AJAX BELL

Author of the Queen City Boys books


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Rest my weary head

I have been completely over hauling my tiny bedroom to make it more colorful and more comfortable since winter is inevitable and bed should always be welcoming at the end of a cold day.  I’m 98% done and pictures of the whole thing soon enough. Today I made throw pillows for the bed:

This is made from the curtain that I didn’t end up using the room, deep teal canvas.  I applied the stencil repeating diagonally with fabric paint.  the back is a soft, dark brown stretch twill.

This is made from the piece of cream canvas left over from the curtains I did hang.  I painted the stencil on with fabric paint, did a terrible job of masking it, got paint everywhere and hand embroidered some stitches into the design to cover the paint flubs.  I wanted yellow or brow piping on this, but I didn’t have either in the house and I’m making an effort to use what I have laying around, rather than buying more stuff.  I’m actually really pleased with how the blue looks, though I do think yellow would have been great to highlight the stitching.  The back side of this is piece from the sheets currently on the bed so I can pretend it all ties together.

And here they are on the bed!  YAY!  The pinwheel quilted pillow in the middle was made by my friend Michael Frazier, about a decade ago.  He has since died, but this pillow always makes me smile and think of him.  I think he’d like the pillows I made today too.

Hooray for pillows! And for projects finished.  Now to get back to the 10,000 other things on my weekend to-do list that still aren’t done.


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Remember (the) Maine

This is the mosaic of the pics to I took in Maine (click it to see them all on Flickr).  I sort of love it.  This is basically in chronological order, a few Boston pics at the beginning and end and a lovely depiction what I saw: buildings, sky, ocean, sky, ocean, beaches, forests, oceans, sunsets and sunrises. I love how the colors in the mosaic look like a whole day, bright in the middle and dimming at the end.

I had a great trip.  I feel like I should say something philosophical about traveling alone but I don’t know what.  It was great the freedom, but it was bittersweet enjoying restaurants alone.  I’m utterly i love with Maine.  I’m sure this is like when people visit Seattle and the weather is gorgeous and they gush about how amazing it is and I’m like, yeah, grey 9 months a year.  Like, clearly Maine must be awful in winter but still it presented itself to me as something wonderful.  Like a place I’d only read about in books, a place of my imaginings made real.  Which I guess it is.  I’ve filled my Amazon Wishlist of Maine things to get through out the next few months so I can keep in my head how I felt while I was there.  Especially while I was out on the water.  I miss the ocean so much.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.


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Book, book, book, movie!

I have been fortunate enough to have time to read actual books lately.  Granted this has interfered with time I might have to sew or socialize, but I think it’s definitely been time well spent.  In the last, oh, month or so I’ve read all of the Southern Vampire Mysteries.  I won’t review them for you, as I assume you’ll either read them or you won’t (or you already have) and you’ll judge me or you won’t for having very much enjoyed them.  It’s possible that having Alexander Skarsgård in my head as Eric Northman went a long way towards my enjoyment of them, but perhaps not.  Perhaps they are just good, light summer reading.  Now that I’ve finished them, I might go back and read Book 4 again.  Or maybe I’ll start watching True Blood season 4 (don’t spoil me I haven’t seen any yet) and then read Book 4 again.  Book 4 is my favorite.

gratuitous ASkars. I can't help myself.

After all the vampires I read Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things, only to discover, about 80 pages in, that I’d read it before.  SIGH. Yes, I don’t know if that’s commentary on where my head is right now, where it was when I first read this collection, or if says something about the quality of the stories.  The stories, I felt, were uneven, as is so often the case with short story collections.  Some were excellent, others I flipped through reading only every fourth word or so.  I’m never sure with Gaiman, he’s written some things I love and some I clearly forget.  He’s an author I try to not engage with, that is to say that my enjoyment of his writing is equal to how much I am able to entirely ignore him as a media figure or a person of any consequence.

I’ve spent the last 6-ish days pushing through Connie Willis’ Blackout/All Clear.

This is certainly one book split into two volumes and should be read as such.  This is in her Oxford Time-Travelling Historians universe, though reading the other books in that universe is not a prerequisite of reading this one.  Several reviews I read and a couple trusted reader friends suggested that B/AC would have benefited greatly by having an excellent editor and being a few hundred pages shorter.  Something I have said often about the last 3 Harry Potter books, about everything Diana Gabaldon has written since Outlander,  about Cronin’s hideous Passage, and many more.  And yes, I imagine that B/AC could have been more concise, more dense, more tightly crafted but for me Willis is one of the few authors I simply can’t get enough of.  Her worlds immerse me utterly, her language keeps me in instead of pushing me out of the story, letting me see only the story and not the writer and she clearly loves her characters so much that I can’t help but love them too.  I would gladly sit down right now with 1400 more pages of her characters.

