Monday, August 20, 2018

Close to home

A few weeks ago, we had a hot spell that didn't want to end.  I'm generally pretty accepting of weather; it can get unpleasant, but it's going to end sooner or later, and then we'll have something different to complain about (like the biblical rains we've had recently).

But this heat wave was a bit more than I was up for.  The worst thing was it was trapping me in the house under a fan, and since it's summer, I want to explore my new surroundings. 

One morning, I got out around 8:30, right after Mario left for work, and headed west from our house.  We'd already walked north a ways, and south and east led to areas covered by our drive back to Philly each day.

A few blocks from the house, I saw a little sign that said "swedish cabin."  I'd seen that sign before, on the main road we used to get to Philly or further west.  No idea what it was, though. 

I followed the arrow on the sign to the next sign, and the next.  Eventually, I came to a sign that said "swedish cabin, 3/4 mile" with one last arrow.  This took me up a quiet, paved road along Darby Creek. 

There were mid-week fishermen along the banks, but no other traffic.  I walked for about a half hour (longer than it would normally take, but it was already in the 80s), and eventually, the trees on either side gave way to a clearing.

The cabin, according to the little historic marker out front, was built between 1630 and 1650, which makes it the oldest surviving building in Pennsylvania. It was originally intended as a trading post for Swedish settlers and Native Americans, and after that it had a fairly checkered history.

By the 1970s, it had fallen into disrepair and was heavily vandalized.  A "friends of" group formed, had it designated historic and began restoration.  Now it's open on Sunday afternoons for a few hours for tours, but otherwise, it's just this lovely quiet spot at the end of a quiet road.  With water.

I'm a sucker for water.  If I'm hot, the only thing that really makes me feel better, is finding running water to splash around in - or at least put my feet in. 

I found a bank that wasn't too muddy, took off my shoes, and did just that.  It was cold, fast-moving, and the feel of the water moving over my feet took my body temperature down a good 20 degrees.

I sat there for a while, until I heard voices on the path, and a few joggers arrived with the same idea.  We nodded and said hello, and after a few minutes I got up, shook myself dry, and started back toward home, in a totally different frame of mind.

I'm not a big fan of exercise for its own sake.  I'll run, if I'm being chased, but as a recreational activity, it's overrated in m book.  At some point, I'll get my bike put together and have that option, but for now, I'm on foot.

It's just been lovely finding so many quiet, green places close to home that make me feel like we've moved much further from the city than we have.

The best part of this little morning wander away from home was the clearing effect it had on my head.  I'd been puzzling away on how I wanted to start on a project (the happy family of critters I wrote about recently), and when I got in from my walk, I went right to the machine and started work and it all made sense.

A few days later, it got a bit cooler and I got Mario to walk out there with me on the weekend.  I found a more direct route than the follow-the-signs route I took the first time, and the whole walk (about 1.5 miles) took a little over a half hour. 

Coming back, we took a slight variation that I had noticed on my walk, but not taken.  I already wanted to get back to my sewing machine, and I was afraid that another side trip would distract me - and it would have.  Turns out there's a whole recreation area down there by the creek, with areas for cookouts, a swimming hole, a water fall, and - most fun for me to watch - ropes for adventurous swimmers (all adolescent boys) to swing out over the water.

This path took us out to a dog park near the main road, and when we got there, we realized we passed that park nearly every time we drove west, without knowing any of it was back there.

Driving can be nice if you know where you're going, but if you're trying to explore a new place, there's nothing better than getting lost on foot, and finding out for yourself what's close to home. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

At last

It's finally done. Or as close to done as it's going to get right now, since I probably shouldn't have been working on it at all.

But a maker's gonna do what a maker's gonna do.

We've been here since March, and even before we moved in, I knew what I was going to have to do with my work space. In the old house, I had an enormous 4 x 8 conference table as my workspace, but that wasn't going to work here. The whole room is only 8 x 10. I spent some time at the office browsing Ikea for ideas, and ended up deciding on two 5 foot long work tables, one at standard height and one with adjustable legs so that I could have a cutting surface that wouldn't wreck my back. I printed out the list of what I needed, and put it aside until there was time to deal with it.

Is there ever time? I worked on a few commissions, and started trying to get ready for spring craft shows, but I wasn't really motivated. I did it, but I was thankful there weren't very many shows scheduled.

Then one day, I just couldn't take it anymore. I went online and found that Ikea was running a sale. All the things I wanted were 10% off. Sounds like a sign from the craft gods to me. I ordered everything, paid an extra $5 to have them pull it for me, and we drove down to Ikea the next day and loaded my entire new workroom into the Outback.

Needless to say, I probably should have painted the room before I built the furniture and hung old pictures on the walls. But I will get to that eventually. Or not. The important thing is I'm working, steadily and well.

Turns out I wasn't unmotivated at all I was just uncomfortable.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Happy Family

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a woman who owns a shop in South Philadelphia.  I've sold things there occasionally, and she's the organizer of some of my favorite craft shows.  She had someone looking for custom work.

The customer had written and self-published a picture book for her soon-to-be grandson, based in part on a small stuffed monkey she had purchased.  She wanted someone to make the monkey's parents - who were, obviously, a bear (mom) and a beaver (dad).  Because storybook. 

I met her at a coffee shop near my office.  She brought the book and the monkey toy.  I looked through the book, took photos of a few illustrations to get color ideas, and we shook on it.

