Wednesday, February 26, 2014

On the road to recovery

Lily, my sewing assistant, is feeling more like herself.

I took her to my regular vet for a follow-up after she was done the meds given to her at the hospital. The vet did urine and blood work to see how she was doing.

According to the tests, her urinary tract infection was completely clear, but we're continuing with the antibiotic just to be certain -- an infection could get a strong hold in an older cat.  Her blood test showed that she's suffering from mild hyperthyroidism, which explains why she eats like a fullback but is built like a bundle of twigs in a fur coat.  Her metabolism isn't processing her food correctly so those calories aren't sticking to her bones.

I picked up a new prescription for her today, which she'll be on for the rest of her life if it looks like it helps.  It's only half a tiny pill per day, so I can sneak it into her food with hopefully no issues.

And when Lily feels better, I feel better.  Plus, spring might actually be on the way.  I saw dirt in my back yard this week.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

If I say so myself

The shirt looks almost as good as the man wearing it.

I'm allowed to be a little smug, right?

Smugness aside, I'm really happy with how Mario's latest shirt turned out.  It's been a while since I made one, as was evidenced by my spectacular cutting screwup.  I somehow managed to cut the fronts matching at the fold line instead of the center front itself.  That half-inch or so is just enough to really throw it off, and this print is trippy enough without having the pattern not match.

Thankfully the fronts were the first pieces I cut, and I could simply cut the cuffs and collar pieces from the bad left front and cut a new one that matched.

To make up for the earlier drama, the shirt went together like a dream.  It was probably the easiest collar I've ever done, the cuffs and sleeve plackets gave me no argument at all, and my narrow hem foot didn't eat any fabric.  I used Fashion Sewing Supply's Pro-Woven Super Crisp interfacing so he could have his collar and cuffs as stiff as he wanted them.  (Personally I would have gone a little softer, with this print, but he was a man with a plan).

I did the inside collar band, the undersides of the cuffs and the underside of the sleeve placket in solid gold-colored shirting, and Mario's insistence on gold shirt buttons -- gold metal, mind you, not plastic -- sent us on safari down to 4th Street.  Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet came through, as always, with exactly what he had in mind.

It's not what I would have chosen, but in the end they really did work.  

And he's happy.  He got exactly the shirt that he wanted, so I call that a win.

While we were in the store buying the buttons, however, he came over with another bolt of fabric in his arms.  "What do you think," he said, "of this one for a short-sleeved summer shirt?"

Pretending he's an extra from
"American Hustle"
Who am I to argue?  And apparently shirt-making is good for me after all the production sewing I've been doing recently.  It's good to have to slow down and think about what I'm making, use a few more pins than usual and take my time.  Short-sleeved shirts only having collars to fight with, not cuffs and sleeve plackets, I could probably knock it out relatively quickly.

He wouldn't buy the fabric that day, not understanding the basic logic of "buy it, because it won't be there next time," but I'm going back down to 4th Street next week to meet with someone about a custom teddy bear order, so if it's still there, I'll pick up a few yards.  I may leave the choice of button up to him, since he seems to have developed opinions about these things.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


My sewing assistant appears to be recovered, but she has a follow-up appointment at her regular vet tomorrow to address various things - the infection, whether or not she is fully recovered, and the fact that she's lost some weight since her last visit to the ER.  I think a good bit of the weight loss is age-related (she's also arthritic, so I'm sure a little less weight on the joints doesn't bother her).  Fun times.

In sewing-related news, I took some time away from the business to make a shirt for my husband.  I haven't made one for him in a while - he's got at least 15 I've made for him over the years, and they don't wear out quickly enough for me to replace them as often as I'd like.  I actually find shirtmaking relaxing in an odd way - after doing a load of production sewing, it's strangely calming and forces me to focus on details instead of doing repetitive seams, very quickly.

We were at my favorite local shop, Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet, on 4th Street.  I needed to buy some grosgrain ribbon for my bears and he found a shirting/quilting cotton that he liked.  He thought it looked like the design from a Gustav Klimt painting, and after a little online rummaging around, I found the picture he was thinking of, which is inserted in the middle of the collage photo here.  He's got a good eye.

The shirt is made from KwikSew 3422, my favorite men's shirt pattern.  Gold cotton accent fabric for collar band, undersides of cuffs and sleeve placket.  Gold metal shirt buttons.

Fancy man.  I have a fancy man.  And I like it that way.  :)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Maria's Top

Sometimes you connect with someone and feel that you've known them for a long time.  It doesn't happen often, and it happens even less frequently online. 

Maria Wulf is an exception.  I found her (and her blog, Full Moon Fiber Arts) through the Cold Antler Farm blog.  From there, I followed to Jon Katz’s Bedlam Farm blog, and from there, to his wife, Maria.  I realized almost immediately that I had more in common with her than the first two bloggers, though I read all three of them every time they post.

Maria is a fiber artist.  She works in a lot of the same recycled materials that I do, but we use them – and see things – very differently. 

We recently realized that our 50th birthdays fell only a few days apart.  I had decided to treat myself to a piece of her work for my birthday, and when I approached her about it, Maria suggested a birthday trade.  I was all for it!  She had no special requests, so I decided I wanted to make something for her to wear.

Like a lot of us in sewing blogland, I’m a little obsessed with Alabama Chanin, and it’s been a useful obsession because with the recent polar vortex, it’s been too cold to spend much time in my sewing room.  I cut the pieces for Maria’s top, did the initial seams, and then removed myself to warmer climes to start the hand sewing.