I knew this would have a happy ending, I knew it would all work out, but it twists and turns enough that one can never guess quite how.  I found myself anxious to the point of wishing she would just get on with it already in a few scenes.  Mostly because some of the secondary characters were so beloved and seemed so likely to die that I just couldn’t stand it.

I know only the basic framework of history for WWII Britain. Still I have been to most all of the places in London that the action happens in, and I have been to museums and memorials all over Britain about the war and the Blitz specifically and I believe that engaged me all the more with this tale.  London is a character in the story being just as battered and ill-treated as her people were through out the war.  I felt many times like I was walking through the locations of the story and thought deeply about how it must have been to see the city both before and after the war.

Time travel is very tricky and I think Willis handles it well.  Generally making it simply a framework for an understandable historical bit of fiction.  This time though the time travelling paradox itself plays into the mystery of the plot to good effect.

I was feverish and sick and slept a lot this past weekend.  I dreamt long involved fever dreams of this book and the characters and myself in with them.  I have, in this way, completely internalized this story.  I feel exhausted and thoroughly satisfied having been through the ringer with this story.  It’s always hard to recommend things.  Do I want you to to read it because I liked it?  Yes.  Do I want you to read it because I think you’ll like it?  I don’t know.  If you liked her other books you’ll probably like this one, even if you think it is too long.  If you’re interested in WWII history from an every day standpoint of how citizens dealt with it, you’ll probably like it.  Amazon hopefully has enough of a preview up that you can decide if you want to read more or not.  If you decide not to read this you should read To Say Nothing of the Dog anyway.  Yes, you, all of you, everyone should read it.  Because I said so.

I also went and saw Captain America which I enjoyed very much.  It was a very, very different WWII than B/AC. I think they used a lot of the same location shots from Band of Brothers which really tickled me.  I’m totally digging the universe connections in the Marvel comic movies and all the cameos etc. It’s like each movie makes the previous ones even better. Thor and Iron Man are both somehow that much better for having seen Captain America.  I can’t wait for The Avengers!

(A note on formatting: I had been writing my posts so they were easily read when imported in to Facebook but the importing feature only works intermittently and really I’d prefer if you clicked out and read them here anyway, so I’m not formatting for FB anymore, if you don’t get pictures you’ll have to click out to the original post.  If FB can’t be bothered to make itself work right, I can’t be bothered to cater to it.)


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Busily sewing Lisettes

I’ve been working on several sewing projects at once, which kind of is and isn’t a good idea.  I am slowly sewing my way through every premutation of Simplicity’s Lisette 2211:

I started with a muslin, in some unlikely colored fabric I had sitting around:

I left off the sleeves and edged it in black bias tape.  The pattern calls for buttons on the faux placket detail, but I thought with this fabric it actually looked better without them.

Belted:

I’ve actually worn this a bunch.  Despite the fabric’s weird chartreuse coloring and pattern, it’s really comfortable and summery.  YAY!

I didn’t set out to make exactly the skirt on the envelope.  I’m trying not to buy fabric rather just sew with what I have on hand, and what I had looks just like the envelope:

This pattern runs really big.  I went down two sizes from what I originally cut in the skirt and I will probably have find a way to sneak some elastic into the back waistband or something to make it comfortably wearable.  The top has some nice details which are kind of lost in the fabric I picked:

I haven’t tried it yet, but I suspect the blouse will get some wear untucked and belted with jeans or something.  I just really love it’s funny little Art Nouveau print and care not all that it’s really too busy for this pattern.

I have the shift dress cut out from this pattern as well, in some grey cotton twill.  I’ve been having trouble deciding on a color to go on the collar/placket, as everything I’ve picked looks too matronly or too twee.  Hoping to finish it this week.

I have been working the long promised bird dress as well.  It’s nearly done, just needs hemming and finishing on the sleeves and neck.  However, I’ve decided to forgo the tie belt the pattern calls for and make my own self fabric belt with a buckle.  This will surely end up being more work than the whole dress, but hopefully it’ll be worth it.

This weekend I also made a little tunic out of a pretty remnant I got for a couple dollars:

I used Simplicity’s Cynthia Rowley 2586.  Holy cow, is there a lot of ease in this!  This is down two sizes from what my measurements said I should cut and I’ll probably take another 3 inches out of the side seams before I wear this out.  I’m really glad I muslined this.  My plan is to make a dress from it next and I would have been swimming in huge tent if I’d done that!

