Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Cat Who Went Home

Houseguest no longer, the orange kitty went home today.  I put a "found cat" ad on our local news blog and the cat's mother, who had been away on vacation and came home last night to find her cat missing, called me this morning.  She lives a block away and came right over with a carrier to pick her up.

Turns out the cat sitter, her neighbor's teenage daughter, had left the door open on her first night and the cat had gotten out then.  By the time she chose my patio umbrella to camp on, she'd been out for two days!

Marigold's real name, by the way, is "Anthem," for the fact that she never, ever stops talking.

So that's the end of our tale.  All's well that ends well - the kitty's home, her mom's happy and I don't have ten cats anymore.

Knit Critters

So, a safer stuffed animal.  It took a little while, because most of my ideas grow in complexity as they evolve, and this one had to go in reverse.  Simple shape, no moving parts, nothing small that could be pulled off.  Soft, squishy, friendly-feeling.  Washable -- very important.

As I've said before, I've become the way station between several friends and the thrift store, and a good friend recently called and asked if I wanted to go through her things before she donated.  One of the many pieces I came home with that day was a long, clingy dress in gray sweater knit.  It sounds a little strange, but I'm sure it looked fabulous on her.  On me, I'd have looked pretty much like what I turned that gray dress into -- a knit critter.

Critters are 7" high, 10" in total length, 6" across.  Poly/rayon sweater knit, stuffed with new polyfill stuffing.  Eyes and noses are made from felt, fused on.  Okay, the ears are separate and sewed on, but I did them by hand and I think the head would separate from the body before a baby could get those ears off.  Ribbon collars are made from my own childhood hair ribbons.  Please don't ask how or why I still had them; I can't answer that myself.  I think it goes along with the "can't get rid of anything" problem.

Anyways, Knit Critters.  Soon to be available in more colors as I unearth the others sweaters I had tucked away.  I figure I'll do them in both wool and non-wool fabrics because of wool sensitivities in both babies and their parents.

Available here.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

And then the rains came

So, Bang!Boom!Craft! started out well, but by mid-afternoon (3:30 or so), it turned into Bang!Boom!Thunder! and the skies opened.  Not a nice, gentle rain, but a pounding monsoon that produced so much water so quickly that the storm drains couldn't handle it.  I was literally in water up to my ankles as we speedily broke down and packed up our tables.

Before the rains came, things were pretty good -- it was a nice enough day, warm and overcast, so no craft show sunburn for me this time.  Every once in a while it would sprinkle, but no one seemed to mind.  The little park at Passyunk and Tasker was surrounded by tents on all sides; the crowd was interested; there were antique and vintage cars parked down Passyunk for 2 blocks; and there was a rumor of a pen of baby pot-bellied pigs, but I didn't see them. 

Sales were okay, not the best I've seen but a lot of attention and plenty of business cards being taken.  Fingers and toes are crossed for the holiday season.  

Much interest was shown in my newest pieces, soft "knit critters" for babies who are too tiny for the bigger, articulated bears with button eyes. They got some pretty rough handling (and survived it) and a few sold.  I'll put the rest up on Etsy later today.

I had a fun and talented partner for the day -- Jennifer Sweda of Jerica's Jewelry (Etsy shop here), who makes lovely and fun pieces.  I've worked with her before at the local holiday craft show, and I have a few pieces of her jewelry.  She had a few pair of "retro" earrings with mini tape cassettes and TVs with test patterns that made everyone smile.  I also have to give Jen kudos for patience and good humor when the rains came, and special thanks for standing her ground with the tent while we took the first load of stuff back home, dropped it off and came back for her.  (Packing in reverse doesn't work; the tent has to go in first for it all to successfully fit in the Subaru.)

Next show is September 7th; here's hoping there's better weather!

Edited to add: I just found out that Sunday's rain actually set a City record for the most rain in a one day period since they started keeping records in 1872!  Especially impressive considering it didn't start until around 3:45 p.m.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Cat Who Came to Stay

or, as Britney might say, "Oops, I did it again!"

I went out back the other morning to feed the chicken.  I was temping this past week so I was in a rush, trying to remember how to deal with 9:00 - 5:00, and the last thing I wanted was to find the chicken coop in a mess, the food and water containers turned upside down and Bonnie herself in an uproar.  A visit from a raccoon, maybe?  I straightened everything up, lectured her about staying calm, and stood up.

