Total Pageviews

Monday, April 26, 2010

On being strong

Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces.

Sure. If you say so.

Little Red Riding Hood

Isn't she the most adorable little doll? I took about thirty pictures today using several backgrounds to get the right pictures. This is my very favorite line of dolls which I have been making for decades. Gail Wilson has been designing these historical dolls for a very long time and I have been a follower of hers since the late eighties. So for 30 years.

It is all about creating a body, stuffing, painting, varnishing, antiquing, dressing. I used to use the cottons I found inside the collars of kimonos which were already old. These cottons are not with me here, so I have to use the cottons in her kits. The kimono cottons were 100 years old and i didn't have to make them look old. They were old. The hair was different for me this time. I had to create an actual wig for this one. I love the length of it.

And this was the first time I have made a wooden basket. i had to boil a thin sliver of wood, shape it around a dowel, let it dry, glue, paint, create the handle. And then i made four aples and a tiny napkin to fill the basket. There are wires in the arm sho they can be bent to hold the basket.

I am excited. When I go into work later today, I will be shipping this off to my baby sister. Linda has several of these dolls. It is her birthday. I haven't celebrated her birthday in several years. And I know she adores these dolls. And - she might even get this in time for her birthday which is on the 28th if I send it 3-day priority. I am rarely on time for anyone's birthday. I usually get the brilliant idea of what to make them too late to get it done on time. I think I will be on time this birthday. I am very pleased.

I think everyone should experience making one of these lovely dolls.

Lorraine Torrence

Once again, a new pattern maker to us. I was given this pattern and asked to make up this little jacket using the Cara Serenity fabrics. The pattern is called "Grainline Gear - Noren Ensemble". I love the line of fabrics. I have created a similar style of jacket in the past that was hugely popular. But the color way I chose this time was different. Last time is was in blues, browns and greys. This time, I used a vibrant green and two blues, one deep and one neutral. I wanted the green to come out but I didn't want to use a lot of it.

The pattern was easy to follow. The only flaw was that the button loops were not spaced evenly which would have been OK, except that it did not match the picture on the pattern, and the spacing was awkward. So when I added the loops, I spaced them evenly - just because~~~.

The back has three layers. The deep blue is the longest layer. The green is the middle layer which, when it came time to hem, I did a bit of a decorative stitch which you can only see if the wind is blowing and the top layer opens.

The sleeve is made in an interresting manner and ends up having a little open placket. It only serves for interest. It doesn't have a button although you could put one there if you wanted to. But I try to make things according to pattern because customers are so visual.

This is a detail of the back and the open flap. You really can't see the true colors. I have to work on that. But it is a lovely piece in all and will do very well on display. It should sell a lot of patterns and a lot of fabrics. I imagine I will be called out of my sewing room a lot and questioned about my little details. That always happens when it comes to an art piece. The last jacket I made like this, I quilted a tiny piece and covered a button with it which was the only button on the jacket. I can't tell you how many customers I demonstrated the technique to in my sewing room.

So I gave a high recommendation to the pattern maker.

Bird Display

This is a display that I really love. The fabrics are all reproduction fabrics from the 1930's. We have a book called "A Stitch In Time" which I have mentioned in a previous entry when I made the Molly doll. It is a really great book which is loaded with wonderful things to create.

The cage is mine, or really my sister's. There are two birds inside and there is dried moss on the bottom of the cage. Not something you would normally see in a bird cage. But it is visually eye catching. And our customers love it.

Here is Molly. She is stitched to a miniature ironing boards which I have covered and she sits in front of the bird cage being that is is made of the same collection of fabrics. She is constantly touched. Very loved.

And this is Karen Bryce who creates all the displays for everything that I create for the store. She is tremendously imaginative and resourceful. We really connect quite wonderfully and we have a marvelous relationship. Three more birds are attached to branches that grow out from the cage I have little hope that they will survive the display. I think they will be taken. But they are easy to make and I can whip up more if necessary. You can see a yellow and green star. That is a huge pin cushion, part of the display. We sold out of the books the first few days. Thing is, one by one, I am creating almost every item in the book, which is rare. Right now, I am home doing the embroidery work on making two buckets from the book. It is rare to find an art book that you just want to make everything. At least for me. Often times, I will browse a book, maybe be interested in one or two things, at most, but I won't buy. I'll take a couple of notes. Of the hundreds of books I look at it is rare I will want to own. This book, I not only own, I sell it to anyone remotely interested.

I think once the display is entirely finished, I am going to send pictures and a text to the author. If I was an author, I would want to know that such a big store is featuring my work in such a big way. Wouldn't you?

Monday, April 19, 2010


It is 1:30 in the morning. I have been working on a Gail Wilson doll for my baby sister, Linda. Creating the body, tiny stitches, stuffing it just so, so there are no lumps, attaching the arms and legs and then finally, creating the nose, are the most difficult parts of working the doll. I am finally finished.

So I went out on the porch to have a cigarette. I did something I never do. I turned on the light to take a look at my tree. I noticed earlier today that it was rather dry. I should begin watering more often than once a week. The weather is turning warm and it needs more water. I noticed that it dropped some leaves. I am concerned. So I wanted to take a close look at it. I mentioned in an earlier blog that it was producing these little balls and was excited to see what these were going to turn into.

