My twin jackets

Top 5 featured : )

And that little red/white gingham dress is kinda cute….

The Facts
Fabric: Two pieces of cotton plaid flannel
Pattern: McCalls 8005
Notions: 5 buttons on each jacket, interfacing
Year: 1950
Time to complete: 8 hours
First worn: October 2012
Wear again? Yes, when fall finally decides to show up

Total Cost: ~ $40.00 but $12 is vintage buttons

Ever since Mena did her take on a 49er jacket I knew I needed to add one to my wardrobe this year. A few days after I saw her post I found a couple great heavy cotton flannels at Joann’s (imagine my surprise!) so I purchased 2 1/2 yards of a red/grey/black combo. So what makes this a UFO?



I was so psyched that I blithely started cutting things out, paying absolutely NO attention to how much fabric I was using and ooopps! I’m about 1/2 yard too short : ) WHY? you may ask. Sewing 101 – make sure you have enough fabric BEFORE you start to cut for the project you have in mind! For a standard shirt pattern 2 1/2 yards should be fine however, this isn’t a “standard” shirt pattern. Did I read all the words on the pattern envelope or just look at the pretty picture? You can guess what the answer is : ) Not only that, I didn’t even see the word “Maternity” near the pattern number on the envelope.

Brilliant, eh?

Here’s what I like about the pattern; I like the “swagger” style cut, the fact that the side seams and center back seam flare a little. (I love swing coats and recently became the proud and slightly tearful owner of one of the most beautiful swing coats I’ve ever seen. It’s a little dusty and wrinkled right now but I’ll get it cleaned and post pics soon.) I went back to Joann’s to get more fabric and…no more…argh…. I threw the whole project into a bag and figured I’d look at it next year.

A couple weeks ago, while looking for something completely different at another store, I scored! More plaid in my pattern!! And right next to it was an really interesting red/yellow/beige/black plaid as well. Hmmmm… much do I like the pattern? Enough to give it a go twice? Sure, why not. This time I bought THREE yards of fabric and, feeling quite smug, came home and cut everything out just in case…

Everything was fine : ) I also decided to make both coats at once because somehow, in my world, it only takes a little more effort and time to do something twice as it does to do it once. I scored the COOLEST buttons at the flea market this month:

The original idea was to use them on the grey/red/black jacket but after I bought the other flannel I knew I needed to use them on it. My one regret was not getting the solid red bakelite buttons.  I used 5 black buttons from my stash on the red/grey/black jacket and next month, if I can find the nice button lady, I’ll buy the solid red and change them out.

Here is my SECOND jacket, my ‘casual weekend’ look. I’m wearing my Rosie the Riveter jeans with a $2 vintage red wool sweater. I pulled out my yellow and black bakelite bracelets along with earrings and a ring and I have to say, I felt pretty stylin’! Too bad the fog burned off by the time we started taking photos and once again I was dripping sweat down my back.  It was RAINING a couple days ago and now we’re back to Indian summer : )

My daughter and I walked around Oakland and found this gorgeous house of many colors! This is going in my Inspiration file.

And now for my ORIGINAL idea/look:

Not my finest hour : ) Nothing other than being a little tired and hot but I do like the outfit. I wanted you to see the pockets in this version that I didn’t do with the first one but muffed the shot. Brittany and I were just about over the whole picture taking thing today so this is as good as it gets. WHEN it gets cold this will be an AWESOME outfit! Today…not so much. The pants are from my Elton John outfit; even though you can’t see them I’ve got on red and black bakelite bracelets and earrings.

Almost every house on this street had Halloween decorations up. Those white schmatta things are actually ghosts : ) It was all very cute! But we were done so we headed, once again, to Bittersweet,

Gluten free chocolate zucchini bread and a Chocolate Coconut Chill. Ahhhh……

In the end I cleared up one UFO that I had resigned myself to finishing next year, made its “twin” AND incorporated pieces from other challenges into some pretty cha-cha outfits. Score!!







