Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

Isn’t this unusual?

I have seen a lot of these old cards with birds and flowers, children, beautiful ladies, clocks and calendars, even Pierrot clowns, but never one with a cracker! The image is from Karen’s Whimsy, another great source for a wide variety of digital images.

Have a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Since I Have Nothing New…

I guess I must have a pretty good life if the worst thing that’s happened to me is being unable to sew for the past two weeks. I injured my hand slightly during one of my gardening frenzies, but it didn’t heal well, so I ended up with a painful, red, balloon-shaped paw that kept me busy with trips to the Urgent Care facility, constantly changing bandages, and the biggest, yuckiest antibiotic pills ever invented.

Fortunately the pain is gone, but I can’t quite bend my fingers yet, so sewing is still off the activity menu for a week or two at least. Frustration!

Since I have nothing new to share, at the risk of making the year-end sewing round-up another dreaded tradition, I’m going to post a few of my favorite sewn things from 2012.
[click on any photo to see larger or,
click on the caption to go to the original post]
Orange-Striped Jeans

Sailor Pants

Blouse - remake of a dress
Wrap Top - ITY

Blue Velvet Skirt
Cactus Skirt

Plaid Chenille Coat
40s Blouse & 80s Skirt

40s Dress - Button Print
40s Dress - Floral Print
Shirt dress - Cherry Print

Thank you for sticking with me through 2012 – it was fun! I wish you all a very healthy, safe and happy next year!


Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays

Happy Winter Holidays, whichever ones you choose to celebrate!


Stay safe and healthy, and enjoy yourself!


Friday, December 21, 2012

The Importance of a Balanced Diet

Doesn’t the garden look lush and green? It’s a delightful sight.


But if you look closely, you’ll find that it’s all leaves and stems – no fruit.
broccoli plants

In the past I didn’t use plant food on my vegetable garden, I always just relied on the compost to provide nutrients. But for some reason, I got it into my head a few weeks ago that the plants were struggling, so I found some all-purpose plant food in the garage (who knows how old it was) and watered all the beds thoroughly with a solution. The very next day, the plants were green and perky, but by the next week, they were looking like mutants from a horror film.

Checking the fertilizer label – a bit late, obviously – I discovered that it was obscenely high in nitrogen, 20-4-1, and meant mostly for lawns. “All-purpose” apparently means you can use it for all your plants, not that you should.

So now my poor plants look like bulked-up body builders who only ingest protein shakes and steaks – it’s a very unbalanced diet. 
four-foot pea plants

According to the sources I've been reading, it is not easy to get rid of excess nitrogen. You can grow heavy feeders like squash and corn in the soil for a season, and they will use up a lot of nitrogen. But, since I already have a garden full of plants, I was looking for more of a short-term solution.

One way to encourage flowering and fruiting is to add phosphorus, which is the main component of flowering plant foods (Big Bloom, Bloom Booster, etc.). After my last experience with manufactured plant food, I would really like to try a more organic approach if at all possible. One thing I read suggested bone meal as a source of phosphorus, so I will probably try that. I just hope it doesn’t throw things off balance in some other direction.

In the meantime, at least we have lots of leafy lettuce!


Monday, December 17, 2012

It's a Race to the Finish

I used to be that annoying person who finished Christmas shopping in October and sent out cards in November.
Then I’d have December free to bake cookies and decorate every room in the house.

Not any more! I’m a last-minute, under-pressure person now. I just looked at last year's December posts and realized I'm running even further behind than I was then.
I waited about a week too long to get my little Christmas tree, and there was a huge rainstorm that we had to wait out (yes! In the desert!). Finally we rushed out between downpours, but we now have a very wet and muddy tree.
Cards - sent!
I just sent out the cards, finally, even though they’ve been ready for more than a month.

 Chefs’ gifts - sewn!

I powered through some of the gift sewing this weekend, but for some of the other gifts, I don’t even have the fabric yet! 

Now, I want to bake cookies…

How are your holiday preparations going?


Friday, December 14, 2012

200th Post: I've Got the Pictures to Show For It

Here we go with the last few photos that I love but haven't managed to fit into the first 200 blog posts:

Flowers of Desert Willow, Chilopsis linearis, the perfect desert landscaping tree

 An Arabian friend

My hibiscus put on a big show last spring

Manny likes his sweater, even though it doesn’t quite fit over his round belly.

I just loved this image, but I felt it needed some witty aphorism as a caption. Now I’ve realized I’m just not witty enough, so here it is.

Next week I hope to be productive and get something – anything – done. Ten days til Christmas, people!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

200th Post: I've Seen Some Things

I wanted to share a few images I captured in my travels, but which didn’t quite fit into my earlier blog posts for whatever reason.

Why doesn’t anyone ever photograph the back  of a peacock?

An old piece of honeycomb in a field – how did it get there?

Really cool graphics in a Healdsburg, CA shop window (too bad about the poor photo quality!)