Then I heard a meow.  I thought it was one of mine, calling from the kitchen window, reminding me that they hadn't had their food yet.  Then I heard it again, and it was definitely outside, and closer.  I looked around - no cat in the yard, none in the alleyway.  Where?  I moved away from the coop and found out.

During the heatwave last week, I had set up the patio umbrella over the chicken coop to keep the sun from cooking her, and we hadn't gotten around to taking it down yet.  Lying on the pale green umbrella like it was a hammock, there was a long-haired, pale orange cat.  Who apparently had scared the crap out of my chicken and was now yelling at me in that demanding "where's the food?" tone.

So I went in, grabbed a can of Lily's food and opened it.  Which Lily did not appreciate.  When I went back outside, I couldn't find the cat.  Turns out, when I came out, she went in, and she was sitting patiently in the shed, waiting for food.  I brought back out, and went in to get some water.  She followed.  I put her out again, and when I opened the door with the water . . . well, you get the picture.

To top it off, I thought she was my neighbor's cat who had gotten their screen open before and tried to climb down two stories of brick wall.  I brought that cat in until her person got home, and I was pretty sure that this was the same cat - big, fluffy, light orange and very vocal.  I wasn't sure, but just in case, I thought I should bring the cat in.

Of course I hear from my neighbor later that her cat is sleeping in the living room.  Our housemate reminds me that neighbor cat is a polydactyl and this cat, while having very large, fluffy feet, has only the standard number of toes.

Toes which are now residing in the guest bathroom while I figure out what to do with her.  This is the first time our cat numbers have been in single digits in probably 8 years, and I was okay with that.  Now what?  I thought I had a friend who could take her, her cat had just died and she wasn't going to get a new one until she got home from vacation.  I reached her on her trip and it turns out her daughter had just brought home a new cat for her, so that option is out.

I'll keep you updated, but I get the feeling that the fair Marigold may have found her new home, whether or not we agree with her.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

This Coming Sunday

I'll be at the Bang!Boom!Craft! event in South Philadelphia from 12:00 - 5:00 p.m.  Craft vendors, antique cars, food trucks, homemade ice cream . . . what more could you need?

Here's the link to the event for directions, etc.

This coming Saturday

I'll be at the Bang! Boom! Craft! event in South Philadelphia.  Craft vendors, antique cars, food trucks and homemade ice cream . . . what else could you possibly need?

Here's the link to the event for location, etc.   Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

So. Tired.

It's only been 3 months since I stopped "working, " but apparently that was long enough that my first two days back in an office have seriously wiped me out.

I feel like a toddler -- I'm trapped in a cubicle, doing busy work that just doesn't feel valid.  I want to get up and move around when I get antsy; I want to go outside and catch some sun when the air conditioning gets oppressive; I'm appreciative of the endless free coffee, but I'd rather be at home making my own.  I forget to eat lunch when I'm working at home, but by noon the past two days I've been ready to start gnawing on the edge of my desk.  Apparently boredom makes me hungry.

I get it, it's money.  I need that, and my savings will be nicely replenished after a week, but I've come home two days in a row and just crashed on the couch.  A thunderstorm woke me up near 2:00 a.m. and I wandered into the workroom and tidied up a bit and lined up some work for tonight, but again, I came home and the couch called to me.

Hump day tomorrow.  I'm hoping I can make it over, and not trip over it and fall flat on my face.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Christmas in July, Literally

It's been nearly 100 degrees in my workroom for the last few days, which has led to very little actual work being done.  I'll go in early in the morning, cut a few things out or sew a few quick seams and then have to retreat to a cooler place to recover.  There's been way more recovering, and water drinking, than there has sewing.

I had a few stockings left over from last year's holiday sale, and when I found them (while digging for something else entirely) I decided I should put them up in the shop since I'm having that Christmas in July sale.

Besides, looking at them makes me feel a little bit cooler.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

You may be right; I may be crazy

Crazy Katie - backup sewing assistant
Sometimes I wonder if I've made the right choice in giving up working for the time being to try to make this handmade business succeed.

