Friday, March 16, 2018

Happy tears

 In the midst of packing to move, I was contacted by a woman who I'd met last summer at a craft show in South Philly.  We'd talked generally at the time about custom bears and she took a card, but that happens at nearly every show and people rarely follow up.

This woman did.

Her daughter is having a baby very soon, and she reached out because she wanted to make a "family bear" for her. 

Every piece of fabric in this bear came from a piece of cherished clothing from one family member or another. 

I met up with her at lunchtime from the office, heard the stories about each piece of clothing, each person, and took the bag home to start her bear.

Trying to get in "maker mode" when I was in the middle of packing wasn't easy, but once I started laying out my pattern pieces, this little guy came together.

A friend stopped by  as I was stringing him together, and she said, hoping not to offend, that my work was beautiful, she wasn't so sure about the bear.  I understood her meaning, but said that the bear would be beautiful to my customer, because of all the people it represented, and that the only part of the piece I could control was my work.

Bear's pieces: head and body - tweed jacket from customer's mom; denim jacket from her dad.  Floral silk on head - Dad's Liberty tie.  Navy on legs - dress my customer wore to her daughter's wedding.  Blue-and-whtie gingham - curtains my customer made for her daughter's childhood bedroom.  Ears - dad's hankie.  Foot pads - mom's leather glove.  Salmon jersey - dad's pullover.  Teal cotton (and embroidered portion) - blouse made by the mom-to-be.

The small blanket behind the bear in the second picture consists of pieces donated by the baby's father's family - a "no fear" hat, a gray cashmere sweater, a dark silk from a dress, and a wool hat from both parents' high school.  (With a little of that salmon jersey to tie it all together).

I think it's a little alarming, but in a good way, and my customer burst into tears in her building lobby, so I'm taking that as a good thing.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Well, our move was delayed by a snowstorm, and here we are, just a few days later, getting hit with another one.

No matter, it just gives me more time to unpack. 

The kitchen is basically done, other than making new curtains. The previous owner left theirs behind in all the rooms on the first floor, and I appreciate not having to rush to make new ones. Even these apple print ones in the kitchen are pretty neutral.

You'll notice the kitchen is green, instead of orange.  That's because the main house color living room/dining room/hall - is a warm terracotta and I didn't want us overwhelmed with varying shades of orange.

I'm a little frustrated that I don't have room for all my art, but the limitations are good. I'm being forced to choose my favorite pieces.

Here's the kitchen so far.

The cabinets will get redone or replaced somewhere down the road, but now that I've painted the walls, I don't mind the color as much.  My least favorite part is the Formica backsplash, which started out as white with gold flecks but has yellowed over the decades. It's a small thing. I'll think of something to update it when we've dealt with the rest of the place.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Rain Delay

I scheduled the movers to come this Friday, and we've been packing nonstop and driving a load over every evening.

The floor is coming along. The best thing I found to use on it was Dif wallpaper stripper,which has done a decent job of softening the crud.  I still need to scrape, but it's going faster.

One unexpected delay: my contractor, who had a nice to do list of ceiling fans, outlets, gas lines, etc., vanished. Or at least went incommunicado.  Being Facebook friends, I checked to see what was up, and found out that he'd fallen off the wagon after 17 years of sobriety.

I know it's far worse for him than for us, but I'd be lying if I said there wasn't an element of "Why us, why now?" in my mind.  I did actually attempt to replace him, but the new electrician and plumber both failed to show up, and he did.  So . . .

As of tonight, we've achieved 3 drywall ceilings upstairs, a new fan in the bedroom, a fan in the kitchen, some tweaks to the breaker box downstairs, and tomorrow he's finishing the lights in our workrooms, the hallway, the dining room, and if there's time, he'll run the gas line for the stove.

Maybe it's wrong, but I'm not mentioning the fact that our move has been put off until Sunday.  Friday it's supposed to be rainy, snowy, windy and unpleasant.  I've never moved in the rain yet and I'm happy to have the flexibility to be able to shift everything to a better day.

