Sewing room together!

After a week of sorting, packing, tossing and scrubbing I finally have a semblance of a creative space! To celebrate I made Sue’s scone recipe and added blackberries and some tea, that I then iced down since the weekend turned warm : )

This is my “storage” corner. The file boxes hold patterns still to use, the notebooks all my goodies like downloaded patterns, craft ideas and that whole series of binders with the yellow post-its on the end? Print outs of Retro Deco Settings so people like my grandmother, who don’t use the internet, can read my posts. Sometimes it feels like a dream, like I didn’t really do an entire years’ worth of tablesettings but then I trip over yet another box of dishes or cloths and oh yes, it was real.

The blue dishes are refrigeratorware, collected over the last 9 months. Made by Hall, this is what refrigerators came with for storage, no plastic here! Except for the lids on the syrup pitchers, and here’s my one big question – how much syrup did people go through for a syrup pitcher the size of the large juice container be in production (the one with the blue lid)?

This side of the room holds my desk, which really means a surface to hold projects in progress and a drawer for all those things you don’t quite know what to do with! I made a simple white cotton/linen slipcover for the wood chair. It keeps the room looking light and airy in the summer and makes a wonderful cat hide-out. I tied an apron that is too cute to be in the drawer around the top of the chair.

The upper shelf holds some of the hats I’ve made for Sew Weekly challenges along with my Carmen Miranda china head. It came with all the original plastic fruit, a little dusty, but all in good shape. I was going to update the fruit but whoever made this glued those suckers in there in a way that might damage the piece so they stayed.

That very large mirror is a family heirloom. My great-grandfather made it, he was a carpenter in the Sacramento area a hundred years ago. When my great-grandmother died he asked friends, and clients, of his to raise my grandfather. We have so few pieces from that side of the family and this may very well be the only thing that he made that still exists. It is HEAVY, solid wood frame, with a thick mirror whose backing is pretty good and while the finish is flaking I just can’t bring myself to change it.

I used to work at a junior college that had a history of flooding : ) Most of the floods only involved a few inches to a foot of water but one time we had a doozy with almost 5 feet of water covering the entire lower level, the level we stored the furniture and costumes along with the costume shop. Our dry cleaning bill alone came to almost $100,000 dollars : ) There were several chairs that had originally been library chairs, covered in a delightful selection of orange, green and brown vinyl that I always loved under their icky plastic skins. As the decisions were being made to keep/toss my co-workers decided they were tired of the tacky chairs and were going to toss them into the dumpster. I rescued them and through the years re-did them. Since I firmly believe that everyone should have at least one leopard print chair I stained this one ebony and found a cute leopard-printed twill. It took less time to re-upholster the chair than sand and stain it : )

This is my reality. Yes, there is a cat on the ironing board (that would be Zoe), one on the floor (that is Ashton) and a chicken. Zoe was so excited about the room being put back together she claimed the ironing board as “hers”. She’s resting on the plaid tablecloth I was going to use for the tea party.  Ashton loves the floor rug and is more than happy to share it with Amelia, the rescued chicken. More on her later : )

There will be more tweaks made, stuff added, stuff taken away. But for now this is where I’ll be able to put together those fabulous Sew Weekly creations. Now I’ll work on getting some of my past postings put up here with more details. Someone asked about the shoes I wore with my last challenge skirt, the red-and-white striped espadrilles. You’ll see them again this week so just hang on…

This is how I write my posts : ) How can you resist that face?

My “I REALLY need this skirt! skirt

The Facts

Fabric: Black cotton gabardine from stash
Pattern: Simplicity 4013
Year: 1950′s
Notions: 1 zipper & interfacing from stash
Time to complete: 2 hours
First worn: July 2012
Wear again? Yes

Total Cost: Free, free, free!

If the theme for the week is reality then let’s also be honest. What do I REALLY need? REALLY? Not a whole lot. My grandmother always said that you really only need 2 skirts, 2 shirts, a jacket, a coat and a nice dress. That’s it. That was also before women “could” wear pants in public and (gasp!) to work.

