Friday, December 27, 2013

And the Sale Goes On

I'm still dredging the sewing room and the bookshelves - check out the tab for my Online Yard Sale for new listings.  There are a few Folkwear patterns (more to come when I find them), a load of uncut Jalie patterns, and about a dozen new books, including this Chanel fashion porn.

Come on, you know you didn't get all the books you asked for this holiday season . . .

Friday, December 20, 2013

Jackson's Bear

Jackson's bear is probably my final custom piece for the year.

This one is special - though aren't they all?  Jackson is still a baby (thus the felt eyes instead of buttons), and his mom sent me a box of clothes to make the bear.  The contents of the box included an oatmeal-colored cotton sweater, a pale blue infant onesie, a plaid romper and a green and black striped maternity top.

Jackson's mom and dad were high school sweethearts and she said she never knew why she held onto her husband's sweater for all these years until now.  With a little interfacing on the back to stabilize the weave, it makes a fabulous, soft body for the bear.

To make the felt eyes stand out a little more on the neutral ground, I cut slightly larger circles of the blue onesie fabric and fused them all together.

The ears and foot pads are made from the romper, the embroidered bib is made from the onesie, and for extra style, the striped bow tie is from mom's maternity top.

I always enjoy making the custom bears - the challenge of working with someone else's choice of materials is fun for me.  This one was particularly gratifying, and I love that the bear is made from a little of every member of the family.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A very purple bear

I got a custom bear order recently.  The item of clothing that was sent to me was a fabulous eggplant purple cashmere sweater.

There was also supposed to be a necktie to use for ears, foot pads and bow tie, but the customer's kids got sick and she lost track of time, so I volunteered to find something to coordinate.  I think this pinwale corduroy works nicely - any man who would wear such a glorious purple sweater isn't likely to object to a little paisley.

The downside is cashmere doesn't felt like wool, so even after two trips through a hot dryer, it stubbornly stayed fluffy and cashmere-feeling.  I ended up using a light interfacing to stabilize the fabric so that the bear kept its shape.  It's still softer and a little less "shapely" than my usual bear, but it feels amazing.

This little guy got sent off today -- for some reason, two day priority mail with USPS is guaranteed to get there within four days.  I'm assuming if I asked for four day delivery, it would take a week.  Happy holidays.

Cat Tales: All in the Family

Vladimir Putintat - King of the Cats
Thanks for all the kind words about my cat posts.  I have one final one for you that ties many of them together.  Meet the King of the Cats:  

In my neighborhood, you can often identify cats by family - there are some tabbies with circular marking on their sides, very distinctive; a long-haired gray who was very popular before his people finally got him neutered, and then there was Vlad.

Vlad wasn't our cat, though he seemed to think he was.  He was an outdoor cat who adopted me shortly after I moved into the neighborhood in 2000, and according to neighbors from the next block, he'd been an indoor/outdoor cat until his people moved away and left him.  Then he became, quite firmly, an outdoor cat.

He had a lot of indoor cat qualities, though - he was still very friendly (when it suited him), he liked to sit on laps and have his chin scratched, and when he finally came indoors, 9 years later, he proved to be litterbox trained.
Bear - female, but more feral than her dad

One thing he was not was neutered.  For a long time, we couldn't catch him.  Sure, he'd show up for lunch, hang out on the back step for hours, but the moment you approached with intent, he'd be gone.  We tried to bring him in a few times, and he left once through my housemate and the second time through a screen.  Both times he showed up later that day in the back yard, mooching lunch.  What a charmer!

He liked the ladies, and they apparently liked him back.  He had kittens.  Many kittens.  And I found homes for many, many kittens.  Having a Vlad kitten became something of a badge of honor.  I should know; I kept 4 myself.

Ozzie - scared of his own shadow
Nicky - had the "look" even as a kitten
All Vlad's kittens - the Vladlings, they're called - are big-boned, big-headed cats with thick tails and broad faces.  Not a one of them has their father's personality.  If I'm being truthful, all of them together don't have as much personality as their father, but it's not their fault.  Some things aren't as easily inherited as body type.

Ozzie was the first kitten in - he was born in the house, and he's scared of everything.  Vlad would be ashamed of that, but not of his bulk, his big head or his big appetite.

