Wednesday, November 30, 2011


That's how many pieces I finished today. 

Then labeled them, priced them and delivered them, along with my other items, to the show and set up my table.

Then I came home and got my metal folding table from the attic and took it back to the Arts League, because half their tables had disappeared. 

So. Tired.  There was coffee all day, and wine with dinner.  Soon there will be sleep.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Flat out

I have off from work tomorrow. Vacation day, you ask? Well, it might have been planned that way, but then things went sideways.

I got a reminder that the craft show load-in has to be done on Wednesday, November 30th. 

Oops.  That would be tomorrow.

How did I manage to put this out of my mind when I know the show opens Friday?  My "day off" has now become a day in - in the sewing room.  There are a few pieces left from last year and I made more after vacation, but what I really wanted this year was to do a nice pile of upcycled baby items from the great printed cottons I have in the workroom which were set aside for just that purpose. 

Tonight, after pricing everything and filling out my inventory forms, I brought out all the fabrics, my 3 favorite fast patterns, and pulled together fabric pairings for 8 dresses. 

How many do you think I can knock out by tomorrow evening?  Wish me luck, and much caffeine.

* Elaray asked where the craft show was taking place.  Since she's local, and there might be others out there, I thought it might be a bright idea (!) to post the flyer.  The University City Arts League is at 4226 Spruce Street in Philadelphia.  They offer all types of classes - painting, pottery, dance, etc., plenty of programs for kids, gallery shows and the craft show, which is a neighborhood institution.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ghosts of Christmas Past

In a previous post, I mentioned the Japanese glitter houses from my grandmom's Christmas village, and also that I was thinking about listing them on Etsy.

Apparently my readers are a lot more sentimental than I am, because most comments told me to keep them, even though we don't decorate, don't have a a tree, and have the tchotchkes of a much larger family.

Here's what I've decided to do: I'm keeping the house on the top left, the large white "hotel" or "mansion" type house that was the center of many small person daydreams. 

(There was also a large candy-pink house, with a turret, but apparently that one vanished somewhere during the trip over the river and through the woods from grandma's house to aunt's house to mom's house to mine; in that case, it's a wonder more of them didn't disappear).

The remaining 6 houses (I swear there were at least a dozen, plus a larger scale plastic church with stained glass windows that played "Silent Night" when you opened the doors, but again, it was a long road from grandma's house) are getting listed in 2 lots, as pictured. 

I love them, but I won't miss them.  I hope they make someone's Christmas a little brighter; they brightened mine for a lot of years, and the last house is now on the bookcase overlooking my desk, where I can see it and (hopefully) the cats won't find its crusty, glittery surface at all appetizing or appealing. Hopefully.

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's been a long, long time coming

But I finally finished my ruffled sweater!

It's been nearly done it was almost anti-climactic to put it on today, but I'm really happy how it turned out.

My last bright idea, in a project that contained many "bright ideas," was to add the cowl.  Of course I decided to do this after I'd finished the neckline.  So I made a separate, detachable cowl, and decided then that I liked this idea even better - now I can wear it both ways, because obviously no one would ever recognize this sweater, it's so unassuming and unrecognizable.

Sometimes I make my own head hurt.

The cowl is basted at from shoulder to shouldler seam in the back, left loose in the front.  That way I can rearrange it however I want, and, since it is only basted, I can remove it if I change my mind.

The sleeves are still my favorite part. I love the chevron effect, and while it wasn't intentional that the chevrons flow up one sleeve and down another (I think wine might have caused that little bit of inspiration), it works for me.  How can you look at this top and actually say that it shouldn't

Where's that particular rule?

What got me to finish up, finally?  Well, Saturday was PR Day - the official celebration of PatternReview's 10th anniversary, and there was a small get-together in Philadelphia.

Now whether you're a fan of Patternreview, Stitcher's Guild or Burdastyle, their intentions arethe same:  sewing is a pretty solitary obsession, and there's an enormous community out there if only someone could organize it and shove it in our face in a way that makes us recognize what we could have.

