Saturday, November 28, 2009

I think I've met my soul mate

Don't tell Mario.

There's a little problem, though. He's younger. Much younger.

The new love of my life is an 8 month old Scottish short-horn bull calf by the name of Scottie, who showed up today at a street fair held by the local mosque. The festivities go on all day, but the petting zoo was from 12:00 - 3:00, and I stayed for most of that time.

I was one happy woman. It's Saturday, see, and normally I go to the farmer's market on Saturdays and pet every dog in the neighborhood. But there's no market today since the farmers assume we're all home eating leftovers, so I was feeling severely deprived of my weekly critter-petting. But no more. I petted and groomed and hugged to my heart's content, and came home smelling so interestingly of other species that now my cats aren't talking to me.

We walked through on our way back from the gym, and first I was smitten by the goats, then by the chickens (I want backyard chickens, but this seems to require undue amounts of discussion at home and a change of zoning by the city), then by the lop-eared rabbits, but when I got to the last enclosure with the llama and Scottie, I was done for.

Can I keep a bull calf in my back yard? He's only 600 pounds right now. He won't attain his full SUV-weight for another year or so.

I might be better off with a goat. At least he'd eat my fabric scraps.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Well, okay

So I still don't consider myself crafty, and I'm still not totally and completely enjoying this process, but I had to send a photo of these over to the Arts League today for the craft show flyer, and I think some of them are actually pretty cute. The little black and pink suitcase one especially, though since I just finished a slew of the round pouches last night, I kind of like those as well.

I'm aiming for the "well, I don't know what to get her but I have to get her something, oh, look, these are cute" response.

This is entirely too early in the day for blogging, but I had to get up early to get the trash and recycling together, and then I remembered I promised to send the photos this a.m., and then I got one picture taken before the camera battery died, so here I am, up early-ish and not enough to do.

Off to the shower!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I'm not a happy crafter

I know it's not that much different from sewing, really; I mean, hell, I'm using all the same supplies and equipment, but it's a different part of my brain and it's one that doesn't get used often.

Since I'm still up to my eyebrows in needy old people (my stepdad chimed in this week by long distance with an entirely self-created disaster that it took us a few hours to get him out of), I'm still not doing any "real" sewing. It just won't come when there's this much other stuff crowding my head. So I'm making more stuff for the craft show.

And it's almost painful. Not sure why, except it's not what I would make if I had my brain fully functional and undistracted. It's also for the most part not really my taste - which I guess is okay since that way I won't want to keep any of it. And it's doing a great job at clearing out my remnant bin.

I've decided one thing, though - no more velvet. I've made 5 scarves, three from burnout velvet that are self-backed, and two that are backed in solid black velvet. The standard weight velvet has gotten fuzzies on every stinking thing in the workroom, and I've blown basically a bunny out of the inside of the machine. No. More. Velvet.

As far as the little makeup bags, I've come up with another variation that's shaped almost like a little suitcase. Almost every woman in my office has one of these (I think they're either Vera Bradley or a knockoff) that they carry their makeup and necessities back and forth to the ladies room. Don't see the purpose myself, but it's a cute shape and I got 3 of them out of the leftover black and pink tourist print from one my summer dresses. It's also using up my stash of regular zippers, which I hardly ever use anymore. So not a bad thing. And with the identical fabric and zippers, I could just assembly-line those bags, which made it easier.

The stuff has to be dropped off on December 3rd, so I've got some time yet, but I need to get myself together for regular sewing soon. The Menswear Contest starts over on Patternreview and I'm taking a month off from the Contest Committee so I can participate. I'll never get Mario's jacket done otherwise and sewing along isn't the same when you're looking for the motivation to actually get started.

Right now, the schedule is as follows: Monday-Wednesday, work and make crafty things. Thursday: dinner with Mario's family, come home and either pass out or make crafty things. Friday: unscheduled but probably going out to buy things for Betty's new apartment; Saturday: farmer's market, cooking, cleaning, making crafty things. Sunday: final packing day. Monday: off and either sewing or sewing. (I need a day for me). After that, it's quickly downhill: work Tuesday through Thursday, the move occurs Friday, the craft show starts Saturday, I'll be back up with Betty on that Sunday for final unpacking, curtain and picture hanging and general hand-holding. I'm off again on that Monday, and once again, Monday is for me. If I haven't started the jacket by then, that's the day it's happening.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Those who can't sew

buy patterns.

