Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Go West Craft Fest

It doesn't matter that the trees have budded, robins are out there pulling worms and the UPS man has been in shorts for some time.  In my neck of the woods, one of the surest signs of spring is the appearance of Go West Craft Fest in nearby Woodland Cemetery.

It's a bit later this year -- last year it was April 20th, and we worried about cold and rain (and it was a bit chilly), so the early May date this year is comforting.  Which does not mean, o craft gods, that you should drop rain on my untented spread and ruin all my goodies, okay?

The event is way bigger this year; including the food vendors, it's over 120 vendors in all.

Which is a challenge to get through, but a lot of fun.  For those who intend to come to the show, I'm including the vendor map below.  When you come in the cemetery's main gate, hang a left to find me.

This is a new area for the sale, generally they only use the open space to the right, but I'm okay with being in the smaller area -- the food trucks and port-a-potties are in that section, so nearly everyone will get there at one point or another.

Plus, I'll be able to get to the food and the port-a-potties, which generally doesn't happen if I don't have someone around who can watch my table while I run for it.  I'm calling it a win-win.

Right now, I'm just trying to get over the dregs of a nasty cold/sinus thing that started on Sunday.  Go West is a fun day, but it's a long one, and I need to be at the top of my game or someone will find me sleeping on the grass under my table.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Cynwyd Station - Crafts and Plants and Kids, Oh My

Sunday's show went well -- and I managed not to come home with any plants (only because of my neighborhood garden center raid earlier in the week).

My booth acquired a few small fans who were only too happy to pose with their favorite animals!

And speaking of animals, I spent Saturday (finally) sewing elephants for yesterday's event.  Fun times ensued when I realized that I was out of  fiberfill when I reached the third elephant.  Thankfully  Mario was already out in the car, so he swung past the store and got a bag for me -- they were out of my favorite 10 lb. box, but this will hold, for now.

While I was waiting for him to return, I played with a pattern that I'd worked on during a slow period on Thursday afternoon at the office.   I'm trying to find other animals to make from sweater knit, and other patterns to use.  One of my co-workers asked if I could make a lion for her son (aptly named Leo), so I decided to draft a cat pattern.  I wanted something not as three-dimensional as the knit critters, so what I ended up with strikes me as a bit folk art, but I liked it.

I took him along to the show yesterday mainly to solicit opinions, since he was only a prototype.  However, kitty prototype ended up going home with someone who fell in love with him, so now I'll be working up the next version from the photos I wisely took before kitty disappeared.

Friday, April 25, 2014

No Sewing Again Today

Grape hyacinth is blooming!
My procrastination continues apace, and I'm enjoying the hell out of it.  What can I say?  The elephants will either get done for Sunday or they won't.  People will find something they like if they want to buy.

I, on the other hand, had more digging to do.

Yesterday, the office where I'm temping gave me a $25 gift card for secretary's day.  It was much appreciated.  In some instances, $25 doesn't get you very far, but in veggie and herb starts at the garden supply store, you go home with a nice box load of goodies.

Everything is in the ground and I'm taking a breather pre-shower and theater this evening.  I got two San Marzano tomatoes (even though plum tomatoes always get blossom end rot in my yard; hope springs eternal), one frying pepper, one cucumber, a four-pack of purple kale, a fennel, three different lavenders and a eucalyptus, which I didn't know could grow in my zone.  Apparently it can, and between the lavenders, the eucalyptus, the lilac and the last of the hyacinths, the garden smells heavenly.

Teaser -- the roses haven't happened yet
Really pleased that, thanks to the chicken and her leavings, there's enough completed compost this early in the year that not only can I use it in planting holes, but I can mulch all the pots with it and still have barely made a dent.  Last year I remember being stingy with it because I didn't want to run out.  That's not happening this year!