Last month’s wadder is still hanging around.  I’m thinking I might try and recut it into the Cynthia Rowley pattern.  Hopefully I can mange that with out confusing myself too much and destroying all the fabric.


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New horizons, new directions

I spent a good portion of this past holiday weekend trying to prove to myself that I could still sew with some success! My last few projects have been frustrating wadders that I’d like set on fire, rather than wad up and throw on the floor.  But this weekend I produced three neatly made, wearable pieces, which maybe didn’t end up being to my taste or my style, but are definitely proof that I at least sort of know what I am doing.  Pictures hopefully taken tonight, if I can be bothered to stop catching up on Doctor Who long enough to snap myself.

♦♦♦

I bought a new leather belt.  It smells like Europe.  It was made in Canada and not China (like surely my last half dozen belts were) and I wonder if that isn’t the difference.  I mean, it smells like leather, but it smells like leather I only associate with Europe.  It’s wonderful and merely opening the box it came in filled me with fantastical memories of the streets of Florence and the amazing foothills of the Pyrenees, of shopping in Amsterdam and riding night trains through Germany.  Even if I was to never wear the belt (which I surely will) the price was 100% worth the evening of those memories.  To that end I leave you with a tiny slice of vistas I have seen.

in Barcelona Angels watch over you from Montjuic


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Things made and unmade

I’d show you pictures of sewing projects this weekend, but alas, there’s nothing to show.  Still working on the same dress I was working on last weekend.  I think so far I’ve ripped out more feet of stitches than I’ve successfully sewed.  Great for a patterned advertised as ‘One Hour.’  I’m about 6 hours into it right now.  As far as I can tell it’s going to look like a sack when I finish.  Still I persevere!  Maybe next weekend I’ll finish.

For your jolt of color, here is my new summer weight bedspread!  I tried to make curtains out of my previous summer weight bedspread, which I messed up so bad it basically became rags,  YAY ME! Luckily that meant getting a bright new one.  This is basically the weight of two sheets together, so total weight on me is an airy, breathable, nothing, but allows me to pull the covers up to my chin (as is my wont) even on hot, Southern summer nights!

My browsing for a new bedspread gave me this, which I now really want for when the weather gets cooler.  And of course I’d need this to hang in the bedroom.  It’s sweltering in Tennessee and I’m fantasizing about an autumnal, Moroccan interior design.  Of course then I’d need all new rugs.  And maybe a new lamp.  It seems unreasonable to think about this now, but I am seriously considering buying these things slowly over the summer and stockpiling them for a dramatic room transformation when fall comes.

I did manage to make a website this weekend for my friends, The Magnificent Others. Their album is going on sale soon and you should totally get it.  It’s rock n’roll for people who like rock n’roll, yeah?

Now it’s on to a week of work with hopefully a few short days that I can sneak something creative into, or maybe a festive fire in which I burn the simple dress that is taking me far too long to create!


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Everything that came before now

I might have way over committed myself in the past couple weeks.  If I owe you something, I promise it’s coming quickly.

Between my new position at work and a a few days out to the PNW to see Crackerjack Sister graduate, I’m wiped out. My capacity for critical thinking is surely at an all time a low, and even that is devoted to work.

I did have a great time in Seattle.  I put the pics up here, though most of them are probably only interesting to you if you’re related to me in some way.  I tagged along on many shopping trips from which I benefited greatly (new Converse, fancy new shirt, excellent new dress).  I got an awesome new laptop which is so light and fast that I feel like I can go everywhere with it, though I probably won’t, since one doesn’t need to be computing all the time.

Back in TN now, where it looks like we got a very brief reprieve from the oppressive heat.  I’m already planning to stay inside all weekend and finish projects of my own and other people’s.  At least the cicadas seem to have all passed while I was out of town!  Plus I missed Bonnaroo and CMAfest crowds, both of which are cicada like in their noisy and mass.

Obviously no sewing going on lately.  I did buy new handbags yesterday as I can’t resist a good deal.  I love Fossil handbags.  All of the ones I’ve owned except the one I’m currently using, which I got used, quite cheap and I just sort of hate it.  So I got this one and this one (in a brownish grey not depicted there) for $101 total for both!  I spent forever standing in the store trying to decide which and then made a last minute choice to get both.  Hurrah!  I should be set for a good long time now.  Both came with an extra detachable strap and I can’t figure out what it’s for.  The extra, removable strap is that same length as the strap on the bag already.  If it was much longer or something, it would make sense to me, but at the same length, it just seems weird.