Next were Nicky and Harriet.  Nicky's another Vlad knock-off.  Even as a kitten, he had the challenging stare, and as he's aged his body structure has gotten more like his father's.  He's our big panther, flopped across the back of the couch every night.  He doesn't like his head touched or his nails cut, but otherwise he's not as skittish as Ozzie.  Of all the cats, he got his father's lungs - when Nicky meows, you can hear it all over the house.

When Vlad meowed, you could hear it all over the neighborhood.  A conversational "hello" meow still sounded like midnight tomcat love.

And then there's Bear.  She's as feral as her father should have been.  Because she's female, her body is a little smaller, but she's actually built a lot like Vlad anyway.  And I'd put that challenging stare up against his any day of the week.
Mace - belongs to a friend, but a Vlad kitten

Mace isn't my cat - I brought him in from the back yard and gave him to a friend, but he's another obvious member of the Putintat family.  Big, loud, assertive . . .  yep, Vlad would be proud.

Junius, who was re-named Seamus when he found his new home, was another kitten that I took in.  I really wanted to keep him, but we were at capacity already and the other cats just didn't take to him.  He found a home with a friend of Mace's dad, and grew into another big, loud, attitudinal boy.

Junius / Seamus

Harriet, who I mentioned earlier, is an odd combination.  She's an exact replica of her mother, Alice - except that she's black and white instead of tabby and white.  Her markings are identical to her mom's, but dad managed to at least get the hair color in there.  And the glare.  She's very sweet, but when she's had enough, there's a flash of daddy and she disappears.

Vlad's been gone now for a few years, and I still miss him.  Some animals have bigger personalities than people, and he was definitely one of those.

Harriet and Bear
I still see him around the neighborhood, though.  I'll cross a street, look into an alley, and there'll be a big-headed black cat, looking at me with a challenge in his eyes, and I'll know that I didn't find and adopt out every one of his kittens.  It makes me happy to know that some small part of him is still out there.  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ups and Downs

Custom stockings - a grumpy sheep,
a "Chopin Liszt" for a musician, and Sandy
Claws for the beach-lover.
Two shows this weekend.  Saturday's was at Independence Charter School in Philadelphia, a show I had been invited to in early fall and for which I had paid my deposit.  Later, when the larger shows got announced, I realized that there were two others on that date I'd rather participate in, but in the end, I stuck with my first date, and it was a good choice.  It was an inexpensive table fee, and the best return I've had so far.  So not the biggest moneymaking day, but as a return on my investment?  Oh, yeah.

The mittens were flying, as usual, and for some reason, I had a run of third-graders buying my knit critters.  I said to one of them that they were usually intended for younger kids (not even really attempting to get him to fall for a bear instead), and he said, "No, these are cool, they're retro.  They're almost ironic."

Okay, then.  Should I add "cool retro ironic" to their tags on Etsy?

Today, on the other hand, took much of the glory out of yesterday.  I originally didn't have anything scheduled, but I was sulking a bit because there was a fairly major show in my neighborhood that I didn't get into, so I signed up for another edition of Traveling Wares so I'd be occupied and not muttering in my workroom, doing myself no good whatsoever.

But no good deed (or good intention) goes unpunished.  Last week's Traveling Wares was busy in a semi-blizzard; this one, on a cold but clear day, totaled 3 customers in the 4 hours I was there.  I caught a ride home an hour early with another vendor so I could work on a custom bear headed out tomorrow.

My friend Elaine stopped by the show, however, to pick up a set of custom stockings made for her kids, so that was a highlight.

One more show next Saturday, and one more week of the neighborhood Arts League show, which is finally beginning to pick up steam as the neighbors realize that it's winter, and winter is cold, and snow sometimes happens, and the holidays are coming whether they're ready or not, so they'd better get out and shop.

Better days tomorrow.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

More mittens!

I just listed 6 more pair of mittens in the shop, some colors in multiples.

The gray/white at top left are a wool/alpaca blend.  The cocoa brown (top center) and bubblegum pink (middle left) are cashmere blends.  The tan (bottom center) are wool, with extra long ribbed cuffs to cut the draft.

All mittens can be found here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My New Pincushion

Is she not the coolest lady?

She's filled with emery sand, so she's the equivalent of the little strawberry that accompanied the big tomato pincushion.

Valerie Velvet, one of the organizers of a recent craft event, Sunday's Traveling Wares, makes these.  If you want to find a gift for a crafty friend who has everything, I highly recommend these poppets.  You can buy them here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cat Tales: Nicky

Nicky a/k/a Snickers a/k/a Panther Puss is another backyard rescue.  He's actually Harriet's brother - you can see them below hanging out in a planter box with their tabby sister (who found a home with a friend of mine).

