Thursday, August 28, 2014

Downton Abbey: Beads

One of my favorite dresses, and a good
sense of how the exhibit was arranged.
I know, it's been a while, but I was reorganizing some photos tonight and realized I had a few left from the Downton exhibit that I hadn't shared.

One of the things that really got me, made me stare and lean in, was the beading on some of the dresses.  If Winterthur had the usual museum sensors, I would have had them howling for sure.  Years ago, Mario and I went to the Paul Poiret exhibit at the Met, and after I set the alarms off for the third time, one of the guards told me that it was my last chance -- once more, and I was out.

I liked Winterthur; they knew we were there to get up close, but they also trusted us to be respectful enough not to drool on the dresses.

Nothing else to say here -- just enjoy the gorgeousness.  Turns out I do have a few more bits left after this -- a Dowager Countess and some lovely velvets.

More soon.

Amazing - the weight of the beads as opposed
to the lightness of the dress fabrics.  

Confession: I nearly drooled on this one.  

I don't even remember this dress, but
I wish I did.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Then there were 8

We lost Archie this evening.

I knew it was coming, but it's still hard.

He'd lost a bit of weight recently, but nothing alarming -- he was always overweight.  His eyes had been a bit runny lately, but he was always the poster child for upper respiratory infections.  He was lethargic lately, but he'd always been a bit of a slug.

But . . . put them all together, and it didn't seem right.

I put him on his standard respiratory infection antibiotics, and for two days, he seemed a bit better.  His eyes stopped running, at least, but he was still sluggish and not particularly interested in food.  For a cat who was 25 pounds at his peak, that was worrying.

I'm off work tomorrow, so I decided today that I would see how he looked in the morning, and if it seemed that things were truly worse, I would take him down to the University of Penn's veterinary emergency room and let him go peacefully.

Then I came home from work, and the decision was much easier.  He'd moved since I left in the morning, but he'd pulled down a plastic bag to lie on, and instead of getting up to go to the litterbox, he'd messed on the bag, and was lying in it.  That's not the behavior of a cat who's going to recover anytime soon.

I wrapped him in a towel, popped him in a carrier, and headed out.  The hospital is only 6 blocks away, and it was easier to walk -- Penn's move-in has started and there are street closures between here and there.  That ruled out taking a cab, and Mario wasn't home yet, so the car wasn't available.  I ran into Mario, however, halfway to the hospital, so we ended up saying goodbye to Arch together.

The vet who looked him over agreed that there was something seriously amiss, and also agreed (as my regular vet might not have) that my choice was a totally reasonable one considering the alternative was putting a sick, 14 year old cat through tests that might well tax what little strength he had left.

Archie didn't look like much on the table, wrapped in a different towel to cover the stickiness, with an IV in his arm for the needles.

I prefer to remember him as the tiny kitten I brought home one day in November, 2001, cold and wet and having been rescued from a bunch of rock-throwing kids, zipped safely into my leather jacket next to my heart.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Quilt Accompli

I can't believe it's done.

Last Thursday, before my second embroidery class, I managed to get the three layers of the quilt together, and I pin-marked the measurements where the tacking would go.  I still had a little time left before I had to leave, so I got out the big needle and the yarn and started in.

I've never been a fan of tied quilts -- to me, quilts are quilted.  Or so I thought.  Having done a tied one now and gotten it done in about 20 minutes (okay, it's only 30" x 30", but still), I think I'm a convert.

If you're a quilter, I can still see the point of quilting.  But if what you're doing is really about the piecing, or the fabric art you've created, and you don't want to quilt, then I say grab some yarn and have at it.

Especially for a baby, or for the display piece that I kind of assume this is going to be, I think tying a quilt is just dandy.

In other words, I look at the photo of the finished product (which in actuality is in a box making its way to Ohio), and I realize that I wouldn't be done more than a few inches of it by now if I'd quilted it by machine.  Let's not even discuss hand quilting.

