The Sewist

I sew, knit and crochet hats. (Not all at the same time. Whaddaya think I am - a machine?)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

All Buckled Up
And Ready to Go.

I'm very happy to report that the knitted blue-sky cotton top is done and I'm wearing it Right Now with my chartreuse assymetrical skirt. I cannot believe I finished knitting something that is not a poncho or a skirt (both the same thing, really, worn on different parts of the body.) And this top wasn't so very hard. I finished it in about three weeks. A record for me. I cannot even read books that fast anymore. They're due back in the library before I've even completed the first chapter.

I would say the most challenging part of this sweater (not pictured today) was the ribbing at the hip. I had to reconfigure that with the helpful owners of Arcadia Knitting. That done, the p1, K1 went really, really quick. I'd make this particular piece of apparel again if I had an Ace Elf to do the job. Otherwise, I think I'll move on, like to finishing my black batiste blouse or even starting another knitted item (probably a skirt that's made in the round. I'd really like to make something that doesn't need to be mattress-stitched together. There's a cheerleading skirt from Blue Sky Alpaca that I might try).

In the mean time, I'm getting ready tonight to talk vintage wedding dresses. I was supposed to give this talk a month ago, but the air-conditioning went kaput and so did my speaking engagement. Now the cooling equipment is back in gear so is my old-fashioned slide show. The challenge for the next couple of hours is to think about bridal attire, and not the heat that beats at my window. So with the ceiling fan spinning lazily above me, I'm going to prep myself for this discussion about wedding veils, gloves, top hats, coats, bridesmaids, World War II gowns, etc.

With a little luck, at least one representative of my family will show up to hear this interesting lecture. I figure I can count on the ghostly presence of my grandparents.

Until I upload a picture of me in my latest creation, here's my H&M hat embellished with vintage bark cloth and a 1930s buckle. What do you think?

Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Close Call.

Yesterday I got on the train all ready to work on the last few rows of my knitted sleeveless sweater.
I dig into my Natonal Trust for Historic Preservation canavas tote and my hand freezes. No knitting. I fish around again, my fingers bumping over the wadded up Adora calcium foils, tiny rubber marks I use as markers, and general grit. Nothing.

I think back quickly. Is it at home? In the train's Lost and Found Department from the previous day's travel? I'm saying aloud, "I cannot lose any more knitting or yarn."

Instantly, thought, I'm at peace. If it's lost, Gone Forever, it's ok. I had fun making the top. It was probably the quickest thing I've ever made, the one where I had the least questions. It made me feel like I'm a somewhat accomplished knitter, even though I'm not competing against anyone else. It's just nice to know I can whip up yarn into a piece of apparel almost as quickly as I can sew. That's probably the most frustrating thing about knitting (besides all the COUNTING)...coming to a dead end, and not knowing what to do next unless I ask at least one other person What to Do. Kind of going on a trip. eh? So anyhow, I had visions of my nearly done top in the garbage (sob!)...but you know what? There are lots of other projects out there, other dreams to pursue even if one ends up in the trash, much like that baby alpaca probably did.

Those thoughts helped calmed me down...and prevented the endless replay of "Where's that project?" all day when I couldn't look until I got home. Somehow, I knew deep down, that my work wasn't for naught. The sweater was more than likely, parked on my couch at home.

Wouldn't you know that's exactly where it was? Stuffed in a beige plastic bag, with my business card stapled to it. (I'm getting smarter as I move along in life: business cards in everything I tote along with me. That way I increase the chances that the item, if it's separated from its mother - me - will be returned. Besides, I have hundreds of these little cards - why not do something practical with them?)

What do you do when something's lost and you can't look for it immediately? By the way, I'm going on a camping overnight. I'm debating whether or not to bring the knitting. If it fits into my overnight bag, it's coming. Otherwise, it's staying at home with the rest of my belongings.

