Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?

According to Amazon, my sewing machine has shipped and will be arriving sometime tomorrow.

According to the tracking information provided by Amazon, what sewing machine would that be?  The tracking number provided was not associated with any shipment.

To be continued.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tropical Bears

Aside from the minor fact that I'm having trouble sourcing tweed in May, I thought that my bears deserved a little vacation.

Going by this Lilly Pulitzer-style print, I'd say they're off to Florida.

Two 14" high jointed bears in turquoise, green and white floral print.  Available here.

The bears actually came from the dress pictured here - a friend picked it up at what we in Philadelphia lovingly call "Penn Christmas," when the students leave town and strew their possessions far and wide, because it's easier to trash them than either take them home or donate them.

I consider it a donation.  Washed up, it was just dandy, other than the broken zipper which was probably the reason it was ditched in the first place.

Next up:  I have an orange, hot pink and green floral jacket that wants to become the companion pair to these.

Where would those bears be going?  Brazil, maybe?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Memorial day

My new baby
is about more than cookouts.  It's a time for remembering those who have given their lives in service of this country so that the rest of us can stay safely at home, grousing about who is or isn't cooking the burgers.

And also sewing.

I am in no way not taking the day seriously when I say that this weekend, I am also remembering sewing machines past, as my current Singer is slowly and painfully grinding to a halt.  I've ordered her replacement and it will hopefully be here within the week: my new baby, Brother CS6000i.

I hope to get the Singer serviced enough so that she can be an adequate backup machine, but right now her buttonhole function has completely failed and I've got 3 toddler dresses standing by with buttonholes that need doing.  I put snaps on my last few dresses, as a design choice (and because I was refusing to admit that the Singer wasn't acting right). That has to stop.

Sewing today was working on a new series of "summer" bears.  Photos soon.  At least they don't need buttonholes.

In the pink

When I saw this skirt at the thrift store recently, I had to have it.

Confession: even though I make most of my own clothes, I wanted this for me.  I sew; I don't always have the patience to piece strips of fabric, even if I can find that many coordinating colors and prints.  So the original plan was: mama has a brand new skirt.

Until I looked at it more closely, and saw that the previous owner had mangled the zipper.  We've all been trapped by an invisible zip at least once in our lives, but this woman fought her way free - to the point that the zipper had not only broken, but it had torn the fabric along the seam.

The cotton is just too fine to sustain a mend in a tear of that magnitude, so what did I do?  I took it up to the cashier, pointed out the damage, got a dollar knocked off and came home with plans to cut it up.

If it would have looked cute on me, it'll look even cuter on a little girl - this is going to be either a size 1 or 2, depending on how much fabric there is when I lay out my pattern pieces.  The skirt was fully lined in pink cotton, so I can either line or face the dress with that, and you know I'm going to use those beautiful fabric ties as ornament somewhere.

This won't take long - most of the work has been done already, and I'm feeling inspired.  I should have something to show off - and list - in a few days.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Here we go again

Yep, it's another sale.

Organized by the same folks who did the Go West Craft Fest in Woodland Cemetery in April, this one takes place on June 15th at another Philadelphia landmark - 30th Street Station.  Almost every form of transportation in the city - Amtrak, local trains, trolleys, buses, taxis galore - passes through and around the station, so this could be a really good day.

There was a show back in February that had originally been scheduled to occur right around Valentine's Day, but that got rescheduled due to weather and Amtrak canceling service.  (I wasn't involved in that one, though I loved the idea of it being in the big indoor waiting room - talk about a captive audience!)

This time it's outside the station, on what is these days called "the Porch," an outdoor plaza area with umbrella tables and food trucks, which the local improvement district is touting as a "go to" place - they have live music, yoga classes, gourmet food trucks and a farmer's market all happening there throughout the week.

This sale has a heftier table fee than the last one, so I'm sharing a 10x10 space with one of the vendors from the last sale, a jewelry maker who does some really beautiful and original stuff.  I think we'll complement each other without filching each other's customers.

So now the task at hand is to yet again build up the stock so that there is something in the Etsy shop and yet enough on hand so that the show table doesn't look empty.  Also, pick up another table so my side of the tent doesn't look too sparse, and find some matching table covers, and weights for the table covers, and get a banner made, and, and, and . . .

Out with the Old, in with the New

Otherwise known as, "out with the broken, in with the hopefully longer-lasting and fully functioning."