My mojo is still stressed out and hiding under the bed, chewing its fingernails. I'm working sporadically on some small projects for the craft show, but the only interesting part of that process to me is the challenge of finding all the bits and pieces in the workroom. Since I'm making things that are meant to sell for low prices, I'm only using stuff I have on hand. There's some recycled stuff, some old stuff, some stuff that I don't remember even buying.

But on to the patterns. I was on PatternReview the other day, going through and cleaning out my wish list. Today, without actually planning to, I ended up back on PatternReview, buying 3 patterns that were on my wish list.

They were KwikSew. That means I know I'll like them, I know they'll fit, and I know absolutely adn without a doubt that they will look better than the cheesy envelope pictures.

First off, KS 3576. That one's thanks to Dawn, who made me see a pattern I'd never notice before. I think it definitely has possibilities.

Next, KS 3668. I saw this one on someone's blog recently - and if you're out there, please let me know who you are because it was a really cute blouse and I forgot to make note of where I saw it. I'm permanently on the lookout for blouses that I might not hate wearing, and more importantly, ruffles that won't make my boobs look ginormous. I think this might work, and if not, it's cute sleeveless and sans ruffles.

For the man, KS 2935. I know I already have the perfect KS man's shirt pattern, and I've only made it about 10 times now, but this one's a more casual shirt, and I'm curious to see if the drafting is any different. If it isn't, at least I'll now have a backup copy.

One non-KwikSew pattern - Burda 8164. I put this on my wish list when it first came out, because I loved the vintage look of the red suit (with red gloves!). It's been on my wish list for so long that when I tried to buy it today I realized it was out of print.

Except that's why Al Gore invented the internet, so I could look for out-of-print patterns and be satisfied more quickly than is decently possible. Burda 8164 is winging its way to me. It's mainly the jacket that I like, but the skirts have possibilities. All skirts have possibilities.

So that's what I've been doing. I wish I could say I've been sewing. But it'll happen. The move occurs in 2 1/2 weeks, and I think once that's done and my aunt is settled, December will stretch in front of me, empty and stress free, with only the holidays to deal with.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Just another manic Sunday

So today is going to be another Sunday at my aunt's house. I've seen her more in the past 6 weeks than I've probably seen her in a year, which doesn't say much about what kind of niece I am, does it?

Either way, the packing goes on. I'm going to try to talk to the neighbors about the sewing machines, but I think they're gone. It wasn't the neighbors themselves; it was friends they brought over at my aunt's invitation. Harder to get things back when they've gone off the block.

And when I tried to tell her that I wanted the machines, and that she'd promised them to me, her reasoning was that I have new machines and why would I want that old junk? She's one of these people who believes that her stuff has so little value that if you admire it, she'll hand it to you.

As she did.

Since I can't get any substantial sewing done, I've started on Christmas goodies. There's a local craft show that runs from the beginning of December until the week before Christmas, and I'm going to try to turn out some small pieces for that. If they sell, fine and dandy; if they don't, I'm only making things that I can use as Christmas gifts for friends and co-workers, like the makeup bags pictured above. (They were made from a quilted jacket I picked up at the thrift store a few years ago and cut up the other night). The bags are finished except for inserting the linings. Hard to see in the photos but I've done some beading in the centers of the pink flowers on the front bag, and some other random beading on the second bag.

It's keeping my hands busy, which in turn keeps my brain quiet. That's all I can ask right now.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shaken, Not Stirred

Tell me I can't go up to my aunt's house and shake her like a martini. Tell me I can't - or give me permission.

I know it's not nice. I know that. And after what I tell you, ask yourself if you wouldn't want to do the same thing.

