Monday, May 22, 2017

And then there were four

Garden girl
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been through this, it always hurts. And there’s always a surprisingly big hole in the house from the loss of a small cat.

We lost Alice on Saturday. It was completely unexpected. We came home from an afternoon errand, and when I went upstairs, I saw her on the bed and went to pet her. Alice was always skittish; she didn’t come in until she was at least 3, and she had that female-cat-on-the-street wariness that never wore off, even when she wanted to relax.

She let me pet her head for a bit, then rolled over, put her leg in the air and began to wash. I started to turn away, and my eye was caught by something red. There was a large, red, fleshy thing under her tail that hadn’t been there the day before.

Tired mama cat, still outside
Side note: why is it that pets never get sick except for nights, weekends and holidays when your regular vet isn’t available? 

We took her down to Penn Vet Hospital, which is only about 8 blocks away (and which I have taken advantage of more times than I can count in the 17 years I’ve lived in my house). They were pretty busy, but she was seen quickly and after about 1.5 hours a resident came out to talk to me and get a history.

I gave her Alice’s background, including the fact that she reacted badly to anesthesia and that I generally let her issues ride, in the hopes that they would heal on their own (a cut paw and an eye infection healed; she had to be vetted for her bad teeth). Because the thing on her rear looked so odd – red, but not bloody, and recent – I asked if it could be possible that Alice had actually pooped out some of her insides.

Thinking about life indoors (with Max)
The resident said that a prolapse was possible, though usually it was a dog thing, not a cat thing. She said that would be a good thing because they could just give her a light sedative, reinsert it and put in a few stitches. Fingers were crossed. About a half hour later, the real vet came out with the news. 

It wasn’t a prolapse, it was a mass; but yes, she had actually strained so hard that she pooped out the mass. It had probably been growing for a while, giving her some trouble in the litterbox, but not enough to actually cause the kind of discomfort that would make her alert me to a problem. He said that she was sitting calmly in her cage, alternating between snacking and cleaning this newly-found piece of her anatomy without a seeming care in the world.

Which, to me, at least meant that she wasn’t in pain yet. I already knew that mass = not a good thing = either remove or euthanize. I said to the vet that I didn’t really want to put her through sedation and surgery at the age of 15, and asked his thoughts. He said that he agreed (which was surprising, because Penn is generally very eager to part you from your money) and said that the surgery wouldn’t be as complicated as the recovery, due to where the mass was. It would be difficult to keep clean, and she obviously wouldn’t be able to use the area for a while. I didn’t even ask if he was talking about a bowel resection or something traumatic like that, I just told him that I would wait in the exam room until he brought Alice in so I could spend a little time with her.

Which he did, and we had a nice, un-Alice-like cuddle. Which to me feels almost like she knew what was coming and could finally relax. After about 15 minutes, he came back and gave her the first shot, which would relax her and eventually make her go to sleep. While that was kicking in, I rubbed both her always-itchy ears and could feel her feet moving in the blanket. Then, slowly, they stopped and her purring quieted. He gave her the second shot, and later I walked home with the empty carrier.

I’ve been here before. It’s never easy, but this was easier than some. There are worse things than going before you realize you’re sick, before you’re in pain. There are worse things than making the decision to let a loved kitty go before you’re ready, but she is.

We had her for 12 years after she invited herself in on Valentine’s Day 2005 by climbing onto my porch roof and scratching at my bedroom window. She was at least 15, and probably felt older sometimes after spending her early years on the street and having at least 3 litters of kittens. She wouldn’t have made it 12 years out there.

Alice. Alice Marie. Little Alice Roundhead. A-Bomb. Alley Rabbit. Rabbit Cat. Bunny Cat. Bunniqua. Owlis.  Little Mama.

She was all those cats and more. Mom to Nicky and Harriet, both still around (one oblivious, one looking for her). She will be missed.

Thursday, May 18, 2017




These weren't blooming a week ago, but apparently Mother Nature has decided she's tired of endless March and has gone straight to July.  It's 90 today, and 2 days ago, it was 40.  Go figure.

One part of my landscaping that might not have survived all the weather-induced drama is my young street tree.  You'll note the leafless shadow on the sidewalk.  It had begun to bud and we got one last, hard frost and all the leaf buds turned black and fell off.  Now it just looks sad.