So when I looked at my closet, and I DID clean it up and out this week, I needed very little. I thought a couple more skirts for summer since I’ve really loved the few I’ve made for challenges and they do well on the bike : ) I actually had three cut out, and since each one takes less than 2 hours to do why not?

Then I got a phone call. One of my friends, who was elderly and not in the best health, had died. She had lived a long, full life and while not unexpected it was still a momentary shock. When I started out designing shows in this area she was one of the first people to welcome me, literally with a big hug, and became an honorary grandmother to my daughter. We worked in the same community but were never “rivals”. And now I need something to wear to the church services. I wanted it to be appropriate but still keep some “spark” because that’s what Barbara deserves.

It really did take less than 2 hours to make this but hey, after last week it was nice to have a little break : ) I was going to make the straight across high waisted version but just as I went to put the facings in I thought why not do that scallop edge? I did and  I love it. I decided to pair it with the blouse I made for the Mix-it-up outfit for several reasons, the most important is I love the shirt; the fabric was really nice cotton from Stone Mountain Daughter, it’s red and today was 102 out. Can’t you FEEL the heat coming off these pics?

I grabbed a parasol in an attempt to keep the worst of the sun off but we were outside for about 8 minutes and then beat it back to the air conditioned car.

We attempted going down to one of the parks in town to see if being down by the creek would cool us off.

The trees were lovely but it was still just too hot. Such is the reality of summer : ) I did get to wear one of my favorite bracelets, I have a hard time putting it on myself so it sits in my drawer most of the time. It’s made from a few of the miscellaneous buttons we all can’t get rid of.

Hats and lips, faces and cards, dice and vintage bakelite ball buttons, they all make me smile : )

I also decided that the reality of my sewing room was just getting too close to getting me on “Hoarders” so I pulled everything out to scrub, paint and reorganize, which is why only one skirt got made. That’s ok, it was the most important one.

Just a glimpse of what’s to come…

Hello world!

Welcome to my new blog!

After a year of blogging about tablecloths, dishes and things domestic I’m now opening up my life for all to see!

My crazy world revolves around my daughter, my animals and my projects. As a guest contributor to the Sew Weekly blog I’ll talk more about the challenges each week and my processes, so that I don’t end up writing small novels on Sew Weekly : )

The above photo is a glimpse into my sewing room – I’ve emptied the room of furniture (except for the ironing board that Zoe likes to sleep on, and a chair holding the closet door open) and am scrubbing furiously. It’s taken me WEEKS to get the piles of dishes, boxes of silverware and scads of napkins tamed.

Let’s get real…

Many of the dishes and accoutrements are in the dining room : )

You can see that I’ve merely shifted some stuff but I SWEAR I’m working on finding things homes, honest…

The one thing I’m very excited about it my sewing table. I rescued it some years ago, it had been kept outside in the elements and used for miscellaneous painting projects. Its legs were multiple colors, someone had let thick royal blue paint puddle on the top and drip down the drawers…so sad.

I brought it home and used it for a few years in its sad state and last year finally sanded it down. Unfortunately we weren’t fast enough bringing it in and it was rained on. It was ok but this year I managed to get it re-sanded, re-stained and repaired. Isn’t it glorious?

It’s actually an old library table, built by Hoosier Desks, most likely from the 1950’s. It was in a public library for many years and then replaced with those oh-so-attractive plastic and metal desks in the 60’s. It is SOLID and HEAVY : ) You can see Ashton (the orange kitty) and Stuart (underneath) checking things out. I think the table had been up for a whole 30 seconds before they moved in.

Now I am re-assembling my sewing room. I will also get some background posts up as quickly as possible to show some past projects, like the painting technique I used in my succulent inspired dress and some hat making techniques.

There will be a little bit of everything landing in this spot so be sure to check back in!


My Succulent inspired outfit

The Facts

Fabric: 8 yards silk organza left over from a wedding dress 11 years ago, green cotton lining, purple linen interlining from stash
Pattern: Vogue 8112 (again!) but just for top when the other top failed majestically
Year: 1940
Notions: 1 zipper, 12″ square of buckram, millinery wire, bias tape, plastic succulents & two shades of Tinfix dye
Time to complete: 12 hours, maybe more
First worn: July 2012
Wear again? Yes, but only for the *right* event!