Ready for a Ho-Down : )

The Facts
Fabric:Turquoise and brown cotton plaid from stash
Pattern: Top – Advance 6609; Skirt self “drafted” Notions: 5 buttons, waistband interfacing from stash, 55 yards of rick-rack and trim and counting Year: 1950′s Patio or Squaw dress inspired
Time to complete: 8+ hours over 8 years
First worn: October 2012
Wear again? YES!! And for a very special event : )

Total Cost: Free for fabric, $32.00 for trims and counting…

I have a secret to confess – for about 10 minutes back in the late 70′s/early 80′s I had a crush on just about any guy who wore cowboy boots : ) It all started with John Travolta in “Urban Cowboy”, when we first see him clean shaven at the bar in Gilley’s. Remember this?

I learned the basics of line dancing, bought a pair of JC Penney grey suede cowboy boots and a couple of plaid shirts and I thought I was the BOMB! I really wanted to be Pam but was more like Sissy, I just couldn’t get away with wearing a tank top with no bra : ) Years later I watched that movie with my daughter and had a “Really?” moment. But it was all good fun and I will gladly watch a chopped up version of “Urban Cowboy” over most weekend afternoon offerings.

When I saw “Western” in the list of challenges I KNEW I had to pull out the outfit I started about 8 years ago. I meant to make this for a Bobwhite party but only got as far as stitching the skirt panels together. My original idea was to make mother/daughter matching outfits so I have at least another 5 or 6 yards of this fabric, maybe more. When I saw Laura in her “I Heart Shakespeare” dress I laughed out loud because it looks like she fell for the loveliness of this plaid as well! I could have sent her additional yardage she needed for her outfit had I only known….

So out came the parts and pieces. I used a LOT of fabric in this skirt, around 4 1/2 yards. The top section is 2 full widths of 45″ fabric, so that’s 90″ gathered around my waist. Attached to that are 4 full sections of fabric, and the bottom layer is 8 full sections of fabric. The top section is 9″ finished, the middle section 10″ and the bottom 11″, so the finished length of the skirt is 30″. Easy to cut, easy to sew but gathering takes a while. Watch a movie as you gather and pin : )

The whole beauty of these outfits lies in the trim. Just google “Patio dresses” or “Squaw dresses” and you’ll see what I mean. Sew Weekly’s own Debi Fry made a Squaw dress last year and included links for the history of the outfit. I decided against the v-neck trim. I want to wear this blouse without the skirt, might even wear it to work this week…and I’m not a huge fan of rick rack in the real world. I was going to use my favorite shirt pattern but I think it’s here:

Puppies and patterns…

Puppies found a box in the bookcase, pulled it out and discovered patterns. I’m sure they were amused for HOURS, and truthfully I haven’t gone through the parts and pieces yet to figure out what I’ve lost and what is salvageable. I’m fairly certain my favorite patterns (blouse, skirt, pants) were stored where I could quickly and easily find them. Yep, in the box. And the best part of the pile is that whatever I find probably won’t have printing on it, most of my favorites were old enough that they just had the punched holes. It will be quite an “All the kings horses and all the kings men…” type afternoon when I finally sift through the remains : )

So I found Advance 6609 in my collection and decided to give it a whirl. I just needed a basic shirt and it looked basic so why not?

I think it worked out great! I cut about 1 1/2″ off the sleeve length and cut the sleeve bands on the bias. The shirt might have taken 2 hours from cutting out to sewing buttons on. The skirt, however, took HOURS. Since the basic construction was done all I had to do was put the waistband on (15 minutes) and then the trim.

Ah, the trim…

For weeks now I’ve been haunting Joann’s. I’ve been to EVERY SINGLE STORE in my county. At first I wanted gold rick rack. Well, what I REALLY wanted was copper colored rick rack but it is stupidly expensive IF and WHEN you can find it so that was out. The I thought I’d use the old gold color. Hah! The most any store had at any given time was two 2 1/2 yard packages. I didn’t have the 4-6 weeks to special order it so I tried to find the 30 or so yards I’d need to get things going. I finally gave up mid week and switched to brown and bought out three stores worth but couldn’t get even 10 yards of the wider brown. I tried for a turquoise to match but that too was a no go. In desperation I bought all 4 spools of brown with turquoise polka-dot ribbon I could find and called it good. The top panel has one row of small brown rick rack, the middle section two rows and the bottom section two rows with the ribbon in between. EVENTUALLY I want to add larger brown and some turquoise rick rack but at least this way I’ve got the outfit wearable and recognizable. It’s not quite “Little House on the Prairie” but close…