Maybe it'll come back.  And one thing I've learned in all my years of gardening is that there's no point in crying over a dead plant (or tree).  It's just an opportunity to try planting something new.

Happy spring, everyone.  Hopefully you haven't gone from shivering to sweating in the space of a few days.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


My local thrift store.  Photo courtesy 2nd Mile Center
I had to share a something that happened yesterday.  I was heading out to lunch with another woman from the offioce, walking down to Reading Terminal (a large indoor food market in Philly), and because she didn't have her jacket, we decided to cut through Macy's instead of walking around the building.

I can't tell you the last time I was in a department store, let alone a Macy's at lunch hour, with the big Wanamaker's organ playing in the background and an anthill worth of people milling around.  Why do those stores always feel like it's Christmas?

It stopped me for a second.  All the stuff was just overwhelming, and I realized as we continued our walk that the extent of my shopping in the last few years has been for food or fabric, or at thrift stores.  Being inside an actual, huge retail establishment was weirdly disorienting.

Macy's at Christmas. Photo courtesy Getty Images.
And yet, that kind of shopping used to be a way of life.  Maybe not department stores (at least for purchasing), but I was a happy browser and would go in any store and look around, more often than not coming out with a bag of something that I didn't really need -- and probably just recently unearthed and donated.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Time to let go

While I wouldn't call myself a hoarder, I do keep things.  Lots of things.  Some for sentimental reasons, some because they're useful.

Some because I just haven't found the right home for them, and they can't just be given away.

I've had my set of Anne of Green Gables books since I was a kid.  The first book came for my 9th birthday, and I accumulated the rest over the next few years with my allowance money.

I loved those books.  And they couldn't just go to the thrift store or get left in a free box.  They needed to go to someone who would also love them.

Last week in sewing class, one of the girls said she wished she could just be left alone to read, write, sew and pet her cat, and I knew I'd found the right person.  I checked with her mom to make sure she didn't already have them, and once that was confirmed, I dug them out and got them ready for their new home.

Hopefully Phoebe, and her younger sister, Hannah, will get as much enjoyment from these books as I did.

And it's good when the universe puts the right person in front of you know when it's time to let go.

Thursday, May 4, 2017


Well, I survived the weekend.  Barely.

Sometimes you just have to realize you're not Superwoman.

To say that I was exhausted after 2 long days of being personable, on my feet, in the sun (and dealing with the inevitable sunburn because I never remember sunscreen), would be an understatement.

And then I strained my back.  Not badly, just enough that when I went to work on Monday, I knew I should have stayed home, and flat.  So I contacted my afterschool sewing program, made sure my assistant could cover for the day, and stayed home and flat on Tuesday.

That evening, I got a text from Kia.  She'd left a package for me in the box on my porch.  When I went to get it, this was inside -- a little something from the kids, who apparently missed the teacher who spends all her time saying, "No, you can't do that."  "Get off the table."  "Stop climbing on the window seat."  "Don't lean out the window."  "Those are sharp, don't poke her."  "Don't wave the scissors around."  "Didn't you hear me the first time?"

They missed that.  Awww.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Opening Weekend

It's bigger than baseball.  It's bigger than football.  It's bigger than the Penn Relays and the NFL Draft, both of which are also taking place this weekend in Philadelphia.

It's the opening weekend of show season.

It starts Saturday, and it just keeps rolling.

Saturday, 4/29, I'm at The Woodlands (Cemetery) at 40th & Woodland from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  This is always one of my favorite spring events -- I love Woodland Cemetery anyway, and walk there all the time, but it's a wonderful contrast, the serene graveyard and then the near-circus (literally) that's going on in front.

It's a good time.

On Sunday, I'm trying a new event called Flavors on the Avenue, also from 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  This event has existed previously, but prior to this year it was simply a restaurant festival in South Philly.  This year they decided to add vendors to turn it into a proper street festival, so I hopped on board.

I do two shows a year on Passyunk Avenue -- Bang Boom Craft, which is combined with a vintage car show and occurs at the end of July, and the annual Halloween show.  Both are good days, and the organizer of those events is the one who pulled the vendors together for Flavors.

