stuff and things

22 July 2013

Summer Celebrations

Mid-July holds a place of much happiness in our family. Of course, it's Bastille Day, and who doesn't like a good prison break? Moreover, it's a beloved family member's birthday, who shall remain anonymous but whose name rhymes with "Shandy." He's one of those people who simply hates being fussed over on birthdays.

Finally, I gave him the old, "It's not for You; it's for 'Them'" line ... 'Them' being people like friends and family. He wised up, but not enough to let me give him any actual presents. I did manage to sneak in a hand-made card ... (As always, click on images to get closer views.)
Birthday Wiseguy asked why the mouse was holding a yellow squash. Harumph!
Needless to say, certain family members showered "Shandy" with presents galore. Perhaps they didn't get the memo? (This always happens.) Anyways, the neatest gift was Alice's Venus fly-trap, filling a void in our collection of carnivorous plants.
A bright new Venus fly-trap, open for business.
Our house was designed to convey the indoors/outdoors concept, so our doors and windows don't have any screens. While we get some nice breezes, we also experience annoying visitors. As summer rolls on, all manner of flies, wasps and even the occasional birds come and go. For the flies, at least, we have found the perfect revenge. We catch them and feed them to our carniverous plants.
A Wardian Case holds our small but entertaining collection of carnivorous plants.
The Venus fly-traps don't last very long; we've replaced them a few times. But the pitcher plants (Nepenthes sp.), similar to those pictured below, have hung on for some years now.
The nefarious pitcher plant lures flies into its tubes with savory scents, but the jungle-gym of clingy hairs disappears farther down, and the fly slides to a soupy but nourishing end. Whee!

If I could figure out how to do it, I'd design our entire entryway to be a giant Wardian case. Or move to Houston, Texas. (We visited there one spring and saw green mold or algae growing in skyscraper windows.)

On one of our trips to San Francisco we discovered Valencia Street, a great eating/walking/shopping area in the Mission District. When we found ourselves face to face with dioramas of taxidermed mice in costumes, alongside shelves of animal skeletons and bays of exotic orchids, we realized Paxton Gate was possibly the strangest shop ever conceived. There we found the Wardian case, named for a 19th century inventor whose glass terrariums vastly aided the efforts of British specimen collectors to keep their treasures alive over months'-long sea voyages. That same year, Shandy gave me a subscription to Carnivorous Plant Newsletter, which offers a seed bank to members. I'd like another ten Wardian cases, please, for experimenting with seeds. But ... there's always that clutter thing looming.
Carnivorous Plant Newsletter: A scientific journal that reveals this world of amazing plants.
Like Alice and Mom, I'd planned on a present for Shandy, too, but the new shirt didn't get finished on time. Years ago, he'd picked out this Australian cotton print crawling with Honey Ants. I tried out a pocket placement going crosswise, below left, but the photograph showed how wrong it was. Cameras are a great tool for evaluating works in progress, no matter how you like to roll!
Honey Ants, also called Honey Pot Ants, are eaten as sweets by Aboriginals in the Outback.
Lotus, my sewing assistant, is trying to prove a point. Yes, kitty, the fabric wrinkles like crazy.
Lotus enjoying the cool of the evening, and perhaps the thought of Honey Ants?
Even with wrinkles, I know Shandy will wear his new shirt with pride, and spread the lore of Honey Ants wherever he goes. He is an Interesting Person. Happy Birthday, dearest hubby.

01 July 2013

Summer Is Here! Of pedicures and summer pajamas ...

Summer is here, and by way of celebration, I've decided to post on Artelicious! Oh, I'm supposed to do that anyway, regularly? Um ... and paint my toenails! Can you help me pick the perfect, summer-shimmery color? Below, from left: A, B, C and D. To vote, head to the Comments field at the end of this post, or send me an email. Find my email address at the top of the blog, on the right.
Pedicures for Dummies, anyone?
Sorry for the dark photo. Had to show off some vintage Dummies swag! Here's a closeup:
It loves me, it loves me not ... Dearest Friend, which one is the Real Me?
You may ask, 'So Tina, what's the big deal about a pedicure'? Well, ten years have passed since I last painted my toes. I was never much good at maintaining my nails, but when I was teaching Ashtanga yoga, feggetabouttit! Dragging one's toes forward into Upward Dog 50-plus times per practice pretty much destroys that "fresh from the salon" look.

Well, what with having been plagued with some pretty excruciating hip and back problems due to osteoarthritis, and now with a fairly recent diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy (PN), yoga's out of the picture. I came to Ashtanga, an extremely vigorous practice, late in life, and as usual for me with most things, rode it hard. In the pix below, I'm 51 and going strong ... in hindsight, maybe a bit too strong.