The top is a combination of my favorite KwikSew cowl (cowl only), the recent Tessuti Mandy Boatneck Tee (which I really liked except for the boat neck, which doesn't work that well for me), and a bit of my own inspiration.  I also chose this combination of patterns because I don't know Maria's exact size - she says she looks for a medium when she buys clothing, which is infrequently.  I think she's a bit smaller through the bust and shoulders than I am, but she also lives in a cold climate, so she's likely to put a layer under this.  Fingers crossed that it fits okay.

I wanted the top to be understated, but still lively.  Because Maria sometimes attempts (not too successfully) to hide her light under a bushel, I wanted the red in the top to make itself known gradually.  The underside of the cowl is red, and is only seen in tiny peeks.  The appliqu├ęd flowers and leaves are red, spreading from under the cowl over the left shoulder to the dropped sleeve seam.  The shoulder seams are outlined in narrow red strips, and the hems, both sleeve and bottom, are folded toward the outside and a narrow strip of red hand-sewn over them.  I used medium gray embroidery thread for the stitching, and the top itself is made from a drapy charcoal gray knit that (I think) came from Metro Textiles.

It's going in the mail tomorrow.  I can't wait to see what Maria made for me!

Monday, February 10, 2014

When LIly feels better, I'll feel better

Lily, my chief sewing assistant and best feline friend, is under the weather, so not a lot of sewing is happening at the moment as I turn into uber-mommy, following her around and getting on her nerves.

We got home yesterday at dinner time, and Lily had spent the day sleeping in my husband's third-floor office.  She came out, and the first thing I noticed was her in the litterbox.  Lil's privagte; I rarely see that happen.  I noticed that she was there for a while, and it didn't look like she'd done much.  She then went immediately downstairs and tried the first floor box, with the same result.  When she attempted to use the rug by the back door, I realized something was up, and we popped her into a carrier and took her to the University of Penn's vet hospital, which is only about a mile away and has a 24 hour emergency room.

And, unusual for an animal emergency in my house, it wasn't midnight, or a holiday.  It was, however, snowing.

Four hours later, we were back home.  The vet had diagnosed what I assumed, a urinary tract infection, and sent her home with a bottle of liquid antibiotics for me to squirt down her throat.  I gave her the first dose when we came in at 10:00 p.m., and shut her in the guest bathroom so I could monitor her comings and goings (or not goings).  At bedtime, there were a few little spots in the box, so no change, but this morning, there was a nice sized hardened puddle, and later, after her second dose, I watched her go, and things look normal already.

For a fifteen year old girl, she responds really well to treatment.  I also think we got lucky being able to get her to the vet so fast - our vet would have undoubtedly seen her today, but that would have been a long night of discomfort for her, and at her age, she could also deteriorate far more quickly.

This morning I let her from the guest bathroom into my husband's office (which is attached to it) and we just woke up from a nice long afternoon nap on the bed together.

When Lily feels better, I feel better.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Recycling and Remnants

I've been trying to neaten up my workroom lately.  This isn't easy for me - in addition to my natural packrat tendencies, I'm a world-class slob - but when the scraps and bits of fabric start to cover the cutting mat to the point where I end up using only a corner, it's time.

The small scraps get chucked out.  The larger ones go in a bag that will be heading to H&M one of these days for their fabric and clothing recycling program.  The big chunks get put away for other purposes.

The striped fabric here was left over from a long-sleeved t-shirt I made for myself back in the fall.  I meant to make a short-sleeve version with the leftovers, but then I saw photos of myself in the shirt and reconsidered.  It doesn't look bad in the mirror, but in photos, the lines blurred, making it look all gray and squishy, and making me look rather gray and squishy in it.  Not any 50-year-old's best look.

So, what to do with the leftovers?

I combined them with an extra-large black t-shirt I'd been gifted at a volunteer event, and turned them into this rag scarf.  Basically it's 5 layers of cotton jersey, narrow to wide, stitched down the middle and then cut into fringe.  The striped fabric is the middle layer on each side.

It's not my usual work, or for that matter, my usual taste, but I like it.  I only have the one for now, but I think I'll throw it around my neck and wear it to Sunday's show, just to get some feedback on it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Shut up and make something

Two things up front, to explain the title of this post.   (1) My mom wasn't normal; (2) I was an only child.

Because none of my friends lived nearby, it seemed like my childhood was one long escape from boredom.  I read, I wrote, I plotted elaborate games for my Barbies (easy, since as an only child and had a village of them), I drew pictures, I painted, I sewed, I made things.  I learned this early, because of my mom.

"I'm bored."

"Find something to do."

"I'm still bored."

"Shut up and make something."

So I would.  She and my dad never questioned the strange constructions that appeared all over the house, or the random holes cut in the middle of the magazine they weren't done reading.  Or the tie that went missing from a dress because it was the right fabric to make Barbie a halter.  Or whatever it was.

Mom walked a fine line between total over-protective suffocation -- if I was doing anything that involved risk of physical injury or even being out of her sight for long -- and complete ignorance of my activities.  So long as she knew where I was in the house, or could see me out the window, she really wasn't concerned.  And there were always paints and crayons and glue -- copious amounts of Elmer's glue, I must have drunk the stuff -- around for me to mess with.

Maybe it was a strange way to tell me to occupy myself, but it worked.

It still does.