Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Notes from the end of a year

First off, thank you for all the good wishes regarding my house hatred.  We're better now; it's forgiven, but it won't be forgotten.

New plumber came out, looked at the problem, figured out what it was, fixed it and was gone in 90 minutes, having cost less for the entire visit than the old plumber would have cost to walk in the house.

I have a new plumber.

I also have to do something serious about the grout on the bathroom tile, because it looks awful with all this new shiny chrome!

Today was spent trying to get things organized for next year.  When you start a business (handmade, online, anything I'd assume), no one really tells you how much of that business is no longer doing the thing you liked doing.

So today I made new banners for both my Etsy shops, and I'm working on rewriting my shop announcements.  My goal for 2015 is to continue to build my handmade business, and to do that, I need for my online presence to look more professional.  Etsy is enormous, and getting bigger all the time, and if someone drops into my shop to look at one item, I want it to be attractive enough for them to stay and ramble around a bit, and maybe find something.

The handmade banner is a stock freebie that I found, and I'm going to change it at some point soon to colors that I like better, but I really liked the layout so I did it anyway just to have a new one.  The vintage banner is actually a slice of a photo from the Downton Abbey exhibit, because I'm still not over all that luscious beading.

I recently joined a group called Thrive, for people trying to grow their Etsy shops.  I don't generally like to spend money to be told how to do something, but the first set of suggestions have been really helpful -- I rewrote a lot of tags and titles in the handmade shop, and while I haven't gotten any more sales (but it is the week after Christmas), when I do a search using terms people would use to describe my items, I'm generally now on the first search page.

So that's something.  They have to find your work to be able to buy your work.

Tonight will be a quiet evening in on the couch, something good on the Netflix with a bottle of prosecco and a pint of Cherry Garcia.  It's the simple things.

Have a Happy New Year, everyone.  See you in 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hating my house

Anthropomorphize:  to attribute human form or personality to things not human.

It's been quiet on the blog since the holiday, and here's (mostly) why:  a few weeks ago, I ordered the house a Christmas present.  Which, apparently, it doesn't like.

I've owned this place for 15 years, and during that time, I've hated the bathtub faucets.  They're old, corroded, rusty/scratchy to touch and they weren't pretty when they were new.  Because they're old, they go through washers quickly and are constantly dripping.  The last time I had them fixed, the plumber told me that they weren't going to last much longer.

So I bought new faucets for Christmas.  Actually, I bought the whole inside-the-wall assembly to go with it (I don't know the plumbing term for it, but it's the thing behind the faucets that the hot and cold water lines attach to and then the faucets attach to on the outside).  I figured since the faucets themselves were from the 1960s, the stuff behind them was probably at least as old.  And it was.

Mario's uncle was a plumber, and he grew up helping him.  This was a project he said we could do, and we put the faucets aside until after the holiday, when he's off from work.

We took our last shower on Christmas morning.

Three days, five trips to the hardware store and one trip to two different Home Depots, and on Sunday, I called the plumber.  He called back Monday morning and Mario explained what we were trying to do, and where we'd stalled.  Plumber's first reaction was to say that we didn't buy very good faucets, and besides, they were probably defective and to go get a duplicate set so he could work from that when he came out.

He'd come out when we bought more faucets.  WTF?  I bought the faucets through Amazon, and they were $175 (American Standard, not total crap).  When Mario researched (which he loves to do, and it makes me a little insane), Home Depot sells the same set for $350, but they would have to be ordered.  Same thing for Lowes.  The plumbing supply that the plumber recommended for "good" supplies didn't have anything that would fit our setup and would have to order them.  He told the plumber this, and instead of saying that he would come out and look at it, and who knows, maybe fix it, he said to call him back when we had something for him to install.

Again, WTF??  One time before his men were in the house, installing a dual-flush toilet in the downstairs bathroom, and they kept joking that it wasn't even worth crapping in because it was Home Depot brand.  Dual flush toilets seem to come in the $99 HD variety and the $600 Kohler variety.  Guess what I can afford?