He and Harriet came in when they were about 3 months old; their mom, Alice, took a good while longer.  When she came in, I'm not sure they recognized her anymore.  They still don't hang out together much.

Nicky's kind of a lone panther.  He bonds to one cat (or person) at a time.  He loved my cat Isabel, and when she died, he mourned and stress-licked all the fur off both his legs.  It took a year before he had hair again.  He still licks when he gets upset, but not to that extent.

Now that Max is gone, Nicky has bonded with Mario.  He even sleeps the way Max did, butt on the living room radiator, head and paws on the arm of the couch and belly slung out over space.  He never did that before, but I think he's filling a need, for both himself and his new person.
Nicky, Harriet and sister when they
still lived outside

Nick's a little skittish.  Like most of my born-outdoors cats, he has rules and sometimes they're hard to get around.  He's still head-shy after all these years, but if you come at him from underneath he'll let you cheek-scritch him all day.  A true sign of affection is when he comes up to you on the couch and butt-slams you.  If you start scratching then, his head sinks lower and lower until it's flat on the cushion and he's standing up on his back tiptoes.  Eventually if he gets enough scratches, he falls over and scares himself and goes invisible for about 3 hours.

He's much bigger now than he is in the top photo, but he's camera shy and I haven't gotten a decent picture of him in a while.  Being a black cat doesn't help, either - there are more difficult things to photograph, but not many.

I can't believe I'm at the end of my cat posts.  This means I'm going to actually have to do some me-sewing soon, so I have something left to talk about.

I will (and did) survive

My table at the Philly Free School -
the sale was held in the school cafeteria
So . . . the weekend.  Office work Friday, a brief appearance at a holiday party (how many law firms invite their temp receptionist to come out and party; I had to go), then the opening of my local craft show at the University City Arts League.  It was raining something awful, so attendance was really sparse, but I got to see a few people I knew and also got to wrap and bag two of my knit critters that were leaving the show to become Christmas gifts for two little girls.

Saturday's show at the Philly Free School was the first time the event was held, so it was a little hit or miss, but again, I had a pretty good day.  It seems the shows where other vendors complain about sales and attendance are the days I do really well.  Go figure.

Me with my Traveling Wares
I especially appreciated the little boy with cold hands who talked his mom into buying a pair of my mittens and who came back later (not wearing them).  When I asked why, he said his hands had gotten too warm, and he was back to tell me his mom said thank you, because he was always complaining about being cold.  Then he added, offhand, "Of course, thanks from me, too."  No, thank you.  It isn't often I get feedback from a customer, especially in real time.

Saturday night was another appearance at the Arts League, this time a little busier, the weather being cold but at least dry.

On Sunday, I had time to have brunch with my good and patient husband, who acts as driver, loader/unloader and general saint-about-town for my endeavors.  It was cold and clear, and it looked like the weathermen, who had predicted flurries, might be wrong.

The South Street Bridge is out there somewhere
Hah.  Were they ever.  The photo at left is what it looked like when we started the 15 minute drive from our house to Dirty Frank's, the bar where the first Traveling Wares show was to be held.  45 minutes later, I hauled my bins into the bar and set up in a booth.  Half the vendors hadn't made it yet, nor most of the crowd.  I got to sit with a beer and watch the Eagles game (I'm not a big football fan, and haven't watched the Eagles since they took on Michael Vick, but I do love watching overpaid men finally earn their salaries by sliding face first in slush).

Though the event never totally picked up, I did okay -- four stockings, a pair of gloves and a knit critter (sold to a Philadelphia writer who I've read for years).  I also traded a stocking for a totally cool pincushion doll (she's filled with emery sand and I'll post a pic of her as soon as I get unpacked -- I love her).

My favorite customer at Dirty Frank's -
I love dog-friendly bars.
Now, other than a cashier shift at the Arts League, I'm down until Saturday.  Which is good, because I'm getting low on critters.  Now it's time to start cutting up the upper parts of those sweaters whose lower parts became mittens.

I can't even describe what my house looks like right now.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I'm tired already

I took another temp job last week, for the two days before the Thanksgiving holiday and this entire week.  I knew it wasn't the brightest of ideas, but it's heating season, and I like to be warm.  I also like to pay my bills on time, I'm that kind of girl.