Anyhoo, here's when yoga was in the picture, at lovely Tulum, in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula:
A monumental pose ... (argh, I know!)

 Hmm, these toes could sure use a pedicure!
"Look for the cloud's silver lining," the old song tells us. Well, ever the optimist, I am trying to find the good in all this. For example, because PN has made my toes, feet and ankles numb, I can now look for work as a Fire Walker. Think of all the pu-pus I can scarf at all the luaus and tiki parties I'll be working.
Eating all that fruit as part of my new career will put me right in the Zone!
At New Age gatherings, walking on hot coals seems to be growing in popularity. Test your Zen quotient, your inner strength, or merely your proximity to a burn center. I can be the Demo.

Of course I'm already planning some fab costumes.

But, back to my point: Now I can finally blend my two loves: bright colors and pretty toes. If you would, please take a moment to head to the comments field, below, to vote for, left to right, A, B, C or D. Remember the first picture in this post? Those are my (debatable) colors.
Can't wait for my pretty toes!

Summer Pajamas

Recently, my second pair of Nick and Nora for Target Rubber Ducky pajamas gave up the ghost. (I gave my third, and final pair to my friend D., a fellow rubber ducky enthusiast. I trust that she is forever grateful.)

Because I vowed to make all my clothes in 2013, this could only mean one thing: I would have to make my own pair of PJs. Below, the top, which needs something ...
Pajama top, looking for a hem.
I chose this pattern (Butterick 5571, see below) for its cute little gathers around the neck, and because it offered several versatile yet simple looking jammy options. After making it up, however, it seemed rather ... plain. It needed something. Taking a cue from the pattern envelope, below, I decided to add some lace -- even at the risk of looking too girly. Check out View B, extreme right.
B5571: I chose the lace-trimmed summery view B.
Pajama top: Action shot!
I already had some blue ribbon in my stash, and pictured my PJs adorned with the type of lace where a ribbon threads in and out. I found just the very lace at the fabric store, and learned that it's called "beading lace." Because the eyelet was So White, and we know we All want a thick white strip of trim around our hip to midriff area ...  I mixed up a light blue using my fabric paints. After tinting the lace in a shallow container with lots of water, I pressed it to set the paint. Perhaps I can get away with calling it Shabby Chic?

The Gory Details ...

If you consider making this pattern, here are the changes I made and the things to watch out for:
1. I made a forward shoulder adjustment. If you constantly pull at your hem or feel tight in your shoulders, have someone test this adjustment on you. I used the Palmer/Pletsch Fit for Real People book. I will probably make this adjustment on every top in my future. It feels so great to have something that really fits me. Oh, I guess that's why we sew.
2. I lengthened the hemline for the short sleeve view another three inches.
3. I used French seams. I use enclosed seams whenever possible, and because this is lightweight fabric, French seams fill the bill.
4. I tried "Mock French Seams" on the armscye seams. Now that I'm getting back into garment sewing, I'm determined to try out lots of techniques that are new to me. The mock French seam is recommended for curved seams, like you'd find when joining an armhole and a sleeve. Major hassle. Like so many things labeled "mock," this is simply not worth it. Step away from the Mock French Seam.
5. I painted eyelet "beading" lace, and added a little bow at the neckline.

Finally, Be Sure to ignore the pattern's instructions for turning up the hem only after you have stitched the lace onto the bottom. This was illogical and super time-consuming, but of course I followed the instructions, never suspecting a genuine pattern could publish something so absurd. Turning up the seam allowance and simply stitching a second time around the lace's seam line may be fine for a knit, but I see my PJs getting washed each week, hopefully for many years to come. I want an enclosed hem. I finally ended up pressing up the hem with my tiny crafting iron ...
Sorry for the blurry focal point: but hey, what a great finger!

Free-motion embroidery is a skill that has come in so handy, in so many situations.


... then free-motion stitching a wavy line on the outside, catching the turned up hem .. and looking, if I do say so myself, awfully Shabby Chic. ;)









I haven't had time to sew up my Pajama Bottoms yet, because we recently welcomed a New Member to the Family! Stay tuned for further updates. In the meantime, Love and Be Loved.
Tina in San Diego


28 March 2013

Tailored Jacket: To Be or Not to Be?

