Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Recent Sewing

Since I'm planning some vacation sewing, I thought I'd share a recent make.  This was finished a while ago, and I wore it to NYC for our anniversary, but totally forgot to take a picture until today, when I decided to move my dress form out of the living room after a brief stay of about 3 months.

The pattern is the Mandy Boatneck Tee, a freebie from the Tessuti Fabrics blog.  I gave it a try because I liked their drape top pattern.  Most of their patterns are one-size-fits-most, and this was no exception.  The only real place where size matters (minds out of the gutters, ladies!) is your arms, because the sleeve piece is quite narrow.  The sleeve was also narrow on the drape top, so I guess their fit model has skinny arms, poor undernourished girl.  The sleeve is a shaped tube that attaches to a very dropped shoulder, so the size of your biceps shouldn't be too much of an issue.

If you decide to give this a shot, I'd recommend measuring just to be sure.

The fabric is a sweater knit I picked up at London Textiles on my shopping trip with Claudine and Andrea this fall.  It looked and felt expensive, but when I asked, it turned out to be a poly blend and was only $8 per  yard.  I tend to only buy remnants at London Textiles, but  I can be persuaded to change my mind for the right sweater knit at the right price.  Actually, I can be persuaded to change my mind quite often with regard to fabric.  My only rule when visiting London Textiles (since their remnant bins are really low priced) is that it all has to fit in the bag I take with me).

Final review: nice top, nothing too special, but a good basic shape to show off a special fabric.  Also, it's nice sometimes to have something not fitted that doesn't look like a sack.  I may not be in love with my current lack of defined waist, but I don't want to look like I'm wearing a trash bag, either.

I'm making a variation on this top right now, as a birthday gift for an online friend (her birthday is today and mine is Friday, so we're doing a gift exchange).  Probably the thing I like the least is the boat neck -- I always think I like them, until I wear them -- so I've swapped in the cowl neck from my favorite KwikSew cowl top pattern, and I'm doing some hand applique a la Alabama Chanin.  Right now, it's in the stage where I'm not sure if it's fabulous or a disaster.  When I make that decision, I'll show it to you.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Life 5.0

So that's what's happening this week.

A. Big. Birthday.

I feel like I should be more freaked out about turning 50 than I am.  Actually, I'm happy.  Not necessarily about the age, but on the other hand, I've gotten here, relatively intact, with a good man, a home, a fledgling business, the skills to feed myself, a lot of great friends and animals and more than a few sewing machines.

What more could I want, really?

Well, travel.  Travel is always good.

And travel is what's happening in the spring.  We haven't been away for over 2 years, and it's beginning to wear on us.  A friend-of-a-friend went to Barcelona in the fall and posted tempting pictures to Facebook, and I added Spain to my list of places to randomly check airfare prices.  And late last week, it happened.

I checked the fares for Barcelona, and they were $750.  I checked with Mario, and we agreed that we were probably not going to find anything under $700 the way things have been lately.  I came back down, and clicked "buy."  And a little box came up that basically said "surprise, the fares have changed since you opened this window, your trip now costs $868 per person."  So I didn't continue, told Mario, we both sulked for a while, and then I tried again in the evening . . . and the fare was $615 per person.  WTF?

Not that I cared, really.  I clicked "buy" so fast I think I sprained my keyboard.  Airbnb has supplied us with an apartment for less per day than our last cheap hotel (really - not to mention how much fun it was to browse apartments for several hours before making a choice) and now all I have to think about is making a few new things to wear on vacation.

That's what I needed to get me sewing for myself, apparently.  An occasion to wear something new.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How did that happen?

Bruges, 2010
Somehow or other, I turn 50 this week.  It happened when I wasn't looking.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

I don't have a problem with being 50.  I accept that I'm not as young as I was; that I've got gray in my hair; that things have relocated themselves further south than when I last inspected them; that I have the ambitions of a 20 year old and the knees of a 50 year old; and that as I age, the little things matter less and less.

That's the really good part.  :)  When I turned 30, it was like magic - the problems that had obsessed me all through my 20s just drained away, leaving me to wonder what I'd been so worked up about.  My 30s were about enjoying my lack of 20-something worries.

Florence, 2009
40 was better.  I was more confident; I'd finally beaten my way through the relationship thicket and found someone I was pretty sure I wanted to spend my life with; I had a house and a job that I could tolerate and a hobby that I loved.

50 looks promising.  We just passed our third wedding anniversary, my tolerable job (which grew intolerable) is gone and my hobby is now a fledgling business that I love.  My house is thus far surviving the Polar Vortex that has enveloped the Northeast and the heating bill has been only enough to make me dizzy, as opposed to get sick on my shoes.  I've discovered new things I like to do and more places I'd like to go.

Paris, 2008
Which explains the illustrations to today's post -  we're going to Barcelona in late March, and now I'm thinking about all things travel.  These are just a few of our past trips.  Looking forward to many more together.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Oh, and by the Way

This past Wednesday, January 15th, was our third wedding anniversary.  How did that happen so quickly?