So thank you, Deepika, for Patternreview.  I joined in 2006, oblivious to what the site would add to my sewing (and personal) life within the next 5 years.  Now most of my friends also sew - and some of them even live in the same general vicinity.  I got to see them on Saturday, and a few "locals" I hadn't met before.  It's always good to enlarge the sewing circle, and when I got home, I was so inspired just by a few hours of shopping and lunch that I had to tack on my cowl and hem the sweater.

What's that you ask?

A few hours of shopping?

And you want to know if I bought anything?

Why yes.  Yes, I did. 

Photos are forthcoming (most fabric is still in the laundry basket), but I got 2 different colors of a very nice washable linen, one of which was a light grayish blue color that I looked for without success all summer.  The other is a sage-ish green.  I got a flannel print that manages to not look childish or mannish; I think it wants to be a shirt dress for my painfully cold office.  And I got a home dec fabric that I'm absolutely in love with - it's ivory with very cool, neutral wintry tree branches in grays, browns and tans.  I walked in the store, spotted that almost at the back, and went right for it.  It was too expensive, and I didn't care.  So there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Not quite there . . . yet

It's still not done, but progress has been made on the striped sweater.

Can I still call it striped, when the stripes run in every direction except up and down? 

Still not finished: neckline, because I'm having a thought, and hems on both cuffs and the bottom of the garment.  I also might reshape the side seams a little bit; it looks a little baggy on the dress form, but then again, Evelyn and I haven't been the same size for a while now.  So maybe not on the reshaping.

What gave me the idea for this was a top worn by a co-worker.  You know that pre-ruffled knit fabric everyone was making skirts out of this past summer?  She has a top made from the narrowest ruffles, and it had the same bias seam on the front.  The back of her top, meanwhile, was just a solid knit, no ruffles at all, and it was sleeveless.

But nothing succeeds like excess, so I also cut the back on the bias, and then for good measure, I split the sleeves and chevroned them.  One up and one down, of course, and I cut the lower sleeve on the cross grain, just to be different.  Or normal.  Whichever. 

I've been distracted from sewing -- again -- because I've been trying to do a little housecleaning.  Never a good idea.  I just find stuff and lose time trying to decide where it came from, why I kept it, if I should continue to keep it, and where I should put it.
I found another box of crap (not really) from the relatives.  Etsy is going to be getting another big bulk listing really, really soon.  I'm getting very fond of them, they're clearing out my rubble quite nicely.

Actually, it was the first batch of Etsy proceeds that paid for the chicken coop.

Also, work has been insane (nothing new there), I'm behind on my craft show sewing, and, oh, yeah, the holidays are coming.  I'm feeling a little humbug right now, though I might get over it.

Or I might not.  Though I did get a little twinge of Christmas when I unpacked one of those boxes and found my grandmom's Christmas village that she used to put under the tree - glitter houses and tiny trees -- my favorite part of the holiday even when I was little.  Part of me wants to keep them; the practical part says to take their picture and pass them on.  If I haven't seen them in 30 years, I haven't really missed them, and we don't do a tree.

Back to to the sweater: note to self, even if not having your picture taken with a flash, watch what color bra you put under this sweater!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Easing my way back

I realized the other night that the only sewing I've done since before vacation was stuff for the craft show.  Okay, so I know I need to work on that, but not at the cost of no sewing for me.  Not at the cost of my sanity.

So Thursday night, I took off from craft sewing and spent a little quality time in the workroom.  The results will bemade public soon - I have a little bit of finish work left before I introduce my new creation.  Let's just say I took that black and gray ruffled sweater knit and did terrible, wonderful things with stripes.  I do love a stripe, I just tend to love them running in all directions at once, which may or may not be a problem. 

My plaid jacket is still languishing on the dress form.  I'll get back to that soon; after a substantial break, I wanted to ease my way back in with something a little less structured than a fitted, lined jacket with plaids to be matched. 

With my head cleared of all that backed up sewing, I was able to dive back into the craft show sewing and finish doing a beaded edging to scarves that, at least for the last 2 years, have been the quick-to-sew and quick-to-sell item on my table.  Fingers crossed it will be the same this year, or else everyone I know will be getting a pretty similar gift at the holidays . . .

Chicken FYI: for Kathi Rank (and anyone else) who wondered about Bonnie losing her feathers.  Molting is normal, though she is doing it a bit later than she should.  Most chickens lose feathers once a year and grow new ones, and during the molting period they stop laying eggs.  The logic there is eggs are mostly protein, and so are feathers; if she's going to produce feathers, she needs to stop producing eggs. 

