Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sewing Vintage Modern - Book Review and Giveaway

So, a copy of Sewing Vintage Modern made its way onto my bookshelf recently.  Have you seen it yet?

The back of the book reads:  "Vintage Looks Meet Modern Fashion," which is pretty accurate.  The book gives a nice overview of fashion history from the to the 1980s (God, the 80s are vintage already; I'm old!), with notes on influential designers and fashion trends, and great drawings of clothes and accessories.

The book includes 5 master patterns (printed on double-sided, trace-your-own-and-add-seam-allowance Burda sheets.  There's a lot on each sheet, but it's not like the newer magazines; you can actually see what you want to trace.

The master patterns are then turned into 19 different looks, as follows:

Pattern #1, a dress, is used for both the 1920s drop-waisted dress and the 1960s Jackie-inspired sheath.

Pattern #2, a man's shirt, is a 1940s button-down shirt with chest pockets, a 1960s tuxedo shirt with ruffles and hidden buttons, and a 1960s jacket.

Pattern #3, another dress, is used for a multitude of looks: a 1950s full-skirted dress, a 1980s bustier dres, a bodice for another dress, and 5 different tops.

Pattern #4, a shift dress, is also the bones for a 1970s bell-sleeved top and a pussy-bow blouse.

The last pattern, #5, is for pants - everything from stirrups to pajama bottoms to bell-bottoms.

The most valuable part of the book, to me, is that it's more or less a mini course on adapting a master pattern to suit your needs.  Each look from a master pattern is broken down completely - how to re-draw each pattern piece, with instructions on measurements and truing up the pieces, is fully explained and illustrated.

If you don't know how to turn a one-piece, darted bodice into a princess-seamed bodice, you will.

The patterns run from sizes 0 - 14, or European sizes 32 - 46.   I wish the size range had been a little more generous, or that there had been instructions on how to adapt patterns to your size, not just to the specific look.  (The largest size measures 41 x 34 x 43, and face it, there's a lot of 34" waists out there on women who don't fall into a full plus-size category; I'm built more or less on the lines of a fire hydrant myself, so I know of what I speak).

The book also says that vintage looks are "modernized and reinterpreted for today’s sewing enthusiasts."  Therein lies the other rub for me.

I like vintage.  I like real vintage.  The things I like about real vintage are the details, the complicated sewing, the weird pattern pieces (gussets, anybody?) - the things that you don't find in most modern patterns.  These patterns allude to the original, but they are definitely directed to a younger sewist who isn't into true vintage.  Or at least not yet.

And there's nothing wrong with that.  This is a very good book with a target audience who unfortunately  is not me.  The things that hvae been left out of these "reinterpreted" patterns are the things I like best about vintage.

This would be a great book for someone not too new to sewing, but who hasn't experimented much with reworking patterns.  The book has a conversational tone and the directions on how to adapt patterns aren't intimidating at all - everything is explained well, and in a manner that's much more user-friendly than textbook.  

All that being said, I still give this book a pretty high rating, but I think it'll do better out there in the world with one of you than remaining on my shelves.

Please leave a comment telling me why you deserve this book, and you'll be entered to win my copy.  I'll do a random drawing next Sunday, January 6th, and announce the winner here on the blog.  U.S. only, please.

I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday season and getting some sewing done; I'm certainly trying to, though I keep getting distracted.

Happy new year, everyone!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry Christmas to Me

Back on December 2nd, I ordered a few StyleArc patterns.  I hadn't intended to, but every review I've seen has been positive, and there have been glowing comments about them from people who don't tend to glow.  So, I thought, why not?  Give a new pattern company a shot; maybe it'll break me out of the sewing slump I've been in lately.

And I waited.  On December 12th, I got a ship notice.  (I'd really hoped they were on their way by then).

And I waited.  Today, December 28th, I came home after work and just happened to see something in the recycling bin on my porch that didn't look right.  Of course it didn't look right, it was a white plastic airmail envelope containing my StyleArc patterns.

Which for some reason the mailman deposited into the recycle bin when he couldn't manage to fold it and shove it through the mail slot.

Anybody want to guess what I might be doing this weekend?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Solstice Dress

First of all, happy holidays to all - whatever you're celebrating or not celebrating.

It's been rather celebratory around here, and one of the things I'm happiest about is that I finally finished my Solstice dress.  I started it last year with the intention of wearing it to my office's holiday party, got bogged down in a few details and then decided they didn't deserve it anyway.  