So, uh, yes, there’s all the news that’s fit to print. I better get to doing something, so I’ll have something good to show off, eh?

I took these pictures with my phone to remind myself of the color of the sky after 9pm, in June in the Pacific Northwest.  One of the things I really miss is the summer light.


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cookies and stories

Most importantly I made gluten free peanut butter cookies this past weekend.  Here is the recipe:

1c peanut butter
1c sugar
1tsp vanilla
1 egg

Beat peanut butter and sugar together, then add egg and vanilla.  Roll into walnut-sized balls and place on greased (or parchment papered) cookie sheet and crush in # pattern with fork.  Bake 10(ish) minutes at 350′.  Eat.  Be amazed at how much like a floured cookie this is.

I made many and brought them to work.  No one seemed able to tell that they were any different than any other peanut butter cookie.  I might next time reduce the sugar and add a second egg to see if they can be chewier.  These came out just like I remember the standard Joy of Cooking recipe, just like a PB cookie, but I would like chewier version.  Also I recommend greasing up your hands before rolling the dough balls, as they are sticky wickets.

♦♦♦

I am still reading Deathless.  I don’t ever want it to end.  I feel like I’ve been seriously slowing down on it all week in a subconscious effort to draw out the fairytale as long as possible.  In my head the whole story is animated in paper cut-outs like the cover:

Also it makes me want to dress like a fashionable 1930s revolutionary and decorate my entire house in Russian folk art.

Speaking of folk art: Lubki prints of popular culture stories (I’m not linking to the original source here because it’s in Cyrillic).  I could totally decorate my house in there.  And then lounge around in this skirt.  And people would only think I’m slightly less crazy than they think right now.

♦♦♦

I also saw X-men: First Class this week and loved it.  Think this is an awesome introduction to the universe.  Though I’d recommend the comics over the other movies.  But despite some small casting discrepancies it was pretty well done and very enjoyable for a summer movie.  My triffling story problems with it are endemic to current films and don’t really detract from the movie (characters have instant changes of heart, but who has time for back story and moralizing when there’s explosions to be watched?).  Also Michael Fassbender wears the heck out of some clothes in this movie.  Mmmmhmmm.

Heading to the west coast in a little more than a day for my amazing little sister’s graduation.  Very excited to escape the oppressive middle TN heat right now.  Need to pack a neat capsule wardrobe, both fashionable and urban and for much cooler temps.  It’s kind of exciting.  Also need to finish some web work I promised folks and do a metric ton a job work before I go.


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Some days you can do nothing but sew

Dress in a day!  Hooray!  Today I made this Donna Karan Vogue 1236 pattern:

This is a toile for a future dress.  It is a definite win, the ever elusive wearable muslin:

I made it out of a lightweight cotton in a purple, black and blue stripe.  I think the fabric looks a little homespun, in a nice way.  I was trying it on with my Converse as I was sewing and was pleased with it as lightweight summer running around dress.

I tried dressing it up too:

And then I wore it around the house undone, which is maybe a little too tent-like to wear outside of the house unbelted:

I am happy with how this turned out, but I will probably cut down the pattern a size or maybe two for the final dress.  This works, but doesn’t exactly need to be quite this big!  I will probably make the wide belt pictured in the pattern as well, but I was very short on fabric for this go around.

I also finished a few alterations I had lying around this weekend too.  It’s nice to finally make a dent in things I mean to get done.  And!  I took pictures of my house in a semi-clean, semi-put together state and will hopefully get those uploaded this week.  And pictures from my trip a couple weeks ago.  I guess I still have some projects but need to put some dents in.


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Some salty goodness and some bitter horror

There is not ever enough poetry in the world.  Here is some for your (hopefully) warm spring day:

BIRD

It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air –
and there, night came in.

When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography –
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.

Pablo Neruda

♦♦♦

I have BIG plans for the 3-day weekend.  I don’t know what they are yet as the first thing on my to-do list for this evening is ‘make plans for the weekend,’ but I bet they will be great.  Hopefully they will involve home organizing/cleaning, sewing sewing sewing (embroidery included in this category), sleeping perhaps more than would seem normal for a human being, walking around in the out of doors (cicadas might limit this),  talking to my mom on the phone and generally relaxing and pretending the world doesn’t exist.  I will probably watch P.S. I Love You as an emotional outlet (and because it’s a good movie).  I will hopefully have plenty of time to read Deathless because so far I am enjoying it immensely (it’s like poetry in it’s own way).

What I will not be doing is work, returning your phone calls (unless you’re my mom or sister), or sewing anything that looks like this:

I did include a link in case you want to sew it.  But I will think less of you if you do.  I’m fascinated with it, like a horror movie you can’t look away from.