Let's see: nice weather, lots of food, alcohol being served on the street . . . and shopping?  I'm always in favor of events that allow alcohol; it either lowers the shopping inhibition or it gives the spouses something to do while the other half shops.

I have a seriously large quantity of stuff made, so here's hoping I come home with a lot less of it.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Find your tribe

Getting ready for show season in two weeks.  The machines are humming, the fabric is flying and me, I'm tired.  But that's okay.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Spring Cleaning

One of the problems with having a big house is cleaning it.

Another problem is that, even having hauled a metric shot-ton of stuff over the past few months, I have a lot of stuff.  Which also needs cleaning.

First world problems, I know.  My house is too big, sigh.  I have to clean it, sigh.

But still.  I live in the first world, and occasionally I have to deal with its problems.

This past weekend I did a mother-daughter sewing workshop at the house (in the dining room) and thus,the house had to be cleaned.

Yeah, seeing a deer head on the wall will distract momentarily from the dust bunnies hopping merrily down the hall, but if people stay long enough, reality will start to creep in around the edges.

So we cleaned.  Mario tackled the powder room off the kitchen and I excavated the dining room. It was amazing how much stuff ended up in there that belonged in other rooms.  Then we polished furniture and scared ourselves with the unfamiliar smell of lemon.

And now it's clean. It looks good, if I do say so.  Sharing simply because it won't last and I want to remember it.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Move over Bonnie

There are new chicks in town.

Meet Grace and Frankie.  (And now you know a little bit about my Netflix viewing habits).

They came from a farm in New Jersey which had, in addition to chickens, ducks, sheep and goats.  I want a goat.  Since chickens are still illegal in Philadelphia, I think a goat might be crossing a line.

We picked them up on Sunday after I did a couple of fittings for prom dress alterations, and got them settled in their coop. They came home, if you can't tell, in a cat carrier.

Two hens, one white (Grace), and one red/brown (Frankie). Both brown egg layers,and both apparently dumb as rocks since neither one can figure out that they're supposed to sleep on the perch in the roost.  First night, one slept in the straw up in the roost and the other downstairs by the waterer.  The next night, they both made it upstairs.  One even slept in the nest box.

Best thing about having chickens again? I'll actually spend time in the garden. Last year I put in a ton of veggie starts,and then Bonnie died. Without a reason to be in the yard twice a day, the weeds took over.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The dolls have something to say

I started thinking about making these dolls around the election, and after the Women's March on January 21, when I saw just how many women (and men) had their children with them, I made a list of words that I wanted to embroider on my next lot of dolls.

That was as far as the project got, because of orders and various other things that got in the way.

But now I've finally gotten moving.  I'm back in my friend's office three days a week, and one of the first things I did there was sell three dolls -- two that said "Resist" and one that said "Persist."

The dolls pictured here are the ones left over from that initial sewing frenzy:

Love, Peace, Dream, Wild, Feminist and Believe.

They are going into the Etsy shop today, with the note that they are also available in other skin / hair / eye color combinations.  I know this collection looks rather Caucasian, but that's only because I tend to batch sew, so that I don't have to change thread color.  There are medium and dark bits stacked on the sewing table, waiting their turn to be attached to the appropriate dresses.

Resist and Persist will be returning with the next batch of girls.

Can you think of any other words that would work?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Grove of Giants

I've posted many times before about Woodlands Cemetery, my local Victorian-era cemetery, walking destination and general happy place.

I went there this morning after a trip to the post office, both because it was spring (again, for what, maybe the third time in three weeks?) and because I knew there had been some changes.

A few weeks ago on Facebook, the cemetery announced that the Grove of Giants, which was a group of enormous English elm trees toward the back of the cemetery (and the actual last standing grove of English elms in the U.S.) had become infected with Dutch Elm disease.  They had attempted to treat the trees, but the infection had spread and the trees were becoming hazardous.

The sad decision was that the trees had to be cut down.  The second part of the decision (which I liked) was that they would leave as much of the trunk as would be safe, both as a haven for wildlife - of which the cemetery has much - and as a tribute to the massive presence those trees had on the grounds.