So I posted to our neighborhood listserv that I was looking for a plumber (other than that one) who wouldn't be judgmental because I couldn't afford top-of-the-line fixtures.  I got several recommendations, one of whom came out briefly this a.m. to look at things and will be back later on today (he was in the middle of a job but he at least wanted to get a look at it).

Best part:  plumber #1 called Mario this a.m.  One of his customers read my post, called him and instead of calling me (his usual contact), he called Mario to ask what my problem was.  Passive aggressive much?  So now Mario's embarrassed, we still don't have a functioning shower and I'm trying very hard not to pick up the phone and tell plumber #1 just what my problem is.

So I'm hating my house right now.  It's a vengeful pile of bricks  that always pays me back when I try to do something nice for it.  New window in the attic: roof leak.  Repair the porch floor: cracked pipe in the wall.  Repair the porch ceiling:  concrete steps cracked and broke.

Mario says I anthropomorphize the house more than the cats, and maybe I do.  But he doesn't hear it talking at night, telling me how much it hates what I've done for it.

Onward, right?  Right.

Friday, December 26, 2014

And the Winner Is . . .

Melody Murdock!

Thanks for playing, everyone.  Keep an eye out for more giveaways, because I'm still cleaning out the house and who knows what other goodies I'll come up with.

Hope everyone had a lovely holiday, whatever one you do/don't celebrate.  Mario and I cooked a lovely meal on Christmas Eve and then drove to NJ to visit his family on the Day.  Home in time for the combined goodness of the Call the Midwife and Dr. Who Christmas specials, and now back to what passes for "normal" in this house -- I'm cutting out more bears and he's installing new faucets in our bathroom, a project I've had in mind for at least a decade!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Vintage Sewing Supplies

I'm introducing a new section to my Vintage Etsy Shop this week -- Vintage Sewing!  Over the years, my house has become filled with random bits of vintage sewing goodness:  boxes of presser feet, machine belts, bobbins, accessories, cams, etc.

Somewhere in the house, there's even the holy grail -- the Singer buttonholer.  Not that I can find it.

And the time has come to part with most of them.  Since I've never used any of them.  Really.  Never.

So please, one and all, go run amok through my hoardish tendencies and feel free to increase your stash of sewing goodness at the expense of mine.



Friday, December 19, 2014

Schiaparelli Paper Dolls - Random Giveaway

I've been cleaning out lately and realize I have two copies of this totally fabulous Schiaparelli Fashion Review paper doll book.

Which means . . .

one of them can be yours.

Leave a comment below and I'll pick a random winner on Christmas Eve (mainly because I'm not going back to the post office until after the holiday).

Good luck!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I mentioned a while back that Mario and I had done a weekend homesteading work shop at a friend's farm in upstate NY.

These are some of the goodies I brought home:  a bar of goat's milk soap (a recipe we made the last time I was there), a tin of herbal salve (made that afternoon under the maple tree in the front yard), a jar of sourdough starter, a baggie of spice mix and another of herbal toothpaste mix, two hanks of sheep's wool (not shown, but we learned how to wash, card and spin it into yarn), some dried red sumac berries (lost in a coat pocket somewhere, used as a cooking spice), and a rabbit skin.

Which is currently residing in my freezer.

There was a demo on how to turn a rabbit from, well, a bunny into something freezer-or-dinner-ready.  I was interested but not sure how I would handle it, but it was surprisingly bloodless and un-gross, and that white rabbit pelt was my gift for assisting with the processing of the second one.

(I give Mario points; he had no issues -- at least none that he mentioned -- about driving home with a fresh rabbit pelt in a plastic bag in the back seat, nor having it now hanging out in the freezer until I can get around to doing what needs to be done with it).

At some point, probably after the holidays are through, I'll thaw it out, rinse it in warm water and cure it according to the instructions I received that blustery October afternoon.

Fur-lined mittens, anyone?

The Last Bears of 2014

I finished my final two custom bears this weekend, in between a last minute show on Saturday evening and an all-day outdoor event on Sunday (8 1/2 hours in 40 degree weather, but it was worth it).