Total Cost: $25.41 for dyes (includes shipping), $4.05 for green cotton lining, $18.93 for plastic succulents, $1.24 for zipper so $49.63 total

Many months ago I saw an image in, I swear, Vogue magazine at Angie’s house, that showed a woman standing against a succulent wall; her head piece and outfit looked one with the wall and I thought it was SO COOL!  I looked through every Vogue I could find for the last year, online as well, but no luck. When I saw “Nature” in the challenge list this was the first thing that popped into my head and once there…

…it just wouldn’t leave : ) Do I feel like a refugee from “Waltz of the Flowers” from the Nutcracker? Not really (just a little). What I really DID feel was incredibly light and flowy. This dress weighs next to nothing, the HAT weighs more!

Hat – 6.625 ounces or 192 grams

Dress – 6 ounces or 170 grams

Why succulents? I think they’re very cool, wish I could put them in my yard but alas the chickens think they’re really nifty toys. The small succulent wall behind me is one of many plantings along Main Street. I’m not sure if the same person or department who thought the Buddha/Baby head fountain was a good idea further down the block chose this as well but the wall is gorgeous.

All those plants are real, unlike the ones on my hat : )

Hats, hats, I seem obsessed with hats lately.

But let’s talk about the dress for a minute –

Each of the petals on the dress are hand painted. I knew I wanted to do a water-color style painting technique on the silk organza so I called the lovely people at Dharma Trading. It was SUCH a pleasure to talk to someone who knew what I meant when I said “Sage green” and “Plummy purple”! Each bottle of dye is 3.5 ounces and concentrated. I diluted each color before painting with it for the translucent effect I eventually got. I stretched the silk onto a frame that was approximately 24″ x 27″ and built with 2×2′s. Push pins held the silk and then I could paint on it easily and no dye ran where I didn’t want it. I painted the purple border first, added the green to the middle and then blended them. It really PAYS to buy good dyes, less expensive dyes would turn muddy and ugly when they meet. Originally I thought I’d just paint the edges with Fray-check but that made an icky, plastic-y shiny edge and inhibited the flow of the fabric.

I ended up just running all the leaves through the overlock using the rolled-hem feature. MUCH nicer! There are 6 small leaves on the top and 26 larger individual leaves that make up the three layers of the skirt. There is a green straight skirt underneath to cover up all the lady parts since I declined the tutu-and-tights look. The basic dress is cotton with a layer of painted green silk organza over the cotton for the right color. The purple center band is painted organza with a linen underlining and the entire top is lined in cotton (organza is scratchy, just no getting around that).

My new friend : )

My original idea was to made a strapless top and a cummerbund-style waist band. It looked A W F U L. I used my new favorite pattern (that I’ve used twice now) and figured the skirt was different enough that no one would notice : )

I have to say the silly little hat is my favorite element. It is also the piece that had people looking at me like I was some nutcase that escaped from the sanitarium for the day. Anyone ever see “King of Hearts”? Yeah…like that…

My hat : )

I’ve got my head down so you can see the top of the hat with the succulents, they sort of “flow” into the wall…

…and this is the back of my head, you can just see the clip holding my (windblown) hair. Those purple/green cascade-y things are something we found on our morning walk, they take the place of a veil or bow and cover the clips that hold the hat on. Yes, one of the succulents on my hat has a flower stem, it gives me height : ) and I feel like a Who which is kind of fun.

Granted this isn’t the kind of dress you can just throw on for any old event, it requires one extra special outing. I have nothing planned like that in the near future, I may have to throw a party JUST so I can wear this dress! It’s a very pretty piece of art, for now it can live on my mannequin when she’s otherwise not engaged and dress up a corner of my dining room. The hat, on the other hand, has to be put away because there is something about those plastic succulents that attract cats like catnip.

Someone certainly has a sense of humor in this town, this is the companion piece to my new friend above : )

Nifty added note – I sent a photo of the completed dress to Dharma Trading and they featured it on their facebook page the week it came out on Sew Weekly!

