Monday, December 31, 2012

of good resolve

"We are given our lives, our fear,
our broken bones, and broken hearts.
Breaks create openings that were not there before,
and in that space grow the seed of new creation
    ~ Rebecca Wells

"Inspiration is for amateurs,
the rest of us just show up and get to work..
    ~ Chuck Close

Words to live by... These two will be my resolution for 2013

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Our plucky heroine has has a busy weekend in the workroom...

You wouldn't think that bending tiny soft wires that are mostly under a cm long would be exhausting, and take hours... sometimes I feel like wirebending is like the layout and cutting part of sewing, it takes FOREVER and is pretty stressful to get just right, but once that part is complete, the rest of the process, thought time consuming, is (hopefully) straightforward...

well begun and more than halfway done... which is a good thing 'cos I am really tired! This shows some of the black background enamel before the third background firing. At this point I have lost count of how many times this has been in the kiln. It will need at least another five or six firings before it gets ground smooth and flash fired...

By after midnight was getting to the end of my second wind, only two more firings left to do (fingers crosssed). I really want to finish this tonight... Fire arts are playing with fire, even if it is the "tame" kind that comes out of a wall socket... and finally, by around a quarter to 2 in the wee small hours, it was finished, and our plucky heroine turned off the kiln and went to go be horizontal for a while...

Always need to have at least one other thing in the works whilst enameling is happening, as once the kiln is hot there is no reason not to use it, and there is as much more "waiting for the enamel to be dry enough to fire" time as there is active prep and firing time.

This time I decided to try an experiment and came up with this tiny enamel cabachon with the glyph for a dressmaker form; Limoges painted enamel, on a backing of silver enameled in a warm grey. I am considering building a setting for it and maybe putting it in my long dormant Etsy shop or find a buyer for it, as it is the jewelry equivalent of a "muslin" for the finished more complex piece. I am still working on the design of a sewing related charm necklace, and this will be one of the many techniques used...

Just found this video ; click to open, well worth watching for the clip at the beginning, which shows the dance of enamel being made in factory...  I have never seen this aspect of the process before. Oh my how I do love the enamels that Soyer makes in France; such wonderful colors! I recently ordered a new "blue-black" shade that is exactly what it sounds like, a deep indigo that reads like black. (wish I could afford to buy myriads of their enamels, which I order from their US distributor Bovano of Cheshire)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday fragments

Don't ever go and shop at Woodcrafters, I shall certainly not go there again! Why, you may ask.... because they have a most snarky attitude towards legitmate customers, which I am not willing to pay money to be subjected to. I was in there shortly before Christmas, and saw that they had nice 1/4 panel cuts of baltic birch plywood in various thicknesses, which would be perfect for the mending around the bathroom vent fan project. Since I'd not measured the needful dimensions at the time, I planned on coming back later to pick up a piece. I asked (at that time) at the front information desk if they could cut the piece down in house and what the charge for that would be. I was told "oh yes, no problem, and only a few bucks..."

When there, I picked out a piece of the 1/4" plywood, paid for it, and then asked if they could make two cuts in it for me. The clerk said sure, what do you want, and our minimum shop fee is $15!!! I looked at him in shock and said, "gosh, most places charge a dollar or two per cut, and I was told only a few dollars when I was in here a week or two ago..." With a very nasty tone of voice he told me that "we're not Home Depot"... I was quite startled at his venom to a customer, told him that in fact, I do not normally shop at Home Depot, and left with my paid for but uncut sheet goods. I will make sure to pass this story along, in the same way that I share the tales of places with wonderful kindly customer service.

I have wonderful generous friends, as anyone that reads along here will surely see... Last night K, her husband O, and I went to go visit my pal E, after a quick stop at Barbur World Foods for some delicious Lebanese take-our food for supper. The plan was to hang out being encouraging whilst E worked on her 12th Night clothing... (I realise that not everyone is as sewing-mad as I am, some folks find it a chore rather than an activity-of-choice), It was a really fun way for me to spend the evening being social and helpful. E also sent me home with her older countertop automatic hot water kettle, having read my saga about melting down my former stovetop kettle. Now all that is needed is to clear a spot on the miniscule countertops here at Acorn Cottage. Also, when my sad tale about Woodcrafters and their price-gouging cut fee was told, O offered to do all the needful cuts in his home shop for me (happyface) so early in the new year I can check another project off my fix the bathroom punch list...

It has been an interesting week in several ways... one is that I've had the loan of a Subaru Forrester all week, and have taken advantage of the opportunity to refresh my everyday driving skills. The biggest difference that having a car makes is how much less important it makes it seem what the outside world is like. Without a car, our plucky heroine needs to pay careful attention to not only what the weather is doing "now" but also be prepared for however long the journey away from home will likely take. Walking around means being out in the weather, also means seeing the surrounding environs in much greater detail than is possible or safe while behind the wheel. BIg shift of focus. Of course, available auto transportation means that it is much less necessary to plan ahead for tasks or errands, and also it is a lot easier to drift into the spend money and shop mode, because you can. (not that I did suchlike, but did take advantage of easy vehicular transport to restock the pantry shelves a bit, which was planned spending)

Also had two acupuncture treatment sessions this week, which seems to be encouraging some improvement in my ability to stand and walk. I will gladly take that, and am hopeful for further transformation, being able to walkabout and maybe even dance will do wonders for my well-being. Indeed as body, mind, and spirit are interconected, it has been a great weight off my mind to finally also start to move beyond heartbreak, which has long become a tiresome place to live. I suspect that those tiny needles in whatever meridians R has been adjusting have also drained off some of the "stuck in sadness" that has been my unwelcome companion for all these months. Somehow, the time that G and I had together has begun to fade into a story that happened long ago to someone else, instead of the only thing I can see or feel. I will always miss waking each day with that spark of brightness in my heart, but the pain of loss has finally started to ease. Life alone might not be radiant, but now it is back to equanimity...
Song for today:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

14thC tiny tidbit

Another project begun earlier this month was this brooch, a holiday gift commission inspired by the jewelry of the 14thC.

