24 December 2010

Happy Holidays!

I am now nestled all snug in my chair gazing at the tree (and its guard) and waiting for Christmas.

Why do I feel that I have to wait for my daughter (who is 25) to come home and go to bed before I fill the stockings?

Earlier this evening I worked for a while on a little shrug I want to make for my daughter out of a pretty charcoal and silver metallic knit I picked up in the LA Fashion District. Here it is, with my hyper-conscientious attendant:

It's a very slinky, stretchy sweater knit so I haven't made much progress on it, unless you count basic learning about sewing and serging on knits. I gave up on making it a Christmas gift some time ago, now I just hope she likes it or, if it's a wadder, wishes it had worked out.

Meanwhile I consider myself a minor Facebook sensation. Yesterday I suggested that I might wrap Christmas gifts in fabric this year to avoid wasting paper and killing more trees. My daughter thought that was a good enough idea to make it her facebook status (must be hard to come up with news to report when you are home with the parental units for the holidays) and give me credit for the idea. Multiple "likes" and positive comments. However, I stole, I mean, learned the idea from Melissa at Fehr Trade. But I can't find Fehr Trade on facebook, so I'll have to give her credit here. Fabric wrap is virtuous but fabric doesn't crease like paper, so the gifts have a comfy, badly-made bed look to them.

Anyway, Happy Holidays to all!

19 December 2010

Loose threads

A few miscellaneous observations:
1. Elizabeth and I completed our first project together. As promised, it is a suede cover for a birdwatcher's book for my brother. I stitched it together with silver metallic thread--what a bear to get through the eye of the needle!--and appliqued (glued) a bird on the front and a cat on the back. I'm pleased, despite the raggedy stitching (still working on Elizabeth's thread tension and my minimal skillz), and despite the fact that my brother, being color-blind, may not see the contrast between the green book and the tan applique. But then, color-blindness makes birdwatching a challenge as well, so there's a symmetry there, at least.

IMG_2022.JPG IMG_2023.JPG

2. Two nits to pick. First, "loath" is an adjective meaning reluctant, as in "I am loath to butt in and correct people when they misuse this word." "Loathe" is a verb meaning "hate" or "abhor" or some such, as in "I don't say anything when people mix "loath" and "loathe" because I loathe the kind of busybody who has to correct every mistake they hear.

Second, I was going to complain that when gentle, well-meaning people say they've been "trolling" the internet looking for something like parts for their vintage sewing machines or just the right fabric for a pretty shrug I have to believe they mean "trawling"--fishing, not trying to start a flame war. However, I find that I am completely wrong about that. Both "trolling" and "trawling" are kinds of fishing--the former with a line and bait and the latter with a net. I only learned that while double-checking this post. It's a good thing to be loath to correct people whenever I think they are in error!

Library of Congress, Artist: Frances F. Palmer (1812-1876); Lithograph: Currier & IvesLibrary of Congress, Artist: Frances F. Palmer (1812-1876); Lithograph: Currier & Ives

3. I find I have 6 followers on this blog. Since for neurotic reasons I haven't told anyone I know that I have this blog, that means 6 people who are not my mother think it might be worth reading. Thank you very much! However, I haven't signed up to follow blogs (except by putting them in my ever-burgeoning blog roll) and I don't display my "followers" because I'm skittish about my online identities and the startling places they seem to turn up once I let go of them. I know I'm delusional if I think I can control the circulation of anything I say on the internet, and I try to follow the New York Times rule (don't write anything, anywhere, that you couldn't live with in a Times headline) but Google and Facebook intimidate me.

17 December 2010

She Sews!

Maybe I was a little hasty in giving Elizabeth a name--it is a little creepy to bring a new pet into the house, give it a name, and then dismember it/her and spread its/her guts all over the house. And filthy guts they were!

But all is well and, I hope, forgiven. Elizabeth has been rewired, degreased, regreased, oiled and reassembled and now stitches smoothly and quietly frontwards and backwards.

Next up: stitching up a leather cover (from thrifted coats) for a birdwatching book for my brother. And decorating it with a stylized cat, my brother being a serious cat person. Or is that inappropriate for a bird book?