Both bears are dad-fabrics -- the one on the left was an argyle sweater vest and a plaid shirt.  His daughter (buying the bear for her mom) said her dad always wore vests, either sweater vests or button-up, and was there a way the bear could look like he was wearing one?  I couldn't figure out a way to use the sweater as both the body and the vest, and still get any decent use out of the plaid, so I used the solid sweater for the body, the argyle for the head and feet, and the bottom two buttons of the shirt as a "vest."  I cut the section off, pinned it to the front section of the body, cut it into a vest shape, stitched it, and then sewed the sides into the bear seams so the vest sits loose on the body when it was stuffed.

The second bear was a brown polo shirt and another plaid shirt.  This is to be a little girl gift for Christmas, thus the pink ribbon.  If it had been for an adult, I might have gone for a more restrained (and coordinating) color.  The polo fabric was not fun to work with.  Somehow it was more stretchy and uncooperative than actual sweater fabric, and had to be interfaced to make it work at all.

One bear shipped out today and the other was hand delivered.  The recipient of the delivered bear is planning to order one for herself after the New Year, but as of now, I'm letting the bear pattern sit for a while.

Actually, I took Monday off completely.  I slept in, had breakfast, read, took a nap, talked to the cats, took another nap . . . basically anything at all but sewing.

Looking forward to January.  I have a sewing project in mind for me.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Movie Night: Men of the Cloth

Months ago, long after I'd first started hearing about this film, I pre-ordered a DVD of Men of the Cloth.  It wasn't supposed to ship until sometime this fall, and I pretty much forgot about it.

Well, on Thursday it arrived in my mailbox, and I couldn't wait to watch.  Problem was: I had a huge order of Christmas stockings to finish off, two holiday parties to attend, and worst of all, the cupboards were bare (or at least what passes for bare in my house, which meant there were plenty of staples but we were out of Trader Joe's double roasted salsa and guacamole).

After we got home, Mario picked up the DVD and asked if I wanted to see it.  One of his grandfathers was a tailor and his dad worked as a cutter in a clothing factory, so even if he can't sew himself, he has a lot of familiarity with it -- and he's had to listen to me for the better part of 10 years.

Folks, this movie is absolutely fascinating.  It's pure porn for the sewing/tailoring enthusiast, it's a wonderful story of there older, traditional master tailors and one young man who turns away from his industrial design degree to apprentice as a tailor.  It shifts from New York to Italy to Philadelphia and back again, following the construction of one suit from the customer selecting the fabric to the same happy customer striding through NYC wearing his brand new suit (haven't we all wanted to leave a store wearing our new shoes or whatever?).

If you haven't seen this movie, you need to.  You can order the DVD here.

Friday, December 12, 2014

First Gift of the Season!

Yesterday was a busy one.

To backtrack, I had two shows last weekend.  One, on Saturday, was really slow (it rained, and even though Philadelphians should be able to tolerate weather -- it was 50 stinking degrees, after all -- they weren't coming out in it).  It was one of those sad days consisting mostly of vendors shopping from each other.

Sunday, on the other hand . . .  Sunday was five hours outside in mid-30 degree weather, and it passed in about an hour and a half.  It was that busy.

I also sold so much I officially don't have enough stock for this coming weekend.  Talk about first world problems!

So yesterday, I got up, made 15 Christmas stockings, did a 3 hour cashier shift at my local Arts League craft sale (almost no customers, lots of reading), went to Mario's office Christmas party, went to a holiday party at Philadelphia Independents, a local store that carries my work, did some food shopping at Trader Joe's and then came home and watched a movie.  (More on the movie later; I have a recommendation for everyone).

I met up with a crafting friend at Philadelphia Independents.  Danni Morinich doesn't sell through that shop (yet), but she will.  She brought some soap samples, and brought me a little present for encouraging her (otherwise known as being my usual pain-in-the-ass self).  Isn't it fabulous?  It completely covers my life at the moment -- teddy bear, scissors and sewing machine!

Here's a link to her Etsy shop and her wonderful soaps.  My favorite is Mrs. Patmore's Soap for Cooks.  How can you resist a Downton reference?  And I love Mrs. Patmore!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Clouds got in my way

Yesterday I woke up with a dark cloud.

You know the kind, the ones that arrive overnight, for no particular reason, and make all the lights in your brain dip down to resemble 20 watt bulbs.