Here is some of what it took to get from my initial sketch to the completed piece:

There were quite a few challenges along the way, starting with getting the An Tir checky background just right; remember that the backing metal on these enamels is only about 3/4" across or less. Enamel is very finely ground glass, like beach sand, but smaller.) Fortunately, our plucky heroine has been playing with glass and fire for a number of years now, and while it is never as intuitive a process as stitchery is for me, time has seen improvement in my skill set... (Hmmm, speaking of practice, am thinking it may be time to start up again with teaching my various enameling workshops again after the turn of the year...)

Three layers each of white and gold, carefully hand-packed, (six firings) plus two layers of counter enamel (two more firings), and the checky base is ready for the limoges painted enamel details.

That sorted out, the heraldic designs (Goutte de Sang and Jambe de Lion) that are the insignia of particular awards in the SCA Kingdom of An Tir, were painted on with limoges enamel (finer than beach sand, more like talcum powder) mixed with lavender oil, fired at 1500F, and that process repeated several times to refine the images and add details. I always love to see the working sketches that I make begin to translate into material objects. Now that the enameling for these pieces is completed, the next step will be to fabricate the settings that will protect the enamel and allow them to be worn as jewelry.

(click picture for closer view)

A close view of very small bezel being sawed to shape, before the finish work of smoothing and polishing, and setting the enamel. (interior is about 1/2" x 3/4")

Bit by bit, all these pieces will be completed and assembled together in an tiny articulated brooch... (see drawing on right side of image)

Finally this challenging project is complete! I am quite happy with how the enamels turned out, and with how tidy the tiny hand-fabricated bezels look. Hope the recipient is as pleased with it as I am...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

silent shirt, holey shirt

At the beginning of the month our plucky heroine started yet another decorative long-sleeve T shirt, as the second piece in my wintertime 6PAC sewing. Handwork keeps me sane, keeps the hours spent on public transit from feeling like a wasted life... Last night the sleeves (final two pattern pieces) were completed.

It was my intention that the sleeves have a slightly different complementary design, for several reasons. The long lines of parallel running stitch used on the body sections work well for the kind of horizontal stretch needed there, but somewhat less well on the stretch and bend that happens around the human elbow. Also, the idea of somewhat asymmetrical design on the arms felt like a fun current idea while still within my personal aesthetic.

So, once the cuff and shoulder areas had the overall holey motif added, 'twas time to begin designing and adding the final decorative paint and stitchery... My inspiration was this image, (found online somewhere* several years ago, as a fragment of a larger picture)

An inspiration was to realise that by using pins in the areas to be cut away, it is possible to hold together multiple layers of freezer paper to cut identical reversed stencils

see... it works like a charm...

et voila! - the original sketch is at the top, the two mirror image stencils at the bottom

Design is stenciled with black paint onto the indigo jersey fabric. Still to come, stitching around the motif, cut away at the edges of the petals, and more painting of surrounding scrollwork

Sleeve embellishment is completed, so now all shirt components are ready for assembly... Final construction waits 'til our plucky heroine has finished her current metalwork project (metalwork and enameling trump personal sewing)

* if anyone knows where this is from, I'd gladly add an attribution. (Tried Google Image search without luck) Nowadays I use Pinterest to store inspiring images, while tracking back to first locate where they exist online rather than simply re-pinning, to avoid just this kind of difficulty...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

not amatuer

"Inspiration is for amateurs,
the rest of us just show up and get to work..."

             ~ Chuck Close
(my chosen quote for this weekend, since if I wait for inspiration to find me, I'd be waiting a long long time. Somehow if I just do the work, inspiration like a cat is intrigued, and comes to see what is happening)

theme song for nowadays


A holiday gift for my kitchen: new stove burner, and burner trays, this time black enamel trays instead of the thin plated sheet metal ones that so quickly rust through and fall apart. Surprisingly, the black trays make the whole top of the stove look a little nicer somehow...

Way back in 2010 our plucky heroine started some corbie enamels, not sure when they were completed... know that one was set and gifted away, and the other has been sitting on my workbench with a UnFinishedObject setting, which I decided would be a good warmup for actually completing the goutte/jambe. The Curious Raven brooch is now complete and am working on / have also completed the goutte jambe settings teeny tiny brooch.

Apparently the WarmWindowtm filling in the roman shades in the kitchen is not washable. Didn't realise that when they were constructed. The shades do keep the room more temperate, but after almost eight (8!) years, they are in need of washing and looking a bit shabby. Perhaps the outer layer can be cut away and a new fabric replace the leafy outlines?

This is the cotton/linen fabric for the new bedroom curtains are that my current home decor project. I had been looking at these Ikea curtains for probably the last five years or more. I love the midcentury inspired aesthetic, the colors are just right, and fortunately I am also quite happy with how the fabric looks like now that I have it here at Acorn Cottage and have started working with it.

Only needed to buy one set of curtains to make into the four panels for the two bedroom windows; rather than run the curtains down to the floor, they only need be long enough to reach the windowsills. This is what one of the four panels looks like, with the sunlight shining through it...
Two complete and two more to go, they are not difficult, but large and time-consuming, as each panel has a detached lining which also needs hemmed and attached at the top edge, as well as each completed panel needing pleated in to fit loosely in the space allotted.

Now that there are the real pretty curtains that I have wanted for so long, I am thinking that if I make a pelmet/valance to close in the top edge, that will also make a small but significant improvement in how cold the room is, as it will close off the window convection loop. Possibly a trip to Mr Plywood, or perhaps Woodcrafters is in my near future (oh darn!) Another possible inspired? idea is that there are a few weathered-grey fenceboards in the outdoor lumber stash, which might make a suitable facing for said valance with just a bit of tidy saw work... must go take a closer looksee with a measuring tape when there is a gap in the rain.

Friday, December 21, 2012

hippo birdy

I woke up this morning from an extraordinarily vivid dream about being taught how to throw a boomerang ?!?