Well, that was some scarf, eh? Sorry for being so lax about posting, but a class project has me worrying when I turn to do anything else. Perhaps you know the feeling. As for me, everything's crying out for my time: spring gardening, hosting family and friends, an endless series of birthdays, even cooking. Still, when I do make time for Life, I feel like I should be catching up on this Ever Looming Project, instead.
The culprit:
My Continuing Ed sewing class project: The Tailored Jacket
After teaching a "Tailored Pants" class last Fall where almost nobody finished their pants, our instructor wanted to avoid the hassle of having to fit each student's unique pattern. This time around, she chose to have us all make the same jacket. So she drafted one, above, and provided us with tag-board pieces to trace off in Small, Med. and Large, below.
After trying on a prototype, we traced off our best size, and drew in details like darts and seam joins.
Our instructor had drafted separate pattern pieces for the lining, the "self" fabric (our wool), and the hair-canvas that gives a tailored jacket that special body and smooth look.

Right off the bat, I stumbled. I was missing some of the pieces, because the gals tracing off Medium forgot to distribute some. Or maybe it was my fault, not expecting there to be a lining upper sleeve, say, and a different sleeve piece for our wool fabric. Other pattern pieces came with scanty markings such as notches and small holes. Having no previous experience in sewing jackets or pattern making, little dots and notches on the pattern meant nothing to me.

Several students clamored for a visual key to our pattern, so our instructor drew one up.
Up to HERE with frustration, I asked the instructor for a list of pattern pieces, which she sketched out and emailed to the class. In the next class, she reviewed each pattern piece, calling out the notches and other critical marks, and making sure we each had a complete pattern. One look around the room said that I was not the only student who appreciated this session.
Resources include instructor handouts, books from my library, and our textbook, upper left.
After tracing off our patterns, we were told to make a fitting muslin. Major hurdle number two: I had no idea of how to sew the muslin. I desperately consulted class materials, our textbook, and my own sizable sewing library. Then I turned to the Internet--including my memberships to Threads magazine's Insider content and PatternReview.com. But I could find nothing that gave simple instructions for a jacket muslin. Frustration mounted.
My muslin Fail: I mistakenly sewed the top collar to the under collar before sewing the latter to the front lapels, or revers.
So ... I guess I was afraid to ask for a muslin tutorial from our teacher. Naturally I did it wrong: messing up the collar. Digging myself in deeper, I did practice hand-basting the collar's "roll" -- you know, for the time if and when I ever do nail a jacket.
Using hand stitches to give the collar, no matter how Wrong, nice shaping.
Once I tried on the sorry excuse for a muslin, I was alarmed: the side seams were not at my sides but way near the back. I realized that, apart from trying it on quickly en mass the first night of class, I had no idea of how the jacket was supposed to look. Panic set in once again, and I emailed the teacher, who drew the line drawing below and emailed it to all the students. Do you think she is happy about having a former technical writer in class?
Desperate for some sort of visual, I asked for, and received, this line drawing.
I guess I'm a glutton for punishment, for I haven't dropped out of the class yet. While the others are happily pad-stitching their lapels, on their real jackets, I'm still making samples of a double-welt pocket, fretting about slashing into the jacket's actual front.
My second welt pocket sample, in my beautiful and inexpensive dark navy wool, looks nice. But it's a Fail, too, as it seems that I slashed too far into the ends, leaving but a tiny area for sewing down the short ends (see pin, above). Sigh.

To get the welts to open up nicely, I used a tool from quilting, where perhaps I should stay? It's a tiny pointy iron that's great for pressing bindings, animal costumes, and other fiddly things. In one of the books that mentions nothing about the sewing order for a jacket muslin, I learned to take a little bundle of wool, tie it, and use it to daub your fabric with water when pressing in a tight space.

Before I tackle the third sample tonight, I will hand-sew little loops called "tailor's tacks" to mark everything onto the jacket fronts: all seam lines, pocket placements, dart lines, hemlines, and anything else that seems important. Then, if this third sample goes well, I'll be ready to SLASH into my jacket.

Although our class textbook is excellent (apart from telling you to "Make the muslin"), I splurged and bought a newer book, Vintage Couture Tailoring. After looking it over, our instructor, who has a real reverence for all things Tailoring, pronounced it very good -- although she pointed out where the author's tailor tacks go a little overboard.
Tailor's tacks are time-consuming, but show essential marks on both sides of your fabric.
I, too, like the book. My only problem is that it was typeset in light gray type, in a miniscule typeface reserved for rental car agreements. I guess that between reading this book, sewing tailor's tacks, and ripping dark navy stitches out of dark navy fabric at night, my eyesight is bound to get worse. But at least I'll be warm in my Tailored Jacket.

Addendum: I must add that my teacher is excellent! In fact, a costumer for two top theaters (The Old Globe and the La Jolla Playhouse) plus the opera, is in our class, just to study with our instructor. She's accustomed to more experienced students, no doubt. As you can see, in garment sewing, give me maps and charts! Be well, and happy sewing.