Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Thousand Words

The scrap hamper
For anyone who thought I was exaggerating about the state of the room, here's proof positive of what's in there.

There are actually worse bits, but I can't maneuver sufficiently to get a photo. 

And did I clean up tonight?  No, I did not.

Floor alongside sewing table
What did I do instead of cleaning my workroom? I made applesauce.  And when that seemed like it might end soon enough to send me upstairs, I roasted a butternut squash and some golden beets for tomorrow's dinner, scooped the squash guts, peeled and sliced the beets, then voluntarily did the dishes.  Rather than go upstairs. 

I haven't gone into it, but my house gave me grief for Christmas, along with an obscene and still-to-come plumbing bill. 

Have I ever mentioned that my house is a vindictive, ungrateful pile of bricks?  Well, she is.  And if she doesn't knock this crap off, I may never clean my workroom again.  Serves her right.

Dredging the Swamp

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but my workroom has gotten into such a state that I can't sew there.

When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to have the spare bedroom in our house as a playroom. Which was good, because it kept my bedroom neat, and bad, because with a door to shut behind me, I could turn my playroom into, well, a swamp. A toy-filled swamp. With a rug almost completely covered in crap, with little islands of clear space so I could hop from place to place. If only my mom had seen my potential as a ballerina . . . She did, however, see my potential as a slob.

Between one thing and another (work, housework, house projects, craft show, life and sewing), I haven't neatened up the workroom in several months. I don't notice how bad it's getting until I realize I can't lay out a piece of fabric on the cutting table, because there's not enough room on the table to eat dinner.

The other night, I noticed that I was actually hopping from one little island of space to another, with my carpet almost completely covered in fabric - bags, remnants, whole cuts waiting to be put on shelves.

Bad. This is very bad.

I can't sew when it's like that. I can't even find my next project in my head, much less on my shelves.

I have another long weekend coming up, and I would love to start the new year off right - with a (mostly) clean sewing space. I'm not promising perfection, but I'd like to get the floor cleared and vacuumed, enough space made on the table to cut out a pattern, and the shelves restacked so there's no further risk of avalanche. That should only take me until New Year's Eve.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Over so quickly

Harriet says "Happy Holidays"
 Both the holidays and my long weekend.  But isn't that how it always works?

I had such plans - lots of quality time in the sewing room, time with Mario, time with family -- more time than I actually had, as it turns out.

We visited my aunt on Friday, had Christmas Eve dinner with his family in NJ, and spent Christmas Day on our own.  We cooked our big dinner, as planned - seared duck breast with port wine and cherries, garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed wild mushrooms. Yum.  I took a nice long break from the computer, did some work out in the yard, cleaned out the chickens (who are adapting well to to the cold and their new high-protein diet) and, somehow, got almost no sewing done.

Annie says "Humbug."

Today I finished the black pants I started before my break, but that's it.  I think I need to clean up the workroom. It's still trashed from working on craft show projects, then bringing back the items that didn't sell, then having yet another small avalanche . . . you get the picture.  It's a swamp.

And I'm back to work tomorrow, so of course now all I want to do is stay up all night rearranging my sewing space.  Which I can't do, and which I probably wouldn't want to do if I had off tomorrow. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

We have winners!

Thanks for all the interest in my book giveaway.  It should always be so easy when I'm trying to clean out the house.

And here are the winners . . .

for the Fantastic Fit book, the lucky sewist is Alicia

And for Do One Green Things, Amy is the green goddess! 

Ladies, I've sent emails to you both - please get back to me with your addresses and I'll try to get the books out before Christmas.  (No guarantees, as it looks to be a hellish work week, but I'll try).

And in answer to Karen's question on my Pants for Christmas post, RPL is the abbreviation for rayon poly lycra, which in my opinion is the best fabric ever for pants - hardwearing, washable and barely wrinkles. 

It's cold here.  The chickens are cranky, but they're still laying.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pants for Christmas

We don't exchange Christmas gifts.  Our holiday tradition is going out shopping the weekend before the holiday, picking out all the ingredients and either on Christmas Eve or the Day (depending on dinner-with-family scheduling) putting together a seriously kick-ass dinner that we eat in the dining room, with candles, tablecloth and napkins, like civilized humans. 

The other thing we do is treat ourselves to something we want, without guilt.  It doesn't have to come right at the holiday, but if it does, so much the better.