06 December 2010

Meet Elizabeth, My New Old 15-91!

I admit to being a Craigslist junkie. I don't buy much, and I sell even less, but I love poring over ads for what folks want to get rid of. I'm also a sewing blog junkie, especially those like Spare Time and Male Pattern Boldness that include a lot of sewing machine porn. So my two addictions collided on Friday when I spotted an ad for "Vintage singer sewing machine 1940's - $25" just a few miles from home. Not much information--nothing about whether it worked, for example, or what model it might be, but it came in a cabinet with a chair. Here's the photo:
Now, I learned to sew on my mother's black metal Singer and remember it fondly. I'm also buying up old suede coats at Goodwill with the idea of cutting them up and making book covers, bags, vests, etc., for which an old Singer straight stitch--especially a 15-91 with its all-geared drive--would be just the thing.
I've learned how to identify old Singer models and could see that the tension dial on the left in the photo meant this was likely a 15 of some sort. For $25, including the furniture, most likely it wouldn't work, but it was a pleasant drive to find out. As it turned out, the machine belonged to the seller's grandmother and had been stored away by her late mother. The mother's house was being cleared out, and pretty much anything the seller didn't want was going for $25. I was still wrestling my new treasure into the car when another buyer pointed out to the seller how much more she could have gotten for this machine, bwah-ha-ha!

The serial number indicates that my 15-91 was built between April and June, 1953, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where my mother was born and grew up. I shall call her Elizabeth.

01 December 2010

Fabric Shopping in LA's Fashion District

I spent half of November on jury duty. Despite being a lawyer and law professor, I was empaneled on the jury in a medical malpractice case tried in Downtown Los Angeles. This is the third time I've served on a jury in the 17 years I've been teaching law; plus once when I was a practicing lawyer I put in 3 months (once a week) on a federal grand jury. I love sitting on juries--observing trial techniques (or lack thereof) to enrich my teaching, and then being astonished and impressed when the non-lawyer jurors start to deliberate. I forget how warped my perceptions have been by my legal training and experience.

Anyway, we were summoned at 10 one morning but after we jurors had sat around in the hallway for a half hour or so we were told we would not be needed until 1:30. So I hopped a bus down to the fashion district which, despite living in Los Angeles for 25 years, I had never seen.

What fun! I'd way rather wander around Santee Alley and Maple Ave. than plod through Disneyland again. These crappy cell-phone pics don't do it justice, but I'm posting them anyway because I FINALLY figured out how to liberate the pics from my phone!


I marched bravely into Michael Levine and was completely overwhelmed.


Eventually I got my eyes to focus and managed to buy some grey rayon-poly doubleknit, with which I plan to make a suit or dress to hang in my office to change into after I've cycled to work or when I've forgotten to dress up, and some yummy gold, rust, black and metallic stuff for a dressy-ish T.


AND to find my way back to court to sit in judgment with my peers. (Defense verdict at the end of the week.) A good day.

24 October 2010

The Sound of Music?

I like to visit other people's blogs. In fact, one of the primary purposes for keeping a blog (for me) is to keep track of blogs I like to visit. I also like to click "next blog" on blogspot blogs, which usually drops me into craft and sewing blogs I've never seen before. What I don't like is my laptop bursting into song when I don't ask it to, particularly when I am in public (or worse, at work), but really any time at all. It would be one thing if I were surfing blogs looking for my favorite musicians, but why should I expect a sewing blog to start warbling at me? Annoying.

Anyway, not much sewing here. Can't complain--when DD visits from graduate school she lights up my life but takes up my sewing space. Did manage to stitch and serge up a slip cover for my workroom couch. IMG_1995.JPG
That involved about a half-mile of straight serging along the raw edge. I feel much more comfortable with my serger now. The wine helped.

My able assistant William is also becoming more comfortable with the serger. (I don't offer music, but I'm not above throwing in a picture of my cat when I've nothing to say.)