This year, they still didn't deserve it, but we had made dinner plans for the holiday that required a special dress, and I decided to finally get in there and finish this.

Which basically entailed hemming it.  Why did I think for the last year I had loads to do on this when all I really couldn't decide was how far below or above knee to do it?  When I generally always stick to the same length for this type of dress anyway?

Friday was pretty quiet; I had to work the entire day (to make up for having Christmas Eve off and the glory of a 4 day weekend).  We meant to go to the craft show closing party, but got too comfortable on the couch.  I did a little sewing later, which felt pretty festive to me.

Saturday we ran a few errands, loaded out the leftover craft show items (not as many as expected - this year was a definite improvement over last year) and came home to rest up for dinner.

The last of my aunt's estate is being cleared up, and while she changed things at the literal last moment so that all I ended up with was the contents of her apartment, I was the beneficiary of a very small life insurance policy.

Very small.  Not life-changing; not even month-changing.  So I took a good portion of it and splurged on our favorite French restaurant's Christmas dinner.  A meal that would have sent my aunt into shock for many reasons, and which made me enjoy it all the more.

Five courses, with wine pairings.  We walked in hungry, and rolled out several hours later thinking we might never want to see food - or drink - again.  Of course that wasn't the case, but it was a nice thought for a while.

Here's the menu, just to pass on Christmas thoughts of gluttony:

5 oysters served with preserved lemon cream and chives.

Seared foie gras, served on Burgundy spice bread with candied orange peel and arugula puree.

Butter-poached lobster with grilled white asparagus, black trumpet mushrooms and American sauce (basically lobster stock with tomato and other yummy stuff).

6 oz. filet mignon (was supposed to be venison loin, but the meat delivery failed to appear; wonder if the reindeer had anything to do with that?) with Bordelaise sauce, chanterelle mushrooms, brussel sprouts and potato croquettes.

Buche de Noel made with chocolate cake, hazelnut pastry cream, a tiny meringue mushroom and pistachio ice cream with white chocolate shavings.

Remember, each of these courses had a wine pairing.  We were okay until dessert, which was a struggle except that it was so good.  Then they brought espresso, which helped, and finally, with the bill (thank you, Aunt Betty), two house made chocolates.

Which we could not eat.  But they went well with Sunday's breakfast.
On Sunday evening, further festivation occurred.  Some neighborhood friends were having a performance of Dickens' Christmas Carol at their house - a one man show by a local actor.  We attended that, ate, drank and made merry, and finished the evening by listening to carols on their victrola, including a 1909 version of Silent Night in German.

For Christmas Eve, we visited Mario's family in NJ for a full Feast of Seven Fishes.  By this point, we're beginning to feel a bit like Weebles, but we did ourselves proud anyway.

Tonight is our Christmas, home alone, with yet another glorious meal.  (We don't do gifts for Christmas, since we don't need much and tend to get what we need during the year anyway, but for the last 5 or so years we've hunkered down at home on Christmas day and made ourselves something excessive.)  Tonight's meal is duck legs cooked in Belgian beer with onion, garlic and dried apricots, served over rice.  With wine.  Because we can.

I'm glad I wore the Solstice dress while I could still get it zipped.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Gift finds its Home

Remember back in October, when I went to the homesteading workshop in NY?  

Well, one of the stockings I made this season got sent to Jenna, the ambitious, hard-working and hard-headed young writer and farmer who hosted us.  

She wrote a post on her blog, Cold Antler Farm, thanking her readers for their cards and gifts, and posted a photo of my stocking. Please check out her post to see Maude, her grumpy sheep who inspired the sheep on the stocking.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

That 70s Jacket

I'm still sorting through all the rubble we brought home from my aunt's apartment.  There were knicknacks galore, a good bit of costume jewelry and very little clothing.  Most of what was left was really worn, not even worthy of the thrift store.  A few of her cotton blouses I threw into my scrap bag to be taken apart for other projects.  Only one or two things are worth mentioning, and I'm showing one of them here, not because I've listed in my Etsy shop (which I have) but because I feel the need to share the 1970s technicolor glory of this piece.