What else would I get myself but fabric?  I had a recent avalanche in the workroom and as I was reassembling the stash wall - why did I not think that if I pulled a piece out of the bottom of a stack, the rest of it wouldn't slide down on my head? - I realized that I am woefully short of solid colors.  Woefully short, I tell you.  

And of course, I'm also woefully short of decent pants to wear to work.  This thought process occurred on Tuesday, when I was off from work, so I dutifully traipsed up to the computer, went to Gorgeous Fabrics, and quickly purchased 10 yards of Ann's best RPL - 4 yards of black, 2 yards of gray, 2 yards of maroon and 2 yards of what she called "British tan."  Which is kind of caramel, but cooler.  And lovely.  Maroon isn't a color I normally wear, but I was on an RPL roll.  I love that stuff, and figured if I was going to spend money, and have to pay for shipping, I might as well get everything that I wanted.

So I did.  And now, with a couple of long weekends coming up for the holidays, I will be sewing pants.  Probably my TNT BWOF side zip pants pattern, but I do want to try those Colette Clover pants again, a bit smaller and with a better fabric. 

Maybe that's why I got 4 yards of black, so I could make one of each.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Highland Fling

Tomorrow is my firm's holiday party.  While it's supposed to just be a "lunch" - beginning at noon and ending sometime before the bars close - it still involves much preparation and overdressing among my co-workers.

As in sequins before noon overdressing.  Ahem.

Me, I'll be ridiculously under dressed tomorrow, at least in their eyes.  Because I haven't gotten my winter dress finished, and I don't want to rush and try to finish it tonight, I'll be wearing my recently completed (but not yet worn) plaid jacket.

It's green.  It's red.  It has shiny red and brass buttons.  It has a freaking olive green silk charmeuse lining. 

I say I'm dressed up.  I don't care what they call it.

This pattern is mostly McCall 5859.  I made a sleeveless version last summer (because I ran out of fabric before I cut sleeves).  This time, I had just enough.  Literally, I couldn't have made a vest for Lily the sewing room cat out of my scraps, and she only weighs 7 pounds. 

Here's the revised patternreview:

Pattern Description: Princess seamed peplum jacket with collar, pockets, short and long sleeve variations.

Pattern Sizing: Some variation between 12 and 14.  I tend toward the 14 these days, but it's princess seamed front and back, and doesn't have to button across the bulkiest part of me, so I went a little more fitted.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? More or less.  The lines are the same, though I de-poofed the sleeves and took some of the cute out of it.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Very easy. I looked them over the first time and this time I just went for it. I did check back regarding the collar, because collar and lapel are two separate pieces, not meant to be sewn together.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I loved it when I first saw it, and while I really like my gray pinstripe summer version, I hadn't planned to make another.  But the last time I wore the pinstripe, I caught a look at myself in the mirror and decided that the peplum look was really flattering and gave me a bit more waist definition than I usually can achieve from a jacket.  Good enough reason for a re-sew in my books.

Fabric Used:  Oh, yum, the fabric.  Mossy green wool/cashmere flannel wonderfulness from Metro Textiles.  It was in Kashi's remnant bin and it just drew me across the store.  There wasn't much of it, so this jacket took some creative cutting.  Lining: olive green silk charmeuse purchased at PR Weekend NY 2006.  I got the last 5 yards on the bolt, knowing it was a color I'd always wear.  This is my second jacket lining, and I think there's enough for one more, if I choose my fabrics carefully.  Buttons are vintage, brass with a rusty painted overlay.  I buffed them with an emery board to let a little more of the gold show through.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I changed the sleeves.  With the gray pinstripe version, I only had enough fabric for the tiny sleeves, and I hated them.  This time I had enough for real sleeves, but the sleeve as drafted was still too puffed for my taste, so I fiddled with it and took out most of the ease (not all; I was working with wool, so I knew that I could get away with some). 

I also cut the peplums on the bias, because I knew there'd be no way to match plaid both coming and going on the princess seams. Because the peplums were bias and I didn't want them to stretch out, I interfaced them with a fairly crisp interfacing.  It also gives a slightly structured vintage feel to the jacket when worn.  I also interfaced both sides of the collar and lapel, the facings, the center back panel of the jacket, and fused strips of interfacing at the hems of the jacket and sleeves. I used very minimal shoulder pads and made sleeve heads from some puffy shoulder pads I took apart.