The worst thing about putting off sewing by working in the garden is that digging in the dirt makes me feel so calm and benevolent that I can't even work up any stress about my sewing procrastination.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Who can sew when the back yard smells of lilacs?
This week has been busy, and will continue to be.  Today is my first day off, and I intended much sewing to occur.

At the recent show on Boathouse Row, I sold out of recycled sweater elephants.  I think people can sense they're a pain to make, because they always go first.  Every time.  So whether I feel like making them or not, I need to make more.

I've gotten as far as choosing the sweaters.

First, I needed to do laundry.  And my dryer is broken, and I don't want to pay to fix it right now. Conveniently, I have a local friend whose washer is broken, so we've taken to laundering together once a week and trading machines.  It gives us an excuse to have coffee one morning a week, which is always nice.
Bottom to top: sorrel, basil, spinach starts

Then I ran out of detergent.  I've been planning to make some for a while (I've had the supplies since before the holidays), so I did that.  Then I finished a crockpot meal that's been in the making since last night, and had to take carrot peels out to the chicken and potato peels to the composter.  Which meant, for some reason, that I had to finally empty the tub of completed compost and then turn all the half-done tubs (3 of them).

Which meant that I then had to go and plant my spinach starts, water them and the lettuce, pull a few weeds, check on my seedlings (nothing yet), and then run inside for a completed baby dress, run back out and take pictures -- which have turned out too bright, due to that lovely 3:00 p.m. sunshine -- and now I'm at the computer.

Mario will be home from work before I know it, and no sewing will have occurred at all.  But at least dinner will be ready, and there's a big bucket of soon-to-be-detergent in the kitchen as well.

** In response to a question as to why I don't air/line dry my clothes, sometimes I do.  The problem is that the yard isn't that large, and when the plants get larger, there is no room on the paths for my drying racks.  Add to that the neighborhood kids, who have no compunction about climbing the fence and ditching my clothes into the dirt, and air-drying turns into something that only happens when I can be in the back yard (or at least on the first floor) to supervise the effort.  Some drying does take place in the basement, but it's just not the same.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Coming Soon

This Sunday, I'll be at the Second Annual Craft Fair and (Mostly) Native Plant Sale at Cynwyd Station Park just outside of Philadelphia.

This could be good.  This could be bad.

Hopefully, I will abide by my usual craft show rule of not shopping, at least until I've made a decent start on my day.

I fear, however, that all bets are off if the plant selection is tempting.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Can we all agree that Mother Nature has lost her mind?

I've started -- and stopped -- working on the garden so many times in the last few weeks I think that it doesn't believe I'm going to do anything this year.

Thankfully, yesterday and today proved the garden wrong, as it's now all cleaned up, half the potatoes are planted, all my seeds are finally out in their little greenhouses (inside the cold frame; I don't completely trust Ma yet not to freeze them), and I've pulled out everything that didn't survive the winter, which included an 8 year old rosemary, all my lavender, and two rose bushes.

Salad greens - safe from the frost in
their mini-greenhouse bottles
I'm mostly sorry about the lavender, but in a small garden, sacrifices have to be made.  I'll never be able to wedge in anything new if things don't leave occasionally.  This is giving me the opportunity to do a lot of rearranging, which is something I love.  My poor yard, which is only 20x20 (large for a city row home, but laughable by most garden standards), has been a weed lot when I bought it, a war zone when I tackled the running bamboo and ended up having half the topsoil removed in the process, a faux-Victorian rose garden (complete with gazebo), and it's been transitioning ever since toward small backyard farm.

I'm glad we got so much done this weekend, because it's going to be a busy one coming up.  I'm temping Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; Mario's birthday is also Thursday, so we have dinner plans, and Friday evening is the premiere of Sense and Sensibility at Hedgerow Theater.  A very good friend is playing Elinor, and I'm looking forward to seeing her, and also seeing a production I didn't have any part in costuming!