It was not the brightest of ideas.  Let me say that again.  Not. At. All.

Wednesday evening, I load in for my neighborhood arts league's two-week resident craft show.  Which means I have to split my inventory, make inventory sheets and put price stickers on everything.  (Generally at craft shows I have signs with prices, which means I don't have to remove stickers or tags from merchandise when I bag, but since I won't be there during much of this show, pricing has to be obvious and easy for the cashier to find).  I managed to write out my inventory list today at the office, but of course I didn't have the actual form with me, so I have to rewrite it tomorrow.  Bah.

Friday is the show's opening night for arts league members only.  Saturday morning is another show, the Philly Free School Superfantastic Craft Bazaar, from 11-5.  This is the first year for the show, but it's run by an organizer I've dealt with before, so I'm expecting a decent crowd.  Saturday evening is the second opening night at the arts league, this one for the public.

Sunday.  What to say about Sunday?  Well, I signed up for something called Traveling Wares, which is a group of crafters who set up to sell at bars around Center City Philadelphia.  They've been doing it since 1991, and I want in on the fun.  Sunday from 2-7 is Dirty Frank's at 13th and Pine.  I've drunk there.  I've been drunk there in my time.  This is a whole different view of a bar.

And Monday?  Monday I'm not getting out of bed.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cat Tales: Lily

Hmm. What to say about Lily?

A lot of Lily's personality can be summed up from these photos - she does spend a lot of time looking down her nose, judging the other cats and finding them lacking.  She's the oldest cat now that Max is gone, Queen of the house of you ask her.

Probably if you ask me, too.  Her full name is Princess Tiger Lily, because when I got her, as a skinny nursing outdoor mom cat whose kittens had died in a heat wave, she was still ridiculously regal.  (Max tried to nurse on her and found out that queens, no matter what their condition, can rabbit kick pretty hard if you treat them like a soda fountain).

Lily's 14 now, the official sewing room mascot.  She also spends a lot of time with Mario in his office because what she likes more than almost anything else is being an only cat. And that's a situation in our house that's pretty hard to come by.

Lily and I have had our ups and downs over the years.  We haven't always been friends.  Her standard reaction to people for the longest time was to give them the long stare down the nose, turn her back and flip her tail up - a very obvious feline giving of the bird.

She's mellowed.

She also knows she's special.  She gets to nap on the fabric scraps, bat spools of thread around on the floor, and because she's skinny, she gets wet food twice a day and any people scraps she's willing to eat.  The skinniness is just age - and since she's a little arthritic, I figure being a bit lightweight is easier on her than being a chunk like most of my other cats.

We're coming close to the end of the pack here.  Thankfully, we're also coming close to the end of the year and craft show season - which means I'll be able to sew for myself some time very soon!

And Lily will supervise.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Monday, November 25, 2013 has been declared Handmade Monday! Handmade sellers all around the world will be celebrating with sales and promotions! Do you support artists and craftspeople?  Pledge to shop on Handmade Monday!

There's already Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday AFTER Thanksgiving, but handmade artists are taking the Monday BEFORE Thanksgiving as THEIR day. Support handmade sellers!

I'm offering a coupon code in my shop - HANDMADEMONDAY10 - for 10% off any purchase over $15.  The coupon code is good on 11/25/2013 ONLY.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sweater Mitten Tutorial

I had a request for a tutorial on how to make my new favorite item, the recycled sweater mittens.  Here goes; if I'm not clear on any point, please leave a comment and I'll be happy to come back and clarify.

The pattern is very simple, only three pieces: a top side, a lower bottom (with thumb) and an upper bottom (also with thumb).  The two under sides get sewn across, making a center palm seam which also encompasses the thumb, giving it free movement.  Then the flat underside gets sewn to the upper side, pressed, turned and pressed again.

There are loads of similar patterns online.  Since I don't have a printer at home, I just browsed the internets for ideas, then made my own pattern based on the shape of a pair of mittens I had.  The only odd part was getting that palm seam placement, but it worked.

This looks better with a dark or patterned sweater - the palm seam is very obvious on this light green, but then again, I want it to be obvious so you can see what I'm doing.  So there.

The two most important things you need for these mittens are a wool sweater, which either you have felted or some helpful thrift store donor has felted for you, and a very hot steam iron.  Steam is crucial in getting shape to your mittens, and also for getting the seams flat enough.  You don't need any special equipment; this might be easier and/or neater with a serger, but I don't have one.