And as an aside, the yarn I used was off-white because I couldn't find a purple, lavender or pale gray that matched.  It's not that bright from the front in real life; the camera always brings out the one thing you'd like to conceal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When Bears Attack

I've been on a bear-making roll lately.  I did a batch last week, then one for the custom order, and then another batch.

Aside from having craft shows almost every weekend of the summer, I dropped off batches at two local stores who do consignment.  Consignment isn't always my favorite -- obviously I'd rather get paid every cent of what my work brings in -- but on the other hand, it gets my work into areas where I can't always be, I don't have to be there selling it, and it makes me feel like I'm getting somewhere that shops want to carry my work.

In other words, I made 15 bears and got to keep 5.  So now I need to make more bears.

The ones pictured here are recent favorites.  I didn't send any of these to stores because I feel like they need the personal explanation from me to go with them -- they're made from the remains of a vintage feedsack quilt and really aren't meant to be played with.  They're either for display or for an older child, who understands what fragile means.  But I love how they turned out, the faded colors and the slightly blocky shape the quilting gives them.

They're probably among the most photogenic bears I've done to date.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Strange Days

The Powel House in Old City 
As has been pretty clearly documented here, I'm doing many different things to try to keep myself out of a traditional 9-5 office job.

Today was definitely something different.  A close friend has another friend who is involved with the historic sites in Old City Philadelphia.  She texted me a few weeks ago to ask if I'd be available to teach an embroidery class.  I said yes, without asking for more details.  (Hey, a job's a job, and embroidery beats lawyers.)

I soon found out that I'd be teaching a group of kids who were attending a history camp at the house.  Most of them had been coming for several years, and they wanted another period-appropriate craft besides the weaving class they already had.

Now, I may make things for kids, but I don't have kids.  I don't have that much contact with kids.  I'm not really comfortable with them, especially in groups.

Eliza Powel's ballroom / drawing room, set
up for the class.  
But I said yes anyway.

Then I found out that in addition to teaching the class, they wanted me to do a 10 minute presentation to the combined group (about 15 kids and 4 adults) beforehand.  "Just a little something about embroidery generally and in the period," they said helpfully.

As Dr. Seuss would say, I puzzled and puzzed til my puzzler was sore.  What to say?  I certainly have the information, and I thought it was a nice angle for the girls that no matter what they personally feel about going to school, their counterparts who would have lived in Philadelphia at the time they were studying probably wouldn't have been allowed to attend school.  So embroidery and other "feminine" skills were really all that a lot of girls had to occupy their time, unless they had progressive parents with money.

They told me there were boys, too, so I made a point of looking up all the trades involving sewing that would have existed in Philadelphia at the time -- tailor, sailmaker, bookbinder, shoemaker.  Not to mention the fact that soldiers and sailors, away from home for long periods, couldn't run home to mama if they lost a button.  Sewing was just a practical skill that nearly everyone had.

Corner of the ballroom 
But for all my research and thinking about it, I never got around to making an outline of what I wanted to say until yesterday afternoon at the office.  I drafted something, but I spent more effort making the outline function work properly in Word than I did on the contents.  Then I put it in my bag and forgot it until this morning, when I forgot to review it again, shoved it into my other bag and took it with me, and slipped it under some of the other materials on the table in case I needed to refer to it.

Thankfully I didn't have to -- I winged the entire 10 minutes somehow -- but when I went to put my outline away later, it turned out that it was actually my 2 page to-do list for what I need to get done before my next craft show.  So a fat lot of good that would have done me anyway.

I told Mario when I got home today that I wasn't sure what surprised me most -- that I'd managed a group of 8 kids (6 girls, 2 boys) for 2 hours with no problems and no overwhelming urge to bite, or that I had spoken to a large-ish group of people without having the urge to projectile vomit in a historic house.  

Children and public speaking have always been things I'm massively uncomfortable with.  I had to do an oral report in English class in junior year, and while I did it, I also threw up afterward.  Mario suggested that what I feared in school wasn't public speaking but the judgment of the other students, which makes perfect sense.  Now.