My aunt is moving soon into a much smaller apartment in a nice, safe, well-run seniors' apartment complex and out of the mouse nest she's lived in for 25 years, that her mother lived in for 35 years, and that the previous owner had lived in since 1953. It's a house that's never been lived in by anything other than elderly women. Got that picture? Yep, it's that bad.

I'm the only relative left, so I'm obviously the one to help her sort and pack and move. I'm okay with that - even without the random interesting goodies that are coming my way, I'd be okay with it.

But when she called today to tell me that she'd given away a whole bunch of "junk" to these nice people who came over with one of the neighbors - and that said "junk" consisted of all my uncle's tools and both my aunt's and her mother's vintage table model sewing machines, all the attachments (!) and a whole bunch of "other sewing junk."

Still breathing? Now my aunt KNOWS I sew. She knows how MUCH I sew. And obviously, the one thing you want to do for your niece whom you love aqnd who sews like a maniac is to DEPRIVE her of any interesting vintage sewing goodies in your possession. Right?

I'm so thankful the turquoise sewing case came my way back in April. There can't have been anything else like that left. Right?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I love argyle

Always have, though sometimes it's difficult to find. Right now, apparently, it's in, because I'm seeing it everywhere, and twice as much when we were in Italy.

I had to talk myself out of buying a pair of fabulous argyle tights because I just couldn't imagine the distortion of the pattern over my calves. Can't someone invent a stretch fabric that doesn't distort when stretched over something larger than it's intended to contain?

This outfit (not dress!) came about from Carolyn's recent get-together. We were all instructed to bring a piece of fabric to donate, but we didn't go home empty-handed because Carolyn redefined being a great hostess and let us rummage through her fabric collection. I brought home 1.5 yards of this argyle moleskin, and really, even with vacation it's had almost no time to age in stash before it jumped into the wardrobe.

The skirt is BWOF 9/08 #120. Despite the fact that BWOF puts a pencil skirt in seemingly every issue, it was almost impossible to find a plain, unadorned pencil skirt. This one was as plain as it was to show off an excessive, sequined fabric, so no bands, yokes, darts in odd places, etc. Just a plain skirt with waist darts front and back. Because the argyle is more diamond-shaped than the regular square argyles, I had the choice of either matching the pattern at the back zip or on the side seams. I chose the back because I didn't want to think about mis-matching argyles back there

The top is a combination refashioning/bits of BWOF piece. The sweater started out as a man's 4XL, which provided plenty of fabric. Lots and lots of acrylics died for this sweater. (And Lily the sewing room cat appreciates all the scraps in her little box bed). I used one of my TNT patterns, KwikSew 2694, for the body of the sweater. I changed the sleeves a little bit because I wanted take advantage of the nice thick ribbing on the original sweater's sleeves and hem.

The faux blouse is BWOF 10/05 #102. I used on the collar and some of the front/back. I didn't make the button placket on the blouse because I didn't have enough fabric, plus I wanted something that would be open all the way for me to get my head through. I just marked the center front seam, folded it back on both sides and then stitched it at the bottom before I hand-sewed the whole construction to the neckline of the sweater.

I debated for a while about sleeves, but I couldn't come up with a sleeve that looked right with the substantial ribbing on the sleeves, so I left them off. I don't think the resulting "dress" suffers for it, though. And since what I really wanted out of that fabric was a dress, this was my solution to my the fabric shortfall. I think it worked out pretty well.

And possibly most important of all, it will be a kickass outfit for the shoes I brought back from Italy!

Wanted to start on my BWOF jacket today, but between my 6 mile walk to and from work (the transit strike isn't settled yet), and a long hard day in the garden yesterday getting it ready for winter, bending over the cutting table doesn't seem to be an option today.

Full patternreviews here and here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Next Up

What is it these days? I can't get a piece of fabric into this house without wanting to cut into it.

What happened to aging? A fabric isn't properly seasoned until it's spent . . . well, a few seasons in my stash. Lately, the new stuff hasn't even had the chance to make the acquaintance of the old stuff before I take scissors to it

Allow me to introduce Signor Magherini's blue and green (Chanel?) wool boucle. The colors (especially the yellow) are a bit less vivid in real life, and the green is more of a moss than the bluish pictured here. Don't you love it when a fabric doesn't want its picture taken.