We're not big on gift buying, so we decided a while back to just take ourselves out and do something that day.  Then we heard about the show playing in NYC with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, and that decided us.  They're doing two shows on alternate days, No Man's Land and Waiting for Godot, and two days a week they do both shows back to back (which I can't imagine doing).

We decided on the Wednesday matinee of Waiting for Godot.

We took an early bus to NYC, got there around 11:15 a.m., and walked up to Le Rivage, a little French restaurant on 46th Street not far from the theater.  After a lovely and filling lunch, we went to the show.  While I have to admit Godot isn't necessarily my sort of play, I really enjoyed it, and I think my favorite part was watching the two actors play off each other -- their friendship and level of comfort with one another is really obvious, and fun to watch.

Our bus didn't leave until 6:15 p.m., so we wandered a bit, had some coffee and got to the stop in time to score nice upper deck seats.  My favorite thing about Mega Bus over Bolt is those double-decker buses; if I'm going to have to sit in traffic, I'd at least like to have a view.

If it was better weather, we might have done an evening show, but I couldn't bear the idea of getting back home near midnight, down at 30th Street Station where the wind blows in off the river and makes it seem even colder.  By the time we got home, it was about 8:30, which was plenty of time for a glass of wine on the couch, a little discussion about the day, and some mindless television until we fell asleep.

And yes, I did spend that many hours in NYC without going to the Garment District.  I walked through it; I saw plenty of fabric being carried here and there and everywhere, and I did not shop.

So it is possible.  But I'm going up for a day in February, and I make no guarantees about that.  Matter of fact, I can guarantee shopping, since I'll be with a few world class enablers.  You know who you are.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

New Year, New Shirt

Well, I haven't started the year off the way I wanted to - I'd planned to do a bout of selfish sewing, to clear my head and give me something to talk about here.

After a week-long dredging of the workroom (honestly, you wouldn't believe some of what I found in there; if I'd found Jimmy Hoffa, I'd only have been surprised because I haven't been in the house long enough), I started back in on re-stocking the Etsy shop.  Nice that the inventory went down so low because of the holidays, but on the other hand, the more items in your shop, the more likely you are to turn up in Etsy search results, so restocking was a necessity.

Today we stopped on Fabric Row/4th Street on my way to get my hair cut.  I was almost completely out of grosgrain ribbon, which I need for neck bows for both teddy bears and the smaller knit critters.  PA Fabric Outlet has the best color selection and the best price, and they had a few other things I needed as well.  Why does my house eat small gold safety pins?  Especially when I need them to pin pairs of mittens together?  It doesn't matter; I bought 2 bags.  I also got 4 yards of fusible interfacing, which I sometimes need to reinforce sweater knits (and I'm not using my good shirting stuff for that), and a few other odds and ends.

As I was standing at the cutting table, Mario approached with a bolt of fabric in hand.  "Would this," he asked, "make a good shirt?"

Do you not love a man who doesn't fear color or pattern?  I sure do.  I said I thought so.  He wavered a little, thinking maybe we shouldn't spend the money (it was $4.98 per yard - I also love a man who thinks that's expensive fabric).  I talked him into it, and also into a half yard of coordinating mustard gold for the undersides of the cuffs and the inside collar band.

I asked what struck him about the fabric.  I'm always interested in what he sees, because it's usually not the same thing I get when I look at something.  It reminded him of the intricate textile and drapery designs in a Gustav Klimt painting, which I totally get, though I didn't see it until he mentioned it.  There are even tiny specks of metallic gold and copper in some of the swirls, so it really is reminiscent of Klimt.  If Gustav Klimt made long-sleeved dress shirts with solid gold accent bits.

This fabric is actually in the wash as I write this.  I think starting the new year off by making him a new shirt is a very good thing.

Playing with Color

I've been doing some restocking for my Etsy shop recently - it seems that you get found more frequently in Etsy's search function if you have 100 items or more in your shop.  I had hit the 100 mark before the holidays, but between online sales and craft shows I'd dipped into the 70s.  Not a bad problem to have!

The other day I made a few sets of potholders.  I like doing them after I've made some more complex pieces, and I'd just finished a set of bears (yet to have their final hand work done, however) because they go together quickly and clear my head.  Plus I had a big bag of scraps by the table from recent projects and a closet cleaning, so I decided to use them up.

The featured print in this series of potholders was from a man's shirt that I remade years ago into a smaller shirt to fit me.  And then my late 40s struck and things shifted around and the shirt never buttoned properly again.  I got tired of it taunting me in the closet and put it in the bag to be cut up, because I loved the print.

Interestingly enough, when it was a shirt, I thought of it as predominantly blue and white, with some warmer colors thrown in for contrast.  Which I think is what the shirt was, but as I was cutting it apart for these potholders, somehow the way I cut it seems to emphasize the reds and browns, with the blue of the sky and ocean seeming almost afterthoughts.  I combined it with a brown denim, solid red, solid pale blue and brown-and-black check (left over from a shirt I made my husband), and my summery blue-and-white shirt just disappeared.

