Thursday, May 30, 2013

Overnight Success

Back in 2007, I did a blog posting about the Ecological Footprint of a T-Shirt. In the last two days, that particular posting has had a huge surge in hits. What gives? Was that topic assigned in a classroom and the students are all doing their research the lazy way? Are American Eagle's lawyers finally on to me for using that company as an example of bad corporate citizenship? I don't know why, but I'm glad someone is reading what still holds up as one of my better posts.

Wherein I Contemplate the Folly of My Ways

I am now at the stage of the red tuxedo project where I regret ever taking it on and can be heard muttering to the dog, "Why oh why did I say I would be happy to do it?" And I haven't even started sewing yet.

If you have ever tailored a man's suit, you will know there are about a million pattern pieces and an array of interfacings and linings. A fine worsted wool or silk might make all the work feel like it is worth the effort, but a poly/cotton blend? Not only am I cursing John Rex Whinfield and James Tennant Dickson for inventing polyester, I despair for the future of the human race for allowing such a vile material to continue to be manufactured and sold. And while I'm at it, a pox on Fabricland for selling me their shi**y fusible weft interfacing that is shedding micro beads of glue all over my ironing board.

Please forgive me for my bad attitude. I actually have a question for you. A suit has a lot of markings that need to be transferred to the cloth. I would normally use tracing paper and a wheel, but the afore-mentioned shi**y interfacing will not hold a mark of any kind. And did I mention that the whole front of the suit, with three welt pockets, vertical darts, buttonholes and various matching dots is completely interfaced? Thread tracing and tailor tacks are my only option and there is a very stubborn, deep dark part of me that cannot abide the idea of taking the time to do thread tracing on polyester. (So here I am, procrastinating by venting my frustration in a blog posting.)

My question? Do you, my brilliant and beloved reader, have a solution for me? Preferably one that doesn't involve me ingesting large amounts of red wine or uttering the word "No!" Ideally, you have a few elves lounging idly around twiddling their small thumbs, and you can send them my way. I hear elves are very good at tailor's tacks.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Really Great Pincushion

This pincushion is almost as old as I am. It was made by an elderly German neighbour lady, Mrs. Kuntz, back in the late '60's, and has served both my mother and me through many years of sewing projects.

The construction is quite ingenious and a marvel of re-purposed materials. Seven clean, empty baby food tins (about the size of tomato paste cans) were wrapped in scraps of upholstery fabric gleaned from sample books, then nested tightly together. I would want to use a glue gun to hold them together, but since they didn't have glue guns back then maybe she used rubber cement or white glue.
Then, a base of a tough laminated fabric was cut out and hand stitched to the fabric covered cans. I'm just guessing how she made the top - perhaps she wadded up fibrefill stuffing over a layer of cardboard and then glued or sewed the upholstery fabric over that, covering the seam with a twisted cord made of leftover yarn.
I love the generous size. It's great for when I'm sewing a seam and removing pins as I go, blindly stabbing them in the general direction of the pincushion and usually hitting the target. Since the suit I am currently making used almost all of my pins, I took the opportunity to clean the cushion and remove the buried needles. Now it's ready to serve another 40 years!

I remember we also had a small footstool made by Mrs Kuntz in exactly the same materials, only using large juice cans. It was quite sturdy and just the right size for a young child to sit on.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sewing with Ms. Grumpypants

photo courtesy of Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce
Today is one of those days when even my hair is bugging me. Little strands come loose from my ponytail and  tickle my nose. Normally, I wouldn't notice, but today, with the rain pouring down outside, and me and Gracie grumpily indoors, it's driving me crazy.

It doesn't help that I'm trying to cut out and sew a red tuxedo on a table that's only 3x4 feet, with insufficient light. And that the fabric for said suit is demon polyester, bought by my client in spite of my best advice. Grrr...

Yesterday I went on an expedition to Nanaimo (a First Nations word meaning "Land of Many Malls") in search of interfacing. I ended up at Fabricland, that most dismal of fabric stores. Everything is always on sale there, but you need to be a member, and a membership costs $15, which, when added up, works out to just slightly less than what you'd pay if you weren't a member. Most of their fabric is polyester of course, and the selection beyond depressing. Bolts and bolts of animal prints and sleazy taffeta. Believe it or not, there was no broadcloth, cotton or otherwise, in a plain primary red, which I needed for the pocket linings of the suit. I ended up having to buy a premium "Heritage Cotton" that was three times the price of the regular broadcloth.

