Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I did not decorate for the holidays this year, but I didn't have to go too far to see the traditional bright colors of the season.

The garden is full of bright red, green, and gold.

faded gold grape leaves (and two little dogs behind them)

this Euphorbia turns red at the tips when temperatures drop

exuberantly red berries of the Pyracantha

three golden grapefruit weighing down their tiny tree

Best wishes to all for a happy and colorful New Year!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Are you a fan of Craftsy? I’ve spent enough time on there to warrant the full expression: fanatic.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned my lust for learning: the multiple 4-year degrees that I dragged out to 6 or 8 years just for the joy of taking classes, the online writing courses, the annual art retreat… those were the days. Unfortunately, education is exceedingly expensive, and taking classes just for fun has gone beyond the reach of my fixed income.
Thankfully I can afford Craftsy. As you can see from my course list, I’ve gone a bit overboard in signups. Mainly because they keep having sales!
I've managed a bit of weird, wobbly crochet, thanks to talented instructors Vickie Howell and Linda Permann.  

I know, I said I did not need any new hobbies! I was wrong. Between crochet and quilting, I’ve had a nice break from sewing.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I thought I’d better post something before the end of October, just so my poor old blog didn’t fall into the category of lost-and-forgotten and start falling off everyone’s reading lists.

I did start a number of blog posts over the last month and a half, but they either got too boring, or something else interrupted, and I could never quite finish. The same could be said for most of my sewing and crafting projects!

However, I did have one success, at least in terms of completion.

A quilt!
This was a multi-purpose project. Originally, its raison d'être was to use up the acres of quilting cotton in odd colors that had inexplicably accumulated in my stash. Then, as I piled up the bits of brown and gold and plum and rust, I saw a nice trend toward earth tones (my version of earth tones), which started me thinking about living room décor rather than bedding. So the quilt’s second purpose was to camouflage the couch.

My couch in its original state

My dog in his preferred spot on the couch back
The couch after 7 years with the dog
(that's the other dog - she can't believe it, either)
I recently added a couch cover
(hard to say whether this is an improvement, but at least it's washable)
Quilt totally distracts from misshapen couch back
and tacky cover!

Matching pillows
And just a general comment on quilting: now I remember why I don’t do it. It’s a huge pain! The planning, cutting, and sewing together are all very enjoyable, but the quilting itself? It’s a horror of lifting, turning, pulling, puckering, running out of thread, and getting stuck by pins. I can see why most people use long-arm quilting services, but it’s too expensive for me. I priced a few local services and even for this small (48” x 80”) piece, the very lowest price I could find was $58. Imagine doing a bed-sized quilt!

Anyway, my next quilt will either be done by quilt-as-you-go, or a rag quilt, so there will be no dragging of gigantic, heavy pieces through my little home sewing machine.




Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Cuddly Cacti

These fabulous new additions to my cactus collection do not have thorns, spines, glochids, trichomes, hooks, needles, or any other exterior unpleasantness. They are soft, squishy and perfectly huggable!

Outside on a visit with their spiny cousins
They are crocheted cactus made by the amazing Urban Rustic. Visit her blog here, but I warn you, after viewing the results of her talent and energy, you will end up with an uncontrollable urge to sew, knit, crochet, hook rugs, do quilting, photography, needlepoint, and have more cats, dogs, lush English gardens, and clever turn of phrase.

Completely crocheted, from the pots all the way to the flowers

Happily (for me), she developed a case of compulsive cactus-crocheting earlier this summer and ended up surrounded by them. I was thrilled to be the recipient of some of her incredible handiwork.

This is Cornelius, who resembles
Carnegiea gigantea, the saguaro cactus.

The saguaro Source

This is Stanley - his shape is similar to
Stenocereus thurberi, the organ pipe cactus.

The organ pipe cactus Source
So I now have miniature representatives of the two iconic cacti of the great and beautiful place that I live – the Sonoran Desert. And I can keep them inside, and I don’t have to worry about over- or underwatering them.

Thank you, lovely blog friend Urban Rustic, for the beautiful cacti!
Have you received an unexpected and/or hand-crafted gift recently?


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dress and Coat Set – Harmonious Hues or Color Clash?

This dress is the oldest survivor of the black hole known as my UFO pile.
Partly sewn
I’ve said that about other items, but this is truly the oldest. I purchased the fabric in May 2011, and cut into it soon after that.
Painted, embroidered silk shantung
This was long before I had any knowledge of fitting techniques or even muslin making, so my attempts at adjusting the fit were made with the pieces pinned together. (Yes, it’s true. If I ever get this done, I may name it The Dress of A Thousand Mistakes. That’s worth an entire post in itself.) After a few frustrating sessions, I put the whole thing away for a very long time.

I always had the plan of making a coat to go with the dress – not in the same fabric, but a coordinate. I even mentioned it back in my early blog days when I was swooning over dress and coat ensembles. I won’t even get into my endless vacillations over the coat style, suffice it to say that there will be eventually be a coat!

Now that I’ve decided to finish this thing once and for all, my fabric hoard has thwarted my efforts in the most vexing way. I cannot find just the right fabric for a coat to coordinate with this dress!

Here’s the suiting I originally bought (online, of course) for this purpose. Even though the color is called “gold”, it’s obviously butter yellow, and putting it anywhere near the peachy gold silk is enough to make people ill.

This is also a nice lesson in the effects of lighting as each fabric looks different in outdoor light (left) and indoor flash (right).