Monday, February 19, 2018


We made settlement on Monday, and arrived at the title company's offices with our car loaded up like the Beverly Hillbillies on their way to California.  As soon as the last papers were signed, we dropped our first load of stuff at the new house.

Although it's much smaller than our current house, it seems to be absorbing things well enough so far.

Saturday we rented a friend's son-in-law for the day so that Mario would have help removing the first floor carpet and pad.  They knocked that out really quickly and managed to get the drop ceiling out of the two rooms on the second floor before we had to return him.  I got the kitchen painted while they were doing all that.

The only thing slowing down progress right now is the remaining gunk on the living room and dining room hardwood floors.  The carpet was laid in 1968, and despite nearly 50 years of use, it was still in really good shape (though a totally different color than it was originally, which we only realized when the sofa came out).  The pad also seemed pretty springy, but when it was pulled out, it was obvious that 50 years of foot traffic and yearly rug shampooing had caused some of the foam pad to stick to the hardwood.

Other than that, the wood is in excellent condition, still with a nice shellac shine.  I just spent a good 4 hours yesterday squatting, kneeling and lying on the dining room floor with a pastry cutter, which turned out to be the best implement on hand to scrape with.  I tried wetting the dried foam with a solution of dish soap and water, and that helped a bit.  Someone else suggested vinegar and water, on the assumption that vinegar cuts almost anything.  Another person suggested wallpaper stripper as a non-toxic option that removes unpleasant dried-on substances.

I'm open to other suggestions, if anyone has one.  What would you use to soften dried-on, dried-out carpet padding stuck to shellacked floors?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Tiny house

I have to remember, this didn't
always look like this. 
Have you ever going back to your childhood home, and realized it was much smaller than you remembered? How did you live in that tiny space? And why did it seem so much bigger in your memories?

Yesterday we did the final walk-through of the new house prior to going to settlement on Monday. The sellers did a fantastic job of emptying the house. The garage and basement are just empty spaces waiting for us to load them with our stuff. Likewise the other rooms, except for one small detail - they're small.

Honestly, the house isn't that small. It's just under 1200 square feet which is by no means a tiny house, but after 18 years of living in a three-story house with a walk-in attic and a full basement, this feels like something you can tow behind your car.

I think right now, surrounded as we are with boxes and all the furniture in wrong places and all the art off the walls, it seems like an enormous amount of stuff we're trying to cram into a small space. And I probably am being a bit unrealistic about how much will fit, but that's why thrift stores were invented. There's a very nice one just down Baltimore Avenue from the house, and I'm sure I will become even more familiar with them as things don't fit into the jigsaw puzzle I am building.

Soon, this won't look like this either.
I do know, however that once we are in, settled, and everything is put in its proper place, we are going to be very happy here. It's a much better size, it's a far more practical house, it's a lovely community, and it will be good to live in a place that we have chosen together.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Book Sale, part 2

Round one of the book sale is over, though there are a few leftovers - some not purchased, some purchased by overseas buyers who (intelligently) canceled when we realized the price of shipping.  But there are still more, and here they all are. 

Photos and links are from Amazon, so you can read more about them and see current pricing.  Shipping will be via media mail, and I'll let you know the cost when you claim the book.  Payment via PayPal only, and for your sake, as well as mine, U.S. buyers only.

Contact me via email at karen6790 @ msn . com (without all the spaces) to let me know what books you want.

Pattern Drafting for Dressmaking, Pamela Stringer.  All line drawings.  Very thorough instructions.  Paperback, excellent condition. $20

Couture - The Art of Fine Sewing, Roberta Carr.  Published by Palmer/Pletsch.  Some of the illustrations are dated, but the tips and techniques are eternal.  Paperback.  Minor edge wear to cover.  $7.50

Famous Frocks, Sara Alm & Hannah McDevitt.  Includes 10 patterns.   Excellent condition.  Hardcover. $10.