The only humour I could glean from the trip was the sighting of a grizzled older man wearing a snappy ensemble of black and red AC/DC pajama bottoms and a matching ball cap. Ah, Nanaimo, a city totally lacking in irony.

And while I'm here complaining, I wish our crooked Canadian politicians were better looking. I'm getting tired of seeing their bloated, pasty faces every time I turn on the CBC. C'mon Justin Trudeau, can't you get involved in a sex scandal or something? Just for my sake?

Sunday, May 26, 2013


My Mom came to visit last week. We were photographed together by James Emler, who happens to be my new sweetie. Having a professional photographer in one's life certainly ups the quality of the happy snaps!

Le Cygne

 Oh, hello! I didn't hear you come in. Want to see what I'm working on?
Another feathered friend has emerged. He is part of the fourth panel of Deuteronomy, sharing space with a duck and pelican.

One significant factor in the difference between the pen and ink original, and my stitched "translation" is that thread is three dimensional. We don't usually think of it that way, but the slight height of the thread as it sits on the surface of the fabric indeed adds another dimensional plane to embroidery. Which means that it casts a shadow. Which can make the thread look thicker than it is.
I used to say, back before I had such a focus on embroidery, and did mixed media wall hung constructions that deliberately used shadow for effect, that I was a sculptor working in the space between two and three dimensions. Maybe I still am.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Beach Walking

The skies were so clear and blue yesterday, lovely after several days of rain. We took Gracie and Mischa down to one of Gabriola's beautiful beaches after the Love-In. These California poppies were blooming in a garden fronting onto the beach.
Some poor guy was standing out in the water, shivering. (You can see him in the upper right of the picture.) The girl with him was jumping in and out, swimming and playing. He just stood there with his arms folded - no wonder he was cold.
There were some interesting textures and shapes.

Dogs love the water of course. Gracie hunted for sticks that I might throw for her.
Check out this Golden Retriever, standing eagerly at the prow of his master's boat. That's Nanaimo harbour in the background.
The old tin boats pulled up on the shore were also a great mix of colour and texture.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Everything is Groovy...Still!

"Hey punk, where are ya going with those flowers in your hair?" To the Love-In, of course! The Gabriola Museum has unveiled a new exhibit featuring the hippies who came to the island back in the '70's, and kicked it off with a celebration. I tried to dress appropriately.
 Couldn't match this trippy couple! 
 Or this fabulous jacket! Like wow, man!
Prior to the event, I had been advised by a guy down at the recycling centre that the brownies on the left were the "good" ones. Sadly, I think he was misinformed.
 Some more psychedelic finery, recycled from Dad's tie rack.
 Tie dye was the order of the day.
 Topped only by tie-dyed patchwork!
 And here's a pair of original flares, circa 1972. Remember when all you had to do to look like a rebel was modify your jeans?
Love, love, love those rainbow suspenders paired with the Che Guevera shirt! And I don't think this guy consciously dressed for the event either. Authentic hippy all the way.
 And I couldn't resist taking a picture of this little three-wheeler, a Messerschmidt. It wasn't part of the exhibit, but just imagine the Fabulous Furry Freak Brother piling out of it!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Well, It's About Time!

The Quilt, otherwise known as the "Project Without End" has finally been completed. Yesterday, all I had to do was trim it (above), and bind it (below). After countless hours of hand stitching, using the machine felt like a cheat. But there was no way I was going to attach the binding by hand.
Appropriately enough, I delivered the quilt on Mother's Day to Judy, the daughter of Melba, who began the project a long time ago. We are not sure if 2001 is indeed when she started. The pattern itself , an Orange Blossom applique, dates from 1947, published by Mountain Mist. Judy intends to give the quilt to her own daughter next month as a 50th birthday present. 
Thank goodness for the elves in the washing machine, who transformed the grubby, flat cloth into something much closer to a soft, puffy, much-loved heirloom. I had to use lemon juice and a bit of hydrogen peroxide to get out some old stains that pre-dated my relationship with the piece.
Now I can get back to my own stitching. No, wait. I have to sew a graduation suit for a friend's son, and create a chuppah for another friend's wedding. Stick around, elves, I've got more to keep you busy!