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What Happens
When You Lose Ambition

When members initially talked about having a Wardrobe contest, it was ambitious. You had to have skirts, tops, (maybe even bras and undies, I can't remember) that coordinated with everything else, and you needed a coat/jacket/something special to cover your other stuff.

Even before I lifted a pressure foot or even snipped a piece of fabric, I got swept up into the challenge of it all. If I couldn't be a contestant on Project Runway this year or make an appearance on What Not To Wear, I thought, by golly, I could enter a competition that wouldn't just have me on tippy-toes, it'd have me reaching for Jupiter, Mars and the moon. I'd be stretching myself in so many ways that I never thought of that yoga would seem boring in comparison.

In fact, when I initially started working on my new set of matching clothes, I didn't even bother checking The Rules. I knew what I was doing. Everything had to go together. Blouses/shells/ sweaters had to be compatible with all skirts or pants. I only looked at the fine print last week. And I have to say, I was disappointed. I felt like not just the rug, but the carpeting and the wood floor, were pulled out from underneath me. It turns out you had to make more tops than bottoms, everything on the upper half had to go with at least two skirts or pants and you had to create one accessory (which could even be a pair of shoes???). And it all had to add up to 10.

That didn't seem terribly hard to me. Not in the least bit. In fact, you could make just about anything and throw in a topper of your choice, and that would be your entry. If I knew this from the get-go (my sewing gremin's fault because she based my decision on what was said in the forums, not the final rules), I would have saved all effort I expended to buy black and white fabric that Went Together. By golly, I probably could have gotten away with working with What's in My Stash. Oh well, that pile of textile needed some fertilizer, so what's better than more fiber?

Consequently, I don't feel any great desire to finish my Wardrobe of 10 anymore. The reward, a gift certificate from Textile Studios, looks enticing. But the competition, a hundred or so strong, is fierce. I'd have a better chance winning five burritos from Chipotle (and I've already been lucky three times after tossing my business card in the eatery's glass bowl). Mainly, the challenge of getting everything to work together like a mini-United Nations is just poof - Gone with the Hurricane Winds sweeping in down south. I was so looking forward making matchy-matchy apparel that Joan Collins would admire. Now it's who cares? Of course, my rainbow-hued polkadot silk blouse looks wonderful with my stripey black and white skirt. That's the style, isn't? All over the runway and then some.

Oh, I'll finish my knitted summer sweater. Maybe I'll work the Viking to complete my black batiste blouse by the 31st, then again, perhaps I'll just enjoy the rest of the month, just leisurely sewing like I usually do. There's always the Fall clothes to think about even though a line of sweat is threatening to do a Conga Line down my back. What do you do when you lose your sewing mojo?

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Summer Reading

I'm not one to follow trends, I just help set them. So you won't see me devouring the latest Harry Potter book. In fact, I've yet to read the first. You also won't see me with iPhone, I'm still working with pen-and-paper, particularly a little match-book size of a book from a Chicago paper shop. That notebook is a little too small for me so I think I'll start using index cards from to sketch out my next swimsuit collection, hats, and add phone numbers to my Gmail account.

So you can well imagine I don't read e-books, just lots of tomes from the local library. I was delighted to check out some excellent books on sewing last week. They are Sewing With Knits by Connie Long, Stitch With Style, Beverly Rush; and Sewing Lingerie That Fits, Karen Morris.

Just that first book alone has me in awe. Knits are my favorite fabric of the moment. Who knew you could crochet loose loops on a machine-made sweater knit? (I didn't.) Or my flame-stitch fabric is called a raschel knit? (Now I know the fancy name for all those Missoni zig-zag textiles.) Or that you can great your own ribbing? (That was truly an Aha moment for me). That and so much more makes me want to actually purchase Sewing With Knits for my well-edited book collection. I'll be able to make bathing suits that will be the envy of the lifeguards at the YMCA, the carp and frogs at the swimming hole at the national state park. They might even hire me to make their attire. The Stitching book hails from the 1970s, but still there's a lot that can be used in today's clothes. I'd love to try some of their appliques on a sewing machine (don't get me started on felting...I just saw Viking's felting machine last night at Vogue Fabrics. You can create on a machine what would take hours to do by hand.) Lingerie That Fits? All those knit scraps are going to become underwear some day. This book will help me do it in style with a better understanding of fit and technique.

