31 August 2006

getting nippy, so good thing dolly and this cantaloupe are keeping warm

It's been strangely cool here this week, and though I am sad to say good-bye to summer, it's awfully nice to cozy up under a blanket at night. And fall has its own special magic: back-to-school and crunchy leaves and those first sharp nips in the air. The cool weather has been making me itch to crochet, so I pulled out this half-finished hat that I started sometime in the spring. It's the Snowbunny Hat pattern from Alicia. I ordered a few of her patterns because they are so gosh-durn cute, even though I don't have any little girls to whom I can give this stuff. So a handy cantaloupe is doing the modeling for me. My stuffed snowman also obliged me, though it didn't fit him as well as it did the cantaloupe.

And check out this sweater and hat my Mom knitted for Dolly. She actually took a pattern for an adult-size sweater and altered it down for the doll! I'm quite amazed by this, as I have never knitted anything but a scarf. I'm a bit better with crochet. Mom let me decorate the sweater and Dolly lay in her box for many evenings before I decided to give her the embroidered snowflake.

OK, please excuse me as Agassi is once again battling to stay in the USOpen and it really requires my undivided attention. He's playing that lovely Baghdatis guy who has such a nice face. As Twin says, "what a cute little Cypriote." He is cute, and we like to say "Cypriote."

28 August 2006

a somewhat belated but very heartfelt thank you gift

I finally got a little giftie made for Dora's mama, who gave me all the beautiful fabrics a while ago. It's a set of four placemats and a bread basket. The bread basket is based on one my mom has that my aunt brought her back from France. It's just a flat square, with ties to draw the sides up together. I used two of the fabrics that Dora's mama gave me, hoping that she wasn't sick of looking at those stripes after working with them for a season. Hopefully, it'll be a nice reminder of the work she did this year. (She's a pattern-maker, and the fabrics she gave me were the leftovers from this season. How lucky am I?!)

I even made a card to match the gift tags that I made a couple weeks ago. Feeling very coordinated. So thank you, thank you Dora's Mama, and hope you enjoy some stripey kitchen stuff!

So I caved in and called the cable company to get super-duper cable (we only had the basic-est of basic cable) so I could watch the US Open. And now not only do I have nearly round-the-clock coverage of the Open, I also get the Food Channel and Comedy Central. Such luxury may prove dangerous to the amount of crafting going on around here.

But it's late tonight, and things are looking very rocky for Andre Agassi, so I'm going to go to bed and try to dream a win for him. Then maybe when I wake up, it will have come true.

27 August 2006

tuxedo pillow

Look at me! Who knows how to use her sewing machine?? ME!!! OK, feeling a little smug and quite proud of this one. The little Singer deserves a bit of applause too. Mom, check it out. Pin tucks, lace insertion, and BUTTONHOLES! It's not that difficult, is it?

This is part one of project Trying to Make my Bedroom Look a Little Less Sad. We recently decided to re-sign our lease, and I'm not going to look at blank white walls and makeshift curtains for another whole year. I've already banished the wire cube tower thing that has been with me since college. Of course, everything that was in the wire cubes is now jammed on my already-full bookshelves. Hmmm...did somebody say FABRIC BOXES? Oh yeah, that was me. Gotta get on that. But first, part two of project Trying to Make my Bedroom Look a Little Less Sad will be curtains. Wait for it.

Here's a close-up of the pillow. As usual, I was a bit lax with the measuring/seam allowances, so it's quite plump. The pintucks kind of stand out in a funny kind of way. I'm liking the girly lace + tailored gray.

And the buttons are kind of straaaaaaiiiining to stay buttoned. Measure twice, cut once, Julie. I tried sitting on the pillow while sewing the buttons on in an attempt to smoosh the pillow down a bit. Not sure it helped much. But pillows lose fluffiness over time, right? So it should fit just perfectly in about a year.

26 August 2006

the mother lode of old notions

My great-aunt recently downsized from house to apartment. Among the things that had to go were her old stash of notions. So Mom brought them up to me last weekend and I am so excited about this stuff.

