Friday, May 27, 2016

Owl Photo Shoot

Because doesn't everyone photograph stuffed animals in a cemetery?

Woodlands Cemetery is within walking distance of my house, is full of wonderful Victorian (and older) statuary, and has a wide open front with trees where, twice a year, one of my favorite craft shows takes place.

It's also a great place for photos.

This is my favorite tree.  Not only is it photogenic, but parts of it are low enough to the ground that I can actually get up in it, and my tree-climbing days are pretty much behind me.

I took these at ground level, but I think they came out well.  Owls are now listed here.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hello, Dolly!

A while back I mentioned I was working on something new that wasn't ready for prime time.  Well, allow me to introduce my latest make, a cloth doll made from upcycled fabrics.  

I've been meaning to share them with you for a while now, but the first batch of girls went out to craft shows before being photographed (beyond this single shot) and . . . they sold.

Four of them the first show, four more the second, three last time.  Plus two custom ones.

So I guess you could say they're working out.  I'm pleased with them -- not only do they seem popular with both kids and adults, but they're yet another way for me to use scrap fabric, yet another way to reduce my business's carbon footprint by using what's already available.

Their faces are hand embroidered.  I do them in the evenings when Mario and I are watching TV.  Or when he's watching TV and I'm sitting on the couch, embroidering like a fiend because I just can't absorb any more of the outrage spewing from every news outlet -- including the ones I agree with.

Hair colors are everything under the sun, including a few with pink and purple hair (which have sold).  I was thinking mermaid/fairy when I did the pink-haired ones; now I think I really need to make a few with mermaid tails.

My next show isn't until Saturday June 4th, when I'm the featured artist at out the Swarthmore Farmers Market.  That's always a great town for me, so I intend to have a whole new batch of dollies for them.

Friday, May 13, 2016


A week or two ago, I got a call from a friend.  She and I were in book club together for a few years, and now we mostly meet up at the thrift store on half price days.  (She's my kind of people).  She told told me that her next-door-neighbor had died recently and his niece and nephew were cleaning out his apartment.  "He was an artist," she confided.  "He made everything, with everything."  But what it finally turned into was, "Well, there's a sewing machine.  I'm not sure what kind, it's got spools sticking out all over it, maybe it's an embroidery machine?  Well, anyway, I told them you sew and they want to know if you want it."

I said it sounded like a serger, which I actually do not possess.  Never particularly wanted one, never learned to use one -- but also, according to policy, would never turn down one if offered.

I never, ever turn down donations.  Even if it's not something I can use, I know someone who can, and I never want to turn off the stream of donations.  Too much of what I make comes from that stream, and it's helped a lot of other folks out as well.

So I go around to get the machine, and they hand me a big Rubbermaid tub.  I thank them kindly and haul it home, only to unload and find out it's two sergers, an older Singer model and a relatively new Baby Lock Eclipse.  The Singer is complete (even to the manual), but the Baby Lock was missing its foot pedal and power cord.  I know I can source these, so it's not a big deal, but I did text my friend and mention the fact, and ask her to pass on to the niece and nephew that if they find it in the basement to let me know.

A few days later, I get a call from the nephew.  "We're at the apartment today," he says.  "If you want to come over and look for that cord, feel free.  You know what it looks like better than I do."

I text my friend to thank her for passing on the message and she sends a warning:  "Don't come home with anything!"

Shortly after, when I petted a passing bolt of fabric and said, "Pretty!" I understood what she meant.  If you like it, you take it, and but you have to take all its friends too.  I was driven home with 18 bolts of fabric, a bag of cut fabric and . . . another sewing machine, this time a recent Brother model.

The apartment was a treasure trove.  The late tenant was indeed an artist, and worked with everything from paint, clay, papier-mache, jewelry, rhinestones, taxidermy and who knows what else.  Every passing idea was given full rein, and every possible supply was purchased to support his habit.  It was glorious, and it looked like something out of a movie crossed with a particularly artsy episode of Hoarders.

As an example, the bathroom had a six foot long clawfoot bathtub.  Over the tub, mounted horizontally on the wall, was a series of narrow antique wall mirrors, the kind generally hung vertically between windows.  At the foot of the tub was a large angel sculpture, nearly lifesized, covered in rhinestones and faux ivy, and draped with -- what else? -- strands of twinkle lights.  The whole place was like that.

So now my downstairs hall looks like an explosion in a fabric store, and I actually had to fend off a donation of another six machines last week.  I did.  I said no.  Because they were vintage, and collectible, and the family could actually make money off them on Craigslist, and because where the hell would I put them in the meantime?