Just so you know, not all my reading's about hand crafts. I've got Steve Allen's Make 'Em Laugh. Got to be able giggle when you nick your finger on a machine needle as I did Sunday afternoon while I was working on a black batiste blouse. I didn't bleed, but I've got a little scab. I don't really know what happened - I just know I was fixing something - a loose thread, crooked fabric - when the machine needle jogged up, then down, and I went, "Ow!" I looked at my index finger and there was a little bit of cut epidermis where they had been previously been a smooth surface. I think I might need to stay away from the felting machine - which actually has a plastic guard around its multi-prong needle. If I can hurt myself on one sharp little tool, I can only imagine the potential for pain with multiple sharp points.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Two Feathers in My Cap

You never know where you'll find sewing accessories or accessories for your hats.

My friend Ruth and I were on our way to the farmer's market and then Jo-Ann Fabrics when Ruth's vehicle made a Sudden Stop half-block away from my apartment front of a yard sale. She had to shop (my pal not her aut0)...and so I figured, "What the heck. I'll go too."

I used to be yard-sale, flea market and estate sale junkie, getting up at the pre-dawn hours to get in line for Good Stuff - I got a creaky 1920s-era Mahogany twin bed for $75 that way plus a rickety bamboo shelf that wasn't worth $50 I shelled out for it, but that's how I've slowly amassed my post-collegiate furniture collection. But I've been burned out on the Hunt for Cheap Stuff for a while. Yard Sales? I walk past. Estate sales? Yawn. Flea market? I'll go if you go and you drive. Hah!

This yard sale wasn't different from others. Lots of 1960s-era couch-cover plastics, a few pale pink quilted house coats, even a child-sized knitting gizmo still in its original box. Ruth almost got that, but she didn't. Such restraint! Instead she bought a few sewing notions, including hem tape. I purchased a pair of circular knitting needles, a stiff brush (good for the cleaning I still need to do), an umbrella (which I hate, but I'll need one day), Joke Riot (a box of laugh for anytime, anyplace, anywhere!) and a bag of fragile feathers, which you see above on my H&M hats.

Five of those plumes cost me twenty-five cents. They were apparently from France originally, according to a faded paper label. They're attached to what looks like a buckram base - I'm not sure what that's for. I was going to attach my finds to a pin, but on second thought, I'll take a millinery needle and sew them onto my chapeaux the next time I feel lighter than a feather. Which hat do you like better? I'll tell you mine. You first.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What color would you call this skirt? Acid/grass/Kool-aid green? I don't have a Pantone wheel handy, or I'd give it a number. That's not very romantic. Can you imagine walking into a fabric store and saying, "I want the poly/nylon fabric in FF203456." The sales clerk would just give you a puzzled look. It's much more effective to say, "Oh my gosh, I adore that lettuce/metallic shot silk dupioni. I must have it. Give me three yards of it please." The employee would whirl faster than a robot and pick up the exact fabric without hesitation. And she would be right. So numbers don't mean much in the tactile, visual world of textiles unless you're printing a book and every hue must be just right or the cheeseburger on page 52 is going to look very unappealing.

Anyhow, back to the skirt. This is the Bottom of the Summer (the other bottom on my body is with me all seasons, thank you). I wear this slip-on skirt constantly since I made it last week before I met a bunch of writers at Elephant & Castle pub in downtown Chicago. I wanted to impress. Most of all, I wanted to wear something else besides the black variation of this same piece of apparel. Basically, I wanted to look like I actually do laundry and own other clothes to all the people who see me on a regular basis - the postman, bus driver, the dogs and their owners who pass me on their daily jaunts in the neighborhood.