That awesome tin is chock full of bias tape, hem facing, elastic, and goodness knows what else. Also more needles than I could ever in my life use up. I absolutely love the old packaging.

Goose embroidery scissors. I mean, really. Actually, I don't think it is a goose. Crane, maybe?

Hankies. I love the embroidered one. My great-aunt was a great traveler, and Mom tells me these probably came from Mexico. And that nifty travel sewing kit. Now I need one of those train cases to go with it. And a Grace Kelly hairdo. Then, I'll be all set, dahling.

23 August 2006

getting mothered (part two)

Twin's faboo new robe. Red, of course. Mom and I went to Mood and she bought this absolutely gorgeous fabric for us. (If you're a Project Runway fan, you've seen Mood. It's where they went in the Miss America episode to buy fabric. Floor to ceiling huge bolts of fabric. Three floors. Completely massive and fairly overwhelming.) I used the Amy Butler pattern. Could I possibly plug that book any more? You'd think they were paying me or something. I also made a robe for myself. You can go see it here. I didn't post the picture here because though i like my robe, I think Jennie's turned out better. Or maybe she is just a more glamorous model than me. She certainly has that turn of the head thing going. In my picture, I'm looking a bit double-chinned when compared to her dainty throat. Anyway the picture has been relegated to flickr, where you will all go see it because now I've made you curious. sigh.

I made mine first, then made a few slight changes for Jennie's. I softened the neckline a bit because I felt mine kind of resembled hospital scrubs. I also hemmed it a bit shorter. Which is quite cute though she may run into some skivvies-on-display issues should she decide to go trouser-less.

We are feeling quite chic in our new robes. Think I'll go lounge in front of the tv and eat some ice cream. It's a lounging kind of robe and a lounging kind of evening.

21 August 2006

getting mothered (part one)

The gremlin had hidden my camera cable on top of my dresser. The gremlins in my house have an uncanny knack for hiding things in plain view.

Mom and Dad's visit was wonderful, if something of a whirlwind and over too quickly. Mom babied us as only Mom can and my fridge and freezer have not been so full in months.

Mother-daughter sewing occupied a large part of the visit, and it was so much fun to shop for fabrics and trims, unravel the mysteries of the sewing machine, and work on projects together. I think my Grandma was here too, passing on all her sewing wisdom and experience through the stories and advice my Mom shared.

Mom taught me to clean and oil the Singer. This machine was my grandma's and is about 60 years old, but still runs like a dream. I learned how to use all the attachments--dangerous looking mechanical contraptions that always looked to me like instruments of torture best left carefully arranged inside the box. But now I know how to ruffle, gather, make shirring (shir?), pin tuck, attach binding in one easy step, use my walking foot, and make buttonholes. BUTTONHOLES, I tell you. I am awed by the ingenuity of the Singer sewing machine and the people who invented all those gizmos. Yeah, I know we have plasma tv's and pocket-sized computers, but that's all run by some crazy magic. My Singer works by gears and sprockets that I can SEE running around all oiled and shining. This is comforting and more than a little cool.

My Mom is a fabric snob (in the good sense of the word) and was so excited to be able to find really quality goods in the shops in the garment district. I learned a lot about fabric and trim. And we bought a lot. (err, Mom bought a lot. I was busy profusely expressing thanks for the incredible loot I got away with) My fabric and notions bins are overflowing. They require a re-organization, about which I am immensely excited. It will involve custom fabric boxes and stamped labels, I think. Wait for it.

Dolly is a little Scottish lass, and ready for back-to-school with the little kilt and blouse Mom made. My Dolly is on the left, and on the right is one of my Mom's dollies from her youth. Dolly, Sr. must be pushing about 50 years old, so I'd say she's looking pretty good. Her joints are a bit loose, and getting her to stand up on her own required some coaxing. I love how the plastic has gotten shiny from all the years of loving. Check out that lace collar. How cool is that? AND she has matching panties underneath!! She's a bit too modest to show you, but trust me they are darling.

Dad joined us for part of the week and as usual graced us with his infinite patience, and even feigned a moderate amount of interest in the sewing.