Otherwise known as my freaking Singer is dying a horrible, loud, metallic yet squeaky, non-buttonhole forming death and I have headed her demise off at the pass and replaced her with a Brother CS6000i.

It'll be my first Brother machine.

I started out on my mom's Kenmore, affectionately known as the "gut buster" because you had to get its 20 plus all metal pounds from the upper reaches of the bedroom closet to even start sewing.  When I started sewing heavily in high school, it stayed set up on a trunk at the foot of my bed and I sat on the floor and sewed.  Hey, it worked - there was nowhere in my room for a table and I couldn't sew in the rest of the house.

When I moved out, I tried to take the Kenmore with me, on the logic that I was the only one who used it.  But it was not to be.  Mom visited my apartment and repo'd the machine, and I ended up with some crappy plastic job from a local chain store that lasted about 2 years.  The best thing about that machine was the store credit card - the interest was horrific, but at least I had credit.  And a sewing machine.

After that, there was a secondhand Necchi that I got from a friend of a friend.  That sewed like a dream until one evening greasy smoke started billowing from its innards.  Mr. Necchi left in a hurry.

That was followed by a Singer that lasted me at least 10 years; that was replaced by an old boyfriend (who was gratified that my kind of shiny gift objects were power tools or sewing machines) with another Singer.  That lasted until shortly after I bought my house; it was replaced by the predecessor to the currently deathbed machine.  When it kicked, I tried to have it repaired but the repair would have cost more than the machine was worth.

My sense of thrift is offended that it costs more to fix things than replace them, but I'm also no fool with my money.  If I can replace for less, or close to it, then I will.

The current Singer has lasted for about 2.5 years of daily sewing, sometimes for several hours a day, on any and every type of fabric.  It was about $129 new.

I think I got my money's worth, but it still irks me.  I also think it was having problems before this happened.  That just seemed to exacerbate it.

I read reviews on Patternreview; I looked at machines at SewVac Direct and Ken's Sewing; I asked my sewing friends on Facebook.  I eventually looked at Amazon.  The machine I'm getting had 28 reviews on PR, mostly all positive.  There were 1,612 reviews on Amazon, giving it 4.5 stars.

And despite wanting to buy the machine from SewVac or Ken's, I ended up going with Amazon because it was more than $30 cheaper.  Again, I'm no fool with my money, especially when there's less of it coming in.

Brother will be here soon.  I'm expecting great things, but really, I'll settle for no squeaks, no thumps, no metallic grinding noises and really good buttonholes.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Next up

I'm still hoping to fit in another show between now and then, but for now, my next event is the 30th Street Craft Market, scheduled for June 15, 2013, at the Porch, which is an outdoor plaza outside Philadelphia's 30th Street train station.

Organized by the same people who did the cemetery show, it's bound to be a good event.  This one's rain or shine, so I invested in a tent (and a tent mate -- the fee for a space was more than I was expecting, and the organizers suggested splitting the space with another crafter whose work would go with mine).

I'm pleased with my choice -- I've done shows with Charlene in the past -- and I'll post some photos of both our work soon.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

More chicken, please

I thought the chicken dress was done.  I finished it.  I photographed it.  I listed it and showed it around on Facebook and here.

But it's been bothering me.  Something kept telling me it wasn't finished.

Now it's done.

What did it need?

It needed more chicken.

Chicken ruffle courtesy one of my aunt's house dresses - don't try to picture a whole house dress in chicken print, you'll just hurt yourself.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Button Box

Have you ever read anything by Wendell Berry?

His nonfiction is really good - even though I disagree with some of his ideas, overall we're on at least a similar page, with most of the same aims in mind. 

More recently, I discovered his fiction, and that's been a whole new (old) world for me. He writes about a fictional town in Kentucky whose residents over the years have been fleshed out in many books and short stories.  Most at least partly take place in the 1940s, the dividing line for farming communities - pre-war "old" ways and post-war "new" ways and technology.  Berry comes down firmly on the side of the old ways, or at least the ways of respect and stewardship for land and life before everything speeded up and got "easier". 

In "Andy Catlett: Early Travels" there's a quote that I think you all will enjoy (if you're still with me by this point):

I went to the closet - "press" was her term for it - behind Grandma's chair and took out her button box.  Every house I visited as a child had a button box.  It has disappeared now from every house I know, but then it was a necessary part of household economy.  No worn-out garment then was simply thrown away.  When it was worn past wearing and patching, all its buttons were snipped off and put into the button box.  And then when something old needed a new button, or when something newly made needed a set of buttons, the button box provided.  Grandma's was an old shoe box better than half full of buttons of all sorts.  It was a pleasure just to run your fingers through, like running your fingers through a bucket of shelled corn.  My old game with it was to paw through it in search of matching sets of buttons, especially the intensely colored glass buttons that had come off dresses.  I sat on the floor by Grandma's chair with the box in my lap and fished out a set of shapely black buttons and lined them up on the linoleum beside me.

