Sunday, June 29, 2014

Time to let go

Once upon a time, there was an only child.  Boredom was the enemy, so I learned to do lots of things to occupy myself.

I read.  I played with my dolls.  I learned to sew to make clothes for my dolls.  I redecorated, then rebuilt, my doll house.  I read some more.  I made up stories, and acted them out with my dolls (it helped that, as an only child, I had a cast of thousands).  I started writing down my stories.

Interesting that I never thought that real people couldn't write, when all I wanted as a kid was to be a ballerina but I had no idea at all that real people could take ballet lessons.  No one ever told me, and I didn't figure it out for myself until I was about 10.

But writing fit.  I could do it in  my head, or after my mom went out and left me in peace, or after everyone went to bed.  When I was bored at school, I could listen to the voices and run home and write down everything they said.  When I started working, mindlessly typing for  lawyers, I could plot and plan and scribble on bits of paper and then do my own typing at night.

All this is leading to the fact that I write.  I have always written.  Other than this blog, which I started when my regular life was getting in the way of my writing (and I wasn't facing how much that bothered me), I haven't said much about it in public.  It was mine.  It was something that kept me sane through a lot of unhappy teenage years and all the times when I just didn't feel like I fit into my life.  The life in my head, well, that always fit.  Because I made it up.

There was one particular project I started years ago.  I wrote like a madwoman, researched, wrote some more.  Put it down.  Picked it up, got distracted, started dating, broke up, wrote my heart out, dealt with family stuff, changed jobs, more family stuff, changed another job, started dating again, got married - how did that happen? - and eventually came back to what had come before and in between all along.

And now, dear readers, I have what seems to be called a book.  A novel, if you will.  Tweaked and polished and pored over lo these many years.  I've let a few close friends read it to offer criticism and suggestions - and nearly expired in the process of handing my baby over - and now it's ready to be released into a wider world.

I feel sick to my stomach.  It's been mine for so long, but if it's done, isn't the whole point of a story to share it?

I recently finished a synopsis, because of course after you write an epic saga, you have to turn around and boil it back down to a couple of paragraphs, and I just started sending query letters to agents.  All this makes me dizzy, but I've done it.

What's the worst that can happen - that it'll go back into a drawer (or a hard drive) for another life cycle?  It's time to let go.

Friday, June 27, 2014

New Kids on the Block

I've been on a bear and dressmaking binge this week -- both sold well at last weekend's event in Narberth, and I want more for tomorrow's show here in the neighborhood.

Anyone left unsold will be getting proper pictures taken and listed on Etsy, but for now, they're just hanging out on the bedroom radiator cover.

The purple and gold ones are made from sweatshirt fabric (left over from previous projects) and the black and white one is made from a work skirt that I outgrew, I'm embarrassed to say.  Especially since I made said skirt to fit.  And it did.

Still trying to decide whether I like the new safety eyes or not -- they're kind of starey.  I hope the kids who end up with them don't feel like the bears are watching them.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Elephants Never Forget

The title of the post comes from something my mom used to say.  I don't know where it came from, but if that is indeed the case, then my mom was an elephant.  She never forgot anything -- good, bad or indifferent, it was all stored up there to throw back at you later.

Hmmm, maybe I'm more like her than I like to believe.

Anyway, elephants.  This series of projects started out as a pair of misbegotten pajama pants: drawstring / elastic waist, no pattern matching on the side seams.  Elephants.

I loved them on sight, though I knew I'd never wear them.

They've been sitting on my sewing table for at least 6 months, and the other week I cut them up and stared at the pieces for a while.

Obviously the biggest bits had to go for a dress -- some little girl (or her mother) is going to fall in love with that elephant print.  I love that I didn't have to add any embellishment.  Realistically, what would have showed up beyond the print?

I was left with a pile of scraps.

Scraps, in my world, now equal potholders.

I managed to get 8 potholders out of the remnants, and I think they're pretty cute.  Five of them feature a good-sized elephant motif in the center, surrounded by black-and-white check and solid black fabrics, and the other 3 have the print interspersed with the other fabrics plus denim to match the back of the potholders.

I don't think these will last too long on the craft show table.

When I finished the potholders, all I had left was a pile of strips and corners that I could gather up and hold in one hand.

It took a little convincing, but I gave myself permission to throw them out.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Late to the Party

Remember back in January, I mentioned that I was making a top for my friend, Maria Wulf, for her birthday, and that she would be sending me one of her wall hangings for my birthday?