My aunt knitted, crocheted and sewed, and she made this jacket herself.  I seem to recall that there were coordinating pants, though I've blocked out whether they were pink or orange.  Probably pink, because she was a redhead and occasionally stood up to her (redheaded) mother who said redheads couldn't wear pink.  Of course, she was in her 40s when she made this, which shows that you're never done trying to prove your mother wrong.  

She didn't wear it too often; whether that meant she really only made it to spite her mom, or because because my mom (who was her cousin), tormented her like they were 10 years old, I don't know.  There's certainly no photographic evidence of her wearing it, which is a shame.  I do remember seeing her in it a few times; I also remember my mom making her cry by singing "I'd rather be dead than a redhead."  Only your nearest and dearest can drive you that crazy, right?

It's made from that wonderful/awful 1970s spongy doubleknit.  The zigzag texture carries through to the inside; of course, that fabric was more plastic than fabric, so I'm not surprised. 

From our point of view, it's a nice bit of sewing.  The inside is finished with a red knit binding at the back neck and red lace hem tape.  All seams are zigzagged, which is the best her machine could do at that time.  The pattern matching on the center front and pockets is perfect.  The lapels are interfaced with muslin, and the collar, although freakishly 70s wide, is well done.  The gold metal buttons are better than most of what I see now.

I wish I had more examples of her work.  I know she made massive wardrobes for my Crissy dolls when I was a kid, but those got given away with the dolls, and I only have scraps of the fabric left (because she always gave me the leftover fabric in case I wanted to do things with it).  

Everyone gave her grief for this jacket, yet it was one of the few self-made things she kept in her closet.  For more than 40 years.  

It makes me wonder what it meant to her.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Is it Wrong?

That the look of this machine makes me palpitate . . . just a little?

I've got a nice new(ish) Singer that runs well, does pretty much everything I ask of it.

I've got a Featherweight downstairs in the dining room that needs a going over but otherwise would probably do everything I asked of it.

So why does the combination of the two - nice new machine, loads of stitches, but that sleek black paint job and the fiddly gold bits - make me just a tiny bit dizzy?

For the curious, the acquisitive, here's a link to the Singer site.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Almost Ready

So when I left work last Thursday, I had 44 pieces finished and waiting for the craft show.

I had off Friday.

When I went back to work Monday morning, there were  67 pieces finished and waiting to be priced and tagged and inventoried.  I got that done last night, and tonight, I set up my little corner of the gallery where the show will take place.  Being early has its privileges; I scored a table end, with a nice bit of wall overhead that will be taken advantage of before I'm done with it.

It was warm in Santa's little sweatshop this past weekend, yes it was.  But it was productive, as well.

I wish I didn't put this work off until the last minute, because I do enjoy making things, I just don't feel like working on those particular projects until I have to, and then I realize it's nearly too late and hey, I'm actually having fun with it and now it's almost over.
The continued challenge of working with recycled fabrics and remnants is trying to find enough of any one fabric, or finding several that coordinate (or fight nicely) to make up a specific piece.  Some of the most rewarding time spent in the workroom is laying out bits and pieces from various old projects or things I've pulled from the donation bag, walking down memory lane while piecing together something new.

Not all of the photos here are my stuff, obviously.  I'm only the top photo, and it only looks a little minimal because half my stuff is reserved for the second show on Saturday afternoon (which means I'll only look minimal at this show for the members-only opening night, which is usually lighter than public opening, on Saturday - and by then, I'll have added all the stuff that didn't sell on Saturday afternoon.  Unless - if the sewing gods are smiling - it all sells.
Fat chance.  It's the holiday season.  The sewing gods are snarky at the best of times.  At the holidays?  They're just like the rest of us: grumpy, possibly a bit hung over, a little sleep deprived, stressed and probably pissed at their co-worker sewing gods for being such godawful elves.

In non-craft show (and shopping) news, I somehow wandered onto the Style Arc pattern site the other evening and bought myself some patterns.  I'm still not sure how that happened, but if I'm going to pay hideous Australian shipping rates, I might as well justify them by buying a few patterns, right?  Dress, jacket and pants coming my way, along with a free top pattern.

To be sewn in January, when I have a brain again and the sewing gods have gone to the Bahamas, to recover.  I'll be recovering at home, with my stash and some new patterns.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Santa's little sweatshop

I'm feeling a bit better about the upcoming craft show madness. First of all, because during my four-day weekend I did manage to get a lot of stuff done, and I also dragged out what was left from last year and some things I made during the year for that purpose (and which I forgot about) and discovered that my inventory was not as dire as I thought.