My great-grandmom, who died when I was 8, had a button box.  So did my great aunts Margaret and Violet, and my aunt Betty.  My mom had a variation - she kept hers in discarded pill bottles and jam jars, by color.  

Inheriting all their button boxes gave me way more than buttons.  And I, too, have run my fingers through the button box, just for the pleasure it gave me.

Did the women in your family have button boxes (or jars)?  Do you?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Another non-sewing post

But a legitimate question, anyway:  what the hell season is it?

My vegetable seedlings have been in for a couple of weeks, the lilac has bloomed and gone, the blueberries are almost done flowering and the other night it was in the mid 30s.

Today it's humid and thundering and supposedly going to 80 degrees.

What happened to spring?  How did we go from early March to late July?  Where's April?  And what happened to May?

I'm not amused, and my tomatoes are just downright baffled.  They keep trying to start blooms and then it gets cold and they drop off.

Not sure what we'll be eating this summer.

I leave you with a few of what the garden is producing right now - irises in abundance (how exactly do they spread that quickly?  I tore most of them out last year and I still have 4 clumps the size of armchairs) and the first yellow rose of the season.

There are pink and red roses blooming as well, but I've got a soft spot for yellow roses, always have.

And that second iris is one I've hunted for for years - when I was little, my great grandmom had a whole bed of those in her back yard.  She called them "flags," not iris, but it was the same thing.  My aunts never liked this one, said that flowers should be pink, not brown and yellow, but I always thought it was pretty.  It's taken me years to track down: I never saw anything similar in the garden catalogs, but finally I saw them blooming in a yard here in my neighborhood and the owner let me dig a few to bring home.

Now, being iris, I have about 30 of them.  Along with the purple shown above, some lavender, 3 varieties of pink and a few pale yellow that I brought from Mario's house.

I'm seriously thinking about digging out all the iris beds and just making one big one with a handful of each color.  It'll look like a blooming Crayola box each spring.

Now that would make me happy.  If only they would then smell like a blooming Crayola box.

Did anyone else love the scent of a brand new 64 crayon box when they were a kid?  Crayon contact high.  They don't smell the same anymore.  Or my  nose grew up.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Working in reverse

I recently finished these two embroidery motifs.

Actually, I finished the peace sign made of leaves a few weeks back, and this afternoon, while wandering through Facebook instead of doing the sewing I should have been, I finished the tree motif.

Maybe I should start planning what these things want to be before I start embroidering them?  You think?

I'm assuming at this point that I'll piece around them and make a few more pillow covers.  They aren't selling as well as I would like, but I really, really like making them, and that has to count, doesn't it?  The right someone will come along soon and fall in love with embroidery, random patchwork and the idea of pretty soft things in their homes.

At least I hope they will.

The tree motif actually went really quickly, being only two colors.  The peace sign took longer, since I was using 4 or 5 different shades of green and doing all the leaves of one color, then switching off to another color.

I do have a lot of earth-tone and neutral scraps in the back, along with a few more vivid greens and maybe one bright floral just to jazz things up.  Maybe I need to go in the workroom and just lay fabrics out and see what happens.

And maybe I'm just procrastinating because I have 41 plaid flannel Christmas stockings sitting on my table, constructed, backed and pressed, waiting to be embellished.

Procrastination is my friend.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Using up scraps

Since I can never bring myself to throw anything away, I have a pretty large remnant collection.

Lately I have an even larger scrap collection.  I mentioned before that I was working on an early Christmas project with flannel, and all the bits and pieces of all those cut-up flannel shirts and pajamas have been taking over.

Potholders to the rescue!  I've done these before, but generally in cotton fabrics, which I've found to be a bit on the flimsy side unless I use more batting/padding.  These are all a combination of flannel and denim, with the exception of the red, white and blue set which feature some of my aunt's chicken print apron fabric.

Because how can I not use a chicken print?

Potholders available in the Etsy shop.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Time to take your Potion

I started working on these embroidered apothecary labels this summer.  I didn't have a purpose for them at that point, I just liked the look of them and knew something would come to me eventually.  I did three of them on a piece of ivory linen and then put them aside.