I was actually going to treat myself and take the bus up to NY and have my buttonholes done at Jonathan's.  They do the best buttonholes.  And I'd started this jacket before we went to Paris, so this has been hanging around literally for almost 2 months.  I don't let projects linger this long.  But I decided against NY - because I know myself.  I wouldn't have held it to buttonholes, and then there would have been more fabric in my house.  I sat down at my machine, took my beautiful jacket in my hands, and made 4 perfectly good buttonholes all on my own.  (Okay, so they're not Jonathan, but I'm fine with them.  Really.)

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?  Absolutely, on both counts.  I hadn't planned on sewing it a second time because of the distinctive collar, but when I got my hands on this fabric, this was the first pattern that came to mind.  You have to trust your fabric's instincts; it knows what it wants to be.  And it doesn't pay to argue. 

Conclusion:  One of my favorite garments for the year, and I haven't even worn it out of the house yet.  I'm a sucker for a good jacket, though, and every time I make it one step further along in my journey toward the perfect jacket, it just makes me want to keep going.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Extra, Extra

Books, that is. 

During my days off, I also went on a bit of a cleaning and organizing frenzy.  (There might be some hormones involved in all this, but who am I to object that parts of my house that haven't seen the vacuum in ages are now breathing dust-free?)

In pulling together all the random books that had migrated to far corners of the house, I discovered 2 duplicates that I'd like to share.

First is Gale Grigg Hazen's Fantastic Fit for Every Body.  Here's what the reviews say on Amazon (and look at the reviewers):

"Finally someone has written an in-depth fit book that is reader-friendly and reality-based with excellent photos of real people. If you read if from cover to cover, you will understand not only the concept of fit but also why you have experienced frustrations in the past."--Sandra Betzina

"At last, Fantastic Fit for Every Body reveals that fitting is every bit as creative, fun, and satisfying as sitting down at the sewing machine and sewing. This book is crammed with fitting solutions--many I've never seen in print--and each one has been tested on a real person. Fantastic Fit for Every Body not only makes fitting fun but also is full of ideas and inspiration."--Marcy Tilton

The second book, Do One Green Thing, is for those who are trying to green up their lives, but just can't tackle the commitment to do it all at once.  Who can?  The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but most of us don't get that far.  This is a book for the ones who would at least like to make a good start. 
This, from Amazon: 

If you can only read and reference one green thing, make it this book:  an easily comprehensible, clearly presented source for green living. Everything you need to know is right here at your fingertips. Unlike a lot of other overwhelming green guides on the market, this is green decision making in bite sized pieces.With chose it/lose it comparisons throughout, now it's simple to figure out it’s worth switching to a green detergent, what kind of plastic your sports bottle is made of, or which fish is safest to eat.  Rather than spending time trying to figure out how best to go green, use this book and devote that time to making the difference.
If either of these strike you as interesting, please leave a comment and let me know.  I'll pick names on Sunday for each book, and pop them in the mail next week.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Progress on all fronts (and backs)

All days off from work should be this productive. 

I got up earlier than I would have on a work day, treated myself to breakfast at the coffee shop across the street, and promptly at 10:00 a.m., my contractor arrived to do the attic window. 

While he hammered and sawed and generally made noise upstairs, I put together a batch of soup and made wine jelly, which is going to be handed out as holiday giftage this year.  I'm tired of non-reaction to sewn gifts; this year they'll get cooked ones instead.  It was the first time I'd tried the recipe, and it came out well.  We sampled the first jar after dinner tonight.

Window was finished in 3 hours, and then the rest of his crew showed up and re-coated my front and side bay window roofs, which were showing wear but not yet leaking.  Sometimes I get them before they get me.  Sometimes.

Best part: because he got a good deal on the window, my total was actually $50 less than his estimate.  Who does that?

I also got the entire first floor vacuumed, washed the kitchen floor (first time in way too long) and did all the sticky, jell-covered dishes. 

I spent some time with the chickens, who actually don't seem to mind the cold weather.  They stopped laying for over a week, but some internet research convinced me that upping their protein intake would fix it (like molting, cold is stressful and the first thing that goes when they're stressed is the eggs).  In addition to their standard food, I'm giving them dried worms, raisins and nuts (all protein sources).  They love it, and I've been rewarded with eggs for the last few days, so it seems to work. 

Finally, after dinner, I got into the sewing room.  The dress is now beginning to look like a dress, not just like a good idea in my head.  I sewed the darts in the skirt front and backs, and sewed bodices to skirts.  I got the invisible zip inserted, though I somehow inserted the cream zipper I had instead of the tan one which I deliberately went out and bought on Saturday.