These aren't  the same as my usual animals, and they're probably never to be duplicated, because I didn't enjoy the process of making them that much, but I did enjoy the end result.

I brought the monkey home with me (because he needed shorts), and I spent a day or two fiddling around with ideas and making drawings.  But every time I looked at my fabric stash, I drew a blank.

There was no rush - she asked for them within 30 days because she was going to visit her daughter then - so I knew I had some time to puzzle it out.

Then, on a Thursday, about a week before they were due, when I was still looking at a monkey with no shorts, and some dark brown cashmere blend sweater fabric, I gave up and took a walk.  It had been hot out for the better part of 10 days, and this was the first middling-hot day and I needed out.

I started walking west from the house, toward Clifton Heights.  We've driven up that way but I don't know the area at all yet, so I thought I would just walk for a while and see what there was to be seen. 

Soon I encountered a sign that said "Swedish Cabin," which turned out to be (possibly) the oldest building in Pennsylvania, built in the 1600s as a trading post.  It was about a 1.5 mile walk from my house, but I got to sit on a rock and soak my feet in the icy-cold Darby Creek for a half hour, and then I walked home again.

When I went upstairs to my workroom, all of a sudden the project made sense.  I started cutting up the fabric, and by the time Mario got home from work, I had completed the beaver (complete with suede tail), his turquoise suit, and was about half done the bear. 

Sometimes you just need to get away from a project and get some fresh air and exercise, and everything falls into place.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Labor and delivery

Sometime last year, at least a month before Christmas, my friend Danni (pictured here) messaged me and wanted to order a doll. She said it didn't have to be done by the holidays, because she knew I was crazy, but anytime after that.

After that, of course, I started packing. Then we moved. Then I unpacked. I didn't even get much spring craft show sewing done, though I did enough that I didn't embarrass myself at the few events I scheduled.

Every so often, as I packed, unpacked, and sewed, I'd remember the doll. And then something else would crop up, and I put it off. I had fabric put aside but that was the extent of my work at that point.

Then, one day on Instagram, she messaged me and said, "Babe, it's been 6 months! Are you making the doll or giving birth to it?"

Sometimes you need to light a fire under my ass. The doll was done and in her hands within two days.

I just wish I could make a doll that had her smile.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Happy Fourth!

We recently had another time travel incident.  The calendar may say 2018, but in Lansdowne, it felt like some earlier, less contentious (but still very diverse) time.

There was a parade in the morning, which I did not attend because we had six straight days of temps in the high 90s and I could not move from under my fan . . .  on the first floor, where we've taken up residence lately because it got too hot too fast to put the AC in the bedroom window.  So Mario's on the couch in the living room, and I'm in the next room on the loveseat.  It works, for now, but guess what's happening when it cools off?

Going by the photos, the parade was standard Americana - fire engines, string bands (for you non-Philly readers, just go Google "Mummers Parade" and thank me later), kids on homemade floats, high school bands.

I honestly didn't know people still did this stuff.  

In the evening, there was a concert and fireworks down on the high school football field.  The town officially stopped fireworks a while back, but the local athletic association didn't want to let them go, so they fundraise every year, in addition to selling tickets to the actual event.. We bought tickets - though the fireworks were certainly visible outside the school field, and outside the town, it just seemed more fun to sit on the bleachers and ooh and aah with our neighbors.

I was impressed.  Small town it may be, but these fireworks were as good as any I've seen on the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philly, without being shoulder-to-shoulder with several hundred thousand sweaty, semi-drunken people.  There was even a pre-show concert, and the girl singing the national anthem at the beginning of the video can certainly hold her own.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Looking like Revolution

But it's only the neighbors starting their July45th celebration a few days early.

Wednesday is a full-on small town parade (let's see if I can get out of the house by 9 a.m.) followed in the evening by a concert and then a fireworks display at the high school field.

I've never been big on going to see fireworks. The crowds, the annoyance of trying to get home after.  But these are about 6 blocks from our house, so I'm all in.

Monday, June 25, 2018

African Dolls

 I recently listed a new batch of African dolls in my Etsy shop.  I hadn't made any in a while, and I came across some remnants of wax print fabric while I was unpacking, and decided it was time.

I think I mentioned before that the first of these was made for a former co-worker, who had an African neighbor who took care of her granddaughter.  When the woman prepared to return home, my friend asked for a piece of her clothing and asked me to make a doll so that her granddaughter would always remember her.

They're fun to make, and I love the colors and prints of the fabrics.  I've found a few bits in thrift stores, in addition to using the leftovers from the first doll, but most of these were from remnants provided by sewing friends.

These tend to sell better online than in person, for some reason.  I sold one last fall at an outdoor event - a little girl fell in love with the doll, and was starting a spectacular meltdown when her grandfather told her she couldn't have it.  She didn't understand why, but when I looked at him, I did.

His wife looked from the doll to me to the granddaughter, and elbowed him in the ribs.  "Give her the doll," she said.  "She's growing up in a different world than we did, and there's no point in trying to stop it."

I think he would have liked to try, but the women - his wife, his granddaughter, the doll and me - won out in the end.

And though I admit I didn't like why he didn't want to buy the doll for her, I give credit where it's due.  He knew his wife was right.  That little girl is growing up in a different world, and there isn't anything he can do to stop it.