Recently they came to light in the workroom and I started thinking about what to do with them.

What I eventually came up with was somewhat obvious, when I thought about it - labels go on bottles and jars, don't they?  So I needed to find some bottles and jars.  Or make some instead.

The bottles here are cut from a pair of dark grape purple velvet pants I found at my local thrift store, purchased several months ago and stashed for just such an occasion.  The mossy green linen backing fabric was leftover from a dress I made for myself a few years ago.

These are going to be more pillow covers.  I think I need to make a fourth label, because the "Miracle Cure" just doesn't fit well on the first pillow.  But thankfully, there is a fourth label, and I'll be starting that shortly.

Apothecary label designs are from Urban Threads.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tweed Bears . . . Finally

This blog is supposed to be for my personal sewing, not the craft show/business sewing, but since there hasn't been any sewing for me since the recent top-fest, I thought I'd share what's been coming out of the workroom anyway.

These recycled tweed teddy bears were the biggest seller at the craft show in April, which of course means I should have had the remaining ones listed on Etsy ASAP, right?

Except I didn't.  Because there were only a few (so I made 8 more).

Because I didn't have decent photos of them, and I couldn't decide how I wanted to photograph them, and I didn't have a decent backdrop, and every time I wanted to do photos outside it was too early, or too late, or it was raining.

The hell with that.  I was walking back from a friend's house the other day and I saw these great wooden pine slats sitting out in the trash.  There were 6 of them, but I could only carry 4, since it was nearly a mile walk home.

Since it has been raining, these were set up this morning in my downstairs hallway, which gets good light, and I just got down on the floor on my stomach and took the damn pictures.  Uploaded them, tidied them up, got them listed on Etsy.

Why was that so hard?

Why do we put off things that need to be done until we can do them absolutely perfectly?  These may not be the photos of my dreams, but you know what?  They exist, and they're up on Etsy, and now people have a chance to actually see them, and if I ever get around to taking better photos (which I will, now that I at least have something, I can always swap them out.

Procrastination is my friend.  I think we need to stop spending so much time together.

Bears are up

What are they talking about?

My recycled tweed teddy bears were the biggest selling item at the recent craft fair.

So successful, in fact, that I had to come home and make a bunch more - I didn't see the point of listing the 3 remaining bears on Etsy, though I probably should have.  They aren't doing me or anybody any good just sitting around.

Now that there are a dozen on the living room bookshelf, looking down at me and supervising my typing here, I thought it was time to get them down, get them photographed and put them out there for the rest of the world to see.

Shall we dance?  Or are they plotting?
 Not all the bears are dressed yet - I've had some requests for girl bears, so they can have either ruffled collars from plaid flannel or a gathered lace collar with a ribbon bow.

Personally, I like the boys.  There's just something about a bear in a bow tie.  Very serious looking, aren't they?

Bears are now listed in the shop, with separate listings by color.  Due to the limitations on some of the fabrics, there are 5 tan herringbone, one black and white, 2 dark brown, one medium brown and 2 gray.

With more to come.

Family gathering
And there are more animals in the arsenal, I just wanted to get a decent collection of one before I started in on something else - that's always my downfall, starting something, then getting another bright idea and going on to the next thing before I've finished the first.  I'm trying to do this the right way, which means that my desk and my worktable are covered in notes and fabric samples for the other ideas I've had that I haven't let myself work on.



Very soon.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A new day

Big old button sculpture on the Penn campus.  I don't know why.
You might be wondering what my day is like now that I'm a lady of (cough) leisure.  It goes pretty much like this:

7:00 a.m.   Alarm goes off; Mario gets up for work and I feed the chicken and then go through the house, feeding cats and cleaning litterboxes.  Generally I grind my coffee and set up the pot then, so all I have to do later is turn it on.  By then it's about 7:30.  Some days I stay up, but often I  am joined by a cat or two and I go back to bed for an hour.  Because I can.

8:30 a.m.  Second alarm.  Turn on computer, go downstairs, make coffee and breakfast, feed Lily a little of my breakfast, check my emails, Etsy and do a little blog reading over breakfast.

From 10:00 - noon is a bit of a blur.  I shower and dress (not letting myself get into the habit of working in my pjs).  Then I generally go out back to check on Bonnie, which ends with me puttering in the yard for a good hour or two, or coming into do some cleaning if the weather isn't accommodating.  Slowly, the house is getting cleaner.  It's amazing what you can ignore when you're too busy to deal with it.