I've got nothing to complain about right now, and I know it.  But when you wake up with a cloud like that, you can know that all you want, but you don't care.  Everything is crap.  By 9:00 a.m. I had already decided that I should stop sewing, my business sucked, I should go back to work full time, lose weight, exercise more, clean my house, do something that wasn't all about what I wanted to do.  In other words, change almost everything.

And all the while, the little rational voice in the back of my head was saying, "Look, you dumb bitch, you're good at sewing, you make stuff people want to buy, you don't need to go back to work full time, your house isn't that messy, and okay, you could drop 15 pounds but the world isn't going to end because of it."

But who listens when they're in that state?  Not me.

By the time Mario got home from work (and it says something for him, and the state of our relationship, that I had myself thoroughly convinced my life was shit but he never entered into it; at least I'd made one good choice, right?), I was over myself.  I told him I was in a rotten mood.  We had dinner, with wine, and when that didn't fix everything, he pulled up our newly acquired Netflix and turned on Love Actually, a movie I can't seem to watch often enough, and which almost always can pull me out of a mood.

It got me about 85% there, which is more than I'd expected.  I went to bed thinking that maybe the world wasn't coming to an end.

This morning, I had breakfast with a friend, which was good.  Then I took myself for a nice long walk down to our local cemetery, which is as close to getting out in nature as you'll find in West Philadelphia.  After my third circuit around the running path (walking; I was down, but not crazy), I felt pretty good.

Fresh air and exercise and getting away from the visible city always raise my spirits.  Seeing a juvenile redtail hawk, feeling it fly so close over my head that my hair ruffled in the breeze from its wings, was just a plus.

I'm back to what passes as normal now.  I think there were a lot of causes for my brief dip into the dumps: the unrelenting stream of negative news lately (though I try to limit my news intake, it's hard to do), the pressure of all my upcoming holiday shows and, although I was glad my temp job was done, probably also the disruption to my schedule after 4 months.  While I don't want to go into an office every day, I liked all my co-workers and I miss having people to talk to while I'm working.

Tonight was the opening party for my neighborhood craft show.  I went, I sold, I had wine.  I felt better.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Patchwork Christmas

I sent out a set of custom Christmas stockings the other day -- two were ones already finished and listed in my Etsy shop, and the other three were cut from a log cabin quilt I got online.

I love finding "cutter" quilts on Ebay -- since they're already damaged, I don't feel any guilt at all cutting them up and making them into something else; at least the undamaged parts get re-used this way.

The buyer, a wife and mother of three, asked if I could put names on the stockings, so I embroidered them on pieces of white linen and then hand-stitched the name tags on.  Three of the stockings were made to order, so I could have embroidered the names straight on, but the other two, being already constructed, would have been a lot harder to embroider, and I also liked the contrast of the white tag -- it would have been really hard to see the embroidery (or choose one color) against the different prints and colors of the log cabin quilt especially.

I still have a lot of the log cabin quilt left.  It may be stockings or it may be bears.  Or it may be a little of each.

And because I can't resist a bargain, I found another quilt on Ebay over the holiday weekend and it's in the hands of the USPS as I type this.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Busy Weekend Ahead

What was I thankful for on Thanksgiving Day?  In addition to Mario, my cats, my friends and having a roof over my head, I was thankful that my job ends this week.  Not that I haven't enjoyed it, not that the people aren't nice, not that they haven't done a fair amount of their Christmas shopping with me, but . . . this is what's coming.

Opens Friday, 12/5

Saturday, 12/6

Sunday, 12/7 (outside!)

And Monday, 12/8, I have jury duty.  They can make me go, but they can't make me stay awake.  That's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

A good and patient man

There have been a lot of bear posts lately, I realize that.  It's the most popular item for the holiday season, and each one is so different -- and each story is so different -- that I like sharing them.

This set also comes with a story, which I will tell, but first I have to give credit where credit is due -- to Mario, who learned this weekend that he could tie a 16" necktie on a stuffed bear.  Thankfully said stuffed bear did not have its arms and legs in place when this occurred, because it would have just made it more difficult.