The “Formerly Sorry Sari” dress

The Facts

Fabric: Purple poly crepe Sari, purple cotton for interlining, black cotton lining all from stash
Pattern: Vogue 8112 (again!)
Year: 1940
Notions: 1 zipper, 12″ square of buckram, millinery wire, bias tape & feathers all from stash.
Time to complete: 4 hours
First worn: July 2012
Wear again? Yes, once I fix the top

Total Cost: Free!

What I love about the creative process is the ability to start in one place, get half way though the journey and take a right into territory that was never even a consideration. When I originally planned out this challenge I was hoping to get a early start to the week, finish up by Thursday (since Wednesday was a holiday!) and have everything done by Saturday including photos.

Once again, didn’t even start until Thursday but I was confident!. I had made this pattern before and was going to do the top in an evening and then gather almost 6 yards of the formerly sad Sari, throw a petticoat under the whole thing for a twist on tradition. Ha! The Sari was in three pieces, there were wide swaths of color bleaching from being stored incorrectly and the crepe is thin, rather cheap and easily melted. I “was” going to sew some sequins on the top gathered bodice piece but it frankly just wasn’t worth my time and energy. I did cut the top 1/2″ higher than my previous dress and then somehow managed to make the gathered part too long! I did play with this on my mannequin, pinned it in place and EVERYTHING but somehow on me it gave me big puffy purple cloud boobs. It was bad…. I took it up at the last minute but will take the whole thing apart later and fix it properly with Angie’s help.

There is no petticoat under the finished skirt : ) As I held up the fabric to determine which edge should go where it struck me that I could mimic the soft pleats of the original Sari and maybe, just maybe, it would be cute. The skirt is a little longer than I would normally wear but when I cut the panels it was still with the intention of full and petticoat. I wasn’t sure how the pleating would work out, although after wearing it for the photos I was pretty happy with the feel of it. I still have the option in the future to take it off and gather it : )

Buddha or baby?

I will give whomever made the Art purchasing decisions for the city of Walnut Creek full credit for going for “different”. There are two fountains along Main Street that have recently been re-done and this one is in front of our bank : ) My thought was to do the photos around it as the gold would be a great background for my purple dress. Brittany hadn’t seen this one yet and let out an emphatic “What the….?” when she saw it. Of course, she HAD to know whether the nose had nostrils and I can now say with complete confidence that it does : )

We tried but the light wasn’t great but now you can get a feel for the scale of the thing…

I made another hat…

…just because I like hats : )  I had used this Sari as part of my Mardi Gras tablesetting last February and used the feathers in the centerpieces so why not have some fun? I took one of the left over motifs from the skirt and used it as the base and threw the feathers on before the cats found them.

Le hat sans cats : )

All in all I have to say this is a happy save. I took something that was in pieces, had some fade issues and made it work. Tim Gunn should be pleased : ) Lassez les bon temps rouler!

I’ve had several emails asking me about the outcome of the picture my daughter submitted to the county fair. I am ECSTATIC to say she won First Place in the Color Photo Division!  I swear I didn’t cry as we rounded the corner and saw the blue ribbon…

“For my Twin”

The quality of this picture isn’t great, Travis whipped out his iphone and snapped the pic quickly as Kate and I kept the vested volunteers busy. You can just see the ribbon behind her head : ) How else is my 92 year old grandmother going to see what Brittany did, right? I’ll get the back story up this week on RetroDeco if anyone is interested. It’s good : )

Happy Fourth of July!

The Facts
: Blue plaid poly georgette, white poly lining from stash  
Pattern: McCalls 6731
Year: 1931
Notions: 1 awesome belt buckle, 1″ belting that I FINALLY found!
Time to complete: 4 hours
First worn: July 2012
Wear again? Yes, this coming Fourth!

Total Cost:  $15 for buckle, $6 for blue plaid so $21 total

I am a HUGE Fourth of July fan! From the actual meaning of the day to the inevitable bar-b-que or buffet of way too much food to the fireworks I just love it. Some years we’ve done the full family-friends-fun event including flag cakes and red and blue tie dyeing, some years we just stay at home and celebrate quietly. One of my favorite July 4 memories is the year we helped friends do the fireworks show for the city of Milpitis. Before they built the Great Mall there was a huge open field that they staged the show in, and we were able to stand UNDER the fireworks and let the sparks fall around us like fireflies. It was magic : )

This year we’re going to the Marin County Fair to see the photo my daughter had accepted into the competition…see if she’s won anything : ) Of course as the proud mom I have to have something to wear and as long as the day doesn’t turn 105 this is it!