Normally I wouldn’t be happy to see a vegetable garden pest, but I like this ghostly image of a cabbage white moth floating over someone else’s broccoli.

On Friday I will have a few more flora and fauna pics to share.


Monday, December 10, 2012

200th Post: I've Made Some Mistakes

Okay, time is flying by way too fast now.
Last week I was just getting used to the fact that it was December already, and now another whole week has gone by.

I’m rushing around trying to finish all the things that need to be done every year – doctor and dentist appointments, car and dog registrations, income tax and property tax, insurance payments, yardwork, home repairs, etc.

All of which means that I’m not getting around to the holiday stuff! I still haven’t sent out my cards. I still haven’t sewn up the Christmas gifts. I haven’t gotten a Christmas tree yet, although my box of ornaments is sitting conspicuously in the middle of the living room floor.

Now I see that I’m on my 200th blog post already! Somehow I’ve been doing this for more than a year. How did that happen?

In honor of my 200th post and in gratitude for you all putting up with my ramblings for this long, I think we should now look back and…

Laugh at my mistakes!

Yep, I know some of my blog entries have inspired an eyeroll or two, but believe me, there were some things that even I thought were bad.  Here are a few photos of projects that didn’t make it into the blog for GOOD REASON!

Plum Pleather Purse
This "ostrich" vinyl was awful to start with: cheap-looking, thin, easily scarred, and already crinkled and torn from shipping. Why did I bother trying to make a bag? It was supposed to be a practice run (a muslin, I suppose) for the pattern, but I put so much effort into it and it looked so ugly that it resulted in a strong vote against the pattern.

Lace Bumblebee
Some things you just don’t realize until you see the photo. This black and ivory lace was pretty but too formal for me, so I wanted to make it more casual by underlining it with a bright cotton. In hindsight, yellow is certainly the worst choice I could have made. Also, I guess it was temporary insanity that made me think a floor-length straight skirt was the way to go casual.

Scrappy Jacket

I do love rayon. I love the old, heavy rayon that had some texture and drape to it, and I even love the modern, thin challis that they sell these days. I have bags and bags of rayon scraps from all my projects and once in a while I think I should do something with them. Where I went wrong with that thinking was in the vertical stripes. For one thing, it’s rayon! Almost impossible to sew a straight seam, much less multiple, parallel seams.

But the bigger problem is that the alternating colors that looked so pretty laid out on the table ended up looking more like a referee’s jersey on the jacket. Why didn’t I make a simple quilt top? That would have been so nice!

More photos next time: nice subjects, but they never got posted because they didn’t quite fit anywhere.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Inspiration at the Museum

This past weekend offered the opportunity for free museum passes, so we went to the Phoenix Art Museum to see what was new since our last visit in September. We looked at some photos and a lot of southwestern paintings, but I purposely left the Fashion Gallery until the end, knowing I would be there for a long time. Once I got in there, I almost couldn’t leave.

The current fashion exhibit is “Modern Spirit – Fashion of the 1920s.” Where do I even begin to describe this incredible collection? The colors! Yes, the colors. Surprisingly subdued, the colors in the room were mostly earthtones. Rust, camel, salmon-peach, black, and ivory made up the majority. There were also a few dusky versions of jewel tones like jade and plum, and dark blue appeared once in evening wear and once in a suit. A brilliant scarlet red was the exception to all this restraint, and it stood out in several areas of the exhibit. 
Although no photos were allowed in the museum, many of the exhibit pieces are from the Arizona Costume Institute, and these images are from their online gallery.
1928 dresses
The textiles were utterly amazing. Each piece was dripping with embroidery, beading, ruffles, rhinestones, or sequins. Several of the dresses were covered with thousands of glass beads individually sewn onto silk tulle or lace. How does the fabric bear that weight? How does the garment survive 90 years?
Three evening dresses by Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. 1928, 1925, 1925.

One of the most luxurious-looking effects was the voluminous, gathered and rolled velvet collars of the evening coats, which were shaped very much like the Poiret cocoon coat. Even the velvet was embellished with beads and embroidery, and in one case, fur.
Folkwear Pattern 503, The Poiret Cocoon Coat. Source

I could go on and on, but without photos, I feel I can’t really do justice to the other pieces.

I will leave you with the last one that I do have a picture of, which was the simplest design, and also my favorite. It’s a Vionnet, of red silk crepe chiffon. The narrow silver edging is a lamé binding. For the sewists reading this, can you imagine trying to stitch a long strip of lamé to a fluttery, tissue-thin expanse of silk, on the bias, without snagging, tearing, shifting, or even creating the tiniest hole?
The epitome of elegance
A history of Madeleine Vionnet and her design techniques that we still use today is here. Also, Coletterie did a nice writeup on Vionnet here.

I was very inspired by my visit. I won't be sewing up any 20s-style evening gowns, but it certainly boosted my creativity.

What has been your source of creative inspiration lately?


all photos from the Arizona Costume Institute,