I did all the prep I could; I got the Etsy shop organized and up and running, with some (but not enough) stock; I researched what I needed to do to make the shop better; I applied for several craft shows; I took photos and wrote descriptions and stocked my vintage shop (which is bringing in the bulk of income at this point); I filled the freezer and the cupboards with food that would not need to be purchased when I had less money coming in.  I had stashed the bulk of my Etsy income and any spare cash for the last few years, for no particular reason, until I decided that I couldn't stand life in a cubicle for one more day.

I decided around Christmas that I would like to try; in mid-January I discussed it with my husband over our anniversary dinner (and the sweet man said, "If you think it'll work, then it'll either work or you'll change your plan to something that does work -- go ahead"); at the end of March I gave notice; and on April 12th, I became a free woman.

Free to work or not work, worry or not worry, as I saw fit.  Mostly I've worked, with some worry thrown in for seasoning.

Now it's been 3 months, give or take, and I think one thing I could have done to make this (somewhat) easier on myself would have been to time it better.  Summer is slow on Etsy, so it's hard to even tell if I've made a showing or not.  Seasoned sellers are griping about their lack of sales, so I know it's not just me; being a newbie just makes it feel like it's me.  On the plus side, I'm using the time to make more and more pieces for the shop so that when things do pick up, I'll be ready.

I did a "cover my butt" move last month - I contacted an employment agency that I'd worked with once before and told them that I'd be available for short term temp assignments, and they found me a law firm spot for next week filling in for someone who is on vacation.  A week here or there will bring in enough to refill the dent I've made in the savings, without making me feel like I'm giving in - or giving up.

Which I'm not.  Not by a long shot.  I'm a hard-headed woman, and I've only just begun to work at it.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

About that lace tablecloth

Here's what happened to the rest of it:

Another lace vest (black and gray this time), listed here.

And a one-size-fits most drape top (one of my personal favorites).  I cut the lace so that you can either wear a camisole under it or possibly get away with a pretty bra, because the solid portion of the lace runs across the bust line front and back.

Top listed here.

Now on to a fabric that holds still when I try to work with it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Christmas in July

I've joined in on Etsy's Christmas in July promotion, so if you're thinking of doing any early shopping, head on over to my shop and use the discount code CHRISTMASINJULY for 10% off any item of $10 or more!

There aren't any actual "holiday" items yet (stockings are just a teaser, sorry), but there will be soon enough.

Christmas in July

Offering this up here as well - I'm participating in Etsy's Christmas in July promotion for my vintage shop.  If there's anything there that sets your heart to beating a little bit faster, I'm having a sale - 15% off any item over $20!

These could be yours, plus a whole lot more! Come on over!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Secret Lives of Dresses: a very late review

Let me preface this by saying that Erin McKean's Dress A Day was the first sewing blog I ever read. I especially enjoyed her Secret Lives series, where she would post a photo of a vintage dress, anything from an ordinary day dress to spectacular evening wear, and write a short story from the point of the dress.

She mentioned on the blog when she finished her book, the Secret Lives of Dresses, but somehow I didn't get a copy at the time. I meant to, and each time I stopped by her blog it reminded me, and then I’d get distracted again. And I really wanted to read it – I was curious how she was going to turn those wonderful, but obviously disconnected stories, into a novel.

The other day, I stumbled across a copy. Better late to the party than not at all, right?

The book is absolutely charming. Normally I wouldn't use that word; it’s like saying that something is “sweet” and you know they mean “cloying” or “sickly.” No, this was really charming. It’s the story of Dora Winston, a directionless girl about to graduate from college with no plan for her life. When she gets a call that the grandmother who raised her has had a stroke, she drops everything and returns to her hometown to be with her.

Grandma Mimi also ran a vintage clothing store, and since Dora can’t spend all her time at the hospital, she honors her grandmother in the best way she can – by keeping the business going. Dora grew up in the store, and loved to play dress-up, but her teenage rebellion led her into t-shirts and cargo pants, ignoring the lovely closet of vintage dresses her grandmother collected for her.

Since she came home with just the clothes on her back, she’s forced to dress from the closet and belatedly discovers the power of clothes, learning that a dress can lift her up, make people see her differently – and make her see herself differently.

There’s a bit of romance in the novel – both a purposeless “romance” at the college and a more meaningful friendship with a contractor working on her grandmother’s building – and some wonderful female characters. The book was filled with strong women – Mimi, who appears via many well-done flashbacks; Gabby, Mimi’s semi-related, hopeless romantic housemate; and Maux, an employee at the shop who functions as a near-sister. There are also some hideous relatives, who are stock characters in their purpose to the plot but so cringe-worthy that they deserve more credit, and two well-developed, very different men.