Here is a tan silk/linen that is just not quite the right color, plus the coarse texture looks wrong to me.

Here’s a peach rayon suiting that picks up the overall pink-gold hue of the silk, but is too… pale? flat? chalky? It seems to look better in the camera flash than in natural light, but it’s still not good.

In desperation I tried a contrasting color and was pleasantly surprised. This is a blue-gray cotton shantung, and it looks nice with the blue flowers. Then I started dithering again – maybe it was too much contrast.

Belatedly I realized that fabric shopping was my only option. I grabbed my scrap of embroidered silk and ran to the local SAS Fabrics Superstore, a sprawling warehouse without air conditioning where my physical stamina doesn’t always match my fabric enthusiasm. I was able to endure two hours of the heat, and even more amazing, I found a fabric that I think will work.

I really would not have imagined that a multicolored cotton basketweave suiting would be the answer to this problem, but I can’t argue with the evidence.

I definitely prefer this to the other options. But now I have to actually get to work and finish this project before I change my mind again!



Saturday, August 31, 2013

An Unflattering Dress

Here’s a dress I sewed up as an interim project while I was caught in a conundrum with another dress (to be explained in detail next week).  

The cotton fabric is an odd mixture of colors and patterns: an uneven pink and orange plaid-like design, framing turquoise cacti, all on a taupe background.
I can’t decide whether this represents 50s kitsch or 80s clash. Anyway, the print somehow looks cute and I like the cacti, of course.

This was a very simple dress to make, but I should have taken some time to at least think about fit. The fact that it was a wrap-front made me lazy. Or maybe the fabric’s psychedelic colors threw me off course.

The bodice is too long, which makes the waist drop too low. The skirt is too full, although it might have looked better if the fullness hit at the waist and not on the outward angle of my hip.

I managed to match the pattern perfectly at the skirt side seams, but completely ignored the neckline. I didn’t even realize the problem until I had the thing put together.
Now it’s always going to look higgledy-piggledy unless I decide to do something about that 1-inch difference between the right and left bodice fronts.

Still, it’s not too much of a disappointment since it was meant to be a house dress, and that’s what it is. I used up my cactus fabric, some lining scraps, and several yards of bias binding in an odd peach color, so this was a good stash-busting project too.
and an orangey-pink button!

Next time, I will share my perplexing project predicament.



Thursday, August 29, 2013

Lost and Found - Part 7

Here at last is my final found treasure. It’s a small booklet that I found hidden between two books at an antique store. I am amazed that after 88 years, such a small, ephemeral item still survives, and in quite good condition.

This is an example of a time-honored tradition, the church cookbook. In 1925, the Phoenix Central Christian Church Women put together this booklet and sold it at 25 cents each for the church.

There are several pages of household hints, many of which were new to me.

Imagine using crystallized cyanide for ant control! And putting your ostrich plumes in the oven to get them to curl. (But watch carefully so they don’t burn!)
The advertisements are short, simple, and appealing.

Check out the gorgeous typeface for JC Penneys. And the illustration for Pilcher Optical could fit right in to Dr. Eckleburg’s billboard in The Great Gatsby.

On another page is a barber shop that offers marcelling for $1 and permanent waves for $15.

Finally we come to the recipes, and there are a lot of them. It looks as though the editor wisely decided that every submission should be included, rather than trying to select one or two from each category.
Thus there are five recipes for Gingerbread, eight for Devil’s Food Cake (!), and other similar multiples throughout the book.

It’s interesting that many recipes omit the actual cooking or baking instructions. Also, there are no oven temperatures.  A slow, moderate, or quick oven were the options, if any guidance was provided.

A recipe that no church cookbook should be without is, of course, the Bible Cake.


Another special find was inserted between the pages – a map of Phoenix dated April 1924. I find it utterly amazing to see the entire city squeezed into a tiny space that we consider a small part of the downtown area today.

The quaint charm of this map will probably be more apparent when you see the difference between Phoenix of the 1920s and Phoenix today:

The tiny black spot on the map on the left corresponds to the 1924 map above.

This amazing piece of history is the last of my found treasures, for the time being.

Have you discovered any treasures recently?


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sometimes Nature Is Too Much Even For Me

I'm embarrassed to admit that I shrieked when this thing jumped on me.
You know, I really do my best to live in harmony with the natural world. Yes, I do have to run the air conditioner several hours a day for seven months, but I balanced that out by converting the front yard from a water-guzzling lawn to a wildlife haven filled with native desert trees and shrubs.

I like to work in the garden all day in the company of birds and bees.

I encourage our spiders, large and small, to do their work of pest control.
Crab spider?

Black Widow Spider - I've seen them kill scorpions many times their size (below)
I really have no sympathy for these - I keep getting stung!

 I rescue poor confused snakes and lizards from the pool all summer. 

I even put up with some of these pests...

But once in a while, something comes along that is too weird!
I was just walking around the back yard yesterday, minding my own business, when this thing flew right into my face. It was scary.
When I recovered my composure - and when the bug removed itself to a tree - I was able to appreciate its beauty. The body is about 1/2 inch long, and then it has those crazy red legs. It really has the most amazing colors. It likes the mesquite tree. The closest I can get to an ID is that it may be related to the Giant Mesquite Bug, Thasus neocalifornicus.


I've recovered from the shock, but honestly, I can do without any more surprises hitting me in the face for a while!