Monday, November 6, 2017

First world problems

My too large kitchen
One of the issues with the new house that has literally been keeping me up at night (!!) is the fact that I'll no longer have a full size, eat in kitchen.  Hear me out.

Right now, we have a dining room with table, 6 chairs, sideboard, china closet and a few other pieces of furniture.  Except for my sewing room, its my favorite room in the house even though we hardly use it.

We also have a kitchen, with a table and 4 chairs.

This is a lot of seating for 2 people who don't often have company for dinner.

Trying to decide where these will go
New house has a breakfast nook, and I have a perfect small table in the attic.

But what about the dining room?  My current set is dark wood.  Its beautiful, and it really suits the room it's in now.  The new dining room is probably the same size, but it's lighter and the woodwork is painted white.  It just won't look the same.

I do, however, have a cabinet and pie safe that are the same color wood as the kitchen set. Also another cabinet built by my uncle that is nearly the same. And while I'm not in love with the table and chairs, they're sturdy and perfectly good.

We were at the new house yesterday for the inspection, and I realized that, except for the kitchen table and chairs, I could probably make it all fit.  But I'm not going to.  This move is my chance to lighten up, whether I like the process or not.

Turns out what I love about my current dining room furniture is how good it looks in my current dining room. The few pieces I'm actually sentimentally attached to match the other set.  So I'm letting go.  I'm sure I have other things that will fit into those empty spaces I found yesterday, and it might be a nice change to actually be able to see the baseboards.

I have this hope that I might be a better housekeeper if I have less stuff to clean.  Certainly that white woodwork isn't going to let me get away with as much.

How about you? Do you have irrational attachments to certain pieces of furniture?

Saturday, November 4, 2017

A tale of two eggs

I went out to the coop this morning at around 7:30, like I do every day, to feed and water the girls. Generally there aren't any eggs this early in the day, but sometimes there are - their schedule changes up every so often, and now that the weather is cooling off they're laying a little inconsistently.

This morning I found the small, dark egg pictured here. It's one of Frankie's, I know because of the lumpy little deposits on the end of the egg. The egg behind is also hers, from Thursday.

Apparently this is normal, though not common. Sometimes an egg launches prematurely. There's a good chance there's not even a yolk in this one, and if there is, it will be as tiny as the rest of the egg. The difference in color is also accounted for because it spends less time in the area where the color and hard surface are acquired.

I don't quite understand it, but for those who are interested, here's a link which explains it better than I can.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Moving right along

Possibly a little too quickly.

You all know we're looking to move.  We've even figured out where.  But we were thinking about starting the process after the new year -- that's why, among other reasons, we turned away from that large house in the burbs that I talked about before.

And then.  I jumped the gun a bit.

I like looking at real estate ads, the same way I used to troll want ads, even when I was happy in my job.  It's just like going to Ikea, looking at those perfect little rooms and thinking, "Who would I be if I lived here?"  The imagining is always fun.

There were a few interesting houses online, and I visited the listings fairly often.  Then, at a craft show, a friend mentioned that her partner was a realtor covering that area.  Well, it seemed only polite to call and ask to see a few of those houses -- we didn't have to buy them, after all.  It was just like a trip to Ikea, trying them on for size, seeing who we'd be in those spaces.

One of the houses I liked was already empty, its walls painted in colors I could live with, its hardwood floors gleaming with fresh polyurethane, eliciting an almost-inappropriate response in my old house loving heart.  We asked to see that one.

When the realtor texted, setting up the time to meet him, I thought he'd mis-typed the house number.  I'll meet you at 114, he wrote.  I texted back, Don't you mean 115?

No, he said.  We'll see that one too, but the house across the street is also for sale and a better price. 

Oh, okay.

We saw 114, and I realized pretty quickly that I'd looked at the listing and dismissed it because of the godawful pictures, which showed not one good feature and every bad one.  The house had many of the features on my wish list: screened porch, working fireplace, dry basement, replacement windows, three bedrooms, reasonable amounts of storage, a garage, a back yard.  It had a few extras I wasn't anticipating: a built-in cedar closet in the small attic, original built-in kitchen cabinets, aslate roof.  It had a few things I disliked: wallpaper in a few areas, a dingy bathroom, white-painted woodwork everywhere, a leak in the porch roof that damaged part of the living room wall. 