All scheduled "work" is complete.  Tomorrow is mine, all mine, and you know where I'll be. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Don't look up

It's that time of year again. I don't mean the holidays; I mean the wonderful, expensive time of year when I bond with contractors to keep my house from falling apart. I had my roofer out recently because when it snowed in October, I had some dripping through my new porch ceiling. The ceiling was done by someone else, but I think when he jacked the roof up, he might have popped a seam in the roof. The roofer fixed that, and left me an estimate for a job he and I had discussed last year, but I'd never gotten around to following up on.

My house has a full attic, with 4 dormer windows. The windows on the sides and back are in reasonable condition (i.e., mostly air tight and not leaking when it rains), but the front window is a horror. As you can see. And my roofer gave me an estimate for a replacement window, with all new wood trim and structural repairs that was much lower than expected. Apparently with roofing season pretty much over (except for emergencies), he wants to keep his crew busy and discounts other work to keep them working. That works for me.

I had Monday and Tuesday off as scheduled vacation days anyway, so we set up the work for Monday. He said it wouldn't extend into Tuesday, and that would be good because then I have all of Tuesday to work on my dress. I'll probably get time on Monday, as well; he's very well trained and will call my cell if he needs to get out of the house because he knows I don't like contractors opening doors when the cats are loose.

It's time. I've spent so much time and money on the visible parts of the house, but what good does it do if the attic's taking on water? Besides, if you just look up, it looks like an abandoned crack house up there. Not any house's best look.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Let it snow

Don't worry, the next post won't be titled "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire," or anything cheesy like that, at least, not unless this dress takes a drastic turn.

Yes, it's a dress.  It was actually on its way to becoming a dress by late last evening, but I had the post scheduled to publish and never got back to tweak it. 

And once I decided what pattern it would be (BWOF sheath dress with V back, the one I based the wedding dress on), it immediately started to bother me that it needed something else.  Something . . . more.

And since it is the season of glitter and excess, I had some beads leftover for the craft show and decided to put them to use here by adding some "ice" and "snow" embellishment on the bare branches.  I think it's fairly subtle, and it strikes me as somewhat vintage, as well. 

I started playing with the beads last night around 10:00, and all of a sudden it was midnight! I guess that proves that you can do some things successfully after 10:00 p.m.  I'm glad I got the cutting over with earlier; I don't think I'd have tried that since there's almost no fabric leftover.

I underlined the bodice front and back with white batiste, for structure, comfort and also because when I decided to add the beads, I knew it would work better that way. 

Tonight I spent another 2 hours beading the bodice backs.  So that's 4 hours down now, and not a machine stitch has been sewn, other than to baste the two fabrics together, and to sew the bust darts. 

Tomorrow night I would actually like to start sewing, but that may not happen.  The neighborhood theater is having an opening, and whether or not I've been involved in the costuming (I haven't this time), I still like to go.

On the other hand, I'd like to wear this to a holiday party next Friday night, so I'm going to have to wedge it in somewhere.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Winter Wonderland

This was the home dec fabric I bought at Jack B's at the Philadelphia PR Day in November. I didn't know quite what it wanted to be, I just knew I had to have it. I love the cold and wintry feel of the bare branches, and the spare colors.

Interestingly, there was a colorway with a green background and more color, and it left me completely cold. And I normally love greens. But it was the mood of this fabric that got me, and it still does.

Not sure yet if it wants to be a dress or a skirt. There's 1.5 yards of it, and it's home dec width, so at least that means I've got a good bit of it to play with.

Any suggestions?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Month End Review - November 2011

Well, by the stats it looks like a productive month, but I think that depends on your definition of productive. In number of items made, it looks fabulous: 23 pieces. Yardage, because of what they were, not so much: 11.5 yards. In the number of pieces for me versus pieces for the craft show: the craft show won by 22 to 1.

The only item I finished for myself this month, start to finish, was the gray and black ruffled sweater. Okay, it was a really good piece, but it was one piece.

I also finished my plaid jacket that was almost finished in October, but it was so close to the end that month that I counted it for October. Silly me. It took almost the entire month to do the finish work between one thing and another. Full review of that coming later in the week when I can wear it to work and get photos taken.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Craft Show 2011

The University City Arts League holiday craft show opened on Friday night.  We stopped by for a bit of the opening and I'm now anxious to do a bit more work.

We're generally promised a 4x4 table space (not too much, not too little) but there are apparently a few less artists this year as there was a bit of extra space and the wicker sled holding my velvet scarves (which started out on my table) was relocated to the stand next to it.