I sewed that skirt faster than it takes me to get to the grocery store and back on public transportation! I laid the fabric on the carpet in my bedroom and put the sole pattern piece down twice. Cut and snip - two sides of a skirt. I attached the two sides lightening-fast on my baby Viking. Then I whipped out the bathing-suit elastic, did a three-step zig-zag (similar to the triple step in lindy hop) on that stretchy stuff. Then I flipped that edge over, and secured it inside with a a normal zig-zag. Done!

I put on a black girdle underneath instead of a skirt and It Felt Good. All lower curves on the southern part of my being looked smooth. I was happy.

Now, I have to say I'm doing just as my niece Jackie suggested. When I asked her last year how she would wear a certain crochet skirt that was inadvertently made by a certain person to fit a child, she wrinkled her nose and said, "A pair of shorts."

At the time I was appalled. Shorts with a couture crochet skirt? This young girl certainly wasn't going to be the recipient of a certain handicrafter's wizardry.

Now I'm doing just that. Wearing shorts with my skirt, although I have yet to try it with the crochet kind. But a girdle on a hot day is so much more comfortable than a slip that sticks. What do you think?

Labels: ,

Monday, July 16, 2007

Life without the
Baby Alpaca DK 4818

I'd like to tell you that my shopping bag of Baby Alpaca DK 4818 was returned (see yesterday's entry for more on this event). I'd even be more delighted to tell it came back to me, a sweater in my size are already fully formed. Or even that the fiber was knitted into this warmer-than-summer cardigan, long enough to cover my torso.

Alas, the yarn has yet to be returned. Unfortunately, I have vision of it in the bottom of a garbage can, covered with gobs of leftover McDonald's fries and soaked with Diet Coke. That image actually helps me because I know this luscious yarn is basically useless at this point. It has no life. It was only meant to be with me a short time on Earth. Yes, 40 minutes on a train. That was the only time we were allotted together. It was my companion for an ordinary ride. Instead of a human train mate, I had a fibery one - which actually resembled a bag of Burritos to Go, which No Doubt Contributed To Its Demise.

I did the obligatory call again today to the Lost and Found departments. I got plenty of sympathy all around. When I called Visa today again, they told I need to talk to Purchase Protection, who in turn said I must file a Police Report to get a refund.

So I called 311 sheepishly (pun not intended). The operator asked what was stolen. "Yarn," I said with a straight face. I mean - really, it could have been taken from me. I just know that when I got off the el train that bag of yarn wasn't with me. "Yarn?" she said, a bit incredulously.

I resisted the temptation to explain, to downplay the loss. More important thefts are reported, I realize. But the yarn was important to me. It was an investment in my hobby. It makes me less likely to start any new knitting projects in the near future. I don't want to lose what's dear to me, you know? I'm not saying I'll never start another sweater, however, I just need to recover. At least my wallet and credit card do.

So I told the 311 operator where I lost it, how it much was worth. And that was that. I got a report number which I can now use to submit my claim to credit card. Hurrah! I feel so much better that I finished off my Cacao Reserve by Hershey's Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs that I got free at the CVS Pharmacy using a coupon from yesterday's newspaper. Delicious, even if it was imported from Germany.

Life (and Monday) is better with a little chocolate, don't you think?

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Before....And After

Here's a picture of me before entering Loopy Yarns in Chicago's South Loop neighborhood. I'm feeling a bit fatigued after having gotten up at 6 a.m. on this morning, dashing downtown to make an 8:10 a.m. editorial appointment (I was two minutes late thanks to door keys that conspired to get lost and a lagging El train). But I'm also exhilarated too - excited beyond belief at all the possibilities that are whirling in my brain after meeting six magazine editors face-to-face to discuss story ideas. I'm also thinking about a dress that I think I can knit for $15 after buying bunches of yarn for 70 percent at Loopy.

