders are piling up.  Dresses are pretty much on the back burner until after the holidays, but I'll keep this picture around for inspiration heading into spring.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Rallying the Clan

A while back I received an email making some custom bears.  It was from someone I know online, someone I know who sews, but who said (more or less) that she would rather stick needles in her eyes than match plaid.

A friend brought this family tartan back from Scotland years ago, and she decided that she wanted to have bears made from it for her family and friend.

In the tradition of all good sewists, even though she didn't intend to use the fabric, she'd purchased a beautiful coordinating navy blue wool, which made my job even easier.

Here is the final result.  Well, actually there are 6 of them, but you get the idea.

Working with the tartan fabric made me realize that if I ever get to Scotland, my shopping budget is going straight to the nearest shop selling quality tartan.  It had a beautiful hand, the colors are more subtle close up, and it was a joy to work with.  Have to say, it was difficult to send the remnants back, but there's enough left that if my friend decided to, she could make herself a nice small jacket.

With matched plaid, of course.

Next up is another series of custom bears.  Remember the necktie bears from last year?  Well, that lovely man's family came up with more amazing garments for me to cut up and make a series of bears (and bunnies) for a different selection of grandchildren.  I'm looking forward to it, all except the taking shears to high quality clothing part.

But I always get over that, don't I?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Castles in the Air

Not a lot to say right now -- finishing up a large custom bear order and just received materials for the next one -- but Mario and I were out the other evening and I saw this and wanted to share it.

It's the window of a vacant store, and I spent a good few minutes looking in at it.  The whole thing is made from recycled cardboard - looking closely, you can see cereal boxes, Quaker Oats boxes, a whole litany of cut-up logos.

I think it's wonderful.

I did stuff like that (but not like that) when I was a kid, and it really made me want to come home and find the scissors and the glue.

It's a good day, when you randomly walk into something that makes you want to come home and make things.

Okay, that's it.

Back to making other things.  No castles, not just yet.