The remaining trunks have to be at least ten to fifteen feet high.  If you don't look straight up, you can almost pretend the trees are still there, except that the shade is gone.

Seeing the trunks scattered among the gravestones, they seem almost more monument than the man-made ones beneath.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Easter. Rising.

So, I made rabbits.

I've made them before, generally as part of the receiving-blanket-bear marathon, but this year I decided to pull a few out of my hat for Easter.

Because why not?

(That, and I had some appropriately colored cashmere sweaters to tear into).

This little guy here, high on life and Easter eggs, is ivory cashmere with gingham accents.  I think he's pretty cute.

The second set, seen recently as photo props in my post about the Precious, are a combination of a lime green cashmere and a cotton/lycra sweater in Easter-y rainbow stripes.  The ears and foot pads are bright pink jersey from my t-shirt scrap bag.

The colors look almost edible, don't they?

I'm dropping a few more bunnies off at one of the shops I deal with, but I'm leaving the ivory one and at least one of the green striped ones with me so I can put them in the Etsy shop.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Working. My Way.

So sometimes it feels like the universe is conspiring to get you to do a particular thing.  And if you're me, your first response is "nah."  You want me to do it, so not going to.  Even if it might be in my best interests.

Thankfully with maturity comes a speeding up of that process, where I go from "nah" to "maybe" to "well, this might actually be a good idea" in a much shorter time.

I was temping last week at one of the offices that I frequent, and one of the secretaries gave 3 weeks' notice.  Everyone immediately started joking that I would be back in 3 weeks to cover for her, and I went cold.  It's not that it isn't a nice enough firm; I've been in and out of there for 4 summers now, the people are fine and I can do the work, but (a) this girl's attorneys aren't among my favorites, (b) I really don't want to spend another solid summer there, working potentially 4-5 days a week because they're busy, and (c) they're just getting too used to me being their beck-and-call girl.

Cue the sound of rescue.  My phone buzzed and it was a text from my friend Dianne, at whose firm I have also temped (and we even worked there together back in the late 80s).  I've been back there several times on longterm assignments when her secretary was out on disability.  (Her secretary left over a year ago, but the firm rearranged staff and they weren't looking to hire then).  Well, her new secretary gave notice and did I want to work 3 days a week?

I texted back: "For how long?"

"Up to you," she responded.

I went in yesterday to spend a day with her current assistant just going over what things were new since my last visit (not many, other than an upgrade to the computer system).  They let me spend a day at the desk just poking around the system, learning the upgrades and setting up the computer the way it suited me.  I set up my voicemail and email messages, chose my desk location (the area with the most natural light) and got myself ready for next week, when I'll start doing M-W-F.

For how long?

Well, that's the issue.  Part of me really, really doesn't want to commit to even permanent part-time work, because, well, it feels like I'm giving in.  Going back to the grind.

But . . .

These people aren't a grind.  The work isn't that hard, and it's the kind of work I can do while planning out my sewing to do list as I type.  They buy my stuff.  They're flexible -- I can work whatever 3 days suits me, so if I have a weekend show, I can work Thursday instead of Friday.  I have sewing camps booked at my house this summer, and they're okay working around that.  The money is the best of all my temp jobs.

And there is that, the money.  The Etsy shops do okay (especially this past October-December with the crazy publicity from Babble and Scary Mommy).  Craft shows are even better.  But they're seasonal, they're uneven and often dependent on weather.  It would be nice to have a steady income which would be supplemented by the handmade business, so I could go back to putting money toward retirement.  I still have a good bit of savings, but I would like to feel a little more prepared.  I would also like to be able to consider vacations without having to do mental math that involved Peter, Paul and taking from both of them.

I decided I would give it a few weeks and think about it.  And then at lunch, I ran into one of the attorneys who works at my third temp job, the place that hires me every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and actually pays me to decorate their tree.  Apparently they're closing down shop at the end of the year and won't be needing my services.

So, job 1 - demand for more hours with less pleasant people; job 2 - disappearing.  Job 3 - pleasant people, good money, hours of my choice.

Not sure what there is left to decide, but I'm still thinking.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Precious

I read recently, either on Instagram or Facebook, that some Patternreview members were going to do their best in 2017 to sew up "the Precious."