It actually makes me feel better - I look at these, all earth-toned and retro, and I don't think of the shirt that I still miss.

I made two other series as well - hot pink, orange and lime green, with polka dots, and a denim and pink heart combination.  All potholders can be found here.

Friday, January 10, 2014

2013: Year in Review

Where to start?  This has been quite the year for me, so I'll start at the beginning.  In January, I turned 49 and thought about the fact that I had been trapped in a cubicle for 30 years, doing a job I was very good at but disliked quite a bit.  Mostly it was the place I was working, but really, it was sitting and typing for lawyers generally, every day, for 30 years.  I wanted to get out before I did something that would cause me to spend another 30 years in an even smaller cubicle.

In April, I gave 2 weeks' notice at my job, causing them all to discuss, quite publicly, that I had either lost my mind, had a secret job I wasn't telling them about, had a rich man on the side (which would be a surprise to both me and my husband) or again, I was just crazy.  I let them think I was crazy, and I left.

Since April, I've done 17 separate craft shows, plus my usual 2-week event at my local arts league.  Wow.  I hadn't actually counted the events until just now.  17.  Even I'm a little impressed.

I've sewn my fingers to the bone, blown a puppy's worth of fuzz out of my sewing machine, cut up more clothes than I've ever worn, gone through 2 20-lb. boxes of polyfill stuffing, was nice to people I wanted to smack, and, surprisingly, made some money while I was at it.

I also had one hell of a good time, learned a lot - about Etsy and online sales generally, about craft shows and dealing with people, about what sells, what doesn't and what I want to make anyway.  I've made some good friends, online and off, who I would never have met outside of trying to get my business up and running.  I've learned a lot about myself, too, just how hard I can work, and how I can smile sweetly when people who should know better ask me if I'm "working yet" or "enjoying myself" at home.

All that being said, I'm looking forward to what 2014 can bring.  I've been making new items for the shop every day this month, trying to rebuild my Etsy inventory after the holidays.  I've been reorganizing my workroom so that I can actually now find my entire cutting table, and once it warms up a little, I'm going to be clearing a space in my attic to store inventory for both my handmade and vintage Etsy shops, because the rest of the house is now beginning to look like a junk shop.

Which tends to make people ask the question, "What do you do when you're  home all day?"

Certainly it's not cleaning the house.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

What to do with scraps

I'm all about recycling.  Obviously.  But even though I can take an old garment and turn it into a teddy bear, or a toddler dress or a piece of patchwork, there will be bits left over.  There's no way around it - no matter how dedicated you are to zero waste, there will be scraps.

But not anymore.  Clothing store H&M just announced a clothing / fabric recycling program that will be available in all their stores.  They'll accept clothing, fabric scraps - basically anything textile.  If it's in good condition (just not your taste, out of style, etc.), it will be passed on as second hand clothing.  If it's damaged or scrap, it gets recycled into something else like car insulation or cleaning cloths or just textile fibers.  Here's a link to H&M's website which explains the program more fully.

You can bring in up to 2 grocery bags per day, and you get a voucher good to be used with your next purchase.  I'm not sure how useful that will be for me - H&M's clothes don't seem to fit the over 25 body (much less the rapidly approaching 50 body), but it's still a great idea.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

It's a Whole New Year

Another holiday season on the shelf. 
It's been a while since I've checked in here.  I took some time off around the holidays (my last show ended on 12/22), and then with family obligations and other inescapable things, I haven't had much to share here.

I did, however, do a complete overhaul of my workroom, which needed it badly.  It took three solid days and I'm not done yet, however, I've found my work table and it was too tempting not to actually work on it.  The shop needed restocking and I made 10 pair of mittens in the last couple of days, along with starting a few new items made from upcycled sweaters.  I'm excited about those and will share in more detail soon.

The new year always brings on that sense of needing to make resolutions, but I'm not going there.  I don't want to write down a list of unrealistic changes in my life that I will keep for a week or two and then feel bad about until I manage to forget them.  I don't think the following count as resolutions, quite. Matter of fact, if I don't number them, they're just some random thoughts strung together in paragraph form.

I'm going to continue to build my business, and enjoy making things that I hope people will buy.  I'm going to continue to do craft shows because I've gotten to a point where I can do them without feeling uncomfortable, or at least letting it show too much.  I'm going to consider what non-traditional employment means in the face of a possible part-time job offer.  I'm going to pay less attention to the news while remaining well-informed; I don't need to be blasted by constant outrage and annoyance - I spend too much of my creative time just trying to clear it out of my head.

And I'm going to spend time being a better wife.  I've got a wonderful, patient husband who doesn't mind a messy house strewn with fabric and pins (especially if he gets the occasional shirt out of it), who drives me to and from events, helps me set up and then goes off to do his own thing.  I want to make sure he knows how much I love and value his support in this and every other aspect of my life.

So I guess those might be resolutions, after all.  Kind of.  But they're the kind that I don't think I'll have too much difficulty keeping - or that I'll want to keep.

To everyone who stops by and reads this, have a wonderful, peaceful and creative new year.