Yeah, well, the gift exchange actually did happen.  She got her top, and I got her wall hanging, and now, finally, months after the fact, I've remembered to write about it.

The problem is my workroom is a total hole right now, and there's very little visible wall space.  I tried this in two different spots, neither of which showed it to advantage, and finally pinned it to one of the curtains simply to keep it clean and out of the way while I decided on the best place for it.

You know what, finding the "best place" is like using the "good stuff."  Sometimes you just have to decide to do it.

Yesterday I put the hanging up on the back of the door.  It's a white background, it's high enough to be away from the cats, and I can see it from the machine.  Works for me.

Maria made this to my somewhat inexact specifications.  I said that while I have a lot of cats, I generally don't like cat kitsch.  I have enough of the real ones that I don't need cat knicknacks.  But this was sort of for Lily.  She's the sewing room kitty, and I know she won't be around forever, though hopefully she'll hang on for a few more years at least.  So I said that if she had any cats in her collection of vintage appliques, one for Lily would be good.  I also said there were no color or print restrictions whatsoever -- I've never met a color or a print I don't like, and usually in combination.

With that for guidelines, I think she did a stellar job, don't you?

We stopped and visited with Maria last weekend when we were in NY for the goat workshop, and even though it was only a brief visit, it was great to talk to another fiber-oriented person about her obsessions, fabric and trim collection, pet her new sewing machine and see all of her current projects.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Getting Ready

I've got a show tomorrow, and instead of just assuming I had it all together and getting there tomorrow to realize I'd forgotten something -- again -- today I pulled everything out of the tubs and laid it out all over the dining room so I could actually see what I had.

That's the entire inventory right now. The table holds bears, stuffed animals and the new flat stuffed animals, a box of felt flower hair clips (otherwise known as bait for little girls), and a stack of potholders.

The tub on the floor is full of fringed t-shirt scarves, the chair has some bags (quilt hobo/wristlet and clutch), and the chair back has the embroidered pillow covers.  The other chair back is holding all the dresses.

And now looking at it, I really need to get a tablecloth instead of using that old sheet on the dining room table.  I just got a new/old table from my sister-in-law and I'm trying to keep it from getting scratched, so that's just a temporary fix.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Getting my Goat

See -- friendly goat smile!
This past weekend we went to a workshop up at Cold Antler Farm in Cambridge, NY.  The workshop was called "Goats and Soap," and in addition to knowing I would enjoy it and really wanting a weekend out of the city, I had a theory: either this would totally get me over the idea of wanting goats or it would make it worse, but at least it would be an informed worse.  I would know what it was that I couldn't have in a city back yard, and why I wanted it.

Apparently, folks, I am not cured.

The goats were cute.  The goats were friendly.  The goats were freaking photogenic.  The goats give milk, which makes soap and goat cheese.  Think about having a source of goat cheese in your back yard.

At the farm, we started out the morning by making goats milk soap.  We did this first so it would (hopefully) have time to cure so we could take some home.  That didn't cooperate, but it doesn't matter; I know what we did and soap-making doesn't seem so mysterious now, either.

A handsome buck at Common Sense Farm
While the soap was mixing, we talked about goats: how to keep them, what they were like, why Jenna wanted them in the first place.  We got to meet her two goats, Bonnie and Ida (her daughter).  Bonnie is still giving milk, so Jenna started her off and then most of us took a shot.  I got it on the first try!

We broke for lunch after that, and when we returned to the farm we piled into cars and drove down the road to Common Sense Farm.  They have a fairly large goat dairy (20+ animals), and they make a lot of soap as well.

We didn't get to check out their soap operations, but we did get an exhaustive (but fun) lecture on goats from Yesheva which covered everything from cleaning and trimming hooves to milking to giving injections to how to deliver a kid, with stories interspersed and her six year old daughter diving in and out like a barn swallow, helping and chatting and picking up every cute baby animal within reach.

After the conclusion of Goat 101, we went upstairs in the barn to visit the hatchery, where they raise chickens, turkeys, ducks, pheasants and probably more.  There was an enormous white peacock roosting in the barn rafters, tail drifting down like some bizarre feathered chandelier.  Everything was spotless and smelled more like straw and wood shavings than birds, and it made me want to come home and clean the chicken coop.