Well, okay, if you want me to expand to fill my space, I can.  Also, last year there was artwork on the walls above each table; this year , not so much.  I'm going to think of a fast way to go vertical on the display.  Why have extra merchandise in boxes under the table when I can have it on the table?

The bottom photo is a closeup of some of the baby clothes I got done on my sweatshop day off Wednesday.  

There was a lot of interest tonight, but since we couldn't stay long, I didn't see if or how much money changed hands.  I'll check in Saturday afternoon when they open up and do some rearranging.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The circle widens

Now that I have my head above water, I can mention the fact that the sewing world got just a little bigger last weekend. Gaylen of GMarieSews, was in town over the holiday weekend with her husband and we were able to meet up on Sunday morning for coffee (but alas, no fabric shopping; she did that on Monday).

Not surprisingly, she is another lovely, interesting woman whom I felt like I'd known for ages - about 5 minutes into the conversation. What is it about sewists? We're a very likable bunch. Her husband was also a good and patient man, tolerating sewing and other conversation with nary a sigh or an eyeroll. Sewists also apparently have likable husbands.

Another sign that she's one of my people - we were talking about knitting (which I'm still resisting, mostly for fear of another stash) and she showed me her very gorgeous socks that she had knit herself. And she let me touch them, and didn't think it was weird.

That's what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


That's how many pieces I finished today. 

Then labeled them, priced them and delivered them, along with my other items, to the show and set up my table.

Then I came home and got my metal folding table from the attic and took it back to the Arts League, because half their tables had disappeared. 

So. Tired.  There was coffee all day, and wine with dinner.  Soon there will be sleep.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Flat out

I have off from work tomorrow. Vacation day, you ask? Well, it might have been planned that way, but then things went sideways.

I got a reminder that the craft show load-in has to be done on Wednesday, November 30th. 

Oops.  That would be tomorrow.

How did I manage to put this out of my mind when I know the show opens Friday?  My "day off" has now become a day in - in the sewing room.  There are a few pieces left from last year and I made more after vacation, but what I really wanted this year was to do a nice pile of upcycled baby items from the great printed cottons I have in the workroom which were set aside for just that purpose. 

Tonight, after pricing everything and filling out my inventory forms, I brought out all the fabrics, my 3 favorite fast patterns, and pulled together fabric pairings for 8 dresses. 

How many do you think I can knock out by tomorrow evening?  Wish me luck, and much caffeine.

* Elaray asked where the craft show was taking place.  Since she's local, and there might be others out there, I thought it might be a bright idea (!) to post the flyer.  The University City Arts League is at 4226 Spruce Street in Philadelphia.  They offer all types of classes - painting, pottery, dance, etc., plenty of programs for kids, gallery shows and the craft show, which is a neighborhood institution.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ghosts of Christmas Past

In a previous post, I mentioned the Japanese glitter houses from my grandmom's Christmas village, and also that I was thinking about listing them on Etsy.

Apparently my readers are a lot more sentimental than I am, because most comments told me to keep them, even though we don't decorate, don't have a a tree, and have the tchotchkes of a much larger family.

Here's what I've decided to do: I'm keeping the house on the top left, the large white "hotel" or "mansion" type house that was the center of many small person daydreams. 

(There was also a large candy-pink house, with a turret, but apparently that one vanished somewhere during the trip over the river and through the woods from grandma's house to aunt's house to mom's house to mine; in that case, it's a wonder more of them didn't disappear).

The remaining 6 houses (I swear there were at least a dozen, plus a larger scale plastic church with stained glass windows that played "Silent Night" when you opened the doors, but again, it was a long road from grandma's house) are getting listed in 2 lots, as pictured. 

I love them, but I won't miss them.  I hope they make someone's Christmas a little brighter; they brightened mine for a lot of years, and the last house is now on the bookcase overlooking my desk, where I can see it and (hopefully) the cats won't find its crusty, glittery surface at all appetizing or appealing. Hopefully.

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's been a long, long time coming

But I finally finished my ruffled sweater!

It's been nearly done it was almost anti-climactic to put it on today, but I'm really happy how it turned out.

My last bright idea, in a project that contained many "bright ideas," was to add the cowl.  Of course I decided to do this after I'd finished the neckline.  So I made a separate, detachable cowl, and decided then that I liked this idea even better - now I can wear it both ways, because obviously no one would ever recognize this sweater, it's so unassuming and unrecognizable.

Sometimes I make my own head hurt.

The cowl is basted at from shoulder to shouldler seam in the back, left loose in the front.  That way I can rearrange it however I want, and, since it is only basted, I can remove it if I change my mind.