As with all good projects when you stop looking for something so desperately it just shows up so I’m going to relax and see what comes my way : )

The day was FABULOUS as my daughter and I set out for the Howe Homestead Park to take photos. Jim Howe was a local resident and one of the first well-known AP world correspondents. He and his wife Mia lived here from 1910 to 1970. Now owned by the city the house and out buildings have been preserved and restored so it looks much like it did in the 1930′s. We took advantage of some of the farm equipment for today’s shoot.

My daughter thought I should show off my little cowboy hat. It makes me smile : ) I kept humming “You have a friend in me” from ‘Toy Story’ because this is a Woody hat. I pulled out the white trim, added my own turquoise and voila! I tied a piece of ribbon I was going to add to the skirt trims, until I realized it just blended in, around the brim. The cowboy boots are real, I bought them waaaayyy back in the late 80′s at a vintage store that didn’t realize they could have gotten at least $100 for a pair of used black leather boots. I paid $10. The ‘uniform’ of the day in LA was black jeans, white t-shirt and black cowboy boots and I used to wear them to music video auditions : ) I asked my girlfriend who is a REAL cowgirl if I shouldn’t have brown boots to go with my brown belt and accessories and I got a resounding “NO!”

This is the other “ultimate” accessory to a good Western outfit!

I am quite pleased with the way everything came together. I managed to EXACTLY match the plaid down the center front:

I actually pulled the plaid off just a little so you could see it really is the center front that buttons : )

We tried doing the ‘skirt-spread-out-in-a-big-circle-on-the-ground’ shot that seemed to be ubiquitous. It didn’t work out so well so we did a standing shot –

That sucker is a FULL 30 feet around! And look what I found just before we left the flea market this morning:

Three packages of vintage turquoise rick rack. I have enough for the top two tiers of the skirt. I didn’t have time to sew it on before photos today but I will soon because…

I have an actual event to wear this!! One of my favorite rescues is having a Ho-Down in a few weeks.

BAD RAP is celebrating the five year anniversary of bringing home some of the dogs seized in the Michael Vick case. One of the items on my bucket list is to meet some of these guys (I missed my chance to meet Leo, he died from a seizure disorder last year) like Teddles, Uba, Zippy, Jonny Justice, Amazing Grace and Audie!! They’ll be there to shake paws, maybe take some photos and party the night away. We’ve been told that “This isn’t a sit-on-the-sidelines kind of party, so come prepared to get on the dance floor and make some history of your own.” I plan on wearing my outfit, hat and all, to dance and smile the night away!

As one of my nice neighbors said “We take the easy cases, you take the tough ones. Thank you.” It’s been a much better week : )

And I made the top Featured this week!

Six dollars for sweaters!

I’m in the Featured section : )

The Facts

Fabric: Sweaters from stash, bought 3 new for this project at $2 each
Pattern: My own but inspired by Katwise
Notions: 2 mondo brass hooks
Year: Contemporary
Time to complete: About 5 hours First worn: September 2012
Wear again? Yes, when the weather calms down.

Total Cost: $6

Do you ever have some weeks where you really have to think, think, think about the challenge? Where it takes SO MUCH THOUGHT to just come up with one idea? That was not this week : ) I had SO MUCH STUFF to pick from that I almost cursed the over-abundance of ideas. I was drawn back to Katwise for several reasons:

1) I still haven’t cleaned up my mess from the last project.

2) I am making a couple of these coats as presents for Ariel and Elora, my little twin friends. Ari is the one with cancer, Elora is the one that my daughter took photos of shaving her head at St. Baldrick’s this year that won her the photo prize at the Marin County Fair.  I am in full-on sweater mode and that makes me happy and there isn’t quite enough “happy” right now.