Sunday is another show, and I'd love to get a few more things done before then, but right now it's just fingers crossed; I don't know if it's actually going to happen.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hoodie Bear

I got a custom bear order recently. I’m really enjoying doing the custom bears – not only are the fabrics supplied, taking the color/fabric choices out of my hands, but I really like hearing the stories that go along with them. A lot of times they’re memorial bears, and I get to hear about the special people whose clothes I've been entrusted with.

This is one of those bears. The woman who purchased the bear did so for a friend's daughter, who recently had her first child. Her father passed a few months ago, and the woman supplied me with two of his hooded sweatshirts to combine into a bear for the new baby. She also included a small charm (which had belonged to the girl's mother) to stitch inside the bear. Inside the box with the hoodies was a copy of the funeral program, telling me more about the father, including the fact that he was in heaven, probably listening to Johnny Cash with his wife while wearing one of his favorite hoodies.

The buyer also mentioned the fact that he put smiley faces on everything, including his checks. I ended up using more of my vintage daisy trim to accent the bear's neck, instead of a ribbon, because I thought it worked better with the more masculine sweatshirt fabric, and also because the big daisies reminded me of smiley faces.

Once finished, the bear is being sent directly to the mom. The buyer enclosed a card for her, and I think when I wrap the package for shipment, I'll find a few smiley face stickers to put on the box.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Craft Show: Insurrection

Let me explain.

Yesterday's craft show at Lloyd Hall on Philadelphia's Boathouse Row was not exactly as planned - either by the organizers or the vendors.

There was never any clear information as to whether we'd be inside or out, but when yesterday dawned warm and sunny, outside was obviously the place to be.

Which is why, just as obviously, the organizers decided to keep the crafters indoors, in a big room used for basketball.  It's a great room, huge, with glass block windows facing the river that let in tons of light.  But all the people were outside.  There were hundreds of people outside.

About an hour in, during that uncomfortable period when the only customers are the vendors cruising each other's tables, we started talking about where we wanted to be.  One by one, we kept looking out the door at the crowds of runners, joggers, bikers, dog-walkers, couples, singles, families . . . and wanting to be out there, with them.

Suddenly, I'd had enough.  I started laying my display pieces flat on the table for easier movement, and when I looked up, there was a woman stepping briskly past, dragging her table behind her.

It was on.

Within fifteen minutes, we were all outside, ranged around the building, spaced between the trees on the sidewalk, in between the restroom doors (can't ignore us there!)

A little while later, the organizer came out and looked completely mystified at seeing us there.  He made a few noises about making us move back in, but when people said they'd go home before they'd go back inside, he went away.  Lucky man knew when he was beaten - earlier there'd been mutterings about glue guns.

It ended up being a gorgeous day, pretty profitable considering many of the people who were out there weren't dressed for shopping (hard to carry a wallet in a sports bra or a pair of bike shorts), but there were enough buyers to keep everyone happy and willing to come back.

If they ask us.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Ever since people found out that I recycle fabrics, I've come home to the occasional care package on my front porch.

It helps that I live on the same block as a really good thrift store.  They support my habit nicely, but it also works in the reverse -- friends who would normally donate to the store will leave their donations on my porch for me to pick through first, and then donate whatever is left that doesn't suit my needs.

These three dresses came from one of those care packages.  All of them were pillowcases - two yellow-and-white striped ones and a larger sham, striped on one side, the other with the really cool compass and ship images.

There were others, including some really, really large 1990s cabbage rose linens (think toddler-head-sized roses), which did make the journey to the store.  The nautical pillowcase went into the thrift bag, came out, went back in and was sitting there, waiting to be taken down the street when I sprinted down the steps and pulled it out, because I had just gotten the inspiration for the dress, and I was really hoping that Mario hadn't decided to help me out by getting rid of that bag for me.

The yellow striped dresses just feel like essence of summer.  I've had several yards of that daisy trim for the past couple of years.  I bought it to use on a dress for myself, and then I could never decide on a pattern (or use for the trim) that didn't look way too young and/or childish.