The woman who ordered these bears had a special request. Could I make a set of 2 bears in a week?  They're for her 2 daughters, and the clothing provided is from her grandfather, who is expected to pass away within the next few weeks.  The bears were his idea, and they picked out the clothes together, but then he surprised her by saying he wanted to be the one to give the bears to her girls.  She thought she'd just take the clothing and put it aside until after the holidays, but he had other ideas.

So she contacted me to see if we could play beat the clock together and make a special gift from her grandfather to her daughters.

All I can say is that grandpa had some serious style.  I've gotten every kind of fabric imaginable for these bears, and they're all special because of what the garments mean to people, but this was one of the first times I really regretted cutting up a  piece of clothing.  The ivory-and-black herringbone jacket was silk/camel hair, and the black-and-gray houndstooth check was silk/wool.  Both are luscious to feel and the insides of the jackets, when exposed, made for a nice lesson in men's tailoring.

(Actually the guts of the jackets are up on a shelf in my workroom for me to study at leisure after the holidays, when I might actually have time to sew for me -- or Mario -- again).

Her other request for these bears, aside from speed, was that they have neckties.  Her grandfather is known for his tie collection and he handed over a lilac silk and a maroon paisley for this project, and in addition to the ears/foot pads, she asked if I could make tiny neckties for them.

Turns out I can.

This is definitely not something I'll do too often -- it was a little bit of a pain working with tie silk on such a small scale, and an adventure for Mario tying a tie that small -- but it really finished them off in a style appropriate to the donor of the garments.  (I know I could have made a faux tie, but I decided to try for the real thing -- and in case you wondered, a bear's necktie is 16" long).

P.S. I ended up getting a third order from her, a combined-fabric bear for her mom.  I kind of like that one (in the center) best of all.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sweater Bears

I have to say these are two of my favorite bears thus far.

Certainly not because of the fabric -- while that sweater knit looks really cute and I love the variations in color that gave me so much to work with, it was a loosely woven acrylic and even with interfacing on the back, it wiggled and frayed and caused lots of profanity in the workroom.

But it was worth it in the end, don't you think?

I didn't end up using every bit she gave me; the patches got packed up the box with the bears to return because the larger one just didn't work on the back of the bear, and I didn't want to ruin the sweater front with it.  Instead, I worked the cufflinks through the sweater knit on the front, to look like badges, and I cut down the two monogrammed hankies so the bears could wear them like scarves around their necks.

Just as cool, the buyer said she has a few friends waiting to see these guys because they're considering similar projects.  So the sweater twins might help bring in a little more income, which is always welcome at the heating season time of year.

Custom requests have become the biggest part of my Etsy business.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised; the way Etsy has changed recently with shops being permitted to hire outside manufacturing and yet still call themselves "handmade," the only way to guarantee your item actually is "handmade" is to contract for its making yourself.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New York State of Mind

Almost two weeks ago I took the bus up to NYC to meet up with some sewing friends for's 13th birthday party. We toured the McCall's pattern company, and there was fabric and wine and conversation and cake, and more fabric, and more wine, and a good time was had by all.

I treated myself to Amtrak home because I didn't feel like spending 2+ hours on the bus, but the train stopped somewhere around Trenton and I still ended up spending 2+ hours getting home, just in slightly more comfort.

I always look forward to going to New York, because I always go for some fun purpose: a play, an exhibit, a meet-up with friends. And I always come home grateful that I don't live there.

Manhattan wears me out. Too many people, too much traffic, too much noise. Too much much. Every time I go, I come home a little less hostile about Philadelphia, at least for a while. Here I may only be 4 feet from my neighbors, but it's better than 4 centimeters while trying to cross a street. I think New Yorkers have a bad reputation simply because they're guarding what little precious personal space there is left in that teeming city.

It usually takes a day or two for my brain to settle back down, to a point where I can hear myself think, to be able to write or come up with anything out of the ordinary.

I know people who live there. I know people who did, and wish they still did.

I will never be one of them.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Take time to breathe
So I've been temping since late July in my friend's office. It’s been a good gig, 3 days a week (of my choosing, so I can rearrange the schedule to prep for craft shows – or recover from them), and the money's been welcome to replenish the savings account.

But it’s really reinforced the fact that I don’t want to be in an office anymore.

