Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Chicken Update

video
A little chicken video to start your day.  The girls like blueberries, particularly Frankie, who quite literally swallows them whole.

She's is still somewhat broody, but I've been messing with her schedule lately, feeding them either early or late, and the inconvenience gets her up out of her corner and pacing.  I'm hoping that if she keeps getting up, she'll forget to go back down.

In other chicken weirdness, these two, unlike their predecessors, have decided to spend warm summer nights downstairs in the coop instead of sleeping up in the roost.  They already decided to go their own way and ignore the perch, but now they sleep in the straw near the exhaust fan.

It probably feels good, but the night that a raccoon decides to come calling, those birds are going to get the fright of their lives.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Baby Clothes Baby Quilt

Center squares - images from tiny shirts and jackets
Last month, I was contacted by a mom who had purchased one of my receiving blanket bears.  She and I had talked after the bear's arrival about doing something else, but the project never happened.

When she contacted me this time, she was ready.  She had been cleaning out her baby's clothes, she said, to give to a friend who was expecting, and there was a pile of stuff she just couldn't bear to give away.  Would I be able to make a quilt out of her little one's outgrown clothing?

But of course!

The clothes arrived last week, a whole copy paper box full, in bags labeled 1, 2 and 3 (order of importance for use).  I didn't cut up everything right away, because I'll either return or donate the unused pieces, but I ended up using all the pieces in bag 1, a good bit of bag 2, and some of bag 3, because I needed some solid colors to break up all the prints.

Katie trying to tell me to take a break.
Originally I had wanted to do something a little more free-form, like the baby clothes stockings I do, but then I saw that a lot of her pieces were infant-sized and I wasn't really going to be able to get a lot of pieces out of them.  So after I found 8 shirts with writing a central motif, I embroidered a 9th piece with the baby's name, and cut everything else into 2" wide strips.

It's sort of a bastardized log cabin, but not really.  Most of the central squares were 4", but a few of them were slightly off.  I put the largest in the center and worked outwards, inserting extra strips to make things line up.  The central "Love" square still has a zipper down the center (edges removed before serging and then anchored from behind so it doesn't unzip).

It's not quite done.  I gave it a good pressing after the last photo here, and now I'm looking around for backing fabric.  She didn't send anything large enough for that, so if she doesn't have any objection, I'm going to use a section of ivory sheet that I had on my shelf for this purpose.   Not sure yet if this quilt is going to get stitched or tied; it's small enough (32x32) that I could get it through the machine with minimal swearing.

Finished photos to come, hopefully by the end of the week.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Still more blankets

The world will never run out of that striped receiving blanket.

And I'm okay with that.

This little Claire Bear headed off to Annapolis, MD, yesterday.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Last day of school

Potential new housemate
Tuesday was the last day of school, and also my last after-school sewing class of the semester.  I didn't really expect many students to show up since it was the last day, and also their fifth grade teacher was retiring and I'd heard something about a farewell party.

The director asked me to come in whether or not I had a class to look over some old sewing machines they'd found in a closet and were thinking of selling.  (These were the machines I'd tried using with my class initially, but they're older and idiosyncratic and cranky and just not what ten-year-olds want from a sewing machine).

When I got up to the third floor classroom where the machines were set up, it turned out that six of my twelve students were there too.  (Flattered that they chose me over their other teacher, but really, none of us were prepared for anything, so they ate water ice and watched a movie on one girl's phone while I futzed with the sewing machines).  They came over occasionally to see what I was doing, or to comment that the machine pictured above looked like an old car -- which it does, all it needs is fins and a little more chrome.

How to watch a movie.  
The turquoise and white Revere machine may be coming home with me.  My bargain with myself is that I have to Craigslist the two unremarkable table machines that live in my dining room, and which never get any use except as tables anyway.  The Revere weighs a ton but sews like a dream, and hey, it looks like a vintage car, so if I'm not sewing, I can just look at it, right?

The girls all left a little early -- they had a graduation party to attend -- but I enjoyed them while they lasted.  I'll be seeing four of them in August, when they're coming to my house for a week-long sewing camp (I must be mad).  Until then, my life will be blessedly child-free.

As far as the photo to the right, there were plenty of chairs in the room, they just decided not to use them.  There were two more girls sitting on the floor under the edge of the table, one of whom was holding the phone for the rest.

It's going to be very quiet without them on Tuesday afternoons, but I think I'll get used to it.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Wandering

Woodland Cemetery is still my favorite place in my neighborhood to go walking.

