Monday, December 29, 2014

Wham! Superman! Bam! Krack!

It’s been nearly 6 months since my last post.  At the time, I was noticing that if I found the time to sew, I wouldn’t also have time to blog.  One would think that with a 6 month gap in blogging, I must have been doing a lot of sewing.  And I have.  But I have also been doing a lot of other things too. 

However, before I forget, I want to catch up a little on some of the sewing I accomplished since July. (Hopefully soon I will also be able to catch up a little on the Spinsta issues I have been wrangling along the way too.)

Back in June, I shared a pillow I had made using a pansy print and a scripted list of Shakespeare flowers to create a Union Jack motif.  I’d also done a tea cozy using a print with London sites.  I made a slight left turn with this one.  My friend Page and her husband love all that superhero stuff my Spinsta privilege allows me to ignore as I please.  For her May birthday, I made this pillow.  I had been looking for fabric that had all those Batman words Bang! Pow! Skeee! (or whatever they are) when I found this Superman stuff.
Wham! Superman Union Jack with Dots

I used the polka dots as a reference to the Ben Day dots used so effectively in Roy Lichtenstein’s work.

The back is simply closed with big neon green buttons because neon green is awesome. (As you can see, I was carefully supervised by Fergus, as is typically the case)
Fergus subjects the pillow to rigorous inspection criteria.

I am amused by the juxtaposition of the very American subject matter of Superman with the veddy, veddy British flag.  I have known Page a looooooonnnnnnggggg time.  Trust me.  This combination is just right for the girl who hung a Union Jack flag in her college dorm room accessorizing it with a silver tea service and an Indiana Jones hat (Raiders of the Lost Ark was just getting a sequel while we were in school.)

Her birthday is in May, but I finally managed to mail the pillow in time for Christmas.  My plans for coordinating items have stalled, but will restart soon. In the meantime, I sent the pillow to make room for the many other projects piling up in my kitchen sewing area now.  (It is pajama bottom season again)

Hopefully it won’t be another 6 months until I manage to report on some of my other work.  Both sewing and psychological. I am still obsessed with this Union Jack variation motif, but there are a few other things cooking as well…

Saturday, July 19, 2014


I went to the fabric store today and came across this:

Nothing good can come from this.

My eyes! My eyes! 
For the love of all that is sacred, WHY?  WHY? WHY?

Whose idea was it to slap metallic designs all over the most hideous fabric known to humankind: Burlap?

It didn’t stop there.  There were 3 shelves of the stuff—plain, dyed and most terrifyingly, printed.   Printed with “olde tyme” images, John Deere tractors, the Eiffel Tower and mustaches, mustaches, mustaches. 
Mustaches, Leaves, Olde Tyme Bicycles...

Paris, Chevrons, John Deere and...

More horrifying than those designs was this one. 
For the love of Uncle Walt, WHY?
For the love of Mike, why Pooh? (To experience the full effect, click on this Pooh link to see it on their website.)   

WTF and WHY?

I took these pictures because I knew I was going to want to describe the horror to some friends of mine who have seen what I have seen and know what I know. But once I got home, I heard my calling to blog this so that the whole world can know.

Would you look at that?   

London, Union Jacks and other sacred British symbols.

Is that Union Jacks being desecrated by 100% jute burlap?  I couldn’t find them on the website, but they did have Amurrican flag burlap on sale. 


I am a survivor of the Great Burlap Scare of the 1970s.  And I am here to testify that there is no reason to revive the ubiquitous use of burlap in crafting and decorating. 

Pinterest is infested with the stuff.  Apparently it’s “trendy” to use it in wedding reception design with Mason canning jars. 

It was used in the 70s for all manner of groovy banners in churches and pads the world over—usually decorated with inspirational quotes in obscenely colored felt. 

I understood it was used in those days because it was the cheapest fabric one could find and, I suppose, the hippies thought it would go nicely with the macramé plant holders—that they lovingly knotted with even more jute to hang their spider plants from.   

But you can see from the signs, it isn’t cheap any more.  So what is with its renaissance?
Have we learned nothing in the 40 years since?  Why must we repeat the mistakes of the past?   

Burlap is itchy, rough and crispy.  No human skin wants to touch it in a pillow, upholstery or, heaven forbid, a napkin.  The burlap of today is treated with mystery chemicals that leave a funny smell on it.  Try and wash those out and the whole thing will fall apart. 

If you want an over-priced fabric with some texture, why not check out linen? It is sturdy, can be found in a variety of weaves and wears really well.  Even better, it can touch human skin with no ill effects. 

Please young people and/or hipsters and/or crafters, I beg of you! Learn from my generation's mistakes.  Walk away from the burlap.  Explore the wonders of other fibers and weaves.  Trust me.  There will be too many digital photographs of it that will leave you shamed in the years to come.  (At least we don’t have too many pictures of our felt and burlap follies—thank goodness photography was expensive in those days)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Blog or Sew?

Trying very hard to find a way to like orange.

Know what I learned this week?  I can either blog, or I can sew.  But doing both in the same week seems to be beyond me right now.  

I made these pennants to show to a local shopkeeper
I was going for something sort of French toy store.

