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.