Flowers. Very tiny. 3/16ths of an inch. Little white flowers. I am thrilled to no end. I will photo this when it is in full bloom. I can't believe it. My tree is a flower producing one. I didn't know. What a surprise. I am happy beyond words.

What a life!

Sunday, April 18, 2010


I love the "Clover Needlecraft Company". To me, they manufacture a good quality tool. When asked, I will direct a customer to the area of the notions or craft department they are looking for. Nine times out of ten they will ask my opinion on tools. And nine times out of ten I will direct them to Clover. Clover tools are precise, strong, and lasting. I can never complain.

So a couple of weeks ago I am given a project sheet titled " A Bevy of Bags" and asked to make them using all the products that are recommended. Georgia, our Purchasing Agent, knows that I have skills that prevent me from using a lot of product in the store that is geared towards those who don't have skills. So, Here I am now about to use product as though I am an inexperienced sewer.

I decided to pick fabrics from three departments to make the three bags. Quilters cottons, Chirimen rayon from Bridal, and decorator fabric from Home Dec. It took an hour to pick the fabrics and then wheeled my cart into my sewing room to cut. I have some expensive fabric so I don't want to cut more than I need. Some patterns have you buy more fabric than necessary.

I'm reading directions. I'm looking at the required purchase for fabric and I am thinking - is it me? Or is there something wrong with this pattern? I'm in agony. It is calling for purchasing a fat quarter but is having you cut almost a half yard in order to make the purse. Each bag is like that. Lining as well.

I called in one of my favorite quilters, Pat, and she took a look at it and she agreed. The pattern is wrong. It should be calling for a half yard of fabric not a fat quarter. I brought it immediately to the attention of Georgia who emails the company. They just printed 200,000 pamphlets that are free hand-outs. They are being mailed out world-wide. Not good.

This is the first bag. Quilter's cotton. The piping is made using a fusible piping. You simply cut the fabric and iron it on to a cord that has been wrapped with a fusible web and you have instant piping. It is pretty neat actually and will make the process easy for anyone. The other product used for this bag is a thin but pretty strong plastic for the bottom. It's called "Shape and Create". It is not strong enough to stiffen a large bag unless you were to heavily stitch it to the bag bottom I think. But for this one, it is a one inch wide bottom and is quite adorable.

The handles were a little difficult, awkward to put in, but not one to give up, in they are. The last issue for me was getting the lining in. There was no instruction for how to finish the raw edges of the piping at the top of the bag. Things didn't seems to fit well. The pattern called for folding the edges of the lining in 1/4 inch and machine stitching it all around the edge of the bag. But it wasn't fitting well. So, I installed the lining by hand. And it looked better.

Next, the bag from Home Decorating. I wanted to keep this one really simple. It called for top stitching the handle on and I didn't. I hand stitched it to the inside so that I could have a nice clean look. There was no special product in making this other than applying the handle. All of these handles are from Clover. And they have some real beauties. I might buy a series and make some knitting bags for the women who come to my knitting class.

To embellish a bit, I did a little bead work. Simple. There are a lot of women out there creating wild and crazy bags. I don't want to compete. So I kept this one simple. I want people to see that not everything has to be overly "done".

And then there is the kimono bag. This is just the loveliest piece. I love the pleating at the handle. It is a faux button at the outer pocket. It is actually a small piece of velcro. This button I put on is the palest green. The handles are a really beautiful creamy butter yellow. I have to admit, I want one of these. And I rarely say this about little bags because I always carry around a very big bag.

So, I hope Clover changes their pattern. I don't think we are going to carry it until the corrections are made. I would love to email them and tell them that before they send a pattern to print, send it to me to test.

Now, wouldn't that be sweet!!!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A new Designer

So once again I am given a pattern to try out from a new designer to see if the it is well written. I went to the Bridal Department to look for silk, something in a pattern that also has a matching chiffon so that I could make a scarf with which to touch it off in the end. This particular print also came in green, but I am constantly told that not many customers will wear green. Then why do we carry so many fabrics in green? It is my favorite color. I always want to make everything in green. The blouse is really quite lovely, but you can't really see because it needs to be worn. It has four darts at the neckline and four more darts at the hem. Very simple and a design for just about any body. I think the sizing runs a bit big.

This is the back. It has two neckline darts and two hem darts. The only flaw in this pattern and it is quite important, is that the designer omitted interfacing the button facings. No matter the fabric, you always interface the facings. Button holes or whatever the closure, need that support. Of course, I interfaced this blouse with a nice woven iron-on interfacing by Palmer Pletsch. Then I wrote a note for the buyer that the instructions will have to be addressed.

The darts really play with the linear designs of the printed silk.

The sleeve is just a simple little cap, hand sewn, very simple. You can't even see my stitches in the hemming.

This is the chiffon scarf draped over the top of the blouse. I just love how the lines play and yet there is nothing long which would create largess.