We looked at 115, directly across the street.  The colors were good.  The floors were gorgeous.  The kitchen was similar to 114, but smaller.  The  yard was bigger, but less private.  There wasn't much left to do, and it was $40,000 more.

Guess what we did? 

We're still in the loan/paperwork/agonizing stage, so (much) more later.  And the move still won't be until well after the new year, so maybe I'm not that far off schedule after all.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Better than caffeine

I'm still thinking about what I heard at last week's Penn Women's Conference. The other day, they announced they would be releasing videos of some of the keynote speakers - though not Michelle Obama, unfortunately.

Yesterday they released this video of Carla Harris, the first speaker of the day. She spoke at about 8:30 am, to approximately 12,000 slightly caffeine-deprived women, and she was better than a shot of Red Bull.

The speech is her letter to her 25 year old self, but I believe it's something every woman needs to hear, no matter her age, employment, whatever.

Let me know what you think.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Coffee and politics

This doll sits next to my phone at the office.

She reminds me, three days a week, that I need to pick up that phone and annoy contact my elected representatives.

Have you called your senator today?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fall Schedule

Every year I book too many fall shows, and every year, I'm surprised at how many shows I've booked.

Every. Year.

I had one Friday evening, 9/29.  Then an all-day show on Saturday, 9/30.  Then a day to recover, work on Monday, women's conference Tuesday, work on Wednesday (with a lovely event hangover -- too much stimulation, not enough sleep), Thursday (today) to get done all the things that should have occurred sooner, work and a theater evening on Friday, and two more shows on Saturday and Sunday.

Thankfully after that I had the sense to give myself a break to regroup and restock until Saturday, 10/28, and then it's the slippery slope to Christmas.

Every year I say I'm not going to do this to myself, and every year I do.  At what point do I just realize that this is what the last quarter of the year is going to be like, accept it, and get on with things?  (I mean, I do -- that's exactly what I do, but maybe it's the same as birth -- after the holidays, I forget the exhaustion and stress because I have such a lovely result, and because I forget, I do it all over again and find myself in the same fix.)

Oh, well.  Sleep will feel really good come January.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A very special Tuesday

Michelle and Shonda.  As an aside, I love both dresses.
Tuesday is one of my days to work at home.  In addition to everything I can get done, there's also what I don't have to do -- get up early, get dressed like a grownup, take public transportation downtown and deal with people.

All of which I did yesterday, willingly and with a huge smile on my face all day long.

Yesterday was the Pennsylvania Conference for Women at the Convention Center, and Michelle Obama was the keynote speaker.  That was all I had to hear back in July, when one of the partners at the office where I work part-time was trying to sell tickets to the two tables the firm had purchased.  When I heard the ticket price - $175 - I hesitated for a moment, but honestly, when I am ever going to get the opportunity to hear Michelle Obama speak, except on television, at pretty much any price?

Add to it an entire day of other speakers, workshops, lunch, networking, wine and who-knew-what-else, and I ended up convincing myself it was a bargain.

Just a FEW people
And it was.

So there I was, at the Convention Center from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., surrounded by TWELVE THOUSAND women and a few slightly cowed men.  And it was fabulous.  Motivating, inspiring, fun.

The morning session (post-coffee and pre-workshop) was Carla Harris, Shonda Rhimes and Shawn Achor.  I really only knew Shonda (who doesn't?), but Carla Harris was fantastic.  Picture Oprah on Red Bull, and you have the energy level.

Two breakout sessions in between, and then a fairly mediocre box lunch, but with Brene Brown, Kathy Sledge leading an enormous group sing-and-dance-along of "We are Family," and then an hour plus conversation between Shonda and Michelle Obama.  Which was amazing.

A surprise guest
Originally it was just announced that Michelle would be keynoting, and a few people were initially upset that it was turned into the conversation format, but I loved it.  Even though I'm sure they went over points of it ahead of time, I thought it really humanized both women, showed them as the tough, intelligent, amazing women that they are.  One small sample here, a Twitter link, but the only place I could find it.