As far as getting out in the yard for exercise, it never happens intentionally.  These girls can fly, I've seen them do it, and if I let them out, they'd be gone in a blink.  Once they settled in, they seemed not to mind the reduced quarters, and in the winter, it'll be a benefit.  Their little upstairs coop is just big enough for them, a perch and their nesting box.  Their body heat and the heat of their droppings (otherwise known as the best compost activator on earth) will keep them toasty.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Let there be light

Random chicken update: The chickens seem to be tolerating cooler weather better than the heat and the hellish rain we had in August, but I don't want them (or their water) to freeze this winter. Everything I've read also says that they'll continue to lay more frequently if they are provided more light, because they need between 12-16 hours of sunlight to lay regularly. And since my chickens are apparently not spring chickens, they probably really need it since egg production slows as they age.

I thought about this for a while, and what I really wanted to do was a solar setup for the coop light. How cool would that be, to have my back yard chickens go solar-powered? But since I also wanted their light on a timer, that just complicated things unnecessarily - what if there wasn't enough power stored in the solar battery to keep the timer on time? In the end, I had my handyman install an outdoor outlet by my back door, something I've been planning to have done for close to a decade anyway.

We picked up a work light at Lowe's, one of those bulb-in-a-cage deals, so my brilliant ladies don't attempt to peck at the bulb. On Sunday, since it had just turned daylight savings, I decided it was time to get to it. The bulb cage got zip-tied to the wire above the door, so that it shines up into the enclosed coop when it's on. It's also right above the waterer, so the heat from the bulb will keep the water from freezing. From there, we cut a small hole in the wire and ran the plug through, up and over the roof (and under the tarp), through the lilac tree and into the timer, which was plugged into the outlet by the back door.

The girls now have light from 4:30 to 6:00, twice a day. It seems to be working. They still go to bed before 6:00, but later than they were prior to the light going in.

Egg production is still slow, because Bonnie is now moulting. I told her she'd better get a move on; a Philadelphia winter is not the time to be a naked chicken. She just looks at me, flaps her wings, and feathers drift slowly onto the ground.

Another note: do NOT try to take an egg out of the nest box when your chickens have gone to roost on the perch above said nest box. And if you insist on trying, wear long sleeves so that their pointy little beaks don't do too much damage.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Or maybe it's about the food

Okay, so maybe it's not ALL about the food, but for me, in Paris, it's close.

We've been 3 times now, and it's always like that. In 2007, for our first trip, we dumb-lucked into 2 fantastic restaurants that we've returned to on each trip. More on that as we go along here.

Friday morning, we woke up pretty well rested from our jet lag. We each had something we wanted to do in Montmartre - I, of course, had to make a pilgrimage to Reine and stroke the expensive fabrics, and Mario, a big comic art/graphic novel fan, had 2 galleries he wanted to visit that specialized in his favorite thing. We went first to the fabric district, where my feelings were hurt by the drastic price increases (though I did buy 2 pieces of fabric at one of the remnant or "coupon" stores). Then we had a lovely lunch at a restaurant recommended by a friend, and then we walked to the galleries.

From there, we walked back to our hotel, which meant we walked from the tippy-top of Montmartre, down through central Paris, across the bridge, across the Ile, across the next bridge and through the Jardins de Luxembourg to get back to our hotel by late afternoon.

We had ourselves a well deserved rest after our hike, then meandered out in the evening back to our first favorite restaurant, Au Chien qui Fume (the Smoking Dog). I had salmon quenelles in a shellfish sauce, rabbit with mustard and a potato gratin, and a glazed apple tart with vanilla sauce and fresh whipped cream. And wine, of course.

Most of the photos here are from various street markets we encountered during our wanderings around the city. It seems like we found one every day, and it really began to make me crazy that I was trapped in a city with all this glorious food and no kitchen to cook it in. A basket of fresh porcini mushrooms is enough to make me twitch, but unlike when we went to Florence, I couldn't find any dried ones at the markets to bring home. Waaaah.