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Making do with what I have and doing it well

Back from vacation.  Barely keeping up to speed on my new work position (that’s not true, but it’s been taxing).  Feeling creative but there’s laundry and dishes and blah blah blah.  No time to sew.  But hey, I can frame some of my favorite fabric to brighten up my kitchen, right?

Now I need to finish the dress with this fabric.  And I was thinking a top too.  And throw pillows if there’s enough left.  That all should be enough bizarre matching plant me firmly into crazy old lady status.  Still I’m very excited about framing fabric I love instead endlessly trying to search out art I want on my non-existent budget.  And fabric is what I love.  Now I’m so pleased with this that I just need to stop myself from digging through my stash and framing it everywhere.


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Movies, books and needle books

Was a slow, relaxing, mostly wasted weekend. Lots of reading, walking and a some chores, not much else.

I did go see Thor on Sunday with Talks to Owls.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  My only complaints were that his transformation was a little abrupt and barely shown and I think Alexander Skarsgård should have played Loki to up the eye candy and keep me even more amused. The actor playing Loki was too whiny and not nearly mischievous enough.  I feel that Skarsgård could have done a much better job at being trickstery.  Overall worth the price of admission though.  I forget how much I like going to the movies.  I wish the good theater by my house would reopen.  Stupid flood damage keeping me from movies for more than a year.

Hi Alex! Glad to have a thin excuse to post a picture of you!

I also read  the Hunger Games trilogy.  A fast but riveting read.  Highly recommended. Like I can’t stop thinking about it and harassing my friends to read it so they will talk to me about it.

And I didn’t touch any of sewing projects I have around the house in various states of doneness, but I did make a little felt book for my embroidery needles out of some scrap denim and silk I had lying around.  I’m pretty pleased with it. And Talks to Owls just got me these owl scissors  so I’m be all ready to get embroidering!


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My Mother

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve met my mother.  And probably that impacted your life in some positive and major way.

She is the best person imaginable to be my mother, we are in some ways perfectly suited to each other in temperment and good company, and in the ways we are not, she is perfectly suited to be my sister’s companion, as my sister is also mine. We are an even triangle of companionability, love, understanding and the little ripple of conflict that always arises when people are too like each other.  The three of us, I think are so bound together that I couldn’t explain it to you, nor would I want to let you inside the place that’s ours.

But this is about my mother.  You don’t really need to know about her being a good mother to me, because that only matters, really, to her children.


You should know that she is an incredible sister, an amazing aunt, a brilliant manager, a trusted friend and a devoted partner.  If you have a daughter or a son, probably my mother is someone you would want to help them if they were in need in any way.  She has been an unbelievable pillar of support to our extended family, sometimes openly, sometimes secretly, sometimes thanked, somtimes ignored.  She is thoughtful, generous to a fault, and always willing to help if you ask.

She deserves more than just a phone call or some flowers from her daughters, who would both rather show their love in other way anyhow, she deserves the acknowledgement and respect of every person whose life she has touched or helped in some way.

She is so smart and so together and so organized and I think everyone who knows her recognizes that.  But maybe sometimes we forget to think about how kind she is and how unflagging she is in her support of what any one of us is trying to do to improve our lives.

She is, in my mind, the perfect embodiment of everything that was good and beautiful in her own parents.  She has done an amazing job of raising children, not just me and my sister, but others around us too, even my cousins in secondhand sort of way.

If everone who knows her would take just 30 seconds and think of how she’s positively impacted their lives, that would make me so happy.

I also want to send love to all of my aunts, cousins and friends who are mothers.  Each of you is doing an amazing job in your own way and I am proud to know you and see your lives change and see the wonderful people your children are becoming.

And finally, I know it’s Mother’s Day, but sisters don’t get one and I’d like to point out that my little sister is perhaps the best and brightest of us all and even though I’m sure she’s only 3 and still clutching at my leg when she’s nervous, she’s actually become and amazing, beautiful, poised, intelligent woman and in some ways, I’m grateful to my mother most of all for giving me me my sister.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!  I hope you all have someone to thank or remember, someone who you love and admire as much as I love and admire my mom.


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The usual round up of uselessness

There is a lot to say about politics right now and wars and the state of our country.  But I think I am going to stick to sewing a books for a while, with a little cooking and weather added in.  Since that’s mostly what I focus on anyway.