It was a day... the good parts were hearing my parents both sing me Happy Birthday, and hearing my sister and her husband sing me Happy Birthday, and getting a phone message whilst I was away from home with my dear Menagerie pals (including Toshi the Wonder Pup) singing me Happy Birthday. There were a number of sweet pictorials and messages online. My Sekrit Santa Swap gift was sitting on the porch when I came home, and thankfully it was not rain-soaked.

Mostly I spent the day by myself, went to work, went grocery shopping (that was nice, one of the cashiers I'd not seen in a long time asked after my health - they remember me, and girl will take all the kindly intended thoughts offered), drove some friends to the airport, came home and cooked a few treats for supper... Splurged on a wee portion of fresh salmon, which was right tasty with some roasted cauliflower and a few slices of polenta. Spent most of the day reminding myself that every day above ground is a good day, and that it was good fortune to have had even for a time a heart-connection with someone else... more than many folks ever have... I am still here in the bright world, even with the ongoing physical challenges that this year has left me with, it is still a world with beauty and kindness that counterbalance all that the dark puts out to oppose it, the light will return...

Headed into the workroom after dinner to get the goutte/jambe setting underway, and Gah! Busy girl forgot that there was a kettle heating on the stove for tea, and the dang thing didn't whistle, but merely burnt up, as in the water boiled out, the burner kept heating until it melted the enamel onto the front burner... I only noticed when there was a bad smell... now I need a new burner ($$). The teakettle was a housewarming gift eight years ago, not sure I should replace it with another of the same, but a teakettle of some sort is necessary useful. I'd like to find one that was stainless steel, not enamel, and one with an easier to clean interior, maybe at one of the Asian markets or the restaurant supply shops downtown...

Our plucky heroine has had enough of the drama and trauma in the last year; and surely hopes that the year to come has more of joy and humor and friendship and love in it, for me and for all the world round, we sure could use it...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

transmogrification revelation

... in which our plucky heroine is smacked over the head with a clue-by-four...
Last night I started back messing with the Ur-jumper - boy howdy is this going to be an interesting ride; re-grading from the size 5 pattern found online to one that fits me. Initial attempt XP1 is not anywhere near there yet, my attempts were overenthusiastic in some areas and not extensive enough in others.
I had a realisation this morning on awakening, after struggling last night with my current minor obsession - re-grading and transmogrifying a size 5 pattern from the 70's to fit my current size and shape... why not, instead of going through all this rigamarole, simply use one of my current well-fitting pinafore patterns, and adapt the details from the Ur-jumper that I find so appealing. Carolyn, over at Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, is a master of this concept; she is inspired by the works of various clothing designers, and transforms her own TNT dress patterns into variations that suit her shape and lifestyle.

I think that developing TNT patterns, is one way to allow our creative selves to have a ground on which to dance, rather than having to conjure up the ground first each time. By starting with a pattern that already fits me, I can add in the style lines and details* that I want to have, in one step, rather than the multiple trial garments involved in working with a new pattern, not to mention the additional issues in pattern grading.

Thank you, subconscious brain, for your clever efforts to keep me sane. Girl really didn't want to make up four or five sample garments, just wants clothes to wear that keep me warm and happy in my urban fairytale life...

*shaped midriff panel, dart control shifted to gathers along seamlines, shoulder flanges, large patch pockets, possibly front invisible zipper...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

inside out which our plucky heroine, in the interest of remembering to stop looking at the closed door and focus on the now, turns her winter woolies to turn her luck, or at least her attitude...

because honestly, some days lately have been like this:

(from xkcd)

Started out yesterday by gathering up all the yarn hats that I so busily knit back when knitting (with some of the donated yarn) was all that I could cope with doing, and took them over to the Hawthorne New Seasons, where there was a drop box from this group, which is coordinating getting new handmade warm winter woolies to homeless folks and others who need them...

I decided that part of self-cheering-up might be to make something totally frivolous... black linen! gauze + big grey pom pom trim = a pom pom cowl scarf! (if you want to make one of your own, the directions that inspired me are here) It can be worn long, like a regular scarf, or doubled and short like a cowl. It is surprisingly warm, almost as warm as a wooly neckscarf, and the pom poms are just goofy enough to make me smile...


Yesterday was definitely a counterbalance to the previous whingified days... in the afternoon, the faint bubbles of new ideas surfaced with this idea for a sewing theme pendant, all set about with charms... salvaged and scavenged and fabricated in-studio... there will be tiny little painted enamels and layered metal bas-relief, and needlefelted whimseys. I anticipate trying some new technical experiments in 3-D micro enamel. Whee!

And later that evening, after a work meeting, my friend D came by with a dear little container of holiday cookies and fudge, and a holiday card that when I opened it, required a Great Big Squee! (guess who is going to see Great Big Sea?)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday musings which our plucky heroine looks both backwards and sideways a bit...

The good news is that my tiny* snowy owl pendant, completed and packed to ship in the wee small hours of the night, went to the postal orifice today and will arrive in plenty of time to make a little girl very happy on Christmas morning. I am quite grateful to her parents Osric and Epone, for their confidence in my work and the commission to get me back in the studio... There are another few bits of work also in process, and the work is starting to become engaging again. There are a few small bubbles of new ideas rising - not even real sketches yet, but there will be...
* owl pendant is just under 1" in diameter

Very slow progress on the holey T shirt project, the sleeves are almost as big as the rest of the garment. After this one is done, I suspect that there will be a bit of a break from the reverse applique, as I am feeling a bit ready for a change... maybe back to bus-knitting, as the weather certainly is chilly enough. Time to hunt through the yarn stash for something appealing...