Here's Mom and Dad whooping me and Twin at bridge. I'll blame it on lousy luck. I mean, isn't that about the worst hand you've ever seen that I'm holding?

Thanks so much Mom and Pop. So, when are you coming back?

19 August 2006

oh, usb cable, where art thou?

I finally sat down for a minute to write about some of the crafting, touring, and oh-so-fine eating we've been doing with our folks here, but I can't find my camera cable anywhere. Either I left it at work or the gremlins have stashed it away in a hidey-hole. Drat.

So here instead is a picture I took the other weekend in Greenwood Cemetery—one of my favorite places in Brooklyn. It's peaceful and beautiful and has some of the best views of Manhattan from one of its hilltops. You'd think it would be spooky, but instead it's just a wonderfully quiet respite from the busy, blaring city that surrounds it.

Mom has been spoiling us rotten with shopping excursions to the garment district and the Strand. There are kimonos in progress as well as a new addition to Dolly's wardrobe. And my Mom brought me a boxload of old notions and other super cool stuff. All of which I would show you if my brain were slightly less scattered and/or my camera cable were present. Ah, well. I'll share more when the cable decides to grace me with its presence.

17 August 2006

polka dot bag

A quick hello and a new bag made from my new Amy Butler book. It was quick and simple to make, and is just the size I've been needing.

Busy, busy week. My Mom is here for a visit and I've been eating like a king (err, queen?). Mom is stealing me away from work this afternoon for a couple of hours to cruise some fabric shops, so I better quit this bloggin' and get to work. A proper post soon.

13 August 2006

tag swaperoo

This is my contribution for Tammie's Gift Tag Swap. I'm very close to the deadline, so these are getting popped in the mail tomorrow. (no excuses, julie. mail. tomorrow. do it.) (HA! I just realized I'm a week early! I'm never early for anything. hee hee!) I've never done a swap before so this is very exciting. Hope everyone likes my tags and agrees that tiny imperfections are charming.

I covered the backs of the tags with fabric to make them sturdier and a little bit more special. I've been wanting to sew on paper for a long time, so this got that out of my system. Though I like the way it turned out so much, I think I'm going to have to continue my experiments.

And the best part of this project was it was a perfect excuse to go to my favorite trim and paper shops. I got these at M&J Trim, the mecca of trim in nyc. And I wandered through all the paper shops on 18th Street. Maybe sometime I will make a crafter's guide to the paper shops of nyc like Liesl did with her nyc crafter's guide. Then I can rationalize visiting them all in the name of "research."

12 August 2006

not the box of my dreams, but it's got a spiffy grosgrain collar

A somewhat wonky box for all my sewing paraphenalia. I don't have a dedicated sewing space—I work at the dining room table. And I like to keep things neat and tidy. I was going to make the box in my new Amy Butler book, but she calls for Timtex, which I didn't have. So I just kind of winged it. (Thus the slight wonkiness which the picture does an excellent job of hiding.)

This project actually all started when I saw Toni of SimpleSparrow's beautiful needle case. I did end up making one—you can see it among the stuff in the box, it's that little gingham thing. But no close-ups because it turned out really badly. Like a small child with dull craft scissors made it. And then got angry because it didn't turn out right and started tugging at it in tears and temper. But it serves its function. And then my mind started imagining a complex sewing caddy with pockets and pouches and built-in pincushion and all kinds of bells and whistles. And once again, my imagination outran my actual current set of skills. Alas. So I made this simple box. And I did make a new pincushion with red rick rack.

I think all this will serve its purpose rather well, even without all the bells and whistles.

11 August 2006

thunderboomers and gorgeous days

This was the scene walking home from the subway last night. I absolutely love summer thunderstorms. I guess everyone does. And this one was particularly courteous and waited to open up and pour until I was safely in the house.

It washed away all the mucky humid weather and left us with a crisp, clear, and so beautiful you can't stay inside day. Of course, I am inside, working in an air-conditioned office building (blech) but I am expressing a little bit of rebellion for it by blogging at work. (shhhhhhh! don't tell!!) One of my favorite things about living in New York is looking up at the tall buildings. Stark gray buildings, sleek glassy ones, creamy stone ones. I guess all this looking up makes me look like a touristy country bumpkin, but I don't care. I like looking up.