Cold Antler Farm - barns and birds
Common Sense Farm runs to about 200 acres, much of which is garden.  On our way back to Cold Antler Farm, we took a tour of their vegetable gardens, which were enormous.  They're totally organic, so some of the weeds were pretty spectacular as well -- but as we were told, that is why you pay so much for organic produce, all that work has to be done without chemicals, so it's a lot more labor intensive.

It was such a nice day I considered volunteering to weed a row of carrots as a thank you for their hospitality, but I didn't want to hold up the group.  And I think Mario would have thought I'd lost my mind.

Common Sense Farm - sheep
My main concern going up for the workshop was what he would think.  I'm happy outside, generally the dirtier the better, but he's an indoor-at-the-desk-in-the-climate-control kind of guy.  Nothing wrong with that, but I was afraid he'd develop a severe allergy to all the nature he was about to encounter.  And I don't mean specifically grass and plants, but country, animals and a very different mindset than he's used to.

He came through it like a champ, though -- I shouldn't have worried; he's interested in absolutely everything, even if it's not something he wants to do.  And he's an information junkie, so Yesheva's talk about goats really impressed him, he's fascinated by anyone who has amassed a store of knowledge on any topic.

And he milked a goat.  And held a baby duck, courtesy of that same six-year-old girl.

Chickens at Common Sense Farm
And I think he understands the goat thing now.  I don't think he'd want to live at Common Sense Farm, or even Cold Antler Farm, but if we ever get outside the city and have some more ground, he wouldn't be surprised to find another half dozen or so chickens and a goat or two smiling sweetly from what used to be the garage.

There's another event in October called Antlerstock.  I went back in 2012 and it was a blast -- two days of homesteading fun with a little something on every topic imaginable.  Working on going back this  year.

If any of you don't read Jenna's blog, check out the link above.  She's a wonderwoman on a small scale, willing to tackle anything and always pushing to make her dreams a reality.  As we all should.

Jenna Woginrich with her dogs, Annie
and Gibson, and lamb, Brianna

Monday, June 16, 2014

Family Stories

This ring just sold in my vintage Etsy shop.  I thought you'd all enjoy the story behind it.

This ring came out of my great-aunt's seemingly endless collection of jewelry. I remember liking to try this one on when I was little; it was delicate, it was girly, it was pink.  What can I say?

My great-aunt told me that a young man gave it to her, thinking she was going to accept his marriage proposal. She accepted the ring, but not the man -- she said the ring was nice, but it wasn't engagement ring quality!

Cheeky woman, my great-aunt. I'd have snatched it up, too, but considering it was the Depression and he could afford to buy gold of any kind, I might have grabbed him as well!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Urban Farm . . . Kids

Well, damn.  That feels good.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


In Philadelphia, we have what's called First Friday, where the art galleries all schedule their new shows and everyone shows up, drinks wine and wanders the streets, going in and out of the galleries.

Never ones to let a good crowd go to waste, Philadelphia's independent artists have organized their own First Friday event, showing up with their tables and wares and parking themselves in every available spot on 2nd Street that isn't an art gallery.

This was my first attempt at a First Friday event -- to get a good spot on a nice day, you have to get there in the mid afternoon.  We set up at around 2:30 p.m. and there was a decent crowd all day, but at around 7:00 p.m., it turned into madness.  Crowds streaming up and down the sidewalk, trying to look at everything, blissfully ignoring the open container law (which, like the parking laws, seems to not be enforced on First Friday) and having a grand time.

Personally, I was glad to be safe behind my table.  I've attended many a First Friday, and I likes a barrier, it keeps me from getting squashed.

Also, the local news was there, taping background for the weekend weather forecast.  The reporter talked to most of the vendors along our  block, but somehow I ended up on the news.  You can watch it here (you just have to get through the forecast and chit-chat first).

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Marilyn resurrected

This is what happened to those Marilyn jeans.  Actually, on closer inspection, they were Marilyn / Madonna jeans, which is possibly even cooler.

I think the red satin lining suits either of them, don't you?

I got two bags out of those jeans, this one with the original inside leg seam running down the center of the bag, and another one (not photographed yet), with the faces appliqued to a base fabric and outlined in black suede.

Lack of fabric just pushes me to try new things.

Both these bags are sold.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Out on the porch

Have you ever had that dream where you're wandering through your house, or another place that you're perfectly familiar with, and you open a door and find a totally unfamiliar room?

That happened to me this week.