3) The last couple weeks the weather has been cool, especially in the mornings. I thought we were into fall. Ha!

So I started with the pile in my living room. I loved the greys I didn’t use in the last coat and was really wanting to do something with the grey cashmere that Stuart kitty fell in love with. I had a purple wool sweater that someone gave me because they had smeared something on it they couldn’t remove.

My gain : ) I also had a grey wool sweater that I got at the last swap that was beautiful except for these:

So far we’re up to free. I called to take Elora shopping last Monday, when all clothing at Salvation Army is $2. She had been grounded (!?!) for texting a boy too much so I had to go it alone. It’s tough being 14…

I found the lovely dark purple sweater along with another medium grey wool/silk blend and a cotton light grey. Just as I was throwing everything into the washing machine I spied a grey floral-printed  wool sweater that I had set aside from another swap, I was wanting to replace the buttons and cut it down to a cardigan but what the heck, it joined the party!

Then I cut strips. The toughest part for me is cutting into these guys, I don’t know why. I once did a project for a friend of mine who did very high end wall coverings for very wealthy clients in the City. He brought me a bolt of Fortuny fabric to cut into panels and stitch together and that stuff was $1,000.00 per meter. No, I didn’t put the comma or period in the wrong spots. One thousand dollars. A meter. And the bolt had 100 meters on it. It was worth more than my house.

I cut into IT just fine so I’m not sure what my problem was this week.

The inspiration piece (above) was a garment Kat made to auction off, a fellow artisan by the name of Chopstix died suddenly of a brain aneurysm and Kat was trying to help the family raise money to settle the estate. Had I felt wealthier I would have been tempted to bid on it, it sold for the price of a meter of Fortuny fabric.

Then I found this pic –

  In the end it really took about an hour to cut and sew the dress together, another couple to futz with the hood/cowel. I fussed over what band goes where more than I’d like to admit. I wanted the center purple band to define the waist and I’ll probably cut it off the dress, shorten the grey top and put it back on, I think its a little long.

I made a pretty cha-cha belt loosely based on an obi design. Of course I had this idea around 9pm Saturday night and I had set things up with my daughter to take pics first thing Sunday morning. For some reason I just didn’t want to pull out my sewing machine. Nothing is set up any more since puppies have the sewing room so hauling the thing out, finding the cords…ugh… I made the belt from a sleeve of each of the purple sweaters and just overlocked everything together. I didn’t mind hand stitching on the huge hooks I had in my drawer and was done around 9:45. I put everything on the mannequin, stood back and frowned. I didn’t care for the hood/capelet. I don’t know why. I played around briefly with another idea until the rational part of my brain said “This isn’t important, it looks fine. Go to bed.” I went.

Sunday morning we were all up early. As I was walking mama Chloe at 7 am my next door neighbor, who has not spoken to us in at least 9 years, opened her door and was passive/aggressive mean. Generally this kind of thing doesn’t throw me but I didn’t have my emotional Wonder Woman bracelets on. It was unexpected. Walking my other dog I just sat in front of the library downtown and cried. I came home and tried to put my make-up on. After my eyeliner washed down my face for the THIRD time I finally got it together and my daughter called “Are you going to be here soon? The fog is burning off”.

I pulled my outfit on, threw the rest of the makeup on, didn’t care about my hair and jammed. I wanted fog – big swirly cold blasts of it. Let me let you in on a little secret if you plan on visiting the Bay Area. Don’t come in the summer. Late September through mid-November is when weather in the City rocks. By 9am there not only wasn’t any fog but standing in the sun was H O T. Which means that by the time I’m typing this it is over 100 at home.

I’m a little warm, I’m a little unhappy. At least I stopped crying and my daughter did manage to tell a series of silly jokes that made me feel better.

But I’m afraid this is about as good as it got in the smile department. I really like the dress and in a few weeks it may be one of the best things in my wardrobe : )

These “benches” area actually HUGE trees that were cut down and left along Grizzly Peak. Someone cut out some seating for this view:

No fog : ) Well, there’s a little left at the coast but this, ladies, is Berkeley, the Bay Bridge and San Francisco, all at your feet. The ground drops off about 6 feet away from this bench/log, almost straight down into poison oak. My camera lens is nothing special so we couldn’t get a wide shot with the Golden Gate bridge but if it’s this clear it means it is WARM.

