Monday, February 23, 2015

A question of taste

A friend recently gave me a bag of fabric she'd gotten from her mother-in-law.  Some of it was garment fabric (some even cut and pinned to some 1980s Vogue pattern pieces), but the bulk of it was home dec remnants from redecorating her house.   Now I've never seen this woman's house, but judging by what I ended up with, she's got very nice, quite expensive taste.

Which has, in turn, created the most tasteful series of bears I think I've ever made.

You know I'm the Crayola kid, right?  No color too bright, no combination too alarming.  So what made me look at these remnants -- an ivory damask and a burlap-looking velveteen the color of wet sand -- and go all woozy with the desire to cut them up?

I guess even the Crayola kid needs a dose of tasteful every once in a while.

The remnants stretched to two damask bears and five of the tan velveteen.  In the bag there was also a single gold organza square, not sure if it was a sample, a decorative (certainly not useful) napkin, or what, but I cut it into strips and used it as the bows for the tan bears.  I love the ragged look of the unhemmed organza with the smooth velvet bears.

The damask ladies -- how could they be anything but? -- got ivory neck ribbons and a few vintage fabric flowers tucked in for good measure.

I think I've made a slightly demented wedding party here, what do you think?

In other news, it's still cold.  Yeah, I know.  February, and all that.  My pipes froze for the first time in 15 years in this house, which wasn't fun.  You don't realize just how much you count on things to work until you go down at 6:00 a.m. to run water for the chicken, turn on the tap and nothing comes out but a puff of air.

It didn't even occur to me that the pipes had frozen; I assumed something had broken out in the street because my neighbor had work done the other day after they broke pipes in their house and actually had water running out between the bricks into the alley.  But no.  I went to the basement and the water line was so cold my fingers stuck to it.

Naturally, I don't own a hair dryer, but our housemate has several of everything and she supplied a small one so that Mario could get in between the old oil tank and the wall and thaw the pipes out enough to get water running.  Then he went to work and I went to the hardware store and bought a heating kit to tape to the pipes.  The wire warmed up within a few minutes, and it cycles on and off as the temperature fluctuates.  Tonight it's supposed to go down to 2 degrees; I'm not taking any chances with the heat tape -- I'm leaving the laundry sink in the basement on trickle, just to be certain.

Rather a slightly higher water bill this month than a very large plumbing bill and a mess to clean up.  Yes, indeed.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Baby, it's COLD inside!

I know the weather is not news.

Wait, actually it is news.  It's almost the only thing on the news anymore.   

But really, is it?  We're supposed to be surprised that it's cold in February?  Snowing, in February?

That being said, it's fucking cold this year in February.  I just heard that Philadelphia hasn't been this cold in 100 years, which means that if the servants who spent time in my house's kitchen 100 years ago had had a thermometer on the wall like I do, it would probably read even less than the 48 degrees that it is in my photo.

I do at least have central heat in the house, though it rarely seems to reach the back brick wall between the kitchen and the completely uninsulated shed (which is cold enough to keep food frozen, and where the cranky microwave lives and is forced to heave itself  to loud and complaining life every time I need to warm up the chicken's water and food).

The chicken is managing.  She's not happy about the weather, and she's not laying, but that's okay -- her eggs would freeze solid in about an hour and I would hate to waste them.  I've got the light on 24/7 to keep the temperature up a little in there, and the whole coop is covered in tarps and old storm windows (to keep out wind but let in light).  She survived last year's polar vortex with a lot more snow, so I don't think she'll be going to Freezer Camp this year.

I, however, very well might.   

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tell me what you love

Art by Luckie Daniels
I put this on my Facebook page a day or so ago, but it's still relevant.

I'm so tired of just seeing what everyone's mad at.  Outrage is as toxic as pollution, and for once, I'd like to hear what you love.

I don't want to hear about politics, or who did what and whether or not they were right (they probably weren't, but that's neither here nor there right now).

Tell me about something you love.

Friday, February 6, 2015


It's cold and bleak almost everywhere, and I think the lack of sunlight and color is as draining to me as the bone-chilling cold outside.  This morning it was 15 degrees when I went out to feed Bonnie at 7 a.m.; now, four hours later, it's still only 22, and I don't think it's going much higher.