That said, I find this meme hilarious.  I don’t know if it’s the picture, or the sentiment of just how unimportant the “Birther” BS is, or what but I find hilarious every time I see it:

I’d also like to take a second to say GO NAVY, and thank everyone who has ever served for my country, most especially those related to me (only because their stories seem more immediate to me).

♦♦♦

I cut the fabric last night for toile for the dress I’m going to make with this fabric.  So I’ve barely started on the dress before the dress.  Still I’m excited.  Talks to Owls gave me the fabric for my birthday LAST year and I’ve been reluctant to cut it, but once I master the fitting on the toile, I think it’s finally time.

It’s also interesting looking back at those optional color palettes from 14 months ago, as those are essentially the colors I chose for my house fully a year later.  I’m consistent, apparently.

♦♦♦

I’m curious about this line from Levi’s.  I can’t find an offical site for it (“coming this summer”), but I will probably check it out.  I don’t commute by bike or anything.  I’m just very interested in clothing seemingly designed for function and durability.  One would think all clothing would be designed at least for durability.  And surely it once was but we’ve moved far, far away from that place.  One of the things about sewing for yourself is you can make something as lasting or as disposable as you choose (one would hope for lasting, not just from an environmental standpoint, but if you’re going to put a bunch of hours into something I would hope it would be useful for a long time).

I haven’t yet been brave enough to try and sew my own jeans yet, but I’m getting there.  And I’m definitely thinking about a fit and comfort, but also about functionality and durability.  And back to the new Levi’s line, also fabric that’s more resistant to dirt and water? Sounds great to me! Especially paired with a very classic, clean looking design.  I might have to get one of those jackets when they become available. Or at least get my hands on some of this line just to feel if it’s all hype and just more cheaply made stuff or if maybe we are making a cultural swing back towards useful, durable clothing.


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Housedress extravaganza


This is my old Target housedress that I have worn thin in places.  It’s perfect for lounging and pulling something on fast, but I’ve been wanting a cotton version of it for humid summer Southern days.  I found some ridiculous border print peacock quilting cotton and took a few evenings to pattern out and sew my own version of it.  I finished up all the details of it this past weekend.

And the back:


The cotton is definitely a little stiffer than the original rayon dress, but I think after a couple washings it’ll be just fine.  I’m very pleased with how this turned out.  There may be another one in my future in something cotton but with a softer hand.

__

I got amazing a lovely birthday day wishes and gifts from so many of people this weekend.  In lieu of actual content  here’s pictures of a just a few of them:

Handmade table runner and pretty bowl!

Le Creuset cassole dish getting it's first use.

And, yep, that all pretty much sums up my weekend!  Sewing and eating.  Oh I also read a book, The Painted Boy by Charles de Lint, which I’d highly recommend but only if you’re already into YA magic realism already.  Had a great Friday night birthday party at the Family Wash, missed everyone who wasn’t there, most especially my family.  More house pictures and birthday pictures just as soon as everything is all unpacked at home (that’s soon, I swear it is).


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In which I read, so you don’t have too.

I feel like in any given week I vacillate between trying to finish all the half-watched series in my Netflix queue and to finish all the books, well, just all the books.  This week it’s books.  I spent all of Sunday finishing Justin Cronin’s The Passage.  Multiple fails on my part here.  I didn’t (as is my tendency) research the book at all.  So it’s probably safe to say that if I’d known it was the first in a trilogy and I ‘d known it was 800 pages long going in (it’s always hard to tell on a Kindle which is something they really should fix) I might have felt differently about the book.  But honestly it would have benefited from an editor able to make it 200 pages shorter.  But it wasn’t just my not knowing.  The author failed as well, I think.  The first 250 or so pages were amazing, excellent, well written and engaging.  And then I spent the rest of the book waiting for it to get good again.  Not only did it not get good again, it didn’t end (the trilogy thing).  Incredibly frustrating.  And I was perhaps so disappointed in the decline of the story as it went along that I doubt I’ll bother with the next 800 page bit he puts out, trilogy or no, I just don’t care enough now to even find out what happens.  Cronin’s writing is engaging enough that you keep turning pages, assuming the good part is just around the corner, but it never was.  And the characters in the second part of the book are flat and flaccid, not vibrant like those in the beginning.   For some satisfaction after I finished reading, I went and read a bunch of Amazon reviews and many folks felt the same way I did: starts strong, winds away into nothing.  And I kept pushing through in hopes of it improving, of some of the new characters turning out to be likable, but alas.  Fortunately I think I needed a restful day and now I’m done so I won’t waste any more days on that book and  can start a new one from the dozens in the ‘waiting to be read’ pile.  Or I guess that should read waiting to be read “pile,” since it’s all on my Kindle and not actually in a pile like we used to keep books in the olden days.