And there will be one properly aged fabric in the mix - I was grumbling because I didn't have a suitably colored lining fabric, and then I remembered. Back in November, 2006, at the first PR Weekend I attended, I bought an olive green silk charmeuse from Kashi at Metro. It was meant to be a lining for an as-yet-uncut green silk boucle that wanted to be a jacket.

It still wants to be a jacket, just apparently not yet. And when its time comes, I'll have to find it a new lining, because that green charmeuse is going under the rotary cutter soon.

And since I couldn't get to NY for the PR shopping day today because I've been doing seriously un-fun aunt-type things, I went online tonight to Zippersource and ordered myself a custom 20" moss green separating zipper with a gold loop pull.

The chosen jacket is from the Best Ever Issue of BWOF, August 2006. Considering that issue contains patterns for maternity, kids and plus, none of which I've ever made, the fact that I've made 5 - soon to be 6 - things from that issue is pretty impressive.

I checked on PR last night and there were 5 or so good reviews of the pattern, and I was surprised to see that I had commented on a few of them. Well, at least my taste is consistent!

There were a few other contenders, all BWOF patterns - 10/2007 and 12/2007, similarly shaped jackets with zips - but one didn't have a lining and I didn't want to think that hard, and the other had a collar that didn't quite work for me.

And yes, I know I could have changed up the collar, but sometimes you just don't want to go to that extra effort. Here, my only decision is whether or not to lose that upper set of pockets. And whether or not to cut the pockets on the bias.

Those decisions I can cope with. And I need a little bit of therapy sewing right now. Fingers crossed that zipper arrives quickly!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

October: Month End Review

Not a productive month. Not at all.

I can chalk a week of non-productivity up to Italy, which is a very good reason not to sew, but as for the rest of it? Bleh, I've just been unmotivated, between craziness at work and more craziness in dealing with, packing up and moving my aunt.

I finished 3 projects this month: a vest that I gave as a gift, the Simplicity lined cardigan, and a BWOF pencil skirt that I just finished hemming on Monday but decided to add to November's totals just so as not to feel totally pathetic.

The vest doesn't even count against my fabric acquisition totals, because it was refashioned from a black and white plaid skirt in the thrift store bag and a remnant of black lace. The lining fabric was even taken from the skirt, so it cost me nothing. Which is a plus in the gift-giving area, anyway.

The pencil skirt (which hasn't had its picture taken yet) is intended to be worn with a refashioned sweater that I started in October, but which isn't quite finished. The fabric was my souvenir from Carolyn's get-together last month. See, I'm still using the most recently-arrived fabrics. Go figure.

To add insult to injury, and to give me more time for sewing in my head but less time at the machine, the public transit system went on strike at 3:00 a.m. yesterday. They were all proud of themselves that they didn't strike before the World Series finished in Philadelphia; now they're only inconveniencing their regular customers instead of the ticketholders who would have found some way to make it to the World Series.

Let's just add 3 miles a day to my commute. I've tried cabbing it with a few neighbors, but it's taking well over an hour and costing way too much. Today I brought my sneakers to work.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 4: And then the sun came out

And Florence was even more beautiful than it was when it was gray and drizzly.

On Saturday morning, we were up and out fairly early. We decided to go to the other side of the river, the Oltrarno, and go to either the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens or to the Piazzale Michelangelo.

Both were recommended for their views of the city; the Piazzale had yet another David; the Pitti had a costume museum and the gardens. My vote went for the Pitti.

But first I had an unexpected encounter with fabric. I'd run across a few fabric stores the day before, around the markets, but they were closed for the long Italian lunchbreak - 12:30 - 3:00 p.m. on average, and I couldn't wait around.

This time, we literally bumped into a store called Margherini Tessuti. It wasn't open either, but it was early, and the sign on the door said it would open at 9:30. It was 9:20. I wasn't budging, because I could see in the window that there were some nice fabrics to - at least - be fondled. Though I had hopes for more.