The pattern is put out by "Colette" and is called 'Sencha'. Next to it are my notes. I did also note that the pattern called for almost 1/2 yard more fabric than I needed to make the blouse. And when you are paying for an expensive silk, that can be costly. But all in all, if I were inclined to wear a blouse like this, I might make several in different fabrics - silk, linen, delicate cotton, charmeuse, rayon. This blouse can be worn with all different styles of skirt, pant, jeans even.

A nice piece.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I was sitting today working on a small project as usual that was all handwork when it occurred to me that, like all other stitchers who do a lot of hand work, I have certain tools that are always by my side that make my work possible. I am often asked what I use and I forget. I forget that I have this little array of things that are always present.

Recently, I went to buy a new package of "Lickety Grip" only to find that there was one left and no back stock. I asked the buyer if more was on order and she said she was discontinuing it. I was mortified. I have been using this for years. Fabric Depot is the only source I have ever known to have it. They have placed another order and I promised to sell it.

You know how we are always licking our fingers to make the end of thread knot. I just rub my finger on this and make my knot. I also use it in place of "Thread Heaven" as it works better. It is smoother and lighter on the thread.

I also use it when I'm sewing. You know how difficult it is to press edges of necklines, any seam where a press is required so that the stitching disappears cleanly, like on sashes. I touch my fingertips to the Grip and get better control of the fabric and it doesn't leave a stain.

If anyone wants to try it, let me know. How many times have I taken a sip of coffee then licked my fingers to twist a knot only to stain the thread. I haven't done that in a long time...

Can we ever have enough pin cushions? This is a tiny little thing that holds a couple of pins and my sewing needle. You can see on the right that it has a braid so I can pin it to the arm of the chair and I don't have to worry about it falling onto the floor when I get up for another cup of coffee.

I nice pair of tiny scissors that has a good sharp point. A good sharp point gets into anything no matter how minute.

Frustrated with thimbles, I have never found one that fit, and that stayed on my fingers. So all of my life I have developed callouses. One day I found a piece of very thin leather and the idea came to me. I fashioned a sleeve.

This slips over my entire finger like a glove. I can barely feel it there, it never falls off, and does exactly what it is supposed to do.

So, this is my little box that is currently holding the project I am developing. I will be blogging it later this week. I just put the lid on and bring it to work and work it on my lunch. All neat and tidy. So there you have it. My tool box!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


"As you get older, three things happen. The first is your memory goes. ~~~~~

I can't remember the other two...."

Some days it just seems like this.

Today is Easter. It was a major holiday when we were children. Getting dressed in these pretty dresses, getting the lovely Easter baskets, the very fancy ceremonial masses at church with the incense. How I loved going to church. It was so mysterious to me. I know my brothers and sisters thought differently. But it was in Latin and I understood so little and I was sure to perish if I didn't just adore it. I used to love going to church with the nuns to polish the pews during the week. There were sounds in the church coming from somewhere behind the altar that I didn't understand and I had it in my mind that maybe everyone was planning with God Himself what was going to happen at the next Mass. I know. You think I need more drugs.

For me, Easter was always about some sort of holiness. Yes, love the chocolate, the ham, the pretty dresses. Any holiday is great. But Easter. Look - He gets up and rises up from all of that grueling ordeal and we get to party. And who really thinks of that. It IS about the eggs, the ham, the pretty dresses, the company that comes over. Who really thinks about what Himself went through?

It gives me heart palpitations when I think of it. Spending today alone in reflection I have had moments of anxiety. Well it is a nice story. A nice story I was raised to believe. I took a nap. I am sewing now. I was able to speak to family in New Hampshire. I am watching an article on smoking on "60 Minutes". God I wish they would leave us alone. I love smoking. I have been keeping track. I smoke one pack every three to four days. Please don't ask me to quit.

The sun came out long enough to show me a beautiful sunset. I am at peace. I am going to cook a lovely piece of tuna for dinner. And I am going to watch more of "Julia cooks with Jacques Pepin" on DVDs.

Easter. Another nice day in my extensive repertoire of nice days.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Something New

These are my brothers and sisters. Suzanne, Denise, Myself, Phillip and Richard. From left to right, from youngest to oldest. I have yet another sister but she was born way after us and was not a part of this type of picture taking. Don't we look like we should be a commercial print? Really, this picture looks like you would see it in a poster or advertisement. My siblings. My family. 1956. A great time to be a kid. I was six years old? Denise - 5. Phil - 7, Richard 8, Suzanne 4. I would be turning 7 maybe shortly after the picture was taken. And the world was safe and simple.

I learned something new. I love learning new techniques when I seek them out. But sometimes I have to learn things through frustration.

I am photographing a project and it annoys me that this little clock icon keeps blinking. So I have been sitting here trying to figure out how to stop it. I have been sitting with my camera for over a half hour trying to figure out this problem. I have the book. But the book makes no sense. Denise is always laughing at me because of this. I am so not a technical person when it comes to electronics. BUT, I did it. As it turns out, it was blinking because it wanted me to fill in the date/time zone. As soon as I entered that information, the icon disappeared. Amazing. As much as I know in the field of fibers, at the same time, I am so very stupid when it comes to modern technology.

Oh, and I just remembered today. I guess I should send in my state taxes, eh!