Considering how good it looks on these size 1 and 3 dresses, I think I was right to save it.  Much better for small people, right?

Show tomorrow.  Everything is packed up and ready in the hall downstairs, ready to load into the Outback in the morning.

More later.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Make Do and Mend

Today I pitched a workshop idea to a local organization whose goal is to encourage making through doing.

I called it "Make Do and Mend," and what I proposed was to teach a 2 hour workshop showing people how easy it is to care for their own wardrobes, and to stop throwing away or donating perfectly good clothes because no one ever taught them how to sew on a button or tack up the hems in their pants.  This seems to cover about 80% of the population.

The class could also potentially cover zipper replacement (jeans would be difficult without more know-how on garment construction, but standard skirt/pants zips wouldn't be too hard), some refashioning tips such as shortening sleeves, reshaping skirts, etc.

The application asked what my experience was to teach the course, and I said that I make almost all my own clothes, I run a business using recycled fabrics and I've taught an abridged version of this at every office I've worked, though usually they would rather buy me coffee and have me sew on their buttons.

Waiting to see if they take me up on it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It's that time

The scrap bag was beginning to overflow.

When that happens, I either sort through it and throw things away, or I make potholders.

Generally, I make potholders.

First, because I don’t like to throw anything away if I can help it, and second, because it’s always nice to have a lower priced item on the table at craft shows. I can keep prices low on these because it really is nothing but my time involved. And yes, my time is worth something, but the materials in this case were all left over from other projects. That and an 8” square of batting doesn’t take much out of me.

These fabrics practically jumped out of the scrap bag together, even though their original projects had nothing to do with each other. As I pulled them and laid them out on the table, I could see a vintage theme coming together. Think Depression-era kitchen – feed sacks and dress goods, all the bits left over from the household quilts coming together as potholders.

 I’m calling this group Americana, because it reminds me of picnics and summer and the colors lurking behind vintage black-and-white photographs.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How much is that teddy in the window?

In addition to Etsy and craft shows, I sell some items at VIX Emporium, a local craft and gift store on Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia.  (The owner also runs some of the craft shows I participate in).

It's a great little treasure trove of a store -- you never know what you're going to find, and it's a small enough space, with enough goodies packed in, that you're never sure you've seen it all.  Which is a good reason to go back, right?

Last week the spring window made its premiere, and I was happy to see one of my bears right there in the front.  I've sold there off and on for a few years, but this is the first of my pieces to make it into the window.

I hope he bewitches someone to come in and take him home!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Barcelona - Day 5

Quiet morning street
Despite the excesses of Monday, we woke up early and hungry.  When we ventured forth, bleary-eyed and with stomachs rumbling, our street was quiet.  We decided on Placa Reial again, since it was close by and packed with restaurants.  Someone would be up and available to feed us.

The outdoor tables weren't all set up yet, and most of the restaurants had delivery trucks parked outside.  We ended up at an indoor table at a restaurant we'd eaten at on the first night.  Most of the waiters were still eating breakfast in a huddle around a back table, but they were cheerful enough as they brought our coffees.  

I'm not used to feeling like an early riser at 9:30 a.m.  I could get a complex.  

Beach hotel - love the wave shape.
Tuesday was our last day.  In the morning we would be up early and heading back to the airport, so we had one day to accomplish everything we hadn't managed thus far.

Which meant the beach and the Picasso museum.  In that order, if I had my way.

It had been threatening rain, so I grabbed my umbrella on the way out, hoping that by carrying it, and inconveniencing myself, I would prevent the rain.  It seemed to work, because by the time we'd eaten and walked down La Rambla to the port, the sky had brightened, and by the time we got to the actual beach, it looked like it had never even been cloudy.

Who wouldn't want to wet their feet in that?

The temps were in the high 50s, not exactly beach weather, but after months being trapped indoors in too many layers, with Carhartt woolly socks on my feet, all I wanted to do was feel sand between my toes and the chilly Mediterranean lapping at my ankles.