I've got about 45 pieces so far, in categories as random as baby clothes, handbags, scarves, potholders, embroidered pillow covers and Christmas stockings, all from recycled/upcycled fabrics.  I'd like to get that number up to 60, but we'll see.  I'd also like to eat, sleep and have a social life.  And I guess I have to go to work, though I'd really rather stab myself repeatedly with straight pins.

The second show I signed up for is only a one day event, shoehorned into a neighborhood library's book-and-cake sale and wreath-making workshop. I'll have a table at that, and aside from promoting the OTHER craft show, which starts the night before, I'll be trying to sell more Christmas-specific items. I figure with wreath-making, I'll be getting the elves, not the humbugs like me. So I made stockings all weekend.

Embroidered ones out of a crinkled dark red taffeta evening skirt, combined with the leftover satin and velvet from my friend's theatrical costume, plaid flannel ones ornamented with felted wool sheep that say "baaa humbug."   And now, I found some moss green crushed velvet, which I'm going to combine with some remnants from a Burda blouse project in moss green, black and gold stripes.

They come in two sizes, classic (to be hung by the fire with care) and gift bag size. Lined with muslin. They're going together quickly and I'm hopeful that they'll appeal.

So I'm still a bit stressed (it is the holidays, after all), but since most of it is of my own making, I'm okay. I'm always better with self-inflicted stress than stress from outside.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ceil Chapman: Something to Drool About

Someone gave me this dress a few months back, knowing I've been selling a lot of vintage on Etsy.  She said she bought it years ago and felt that she paid too much at the time, because there's some damage to the dress, but she thought it was worth if it she could take it apart and make a pattern from it.

When I saw the Ceil Chapman label inside, I was so glad that she realized her skills weren't up to the task.  It  remained in a bag in her closet for probably 15 years before she gave it to me.

I lent it to another friend recently for a photo shoot.  I needed photos of the dress on someone, anyway, if I intend to sell it, and she's certainly more photogenic (and more suited to this dress) than I am.  She's in a play and the 1940s-era costumes aren't complete yet, so she needed a glam dress for the promo photos.

Glam is something this dress definitely is.

And can I tell you, I would have absolutely no idea how to take this apart and make a pattern from it either.  The very idea makes me weak in the knees.

The damage, I think, is moth - the dress is a light wool crepe, and I'm sure over all the years of its existence it has tempted more than one moth to take a bite.  All things considered, the damage isn't bad, except for the location - right smack on the front.

It figures, doesn't it?

But look at that drapery.  Look at that neckline, front and back.  If this dress doesn't make you feel like you're queen of the world, you just don't have it in you.

It weighs a ton.  I don't want to think how many yards of fabric are involved in that kind of draping, much less the skill involved in draping that many yards of fabric over a body and somehow making it look both more slender and curvier than normal.

I've tried this dress on and even though I'm about 4 inches shorter and 25 pounds heavier than my friend here, I felt like the freaking queen of the world in it too.
The pin on the front came with the dress when it was purchased, and from the look of the inside (professional-looking stitching) it may have come with the dress when originally purchased.  It makes a lovely feature over the left hip where the drapery just flows down.

I know that even in it's time, this was an expensive, dress-up piece.  But why don't people (other than celebrities) have occasions to wear things like this anymore?  Why is our version of dress-up, at most, an LBD that we can dress up or down?  Would the owner of this dress have even considered "dressing down?"

Rant over.  Look at the pretty.  Once I get it back so I can do a few more detail photos, including the label, it's going up on Etsy.  I just wanted to share it with you all because there aren't many people out there who (a) know who Ceil Chapman is; (b) can appreciate this kind of fabulousness; or (c) would try to wrap your heads around how to make something like this.

Life is calming down, sort of.  Took some time this weekend to have coffee with friends, went to see Lincoln last night (fabulous), and today I'm doing some craft show sewing and (obviously) some non-productive playing on the computer.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


How - or better yet, why - did I commit myself to a second craft show that starts the day after the first one, when I don't at this point have enough inventory completed for the first show?

Talk about boxing yourself into a corner to get things done.  I'm going to hear the machine in my sleep.  I can only hope it's the elves, sewing away.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bad Blogger

I'm here, I really am.  I'm even sewing, off and on.