Apparently my family is rather surprised that I have not planned any sort of shindig at all for my birthday, which is this Friday... yes, I know, the Mayan Apocalypse, the day the world ends, etc etc (big whup). Well, for me the world ended twice this year already. Once with a cancer diagnosis in January, (followed by radiation treatment in May) and once again in July... When I think of where I was a year ago, filled to the brim with happiness and unknowing, I just cannot think of what celebratory activity now might be both possible and pleasant. This is not how our plucky heroine usually feels during her favorite time of year.  Girl has survived a year of walking through fire, is still here, still making things, but life still feels quite diminished. The things I do want are neither illegal immoral or fattening, but they either no longer allowed, or impossible to arrange; not sure what, if anything, on the short list still allowed might be a treat.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

SWAP and 6PAC overlapping

Making progress on the "holey" long sleeve t shirt; all the body pieces are finished, now just need to design and complete the sleeves, and then it can  be put together... Given the change in the weather, and a look in my closet, am somewhat altering my winter 6PAC plan here...

pants - dk neutral
::: black V8499
top - dk neutral
::: black TNT t-shirt, mixed grey reverse applique
top - complement
::: indigo/black TNT t-shirt,
outer layer - dk neutral
::: black/cream wool ur-jumper (part of SWAP)
outer layer - complement
::: grey corduroy pinafore
coat pants - dk neutral
:::  black/brown flannel V8499

I don't need any more vests, since there are plenty in the wooly cupboard in various colors, some knit and some stitched. I am not ready to tackle making a coat this winter. Really, what is needful is some more clothing to keep my lower half warm; pants or leggings to wear underneath my skirts and over my boots will be quite welcome. Rather than simply finishing up my UFO rose pinafore, if warmer ones are made instead, it will both further my SWAP plans and help keep me warm... (wool and corduroy being warmer than cotton jersey)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

raindrops are not falling on my head...

... but rather on the new rainhat that our plucky heroine made yesterday (to replace the one I lost).
My kind friend E ran me over to Rose City Textiles yesterday, our local, awesome, source for technical fabrics of all varieties. Goretex is not my favorite thing to run through the sewing machine, but it is doable, and a rain hat is a need, not a want, in a Portland winter, at least for anyone who spends a lot of time on foot out in the weather... I used my TNT hat pattern, (which is actually intended as a rainhat), and tried two new things with this project.

The pattern calls for using a double layer of Cordura nylon as the "interfacing", for which I have always substituted Timtex, but this time I went with the Cordura. It definitely makes the hat lighter, and is more flexible to manipulate through the sewing machine, but it is also much more difficult to get the slippery outer fabric to lay smoothly over the slippery "interfacing". The two layers do, surprisingly, give the brim enough stiffness. I think that for any other kind of hat project the Cordura would be much easier to deal with; the "not sewing through the carefully applied seam sealer or the expensive breathable/waterproof fabric" aspect of this project is rather challenging. The results, though, are just right for this climate.

The other thing I tried was using kitchen parchment paper* as a release when applying the seam sealing tape. That process is never easy on a curved surface, and balancing my hat in process on the big ham**, and carefully holding a piece of paper over where I am ironing was kind of a challenge, but the parchment worked much better than the fabric press cloth I used on my last hat two years ago; it is easy to see through the paper to what you are doing.

I added in six small attachment loops around the seam where the crown of the hat joins the brim. They are not really visible, but will allow me to add decorations to the hat without compromising the waterproof function. I added a loop and hook to the chin strap, so as to be able to add a "hat leash" as my friend R suggested. No more leaving technical rainhats on transit for this gal...

*"parchment paper" is a silicone surfaced paper used in the kitchen for various tasks, and easy to find in the paper/foil/plastic wrap isle in the grocery store.

**moonlighting in the photo as a hat holder, it more usually acts as a pressing aid,

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday musings

Not only do I love the process of enameling, but the idea that artwork of my hands can last for centuries adds another layer of meaning; our plucky heroine attempts to make things that are worthy of that timeline...

The kiln has been hot for most of the weekend, as there are two orders due before Christmas. The two pieces are quite different: one a modern pendant, and the other a piece of 13th century style SCA regalia.

My clients are having a small pendant made as a gift for their daughter, who loves snowy owls... Option D was selected, and this weekend I started working on the enameling. After placing and firing the enamel for the background sky and owl, I began to start applying the details. Limoges painted enamel is done using extra finely ground glass mixed with lavender oil. The painted details are then refined using a damp 20/0 (really really tiny) paintbrush to compact and move the enamel. It is a good thing that our plucky heroine does not drink coffee, a great stillness of hand is required

After several additional firings, the owl design is completed. The painting enamel is fully vitrified and fused into the background; the entire design is only an inch across. Now all it needs is for me to fabricate a suitable setting for it, and send it off in the post to arrive in plenty of time before the holiday...

The other piece is more complex, a two part pendant brooch, with really tiny enamels, the smaller enamel is only 3/4" x 1/2", the heraldic designs (Goutte de Sang and Jambe de Lion) are the insignia of particular awards in the SCA Kingdom of An Tir

(click picture for closer view)

I always love to show how the working sketches that I make begin to translate into material objects. Now that the enameling for these pieces is completed, the next step will be to fabricate the settings that will protect the enamel and allow them to be worn as jewelry. There will also be time this week to work on some slightly larger pieces using my beloved cloisonné techniques, with the design elements outlined in narrow silver wire.

Truly, the long drought of work, combined with the long and ongoing convalescence, has taken a toll on me; only realised when this last week, when workshop time spent has returned part of my trueself to me once again. The last few mornings when I awaken there is something drawing me forward into the day: what technical challenge can I solve today, and how much beauty can I add to the world today...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday snippets which our plucky heroine is all too absent-minded...

Alas, yet again, whilst out doing errands, my dear rainhat ended up being left behind somewhere. Sigh. It was turning into a sunny-ish day and I took it off. And probably left it sitting on the seat next to me on MAX, whilst engrossed in talking sewing with an elderly woman in the next row. I've not had much luck with lost hats, they pretty much do not get turned in to lost and found, so I can only hope that whoever finds it needs it... I can make another one, but it means spending more money on Gore-tex, and hours to travel over to the industrial zone to get some... Sigh.

This weekend is all about working on some new orders, need to be done and sent out before Christmas. Having a bit of work come in is very welcome, both for the income, and for the chance to get back to enameling for the first time in a while...