The sleeves are still my favorite part. I love the chevron effect, and while it wasn't intentional that the chevrons flow up one sleeve and down another (I think wine might have caused that little bit of inspiration), it works for me.  How can you look at this top and actually say that it shouldn't

Where's that particular rule?

What got me to finish up, finally?  Well, Saturday was PR Day - the official celebration of PatternReview's 10th anniversary, and there was a small get-together in Philadelphia.

Now whether you're a fan of Patternreview, Stitcher's Guild or Burdastyle, their intentions arethe same:  sewing is a pretty solitary obsession, and there's an enormous community out there if only someone could organize it and shove it in our face in a way that makes us recognize what we could have.

So thank you, Deepika, for Patternreview.  I joined in 2006, oblivious to what the site would add to my sewing (and personal) life within the next 5 years.  Now most of my friends also sew - and some of them even live in the same general vicinity.  I got to see them on Saturday, and a few "locals" I hadn't met before.  It's always good to enlarge the sewing circle, and when I got home, I was so inspired just by a few hours of shopping and lunch that I had to tack on my cowl and hem the sweater.

What's that you ask?

A few hours of shopping?

And you want to know if I bought anything?

Why yes.  Yes, I did. 

Photos are forthcoming (most fabric is still in the laundry basket), but I got 2 different colors of a very nice washable linen, one of which was a light grayish blue color that I looked for without success all summer.  The other is a sage-ish green.  I got a flannel print that manages to not look childish or mannish; I think it wants to be a shirt dress for my painfully cold office.  And I got a home dec fabric that I'm absolutely in love with - it's ivory with very cool, neutral wintry tree branches in grays, browns and tans.  I walked in the store, spotted that almost at the back, and went right for it.  It was too expensive, and I didn't care.  So there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Not quite there . . . yet

It's still not done, but progress has been made on the striped sweater.

Can I still call it striped, when the stripes run in every direction except up and down? 

Still not finished: neckline, because I'm having a thought, and hems on both cuffs and the bottom of the garment.  I also might reshape the side seams a little bit; it looks a little baggy on the dress form, but then again, Evelyn and I haven't been the same size for a while now.  So maybe not on the reshaping.

What gave me the idea for this was a top worn by a co-worker.  You know that pre-ruffled knit fabric everyone was making skirts out of this past summer?  She has a top made from the narrowest ruffles, and it had the same bias seam on the front.  The back of her top, meanwhile, was just a solid knit, no ruffles at all, and it was sleeveless.

But nothing succeeds like excess, so I also cut the back on the bias, and then for good measure, I split the sleeves and chevroned them.  One up and one down, of course, and I cut the lower sleeve on the cross grain, just to be different.  Or normal.  Whichever. 

I've been distracted from sewing -- again -- because I've been trying to do a little housecleaning.  Never a good idea.  I just find stuff and lose time trying to decide where it came from, why I kept it, if I should continue to keep it, and where I should put it.
I found another box of crap (not really) from the relatives.  Etsy is going to be getting another big bulk listing really, really soon.  I'm getting very fond of them, they're clearing out my rubble quite nicely.

Actually, it was the first batch of Etsy proceeds that paid for the chicken coop.

Also, work has been insane (nothing new there), I'm behind on my craft show sewing, and, oh, yeah, the holidays are coming.  I'm feeling a little humbug right now, though I might get over it.

Or I might not.  Though I did get a little twinge of Christmas when I unpacked one of those boxes and found my grandmom's Christmas village that she used to put under the tree - glitter houses and tiny trees -- my favorite part of the holiday even when I was little.  Part of me wants to keep them; the practical part says to take their picture and pass them on.  If I haven't seen them in 30 years, I haven't really missed them, and we don't do a tree.

Back to to the sweater: note to self, even if not having your picture taken with a flash, watch what color bra you put under this sweater!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Easing my way back

I realized the other night that the only sewing I've done since before vacation was stuff for the craft show.  Okay, so I know I need to work on that, but not at the cost of no sewing for me.  Not at the cost of my sanity.

So Thursday night, I took off from craft sewing and spent a little quality time in the workroom.  The results will bemade public soon - I have a little bit of finish work left before I introduce my new creation.  Let's just say I took that black and gray ruffled sweater knit and did terrible, wonderful things with stripes.  I do love a stripe, I just tend to love them running in all directions at once, which may or may not be a problem. 