So, I give you  . . .  lilies.  These aren't from my garden, but somewhere in my neighborhood.  I remember being out for a walk last year and being drawn across the street by the scent from these blooms.  If you look really hard, maybe you can smell them too.

One thing I know for sure: when my lilac blooms this spring, I'm going to sit out on my back step under it every single day, inhaling that fragrance, and driving all thoughts of cold and bleak out of my mind.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Vintage Pattern Alert!

So the one resolution I've been able to keep so far this year is my vow to seriously declutter the house.

That even includes patterns.

Somehow, I have three large plastic bins of vintage sewing patterns.  Don't ask me how; I've probably only purchased 15-20 of them personally.  Others have been found in free boxes, donated by friends, handed over by complete strangers who said, "Oh, I heard that you sew," a few were even in the attic when I bought the house.

And I'm never going to use them all.  I know that.

Plus, there's a huge number of them (at least 25-30) that have 30-32" bust measurements, and I'm never going to do that kind of pattern alterations.

So I'm slowly going through them to make sure they're complete, photographing them and getting them up on Etsy in the hope of finding new homes for some of them

Link to the Vintage Sewing Section is here -- please go take a look.  All patterns (unless they're something absolutely spectacular and rare) are listed at $5 per, with $2 shipping and $.50 shipping for each additional pattern.

Surely there's something that makes your heart beat faster.  And if not, check back tomorrow.  I'm going to try to post 5 patterns a day until my patience runs out or my camera battery dies.  Whichever comes first.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Introducing the Gucci Bear

My latest custom bear is one of my favorites in a long time.  My customer said this sweater belonged to her father, who bought it in Italy on a family vacation 35 years ago.

It still had the original Gucci label inside the neck.  She asked for that back separately, but told me that I could do whatever I wanted with the rest of the sweater.

As you can see, the sweater had these dark green and red bands at the shoulders and around the sleeves.  I needed to use some of that for the ears and foot pads, to break up all the ivory knit (which looks and feels almost like thermal underwear, so it wasn't too bad to work with).

I cut a wide edge on the rest of it and place it like a pageant sash across his chest, so that the woven Gucci name would show.

Because I didn't have any ribbon that even came close to matching the red or dark green, I used ivory -- turns out that I had an exact match there.  Go figure, the Crayola Queen had a neutral in stash.

That's my last custom piece for the moment, but I'm always looking forward to the next order -- these are so much fun to do.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

How many days till Spring?

So maybe we didn't get the Snowpocalypse Bombogenesis Blizzard of 2015 (and I'm so thankful we didn't), but it's still winter, and I'm getting a little tired of gray skies and cold winds.

The cold drafts in my house are at least less this year, and I'm pleased because that means my efforts at covering every crack with a combination of draft-sealing tape, plastic sheeting, foamcore board and (in the workroom) fleece blankets, has paid off.  It's nice to be able to sew in the sewing room in January this year.

But since it is indeed still January, I've been thinking spring.  It doesn't help that I've already applied for / booked my first 2 April shows, so my mind is already where my body is not.

And that means I've inevitably started making stock for spring shows.  One of the things that always goes well in the early shows are my toddler dresses.  And after a long stretch of teddy bear and recycled sweater animals, they were literally a breath of fresh air for my wool-clogged brain and sewing machine!

These are also all recycled -- the first one, candy pink and white stripes, was made from a woman's blouse.  The green and white floral trim (facings too), was left over from a dress I made last year.

The orange butterfly dress was made from a particularly obnoxiously wonderful scrubs top -- if they're not surgical green, they have some of the best prints!  It needed nothing more than some lime green rickrack and a few daisy appliques to finish it off.

Last one is my favorite, though the least photogenic.  It's made from a blue and white floral H&M blouse that would never accommodate an adult female boob, much less a pair of them -- even after I picked out all the darts.  But it was large enough to cut a size 3 dress out of, and I was able to use the original front button placket up the back of the dress, thus saving myself from making 5 buttonholes!

The decoration on the front is a piece of vintage white cotton lace surrounded by varying sizes of yoyos cut from the leftover pink stripe.  I don't know why the yoyos, it just struck me to put them there and now I think they look like roses climbing a fence.  Your experience may vary.

Next up: one final custom bear from 2014 -- the customer made her purchase two days after Christmas but then got delayed in sending her fabrics.  They just arrived, so I think that's what I'll be doing today.