Now, it turns out the Pima tencel in Purple that I had in mind for the dress (a new one in a book about fitted knits; I forget the exact title) is not on sale. Oops. Cancel the $55.33 purchase on my United Mileage Visa card. It's back to the racks for another project. I end up filling my wiry wooden basket with 10 skeins of another royally-hued fiber: Baby Alpaca DK, normally $6.85 each. I get all these little furry little balls for a grand total of $20.55. A fall sweater of the warm sort is already forming in my mind.

I get on the subway train with my black Herman Miller tote, my purchase, and my cranberry Target purse. I'm taking this train all the home, so I pull out my summer knitting, the halter top. I'm lost in the thought, binding off here and there, and there and here, listening to these guys behind me talk about something my hearing-impaired ears cannot decipher for the puny life of me. Whatever.

I decide to get off the train at an earlier stop since I realize there's a street festival going on where I want to pick up (not figuratively, thank goodness) a bus. I'm off the train, and on the sidewalk when I realize, "Oh My God, I don't have my yarn!." Out pops the cell phone. I'm calling the transit help line; the operator there gives me the Lost and Found number. Nobody answers, unfortunately. I call the 800 number for my Visa since I bought the fiber with my credit card. They of course, give me another number. I call that number, and then another.

I don't make contact with the Right Telephone Number until I get home (and consume all of the Vosges chocolates I won in a lottery at my conference). Guess what? I need to talk to another Customer Service Department, which isn't open until...tomorrow.

So I've no idea if I'll get my money or the yarn back. I fear that the train engineer will toss the bag in the garbage since my 10 white tissue-paper wrapped hanks resemble big burritos-to-go. The plastic bag doesn't even feature the Loopy Yarns logo either. So I'm not super-confident I'll recover this project-in-the-making.

I might be more likely to recover the cost through my credit card since I purchased the train pass with my Visa as well as the actual items themselves. It's not worth losing my nap over, which I most definitely need since I've been in this meeting for 3 Days Straight. My brain is French-fried.

I've only lost project stuff once before...a remnant from Vogue Fabrics that I was going to transform into a surplice Kwik Sew top for my sister. I think I inadvertently threw that knit out since I haven't seen it since. I know it's not in the Stash since I've dug through the pile. But I didn't stress over that because it was a $6 buy.

What yarn/fiber/fabric/patterns have you lost? Please help me cope with paint of my Premature loss!

Labels: ,

Saturday, July 14, 2007

In the Mood for Lindt Excellence
85 percent Cocoa

We're talking the Dark Extra Fine version. It's not the milky and sweet stuff you might know and love. But I picked up the Lindt bar yesterday at the local CVS pharmacy while I on a conference break (by the way, CVS is becoming a great resource for good-quality but inexpensive chocolate from Dove, Hershey's, Ghiradelli, Lindt, and other manufacturers. Even Walgreen's doesn't have this kind of selection!)

I woke up this morning. When I realized I didn't have enough oatmeal for my first meal of the day, I grabbed the Lindt bar and nibbled on that. I think I save the rest of my breakfast appetite for the hotel, where I'll be spending the rest of the day back at the confab.

Yesterday I brought my knitting to this particular meeting to work on not just during my commute, but on site. I sat next to a window. I was in the state of sheer bliss, purling away, listening to the speakers. I only poked my neighbor every once in a while, and she didn't complain one iota! I felt like I was at the height of creativity listening, creating and even asking questions related to the topic at hand. What's really cool is that I'm making progress on my Sewing With A Plan, which ends on the 31st. My Lake Michigan on a Summer's Day blue knit top will the fourth top (and only one thing can be knitted as least for this contest). I'll need to sew like a Chicago demon for the rest of the month, finishing that black batiste blouse and launching a few other clothing projects into the atmosphere, but I'll do it if it's the last thing I do in July (entirely possible given that's the end of the month is the last day of entry). I wish I could show you a picture of me hard at work wearing my acid green assymetrical skirt (New Look 6571), sandals with matching leather flowers, a long-sleeve Anne Klein white eyelet blouse I sewed, and my black H&M hat embellished with pins. My German grandmother would proud of my knitting, but she'd worry about what others might think - especially the woman to my left. Do you ever pull your knitting out at meetings? How do people near you respond?


Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Capelet Now

Yes, it's the capelet now as opposed to yesterday or in the Future or on Anna Wintour's body. I'm not sure why I care about this cape. I think it's the print. I just adore how the pattern looks like it's been pulverized in a Cuisinart, enlarged on a Photoshop screen and then put through an electron scrambler of some sort. Whilst I'm searching for the wool version, I could even come to love a jersey knit with this kind of a jumbo Walmart-sized design. Alas, what's in the fabric store closest to me only has a super-soft knit with a mice-sized tooth print pattern in chocolate brown and sapphire blue. I still might acquire it since I love that colorway; it's very fall, which feels far away - especially considering that downtown Chicago's Outdoor Film Festival doesn't even start 'til Next Week! I've yet to barely make a dent in sewing all my summer play clothes (yes, I'm going to climb in the Elm trees just like the Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music). I even picked (and then put down) yesterday the latest Knit1 magazine featuring a thick wool hat in Sherbert Orange. I love the aforementioned hue, but only the icy edible one appeals to me right at this moment. I can't even think of fiber in that colorway for the Season in which leaves drop to the ground. Speaking of cool foods, I've actually got a summer cotton in what I'll call Dreamsicle with bits of white white chocolate nubs on it. I've at least five yards of it - a good thing considering how narrow it is. I think it's from the 1930s or 1940s since it's narrower than my hips. But I don't see it (the textile, not my hips) as retro - I see it as a Maxi halter style dress not unlike the Simplicity Threads pattern that's somewhat popular. I'd pair that cloth with some floaty white gauze with an ethnic orange print from Metro Textiles. I think that would be comfy and stylish for when Someone Upstairs Decides to Return Illinois to the Front Burner. That's not to say I wouldn't buy that Houndstooth if it knocked me down while I was surfing the Internet or some such thing, but I've got to live now not for some chilly day in late September, don't you think?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hunting for Houndstooth fabric

I'm a glutton for the assorted catalogs that cross my transom. Victoria's Secret? Check. Nancy's Notions? Hmm. Is there a good sale despite all the stuff in there for quilters and women my mother's age? Nordstrom? More fodder for my fashion pages file.

Especially page 25 of the latest edition, Anniversary Sale, which starts Friday, July 20. Now certain marked-down items are beyond my check book's reach. Namely the Mackage Houndstooth flyaway capelet, now just $399.90 (normally $598). This particular coat, I'll have you know, is all about an extra-large (we're talking a print that can probably be seen from an airplane descending to O'Hare airport on a clear day) white and black houndstooth wool. It's got this cute, big pointy collar that reminds me of the ones on those 1950s wrap-around blouses and a thick, black leather belt.

I wouldn't buy this cape for nearly $400 even if I didn't have to make a few minor but important monthly payments in the next few days. I rather make this, yes, stitch it on my Viking. Of course, finding the fabric is the important part. So what am I going to do? Rip this page out, and put it into a plastic-page sleeve and carry it around with me like a Dork. I'll show it to my friends at Vogue Fabric and anyone else who cares. I suspect I'll need to make a trip to Milan, which will cost more than a few yards of this fabric, just to find this wool, which You and I know Must Be Italian. It has to be. There's no question, at least not in my mind. I don't think a fabric with this kind of heft or design could hail from China, Canada or Ecuador. No, this textile was created by people who inhale pesto sauce on a daily basis.