Cut the upper side and the lower under side pieces, using the band of the sweater.  This will make the cuffs of your  mittens.  I like to cut them a little longer because I like my mittens to fit snugly up under my sleeves.  You may have to adjust the width of your band depending on its stretch; it won't likely be too tight, but it may be too loose and you may have to bring it in.  Cut two top sides, which will be identical, and two under sides, which will be left and right.

If you're making more than one set (you can generally get two sets from a sweater, if not three - but that's difficult; I have a hard time finding plus size wool sweaters), cut all those band pieces first.  The upper part of the under side can be cut from another part of the sweater.  I generally use the sleeves for this, since I try to get a stuffed animal or something from the remaining sweater body.  Greedy or thrifty, I'm not sure which.  The uppers are also cut left and right, following the grain of the sweater.

Press everything so that it's nice and flat.  Then pin your two undersides together at the center palm seam, from the base of the thumb across to the inside edge of the hand.  Stitch from one side to the other, taking care to give yourself a nice sharp corner where the palm meets the thumb.  Trim the seam, zigzag it for security and then press it, on hot, with the seam and the thumb facing up.

Pin the under side to the upper, thumb side facing up.  Pin your way around the curve of the mitten until you get to the thumb area.  Making sure that the edge of the thumb seam is caught in the side seam, but that the thumb itself is still flexible, pin all the way to the bottom of the band.  If you can, gingerly fit your hand inside the inside-out mitten to check the fit of the band.  If it needs taking in, it's easier to do it now.

Stitch around the mitten, following your pins.  Again, trim the seam and zigzag it, then press it again.  Turn the mitten right side out, reshape as needed, and steam it one last time.

And there you have it - warm woolen mittens made from someone else's discards.  Suddenly, putting that sweater in the hot dryer with your jeans might no longer be quite the tragedy it once was.

Happy making!  I'd love to hear about your results.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Get your Christmas shopping done early

Gifts in the Galleries took place on Friday and Saturday in an exhibition space at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology.  It's a great big beautiful space, full of huge windows and light and tile floors that echo everywhere.

There were 50 vendors, side-by-side down a long gallery, through another big light-filled room and then onto a third room with a stage at the end where live music was performed throughout the two day event.  There was a table of sandwiches and snacks, and even a small bar.  (Shopping with beer -- something to be highly encouraged, as long as they don't spill!)

Though it was very well publicized, and got a lot of press, it wasn't well attended.

On the other hand, it seemed like most of the attendees stopped at my table.  Quite a few of them even bought something!

It was hard in the beginning of this, doing sales and talking to the public, but I've gotten more comfortable with it.  I spend so much time alone with my sewing machine, it's really gotten to be fun to interact with people and watch them react to my work, hear their comments and suggestions.  I've gotten quite a few ideas from talking to people at shows, so I always listen (and sometimes eavesdrop).

My newest item, the recycled sweater mittens, were the hit of the show.  I only had 6 pair, and I sold 2 on the first day.  On Saturday, the last 4 pair were gone by noon.  When I got home on Friday evening, I cut out a few more pair, but then I fell asleep on the couch.  So much for good intentions.

I only have a few shows left before the holiday -- a two-week-long event at my local Arts League starting on December 6th; a one-day event on December 7th; and one more on December 14th.  Right now I think I'm good on most of my pieces, but I'm going to make a big pile of mittens and a few more knit critters to get me through the shows to come.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Everyone should have warm hands

Apparently felted wool sweaters are good for more than just stuffed animals.

But if I cut carefully, I can still get a stuffed animal or two out of the remaining fabric after I cut off the lower portion to make . . . mittens!

I made a pair for myself recently, just to see if I could, and then it got cold. Other than for typing and sewing, I haven't taken them off - my hands haven't been this toasty in ages, and the snug sweater band cuff means that the most important half inch of skin ever (that bit that always gets exposed between your glove and your jacket) is actually staying covered.

So I made a load of them for the craft show this weekend.  Everyone should have warm hands.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Contents under pressure

In case you've ever wondered, this is what happens when you open a ten pound box of fiberfill.

Were you one of those children who felt the need to unzip their bean bag chair to see what happened?

It's kind of like that.

You can't get this genie back in the bottle.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I'm not Worthy

I just sold 4 Christmas stockings to Kathleen Fasanella, the woman who changed my sewing life with one blog post.

