Friday, March 29, 2013

Change is Good?

So I've mentioned for a while now that changes are in the air, that I'm sorting things out, that something big is going to happen.

This is it.

As of today, a Very Good Friday, I gave 2 weeks' notice at work.  This is a very good thing.

I do not have another job lined up.  (I do have a resume, and I'm not afraid to use it, but it's nowhere right now but on my computer).

I need air.  I need space.  I need to clean out my head and see what's left in there once I scrub out the taste of lawyers and the detritus left behind from 30 years in a cubicle.

Sounds like a prison sentence.  I'm beginning to think it was, I just didn't notice it at first.  But you know what?  When you realize you're in a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging.

This must have been percolating in the back of my mind for some time, because when the idea hit me in January that I just couldn't take it anymore, I couldn't be responsible for keeping myself this unhappy just to keep the mortgage paid and the lights on, I took a look at my finances and realized that by being my generally thrifty self, by not buying much fabric, by cooking from scratch and happily eating in most of the time, and by refusing to give in to the urge for retail therapy, I actually had enough money put by to carry me through at least half a year of voluntary unemployment.

Or even a longer period, if I chose to do something that paid less but didn't suck my soul out through my pores every single freaking day.

Are you getting the idea yet of how much I've grown to hate my job?  It's not even that particular place, per se.  Okay, well, it is.  They were the straw that broke me.  But I've worked in one law firm or another since 1982, and in all those long years, I've never had more than a one week vacation at a time, and never more than a week between jobs.  Usually the jobs were back to back, with a weekend in between to decompress.

What was I doing that for?  Do I want to turn into an old woman like my aunt, applying for food stamps in her last months while she had nearly a quarter mil in the bank, so worried about not having money that she couldn't see reality?  (None of that came to me, by the way; if this damsel in distress was going to get rescued, she was going to do it her damn self.  And she did).

Long story short.  Or long, looking at how much I've already written.  I'm too old to be this miserable at a job, and young enough to still do something about it.  I'm not proud; I'll do whatever I feel like I need to do to get by, but for a while I just want to . . . be.

I've given my daylight hours to someone else for 30 years in service of their dreams.  It would help just a little if they seemed the slightest bit happier than I am, but I don't think they are.

Not everyone can do this.  Not everyone would want to.  This is my experiment, and I'm looking forward to it like you cannot believe.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Clothes for Tiny People

It's funny.  I don't have kids, will never have kids, and I don't have that many friends with little ones, but I love making clothes for tiny people.

Maybe it's just a carryover from my childhood of constant Barbie couture?

The other great thing about kids' clothes - when they're small enough, they can't express opinions and you get to dress them any way you want.  And in my opinion, that means with basically every color in the crayon box.

These toddler dresses, which are all up in the shop right now, are proof of my love of color, and my inability (at least most of the time) to only use one fabric at once.

The only dress that escaped multi-fabric is the green geometric floral, which has rickrack the width of baby fingers, so I didn't think it required anything extra.  I love jumbo rickrack, and I got this from my great-aunt's notion stash.  There's still more of it, so expect to see it again.

I think my personal favorite of these is the third dress.  I love orange, and after a long and dreary winter, those bright citrus colors make me happy.

If there'd been enough fabric, I'd have something similar to that dress in my size, but alas, that's not going to happen.

The citrus stripe fabric was a thrift store find, a plus size sundress that has since become three toddler pieces.  The solid orange was originally a man's shirt.  The red floral was from a fat quarter pack brought back from a co-worker's trip to Hawaii.

The first dress above was constructed from corduroy remnants that I picked up at a flea market.  The buttons were from a 1980s jacket.

The blue and yellow floral below was from a skirt of mine that I'd long since outgrown - both size and age-wise.  The cutesy-country look doesn't suit someone well into her 40s.  At least not me.  It looks much better this way.

The green geometric floral, I have to admit, is made from the remnants of my favorite winter pajamas.  It's a cuddly but fairly lightweight flannel.