An Tir checky is always a challenge. This is how it looks when I start. Remember that the backing metal here is only about 3/4" across. Enamel is very finely ground glass, like beach sand, but smaller.
After a lot of time pushing the tiny enamel grains around with a 10/0 brush (very tiny) the first layer is ready for the kiln. There will be at least four layers or more before it is ready for adding the heraldic details... tune in tomorrow kids, for more pictures

Monday, December 3, 2012

old school colors

in which our plucky heroine ponders the equation that a whole lot of time spent in med-fu waiting rooms = handwork keeps me sane...

The start of the second winter 6PAC TNT longsleeve T-shirt; indigo over black, stitched with brown; leftside center back done, rightside center back in process (white chalk marks where the upper layer will be cut away; when the shirt is constructed, the visible gap will actually become the center back seam).

The original inspiration is this shirt, made from an incredible two-layer fabric with unique textural patterning. I am using a different style and scale of pattern than the interpretation seen here, and think that the body of the shirt will work quite well with the vertical stitching and cut-away bits. Am wondering about some alternative, less linear, design for the sleeves though...

Monday musings

Our plucky heroine is noticing that there are bits of brightness, that I need to push myself to not just pay attention but to actively follow the pathways that seem appealing; that if effort is expended, it does shift reality. Girl has wound down to a point that it is not about maintaining forward momentum, but the necessity of generating some forward momentum. Stamina is still lacking. Motivation remains difficult, though I suspect that if when the house ever returns to a state of reasonable order that will be much changed. A year of neglect is not turned around in a few days, and the incredibly wearying constant pain is quite troublesome (feet + knees, and now new for this week, add in sacroiliac, whee!)

On the more positive side, there are two pieces begun in the workroom, that are intended to be completed in the next week, so as to be shipped off to their new homes. Snowy owl, and a lovely bit of SCA regalia. Hoping that the tide of no work at all is turning a bit... Had a just lovely day Sunday with the delightful SR, who is interested in my custom clothier skills. If all goes well, this could become an ongoing relationship like the one I had with M for a decade in OlyWa, but trading sewing (rather than housekeeping) for bodywork. The idea of being in less pain, even temporarily, is like a shining star on a foggy night...

My dear pal Rois bought this grey cardigan online, the lapped collar is very nicely designed and hugs the back of the neck in a most warming fashion; since it did not fit her, she gave it to me, knowing that I could refigure it into a suitable shape for me. It need the sleeves shorter, and the hips a bit wider, and, of course, it needs pockets. My plan is to cut the cuffs off the sleeves, and use them for welts on welted pockets, and to insert gores in the side fronts and backs. There is probably some suitable fabric in stash; I recall some grey Polartec that would not be amiss combined with this cozy wool-blend. Somehow, the myriad boxes and bins and piles of fabric bits need to be organised and sorted and culled, so that when mending needs to happen the pieces are easy to find.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

if wishes were horses all beggars would ride... which our plucky heroine contemplates wishes...Was looking through a few posts from a year ago, when in some ways my life was very different. It was BeforeCancer. But in some ways the me of then is still here, in shards perhaps, but shards that still reflect the light.

I had intended to participate in SWAP 2012, and some of the garments I'd planned will instead make their way into SWAP 2013 and the concomitant 6PAC's.

I wrote up a wishlist, back then in early December, and while most of the wishes still live in the land of possibility, a few made their way into the bright world. Last year I wrote:

Gave this one a bit of thought, seems like most of what I wish for, that can be given, involves more the gift of time and the sharing of some resources, rather than actual stuff.
  1. company while sorting/organising supplies - the sewing room, and the workroom both need attention, and I make much better progress with someone else there to keep me company, is a lot more fun to sort fabric etc with the option for tea and chat...
  2. garden beds built/load of garden soil & compost acquired - a truck with an open bed, or money for a dumptruck load, and a number of strong shovel wielding folks. I have a plan, just need helpers.
  3. debris hauled away - this involves someone with a truck, and help going all round the outdoors of the homeplace, to remove everything that needs to not live here
  4. massage - for many years I had an ongoing every other week massage trade, housecleaning for bodywork; I miss that. Even a modest amount of attention paid to sorting out the knots and such that have accumulated in the last six  seven years would help me a lot
  5. bicycle maintenance and tuneup - I have no experience with how to care for my bike, having only fairly recently started riding again. Would love to learn more, and know that the useful tool of bicycle will be adjusted and cared for properly
  6. standard concrete block - in sets of four or six... why, 'cos I have a number of plastic barrels destined for rainwater collection, and they work a lot better if they are elevated. Concrete is damn heavy to cart home on the bus.
  7. wooden kitchen cart - to add additional counter space here, will make having more than one cook in the kitchen a lot easier. FORHOJA has drawers for storage
  8. install the hard flooring - this is a big project only because it involves removing the entire contents of each of the two bedrooms before the flooring can go down. Probably a weekend for each room, one day to move stuff out, one day to put flooring down and move stuff back in (just a guess, the rooms are pretty small, but there is a lot of stuff. Or...
  9. wooden shelves on the walls in bedroom and sewing room - more shelving will allow better storage of fabrics and other supplies, as well as guest bedding
  10. cross country train trip in a sleeper car - I want to visit my friends and family in New England, I love train travel, and it would be an adventure instead of an ordeal.

Crossed out #7 and #9. The wooden kitchen cart is in my kitchen now, and makes even more of a good difference as suspected a year ago, with drawers to hold eating utensils and placemats and napkins, and a lower shelf perfect to hold the dishpans when not in use. Last winter G came and helped with some of the housecarpenter-ish projects, like filling in the holes in the workroom ceiling left by Demolition Boy years before, and also putting shelves up on the wall above the guest bed. There are aparently some possibilities for #4 and #5 in the circles of friends here in Portland, inquiries are being made.

Our plucky heroine is grateful indeed for kindness and cleverness and the community all round. After all, a year ago it was uncertain that I would even be here this year to be thinking of wishes mine and wishes otherfolks...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday fragments

Finished my pompom pillbox hat, just in time for the rain to come back... right pleased with how it turned out. Wool melton cloth trimmed with jaquard ribbon, blue/grey bias ikat, and just for fun,  chocolate-color pompoms around the edge of the brim! The way the colors of the hat and my clothes echo the colors of my hair and eyes is entirely intentional.