For those who don't sew, or (somehow) don't stash, the Precious is the fabric that is so breathtaking, so perfect, so . . . unusable that we buy it, we pet it frequently, and we never cut into it because no project that we can think of is ever good enough for the Precious.

Yeah, I have a lot of Precious left.

But not as much as I did.

I bought this candy pink embroidered velvet at PR Weekend in 2007, at Metro Textiles.  I bought it, gods forgive me, to make jeans for myself.

Pink. Embroidered. Velvet. Jeans.

Even 10 years ago, I didn't have the ass for pink embroidered velvet jeans.  This is not being down on my body, just realistic.  (And even if I did have the correct ass for said jeans, in the intervening decade, my desire to make them or wear them has gone down exponentially).

So I turned the velvet into 4 toddler dresses to list in my Etsy shop for Easter.  They don't have a lot of embellishment because this fabric doesn't actually need anything more done to it.

And that's 2.5 yards of Precious gone.  I feel lighter.

Almost like I could fit into those jeans.  Almost.

Monday, February 20, 2017


Nothing to say here, just a photo to share.

This is a very special corner of my workroom - nothing useful, just beautiful things that make me happy whenever I walk into the room.  Most of them started out in other areas of the house, and as I've been trying to pare down and give myself less things to dust, they've migrated here.

Most of my family photos have ended up here as well.  They used to live in the bedroom, but now the only photo on the dresser is of me and Mario.  I took the rest of the family down around the time that my aunt died and I was sick of the lot of them (even though there are literally none of those pictured people left alive).

Family.  You can never get rid of them, even if you try.

Other bits: the cat mask on the top shelf is from my vacation to Venice.  The ceramic cat on the right is my first piggy bank.

The second shelf is a stuffed cat pincushion I love, a lantern Christmas ornament from my great-aunt, and a recycled sweater animal from another maker, Sweet Poppy Cat.

Third shelf, small barn painting from Anna Roberts Art, tiny gargoyle I bought for my mom in Paris, and crow artwork by Strange Farm Girl.  That one's a recent acquisition, but it seems to fit.

Bottom shelf: wooden angel found on the street, a few more vintage ornaments, and a teacup I bought in London for my great aunt.  As relatives die off, the gifts return.  Glad I always buy things that I like as well.  

This is the only corner of the room that doesn't have either fabric, sewing machines or active projects.  (Though if you look closely, the corner of the bookcase is showing part of my collection of Burda magazines).

Friday, February 17, 2017

Hello Dolly

So the last thing I need is another project.

Which is not to say I'll turn one down if it appears, especially if it's time and labor intensive, with the added bonus of being fragile and hard to handle.

About 25 years ago, I purchased my first antique doll.  There used to be a shop on Philly's antique row that specialized in dolls. I fogged their front window for ages before I got up the nerve to :-O in.

My first doll is part of the group photo below, the one in pink.  When I bought her, she had no clothes. I happily took on the challenge of Edwardian era children's clothing, scrounging vintage fabrics and trims at flea markets.

One doll led to another. When I bought my house, I sold a few of the girls, the more valuable ones, but I kept my favorites.

I haven't had an urge to add to the family for ages.

Then last week, Mario and I took a weekday off for a trip to the flea market and lunch. Technically it was my (day after) birthday observation, but I'm always up for food and a market.

I was doing good, not spending, until I saw her.  No shoes, no original clothing, wig in desperate need of a wash, but the bones were there.  Beautiful face, body in excellent condition with no need of restringing, and a maker (Gans & Seyfarth) I didn't have.

The price was okay but not fabulous. Considering what she needed, I tried bargaining.  Which worked, because the seller wanted to get rid of her and his wife wasn't there to veto the price drop.

So now I have a project. She needs a new hairstyle, underwear, shoes, clothing and a hat.

So, not much. I can do that in my spare time, right?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


I saw a UFO the other day.

It wasn't in the sky; it was in my workroom.

Let me explain.  My workroom is always a mess; I tend to work better when there's a bit of chaos around, but even I had gotten to the point where I realized it was out of control.