Where someone else sees throwaway clothes or scrap fabric, I see something else entirely.  It's both a blessing and a curse - you should see the bags and boxes in my workroom, all awaiting their turn at transformation.

Friday, March 22, 2013

One Last Craft Mention

So it's an amicable separation.  This particular piece of news is worth sharing, here, there and everywhere, at least to me.

I went to the Go West Craft Fest last year, and really enjoyed it.  They have a great selection of crafters, something for literally every taste and price range.  Plus it takes place in a really cool old cemetery in West Philadelphia, with looming angels and obelisks and trees everywhere.

I attended last year.  This year, I got in!

Can you tell I'm a little excited?  This is a huge opportunity for me to show my stuff - far better than the neighborhood holiday show; this one gets a lot of press and the crowds last year were amazing.  Add that it'll be April, and spring will finally (hopefully) be here, and the trees will be blooming and, well, it should be a day to remember.

So please, please, if you're in Philly or the vicinity or over the bridge in Jersey, think about coming to the Craft Fest.  It'll be a fun day, I promise, and if you stop by to say hello, I won't make you buy anything.  I might direct you to the next table over, if they've got something great, no guarantees there.  But really, I'd love to see any of you who are local.  It'll make me feel like I'm still me, out there in the middle of all these people who pretty much do this stuff for a living.

Have a great weekend, all.  Sewing for Go West, and sewing for me.  (I might need a new outfit for this event.  No, I'll need a new outfit.)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Go West Craft Fest

I attended the Go West Craft Fest last October, and really enjoyed it.  They had a great selection of vendors - something literally for every taste, and good pricing (affordable for shoppers but still allowing the crafters to take home something resembling a profit).  

This year, I'm excited to say that Useful & Beautiful . . . handmade will be one of the participating vendors!

I'm really excited about the opportunity.  Saturday afternoon, in a totally un-springlike snow/sleet/whatever mix, I made my way up to the local craft/consignment store run by the superwoman who also organizes the craft fair.  I was going in to pay for my space and also to collect a few baby dresses I had at the shop.  They'd been there for a while and I was going to take them back to add to my stock for the craft show and replace them with new stock when it was over. 

I got a very pleasant surprise when I went in - 5 of the 6 pieces had sold, so instead of owing her money, I walked home again with some extra in my pocket.  Suddenly the snow and sleet didn't seem so bothersome.

Now, however, I really need to get cracking.  I thought I'd have an extra half-dozen items in the kids' wear section, and now I don't.  Oh, well - if it's worth doing, it's worth doing at the last minute.  The craft fair is April 20th - you know my machine will be running all night on the 19th!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sewing in my head

I had great ambitions last night to get a lot of work done, but it didn't happen.

I still felt like I got a lot accomplished, but unless the elves appear in the workroom while I'm sleeping, it's all just sewing in my head.

Two nights ago, I finished the purple and brown corduroy cuff.  I want to do one or two more in that fabric before I turn to something else, but I couldn't decide what buttons or trims I wanted to use for accents, so I put the idea aside for a moment and decided to clean off my desk.

For some reason - and I have no idea why - when I opened the top drawer to put away some assorted rubble, something purple winked up at me.

Purple?  I dove for it, and turned up this lovely purple and gold button which got all my creative juices going again.  Except that by the time I found it, it was nearly midnight and I had to put it down for the night.

Sewing after midnight is never a good idea.  If I'd started working on the piece already, doing embellishments or embroidery would be okay, but revving up the Singer after midnight?  No.

Been there, done that.  Picked out the stitches.

More later.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thrifting Rules

Almost everything I make is from fabric that started its useful life as something else.  Thrifted fabrics have always held an attraction for me; after years of buying things at secondhand stores that weren't old enough to be vintage or anywhere near my size, I finally have found uses for the bags of clothing I'd stashed away.

I do have a few rules when buying thrifted clothes - obviously, it can't look too worn, or at least whatever part of it that I'm eyeing can't (yes, I've purchased garments before just to get at the buttons); they can't have moth or any other kind of damage that will continue to cause the fabric to deteriorate, otherwise I'm just making something doomed to fall apart; and - at least for the most part - it can't be too good to cut up.