09 August 2006

07 August 2006

home again and a new book!

We had an absolutely wonderful, relaxing, fun time in Texas. I'd never been to Texas before—at least not properly; I think we may have driven through the panhandle once but that didn't count. I have to say Texas is big. The sky seemed enormous, and the spaciousness was a rather startling luxury for us coming from New York.

My friends are the kindest and gentlest of folks, and their hospitality was incredible. Not that I was expecting otherwise. Spending four days with my oldest friends, the ones who were there at the beginning and played such a role in me becoming who I am, was peaceful and comforting and restorative in a way that not even I was expecting. Though so much has changed, nothing has really changed when we get together. It is a timeless friendship for which I am endlessly grateful.

Pictures from the trip are here in a flickr set. Didn't get Twin in a cowboy hat, though she did buy an "I love cowboys" t-shirt which makes an appearance.

Awaiting me when I got home from work today was Amy Butler's In Stitches which arrived early from Amazon. It's not supposed to be released until Sept 1, but somebody's Mama loves her (ME!!) and pre-ordered it and they sent it early! woo hoo!! And it looks amazing. A beautiful book full of beautiful projects. I honestly can't believe this book is only $25. It must have over 20 patterns in it, and her patterns generally run over $10 each. Can you tell how excited I am? I've already picked out the first three projects I'm going to do. That kimono which is just too too cool, the fabric boxes (oh yeah, and she also has directions for fabric folders and envelopes--eee!!), and the laundry bag. Because then maybe (possibly) I might not dread going to the laundromat quite so much.

Thank you so much mama. You are feeding the frenzy up here.

02 August 2006

texas bound

Twin and I are off to sunny Texas to see two of our dearest friends. We were inseparable in high school, but jobs and marriage and whatnot have conspired to keep us many many miles apart since then. The picture is of us on a mountain in Virginia. (Guys can you believe that was 10 years ago?! Look at those bangs! Look at the size of that video camera!!)

Texas may actually be cooler than NYC at this point since this lovely city has been festering in 100+ degree weather the last couple days. We are so OUT OF HERE! A wonderful weekend to all, we'll have pix of the lonestar state when we get back. Hopefully at least a couple of Twin in cowboy hat and boots.

01 August 2006

acts of kindness

More fabric collage, this time in celebration of some lovely acts of kindness that have come my way recently. The quote is from Paul Simon. (You can click the image to see it a bit larger.) There's another line in the song that goes, "acts of kindness, like breadcrumbs in a fairy tale forest, lead us past dangers, as light melts the darkness." I am always amazed how the smallest little kindnesses can dispell gloom and fear and insecurity—erasing them so easily that you wonder why you ever felt such irrational emotions in the first place.

About this little collage. More fusible interfacing. Bit difficult to peel the backing away from those eensy-weensy raindrops. I think my favorite raindrop is that mutinous little one in the middle that insists on falling straight down, rather than diagonally like all the others. It's backed in felt, and you might ask how is it hanging so stiff and straight? Well, excellent question, and not a problem that was easily solved. It involved dowels and a felt pocket and many minutes of head-scratching.

And about these inspiring acts of kindness. My friend Dora's mother is a pattern and sample maker (how cool is that?) and Dora thought I might be interested in some leftover fabrics. Um...YES!!! And here's the stack that I got from her. Just yards and yards of the most beautiful fabrics. A few intricately embroidered satin-y fabrics that I'm a bit frightened to use they are so lovely, and an eyelet that is begging to be made into a dress, and those stripes which I think may have to be some new curtains for my bedroom. Thank you so much Dora and Dora's mama!!!

And you nice nice people in blogland who have left encouraging comments here recently. I'm a bit of a shy one, and do not seek out attention, but of course I relish it when it does come my way. Too many creative endeavors die for lack of encouragement, I think, but which might have evolved into something great and good with just a few choice words tossed in the right direction. So thank you to everyone who has left kind words about my little endeavors here. I'm encouraged to keep on keepin' on.