On Friday, January 20, I decided that the best way to spend the day was to avoid the TV at all costs, and start cleaning the room.  It helped that I had just sold something on Craiglist that was currently in the room, under a pile of fabric, holding apparently even more fabric.  So I started there, pulling out the vintage trunk (which was absolutely beautiful, but round-topped and so hard to stack on, and, embarrassingly, there's another one in the attic anyway) and emptied it.  There was a ton of fabric in there that I could use right now, some of which I'd forgotten I owned.  So that's sort of a win?

Continuing on all week with the TV avoidance (though not social media; if we're friends there, you know my feelings and how abundantly I've shared them), I got the trunk out, added a metal shelving unit from the basement to better organize fabric, cleaned out the standing cedar closet (and its stackable bins inside), threw out/donated another 3 trash bags of stuff, and thought I was finished.

There was one more trunk left under the table, and against my better judgment,I moved everything aside and dragged it out.

Inside was stuff I literally haven't seen in over a decade, including a quilt that I started making shortly after I bought the house (2000), and drafted a review for in Patternreview's UFO Contest back in 2006 (but never posted because it didn't get finished after all).

I was trying to stitch down the rows of squares on my machine, and I didn't notice until I'd sewn a few rows that the backing fabric had gone crooked, pulling the whole thing out of alignment.  Instead of simply picking the stitches out and starting over, I folded it up and shoved it in a box.  For 10 years.

Last night I laid it out on the bed, over top of the comforter (which actually came with me when I moved in 2000), and it looks really good in the bedroom.  I fetched a seam ripper, ripped out those three rows of stitching, grabbed some  yarn and a big needle, and yarn-tied the entire thing in an hour.

So now all I need to do is bind the edges and I can add the 16 year old comforter to the donation pile and sleep the sleep of the righteous under my finally-finished UFO quilt.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Okay, so politics. I try not to do this here, other than immediately after the election -- but if you know me in person or on Facebook, you know my feelings about everything that's happened in the last few weeks.

What has been interesting to me is finding out what I actually believe. I mean, I was outraged at the idea of a Muslim ban and that the idea of building a wall. But being outraged and then actually seeing the crowds protesting in airports when people -- who were vetted, had visas, or were actual green card carrying already-citizens of these United States -- were turned away, well that was a different story. That was really, really upsetting to me and it took a while to realize why. Turns out I actually believe that whole Statue of Liberty "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" thing.

And hello, there's this whole Wall thing. I always thought it was an awful idea.  Knowing how much it's going to cost, and whether Mexico ever pays for it -- which they won't -- there are so many better, more practical, more humane things to do with those billions of dollars. People who are in favor of the Wall and/or the ban say we should take care of our own before accepting refugees from other countries.

For $14 billion, we could take care of our own, and still accept refugees. We could take care of our own for far less than that, but we haven't. And this isn't directed at anyone in particular. There are a lot of good people out there -- and I know quite a few of them -- who do the right thing, and who do more than their fair share. Any finger pointing here is at the government, at Congress, which has never come up with a plan to take care of all Americans and been able to pass it.

So, the Wall.  Flash forward to Super Bowl Sunday.  I'm not a football fan.  If I watch of the game, it's the commercials and the halftime show. and those are conveniently located on YouTube so I don't even have to turn on the TV.  I did watch the commercial from 84 Lumber that got all the controversy  I saw the both versions, the one was shown on TV and then the unedited version and honestly, when the woman and her little girl walk up to this huge ass Wall, blank-faced, towering over them, it was a gut punch.

This Is Not Who We Are.

Are there people in the country who don't have proper paperwork?  Yes.  Have some of them committed crimes?  Yes.  Could someone admit, though, that there aren't very many of the criminal variety and that the "undocumented" variety of people don't have it easy, and aren't living high on the hog on our taxpayer dollars?  I'm sure they'd rather be legal.  I'm sure they'd rather be able to live in the country of their birth and make a living wage.  I'm sure most of them aren't making much of a living wage even here in this land of opportunity, but that is no reason to slam a door or build a wall in the faces of people who come to this country looking for something better, much less escaping probable death.

The times when America shut its doors -- turning away a ship full of Jewish refugees during WWII, sending them back to the death camps of Europe, or interning Japanese-Americans because they looked like the enemy -- are low points in our history.

I don't want to be a part of the next low point, and I will do everything I can to prevent it.