Which is not to say that I won’t do this again, when funds are low and I get an offer I can work with, but I've discovered that getting by with non-traditional jobs is much more up my alley.

Mario and I recently did a homesteading workshop in upstate NY, and one of the things that I found most interesting was that the happiest people seemed to have no “traditional” jobs – the woman who ran the workshop has a small farm, a popular blog, has written several books, and teaches archery part-time at a local resort. She lives a small, local existence with barter (of goods or of her time) being a large part of her personal economy. Another presenter teaches, but also raises pigs, does pig roasts, writes and does lumberjacking. Other presenters also have several smaller income sources that add up to almost enough to get by, and that seems to satisfy them.

After 30 years of doing a job I never particularly enjoyed (but whose salary I was very attached to because of the life it gave me), I’m over it. Each year I worried about getting a good raise, and about whether or not a co-worker who didn't work as hard, but who was less prickly, was making more than I was.

But you know what? It doesn't matter what she made (though yes, it still irks me that she was paid more for doing less) because what I was making was more than enough for the life I wanted.

I’m currently making about half of my old office salary, and before you ask, yes, Mario does contribute to some household bills, but until his own house sells, he’s paying a mortgage and utilities on a place he’s not living in – and there’s no current tenant, either. So the bulk of the expenses (mortgage, utilities, food) is coming out of my income and savings. Things will even out at some point, but for now, it’s all good.

My main takeaway from how much my life has changed in the last year or two is this: What is my time worth? What do I need so badly that I’m willing to trade my time to earn the money to pay for it?

 How we spend our time is how we spend our lives. I’m choosing not to spend mine trapped in a place where I’m not happy, not contributing anything and certainly not making anything.

I know everyone’s situation is different, and not every can – or wants to – walk away from a good 9-5 job, but this is where I am right now, and it works for me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

And more bears

It's getting close to the end of custom request season (there is a limit to how much I can get done before the holidays; I have to sleep sometimes), but I got an order a few days ago that I couldn't resist.

The buyer contacted me and said she's been keeping this sweater of her dad's since the 1970s and could I make two bears from it, one for her and one for her sister.  She also included two monogrammed hankies, a pair of cuff links and two fire department sleeve patches, and told me to use whatever I chose out of the lot to make them special.

All the stories I get with these custom requests are touching, but is there any better way to get straight to my closely-guarded soft spot than a 40 years dead firefighter dad, and you're still holding on to his stuff?

I don't think so.

These will be special.  For me as well.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bear Season

It's been a busy time around here.  The upcoming holidays means the start of custom bear season, and here I'm sharing my last 3 orders.

First, a bear made from an argyle sweater.  The buyer wrote to me and said that she lost her husband a few years ago, and has two small children.  She and her husband were active in the youth ministry at their church, and children he mentored are now old enough to marry and have children.  There's a baby due soon who is being named after her late husband, and she wanted to have a bear made for them from one of his sweaters, complete with monogrammed bib.

The two little bears are for her kids, because I remember how much it sucked to lose my dad, and at least I was old enough to have memories of him.  These kids won't, but at least they'll have bears.

The second bear, the turquoise one, is from a sort-of repeat customer.  I made a bear and quilt combo recently from an outfit worn to a new mother's wedding, and was contacted afterward by the recipient, who turned around and ordered a bear for her brother made from the outfit that grandma wore to his wedding.

Lastly, a set of 3 bears.  The purchaser there said that her mother was a very elegant, tasteful woman, and to prove it she sent me two of her mother's jackets, a dark purple and a black one.  Very tasteful, very elegant.  Very dark.  I asked if I could add a third fabric to break it up, and chose a small floral that kept the dark tones but added enough light that you could actually tell the other two fabrics apart.  Lilac bows and embroidery for the nose/mouth finish the brightening.

I love doing custom work more than anything -- every piece comes with stories about the wearers of the clothing, the recipients of the bears . . . some lovely stories and a new challenge every time.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Winter is coming

And so are the holidays.

Whether we like it or not.

Whether we're ready or not.