Noon - 2:30 p.m. (at least) is time in the workroom, doing whatever project I set up the night before.  I've been trying to do things for the Etsy shop in assembly line fashion - it makes it go much faster - so the other day I watched a movie while stuffing 8 bear bodies and 32 arms and legs.  Then I cut out 2 toddler dresses and left them on the table.

2:30 or so, I walk down to the post office if I have anything to send out.  The vintage shop is slow but steady, so most days there is generally something.  From there I'll also hit the fruit and veg vendor if we need anything, or maybe pop my head in the thrift store to scope out what might be on half price sale on Saturday.

The garden is starting to bloom - and I'm home to see it!
4:00 p.m. - Good afternoon light, so usually I take photos for the Etsy shops then, on big white boards on the kitchen or bedroom floors.  I'll upload and clean them up for posting later.  Usually I'm in the living room on the computer when Mario comes in from work.  Then he generally goes up to his office to work on whatever he's been doing and I go in the workroom, clean up the earlier mess and arrange the next day's work.

7:00 p.m. - dinnertime.  Sometimes this has been started earlier, depending on what I've gotten up to (yesterday I made a big pot of soup).  This is generally eaten upstairs on the couch so he can get in an hour or so of news viewing before we both can't take it anymore.  Then he generally works on a project on the laptop and I'll either bring out some handwork (finishing on bears, embroidery, sewing on buttons) to keep him company, or I'll retreat for a bonus few hours in the workroom.

11:00 p.m.  Daily Show/Colbert Report - a must have unless one or the other of us has fallen asleep on the couch, and usually the survivor watches anyway.  I get more news from them than the actual news anymore.

After that, it's bed.  I tend not to fall asleep right away because late night is my best time to plan.  It's also my best time to obsess that I'm a complete and total failure and my venture will never work out, so the planning is also an attempt to quiet the other voice.

7:00 a.m. - the alarm goes off . . .

Something to Cluck About

I have a small show coming up on Saturday, so of course I should be working flat out to get ready for it, right?

Nope, not yet.  For a couple of days, I worked on Christmas stockings, just to feel like I was getting that under control, and today, when I should have been finishing a few other half-completed items, I started a new baby dress.

This one is going to be a size 3, in a soft denim, with a red and white polka dot chicken on it.

I have a fondness for chickens - I have one in my back yard (there were 2, but Bonnie doesn't seem to be a flock animal) - and I just like them as a motif, fresh eggs completely aside.

This little bird was cut more or less freehand from the polka dot fabric, then stuck down to the previously cut dress front with Wonder Under.  I've had that stuff for so long I'm actually surprised it still works.  Then I zigzagged the edges, for security and interest, and now that I've stopped for the night, I'm debating the rest.

The inside facings will be in the red and white polka dots, and I'm still trying to decide about the neckline trim - white rickrack or red.  Probably red, since I'm on a kick here, but I want to add some embroidery to the rickrack to mimic something I saw online.  Can't find the photo for that, so I'll just have to show you.

Or find the photo and show you.

More chicken to come.  But no eggs.  Sorry.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Getting a jump on Christmas

I know, logical, isn't it?  Just as spring finally reaches the East Coast, I'm working on some holiday items.

And it's not like I don't have a show on May 10th, and another one on June 15th, but yesterday it began to bother me that I was getting a bit behind with a particular project, so I put some hours into it yesterday and today.

I made some Christmas stockings last year for a local show, and they did okay.  I made one other stocking, which was a bit more labor intensive - and would never have sold at the local show because I would have had to price it accordingly.  I decided to send it to a friend and fellow blogger, who had hosted me at a workshop at her farm in October.

When she showed it on her blog, it was a total surprise to me.  The reaction it got was also a total surprise, and led me to approach her after the holidays with the idea of running a holiday ad on her blog  next year, featuring - you guessed it - that stocking.  Which, if it's being sold to people who understand, and if I get started in time and can do a little bit of assembly line work, won't be quite so labor intensive.

It's those one-off, prototype projects that really slow you down, but sometimes the best work comes out of them.

So right now my sewing table is covered in scraps of plaid flannel, and there are 30 stockings cut out, with linings, waiting to be embellished.  I feel a little better now, especially since I'm starting a project to deal with all those flannel scraps, and those can be made up for sale at the upcoming shows.

It all works out in the end.  Right?