There will be time spent this weekend in the workshop, as there are a few enameled holiday gifts that have been commissioned for either Christmas or 12th Night. Shop work is very welcome these days. I had a fun time looking at pictures of snowy owls for one of the orders, and came up with four different possible designs for them to choose between, some more naturalistic and some more stylised.  The finished pendant will be about 1" in diameter...


Long years ago, when I wasn't even twenty and went away to college the first time, back in the 70's, one of the authors I remember reading was Alan Watts. I was surprised to find this sweet animated bit, "Life and Music" was done to one of his recordings. Enjoy...


The downside of going to the dental school for care is that it takes a lot longer timewise for various procedures (goodside being that care there is more affordable, helpful indeed when times are hard but teeth need help) Our plucky heroine has decided that one upside of only working part time is that there is no need to fret about such things, after all getting to sit in a comfy chair with my feet up is not part of my usual scene.

For some reason I have a foolishly insanely hard time with novocaine injections in my mouth, so much so that it is usually one of my two benchmarks for 9 to 10 pain (the other one, I wrote about here)... but today I was treated to one that was not excruciatingly painful, a first for me... Not only did my dental student use twice the amount of pina colada numbing gel, but he then was very careful to not insert the needle faster than the novocaine was working. Apparently this means going really slowly, which most places dentists are in too much of a hurry to do, but it meant that the novocaine pain I had been dreading so much that there was almost no sleep last night... didn't happen! Whoo HOO! After that, the rest of the afternoon in the dental chair was a snap. I made a point of letting the supervising dentist know how happy I was with what "dental boy" had done, because positive feedback is always a good thing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

pom pom progress

...I have added a band of the jacquard trim around the brim of my pompom hat, and am edging it with some indigo/grey ikat bias strips, folded and couch-stitched down. This edging was inspired by my pal K, who suggested that some kind of raised cord would be an interesting addition. The diagonal bias stripe sort of puffs up between each stitch, which adds an almost beaded texture dimension to the border. So far have only partially stitched trim border on the top edge, bottom edge still needs border added.
The jacquard ribbon trim has both floral motifs and random bands of woven chenille in assorted coordinated colors. 'Twould be difficult to find a more perfect trim for my purposes, and it was surprisingly inexpensive. It appears to be simply serged strips of a very unusual fabric, and while it is useable as is, I felt that the serged edges needed to be enclosed somehow, hence the diagonally stripey bits, which also let me add in just a touch of my beloved indigo. This color combination looks very japanese to me, and the finished hat will coordinate with pretty much my whole cool weather wardrobe.

Monday, November 26, 2012

pom pom piping

our plucky heroine always has more projects on the list than time to do, so having more than one set up as a "kit" means that small fragments of spare time end up being useful. While currently my non-spare time is full of actual prep work for commissions (+ med foo, sigh), I am also working on some new ideas for holiday gifts, and a new style of whimsical hat. The wardrobe projects* occupy my mind in a soothing almost obsessive way...

My thought is to try some new-to-me detail of construction or style on many if not all of the 21 remaining garments. The next up, while I wait for the arrival of a copy of the missing misplaced pattern piece (thank you kindly Meg for being willing to trace and send), is a TNT longsleeve t-shirt - two layers, indigo over black, with pinked reverse applique. My original inspiration is this shirt, the fabric has such unique textural patterning, and, of course, just my colors...

 I am amused at the idea of translating a 16th century decorative technique into a 21st century garment. Back in time, some garments were slashed and pinked: had decorative cuts made in the main fabric to allow the inner layer to show through. I found one interpretation here, though her version is a different style of t-shirt. As there is time, my plan is to mark lines on the doubled pieces and stitch them lengthwise with running stitch, which should allow the completed top to still stretch widthwise when being worn...
...our plucky heroine was inspired to make up a new cozy whimsical hat, after seeing the pom pom cowl, initially posted here, and interpreted here by Sandra. There are many pieces of dense soft wool melton cloth that B&K donated to my stash, offcuts from the back room at Mill Ends. To coordinate with my wintertime sewing, a medium grey seemed ideal, combined with chocolate brown small pompom trim. Once the hat pieces were stitched together, it was apparent that a bit more stitching was needful to keep the layers of dense wool neatly aligned, so added a bit of pick-stitching with black pearl cotton along the brim edge, and where the crown of the hat joined the top. I do think this needs just a bit more embellishment, and if memory serves, there is some black/brown/grey/cream abstract jaquard ribbon floating around somewhere; will have to track that down and try it for around the brim just below the pompoms and running pickstitch... (better pictures tomorrow, when there is daylight)

* SWAP and 6PAC

Sunday, November 25, 2012

random updatery which our plucky heroine finds some of the many missing pieces

Step by step, maybe not as quickly as would be desired, but progress forward at all is a blessing. I had a chance to visit my friends in the West Hills for a Thanksgiving potluck, it has been months since I last was up there, and the ongoing progress on their house remodel was quite impressive. There were finished rooms where last I saw raw framing, and N has been doing some INCREDIBLE inlaid tilework in their bathroom shower - think japanese maples and iris, and corvids cavorting. Their home is always a delight to visit, both for the excellent company and conversations, but also for the fascinating artworks both acquired and home-created... It was a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat, and on the ride home N also offered me some potential building materials to include into some of my own projects here at tiny Acorn Cottage. I am blessed with kindhearted and generous friends.

My contribution to the potluck was "Party Coleslaw", and since my beloved sister has asked for the recipe:

¼ cabbage
½ jalapeño
1 red bell pepper
½ jicama
1½ carrot
2T cilantro,chopped fine

½ c mayo
½ c orange juice
2 T sugar
1 T lemon juice

prepare the vegetable ingredients,
using common sense + sharp implements
(peel and de-seed where necessary)
grate or finely chop everything

Mix together dressing ingredients thoroughly
(may substitute olive oil for mayo)
(fresh squeezed OJ is very nice,
one good size valencia will do,
but pre made is totally okay too)

Combine and eat happily...