I've got something useful & beautiful for everyone, all 10% off with discount code WINTERISCOMING.  Shipping is always free.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Parade

Luau puppy
Last Saturday was the Passyunk Fall Fest, a combined craft show, costume parade for kids and dogs, and all around fun day out in South Philly.

Although the kids' costumes can be cute (though how can there be that many girls who want to be Elsa?  I counted at least 35), the dogs are my favorite.

Dogs have little enough dignity to start with.  Once you dress them up, it's over.

There was a white French bulldog in a pink tutu, but I didn't get a photo.  I think he was too embarrassed; every time I raised the camera, he slunk behind something.  Other dogs weren't so modest (or perhaps self-aware).

Edward Scissorhands

My favorite kid costume was the brilliant version of Edward Scissorhands, complete with gloves that rattled and clanked every time he tried to move.  But he wouldn't pose for his picture without them -- or without the Tootsiepop lodged firmly in one cheek.

It was a good day, sales-wise, but even better after several days of rain, it was bright blue and sunny and breezy.  A perfect day to spend outside.

The family that costumes together . . .

Everybody Loves Lucy
Dino Dog

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Get out of your own way

I had coffee with a friend tonight.  We haven't had much of a chance to catch up lately, just exchanging Facebook messages and the intention of getting together, which is pretty bad for two people who only live a few blocks apart.  But life gets in the way sometimes, right?

We talked shop a bit (she makes jewelry and we do a few shows together), and caught up on each other's news.  I told her that I had gotten an agent for my book, and how hard it had been to take a chance and send out those query letters, and how good it felt to not have that fear holding me back anymore.

One thing I realized as we spoke -- we've known each other for five or six years, and during that time, I've gone from single and working a job I didn't particularly like, sewing for myself, and with a book hidden inside my computer, to married, (mostly) self-employed sewing for others, and with an actual honest-to-god literary agent.

If anyone had told me at 45 that my life would change this much in 5 years, I wouldn't have believed it.

Sometimes you just have to get out of your own way.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Just a bit of news

Katie is unimpressed by my news.
Remember this post?

Well, apparently (surprisingly?) taking action can bring results. 

In other words,


That doesn't mean I have a publisher, but it's a start.  I found someone who liked the manuscript enough to want to pitch it to publishers, which is more than I could say a few months ago.

It's a process, though.  There will be some edits, I'm sure, probably not until the beginning of next year, but I've already started thinking about them.  Along with what comes next.

Did I mention, I'm EXCITED?????

This is what happens when you finally face down the fear that what you've done might not be good enough.  What's the worst that could have happened -- rejection letters?  I got a number of those, but I also got one that said "yes."  And that makes all the difference.

Friday, October 10, 2014

It’s beginning to look a lot like . . . Christmas?

Yes, already.

One of the stores I deal with in Philadelphia was kind enough to let me know far in advance that she wanted about 20 Christmas stockings for the holiday season. I sent her links to the stockings I had in the Etsy shop last year, and she really liked the vintage quilt ones.

Thankfully I recently scored another damaged quilt on Ebay, so I was set there. She and I talked about embellishment on the stockings, and while she liked the “Joy” ones I did last year, she asked if I could do something to resemble the LOVE statue in Philadelphia – she said that everything in the shop with that logo practically sold itself. Merchandise that sells itself? I’m so there.

I played with fonts on the work computer one day and enlarged them until I got a good size for a stocking embellishment, then I traced it onto cardstock and cut it out like a stencil.

I got exactly 20 stocking fronts out of the quilt before it turned into scraps for bear construction. The back of the stockings are red denim (don’t tell Mario that it’s the denim for the jeans I keep promising to make for him), and I used the scraps to cut out the stenciled letters.

Originally I was going to do L, V and E in red, and use random fabrics for the O (making it look like a Christmas ornament), but that turned into way too much trouble so thankfully there was enough red denim left to cut out the O. (But nowhere near enough to make those red jeans someone wanted after seeing them on our last two European vacations. Oops. Bad wife).

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Inspiration in strange places

So it was a busy, productive and profitable weekend.

I had shows on Saturday and Sunday, and rearranged my work schedule this week so I could take Monday off and recover and make some new pieces.