On Saturday, we got up extra early to go to the flea market near the Porte de Vanves metro stop. The weather forecast had been for days in the mid-60s, nights in the mid-40s, but that Saturday it wasn't anywhere near mid-40. Even layered up, we were cold and miserable. And the price increases had struck the flea market as well, so we were cold, miserable, and thwarted by the European financial crisis. Vintage buttons for 5 euro apiece?? Really?? Who's buying them?

We stopped at a vendor cart had double espressos and crepes to warm up. It worked for a little while, but my happiest moment at the market was finding a woman who was selling scarves for 3 euro. We each bought one, and felt much better. Though I have to say I feel a little like a Jane Austen heroine - I took a chill, and spent the rest of the week, the flight home and the week after, coughing like a consumptive.

Saturday night we went to dinner at a seafood restaurant that called to us. I had fish soup with a spicy rouille and croutons, and a bucket of mussels. And I mean a bucket. They had to bring me a second bowl for all the shells, it was ridiculous. Mario finished his skate and helped me down the last of the mussels because I was running out of room. Though I did have room for the 3 scoop sorbet/glace dessert - flavors were yogurt (yogurt-flavored ice creamReally), blood orange and lavender. Sounds strange, but yum!

Sunday was the day that didn't work properly. We tried to go to the Beauborg, and the lines were over an hour long by 9:00 a.m. We decided we didn't want to see their art that badly when there's so much more to be had. We walked up to Les Halles, to get in from the chill at the galleries and shopping area there, and found most of it under renovation. There is apparently no shortage of construction work in Paris; many, many buildings were surrounded by green construction barricades.

We walked back through the Marais, picked up lunch, and then went to the Musee de Mode du Textiles (the fashion museum attached to the Louvre). Their main exhibit was Hussein Chalayan. I wasn't thrilled - for me, sometimes when a designer has too many points he's trying to make (political or whatever they may be), the fashion gets lost. Mario thought he did great installations, but he wouldn't have known it was a fashion exhibit if I hadn't said so. 

By this time, it was later in the afternoon and we were starting to fade a little. But since we were already halfway down Rue de Rivoli, Mario suggested we walk the rest of the way down and go to L'Orangerie, to see their collection of Monet's waterlilies. Since I dragged him through the Cluny Museum on Friday morning to visit the Unicorn tapestries, I thought that was only fair. And it's not like I didn't want to see them; I was just flagging a bit.

Great art has restorative powers, however. Once we got inside the museum and into the stark white oval rooms wrapped in waterlilies (has anybody seen Midnight in Paris?) I forgot that my feet hurt and I wanted my pre-dinner nap. We circled around looking at paintings until they kicked us out at 6:00, and then we went back to put our feet up for a while.

We tried to go to Allard, our other favorite restaurant, but by the time we got there at 8:30 (okay, we put our feet up for QUITE a while), they were packed. Happy hour in Paris is from 7:00 to 9:00, not the American 5:00 - 7:00, so they were really just getting started. We made a reservation for Monday night, our last night, and walked back up the block and found a perfectly acceptable backup restaurant. By that point we were both wolfishly hungry and Allard's spectacular dinner might have been wasted on us anyway.

On our last day, we really had no specific plans. We walked a lot that day. The weather had warmed up and we just wanted to spend the last day looking at the city.

We realized over lunch that we'd bought no gifts, so we stopped at a shop and bought macarons for family and friends. They were supposed to be refrigerated, but we thought between spending the night out on the cool balcony and then being on the plane, they'd survive (and they mostly did, only a little bit squashed - and they still tasted good).

Yes, he's coated in chocolate!
After bringing our macarons back to the hotel, we rested and then walked back to Allard for dinner. Last meal in Paris: pate de maison, cassoulet and a chocolate charlotte that was absolutely obscenely good. Mario had escargot, boeuf bourguignon and the chocolate charlotte. We split a bottle of burgundy and drifted back to the hotel in a happy haze of wine and way too much good food.

And that, dear readers, was our trip to Paris. I'll post separate photos from the Orangerie; the waterlilies really do need to be seen to be believed - there's something about the scale and the size of those rooms, built to accommodate them, that made them even more impressive than I'd expected.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pick a color, any color

At the Porte de Vanves flea market, Paris
 I didn't know I wanted a turquoise sewing machine, but I do.