Let's see, catching everything up to date.  My aunt got sick, my aunt went to hospital, my aunt went to hospice, my aunt died.  I cleaned out her apartment and got rid of at least as much stuff as I got rid of last time.  I brought home a couple of carloads which is either getting added to our own rubble or listed on Etsy.  I've dealt with not-quite-relatives to the point where I'm glad I'm running out of them.

Craft show season is coming, as is theater sewing. I did turn down the first project offered me from the theater - a tweed trenchcoat.  When I said I'd have a limited time commitment this show, I wasn't envisioning being offered a project that would take at least 10 hours of my time, with serious profanity involved because real tweed would be hard enough to deal with; the kind of "tweed" that would come from a theatrical budget would make me want to throw my sewing machine out the window.  So I'm doing a few smaller projects, and keeping what sanity I have left.

I'm enjoying the craft show sewing, when I have a chance to do it.  The bags of thrifted and discarded clothes under my sewing table are coming to good use - pictured here are a few of the baby and toddler dresses I've done.  Not one of them has a scrap of new fabric in it - it's all either remnants or recycled.  Which makes me happy, and gives me a little more storage space under the table.

I also knocked out part of my recent sewing list: the pajama pants and 3 turtlenecks have moved from fabric to wardrobe, and are much appreciated, especially those flannels in my drafty house.

Out back, things are a little slow in the land of poultry.  They tend to slow down their laying in colder/darker weather anyway (though I did wire the coop so that a light goes on from 5:00 - 7:00 a.m. each day, and again from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.  Right now it's not making much of a difference.  Bonnie's finishing off a fairly spectacular moult so I have hopes that she'll be back in business any day now.  Otherwise, she might be refugeeing with Bertha next year to go live with my vegetarian friends while I get a few younger, more productive ladies for the backyard.

The garden's basically shut down now - last weekend we tore out the last of the tomatoes (and pulled in about 5 lbs of green ones), shelled the last of the dried beans for soup, mulched the garlic that's already coming up for next year, set up and seeded the cold frame with greens, and cut back everything that needed it.  The tomatoes are now slowly ripening - good trick, if you ever need it, is to put green tomatoes in a brown paper bag with unripe, GREEN bananas.  When the bananas ripen, they give off a gas that ripens the tomatoes.  The flavor may not be real sun-ripened tomato, but it's not bad, and it's not waste, either.  They'll get sliced down into the dehydrator and keep us in sundried tomatoes all winter.

So I've been here, and busy, and just stressed with family crap.  But that's subsiding now and I'm going to try to find my way back to the stuff that keeps me sane and happy.  We'll see how that works. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

So much to do

Vintage hat with pheasant feathers
So much to do, so little time, even less interest.  There's been so much going on lately, what with work, my aunt, Max and random other things that I've really been neglecting the workroom.

I have sewing projects stacking up like planes waiting to land on a rainy day, but almost none of the projects are calling to me.  Which doesn't mean they don't need doing, I just need to get a little discipline, sit down in the workroom for a few hours and start knocking this stuff out.

What needs doing:  the Burda turtleneck - I need solid colors, and I have chocolate brown, teal and a nice mid-range green that would work.  Once they're cut, they take no time at all.  An evening's work for all 3. 

My TNT work pants in a nice deep brown plaid with faint lines of teal and green.  Would work with all 3 non-existent but planned turtlenecks, a few of my sweaters and the fabric is pre-washed and bagged with the pattern.  This also would take no more than an evening to complete.

Ivory linen picture hat
Flannel pajama pants.  I know, boring, but I have the flannel and my only remaining pair has developed holes that are no longer fixable.  Besides, there's no fluff left to the flannel.  It's time.  I hate sewing elastic, so I'm pretending that's why I'm putting these off, but actually it's because they're boring (although necessary).

Casual stuff for around the house.  I bought 4 yards of a wonderful heathered gray jersey at PR Weekend in NYC.  From Kashi, of course.  I need comfy, easy pieces to wear around because my other stuff has all been worn out in the garden.  And looks it.  Must replace.  A few evenings work, nothing complicated. 

And of course, the craft show is just around the corner.  You would think that avoidance of craft show items would make me start sewing for me, or even possibly sewing for Mario, but he has more shirts now than he has closet space, and oh, right, I still haven't started in on his jeans, although I have at least located the fabric and all the notions and thread that I need.