Saturday's show was a fall fair at the Swarthmore Presbyterian Church, an annual community event that had invited outside crafters to participate for the first time this year.  Saturday dawned rainy and gray, but the organizers had emailed the night before and said they had scored pop-up tents for everyone and to look on the bright side -- historically, the event had been better for everyone on rainy days, because other things would cancel and everyone would end up there.  I'm not sure if that's what happened, but it was busy from start to finish, and the rain knocked off by about 10:30, so by noon we were even pretty warm and dry.

Shows are always interesting.  There's always one thing that sells better than everything else, and it varies from week to week, so it's hard to anticipate and make enough of what you think the next big thing might be.

The other day I was thinking I could slow down on the little dresses until spring, because I had a decent stock and they probably weren't going to sell that heavily in the fall.  And then I sold 8 of them Saturday, and 1 more on Sunday.

Sunday's event was a shorter one, with bright, beautiful weather.  This was at the Cynwyd Station Cafe, which is a great little Victorian tearoom right outside the city.  It was the tearoom's 6 month anniversary party, with vendors and food and drink and a tiny circus.  Mario stayed and hung out with his laptop, my cousin who just moved to the area stopped by for a while, and a good time was had by all.

But the keeper for the weekend for me was this display setup I photographed on Saturday.  The ceramics vendor next to me admitted that she trashpicked this set of steps by the side of the road.  I doubt I'll get that lucky, so I might have to go to Home Depot sometime soon.  But can't you just see it stacked up with stuffed animals?  It would be so perfect for shows with limited space - the ability to go vertical is very valuable then.

Friday, October 3, 2014


I put some of my childhood memories up on Etsy today.  It should be hard, but it really wasn't.

The first, a set of two ceramic Tiki-style mugs, decorated my mom's kitchen from the time I was little.  She never drank out of them, but she rooted plants and had vines growing from them that wove all around the kitchen ceiling.  Philodendron one time; sweet potato vine another.

The second is a set of Christmas ornaments that probably came into the house about the time I did.  I loved them.  They're styrofoam treated to look like gingerbread, and considering their 50ish years, they look pretty good.

When I first took these out of the cabinet, I thought they'd be really hard to get rid of.  And then I thought about the fact that they've been in a cabinet for the 15 years I've been in my house, and put away for most of the time before that.  I haven't had a Christmas tree in 30 years; I've never drunk out of the mugs either, and I don't do house plants.

So why, then?  Why keep them?  Why not just take nice pictures so that I can remember them, and let them go out into the wider world to make their way.

So that's what I did.

Monday, September 29, 2014

One from the vault

I've been cleaning out a lot lately.  The amount of aunt and previous homeowner clutter started to get to me, and then I realized how much of what was bothering me was actually mine.

So I started cleaning out that, too.

Boxes have gone to the thrift store.  And that's just the stuff that I can't list on Etsy, or cut up into more interesting things.

I pulled this out tonight, and spent a half hour ironing and swearing at it, and remembering both fondly and with horror how long it took me to make this.

This was made about 20 years ago for a costume ball.  I went with my closest friend (who was dressed as Marie Antoinette), and another friend of ours.  He wore black leather, and not much else.  We entered the costume competition as "Two Dead Queens and a Live One."  We didn't win, but our friend got a few dates out of it, and I had a guy ask if he could wear my dress.

Sleeves with faux pearls and fabric roses;
shoulders and waist are outlined in
drapery cord, with gold roses, gold braid
and two kinds of lace.
This is so far past my wearing that I can't even get it on my dress form.  I remember it being a bit of a squeeze at the time (even with that oh-so-historical back zipper), but it wouldn't go on the form at all.

I made the mistake of trying to get it on me and got stuck.  Like really stuck, and no one was home to get me out of the dress.  Not that I would have asked -- I would have rather torn it trying to get out than ask for such humiliating assistance!

I can't remember how long this took to make, but it was every night in front of the TV, and portions of it went to work with me - especially when I was hand sewing on the ropes of faux pearls to the sleeves.

Looking at it now, I wish my sewing skills had been better then.  But on the other hand, if the work was as good as the idea behind it, I'd have a really hard time letting it go.

A few detail shots, just because I'm still proud of it.  And for the right size 6(ish) person, it's available here.