09 October 2010

Beginning Again

I used to sew pretty well. There have been times in my life when I made my own clothes because I couldn't find the look I wanted in stores, or to save money, or for the sheer satisfaction of creating something. I don't remember finding sewing or fitting to be particularly difficult--I just picked a size, cut it, and followed the directions. No muslins, and no wadders.

These days, however, sewing scares me. Partly, I think, because it is more difficult to fit a lumpy "petite large" than a trim 7 or 8, and partly because thanks to so many wonderful sewing blogs I now know how much I don't know. But the only thing to do to overcome my fear of failure is to dive in and fail, and learn from my mistakes. Which are many.

Here is Opus 1: Very Easy Vogue 8587 in a silky polyester print from JoAnn.
Things I learned making this top:
1. Consider the compatibility of fabric and pattern: A large print may not be the best choice for a garment with a seam down the center front.
2. Understand the garment before stitching it all together (if necessary, read the instructions). At one point in this process the top turned into a Möbius strip--no matter what I did it was always inside-out, and sometimes the neck opening disappeared into another dimension altogether.
3. Look in the mirror once in a while. This top is nice and comfortable, but DS, in whose eyes I can do no wrong, remarked that it made me look pregnant. Not that pregnant is a bad look ...

Opus 2: Butterick 3030 in cotton T-shirt jersey from JoAnn.
Things I learned making this top (which I just finished this morning):
1. Make a note of the length, width and composition of a piece of fabric before stashing it. Yes, I could just measure it to see how much there was, and I sort of did, but I seem to have missed it by a foot. I wanted to make a tunic but only had enough for a short top. The old adage, "Measure twice, cut once" only applies if both measurements come out the same--if they don't, measure a few more times, I guess.
2. Pay attention when people say the high bust measurement is the most important number for choosing a pattern size. I made a Large to make sure the top would fit around my upper arms and tummy, and wound up with a neckline wider than my shoulders! Maybe it also stretched out while I was working on it?
I made this top with the facing called for in the instructions but I guess this was unnecessary for the knit I used. Maybe I can remove the facing and put a couple of darts in the neckline to keep it from sliding to my elbows?
3. I enjoy working with this knit fabric.

Off to try again.

19 September 2010

My Magic Pants

Magic pants.JPG

Above are my magic pants. I bought them at Goodwill a day or two before I left the US. They would have been $6 but someone cut the left pocket clean out of them--I don't know why and I don't want to know why--so I got 10% off plus another 10% off for being old. I stitched up the missing pocket (sewing connection there) and off we went. I've been traveling now for about 5 weeks. These pants are magic because they dry overnight. Even when it is raining outside (which pretty much it always has been). They are lightweight. I can be persuaded that every color goes with them. Yesterday I barfed on these pants just a little in Bruges (due to over-enthusiastic coughing due to a two-week-old cold. See comment about rain, above.) I wiped them down and they dried in an hour, then I washed them out last night and they are dryly covering my butt as I sit in them and type in Berlin. Magic pants.

27 August 2010

A Prize Book

I bought this book the other day from a used book shop in Wales.
It is signed by the author, Jean B. Lumsden, dated 1955.
According to the book jacket,
Miss Lumsden is a teacher of domestic science and has had plenty of experience in the practical field of stitchery. The result is an excellent handbook on all varieties of sewing which every housewife will want to have in the house. It should also be of considerable use in Training Colleges and Secondary Modern Schools. The book includes chapters on embroidery, the pricking out of a design and drawn thread work, and the use of sewing machines, but the greater part of it is devoted to all aspects of dressmaking, including a section on the choosing of materials and colours
All for 12s 6d net or, in today's used bookstore pricing, £4.50.

The book was presented as a prize for First Place in Form I to Veronica Pierce-Butler.


It could be that Veronica Pierce-Butler is a member of the English Peerage, where both a Charlotte Veronica Pierce-Butler and a Nora Veronica Pierce-Butler are listed: C. Veronica P-B was born in 1942 and would have been about the right age to have topped the First Form in Easter Term 1955.

I find all of this enchanting. I even like Headmistress Dorothy R. Thompson's penmanship. Also included in the book was an old pattern piece for a belt, with no printing on it, just little holes.