Anybody got any mojo they're not using?

** Photos from my Etsy shop; blatant advertising, perhaps, but also - how do you illustrate a lack of sewing?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

VPLL #0200 Skirt with Scallops - Finished!

This piece has actually been done for a while now (since June, approximately), but I got derailed in posting photos and a review.  Not to mention that it was too hot to actually wear the skirt I spent so much time on - even the "abbreviated" version that I made.

This is another piece for the 1912 Project, which has not been active lately.  Therefore I'm not pushing on the patterns I still have to complete; I'll get to them when I'm inspired to work on them, which is how we'd generally all prefer to work anyway.

VPLL Pattern Checklist

Pattern Name - Ladies Skirt with Scallops, #0200

Sewer’s Skill Level:  Advanced.

Pattern Rating: 1-Not a Fan, 2 – So-So, 3 – Good/Average, 4-Better than Average, 5-I LOVED IT! and why?  I'd give this pattern a solid 4.  It's got good lines and would look nice made up in a variety of fabrications.   

What skill level would someone need to sew this pattern and why?  I would say this would be best for an intermediate sewer simply because of the amount of bias trim and patience required to get a good result. 

Were the instructions easy to follow? If not, what needs to be changed? The instructions were good.  I really liked the description of how to construct the scallops and their facing - I had originally imagined it would be sewn right sides together, turned and pressed, and then the bias binding put on, but having them basted wrong sides together with the raw edge being bound made the edge much smoother.  The rest of the instructions were pretty clear, although I omitted the original side opening at the scallops and inserted an invisible zip in the left side seam instead.  

How was the fit/sizing?  Did it correspond to what you thought?  The measurements seem accurate to what's on the pattern.  I tapered all the pieces at the waist just a touch (my waist measurement isn't all that much smaller than the pattern, which I was somehow surprised to discover).  The fit is really good, it drapes well over the hips and hangs very nicely.

Fabric Used - Raw silk in a herringbone pattern; it feels like a very smooth tweed. This has been in stash for at least 10 years, and possibly longer.  I don't want to think about that.

Did you make any pattern alterations? If so, what alterations did you make? Where they fit or design alterations?  Minor alterations to fit at the waist.  I added scallops to both sides, because I just couldn't not do that much bias binding.  I like the look, though I can see where it would be a bit much, depending on fabric.  With my black and ivory herringbone, I think the black binding looks good.  I also added boning at the high waist because I sit most of the day and the skirt would never survive that without the waist getting all wrinkly.  I had 5 pieces of 6" long boning in my workroom, who knows why, so that's what I used.  I made tubing from the leftover muslin, cut it to size and hand-stitched these channels to the inside of the muslin skirt underlining.  I didn't insert the bones until after the facing and been sewn on, then I slipped them into their casings and tacked the facing down so that the bones were enclosed and couldn't work themselves loose.  There is one bone at center back, as the least stressed area, one in each side seam (sewn in along the zipper on the left), and two in the front beneath the scallops.  They're not uncomfortable at all and really help keep the skirt looking like it should.  I also used 14 black velvet buttons to ornament my scallops, since I didn't make them functional.  Just to keep it all looking neat, I hand tacked the points of the scallops to the center of the skirt.  There was a LOT of hand sewing in this skirt that I hadn't intended.  

Other notes:  I made a muslin of this skirt so I could get the waist fit and length adjusted.  My guesses on the muslin were good, so I used the muslin pieces to cut my silk.  The silk was a bit drapier than I wanted for such a structured skirt, and I didn't think lining it was the solution, so I used my muslin pieces to underline the silk.  It gave just enough extra weight to the silk that I didn't get any stretching or pulling anywhere.  I used purchased bias binding for this skirt, since I wanted black; if it had been a color or print, I would have made my own.  This took a 3 yard packet of bias and used up most of it.  I pinned and pressed the scallops one at a time, and then hand-sewed them down, catching both sides.  Painstaking, but much nicer and neater than machine sewing would have been.  I also used black seam binding on the hem and put that up by hand; aside from it matching the exterior - all those nice black lines - I just feel that seam binding makes a hem hang better than actually hemming fabric-to-fabric.  