I say for the most part because occasionally something will crop up that causes me to blow by that rule like I'm trying to beat a red light.  The fabric that forms the basis for this cuff was one of those pieces.

It started out as a very cute Ann Taylor Loft skirt, side invisible zip, stretch corduroy.  What got me was the unusual and yummy combination of dark chocolate brown and rich purple.  I looked at the colors and immediately something in the back of my brain started working.

What can I say?  It came home with me to find its place in the clothing bag, and recently, when I started working on a series of cuff bracelets, it was one of the first fabrics that came to mind.

I'm pairing it here with a silk dupioni remnant that I've been working off of for literally years, a great purple/golden brown combination, and embroidery threads in rich purple and amber.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Separation of Church and State

Or rather, crafting and sewing.

As I'm sure you've all noticed, things have been a little quiet around the blog lately as I've tried to sort a few things out.  I've been sewing, but it's not tended to be the kind of sewing that's always welcome on a sewing blog.

It's . . . (gasp!) . . . craft sewing.  And while a lot of the comments I've gotten have been very nice, there have been a few - deleted as soon as I was able to clear the red haze from my eyes and see the monitor again - which basically said they would rather stick knitting needles in their eyes than read about more craft sewing.

Don't let me stand in your way.

So I'm taking my craft sewing on the road, and moving it over to a blog dedicated to my new crafty sewing business, Useful & Beautiful (a riff on the William Morris quote, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful").  There are craft fairs afoot, and a handmade Etsy shop.  If you're not totally repelled by craft sewing, or me selling my soul by attempting to do a little sewing for profit, please feel free to wander on over and see what my projects are there.

I'm not giving up on or closing down this blog.  I'll still be sewing for me, and posting about it, and sharing pictures of the cats, the garden, the chickens or anything else that strikes my fancy.  And if I get any more comments about knitting needles, I know where the delete button is, and I'm not afraid to use it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Oops, I did it again

Gratuitous Paris photo, May, 2008
Hope springs eternal.  And with spring about to spring, apparently it's gotten worse.

Despite the lackluster showing at the Christmas craft show this year, and the dead-on-arrival embroidery lessons, I applied for yet another neighborhood craft show that occurs in April.  I went last  year, and I thought it was fantastic - a great selection of stuff, something literally for every taste.  Including mine, so that gave me hope that somebody might . . . maybe . . . buy my stuff?

I applied for their holiday craft show, but since that one is held indoors, space is a lot more limited and they stick with vendors they've worked with before.  When they announced the spring show, I applied, thinking it wasn't likely I'd get accepted, but I got an email today that I'm in.

So that means on April 20th, I'll be in Woodland Cemetery in Philadelphia, with a table (and hopefully a tent, if I can find one), hocking my handmade wares.

I've been working on some new goodies but I realize now that to have a table full of inventory by April 20th means I'm going to be back in my sweatshop again.  At least I won't be sweating this time, or shivering.  March and April in the sewing room are actually some of the best times of the year.

I'll keep you updated on the show as it progresses.  I'm also working on a sewing project for myself, which I can share soon.  Yes, really.  Sewing for me.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Market Research

Random back yard tree peony from last spring
A quick question here for everyone.  I've currently got an Etsy vintage shop, but I'm planning to open a second one sometime in the late spring.  The craft show thing isn't working for me - too many of them are consignment/percentage based and I've found I'm not fabulous at the in-person ones - so I'm going to try my hand at listing some of the things that I have to make to keep my brain from melting and my hands busy.  Since it's all secondhand fabrics - I've never met a garment I don't want to cut up and turn into something else, I'd like an opinion on word usage here.

Recycled.  Upcycled.  Repurposed.

I tend to use the word "recycled," but, well, . . . it sounds like recycling.  In a big blue bin.  For those who don't necessarily think of textiles and recycling in the same sentence, I'm not sure how it would work for them.

Upcycled . . . just feels a little twee.