I hadn't realized when I started looking into Barcelona that the beaches were man-made.  How does one make a beach, anyway?  And if it can be done, why doesn't every coastal place have a beach this beautiful?  And while we're asking impossible questions, why can't every ocean be turquoise?  Is it too much to ask that the Atlantic, practically on my doorstep, stop being gray/brown and turn aqua overnight?

Beach art - Rebecca Horn
The Wounded Shooting Star / The Cubes
We walked and splashed and picked up stones and looked at public art and other sun-starved people with their feet in the water, or lying on their backs in the sand, faces tilted hopefully up toward the light, and knew that even if it made us late for Picasso, even if it made us late for lunch, this was worth it.

The Picasso Museum.  Not a huge Picasso fan, myself, but Mario is, and I did find this museum interesting as it has so much of his student work, when he was a ridiculously talented, precocious child who painted better than a lot of trained adults.

It wasn't until later that he started painting like the Picasso we all know, and as he aged, he just kept growing and changing.  I don't remember where I heard it, but he was supposed to have said that as a child, he painted like an old man; when he was an old man, he painted like a child.

Beach art - Juan Munoz
A Place Where it Always Rains
One thing I didn't like about the museum -- no photography.  At all.  Not just no flash, but no nothing.  I know there are postcards in the gift shop, but like my talent for finding the one item in a store without a price tag, I always fall for the one piece of art for which there is no postcard.  So I didn't even look at them.  I think art should be for everyone; let people take whatever pictures they want.  No reproduction, no matter how good, is going to give you the complete feeling of the original, but let people try.  Don't keep your art all to yourself.

Matter of fact, just put it on a beach for everyone to enjoy.

After Picasso, we had lunch -- at the restaurant we'd lost and found on the first day -- and another long walk through the city.  After a brief nap, we packed, went out and found our last tapas and wine, gelato and espresso, and came back to sleep.

Barcelona - New York - Philadelphia

Day 6 was really just traveling, so it will fit in here.  We had to leave the apartment by 6:45 a.m. to make sure we got the Aerobus on time, and to the airport in time for check in.  If 9:30 a.m. was early, 6:45 a.m. was still nighttime.  There was no coffee to be had until we reached the airport.  It's amazing how easily you can face lines (minimal), security (quick and friendly) and your fellow passengers (almost non-existent at that hour) when you know there is coffee on the other end of it.

What the water felt like after
the long, long winter
When we reached our gate, no one was there yet.  Including the staff.  It was 2 hours before flight time, but I guess they were off, having their coffee.  There were certainly a lot of uniforms in the cafe down the way, where we stayed until we started seeing activity at the gate.

Flights home were good, though not as swift, obviously, as the flight over.  I do wish those tail winds would considerately change direction and push us home.  Despite how sleep-deprived I'd felt all week, I wasn't tired on the plane and Delta had a great selection of movies, so back-to-back I watched The Book Thief, August: Osage County and Gravity.  Great, too much, and better than expected.  Then, delving deeper, I happened on a documentary about Diana Vreeland, and I was happily watching that when I realized we were landing in NYC.

Barcelona - Day 4

Market entrance
Most museums are closed on Mondays, so we gave Picasso a pass and slept in a little, until 10, and then had breakfast on La Rambla.  Chocolate con churros, which was delicious except I could have had double on the chocolate and quite possibly triple on the churros.  Sometimes my appetite is embarrassing, but honestly, food gives me so much pleasure I think I'll just have to get over that.

As I told a friend recently, it's okay to accept the guilt and move on, rather than do something you don't want to do to avoid the guilt.  I'll accept the embarrassment rather than do something I don't want to do, i.e., give up the goodies.