Yesterday I had a 45 minute wait in the doctor’s office I spent much of it with my eyes closed trying to remember the best parts of The Passage all that came to me was fleeting images of Colorado autumn, or what the walk to the Zoo in Memphis is like, or glasses of tea on hot summer, water beading on the sides.  So I’ll grant Mr. Cronin that he does an excellent job places descriptions and has a way with words, but now, a few days later, none of the characters have stuck with me at all.

After reading up on The Passage I fell down the Amazon rabbit hole and started reading customer reviews of the book I intend to read next.  Which is either brilliant and amazing, or dumb, confusing and derivative. So now do I want to read it so I can feel superior to the people who didn’t get that it was brilliant, or will I read it and wonder why I wasted my time? And this, my friends, is why I always go into book blind, or with a few words of rec from friend and not much more.

Because I’ve been sewing so many utilitarian, solid colored skirts I haven’t been posting pictures.  I mean you saw the one, right? The other look the same but better.  Basic staples.  I don’t need to show you pictures, in the same way I don’t give you the recipe when I make mashed potatoes.  Still I am doing stuff so here’s a quick shot of what’s currently half done on the sewing table:

Only the bodice is actually done, the ‘skirt’ here is just folded fabric.  It will be a kimono sleeve, empire waist summer dress when it’s done.  But look how pretty, the fabric!!  Wheee!


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it’s only thrifty if you save money, not if you spend money you otherwise wouldn’t have

So I probably spend way more in thrift stores than is reasonable.  But I guess If I am going to buy things I don’t need, it’s better to spend $3.99 on them than say $39.99.  I recently hit the Goodwill in Berry Hill, producer of the awesome Blowfish boots.

A few weeks ago, Talks to Owls and I were hiking and I was wearing my favorite Converse One Star camp shirt (I have two actually, one in grey and one in purple, I think I was wearing the purple one) to keep the sun off, because I’d rather wear long sleeves than sunscreen.  I was lamenting my choice and saying I needed to hit a thrift store or two and get some light cotton, WHITE button up shirts for my summer sun screen use.  Guess what the Goodwill turned up yesterday?  My exact Converse shirt, in my size, in white, looking as if had never been worn (and perhaps it hadn’t there was a bunch of other Target stuff there that still had the original tags in it) for $3.99.

Some days you just can’t lose.

Unless of course after going through all the shirts, you hit up the misc. section and start looking through framed pics for your walls.  Sure I found a great pair of 30s-ish, Grandma looking prints of magnolias to put up in my kitchen (pictured above), but am I the only person who could possibly buy the exact same piece of art in two separate thrift stores? Yep, the long rectangular, colorful bird picture above the dresser in this pic? I bought another one of those.  In my defense I studied it for a long time to determine if it was the same picture, or if was similar but with different birds (which would have been AWESOME).  Alas, it’s the same.  So, uh, if anyone shares my interests in art that looks like your grandmother would have hung, let me know.  First commenter genuinely interested in it, gets it (and yep, it’s framed identically and everything).

And then of course there’s the things one really, really doesn’t need, but buys anyway:

It’s a swan thing for, I guess, holding your rings when you taken them off?  Never mind that I already have an item specifically for this purpose, but look at it!  It’s a swan!  I’m trying to imagine some way I can use it to hold sewing notions or something.


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Things and books and other things

I’m in the market for a used dresser or side board or cabinet of sorts to replace the cheap, small emergency shelves set up in my sewing nook.  I’m simply hoping to stumble across the right thing in a thrift store or whatever and paint it (or I figured I’d be happy with something like this).  However I stumbled across this re-do the other day and now suddenly I need something I can refinish with a squid.  Like I will waste away, pining for a squid dresser if I don’t get one.

click for pictures from the books locations, in case you werent already wishing you were in Provence right now

I just finished reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s YsabelThe Lions of al-Rassan is one of my favorite books and I really enjoyed The Last Light of the Sun.  If I find I like an author I generally seek out more of their books, but I rarely read anything about those books or the author.  I’ve been burned too many times by finding out the creator is a jerk and I find it’s easier to just read a story in the void and only bring to it my current preconceptions of the world and not any negativity about the author or to be pre-influenced by reviews I’ve read.  So based on my two previous reads it seemed safe to assume that Kay wrote character stories in fictionalized versions of historical events (al-Rassan is essentially El Cid and Moorish Spain and Sun is Alfred the Great defeating the Vikings). Which he does write, right? He just also writes other things, apparently.