 But isn't it strange when you realize you've just accomplished something you thought you were afraid to do, without thinking about it until afterward?

Class continues Thursday, and I'm looking forward to it.  The kids were fun, they caught on quickly and the two boys -- both around 10 years old -- did really well.  One did hands-down the best work of the group, and the other worked the hardest.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Halfway There

Well, I may not be a natural quilter, but I don't mind the piecework portion of it.

As you can see, the bear is finished.  I cut her first, using a sleeve from the jacket, a small portion of the floral skirt and a cap sleeve from the blouse.  I like her.  She's very purple, but I like her.

The jacket presented a problem for my original quilt design since it was princess seamed front and back, and had a peplum.  Lots of smallish, odd-sized pieces.

The skirt, on the other hand, was full, with only side seams.  The blouse had bust darts, front buttons and gathers, but still provided a fair amount of unseamed fabric.

I decided to do the quilt in strips for ease and speed, and because I like the simplicity of it.  There was no way to avoid a lot of the floral running together, so instead of trying to avoid it, I made it a feature, with pieces of the contrast fabrics only at the ends and in a few cases running horizontally.

I found a perfect light purple cotton for backing and I had batting in my stash already.  Both of those are cut to size, so now I just need to finish it off.

Like that's going to be the easy part.

What do you think?  There was no real way to make this look "childlike", considering the fabrics, but I think it will make a nice keepsake.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Latest Project

I got a custom order recently for a memory bear with a coordinating baby quilt.

I'm not a quilter.  But the customer really wanted a matching quilt to go with the bear, and the story behind the fabrics was so sweet, I gave in.

I did warn her that it's going to be more free-form, like my potholders, instead of a strictly pieced "normal" quilt.  She was okay with that.  I also said that I was going to tie the quilt instead of machine quilting it -- aside from her time frame, which is short, and which would really put pressure on me -- did I mention, I'm not a quilter?

The fabrics arrived today -- a floral/paisley print moleskin skirt, a matching plummy moleskin jacket and a lavender silky blouse.  The colors match much better than they do in the photo.

The two pieces are for her friend, who is about to have her first baby.  She was very close to her grandmother, who died recently.  My customer helped her friend pack up grandma's things, and while she was at it, she snagged this outfit from the closet -- grandma wore it to her friend's wedding, so it's very likely that there are some fond memories associated with it.

I got the clothing cut up this evening and cut out and stitched all the bear pieces.  Tomorrow evening I'll get the bear stuffed and strung, and start in on piecing the quilt.  I doubt I'll have enough fabric in the provided clothing to back it, but I told her I'd pick up a yard of coordinating solid-color cotton for backing if there wasn't enough fabric in the clothing.  It's not a big expense and I'll get to use the remnants anyway.

In other news, I missed both my First Friday and Saturday events this past weekend, partly due to feeling like crap and partly because of weather.  I did do my first sewing lesson on Sunday, which went well (and ran a little over).

My temp job is endless and boring and they're not keeping me busy enough -- if I have time to make long lists of all the things I need to do when I get home, I'm wasting my time and they're wasting their money.  They seem to be okay with that.  I wish I was.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Day at Downton Abbey: Gorgeousness

Not much to say about these pieces beyond the title -- some of my favorites are below.  Mary and Sybil's outfits from Edith's wedding, Cora's embroidered jacket, some of Martha's ridiculous coats and one very fabulous hat.

Wedding Clothes

Mary's Hat 

Mary's lovely blue outfit
Sybil's amazing French knot dress
Originally this was a vintage top, and they added
fabric and matched the French knot motif

That many French knots.  My fingers ache
just thinking about them.

You can see the structure of the original top
here.  I can't imagine doing that kind of
reconstructive work.
Just gorgeous.  That's all I have to say here.

Amazing lace.

Bad photo, but you can see the lines.

Love the colors on this one.

Look, a polka dot lining!

This hat deserves its own page.

Not my favorite, but perfect for
the hat.