The recent Brother machine has made its way over to the place where I teach, along with a big blue Ikea bag of fabric.  The spring semester started recently  and the kids needed more stuff to work with.

And at the end, I'm really impressed that there's someone out there -- and who was so close by! -- who had even more sewing machines than I do.  It makes me feel a little less . . . hoarder-ish.

Though I have to admit, I'd like a big glittery angel looming over my tub.  Not sure what Mario, or the cats, would think about that.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Impossible Things

Seen at my bank one day last week.  It made me happy.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Soccer Bear

Change is good.  My latest custom bear isn't a memorial piece - I was contacted by a mom whose daughter is graduating high school this May, and she wanted a bear made from the daughter's soccer jersey.

It really is that bright.

Originally I thought I'd add in some denim to break up the bright colors, but when I looked at it again, I decided that it should stay as is.

There was enough solid red and solid blue to be able to split the arms and legs.  The body is solid blue on all sides, but that doesn't matter because I appliqued her number on the front and her name, "Lady Lynx," on the back.

The face is my favorite part, because it uses the red and blue chevron lines from the front.  I do love playing with stripes.

This one got finished the same morning as my scheduled run to the post office, so it didn't get a better photo shoot than this.  Looking at my photos now, let's just say it's beyond time that I dusted the mantel in the bedroom.  (I did clean off the bear's feet before I packed it up!)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Spring: it's official

It must be spring; I had a craft show this last Saturday, and will have another one this Saturday, and another one after that.

(There was one the Saturday before, but the weather wasn't promising and I decided to bail rather than spend the next two days running my entire inventory through the dryer at the laundromat).

I felt a little guilty about backing out of the show, but it was a smaller event, one I hadn't done before, and -- judging by the Facebook page for the event -- not a huge crowd.

A friend did go, and spent the first half of the day huddled under her tent, and the rest of it waiting for the customers who probably decided to attend on Sunday, when the weather was nicer.  Alas, I only paid for one day.

A few new things for shows this year: I bought myself a proper chrome clothing rack to display my toddler dresses.  The rack I had before was intended as a collapsible clothes dryer and it wasn't very stable, especially on something other than a flat surface.

This rack has four arms (one for each size) and is very sturdy.  Between having a larger number of dresses available this  year (15 in each size), I think the display helped to draw people in.  I sold a good number of dresses.

Also new: dolls!  (These were the super-secret new item I've been working on).  I had 16 available for their first outing and I sold a few, one to the little sister of one of my sewing students.

And that's another story: the last two classes, I encouraged my students to come to the craft festival -- first, it was local so not hard for them to drag their parents out, but also, I wanted them to see my work.  Not just because I wanted them to buy it (though that was, of course, part of it), but because I wanted them to actually see what I do, aside from harass them to sew straight lines all the time.  I've brought samples in, but seeing it all spread out, as something people would spend money for, makes it real in a different way.

Happy spring, everyone!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

I'm drowning

Drowning, I tell you.  In patterns.  Vintage and new, men's and women's, 1940s up until last year.  I just got done photographing and listing all (or what I believe to be all at this time) of the patterns I had in the "to be sold" box, and there are 85 of them on Etsy right now.

You heard right.  85 patterns.

 Many of them never even opened.

Please, please, for the love of all the sewing gods, take some of these off my hands.  The bulk are priced at $4.99 apiece (with a few exceptions).  If you buy 4 or more, you can use the code FREEPATTERN to get $4.99 off your order (technically a free pattern).

You can see all the pattern goodness here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A quick quilt

Is there such a thing as a quick quilt?  Turns out there is.

I haven't been doing much sewing for my local theater lately, because their performance schedule usually conflicts with my show schedule.  The shows that have occurred in the late winter/early spring didn't require any help, so when the costumer asked if I could make something for their upcoming show, The Cripple of Inishmaan, I agreed.

Then she said, "It's a quilt."

I think I stopped breathing, because then she said, "Just a quick quilt.  It doesn't have to be tiny pieces, or even quilted.  It's a bedspread for Mammy's bed."

I said okay, although I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into.

When she arrived with a trashbag full of fabric and another one full of batting, I just took them.  She reiterated her instructions, and added, "The squares don't have to be small.  Maybe 10 inches.  How does that sound?"

That sounded better, thank you very much.

Production photo by Rebecca Gudelunas
When I looked at the fabrics, they were an interesting blend of suiting and plaids, mostly muted colors with some pops of red.  The play takes place in a poor Irish village in the 1930s, so you can imagine that this quilt was made by Mammy from repurposed clothing and remnants from better days.