I'm so not worthy.

Thank you, Kathleen.  For the purchase and the blog post.  One of these days I'll even get back to setting in sleeves.  I have great plans for January.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cat Tales: Ozzie

This is Ozzie.

Ozzie was actually born in the house. I picked up his mom, Sabrina, off the front porch and had intended to pass her along to a friend after getting her initial vet checkup.  I thought she looked a little bit pregnant, and passed that info along to the vet.  Vet said that would be no problem, just to bring her in. That was on Saturday; her appointment was for Monday.

On Sunday, she gave birth to one kitten, Ozzie.  Being very young herself, she didn't much know what to do with him.  She sat on his head a lot, and left him on the wrong side of the room until he cried.

We ended up bottle feeding him and keeping him clean, and Sabrina moved on earlier than expected to her new home because she just got in the way of kitten care.

Baby Ozzie
Ozzie's not the brightest of cats; I think she did some damage with all that head-sitting.  He sits with his head cocked quite often, like he's trying to understand what's going on but it just doesn't make any sense.  He's a big boy, but gentle as they come and scared of his own shadow.

He spends a lot of time with Archie in the front room.  My two big boys, sitting in the front window and watching the neighborhood go by.  Ozzie, despite his meekness with us, is a ferocious guard kitty and freaks out and howls and throws himself at the window when an outside cat dares to approach the porch.  Of course, if there wasn't glass or a screen between him and that other cat, he'd probably wet himself with terror.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


For those who pay attention, there's a new tab at the top of the blog.  I tried to clean up the living room tonight and realized I have no shelf space left for books.  And I have more books.

Hard as it is, I went through the sewing books and culled a stack.  Some are duplicates, some just aren't relevant (quilting, anyone?) and some, while good, are duplicative of other books in the collection and I've just kept my favorites.

So head on over and pick up a few bargains!  They're priced to sell, and if you want more than one, I'm more than happy to make a deal.  Just leave a comment on the book sale page or email me at sewingbytheseatofmypants @ gmail . com and let me know what you're interested in.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A trip to the apothecary

I started these embroidered apothecary label motifs back in the spring, just for fun.  I didn't know what I was going to do with them.

Then, in the summer, I got the bright idea to put them on bottles.  (That had something to do with finding a really cool pair of purple cotton velvet pants at the thrift store).

Idea stalled again, then I decided that they needed to be pillows, and scrounged through the remnants for something I had enough of to make 4 pillows.

Stall again, until yesterday, when I finally cleaned my workroom -- I can see floor!! -- and found the motifs, velvet bottles and olive green linen sitting neatly together, out of sight and out of mind.

Listed here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cat Tales: Bear

This is Bear.

Bear hates me.  I don't take it personally; Bear hates everybody.  She's not even fond of other cats.

When I brought her in as a kitten, maybe 3 months old, she was a sweetheart.  She purred and nuzzled and liked her belly rubbed.

She stayed in the guest bathroom for a while, until she had all her shots and the other cats became accustomed to her, and then I let her out.

What I think happened was that the other cats said, "Hey, you know what?  She feeds us even when we're not nice."  And Bear took that as a direction to never, ever be nice again.

She liked Max.  He was the only cat she ever really interacted with.  Now that he's gone, she's warmed up to Harriet some, and every once in a while I'm now allowed to touch the top of her head while she's eating her wet food.  She growls quietly, but she doesn't stop chewing.

My great hope is that someday I'll be able to comb her, because since she doesn't groom herself (Max always did it), her fur is standing up in big chunks and mats.  I just pulled a mat off her back that was literally the size and shape of a sandwich.  All I really want to do is shave her bald and start fresh, but I think if I tried that, I'd need reconstructive surgery on my hands.  And arms.  (If she doesn't get brushed, you know her nails don't get cut either).

Maybe someday she'll even like me.

But I doubt it.

Fighting with Fabric

I'm sharing these from the Etsy shop because I know that sewists everywhere can feel my pain.

These 5 bears were a custom order.  The buyer said that her mother had recently passed away, after being housebound for over a year.

While housebound, she wore what the buyer called "polyester loungers."  I don't know if everyone thinks the same thing when they hear those words, but an elderly, housebound woman in my family would have been wearing pink or butter yellow spongy polyester with little flowers or bunnies on it.