My new favorite food

After that sweet and fortifying snack, we went back to the Boqueria for more provisions.  We had to eat, you see -- everyone knows you can't shop hungry.  Who knows what would have happened, shopping hungry in a place like that.  I might have been followed home by an entire leg of pig.  Or an ostrich egg.  Or a tray of bizarre candied fruit -- notice the red and green fruitcake cherries?

Candied fruit
We ended up with more cheese, manchego this time, a different type of ham, a tray of those lovely marinated anchovies and some olives for the evening's in-apartment pre-tapas tapas.

Love the "hardware" holding the legs
After popping them in the fridge, we started our hike up to the top of the city to Park Guell, Gaudi's outdoor theme park of joy.  We took a detour on the way up so that we could see Casa Batllo by daylight (impressive in a whole different way) and to mourn the fact that La Pedrera was shrink-wrapped and under renovation.  We still could have toured the inside, but it was a gorgeous day and we decided to keep walking and see outdoor Gaudi instead.

Again, there are few words to express Gaudi's sense of playfulness.  The fact that the bulk of it is meant to be experienced by anyone makes it even better -- Sagrada Familia, when it is eventually finished, is obviously intended for public use.  The exteriors of Casa Batllo and La Pedrera, and his other houses, can be enjoyed by anyone who passes.  I'm sure the interiors are equally spectacular, but those were meant for the owners or those who can pay.  Public viewing is still free, and Gaudi wanted the public to experience his work fully.

A little taste of Casa Batllo
Park Guell was intended as housing, with a market area and all sorts of devious arrangements for water storage and things you don't think of artists/architects conceiving of, but I know by now this man was different than your average artist/architect.

The park was a huge open air festival.  It costs 8 euros to get into the Gaudi portion, which takes a lot of upkeep and care, but the largest portion of the grounds are free, with the Gaudi portions still visible.  You just can't touch.  And the whole point of the tile work, to me, is being able to run my hands over it.  It made me want to come home and smash plates and tile things.  Like the shed on the back of my house, or any random object that holds still long enough.

Window display - with sewing machines!
The tile lizard, for example.  Who wouldn't want a tile lizard fountain in their back yard?  I tried to get Mario to climb on his back for a picture, but he wasn't having it.

Though I enjoyed the climb up to the park, and walking through it, the tile work and the houses were what did it for me.  I love the one building -- it looks like a gingerbread house with the icing dripping off, or melting ice cream.  Architectural dessert.  No wonder it appeals.

I missed my kitties, but I met Spanish kitties
Mario's favorite part was what they called the Washerwoman's Portico.  He saw a photo of the fantastical lean and needed to experience it.  (Obviously Dali's slant on life was insufficient; he needed a Gaudi slant as well).  It was really amazing, and somewhat disorienting walking down a passage that tilted to one side like that.

I'm beginning to think Barcelona is just slightly off kilter, and I'm finally catching on.  (This is a good thing).

Gaudi buildings from upper path
Once back at the apartment, we had our usual pre-dinner wine-and-tapas, with the goodies we'd picked up earlier.  Mario had also bought some fresh dates, which he wolfed like chocolate while I spent some quality time with the manchego.

We had dinner again at Colom, our third visit now.  After we'd rested at the apartment post-hike (Park Guell is really a far walk from the Bari Gotic, or at least it felt like it), we realized we didn't have the energy to go far, and there was still so much of Colom's menu we hadn't sampled yet.  We had their mixed paella, which had rabbit in it, and another selection of tapas.

The staff was in fine form, and the waitress stopped by at the end of the meal with a digestif for us to sample.  She and the owner and the bartender stayed and chatted for a bit and made us feel like we'd found a little place of our own there in the neighborhood.

Monday night was, if possible, even quieter than Sunday.  Plus we'd walked miles, uphill, hiked around the park, been stunned by Gaudi again, and eaten and drunk well.  Again.

Tile detail - benches
I think the roofline looks like melting ice cream
Tile lizard fountain
View back from the window
Washerwoman's Portico - dizzying