I'm certain after I find the fabric, the stitching will be easy, right? I will be so thrilled to have in my little Caucasian hands that it will sew itself. I'll just leave it in my office/sewing room overnight. Turn on the ceiling fan just so it's not too hot in there, close the door, and let the magic happen. I won't even peek in periodically. I promise. I don't want
to bother Whoever's heading up the Sewing Detail, disturb the momentum. I'd just hope that I could return to that room to see the capelet completed, ready for the first cool day here in Chicago. I already know what I'd wear it with. Jeans. But not just any pair. A nice fitted pair of the stretch variety, flared and a little shredded at the hem. And a pair of boots, however, not the Cowboy Kind. That would ruin the classy mood. Anything kind of mod would work. Even white would work very nicely. What extreme lengths have you gone to find fabric?

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Yellowjackets: A Sewing Hazard?

On Sunday I was a woman on a mission to escape my hot apartment. So I filled a Nordstrom's bag with yards of black batiste, reams of matching fabric trimmed with white lace and rickrack, a pattern, notions, and made like a female bandit for Vogue Fabrics in Evanston. Not before stopping at a nearby Starbucks for their reduced-fat turkey bacon breakfast sandwich. But I didn't leave with a frappucino in hand. No, I kept my hands busy knitting my summer sweater. When the hands of the clock inched toward 12 noon, I made a beeline across the street for you-know-where.

As soon as I paid my $5 at the business desk at Vogue, I got this nicely typed out gift certificate for $20. Yes, after using the store's classroom 10 times, they reward you for all the money you've given them (not to mention the countless yards of fabric that you've taken off their hands for forever and three days). So the happy, sweaty camper I am, I gleefully stash the certificate in my purse for another day and promptly got down to having fun.

It took me a while to get started. At least an hour before I slice my fabric with scissors, during which assorted employees came through to take their break. Pat, who mans the notions counter, noshed on a sandwich in front of one of the many Viking sewing machines, while I studied instructions for my pattern (Simplicity 4179).

I'm finally cutting the fabric when I feel this pain in my finger. I look down. Did I cut myself? No, I see a bug on my digit. It stings me and flies off to land on the rim of a nearby garbage can. "A bee just stung me!" I cry, holding my poor little hand. "It's over there on the garbage can!"

Pat leaps up and smashes the bugger with a wadded piece of paper. It turns out it was a yellowjacket, not a bee, which I really wouldn't want to kill since these insects make honey, which I really like on my daily bowl of oatmeal.

My extremity is throbbing with the stinger still visible when I walk out to the notions room. I see Pat's colleague, the raven Avida. She tells me she killed the stinger's friend earlier in the ribbon room. Great. She encourages me to go upstairs to get ice. I'm not a store employee, but it's ok for me to the second floor, which I've never explored in all the years I've visited this shop? That feels going into King Tut's tomb.

Even so this is heady stuff. To go where no shopper goes? Wow. Avida shows me the way - a narrow staircase off the main room. Even though my finger is swollen and pinker than a watermelon, I soak up my surroundings. Unfortunately, the break room is very ordinary. A beaten-up microwave, a basic white refrigerator, faux wood paneled walls and fiberboard tables. Typical lunchroom furnishings. Somehow, I expected thousands of swatches on the walls, a bounty of dress forms, rare buttons and fashion designers hiding out from their day jobs. But it was ordinary. Now at least I can say I've seen the top floor!

With a wadded piece of brown paper towel and ice, I returned to the classroom. I finished cutting and started sewing.

Yesterday when I returned to the premises at least three people asked how I was feeling. I'm certain they want to make sure I could buy more fabric. If I died from a yellowjacket sting, I can't reduce their stock one iota. I'm sure my swift recovery was an answer to their prayers. While I was there, I saw Ace Seamstress Mac Berg in action (she did a demonstration on how to create chenille strips; see the above photo). I also used my gift certificate. More fabric for my collection, of course!

Enough about me. Have you ever gotten hurt sewing?


Sunday, July 08, 2007

When It's So Hot That...

...a ceiling fan spinning at top speed doesn't make a dent in the inside heat index, wearing a bathing suit all day long makes you long for a swimming pool Big Time, a Long Island Iced Tea is what you dream about at 8 a.m., then it's time to go to a cooling center.