Woke up this morning to find that my pal E very generously gifted me with an early Yule surprise, class credits to use at Craftsy , this is treat indeed! I am not certain which of the many workshops I shall indulge in, likely some from the sewing section... I recognise some of the instructors names from books and Threads articles; there are classes offered that teach skills new to me, not just "sewing for beginners"...

This Saturday I was going to start on my next piece in my winter sewing, a new version of the Sewing Workshop Teagarden T, adjusted to fit my current size/shape. ( I last made this up several years and pounds ago) Alas, when I opened up my pattern envelope, I was missing just one vital piece, the gusset... I have the instructions, the main/only body+sleeve pattern piece, the interfacing pattern piece, the tagboard templates I made for hemming, but no gusset pattern piece. The pattern has rather unusual configuration and construction, and the gusset is not a simple square, but a kind of complex polygon, which would be quite difficult to reverse engineer. When I put the call for help out on the Stitcher Guild message board, a kindly soul was willing to trace out the errant piece in the correct size for me, I look for a small envelope to arrive sometime before too long.

Today, I had intended to simply spend the day doing chores, after staying up far too late last night starting a new whimsical hat project, a late morning call changed that. My pal B suggested a sewing get together... I spend waaay more time alone than is good for me; housey-chores can happen anytime, while B works long hours, and is lots of fun to visit, so it was an easy choice. I met her friend SR for the first time, always a treat to meet someone new; she and her gentleman friend like to hug, so I not only got my weekly dose of vitamin "s" for socialising, but vitamin "h" for hugs. There was talk about swapping stitchery for bodywork, which could vastly improve my situation. (fingers crossed) Turkey leftovers and tasty pie bits were consumed, and pieces for a new t-shirt were cut out. There were even noises made about possible field trips to the Gerber knife store, and to pok pok...

And, much to my surprise, my very own missing little tourney box of eating utensils showed up tonight in a FB picture; it has been a long time gone, and was apparently left behind on a weekend excursion. A viking women's knife forged by my blacksmith pal Heidi, a handcarved (by me) little wooden spoon, a Barak from when Ambrose and Marian were Summits royalty (with our household otter as part of the design), a forged micro fork from a longago AnTir/West, and by golly, the linen napkin has the main charge of my heraldry on it, as well as a blackwork border of acorns... Yup, tis mine, and will be welcomed home again at 12th Night. Girl is happy when lost pieces come home....

All in all, our plucky heroine is grateful for the lovingkindness of family and friends, without which I wouldn't make it through

Saturday, November 24, 2012

darkness darkness which our plucky heroine does make progress, albeit slowly

Finished the crow shirt yesterday. The neckline applique continues down the front panel. The entire design was done as one large piece of reverse applique, and then applied to the body. The shirt itself is machine stitched; the applique and edgebinding are all hand stitched.


The cuff edge of the shirt has a simpler design, but it is easier to see how the construction works. The reverse applique layers are added to the body, and then an additional binding is stitched along the edge.


Crow shirt worn under black pinafore, and only the small ovals are visible, for a more subtle decorative effect. Being able to get two rather different "looks" from one shirt makes the piece more versatile. I'd like to say that this was intentional, but was rather more serendipitous... However, it is certain that our plucky heroine will use this concept (of placing a primary motif just low enough to not show above the neckline edge, and adding a more subtle edge border along the neck and cuffs) again...


Crow shirt worn over black pinafore, for a slightly more casual look. A year or two ago I realised that a shirt worn over a pinafore works like top + skirt... This allows for additional combinations without requiring additional garments. While this might not work for everyone, or even for most folks, it suits my idiosyncratic preferences quite well.


Has been a week or more of sinking into internal darkness, despite best efforts of self otherwise. Sorrow dogs my footsteps far beyond forty days in the bardo. I once thought I knew what the story was, and then it changed. Now it feels more akin to the sort of fairytale where after a visit underhill, no earthly commonality has a nourishing savor any longer.

I watch with care and attention the beauty of the bright world, and enjoy my own company, but how I wish for something more. I am not hanging on, mind knows clear that the door back to that particular happiness is forever barred. Perhaps the day will come when the memory fades of how it felt to have that internal spark, a flame of lovelight to warm my spirit. A day for every week, a week for every month, a month for every year...


Sunday, November 18, 2012

weekend tidbits which our plucky heroine learned a new skill: forming circles of fabric into round buttons. Our clever ancestors figured this one out centuries ago, and it was surprisingly fast to do. There are some online tutorials here and here. I can think of various kinds of garment embellishment that might call for these tiny textile spheres.

After the work party, in which many hands made light work of making dozens of these buttons for a worthy cause, some of us took a field trip to Washougal to the Pendelton outlet, where E found a roll of lovely black worsted wool twill, 16 yards at $2 a yard! On the way back to the car, looked south from the parking lot and saw this walkway tunnel. Sometime when it is not pouring rain and my companions and I have more time, I want to see where it leads. Obviously from the location and the inscription, it must go to the River.

We also stopped at Fabric Depot before calling it an afternoon. The only bits that followed me home were a few spools of grey thread for the future decorative stitching on the black linen shirt, to complement the artistic buttons that Jen made for me, and a roll of "steam a seam lite" to give a try to some of the placement techniques that Steph mentions in her blog post on using fusible tape

It is really difficult to photograph a picture when there is glass in the frame, without it acting like a mirror. A few years ago, my pal C gave me this vintage-esque mermaid card, which I've always intended to include with my bathroom water-theme artwork. Finally tonight I made a double mat and framed it; the outer layer of the mat is covered in a scrap of very vintage wallpaper; to me the squiggles and dots look rather like seaweed and bubbles...

not just more of the same ?

In which our plucky heroine wonders "am I becoming boring? has this turned from the cancer and heartbreak channel to all sewing all home decor all the time? Do I even care?"...