I sewed these pajamas for a friend. (And they fit!)
Since we met in the 70s, I thought she would like this throwback owl print.

And then I made these pajamas for another friend. 
All these details.  I hope they fit.

Fergus supervised.
This was not actually helpful.

I also cheated on Remington Steele with Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap.  But only during daylight.  Remington Steele is for sleeping.  (Both are available to stream on Hulu Plus and Amazon.)

My sometime daytime boyfriend.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Planning for a Pennant-pocalypse

Union Jack tins and pennants from Sweet Candy Occasions in the UK.

I fell in love with this picture on Pinterest.  I have a board of Union Jack stuff, but it wasn’t these adorable tins that stayed with my imagination.  It was these pennants in the background on the wall.  I thought they were just adorable the way they were buttoned together.  I've never seen any like them.  Usually the triangles are hung from some sort of ribbon or string.  The button design is such a fun way to be able to adjust the length of the decoration or change the order of the triangles. 

There are pennants all over Pinterest and decorating magazines.  Apparently it is impossible to have a party without them.  I saw this at The Clover Market.  Denise from ThePainted Home was doing crafts with kids out of this adorable old camper. 
Pennants make the camper.

See? Pennants everywhere!

As adorable as the English buttoned pennants are, I thought I might do them one better and make them reversible and interchangeable.   If you just flip a pennant, the button or buttonhole will be on the wrong side.   I made half of these pennants with 2 buttonholes and half with 2 buttons.  That way they can be flipped and still buttoned together. 
Buttoned but reversible
If you want to put two buttonholed pennants together, you can tie them together with a bit of ribbon.  Here you can see I used a bow-tied ribbon on a button end to hang the right side of this series from a pushpin. (The left one is just hung from the buttonhole.) Two button-topped pennants could be joined by a ribbon as well.  Although I hope to make enough variety that I won't need to "fudge" the connections.
Reversible Pennant Experiment

I experimented with a bunch of fabrics and trims from my stash in coordinating colors.  On the reverse of the aqua and pink pennants, I made red and green ones.  This is my idea of Christmas colors.  
My idea of Xmas colors.

This set can be used interchangeably.  These  bi-colored stripes, gingham and dots set off the apple, owl and floral prints.

Rearranged and flipped

I am going to keep experimenting with these in a variety of fabrics and trims.  I showed them to a friend who has a home décor shop and got a lot of great ideas about ways they might be marketed if I can make them for the right price.  So there will be some further experiments.  I have ideas about how I might be able to produce them efficiently.  I don’t know how anyone will be able to live without them once they see their versatility and charm.  (If I do say so myself.)   I bet nobody else even noticed those pennants behind the adorable Union Jack tins full of lovely sweets.

Friday, July 4, 2014

TBT: My high school bedroom

This weekend, my high school class is having a reunion.  It will be the first one I have to miss.  It’s disappointing.  I have managed to get to them and they are always so interesting. 

Somehow, you are standing there talking to an adult.  An adult who probably has a job, a spouse and kids, a life of some kind and maybe a bit of gray hair.  But all you can see is their 17-year-old selves.  And you know that as they are talking to you, all they can see is your 17-year-old self. 

It is extraordinary the way that happens.  And the conversations are fascinating.  “You felt that way in high school?  I had no idea!”  A lot of misunderstandings can be rectified even though so much time has gone by because you are grownups now.  That stuff happened to other people—to the seeds of our current selves.  And with a little distance, and far less intense hormones, it is possible to see them and our younger selves, with compassion in ways that were not possible at the time.

Here is my bedroom from high school. 
This was a square Polaroid--tough to get the whole rainbow into frame.
I plotted out the curves of that rainbow and painted each stripe.  It was before rainbows had been co-opted by the Gay Pride movement. (At least in our neighborhood)  It was just a groovy rainbow left over from the 60s.  Against pink walls, of course.  It was the first time in my whole life that I had ever had my own room.  And I made it my own.  There are Shaun Cassidy posters on the walls not pictured.  Because David Cassidy posters were no longer available.  My mother made the gingham curtains.   

It disappoints me that more people don’t show up at our reunions.  My class, in particular, had a reputation among the teachers as being the worst class ever to come through.  We were not a cohesive group and there were some really divisive people in our class. 

But it is such a gift to be able to meet each other now and find that we have more in common after all this time than we did when we were squeezed like sardines into that little Catholic high school together.  It is also entertaining to see where people have wandered on the political and philosophical spectrum.  I was a very conservative goody-two-shoes religious high school kid.  Now I am a very progressive atheist.

Meanwhile kids that were “wild” in high school have turned into model citizens.  How does that happen?  Reunions are wonderful places to share our stories with people who knew us before we were us.  Thankfully they remember me much more fondly than I remember my teenage self.  And it turns out I do the same for them. 

We are so lucky to hold each other’s histories for each other. And I still love this rainbow room.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Christmas in July: Camo Tree Skirt

Most of the sisters. And the brother.  And Mom.

I have a lot of sisters and a brother.  When my niece was born 25 years ago, I could only imagine how many nieces and nephews I might have.  (Of course 25 years ago, I was in the thick of imagining that I would have children too.  And a husband.  Preferably before the kids.  I had a vivid imagination and a lot of hope 25 years ago.)