On our way home we decided to hit Bittersweet, a shop that practically guarantees you’ll feel better. Chocolate, they specialize in chocolate. Hot, cold, sticky, gooey, wonderful chocolate. Brittany discovered their Thai Iced Tea with chocolate, I indulged in a Coconut Chill. A little bit of heaven in a glass.

Happy girl : )

Can you believe we only have 12 challenges left?

 This was an odd week, a mixture of good and WTH. A little while back my friend Barbara Galla died. She was a local costumer who became a great friend and a second grandma to my daughter. She had a sizable collection that her daughter needs help with so I’m assisting in the “liquidation” of her estate. It will probably take us a year to go through everything and I was shocked and delighted to find some very special pieces I had built for a former employer in her stash! They’ll be coming home with me : )

I also spent some time with Ariel and took her twin sister, Elora, shopping for sweaters since I’m going to be making them Katwise coats! Ari is stage 4 and terminal in her cancer battle, I’m not sure how much time I have but it keeps me going when it’s over 100 degrees out and I’m tired.

All of that is good. Here’s the WTH part-

We live in a pretty nice little town. Our house was built in 1925, added onto a few years later and sits on half of the original land grant. The property was split in half in the 50’s and another house was built for the son of the family and his new wife. They had two kids, the grandparents died in 1971 and 72, the wife divorced the son and he tried to manage both properties. He died a few years later and the houses were sold, my landlords buying this one. They originally bought the property with the intention of tearing the little house down and building a 4-unit apartment complex. They never did anything, not even fix up the obvious flaws that made this one a steal to begin with. At some point the wiring was updated from peg-and-post to Romex but it can still be a little iffy : ) If I had the money I’d buy it in a heartbeat but I don’t.

The house next door was bought by a lesbian couple in the late 90’s. Both seemed nice, Carol had some “issues” and stayed at home while Sharon had the power job. A few years pass, when there was “something amiss” in the neighborhood you can bet Carol was at the forefront of NIMBY. Some of the causes were justified – the kids that lived across the street and sold drugs at weekly parties…not so good. The other neighbors twenty-something cousins that would house sit, bar-b-que and hot tub until the wee hours…just not the biggest deal.

Years ago my daughter adopted a little Cairin terrier, a toto dog. He was a yipper and rather unpleasant. He was old when she adopted him so we did our best until he died. If he was outside barking and Carol was in a “mood” I’d get an email. Not a phone call, an email. I tried to stay “neighborly” and encouraged her, via email, to use the PHONE if the issue was pressing, as everything in Carol’s life seems pressing. Never a phone call. The last email I exchanged with her was almost 10 years ago, when my husband moved in, to let her know the “new guy” in the neighborhood was “ok”. Since then I’ve seen Sharon around town a couple of times but that’s it.

In the intervening years my daughter became quite sick. At one point I was told to accept the fact that I’d probably bury my daughter. There were times we had to call an ambulance for assistance. There were times I was in tears in the backyard. Did we hear anything from them? No. (Is my daughter better now? Yes : ) But there are days that are a struggle)

We have dogs, chickens, cats, bunnies…heard nothing from them. I figure no news is good news. If she has an issue she can walk her behind 100 feet down the street and knock on the door. In 2008 my husband was diagnosed with cancer. He got sick fast and it was dreadful. There were people coming and going, the occasional ambulance or two and a LOT more crying on the phone in the back yard at night when I could have some privacy and talk. Nothing from next door. It was like they didn’t exist.