Repurposed more or less says it, but I'm not totally convinced.

What's your favorite of the three?  If you have another suggestion, I'd love to hear it.  Thanks!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Improvement, and Proof of Sewing

So, after outing myself last week as the uber-slob that I (frequently) am, I realized that something had to be done about it.

That something involved a trip to Ikea with Mario. Despite our trepidation, we came out of the store with exactly what we went in to buy (okay, plus a tiny little LED light for my desk, but that doesn't count, right?).  

To the left here is my new Ikea Expedit shelving unit, complete with 5 bins to store all small stuff that used to be stuffed in totally-too-shallow drawers.  Interfacing (1 bin), lining (2 bins), leather (1 bin) and trim (1 bin - plus a bin under the table).  

Even though I feel like I should have been able to organize the room without spending money, this was the easiest option - even putting it together only took an hour and a glass of wine.

And another one after to congratulate myself.  

I'm not done yet, obviously.  The corner cabinet is still hosting way more rubble than necessary.

I wish I didn't feel the need to keep all my antique dolls, much less in plain sight, but I restored and costumed most of them and I like having the girls around.  They creep some people out, though, especially the one standing on the floor with no eyes. Even I think she's creepy, but I haven't found a new set of antique eyeballs for her yet.

I also like having the TV and DVD player where I can really see it, both standing at the cutting table or sitting at the machine.  Before the TV was much smaller and sat straight ahead of my machine.  When we cleared out my aunt's apartment, I liberated her TV (which I had bought and not been paid back for anyway) and it's been sitting in the hallway for months waiting for me to get it upstairs.

So now I can keep myself occupied while keeping myself occupied.  Why do only one thing at a time?

The shelving on the radiator isn't completed yet either.  I did lose the second unit that was on top there, along with a small bookcase that used to be behind my sewing chair.  Now I can push my chair all the way back without getting hung up on a shelf full of Burda magazines.  They moved to the small bookshelf, and the cats lost the bed that used to live on the bottom shelf.  They have 2 other nesting spots in the room anyway, and one of them only sleeps behind the radiator to begin with.

There's been sewing going on in my newly tidy space, but it's been mostly crafty stuff for an upcoming show that I'm hoping to get accepted into.  It's held spring and fall in our local Victorian cemetery, and I'd really love to do the spring show and be out there among all the flowering trees.  It would almost make up for not really enjoying the "dealing with the public" part of the show.  You know, the public . . . those people who want to know why your stuff costs so much more than what they buy at Walmart.

Today I decided to make something for myself, just to prove that I still can.  This is BWOF 2/09 #109, the boatneck tee.  I made this before, when the pattern came out, but didn't like the way the neckline turned out.  I think Burda wanted you to simply fold it under and stitch.  I don't  remember, and I didn't bother to look at the instructions this time.

I've always loved black and white striped tees - that whole French sailor vibe.  I've never had one, mainly because I think I have a bit too much boobage to actually successfully wear one.

Nonetheless, that's what I made.  I bought the striped knit at a recent trip to Jomar - knit remnants were $2 per  yard.  I like it on, but we'll have to see how I feel about it with a pair of pants and potentially wearing it to work. If I put it on tomorrow and blindness threatens to strike when I look in the mirror, I'll save it for wearing at home.  I don't think Mario's ever going to look at me and say, "Honey, aren't your boobs a little big for that top?"

I did the neckband with vertical stripes just because.

And I have to admit I'm feeling almost smug - okay, not almost, just smug - about the stripe matching down the sides.  Stripe matching is a much bigger pain with knits.

Most of today has been things not working properly: I tried to vacuum, and the Dyson will not suck in the upright position.  So I vacuumed three rooms using the handheld attachment.  The Singer is making grumbly noises, and I realize it's been a while since she's had a proper tuneup.  And just to finish things off, I went downstairs to take laundry out of the dryer and the handle to the dryer door came off in my hand.  At least that stuck right back on.

Dyson and Singer may be dismantled on the carpet sometime soon.  Hopefully the right parts will go back into each machine.