The math was easy enough. If all 8 of us had just 2 or 3 kids, the possibility of a couple of dozen in that generation loomed.  Imagine all the Christmas presents I’d be on the hook for!  I could also foresee all the Christmas presents that would be outgrown and forgotten.  So I hatched a plan that would make potentially overwhelming future Christmas-present-buying do-able.  As a side-effect of my plan, I could expect that some of the gifts I gave those kids-yet-to-be-born would be remembered for a long time.   

Every year, I give my nieces and nephews a Christmas ornament.  In their senior year of high school, I give them a tree topper.  And the following year, I make them a tree skirt.  (Except poor Zoe who is still waiting for her tree skirt 4 years later.  Though when it’s done, it will be magnificent)

This past Christmas was Christmas-tree-skirt-year for my oldest nephew.  The thing that turned out to be brilliant about giving ornaments every year is that they serve as a sort of log of the varying obsessions my nieces and nephews have had over the years.  (There have been a LOT of Hello Kitty ornaments.)   

From a very young age, my nephew has loved the outdoor life that leads to hunting in Western Pennsylvania where he is being raised.  (He probably thinks that’s past tense, but nobody is fully raised by 19 or 20.) 
His collection of tree ornaments is probably the least eclectic of any of the kids’.  There are all sorts of woodsy animals made of a variety of materials.   

And one Darth Vader ornament.  

 (His other spinster aunts introduced him to Harrison Ford at an early age with both Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies.  It was self defense against a certain purple dinosaur that was obscenely popular in his developmental years.)

I spent a good hour at the fabric store trying to decide which fleece would make a nice tree skirt.  I went back and forth and finally chose a red one with paw prints all over it.  It was between that and the camo.  He has always loved camo.  Since he was old enough to have an opinion about clothes.   The red paw print fabric seemed so Christmasy. 
I brought it home and looked at it for a while.  And then took it back and exchanged it for the camo.   
So what if it isn't exactly Christmasy?

So what if it wasn’t as Christmasy?  It was definitely something I knew he would love.  (And the longer I looked at those paw prints, they more they appeared to be domesticated canine prints.  Not something woodsy like deer or bear.) 

Still, it is a Christmas tree skirt.  So it needed some kind of bling.  I turned to the classic rick-rack as I so often do.  My grandmother who was my sewing mentor had a deep and abiding dedication to the stuff.   

So here is a close-up of the camouflage tree skirt with jumbo gold rick-rack trim. 

Jumbo rick-rack bling on camo

I like the way it turned out.  I could imagine my nephew using it for a tree in a bachelor pad where the decorations are beer cans.  Or maybe some day if he gets married and has a family, it could be on a tree in his man cave.

But the thing I love most about this tree skirt is how much HE loved it when he opened it.  So what if he was 19? He loved it so much he wrapped himself up in it and wore it as a cape for the rest of Christmas Eve.  (He also loved a gift from one of my sisters that involved a spinny cushioned seat to top a 5-gallon bucket for fishing.  So he spent the night spinning in his cape/skirt)
Tree skirt, stingray or cape?
In the end, only 5 of my siblings had kids, so I lucked out with more like a dozen nieces and nephews instead of the 24 I had anticipated.  Still, I am so glad I made that plan 25 years ago.  I have had so much fun choosing ornaments each year that suited their interests.  I love looking at their trees and seeing woodsy animals and Darth Vader or Nutcrackers and Hello Kitties and grand pianos and…

I really should get started on the ornaments for this Christmas.  There are a lot of  Doctor Who-obsessed nieces and nephews these days.  And for the older ones? Game of Thrones, of course!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Shakespeare and Pansies in a Union Jack Toss Pillow

Pansies, Shakespeare, lace and tiny rick-rack

I am still obsessed with the Union flag of Great Britain.  That tea cozy didn’t satisfy my inner Betsy Ross (or whoever designed and made the first Union Jacks).  In addition to the tea cozy, I also made a throw pillow for my friend the Birthday Girl.

She loves pansies, England and Brit Lit, so this is what I made for her from fabrics I had on hand.

Pastel Pansy take on a venerable flag.

I think this is a particularly pretty pansy print, but I adore the one with writing on it.  It is a list of flowers that are mentioned in each Shakespeare comedy.  (Oh look! It used to be available on Amazon! )

I like to make these pillow covers removable so they can be washed.  (This fits a standard 16” pillow form.) 

Spill a drop of tea? Just toss it in the wash.

The back opening is made with a buttoned envelope style.  I have a genius designer friend who uses re-cycled men’s shirts for the back of her pillows.  She just cuts the button-front shirt to size for the pillow back.  I, on the other hand, make work for myself.  (Though I guess I might have used a men’s shirt if I had found one with pansies on it.)

Buttoned up back of pillow

I have a zillion visions in my head for other takes on this design.  It's so versatile and can be personalized in so many ways.  I have one more pillow cover to show you.  But I have to send it to that Birthday Girl first (because I know she will recognize that it’s for her if she sees it here.)