Signor Margherini himself opened up within a few minutes, and in we went. I went straight to a fabric I'd seen from the window. It's a green and blue plaid boucle, which he told me was Chanel. I don't know if it is or not, but it was gorgeous, and the quality was fabulous. I wanted it. Of course.

He spoke almost no English except for a few sewing words, so we communicated mostly in gestures. He certainly understood the worldwide phenomenon of woman stroking and falling in love with fabric.

I asked how much it cost. (I can ask that in lots of languages, for what it's worth). He told me. It was a little high, and when I hesitated, he took it off the bolt and spread it across the counter to further tempt me. I was tempted. I also saw that there was just a skooch under two meters, and he lowered the price.

I gave in, and reached for the credit card. Out comes a flood of Italian, with apologetic gestures. Between the three of us, it was understood that his bank did not let him take plastic on the weekends. Mario and I dump all our cash on the counter and come up short, but Signor Margherini smiles, scoops up the money, and folds and bags my fabric, all the while chattering away and making sewing gestures and pointing me at sketches on the walls as suggestions what to make with my fabric. When we left, he kissed me on the cheek.

From there, we decide we should probably hit an ATM so we're not wandering around without money. FYI, ATMs are not frequent occurrences in Florence. We had to backtrack almost all the way to our hotel to find one, and then headed back south again to the Pitti Palace. Where, of course, there was a branch of Bano Toscana right across the street.

We went through the palace - not quite Versailles in scale, but pretty big anyway - and I had a nice time at the costume exhibit. There were clothes all the way from the Medici era, laid out in shreds like an the shards of an archaeolgical dig. There were women's clothes all the way up to the present. There were some lovely 1910s through 1940s dresses. No photos, signora. This time I didn't try.

Out the back door we went to the gardens. When they planned a garden, they didn't plan small. And all the paths were on a sheer vertical, and graveled. I'd been wearing the same pair of black, mid-heel boots for most of the trip, and they handled cobblestones pretty well, but by the time we got to the top, I felt like the Little Mermaid, walking on knives.

But as my reward, there was a cafe at the top, and I got to rest my feet, sip an espresso, and admire what Florence looked like in sunshine.

I wished we could have been there when the gardens were in bloom. Italian gardens are more architectural and trees/shrubs than flowering plants, but there were lots of roses that were mostly done for the season, and quite a few Latin tags that I identified as things that would have been flowering a few months earlier.

The walk back down wasn't any easier than the hike up, so I was glad when we hit the streets again and went in search of late lunch.

We found a little restaurant down a back alley. Not the most impressive-looking place we'd gone to, but yet again, impeccable food. I had a pumpkin ravioli with duck ragu.

My main food rule on vacation is the less likely I am able to find it on a menu here, the more likely I will eat it there. The exception being tripe and other organ meats, which I have given up trying to appreciate. If it hasn't tasted good yet, it's just not going to work on me.

We took the long way back to the hotel, did a little last minute shopping. I found a shirt that Mario had to have, and that was when we accumulated my shoes. Which felt okay on my very sore feet then, so that certainly means I can wear them at home - once I make them a suitable outfit.

After the pre-dinner nap (and foot massage), we were off again in search of dinner. I swear, most of our vacation seems to involve looking for food. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you.

Another highly recommended restaurant, Buca da Mario (how could we not?). I got the pappa al pomodoro (tomato soup with bread) and the baccala, which is dried cod reconstituted with a spicy tomato sauce. The only other times I've tried baccala it was really salty, so apparently this kitchen soaked theirs longer. No room for dessert, but afterward we walked back to the Piazza and had a final espresso sitting out at a cafe.

Sunday morning the alarm woke us early but I had a moment of panic when I looked at my watch and it said 8:30. Since our plane was meant to leave at 10:15. I didn't realize that Italy had gone onto daylight savings that night and the iPhone / alarm clock had switched over automatically but my watch hadn't.

Deep breath, there was still time for one final breakfast before we went to the airport.

And that, my friends, was Florence. Thanks for sharing the trip with me.