The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction, Edna Bishop.  Revised edition.  Some edge wear, but good condition overall.  Fabulous resource; I have an extra copy of this that isn't leaving my shelves.  Paperback.  $5

Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit, Stefani Lincecum.  Subtitled "Using the Rub-off Technique to Recreate and Redesign your Favorite Fashions.  Excellent condition, paperback.  SOLD

Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework.  Excellent reference, as good as their guide to sewing, which is what I use for classes.  Hardcover.  Very good condition.  Free with cost of shipping. SOLD

Patternmaking, Dennic Chunman Lo.  (Portfolio Skills - Fashion & Textile).  Brand new.  Looks like a very thorough, well-illustrated text.  Paperback.  $15.

Cool Couture, Kenneth D. King. Excellent condition, signed copy from PatternReview weekend 2010 in Philadelphia.  Paperback.  $7.50

Basics of Fashion Design: Construction, by Anette Fischer. Covers pattern drafting, draping and construction techniques.  Good photos and drawings.  $5

Fashion Designer's Directory of Shape & Style, Simon Travers-Spencer and Zarida Zaman.  Very useful resource, very good condition.  Paperback.  $5 

Classic Tailoring Techniques, a Construction Guide for Men's Wear, Roberto Cabrera.  Excellent tailoring reference, especially for all the interesting structural challenges involved in menswear.  Paperback, like new condition.  SOLD

Secrets of the Couturiers, Frances Kennett.  Very good condition.  Some of the fashions are dated, but others are vintage, and all the techniques and illustrations are solid.  Hardcover.  $5 

African Art in Needlework, Leslie Tillett.  Subtitled "Motifs inspired by African Culture," this book shows a lot of traditional garments/textiles, and then breaks down the motifs so that they can be reworked, not strictly replicated.  An unusual find.  Paperback, some edge wear.

Fine Machine Sewing, Carol Laflin Ahles.  Machine methids to get the look of hand finishing and embellishing.  Paperback.  $7

High Fashion Sewing Secrets from the world's best designers, Claire B. Shaeffer.  A step-by-step guide to sewing stylish seams, buttonholes, pockets, collars, hems & more.  Retired library book, a few stamps and a label on spine, but the book is sound, with only a bit of edge wear.  The styles may be a bit dated, but the information is great.  (It's Claire Shaeffer, after all).  Hardcover.  $7

The Complete Family Sewing Book.  Vintage 1972 ring-bound reference.  Fabulous illustrations, with the best of 1970s fashion.  Solid technical information.  $5

Art Deco Textiles - The French Designers, Alain-Rene Hardy.  A beautiful reference of 1920s-1930s French textiles.  Paperback.  SOLD

Patternmaking for Fashion Design, Helen Joseph Armstrong.  Classic textbook.  1987 edition, dated clothing but fantastic instruction.  Some writing in book, but does not obscure the information.  Definite wear on spine and edges.  Hardcover. SOLD

BiblioCraft: Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects, Jessica Pigza.  Excellent condition.  Gorgeous, inspirational book.  It's done its work here, time for it to move along.  Hardcover.  $7

Please, for the love of all the sewing gods, take some of these off my hands.  Email me directly with your shopping list, I'll mark books off as they sell.  

Friday, February 2, 2018

New old machine

Say hello to my little friend.

I bought this machine over 10 years ago. She worked beautifully, and then one day she didn't. The zeros on the digital display just kept blinking and circling, and wouldn't let me select a stitch. I took it to my repairman, who mostly works on mechanicals. He was stumped and handed it over to a friend, who dealt mostly with electronic machines. Neither of them had a clue what was wrong. I decided to put it away until I had the time and money to take it to a Juki repair shop.

Fast forward. Now that I'm packing, I pulled the machine out to give it a last once-over before giving it away. I turned it on, the same thing happened with the display, and after I had pushed all of the obvious buttons and turned all of the obvious switches, I happened to notice that the bobbin winder knob was pushed in. I moved it out, and voila! A functioning machine, which defeated two repair men, and has been sitting in a box under a table for 10 years.

Mario totally didn't understand the level of swearing this provoked.

Also, I never wind bobbins on my machine, so it getting moved at all was an accident.

All of us were looking for a complicated problem, and when you do that, you don't see the stupid staring you right in the face.