And it didn't hurt that President Obama showed up on videotape at the end to wish her a happy anniversary.  You could hear the collective "Awwww" from thousands of women as we all melted just a bit.  Honestly, I think everyone there would like their partner to say those words, in that tone of voice, with that little embarrassment.  Not much of an ask, right?

Saturday, September 16, 2017


Our housemate moved out a week ago, and I'm still trying to get the house back together.  Any change, whether it takes place in our portion of the house or not, is still unsettling, and she and I had lived here for 17 years.  Before that, we were roommates in my 20s and early 30s, so even though the changes has been a while coming and is the right thing to have happened, it's still difficult to get used to.

We're empty nesters, more or less, and I didn't expect to feel like that.

But on to what I wanted to say, rather than what I haven't quite figured out how to talk about yet.  I had to undecorate the halls so the movers could get furniture out without damaging my stuff, and that's when you realize how much stuff you have.  I took 70 things off the walls, and then had to pull 70 accompanying nails -- because you don't want the movers to get caught on them, of course -- and now I'm patching the holes.

Because what I've decided to do is to not completely redecorate.  We're going to be moving ourselves in the next year or less, and partly I feel like there's no point in putting it back up to have to take it all down again, but the other, more pressing thing is, watching her move was a learning experience for me, and I want to have as much of my excess out of the house before the move as I can.  There's no way I want to move it all to a new house and then realize it doesn't fit.

So things are going to go back up on the wall slowly.  With deliberation.  I've gone through all the piles of artwork and odds and ends that were hung and I've chosen all my favorite pieces, the ones I know I'm going to keep.  I'll place those, and then I'll go through the remainder and find some pieces that work with the ones I've rehung.

The rest are going.  Really.  They have to.  There's no way in hell I'm going to have another house with a 3-story, high-ceilinged stair hall to decorate.

If I do, I need my head examined.  Someone please remind me of that fact if I show up here one day talking about my new BIG house.

Right now it's both oddly quiet and strangely noisy in the house.  Quiet, because there's no one upstairs, and noisy because without things on the walls to absorb some of the noise, every single sound echoes.

It's like the house is telling me it's time to move on.  I'm listening, really; these things just take time.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

zero waste

Over on my Facebook business page, I have a weekly Recycle Tuesday feature.  Since most of those are either photos or links to articles elsewhere, I don't generally share them here.  But every once in a while, something is so good that it needs to be spread around.

One of the reasons I got into upcycling was the epiphany one day that I was throwing out more fabric than I was using.  I'd always kept scraps, but never really did much with them until I started my business.  This designer closed his business and then got the scrap epiphany -- in a major way.  Here's a video showing his technique.  Watch this and try to stay away from your sewing machine.  Just try.  I dare you.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Moving on up

17 years.  Still never finished the paint job
I bought my house in West Philly in spring, 2000, so I've passed the 17 year mark.  During that time, my life changed a lot - and quite a few of those changes were brought about because of the house.

I bought a big house because I looked at my friends buying "starter" homes and thought, I never want to do this again.  I'm not buying a small house so that I can buy a big house later.  So I went big from the beginning, big enough that my oldest friend could rent an entire apartment on my third floor.

In 2005, I met Mario, through a neighbor.  I would have never met either of them if I hadn't bought the house.  He and I got together in 2007, and married in 2011.  Slowly but surely, he moved all his stuff into this house, and it got absorbed with no loss of space.  During this time, I also sewed a lot, bought even more fabric, started a business, bought more fabric for that, and just . . . bought more fabric.

There's also a really good thrift store down the street, and the phenomenon  known as "Penn Christmas," when all the students leave the neighborhood and abandon most of their worldly possessions on the curb.

So, in 17 years, I moved a one bedroom apartment into a 3 story house (with an attic), added 2 more people, a dozen or so cats, and filled the house to the bursting point.

Now our housemate is moving out at the end of the month, and we'll have an empty third floor apartment - which can't be rented to just anybody, because they would literally have to walk through our house.  Trust like that only extends to your oldest friends, who can not only be trusted with your stuff, but with your cats.