Ysabel reads like a YA urban fantasy, you know the ones where you’re just a teenager in the city and suddenly you get caught up in the drama of the fairy world? (See Charles de Lint‘s Newford saga stories or Holly Black‘s Modern Faerie tales.) Kay’s story relied more on the strange possibility of magic and history colliding and less actual fairy tales and the setting, Provence, was as much of a character as person in the book.  It was enjoyable and neatly written, it made me dream and think and still left something lacking.  I just didn’t engage enough with any of the characters.  I was compelled to keep reading by the mystery and strange magic and French Celtic history.  And while the main characters were likeable enough, they were real enough, still they just didn’t make me care enough.  I’d recommend this, but save it for the airplane or the beach.

After reading I tried to sleep, somewhat unsuccessfully, because of a string of late, late night thunderstorms that seemed so threatening that I got up from my bed under the windows and went and curled up on the couch (not under windows and further from big, bad thunder).  But as I drove in to work this morning, the storms had left behind a jumbled mess of crazy clouds rushing out and everything is so very, vibrantly, overwhelmingly green, especially against the grey sky.  And I remember, as I do every year, that I (and surely everyone else) continues to live in Tennessee because spring is so sensational.  It’s really astounding how the trees fill in and the colors.  It’s like God is talking directly to you, just for a little bit, daring you notice every leaf and every change and be grateful for it.  And it will be hot soon enough, spring so fleeting like the first flush of being in love and overwhelmed by it, but it comes back every year.  It’s worth the storms and the heat waves and the grim winter.  The Steve Earle line, “Tennessee is green in spring” is like the understatement of the century but at the same time anyone who lives here understands the depth and meaning of that little statement.


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Strange news from another land

I’m pretty sure anyone reading this knows that there is weirdness on the internet.  Indeed in the grey fringes of the net there be monsters the likes of which you should never click on.  And I suspect most of us stick to some regular circle of online places to visit, only occasionally straying out when someone offers a link of promised amusement.

I read a lot of sewing and fashion blogs.  It encourages me in my sewing, gives me ideas and tips and keeps me thinking about it when I’m not doing it.  But even in this tiny subculture there is much weirdness to be found.  Now in fairness, fashion is weird, or people try and make it weird, but sometimes it’s just incomprehensible to me.  And I don’t mean bizarre, haute couture, or strange high fashion you could never wear.  No, I mean things like Hel Looks.  As far as I can tell, this is a street wear fashion blog from Helsinki.  Like the Sartorialist or Urban Weeds.  But I can’t figure Hel Looks out.  Is it satire? Are Finnish people just so weird that they are actually parodies of their own stereotypes?  Yes the clothes displayed here are offbeat and funky, but not, in my opinion outside the range of actually normal for urban young folks.  However when I start reading their comments with the pictures I begin to feel as if I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole.

I know a lot of people. Hundreds of Americans I call friends or acquaintances, dozens of Europeans and a smattering of folks other places. I read a lot of news, a lot blogs and a lot of fiction.  I follow links on the internet, I eavesdrop on conversations, I pay attention to the way people talk, what they choose to talk about, and how they address other people.  And given all the data I have I’m just sure that no one, ever, when asked about fashion influences says, “I like German submarine officers, especially their caps and headphones.”  Or “I like to wear these trousers. Even my friends want to wear them.”

So either the world is much stranger place than I thought, something is wrong with Finnish people, or this is satire, right? Or maybe it’s surrealist art?

Finland is longer a country full of people in folk costumes or is it?


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Link round-up

Every year about this time I start searching again for something similar to a perfume I loved that was discontinued years ago.  I often start with an internet search for the scent notes in it, this year my search produced this. Really? We want to smother little boys in lavender and bergamot and tell them that’s how the Hulk smells? I’m, uh, actually I’m not at all sure how I feel about this.

Architectural Legos. Whee!  On the one hand, I wish we still lived in a world where you just got Legos and had to make your own things you imagined out of them.  On the other hand this is sooooo cool.

I think this link has made the rounds a bunch already, but these carved books are so spectacularly sculpturally beautiful that they must bee seen again and again.

Look at this fat little junco!  So sweet!

I almost never go to Threadless because I end up falling into some kind of time void where I lose hours looking at the awesome shirts.

This Mexican papel picado skirt is so incredible.  She says it didn’t take her that long, but I can’t imagine I could produce something handmade this spectacular in a year.  Still I want one very badly.  Hmm, maybe almost badly enough to try it myself.

Click boxes for notes.  Make tiny songs.  Refresh and start over.

Gravity marimba in a forest.  I don’t think I need to say more than that. Oh, it plays Bach.