Pictured here is my front porch.  I don't have a "before" picture, mostly because it was never photo-worthy before (it still isn't, all that much) and because when I started cleaning it off, I didn't know I was going to go far enough to require a "before" picture.

I decided, after 14  years, to get rid of the two wooden chairs with the uncomfortable metal strap seats that I had never made cushions for -- if I haven't made the cushions by now, it's not likely to happen.

I got rid of the trashpicked table that was too unsteady to use, and that I had never fixed.

I put the two extra recycle tubs to use holding the straw bale that lives on the porch.  It would live in the back yard, but there's no coverage back there.

I brought up two comfortable chairs from the basement, and my old wooden coffee table.

And I brought out a glass of iced tea and sat down, sweating, to enjoy a totally new view of my street.  Since I haven't pruned the roses lately, I have a very nice privacy screen going as well.

All was well until I took my chairs to the thrift store down the block and was talking to one of the employees.  He kept turning away and laughing, and I finally asked what was wrong.  He told me to go home and look in the mirror.  Cleaning + sweating = dirt mustache.  Think Marlboro man and you're not far off.

On the other hand, I love getting really dirty, because I enjoy the shower so much afterward.  It's like letting your house -- or your porch -- get really messy because you know you'll be able to see the difference once you're done cleaning.

Friday, June 6, 2014

My first lion

Today was my last "work" day for a while -- I've been temping three days a week at my friend's office since we got back from Barcelona, but her secretary comes back from sick leave on Monday.

Several weeks ago, one of the attorneys found out that I made stuffed animals.  She has a baby boy named Leo, who is about to have his first birthday in a few weeks.  She asked if I made lions.

Of course I do, I said, and promptly came home and dug through my sweater stash until I found one that looked appropriately lion-like.  Obviously multi-stripes in tan, ivory, yellow, rust, blue and purple are lion colors, yes?  I thought so.  I made his mane from two larger circles of rust colored t-shirt knit, cut and stretched so that it curled.

I took it into the office today and handed it over, and her eyes just lit up.  If little Leo likes it half as much as his mom, I'll feel good.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Saving Marilyn

I had a show last Saturday.  It was a beautiful day; there were tons of people on the street; very little money changed hands other than at the face-painting table.

Normally I try not to shop while I'm working.  I certainly don't let myself buy anything before I've made enough money to cover my table fee.

But sometimes, fabric intervenes.

The vendor at the next table was selling clothing -- both her own work and boxes of used clothes in front of her table.  All the used items were priced at $3 each.  When she first put the boxes out, I saw fabric with faces on it -- a weakness of mine -- and I tried to ignore it.

After a few customers had pawed through the boxes, the fabric was nearer the top, and I could see that the face was Marilyn Monroe.

I gave up trying to ignore Marilyn, and went to see what the fabric was.  Turns out it was a pair of stretch jeans, size 2 petite, in excellent but tiny condition.  I told the vendor if no one purchased them by the end of the day, they were mine.

Then, as I sat there watching the crowds go by, making to-do lists for the workroom and the garden, I realized I was drawing bag designs incorporating the Marilyn fabric.  Really?

Really.  I had to buy them.  Anyone who is a size 2 petite doesn't need Marilyn Monroe jeans to make even more adorable.  I'm sorry if that's sizeist, but there you have it.  I made the world safe from Marilyn jeans, and tonight I took scissors to them.

Watch this space.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Make Do & Mend

I heard back last week from the organization I pitched the "make do and mend" class to – they're interested, so now I'm trying to put together a lesson plan and run some numbers. You know, the not-fun part.

I'm thinking that the class should be no more than 2 hours, and probably 90 minutes is safer. If there's enough interest, there can always be another class. They only have one sewing machine available, but that's okay – most of what I'll be demonstrating and working with them to learn is hand sewing anyway. Though having a machine would be nice as far as explaining how to repair jeans – since everyone will wear through their jeans eventually. And yes, it can be done by hand, but if they have a machine available at home – and it still surprises me how many people have machines but no clue how to use them – this would be something to start with.

Mending: the slippery slope to sewing. That’s how I'm thinking of it. And if this place can't come up with more sewing machines, well, I'm getting a new (old) dining room table this weekend, and I do have a few (ahem) extra machines hanging around the house. My dining room is one of the nicest rooms in my house that gets almost no use. It may turn into the craft den yet.

Edited to add this great article from the Guardian on the make and mend movement in Britain.