The porch raccoons were not my favorite guests
This coincides with the City raising property taxes in the last few years.  Taxes have gone from $1300 when I moved in (2000), to $6500.  With no increase in services, street repairs, or anything else that I can see.

So it's time to move.  To a smaller house.  A "starter" house.  With a bit more yard, far less space to cram stuff, and a slightly longer commute to work.  (Not thrilled about that part, since I've lived within walking distance of work since I was 19).  But the nearby burbs are where it's at for us, where we'll be able to find a smaller, less expensive house, with possibly lower taxes (but at least a higher level of service for said taxes).  More yard.  Did I mention I want more yard?

After our housemate departs, I'm going up to the attic and start ruthlessly sorting.  If it stays, it goes into her space, for now  Otherwise, it's getting donated down the street or put on the curb.

I'll start my own Penn Christmas, all by myself.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Blanket Bears

The receiving blanket bear / bunny / animal project is still moving along - at this point, it's my best-selling Etsy listing.

There's a lot going on right now, gearing up for show season, and I'll have a lot more to show soon.  For now, I'll just leave you with a selection of some blanket bears, old and new.  Most of them are the classic stripe, but every so often someone surprises me with a totally new blanket and it's a treat to work with.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Camp, week 2

The second camp session there were 4 campers.

This was a mistake.  With the space I have, and the attention they require, 3 most the most I can handle.  Possibly the most they can handle, as well.  There was more squabbling this time - for space, for machines, for attention.  Just for the fun of it?

But we still got a lot done.

The girl who started doll making last time finished a total of 15 dolls. She's going to sell them at the local farmer's market during Labor Day weekend, with all proceeds going to Planned Parenthood.  (It is West Philly, after all).  The second girl made a tote bag/birthday gift and helped with clothing for the dolls, and her little sister (the quilter), made accessories and a very large bag to carry them.

The fourth girl, who only did the second week, wanted to make a dress.  She showed up with 2 different fabrics, one for a dress for her little sister and one for herself.  Since we didn't have patterns to fit, we just took her tank top and drafted a pattern from that.

The pink gingham is for her sister (they're 3 years apart but nearly the same size because my student is a gymnast), and the zebra stripe was her own.  Because the zebra dress was more fitted, we added a zipper and did a front and back facing to make the neck and armholes neater.  The smaller dress was just pull-over and had hemmed neck and armholes, mostly so she would get frustrated and agree to learn about facings.  (It worked).

I think we all learned a lot.  They learned about sewing and the best ways to drive me crazy.  I learned a lot about patience and how loudly I can bellow without scaring the neighbors and yet still be able to freeze 4 girls in their tracks.

Not sure if I'll be doing this again next year - we've been talking about moving, and it might put us out of range, but it's still a possibility.

I learned enough to know that I'd do it again, just a bit differently next time.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Camp Projects

Another camp session will start on Monday (I'm not ready, I'm not ready) and I wanted to share some projects from the first week.

Two of my campers are sisters, 9 and 11.  The 9 year old wanted to make a quilt.  She'd made a few small patchwork pieces in the after school class, but she wanted something big enough to sleep under.  I said sure, thinking, "She's 9, she'll realize how much work it is and find something else to do."

Nope, not this kid.  It may be a little wonky-shaped, and some of her fabric choices weren't the best -- but at 9, I would have mixed fabrics with abandon, too -- but it's a quilt, it's big enough to sleep under, and she did it in a week.  I'm really proud of her!

Some of the squares got decorated with patterns from my embroidery machine, which was in use as a reward for good work.  Others have pockets, or drawings, or drawstrings from a pair of PJ pants so she can practice braiding.

We yarn-tied it, because machine quilting may be a little much yet, and with 2 (soon to be 3) other campers, there really wasn't enough space to properly lay it out to stitch.  After being shown, she did most of the yarn work herself, except when the layers were really thick and she was having trouble pulling the needle.  Then I showed her how to pin the binding, and she stitched it herself.

Her older sister, who for a year has fought the idea of hand sewing, decided she wanted to make these hand-sewn felt dolls she'd found in a book.  Because she learns best by repetition, she's now made 8 of them, and she intends to sell them at the farmer's market in a few weeks.  The third student didn't have a specific project in mind, and decided to join in on the entrepreneurial project by making clothes for the dolls.