Life remains challenging, since walking is still dicey and extremely painful. I need to find a different way to earn my daily bread, as housecleaning becomes more difficult, and have no clue what direction to take. SO rather than turning into the all whingeing all the time station, focus shifts to what seems doable and positive. Our culture continues in the Long Descent, and with luck and care I may survive long enough to die of becoming old, hopefully not in the immediate future. It requires a strong hand on the scruff of the neck to turn the mind away from such discouragement.

How much more pleasant and hopeful to paint the walls in cheering color and pattern, or to plan out new clothing to sew, to replace threadbare worn-to-a-raveling old clothes. There has been a discussion thread over on Stitchers Guild about fabric stashes, and using them up. While I am certainly one with more fabric than sense, having a stash is quite useful, since I sew almost everything I wear except shoes and socks. Gathered when times were more flush, the fabric now enables me to replenish my wardrobe by "shopping the stash" instead of the stores, a kind of textile equivalent of "being prepared". One comment in a discussion with friends this afternoon compared fabric stash to an IRA; deposits were made ahead, to have the "wealth" available later when resources were less.

As I've somehow lost all desire to work on the grey corduroy vest that is cut out and sitting on the sewing machine, I am revising my winter 6PAC plans...
pants - dk neutral
::: black V8499
top - dk neutral
::: black TNT t-shirt, mixed grey reverse applique
top - complement
::: indigo jersey Teagarden T
outer layer - dk neutral
::: black wool vest ?
outer layer - complement
::: finish the UFO pinafore...
coat - dk neutral
::: something black ???

The weather here is now winterdamp, and pants make a good underlayer for dresses. The black/grey shirt is coming along well, I have cut out all the pieces and have them set aside in what evjc calls a "sewing kit"; I am eagerly working away at the handstitching so as to be able to stitch it all together soon. Making up a Teagarden T will let me adjust the pattern I have to my current size/shape, and I've a whole jersey sheet in dark blue to play with for a wearable muslin. The UFO pinafore just needs pockets and it will be finished. I've been curious about the kind of vest made from one piece, with two arm slits or ovals cut, and the top edge folded over. There was one featured in Threads a while back, as well as this version here online. I need to find the right sort of remnant fabric in my collection that is warm and drapey, hopefully some kind of twill, as I've been advised that melton cloth is not appropriate

Thursday, November 15, 2012

on the border

Last night, starting to get a sense of how it will look, quite different from where it was ten days ago, as well as how much time the border painting takes. (about an hour for seven repeats of the pattern, which is about how long our plucky heroine can stand on the stepladder before taking a break) If all goes well the decorations will be all filled in tonight.

The combination of the lilac and the coppery golden metallic is different from any previous decorative painting I've done, despite being a steppe nomad pattern it reminds me just a bit of a vintage candy tin, but be that as it may, it looks visually strong enough to not need any additional outlining. The choice to leave the top part of the wall white is actually working well, since the poor bathroom has no window, so no natural light, the white helps bounce what light there is around the room.

and... tonight the border painting is finished! A modest effort makes a big difference.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

wishful Wednesday

Sometimes I wish that there was room in my house for a dentist chair, well, minus the articulated arms and such, though the light could hold my monitor and the arms my keyboard... seriously, aside from what they do to you while you are in the comfy chair, are those not the most comfy chairs ever? (Like what I imagine astronaut chairs to be.)

About one more day of spare-time stitchery and the neckline reverse-applique for the black/grey crow t-shirt will be finished... there will needs be similar handwork for around the sleeve cuffs completed and then the shirt can be assembled.

The back side of the work looks equally interesting; really shows all the varied scrap bits of printed jersey.

have tried a new-to-me paint for the decorative borderwork I'm currently in the middle of... I started with Liquitex copper metallic, which looked good but was hard to apply smoothly since it was quite thick. I am now using Flashe deep gold, and it is both more liquid and more opaque, and easier to apply... They are two similar but not identical types of paint, Liquitex is acrylic, and Flashe is vinyl. The Flashe is twice the cost, but soooo much nicer to work with. Just FYI, if anyone else cares...

Last night my pal D brought me a bundle of bamboo poles (one-two-three-many), all about maybe four or five feet long. When I heard that there were some that needed a good home, so as to not be merely sent to the compost facility, I waved my hand in the air and said ME! My idea is that they will be useful as stakes to hold up temporary chicken fencing, and the speckledy sisters can help clear the backyard a bit at a time. There are plenty of fencing scraps here already, and if a more moveable* henhouse can be put together, they can be my chicken tractor buddies.

* the current henhouse is lovely and sturdy, but takes a whole passel of folks to shift from one location to another

Monday, November 12, 2012

progress report

...despite spending the morning at the dental school, today actually seemed to be a day of moving forward. I did start the day far too early, getting up whilst it was still full dark, and the hens were not even awake till just before I left the house. My temporary filling, which fell out last week, is now back in my tooth where it belongs, and I have the very odd instructions NOT to floss that location! Apparently dental floss can actually lever out fillings, since my teeth are really close together.

Started working on the reverse applique design for the black/grey knit top - the Nikki McClure crow graphic will be centered on the front panel, surrounded by irregular smaller ovals filled with various patterned grey/black fabric. The cuff edges of the sleeves will have a similar, but narrow, border of ovals.I set up the stitching last night and  basted in some of the underlayer pieces, so as to have, finally, a new handwork project for all the transit time today...

Once I was released to return home, I headed out to my delayed housekeeping visit to House of Five Dogs. Only one small dog was there to supervise me today, the others all out with the humans who live there. I managed to actually get back to Acorn Cottage before full dark returned, and after a tasty dinner, went back to working on the painted bathroom border project:
How do you lay out a repeat pattern? Well, what I did was make two templates, (since the design ended up too elaborate to stencil), one for the top edge and one for the bottom edge. Blue painters tape works well as a replaceable adhesive.

After painting the design around the light fixture, it was apparent that getting the metallic paint to cover smoothly will would work better if the base was not bi- color, so I decided to fill in the white top edge of the border with lilac, all along the rest of the wall...