At one point we had a nurse, a speech therapist and a physical therapist coming to the house. Our neighbors across and up the street knew exactly what was going on because he would see me out walking the dog, or crying, and ask how I was. He told me if I ever needed help with Jim to just ask. Tears of gratitude because that’s how a decent human being acts. Our nurses and therapists got notes on their cars asking not to park in front of Carol’s house. So not cool…

This Sunday I had plans to do the Sew Weekly photos with my daughter first thing in the morning. We were going to drive up into the Berkely hills in search of fog so I got up at 6, started feeding the animals and walking the dogs. I took mama Chloe across the street, as is our custom, and then up. As we came down I hear Carol’s door open and she calls my name. “Do you have a puppy?” she asks. No hello, just the question. “Yes, we’re fostering a mom and her puppies”.

“I can hear whining and crying. Are they leaving soon?”

“Yes they are, I’ll close the window.”

And that’s it. Not terrible, not great but here’s my problem with her. NOTHING in almost 10 years but passive/aggressive notes to people helping us out. This from a couple that asked me to LIE to the Chinese government when they adopted their baby girl because if Chinese officials found out they were giving one of their kids to a lesbian couple they’d be denied and the child taken away.

You’d think you’d be nicer to the people you’d asked to commit a felony to a foreign government.

There are a lot of great people in my life. Many of my friends, when I told them this story, were appalled. I got all sorts of helpful “Say this” suggestions : ) There is also a group of people that were once in my life that I’ve found to be toxic, including a sizable set of relatives, that I have no contact with. Carol is in the latter group but she’s a little different in her tactics. She’ll find some way to escalate things because that’s how her illness manifests itself. My vet has told me not to worry, the animals are all in great shape so if animal services shows up I’ll have no problems. Carol might try to contact my landlords but since I don’t even have a phone number for them I’d be surprised and impressed if she does. I’m curious to see what she comes up with but can’t give her any more time in my head. What I’d really LIKE to see is her break her record of not speaking to us, see if we can go a full decade this time : )

We don’t walk up the street any more. I’m trying to think of the perfect 25-words-or-less thing to say to her should she crack her front door again. Nothing yet. Here, however, is the longer version:

“Carol – the dog you saw the other day? Her name is Chloe. She was stolen from her family three years ago and recently turned up at a high-kill shelter in Merced. She was probably stolen by dog fighters and bred continuously. She was a skeleton when found, she had given everything she had to her eight puppies. She was also going to be killed within a few days if a rescue didn’t step up. A rescue DID step up, but they needed a safe foster haven. I volunteered. We took 9 dogs into our home to love, protect and raise until the puppies were ready to go to their new foster homes in pairs. We’ll work with mom, getting her healthy and trained so that she’ll find a wonderful forever home.

Could you slide the needle into her leg and kill her? How about the eight puppies? Because that was the plan. Just kill them all, they’re taking up too much space. Is your heart that black?

So they’re here for a few weeks. Yes, they yip and tussle, they’re PUPPIES. Most people find their little noises inoffensive, maybe even cute. I’m sorry they make noise as I get on my bike to ride to BART at 6 am to go to work. It’s the best I can do. I don’t have the luxury of a partner with a good enough job so that I can stay home and marinate in my issues. Your moods have been known to control the entire neighborhood but I don’t play that game.

In the last 18 months I’ve saved 10 dogs, 2 rabbits and 2 chickens. In addition I’ve buried 1 dog, 1 chicken and 5 cats. The cats died after a rescue dumped leukemia-infected kittens on my property because THEY couldn’t do the right thing and they in turn infected MY cats. It took 10 years for us to catch every cat in the local feral cat colony and get them fixed, all paid for out of MY pocket. Several other neighbors offered to help with spay/neuter costs, where were you? Every cat that has died has had food, love and shelter. I held them as they died and told them they were wonderful and that I’d never forget them.

We both walk multiple dogs multiple times a day. Jim’s chemo brain is so significant it’s like a TBI. If he forgets something, like trimming the branches out by the stop sign, was it you who called the city to complain? Again, you could always knock on the door…

I hope you have a happy life. We all have karma. I wish you luck with yours.”

So far so good but Carol is like cancer. She’s in “remission” right now but we just never know what’s going to start her “growing” again. In the meantime, in an effort to find assistance and form a plan for “just in case” I’ve received the most amazing book. In the short term has changed my outlook and it may end up changing my life. I’ll share more in a bit : )