Friday, January 30, 2015

Introducing the Gucci Bear

My latest custom bear is one of my favorites in a long time.  My customer said this sweater belonged to her father, who bought it in Italy on a family vacation 35 years ago.

It still had the original Gucci label inside the neck.  She asked for that back separately, but told me that I could do whatever I wanted with the rest of the sweater.

As you can see, the sweater had these dark green and red bands at the shoulders and around the sleeves.  I needed to use some of that for the ears and foot pads, to break up all the ivory knit (which looks and feels almost like thermal underwear, so it wasn't too bad to work with).

I cut a wide edge on the rest of it and place it like a pageant sash across his chest, so that the woven Gucci name would show.

Because I didn't have any ribbon that even came close to matching the red or dark green, I used ivory -- turns out that I had an exact match there.  Go figure, the Crayola Queen had a neutral in stash.

That's my last custom piece for the moment, but I'm always looking forward to the next order -- these are so much fun to do.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

How many days till Spring?

So maybe we didn't get the Snowpocalypse Bombogenesis Blizzard of 2015 (and I'm so thankful we didn't), but it's still winter, and I'm getting a little tired of gray skies and cold winds.

The cold drafts in my house are at least less this year, and I'm pleased because that means my efforts at covering every crack with a combination of draft-sealing tape, plastic sheeting, foamcore board and (in the workroom) fleece blankets, has paid off.  It's nice to be able to sew in the sewing room in January this year.

But since it is indeed still January, I've been thinking spring.  It doesn't help that I've already applied for / booked my first 2 April shows, so my mind is already where my body is not.


And that means I've inevitably started making stock for spring shows.  One of the things that always goes well in the early shows are my toddler dresses.  And after a long stretch of teddy bear and recycled sweater animals, they were literally a breath of fresh air for my wool-clogged brain and sewing machine!

These are also all recycled -- the first one, candy pink and white stripes, was made from a woman's blouse.  The green and white floral trim (facings too), was left over from a dress I made last year.

The orange butterfly dress was made from a particularly obnoxiously wonderful scrubs top -- if they're not surgical green, they have some of the best prints!  It needed nothing more than some lime green rickrack and a few daisy appliques to finish it off.

Last one is my favorite, though the least photogenic.  It's made from a blue and white floral H&M blouse that would never accommodate an adult female boob, much less a pair of them -- even after I picked out all the darts.  But it was large enough to cut a size 3 dress out of, and I was able to use the original front button placket up the back of the dress, thus saving myself from making 5 buttonholes!

The decoration on the front is a piece of vintage white cotton lace surrounded by varying sizes of yoyos cut from the leftover pink stripe.  I don't know why the yoyos, it just struck me to put them there and now I think they look like roses climbing a fence.  Your experience may vary.

Next up: one final custom bear from 2014 -- the customer made her purchase two days after Christmas but then got delayed in sending her fabrics.  They just arrived, so I think that's what I'll be doing today.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How Bonnie got her groove back

You haven't heard a lot about Bonnie lately because there's not bee a lot to talk about.

She molted late this year, and only this weekend did she start laying again.

Molting is a strange thing.  She seems to completely lose her urge or instinct to lay, which is good I suppose, since all of her energy -- and all of her protein intake -- is put toward growing new feathers.  (I hadn't realized until I got chickens that feathers are mostly made out of protein, and that if a bird is trying to grow feathers, she can't lay eggs at the same time).

Bonnie didn't start losing her feathers until after Thanksgiving, so she was basically chicken skin and pinfeathers all the way through Christmas, and through all the really cold weather we had.  She didn't come down out of the roost except to eat and drink, and she did that with an attitude.

But Sunday when I checked on her, there was a blue egg in the nest box -- the first one pictured.  Monday produced the second egg, and today was the third.

For contrast, I've included a large egg from the farmer's market on Saturday.  Even the first egg, which is dented on top but solid, is bigger.  The second egg has a serious point and by egg three, she seems to have gotten back into her stride -- it's more blue, it's the right shape.  And it's huge.

She's never taken a 2 1/2 month hiatus before, and I admit to thinking random thoughts of chicken stew in the crockpot, but she's redeemed herself -- at least for now.

Breakfast for dinner tonight.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A tale of two kitties

You could subtitle this one, "She loves me, she loves me not."

Kitty on the bottom is Lily, who adores me not just because I feed her and coddle her and treat her like the feline queen that she is, but because at 16 plus, she's mellowed enough to realize that it's no skin off her furry behind to like a human.

Kitty on the top is Bear a/k/a Louise a/k/a Weezy, who pretty much loathes me.  I brought her in as a kitten, and she feraled as she grew up.  I am occasionally permitted to touch her, but only if she's eating some of Lily's leftover wet food (which she growls at like it's a fresh kill).  She doesn't groom, so she has mats that stick out all over.  Generally instead of petting her when I have the chance, I grab the nearest pair of scissors and cut off her mats, because they make me crazy.

These two generally do not get along, much less share space, so when they decided to share their favorite chair, I had to take this.  And share it, so they can't say later that it never happened.

Monday, January 12, 2015

And an update

For anyone who wondered whatever happened with my book, I've got a bit of an update for you.  I heard from my agent recently; she's going to start pitching my book to publishers in February, so this month is dedicated to a few last minute tweaks and edits.

The agent I went with is an editorial agent, which means she feels free to make suggestions about the manuscript (before it gets to a publisher, who might make the same suggestions anyway).  Considering that I like rewriting far more than I like writing, this is not a problem.  I just sent in the most recent version of the book and I'm waiting to hear back.