When she said that, I quaked.  When a very small package arrived in the mail, I was puzzled.  Then I opened it.  Her mom was not that polyester lounger lady.  She wore polyester charmeuse caftans - the box contained one with a blocky, jewel-toned animal print, another in turquoise with red, gold and magenta peacocks, and a third in emerald green and bright blue with gold scrolls, cherubs and leaves.

Beautiful for scarves.  Pretty for blouses.  Pretty damned glamorous for a housebound woman.  But to sew with?  Slippery as hell, let me tell you.  And every seam that had to be stitched shut after stuffing had to be interfaced first so it wouldn't self-destruct.

But in the end, I'm really happy with them.  Not as happy as the buyer will be - I sent her a photo and she's literally jumping up and down to get her hands on them - but happy that I survived working with such a tricky fabric.

It really makes me appreciate wool.

Jewel Box Bears

The set of 5 memory bears is finished and will soon be off to their new owners - well before the mid-November deadline!

I sent a photo of the first bear to the buyer, and got this in response:  "I can't wait to give these out!!!  I think there will definitely be some tears shed."

When I started this project, I was a little hesitant -- the bright colors, the vivid prints, the slippery fabrics --  but as I went on, I began to enjoy them more and more.

I started with what I thought of as the "easiest" fabric - the colorful blocks with animal print, and worked my way to the most difficult, through the turquoise peacock print with its swirling magenta, red and blue feathers, and in the end, the blue, green and gold "cherub" print.  This one stumped me for a bit, since the caftan was wide bands of green and blue, with strips of black in between.  There was no real way to use both colors/prints in the same piece, because of the black, so I settled on a green body and head, with blue arms, legs, ears and central forehead piece.

All 5 bears have black faceted button eyes.  These really add something in my view, because I look at these bears and think of jewelry strewn on a bed, magically turned into shiny, special memory bears.

These are so much more than they started out being.  I hope their new owners will love them as much as I enjoyed making them.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cat Tales: Harriet

This is Harriet.

She started out as an outdoor kitten.  Here she's a little girl, hanging out in the daylilies under my lilac.  Her mom, Alice, would bring the kittens to our yard so she could get some sleep.

When they were old enough, Harriet and her brother, Nicky, came in.  They had another sister, and she went to live with a friend.

A neighbor who was a vet student told me confidently that my kitten was a boy.  So I named her Harry.  And then when she went for her first "real" vet visit, they enlightened me that I had one of each, so she got re-named.  I still call her Harry.

All grown up.
Harry's a sweetie.  She has the loudest purr of all the cats, and the tiniest hands, with the sharpest claws, which you'll feel when she arrives on your stomach in the middle of the night and proceeds to make mad, passionate bread.  She means well, but . . .

She was another cat who was very close to Max, and since he died she's gotten a little tighter with Bear (you can see Bear glaring from the window seat in the second photo).  They're cousins, actually same tomcat, litter-mate moms.

Harry's also a singer - it's something she got from Max.  She'll pick up a toy and start singing to it like it's a kitten.  It's very cute, except in the middle of the night.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Memory bears: one down

This is the first of the series of five memory bears I'm creating for a client, using some of her mom's poly charmeuse "loungers," what I would call caftans.

Now poly charmeuse is a slippery thing to work with, and keeping it under control made it easier for me not to look at all the warring colors as I put this together.

Now that it's done and stuffed, and his face applied, I actually kind of like him.

Like the plaid palaka bear, it's the kind of frightening that grows on you.

I hope she feels the same way.  I just sent her a status update with a photo.

One down, four more to go.  Except I just emptied my ten pound box of Walmart fiberfill, so guess where I have to go this week?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday with Friends: TwoTiming

I know, I know.  This feature has gone missing for a few weeks - certainly not because of lack of subjects, but because I've rather over-committed myself for the upcoming holiday season and I'm feeling a little pressured.

But this week I'm feeling also the need to share some love, so I give you Kaylene of the Etsy shop TwoTiming.  She's another recycler/upcycler, and a leader on the Etsy team that I captain, the Upcycled Clothing 'n Things team.

Her fiber of choice is felted wool, and what this woman can do with a discarded sweater (or sweaters - take a look at that second pair of brown slippers!) is beyond belief.  I love her slippers and I'm thinking I might buy myself a little post-Christmas gift if the season goes well enough.

If you see anything you like, give yourself adequate time for shipping -- Kaylene's an Aussie, so it will take time to reach you, but her work is worth the wait!