So that's what I'm going to do....although my cooling center has a multitude of sewing machines. Here in Chicago, Mayor Daley opens up a slew of public buildings where people, mostly the elderly, can keep their cool when their own homes fail to do the job. The shame of it all is not that many people take advantage of this Free Service.

Now I'm not old, but I could use a major cooling center. I've an air-conditioner, unused since 2002, in my bedroom window. If I turned it on, I'm certain I'd still feel like I was overly warm blueberry muffin. So I'm heading over to Vogue Fabrics this afternoon. Yes, as soon as the door unlocks at 12:00 noon, I'm there with my sewing projects, fabrics, notions, implements, everything that will make me happy (although I really could use a tiny boom box to play some jazz tunes) while the air outside becomes basically unbreathable. There I'll stay in sewing la-la land until 5 p.m. Then maybe I'll go to my mother's for dinner OR I'll just go to church, which is un-air-conditioned, but at least it's late in the day, thank goodness.

It's on days like these days you get Really Good Ideas. You're walking so slow melting ice cream could move faster, so you're forced to sit and Slow Down. You lay down on the bed, and watch blades on the ceiling fan go round and round and it's just so wonderful! And then the Ideas start to assault you from all sides as beads of sweat drip down your face. What if I turned that black linen fabric into a hat? What if I took the basil in the refrigerator, chopped it into a bazillion pieces and baked it into a cake? How does a Dunkin Donuts iced coffee stack up one from Einstein's? Such are the questions that float across my brain when I'm too tired to do anything except nap (which something I ought to do this crazy-hot afternoon, but probably not in my oven of an apartment.)

Ok. I am half-dressed for my adventures this afternoon, of course, which will not be explored without a Hat. My new favorite is the white straw from H&M. Today I've embellished it with some white netting. What crazy, creative activities do you get when the temperature soars?


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Score 4 - the Straw Hat Bonanza!

It's completely true that you don't know what goodies life will bring you. I decided to go to Victoria's Secret this afternoon for their big semi-annual sale. I was looking for a racer-back Ipex bra in my size. I didn't expect to find one, but you must aim high to get the things that are important to you, right? Visualize it as the authors of The Secret might suggest. I ended up buying four pair of $2.99 undies. Very utilitarian, the kind that mothers like most. Not one brassiere. Since I used my store credit card for probably like the third time in my life, I'm also thrilled at the thought that now I will likely get a catalog every week in the mail. That catalog is like a free magazine, kind of like Lucky with lots more skin showing. I really do get many sewing ideas from Victoria's Secret. Lame, I know, but true.

Then I cruised into H&M next door (we're talking downtown Chicago). I enjoy getting inspiration there, but I never buy clothes. Too cheap-looking, besides why on this green earth would I want to wear something another gal in this small city will likely have in her wardrobe? No way. But I do like buying accessories - particularly their big-hoop earrings. This time I wasn't pleased to see hoops that slip onto your earlobes sans a backing. I find I lose those kinds of baubles before I'm even half-way out the door.

Then I saw these straw fedoras piled book-deep in the back of the store. They look like something a guy would wear with their short brims, but the color - particularly the white straw and baby-blue grosgrain ribbon-trimmed number - are girly-girly. So I thought I'd buy two. They were only about $3. Two one, one black. Then I learned at the cashier that these toppers were two for one. So I ended up purchasing four hats, two in each hue.

The black one I embellished straight away at home with pins I'd completely forgotten about: White Castle, See Rock City, Lifesource and Operations Lifesaver. Now this isn't the extra-wide brimmed hat that my dermatologist would recommend, but it covers just as much dermis as the Eugenia Kim floppy hat that I've been wearing every day. Besides, I'm slathering on my Lancome UV Expert 20 Sunscreen like there are 15 tomorrows. I feel positively giddy about my new finds (the hats, not the underwear). I swear the summer is going to be even better now that I've got these lids to keep me stylishly covered when the sun beats down, and humidity index creeps up...

Labels: , ,