It went together quickly.  I turned the fabrics into piles of 10" squares, and sewed them into strips of the required length.  Once all the strips were stitched together, I took everything into the bedroom (the largest clear floor space in the house), laid out the backing fabric, added the batting, and then placed my quilt on top of it.  The backing fabric was cut 2" wider all around than the quilt, folded in and pinned.  Binding a quilt with its own backing fabric may not be recommended, but it worked.  And looked finished.

Instead of quilting, I grabbed a skein of dark blue yarn and tied the quilt at each intersection of squares.  The yarn wasn't visible against the backing fabric, and I knew that the quilt was only going to be seen from the top anyway.

I was happy with the result, and pleased to see how good it looked on stage.  The play, by the way, was fabulous.  Their first review -- overwhelmingly positive -- is here.

** edited to say, I guess "recommended" might not be the right word to use regarding the self-binding, since the first two comments have mentioned seeing it before.  I've mostly seen bias-bound quilts, and have been told by those who "know" these things that binding is the proper way to go.  Nice to know that my quick-and-dirty method is perfectly acceptable.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sad days in the sewing room

Anyone who knows me on Facebook or who follows my business there, knows that I lost Lily this week.

I've lost cats before, but this is a particularly hard one.  I've had Lily for almost 18 years, and she was my workroom companion for the 15 years I've been in this house, the only cat allowed in there, because she (mostly) respected boundaries and hung out either in her bed, on the radiator or in the scrap pile.

Wednesday morning I got up and went downstairs to feed the chicken and the cats.  Everyone appeared but Lil, which occasionally happens -- she's older, and slow-moving.  I called her and in a few minutes I heard her at the top of the steps.  I looked up, and she was standing at the top, her front feet on the second step.  When she started down, instead of bending her legs, she hopped, and almost immediately somersaulted.  I caught her on the second roll and got her to the kitchen and put her down.

She stood up okay, but all four legs were absolutely straight, and her back was arched like a Halloween cat.  I offered her food and she was interested, but couldn't bend down to the bowl, so I put it on a box for her to eat.  This already didn't look good, and if it was any of the things I was thinking it might be, I wanted her to be happy and have a full stomach.

We took her down to Penn's veterinary emergency room.  How many times have I been grateful to have them 10 blocks away?  They took her back and looked her over, and the vet came out to talk to us.  "We have to think about Lily's quality of life," was the first thing she said, which was both upsetting and really comforting, because I hate when they try to blow sunshine and want to "fix" your cat at any cost -- to both you and the cat.

On examination, they couldn't tell what was wrong with her.  The vet's best guess was that she was just like a really old person, with lots of nagging health problems, and one small thing can be the straw that breaks the camel's back.  Lily was hyperthyroid (untreated because she reacted badly to the meds), had a  heart murmur, chronic urinary tract infections, high blood pressure and arthritis.  This sudden stiffness didn't seem to be related to any of them.  The vet's best guess -- which she offered to have confirmed by the neurology department -- was that it was a pinched or compressed nerve in her neck.

I asked what neuro might be able to do to relieve the problem, if that was the case.  Probably nothing I would want to put her through.  It could also be orthopedic, but same deal with treatment.  She could possibly be sent home with pain meds and steroids, on the small chance that it was something that would resolve on its own.

Steroids are hard on healthy humans.  What would they do to a rickety, 18-year-old cat?  Nothing good, the vet said, but it's a chance you could take.  She told us to think about what we wanted to do, and brought Lily in to hang out with us.

When I saw her, I knew.  She was still walking, stiffly, but she wasn't herself.  I picked her up and she tucked her head under my chin and started to purr, but her breathing was a bit labored and I thought she felt uncomfortable with being held.  I had Mario call the vet back in and tell her we'd made our decision.

They took her away for a few minutes to put a catheter in her leg so they could do the injections without her noticing.  She came back wrapped in a plaid blanket and I held her in my arms and talked to her while the vet administered the sedative through the catheter.  She purred and snuggled, and then stopped as the sedative kicked in.  The vet gave her the second shot, and I could feel her breath stop.

As I started to tear up, I felt a sudden gush of warm liquid down my front as Lily's bladder emptied.  From my ribs to my knees, I was soaked.   Mario and the vet and I looked at each other and started laughing.  We couldn't help it.  For a cat who could be sweet, loving, cranky and obnoxious, all within minutes, it seemed the perfect farewell salute.

When the vet brought out the empty carrier a few minutes later (after I'd gotten myself mopped up), she also brought me a round clay disk with Lily's pawprints pressed into it.  I baked it when I got home and I'll hang it in the sewing room, so she'll always be with me.

Not that she wouldn't be, anyway.

Rest easy, my girl.