My plaid jacket is still languishing on the dress form.  I'll get back to that soon; after a substantial break, I wanted to ease my way back in with something a little less structured than a fitted, lined jacket with plaids to be matched. 

With my head cleared of all that backed up sewing, I was able to dive back into the craft show sewing and finish doing a beaded edging to scarves that, at least for the last 2 years, have been the quick-to-sew and quick-to-sell item on my table.  Fingers crossed it will be the same this year, or else everyone I know will be getting a pretty similar gift at the holidays . . .

Chicken FYI: for Kathi Rank (and anyone else) who wondered about Bonnie losing her feathers.  Molting is normal, though she is doing it a bit later than she should.  Most chickens lose feathers once a year and grow new ones, and during the molting period they stop laying eggs.  The logic there is eggs are mostly protein, and so are feathers; if she's going to produce feathers, she needs to stop producing eggs. 

As far as getting out in the yard for exercise, it never happens intentionally.  These girls can fly, I've seen them do it, and if I let them out, they'd be gone in a blink.  Once they settled in, they seemed not to mind the reduced quarters, and in the winter, it'll be a benefit.  Their little upstairs coop is just big enough for them, a perch and their nesting box.  Their body heat and the heat of their droppings (otherwise known as the best compost activator on earth) will keep them toasty.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Let there be light

Random chicken update: The chickens seem to be tolerating cooler weather better than the heat and the hellish rain we had in August, but I don't want them (or their water) to freeze this winter. Everything I've read also says that they'll continue to lay more frequently if they are provided more light, because they need between 12-16 hours of sunlight to lay regularly. And since my chickens are apparently not spring chickens, they probably really need it since egg production slows as they age.

I thought about this for a while, and what I really wanted to do was a solar setup for the coop light. How cool would that be, to have my back yard chickens go solar-powered? But since I also wanted their light on a timer, that just complicated things unnecessarily - what if there wasn't enough power stored in the solar battery to keep the timer on time? In the end, I had my handyman install an outdoor outlet by my back door, something I've been planning to have done for close to a decade anyway.

We picked up a work light at Lowe's, one of those bulb-in-a-cage deals, so my brilliant ladies don't attempt to peck at the bulb. On Sunday, since it had just turned daylight savings, I decided it was time to get to it. The bulb cage got zip-tied to the wire above the door, so that it shines up into the enclosed coop when it's on. It's also right above the waterer, so the heat from the bulb will keep the water from freezing. From there, we cut a small hole in the wire and ran the plug through, up and over the roof (and under the tarp), through the lilac tree and into the timer, which was plugged into the outlet by the back door.

The girls now have light from 4:30 to 6:00, twice a day. It seems to be working. They still go to bed before 6:00, but later than they were prior to the light going in.

Egg production is still slow, because Bonnie is now moulting. I told her she'd better get a move on; a Philadelphia winter is not the time to be a naked chicken. She just looks at me, flaps her wings, and feathers drift slowly onto the ground.

Another note: do NOT try to take an egg out of the nest box when your chickens have gone to roost on the perch above said nest box. And if you insist on trying, wear long sleeves so that their pointy little beaks don't do too much damage.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Or maybe it's about the food

Okay, so maybe it's not ALL about the food, but for me, in Paris, it's close.

We've been 3 times now, and it's always like that. In 2007, for our first trip, we dumb-lucked into 2 fantastic restaurants that we've returned to on each trip. More on that as we go along here.

Friday morning, we woke up pretty well rested from our jet lag. We each had something we wanted to do in Montmartre - I, of course, had to make a pilgrimage to Reine and stroke the expensive fabrics, and Mario, a big comic art/graphic novel fan, had 2 galleries he wanted to visit that specialized in his favorite thing. We went first to the fabric district, where my feelings were hurt by the drastic price increases (though I did buy 2 pieces of fabric at one of the remnant or "coupon" stores). Then we had a lovely lunch at a restaurant recommended by a friend, and then we walked to the galleries.

From there, we walked back to our hotel, which meant we walked from the tippy-top of Montmartre, down through central Paris, across the bridge, across the Ile, across the next bridge and through the Jardins de Luxembourg to get back to our hotel by late afternoon.

We had ourselves a well deserved rest after our hike, then meandered out in the evening back to our first favorite restaurant, Au Chien qui Fume (the Smoking Dog). I had salmon quenelles in a shellfish sauce, rabbit with mustard and a potato gratin, and a glazed apple tart with vanilla sauce and fresh whipped cream. And wine, of course.