The secret lives appear early on: Dora has sold a dress in the shop and the buyer asks for its “secret life.” Dora never knew that her grandmother was writing little stories that were included with each dress, and it gives her one more question to ask her grandmother. Dora also wants to know about her parents, who died when she was a baby, and who her grandmother refused to discuss; in typical Dora fashion, she never pushed the issue and now worries that she will never know.

Mimi dies without regaining consciousness, and when her relatives try to take the shop, Dora has to quickly wake up and decide what she wants from her life.

There is one more secret life toward the end of the book that ties the plot up nicely, and answers some of Dora’s questions.

One of my favorite bits from the book came toward the end, when Dora goes to a graduate school interview: “Dora was wearing a charcoal-gray dress, narrow-skirted, with long sleeves ending in pointed cuffs and a matching sharply pointed collar. Dora was wearing the dress, although it had been a close call – when she first put it on, the dress had been wearing her. It had taken several minutes of walking around her apartment this morning before the dress could be forced into submission.”  We've all been there at one time or another.

 A few Amazon reviewers called this book “fluff,” and worse, but I don’t agree. It’s not a heavy lift as far as books go, but it wasn't intended as one. What it is is well plotted, tightly written and with enough loose ends at the conclusion to remind you that life, unlike fiction, isn't always neat and tidy. But in the right dress, you can cope with all that.

Friday, July 5, 2013

And the Winner Is . . .

Linda T from  SeamWell!  Linda, please contact me with your address so I can send out your book.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth and you're all keeping cool.  The rain has finally stopped and now we're baking.  Considering the way I griped about the nonstop rain, I guess I'll just shut up and enjoy the sunshine.

Hot Stuff

Back yard berries
Whew!  It's rained here every day for at least two weeks, and now the sun's finally out.  It's also 90 degrees and everything that looked boggy is suddenly frying.

And growing.  If the plants are growing at double their normal rate, the weeds have at least tripled.

I have a nice size (for the city) back garden, where I do my best to plant at least a portion of our yearly fruit and vegetables.  Right now the tomatoes are starting to turn red, the blueberries and raspberries are coming every day, and the potatoes are blooming.

When I bought my house, I'd never had anything but sickly house plants.  I didn't know what I was doing, or how to plant anything, but I knew that if I had a house, it should have at least some ground.  I started with rose bushes (hard to kill, at least for me) and I've transitioned into a food-and-flower garden combo that uses almost every square inch of my 20' x 20' yard.

Turns out gardening is something I love - and it's great for stretching out those sewing-induced kinks in the lower back!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Berry Harvest

The back yard garden is moving along.  We've had rain every stinking day for the last two weeks, and every time the sun dares to show its face, all the plants grow about 3".  In one day.  Double that if the plant happens to be a weed.

Aside from being concerned that my potatoes are rotting underground before they're fully formed, and wanting to know what furry creature is sleeping in my soon-to-be-dug garlic bed, I'm happy with the way things are looking out there.

The tomatoes are coming along nicely, the miniature plum tomatoes (Juliet variety, if you're curious) are turning red already and it's only July 2nd!  One of the cherry tomatoes (variety unknown because it's a weed tomato that I potted up) is also turning, but these are more of a brown-red.  Definitely not something I've ever planted, so a big "thank you" to the birds for their assistance.

The biggest hit right now is the berries.  There are 4 blueberry bushes in the middle of the yard.  The bushes are about 6 and 3 years old, and are really starting to produce heavily at this point.  I go out each day with a small bowl and just pick enough for us to eat after dinner each night, but they're beginning to get ahead of me now.

Today I reached into the berry patch for the first time, and have the scratches up my arms to prove it.  Two years ago I dug out an over-ambitious raspberry (and replanted it in a nearby empty lot).  I replaced it with red and black currants and a gooseberry, all supposedly thornless.

Well, they're all fruiting right now, but you know what's fruiting the most heavily?  The raspberry.  Which came back of its own accord, or never really left, though I saw no sign of it last year.

So this is what just came out of the yard this afternoon.  Instead of snack berries, I'm feeling the need to make some kind of mixed berry tart.