** I've heard the comments speculating that 84 Lumber actually made the commercial about the door, because during the campaign it was said that after the wall was built, there would be a "big, beautiful door" for those who were legally allowed to enter the country, and others who said that it was basically a recruitment ad for day laborers for construction companies; I don't care.  It had an effect on me, which is to make me believe, more fervently than I knew I did, that my America isn't about walls or bans, but about inclusion.  Unless we're Native American, we all descend from people who came here from somewhere else, and those people all merged into this country with varying degrees of difficulty, but they did, and we're here now to prove it.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Happy Kid

I want every customer to be as happy as this kid looks with her new doll.

That is all.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Before and After

I have a ton of partly-written posts, which either need more words, the right words, or a few pictures to finish them off.

But this is ready now, so here it is.

One last Christmas stocking.  The materials (baby's first Christmas onesie, baby stocking and other holiday gear) were sent to me by the mom a few weeks after Christmas.  She wanted to deal with getting her daughter's stocking made now, before she packed away the baby stuff and lost her nerve about letting someone cut it up.

I was able to incorporate fabric from every piece of clothing (except the ruffled skirt on the dress, which is being held until later, because she wants to order a doll with a fluffy skirt), and got to use my embroidery machine to do the name.  Have I mentioned that I love that machine I never thought I would want?  The same way I love my serger that I never wanted.  You never know until you try, I guess.

More new stuff soon, I promise.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Favorite Things

Another random corner of my house -- this time, the living room.  The art is all by an early 20th century commercial artist named Haskell Coffin.

Most of it is advertising  art -- calendar girls, movie star portraits, etc. -- but the one in the center is my favorite, and the first piece of his that I bought.  She's a cut-down WWI-era poster for war saving stamps.  The poster originally read "Joan of Arc Saved France -- You Can Save Too."

I've seen the whole poster on Ebay, and it's not that expensive, but this is how I found Joan, and a friend framed her for me, so that's how she'll stay.

All the art in the living room is by the same artist.  I love that era of commercial illustration, and for a while he was very easy to find.  (Not so much anymore, possibly because I acquired most of it).

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Zero Waste

I share a lot of recycling art and random eco-friendly things that interest me over on my shop's Facebook page (every Tuesday, if you're so inclined to check it out), but this one was interesting enough (and long enough) to also put it here.  (Source is Huffington Post).

This is an amazing business model, using every single thread of fabric that other manufacturers have already discarded.  What would the world look like if more businesses operated like this?


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Now We are Six

This photo is from our second anniversary dinner (four years ago), shortly before I broke the news to Mario that I wanted to quit my job in April and try doing my own thing.

I was wearing my wedding dress (which I am not certain still fits, and I'm not trying it on tomorrow to risk hurting my feelings; besides, it's cold).  Mario was wearing the aqua shirt that I made for the wedding, as well.

He was looking particularly curly that night, which means as part of my anniversary gift, he let me scrunch his hair up and resisted combing / brushing / pulling his hands through it and straightening the curl.  At least until after the waiter took the picture.

Now that's love, people.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Favorite Things

My godmother's secretary desk, filled with random
 relative treasures that I can't part with, topped
by two taxidermied ravens. Because why not?
I'm trying to put more time into developing my vintage Etsy shop this year.  It's been around longer than the handmade shop, and has consistent sales, but up until recently it's had no Facebook presence.  As tired as I can get of social media, it does help with sales.

In some respects, vintage is easier, sales-wise.  People know those things exist, they just have to search for them.  With handmade, you have to anticipate not only what people will want, but how they're going to search for it.

On the other hand, it's a lot easier for me to do Instagram or Facebook about the handmade shop, because I'm more invested in the products -- I make them, after all, and I like to talk about them.

So a new feature on the vintage shop's Facebook page will be a Favorite Things post, photographs of vintage items in their natural habitat (i.e., my house).  That way it's not all product placement -- which Facebook's algorithm doesn't push at people, even if they follow the page -- and it's more personal.  Plus, I do love my vintage pieces, and I like to talk about them.  So maybe this is a way into it for me, as well as others.