Most of the photos here are from various street markets we encountered during our wanderings around the city. It seems like we found one every day, and it really began to make me crazy that I was trapped in a city with all this glorious food and no kitchen to cook it in. A basket of fresh porcini mushrooms is enough to make me twitch, but unlike when we went to Florence, I couldn't find any dried ones at the markets to bring home. Waaaah.

On Saturday, we got up extra early to go to the flea market near the Porte de Vanves metro stop. The weather forecast had been for days in the mid-60s, nights in the mid-40s, but that Saturday it wasn't anywhere near mid-40. Even layered up, we were cold and miserable. And the price increases had struck the flea market as well, so we were cold, miserable, and thwarted by the European financial crisis. Vintage buttons for 5 euro apiece?? Really?? Who's buying them?

We stopped at a vendor cart had double espressos and crepes to warm up. It worked for a little while, but my happiest moment at the market was finding a woman who was selling scarves for 3 euro. We each bought one, and felt much better. Though I have to say I feel a little like a Jane Austen heroine - I took a chill, and spent the rest of the week, the flight home and the week after, coughing like a consumptive.

Saturday night we went to dinner at a seafood restaurant that called to us. I had fish soup with a spicy rouille and croutons, and a bucket of mussels. And I mean a bucket. They had to bring me a second bowl for all the shells, it was ridiculous. Mario finished his skate and helped me down the last of the mussels because I was running out of room. Though I did have room for the 3 scoop sorbet/glace dessert - flavors were yogurt (yogurt-flavored ice creamReally), blood orange and lavender. Sounds strange, but yum!

Sunday was the day that didn't work properly. We tried to go to the Beauborg, and the lines were over an hour long by 9:00 a.m. We decided we didn't want to see their art that badly when there's so much more to be had. We walked up to Les Halles, to get in from the chill at the galleries and shopping area there, and found most of it under renovation. There is apparently no shortage of construction work in Paris; many, many buildings were surrounded by green construction barricades.

We walked back through the Marais, picked up lunch, and then went to the Musee de Mode du Textiles (the fashion museum attached to the Louvre). Their main exhibit was Hussein Chalayan. I wasn't thrilled - for me, sometimes when a designer has too many points he's trying to make (political or whatever they may be), the fashion gets lost. Mario thought he did great installations, but he wouldn't have known it was a fashion exhibit if I hadn't said so. 

By this time, it was later in the afternoon and we were starting to fade a little. But since we were already halfway down Rue de Rivoli, Mario suggested we walk the rest of the way down and go to L'Orangerie, to see their collection of Monet's waterlilies. Since I dragged him through the Cluny Museum on Friday morning to visit the Unicorn tapestries, I thought that was only fair. And it's not like I didn't want to see them; I was just flagging a bit.

Great art has restorative powers, however. Once we got inside the museum and into the stark white oval rooms wrapped in waterlilies (has anybody seen Midnight in Paris?) I forgot that my feet hurt and I wanted my pre-dinner nap. We circled around looking at paintings until they kicked us out at 6:00, and then we went back to put our feet up for a while.

We tried to go to Allard, our other favorite restaurant, but by the time we got there at 8:30 (okay, we put our feet up for QUITE a while), they were packed. Happy hour in Paris is from 7:00 to 9:00, not the American 5:00 - 7:00, so they were really just getting started. We made a reservation for Monday night, our last night, and walked back up the block and found a perfectly acceptable backup restaurant. By that point we were both wolfishly hungry and Allard's spectacular dinner might have been wasted on us anyway.

On our last day, we really had no specific plans. We walked a lot that day. The weather had warmed up and we just wanted to spend the last day looking at the city.

We realized over lunch that we'd bought no gifts, so we stopped at a shop and bought macarons for family and friends. They were supposed to be refrigerated, but we thought between spending the night out on the cool balcony and then being on the plane, they'd survive (and they mostly did, only a little bit squashed - and they still tasted good).

Yes, he's coated in chocolate!
After bringing our macarons back to the hotel, we rested and then walked back to Allard for dinner. Last meal in Paris: pate de maison, cassoulet and a chocolate charlotte that was absolutely obscenely good. Mario had escargot, boeuf bourguignon and the chocolate charlotte. We split a bottle of burgundy and drifted back to the hotel in a happy haze of wine and way too much good food.

And that, dear readers, was our trip to Paris. I'll post separate photos from the Orangerie; the waterlilies really do need to be seen to be believed - there's something about the scale and the size of those rooms, built to accommodate them, that made them even more impressive than I'd expected.