** Annoying note.  I took a TON of construction photos while putting this skirt together.  However, that occurred back in June, and I now have no freaking idea what happened to the pictures.  They're not in the camera, they're not on the computer, they're not on Photobucket, they weren't attached to the draft of this post. I hate when I do all that work and then have no idea what happened to it.  And some photos, like the boning, can't easily be reproduced because all that is now hidden by the facings.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

So Near, and yet So Far

More radio silence. It's gone from cat crisis to aunt crisis, and I will leave you to guess which one is easier to deal with.

My aunt apparently went into the hospital at the same time as Max did on Friday, however, no one thought to let me know about it until Tuesday. Now there's a bit of drama I'll spare everyone, as I can finally now think about it without wanting to smack people. Currently she's in hospice, and not likely to come out, and I'm dealing with closing up and emptying the apartment we moved her into 3 years ago. And she has exercised her family packrat talents to the max - I had her so pared down when she moved in that there was space everywhere, and now all the closets and drawers are overflowing. Again.

But enough of that. My weekend away, which apparently I was not meant to have but I enjoyed every moment of despite that. I do read more blogs than just sewing blogs, and one of them is Cold Antler Farm. The author is a 30-something originally from suburban PA who had the epiphany that what she really wanted to do when she grew up was be a farmer. So she has herself a small farm in upstate NY with all kinds of livestock, and part of the way she makes ends meet is by hosting workshops at the farm. This was her big yearly two-day affair, called Antlerstock. I wanted to go last year but the timing didn't work out; this year I paid my fee in February and had been waiting impatiently ever since.

Upstate NY was definitely closer to fall than we are in Philly; the locals apologized for the lack of fall color, but to us it was breathtaking. So was the temperature. Saturday it drizzled for most of the day and didn't get above the mid 40s. We were outside the whole time, and even though my boots didn't leak, standing in semi-liquid mud to your ankles makes for some cold feet. Sunday morning it was clear but only about 38. I could see my breath when I went outside in the morning to call home.

In those two days, we got workshops in soap making, home brewing, herbal remedies, making sourdough bread and cheese making.  All of which are less complicated than they look, especially soap (at least once you get over the idea that you're messing with lye).

All the cooking workshops were done outside on a propane grill or camp stove, but it all turned out so good that I can only imagine how much better it will be in my kitchen.

 Livestock classes were backyard chickens, rabbits for meat and fiber, sheep and wool, and working with draft horses. She has two milk goats but they were off at another farm for breeding, so we got a tour of that farm during our lunch break and got to meet her goats, as well as check out their greenhouses and chicken and duck breeding operations.

I was also rather impressed with her sheep, especially one ram lamb who followed her around like a fluffy, hooved  puppy.

Oh, and did I mention she has pigs? One of them got delivered while we were there and it escaped shortly thereafter. Probably the unintended highlight of the whole weekend was the pig chase and capture. I can't even describe the sound that little critter made when she grabbed him and returned him to his pen in the barn.

There were also two evening bonfires, a good bit of imbibing and a lot of conversation with like-minded people from all over - local NY and New Englanders to someone all the way from Australia.

 My friend and I had a blast and I have a whole lot of new interests to try out this winter when I can't go out and play in my garden. Not to mention that my condition, which the writer/farmer has aptly christened Barnheart, has gotten much worse and I really, really want my own goats now.

Monday, October 8, 2012

And then there were 9

Maxwell Peapod, 1998 - 2012
I was away this past weekend.  Left Friday a.m. and came back Sunday night.  On Friday afternoon, right after I'd arrived at my destination, I got a call from our housemate.  She'd come downstairs and found Max, laboring to breathe.  I called Mario, who was on his way home from work.  Our housemate got Max into his carrier and together they drove him the 10 blocks to the University of Pennsylvania's vet hospital.

They got there.  They ran inside.  The vet looked at Max and said that he was already gone.  He must have died in the carrier on the way there.

I think Max planned it that way.  I was away.  Mario was at work.  He didn't expect to be found; he certainly didn't want any more quality time with the doctor.  I think he was tired and wanted to rest, without any more help from us.

It still rips me up that I wasn't here for him.

I leave you with the best of Max.

He was a chick magnet.
Who still had time for his buddy

He took joy in sunshine
He had opinions on literature

He had no false modesty
He enjoyed a good pizza. Or any pizza.
Social media made him tired.

He could be comfortable anywhere

He thought deep thoughts

He took a gold in synchronized sleeping

He will be missed.