I've lived in West Philadelphia for 17 years now, and walked there nearly as long, and there are still new things to discover -- looming angels, beautiful trees, something flowering that I haven't noticed before.

Recently, the cemetery hooked up with the horticultural society and organized volunteers to tend some of the "cradle" graves in the cemetery.  (These aren't infant graves, just cradle or bathtub shaped planters in front of the headstone).  They were meant to be planted, but since most of the stones are 19th century, there is no longer anyone tending the graves and they were all overgrown.

The grave gardener volunteers sign up to tend one grave.  The only rule is that the plants have to be historically accurate to the Victorian time period, but I think that makes it more fun.

According to the organizer, who is interviewed here, she got more than double the volunteers she needed and had to turn people away.  I wasn't sure I'd have enough time to devote, so I'm glad she got more volunteers than she needed; however, being in there as often as I am and seeing all the flowers blooming makes me want to apply next year and find the time.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Strange days. I made a dress.

Obligatory headless bathroom shot; bias matched bodice;
pieced hem band; matched-as-well-as-can-be sleeve to bodice
I had a good weekend out in Swarthmore recently.  So good, in fact, that I had to come home and make a bunch more things to restock so that I'm not running around like a headless chicken before my next show.

As a chicken owner, that description might be unkind, but now that I'm better acquainted with the species, it seems even more apt.

So I embroidered a dozen faces, cut out arms and legs and dresses and hair and --

stopped in the middle of everything and made myself a dress.

Which I haven't done in ages.  And it felt GOOD.

I didn't want to spend a lot of time on it, because I knew I had things I should be doing, so I chose a pattern I'd made before, a vintage 1950s dress.  I made this pattern up about 15 years ago and somehow, despite all the figure and weight fluctuations during that period, the original dress still fit me.  So I knew I could use the pattern.

I only made one major change, and that was to move the zipper from the back to the side.  The original dress zipped up the back and, since that back neckline ends in that spot (what's the opposite of a sweet spot?) where I just couldn't reach, I usually left the house with the top inch unzipped and a sweater on, and got someone at work to finish the job.  Being a grown up, I wanted to be able to dress myself, so I moved the zip to the side.

I've had the fabric, a nice wallpaper-stripe cotton, for at least 15 years.  I chose it because this dress has that wonderful wide V neckline and I knew I could stripe match to my heart's content.  Bias for the bodice, vertical for the sleeves and skirt (with horizontal bands on each).  I had about 3 yards of fabric and I used it all.  That skirt is over 10' at the hem, gathered into the waist.

I made the entire dress on my serger, which meant it was finished in absolutely no time flat.  Why I thought for all those years I didn't need a serger, I have no idea.  And if you're reading this and you don't think you need a serger, well, YOU DO.  It even made gathering that enormous skirt a breeze.

There wasn't enough fabric to make the skirt as long as I wanted, so the hem band was necessary, but toward the end I ran out of fabric, so the band is pieced in 5 places.  It's not visible unless you're right up on top of it, and probably not even then -- I'm just being oversensitive because I made it.

Actually, if I'm being honest, I went on a cutting marathon before I went back to dollmaking.  I cut out 2 more dresses, another woven and a knit.  Not sure when I'll get to them, but at least they're waiting the next time I get a sudden urge to sew for myself.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Broody Birdy

Something new and interesting on the chicken front.  Frankie, one of my new hens, has gone broody on me.

This wouldn't be such a big deal if I wanted baby chicks, but I don't.  Without a rooster, her eggs aren't fertilized anyway. And actually, she's not even sitting on any eggs.

Apparently birds just do this sometimes.  I did some reading about it on Friday, and there were many recommendations on how to break her of it. Right now I'm going with removal of the nesting box, lots more light and air, and a few frozen,
water-filled plastic Easter eggs tucked under her.

She'll stop this on her own eventually, but when a hen's on the nest, she only eats and drinks once a day, she loses weight and she plucks out her own breast feathers -- feathering her nest.

Amazing how many common phrases come from chickens: pecking order, rule the roost, hen party, nest egg, madder than a wet hen, scarce as hen's teeth, henpecked, flew the coop, up with the chickens, walking on eggshells, spring chicken, ruffled feathers, got something stuck in your craw, bad egg, chickens coming home to roost.

And then, in my yard, what comes as a threat: earn your keep, or there will be a chicken in every pot.