And because they're kids, in addition to the sewing and inevitable eating, there was some goofing around.  It's not sewing until someone falls into the box of stuffing and can't get out.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Happy campers

After four semesters of once-a-week after school sewing class, I decided this summer to take on a week-long sewing camp at my house.  Actually, two sessions, separated by a week so that teacher has a chance to recover.

It's been interesting.  In a mostly good way.

I don't have kids.  I've never particularly wanted them, and this week has reinforced why that was the right choice for me.  It's also made me realize that kids -- particularly smart, creative ones -- are pretty cool, so long as you can give them back at the end of the day.

There are 3 campers this session, 4 next time.  They're all from my after school class, my favorites, the ones who worked hard and actually wanted to be there.  Which doesn't make them any less than what they are, which is 9-to-11 year old girls, stewing in their own pre-adolescent hormones and with more energy than they (or I) know what to do with.

My cats took one look at them and moved upstairs for the duration.  Katie is the only one who comes downstairs, and she generally likes to supervise from the middle of the dining room table, where all the action is.

Tonight she's paying the price.  She's been out cold like this on the bookcase for over an hour, with no sign that she's moving anytime soon.

Actually, I feel pretty much the same way.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

African dolls

I drafted this post a few weeks ago, scheduled it, and didn't notice when it didn't appear.  So it's a little belated, but here it is.

I'm not sure if I've posted about these particular dolls before, but if I have, now there are more.

I made the first African doll for a co-worker at a former temp job.  Her granddaughter was looked after by a neighbor from Liberia who wore traditional clothing.  She wanted her granddaughter to have a doll that looked like her caregiver, and to grow up knowing that friends -- and dolls -- come in all colors and costumes.

I posted a photo of the doll when I made it, and it sold before I turned it over to my co-worker customer.  Thankfully there was more fabric, so I made her another.

After that, I made more and listed them on Etsy, and when the original fabric sold out, I found some authentic wax print fabric at the thrift store, and reached out to my sewing friends for any scraps they might have on hand.  (Being sewers, they had scraps and were happy for them to find a home that wasn't theirs).

The doll on the left isn't actually authentic fabric, but I loved the pink/gold/brown combination.  The green/white and pink/lime/black are real African textiles.

I don't always take these to craft shows because they list a little higher than the standard dolls, but when I did my a recent show in Swarthmore I took the 3 pictured here, and the green-and-white one in the center came home alone.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Finished Quilt

The baby quilt is done!

Once I decided how I wanted it to look, it took far less time than I had expected.

It's a 9 block quilt, I'd call it "log cabin inspired" more than anything, since there's a central motif and the pieces around it are more or less mirroring the idea of a log cabin quilt.

But it's not exactly one, which is about what I'd expect from me.

Because not all the blocks were the same size, and because I wanted to use some of the other pieces of clothing that didn't make it into the blocks, I did strips in between each block and around the edges.  It used up a bit more fabric and added a few more prints to the mix.

I have to give props to a mom who dresses her child in such nicely coordinating colors.  There were literally only a few pieces I didn't use, and most of them would have still worked.

When I sent her a progress picture and told her I was going to back it in a neutral fabric I had on hand, she was fine with that.  We also decided on a light gray binding, which was from a gray t-shirt I had in my stash for that purpose.

All the years that I thought I didn't need a serger.  I could kick myself, except then I'd have to take my foot off the pedal of my serger.  Because every piece of fabric in this is a knit, this entire quilt was assembled with my serger.

I think my favorite bit is the central LOVE panel.  It was two sides of a jacket with a separating zipper.  I reinforced it before cutting, removed enough of the zipper top and bottom to be able to run it through the machine without hurting anything, and kept it as is.  I could have probably picked out the zipper and sewn the fabric together, but to me that would have changed the point of the piece -- it's meant to be Katy's outgrown baby clothes, and losing the zipper would, to me, lose some of that.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Chicken Update

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 3, 2017

Baby Clothes Baby Quilt

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

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

But of course!

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Still more blankets

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

And I'm okay with that.

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Last day of school

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Strange days. I made a dress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Broody Birdy

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

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

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

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

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

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