Interestingly, two of the agents who turned down the book made the same constructive criticism about the opening, and it was something I'd been thinking about myself but not sure how to change.  After they each said the same thing, it became absolutely clear what was wrong and I was able to rewrite the first two chapters.  So I thank those two agents for turning me down with comments, instead of just "thanks, but no thanks," because it definitely gave me a better project in the long run.

In sewing news, nothing much new here.  At the end of the holiday season, my stock was pretty much depleted from all my craft shows, and the stores that I deal with were low as well, so I'm just trying to  rebuild the supplies at this point.  I've got an appointment to drop off a half dozen bears at a store in Center City Philadelphia tomorrow, so I should stop typing and get them finished off.  The two bears pictured here are some of tomorrow's delivery.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Notes from the end of a year

First off, thank you for all the good wishes regarding my house hatred.  We're better now; it's forgiven, but it won't be forgotten.

New plumber came out, looked at the problem, figured out what it was, fixed it and was gone in 90 minutes, having cost less for the entire visit than the old plumber would have cost to walk in the house.

I have a new plumber.

I also have to do something serious about the grout on the bathroom tile, because it looks awful with all this new shiny chrome!


Today was spent trying to get things organized for next year.  When you start a business (handmade, online, anything I'd assume), no one really tells you how much of that business is no longer doing the thing you liked doing.

So today I made new banners for both my Etsy shops, and I'm working on rewriting my shop announcements.  My goal for 2015 is to continue to build my handmade business, and to do that, I need for my online presence to look more professional.  Etsy is enormous, and getting bigger all the time, and if someone drops into my shop to look at one item, I want it to be attractive enough for them to stay and ramble around a bit, and maybe find something.

The handmade banner is a stock freebie that I found, and I'm going to change it at some point soon to colors that I like better, but I really liked the layout so I did it anyway just to have a new one.  The vintage banner is actually a slice of a photo from the Downton Abbey exhibit, because I'm still not over all that luscious beading.


I recently joined a group called Thrive, for people trying to grow their Etsy shops.  I don't generally like to spend money to be told how to do something, but the first set of suggestions have been really helpful -- I rewrote a lot of tags and titles in the handmade shop, and while I haven't gotten any more sales (but it is the week after Christmas), when I do a search using terms people would use to describe my items, I'm generally now on the first search page.

So that's something.  They have to find your work to be able to buy your work.

Tonight will be a quiet evening in on the couch, something good on the Netflix with a bottle of prosecco and a pint of Cherry Garcia.  It's the simple things.

Have a Happy New Year, everyone.  See you in 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hating my house

Anthropomorphize:  to attribute human form or personality to things not human.

It's been quiet on the blog since the holiday, and here's (mostly) why:  a few weeks ago, I ordered the house a Christmas present.  Which, apparently, it doesn't like.

I've owned this place for 15 years, and during that time, I've hated the bathtub faucets.  They're old, corroded, rusty/scratchy to touch and they weren't pretty when they were new.  Because they're old, they go through washers quickly and are constantly dripping.  The last time I had them fixed, the plumber told me that they weren't going to last much longer.

So I bought new faucets for Christmas.  Actually, I bought the whole inside-the-wall assembly to go with it (I don't know the plumbing term for it, but it's the thing behind the faucets that the hot and cold water lines attach to and then the faucets attach to on the outside).  I figured since the faucets themselves were from the 1960s, the stuff behind them was probably at least as old.  And it was.

Mario's uncle was a plumber, and he grew up helping him.  This was a project he said we could do, and we put the faucets aside until after the holiday, when he's off from work.

We took our last shower on Christmas morning.

Three days, five trips to the hardware store and one trip to two different Home Depots, and on Sunday, I called the plumber.  He called back Monday morning and Mario explained what we were trying to do, and where we'd stalled.  Plumber's first reaction was to say that we didn't buy very good faucets, and besides, they were probably defective and to go get a duplicate set so he could work from that when he came out.

He'd come out when we bought more faucets.  WTF?  I bought the faucets through Amazon, and they were $175 (American Standard, not total crap).  When Mario researched (which he loves to do, and it makes me a little insane), Home Depot sells the same set for $350, but they would have to be ordered.  Same thing for Lowes.  The plumbing supply that the plumber recommended for "good" supplies didn't have anything that would fit our setup and would have to order them.  He told the plumber this, and instead of saying that he would come out and look at it, and who knows, maybe fix it, he said to call him back when we had something for him to install.

Again, WTF??  One time before his men were in the house, installing a dual-flush toilet in the downstairs bathroom, and they kept joking that it wasn't even worth crapping in because it was Home Depot brand.  Dual flush toilets seem to come in the $99 HD variety and the $600 Kohler variety.  Guess what I can afford?

So I posted to our neighborhood listserv that I was looking for a plumber (other than that one) who wouldn't be judgmental because I couldn't afford top-of-the-line fixtures.  I got several recommendations, one of whom came out briefly this a.m. to look at things and will be back later on today (he was in the middle of a job but he at least wanted to get a look at it).

Best part:  plumber #1 called Mario this a.m.  One of his customers read my post, called him and instead of calling me (his usual contact), he called Mario to ask what my problem was.  Passive aggressive much?  So now Mario's embarrassed, we still don't have a functioning shower and I'm trying very hard not to pick up the phone and tell plumber #1 just what my problem is.

So I'm hating my house right now.  It's a vengeful pile of bricks  that always pays me back when I try to do something nice for it.  New window in the attic: roof leak.  Repair the porch floor: cracked pipe in the wall.  Repair the porch ceiling:  concrete steps cracked and broke.

Mario says I anthropomorphize the house more than the cats, and maybe I do.  But he doesn't hear it talking at night, telling me how much it hates what I've done for it.

Onward, right?  Right.