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

Wandering

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.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Let it be (bear)

I'm still working at my friend's office 3 days a week.  It's going well so far, not taking too much time away from the business.  Most of the time, anyway.  I need to get better organized and also not spend so much time watching the repeating car wreck of the news.

Last week I made a bear for a coworker. Her son is turning 13 and she just found his baby blanket.  It's a John Lennon design, not something I'd run across before.


It perfectly matched some blue cotton from the doll stash, so I used that for contrast, embroidered his name and birth date on the legs -- have I mentioned how much I love my embroidery machine? -- and carried him back to work for photos and delivery.

I may not like spending time in an office but you can't fault the view.

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

Spring?

Maybe?

Finally?

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.