The fabric is NOT cut on the bias, it’s printed that way! I found this at Joann’s in their red-tag section and waited until it went on sale half price and paid a whopping $2 a yard. I actually planned this outfit backwards. I bought this amazing belt buckle at the Alameda Flea market many months ago and knew it needed something wonderful and blue to go with it:

So what better than this bias printed plaid? And if I don’t like it I just removed the buckle from the belt and use it somewhere else. So far, however, I like it.

The pattern is one I bought a thousand years ago, I’ve used it in just about every show I’ve ever done that needs 30′s dresses. I even made a lavender silk version of this for the Gatsby picnic last fall and tried something new. It didn’t quite work with my Gatsby dress and I wasn’t sure if it didn’t work  because of the fabric or it just isn’t meant to be. This dress showed me it wasn’t meant to be. And what did I do? I flat lined the entire dress. In the case with the Gatsby dress I chose a purple silk chiffon with white polka dots for the body of the dress and a plain purple chiffon for the top. I sewed the lining and fashion fabrics as one layer so if I EVER attempt this in the future and want to line the lower dress and skirt pieces they need to be entirely separate layers. Lesson learned : )

It’s not as bad with this dress but I still found myself fiddling and adjusting through the afternoon. The pattern itself is ridiculously easy, it “should” have taken me between 2 and 3 hours to cut and stitch the entire thing.


That estimate did not take into account the Stuart factor. For some reason it became his job to make sure the fabric didn’t run away. I, on the other hand, was trying to match patterns as best I could but this is not a symmetrical print. I had to make a choice – use the back side as the front and hope the ink had saturated the fabric sufficiently when it was printed or make do with an uneven pattern. I chose the former and am just fine with it. But instead of the 30 minutes it would normally take me to cut this out it took two and a half HOURS between the print and the kitty…

And then, of course, it needed to pass the functionality test – Can I ride a bike in it?

Yes I can : )

This means I can add this to my work wardrobe since this is the bike I ride to BART every morning. I had some extra flag trimmings left over from the front porch re-decoration so I decorated my bike basket. I threw on my very cha-cha navy straw hat with the cherries and a pair of vintage navy suede pumps and away we went to the local park for photos. I actually rode my bike down there and Angie drove over with the camera so this is real life, ladies!

When I originally thought about this challenge I wanted to do pictures on my front porch and yard because I had grand plans to get things cleaned up and fixed up. Things were going along just fine until the middle of last week when, as one of my friends, Toby, would say “I gots da frow ups”. I came down with some delightful summer flu that came on quickly and, I thought, left as quickly. Turns out it just sucks your energy like a 60′s Caddy sucking down fossil fuels, quickly and completely and looking around for more. I finally got most of the front yard planted on Saturday, went inside for lunch and came out 45 minutes later to….no flowers. Mom deer had stopped by with the twins.

Hi Stuart : )

You can just see a row of purple flowers in the back and a few purple and red scattered towards the front but can you see the red geraniums, the white allyssum or two shade of purple petunias, scads of red and some scattered white? No, you can’t. But I can tell you for a few moments it was really lovely : )

I did manage to save *some* of the pots on the front steps from the lunch munch…and I knew this could happen. I was just hoping I could make it to the end of the day before covering everything in either chicken wire or bird cloth : )

Yes, this is my front porch : ) It makes me happy. Notice the flag – it is wool, has 48 stars and was a fab find at the flea market a few years ago. When I asked the price and the husband quoted $20 I couldn’t get the money out of my pocket fast enough. As I tucked the flag in my bag and started to walk away the wife asked her husband how much he sold it for… last I heard was a “discussion” starting to heat up : ) I quickly walked away and have loved it ever since.

May your day be full of good food, good friends and some sparkles. Happy Fourth everyone!!