Plus, you all get a disjointed tour of my messy house this way.  (I don't know about you, but I love snooping into people's lives, so . . . )

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Girls

Amazing how long it takes to make the simplest changes sometimes.  I've had my embroidery machine for a few months now, but every time I made a batch of dolls, they went right out the door to a craft show and then most of them didn't come home.

Which is a very good thing, but when I'm supposed to keep up with Etsy as well as in-person events, not so much.  The custom doll listing still had the photos from when I hand embroidered the faces, and after explaining to several buyers that the dolls no no longer looked precisely like the photos, I knew I had to get myself together and update my pictures.

Problem solved.  I had a few girls left post-Christmas and just made a new batch to drop off to stores this coming week.  I also did something logical and added a photo showing the 3 skin tones available for dolls, instead of just explaining that they can be made in light, medium or dark.  It's easier to say that hair is available in light and dark blonde, red, brown and black (plus fun colors), but everyone's idea of skin tones can vary.  This will hopefully clear up most questions.

Is there any other information you think should be included in the listing?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Snow Day

I'm not sure how much exercise I would ever get if this place wasn't in my neighborhood.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


My favorite orders are always the custom ones.  I love seeing what people come up with -- the thing they could never find, or a recreation of a long-lost toy.  Recently I was contacted on Etsy by someone who wanted a specific doll for her daughter.  A doll that isn't made.

Her daughter is in love with the grandmother character of a cartoon show that I've never even heard of.  There are dolls of the major characters, but Abuela didn't get a doll.  And that's who her five year old daughter wanted for Christmas.  When Christmas came, she was disappointed.  And then her mom thought to try Etsy, to see if anyone could make one.

The mom sent me a photo of the character -- which I'm not going to put up because it's licensed and I'm not and it's not an exact replica anyway, just an "inspired by," but still -- and I got to work.  The only fabric I didn't have on hand was light gray for the hair, but luckily the thrift store down the street had a pale gray men's shirt on the dollar rack.  I used the lower portion of the sleeve, so I still have a whole large shirt left for other projects.

I'm really loving my machine embroidered faces.  The hand embroidered ones had a different feel, but even when I was really moving, I couldn't do ten faces in a day -- and in busy season, that sometimes is what needs to be done.

All the other fabrics I had on hand -- the bright pink was the pocket from a skirt, the paisley was the back half of a vintage skirt that I'd cut up ages ago, the lace was two separate bundles of hem lace that probably arrived in a cookie tin from one or another elderly female relative.

She went to the post office on Tuesday, in time to arrive for a special birthday party this Saturday.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I've Still got Class

6 girls, 16 weeks, 18 pieces
At the mid-point of every semester, I decide I'm not going to teach the next time around.

Three times now I've made this decision, and three times now I've changed my mind.  They're little monsters, but they're starting to be my little monsters.

When the fall semester started, I panicked.  Sixteen weeks seemed like an eternity, and then I got an idea -- I would "suggest" to them that they do a service project, making stuffed toys to donate to our local Red Cross House.  I wasn't sure how the idea would fly, charity without a choice, but the other idea, a half dozen 10-12 year old girls all wanting to make different things, would drive me over the edge.  Not only that, it would make supply-gathering much more difficult.

Surprisingly, they were all for it.  Every so often there'd be grumbling about keeping a piece, but they were always shamed out of it by one of the other girls.  Eventually, with the holidays approaching, I instituted the "make three, keep one" rule.  Whenever a piece was finished, I bagged it and took it home so there would be no problems.

The Tuesday before Christmas was the final class, and, like the Grinch, I brought everything back.  We set it up in the main room for the parents to see when they came to pick the girls up, and at the end, only two pieces ended up going home, and those had been made deliberately as Christmas presents.

Class starts again on January 10th.  I know I've got at least 4 of the same girls again, and probably all 6.  I asked for suggestions as to what they would like to make this semester, and two of them asked if they could learn to quilt.  Part of me wilted at the suggestion, but then I thought of the 3 large bags of scraps in the class cupboard, and agreed.  My supply order this time was enough batting to make 8 crib-size quilts, a little more polyfill for a few remaining stuffed animals (I know they're not totally over that) and a few random supplies that were running low.

It's been lovely having a break, but I'm actually almost ready to go back and face my little monsters again.