25 August 2010

Sewing Machines

This is a store in Bath in England. Three floor-to-ceiling window-walls were decorated with rows of vintage sewing machines. Oddly, however, much of the clothing on display seemed to be coming apart.




03 August 2010

Assuming Enough Fabric and the Skillz,

Can I make this jacket (Simplicity 2570)

out of this skirt (maybe with the paisley lining also in the picture)?

It's a bad pic of the paisley, but it's this stuff.

29 July 2010

Gimme a Tee!

I am awash in T-shirts. Sports fan T-shirts. Funny (and once funny) T-shirts. Loyal supporter T-shirts. Elementary school musical program costume T-shirts. Free T-shirts. Raggedy, much-loved T-shirts. Never-worn T-shirts. You get the picture. The recent room reshuffle that gave me my work room also stirred up the sediment of T-shirts at the bottom of every dresser drawer and they have now come to rest on every available surface. I have bagged and donated so many that all the local Goodwill stores now lock their donation doors when they see me coming. But many are not fit to be given away, and others are too precious.

So I decided to make a T-shirt quilt. I don't quilt, and I don't need a quilt, and I doubt it will be a very attractive quilt, but by promising to make a quilt of all the T-shirts with sentimental value to anyone in the house I can get away with reducing the bulk of what I have to keep from a pile of T-shirts to a pile of knit squares, one per shirt. Brilliant! But it seems such a waste simply to throw away three quarters of each shirt.

At this point the T-shirt presence was coming to resemble the Cat in the Hat's pink spot--every effort to clear it up was making it bigger. I decided to cut off the bands and bulky seams and shred the rest. A week of mindless cutting while watching TV and I have this:
Actually, a big bag of this, and more where that came from. Perfect for stuffing something--but what?

How do you recycle T-shirts? What would you do with this stuff?

27 July 2010

Punitive Plus Sizing

I believe I have already confessed that I typically take an oxymoronic Petite-Large or Petite X-L in RTW. And I'm OK with that. I ride my bicycle. I'm healthy. If I can find my size in a store I don't really care what it's called. Or I try not to anyway. But my recent decision to switch to skirts and dresses rather than jeans as my wardrobe basics has mired me in the real undisguised cruelty of RTW sizing.

Bare plus-sized legs in skirts mean thighs that chafe. Every woman over a size 14 knows this. There is an easy solution: just wear pettipants, cutotte slips, whatever you want to call them. (Unpadded bicycle shorts under skirts also work, I'm told, and there are powders and creams, of which I am highly sceptical.) All you need is a layer or two of thin fabric between the thighs and presto! No more chub rub.

But try to find pettipants in a store in the RL. Or save yourself the humiliation and don't. The mercantile logic seems to be that anyone who suffers from chafing thighs must (or should be required to) wish she was much thinner, so the only readily available intimate apparel with fabric between the legs is "shapewear," which you can find everywhere. Granted, sometimes I like a little help in smoothing the ripples of me as they cascade toward my feet, but on other occasions I just want to eat, or laugh, or breathe without being ensausaged in lycra.

Even if I do want to encase myself in shapewear, why am I not allowed to retain some dignity while I do so? Why am I a 16 or 18 in dresses and pants, while I can't cram my blobby bulk into a size XXL Miraclethis or Flexithat in the same store? Is body dysmorphia such a pandemic that profits can be made selling Size XS girdles to sylphs and sprites?


23 July 2010

Tearing Things Apart

I really want to get sewing and stitch up some skirts and tops and, maybe, pants to take with me to England, Wales, the Netherlands and parts east, but even more urgently I must weave together a text to present at the conference that makes the whole trip possible. I suppose I could be making more progress on both tasks. On the sewing front, I am held back by the fear that whatever I make won't fit. I know that the solution to that problem is to go ahead and sew, then alter to fit, and in the process zero in on my actual shape. Most likely, I don't actually want to know what shape my shape is in. As for the presentation, my fear is that it, too, won't "fit"--that instead of conveying an insight provoked by the call for conference papers, my contribution will simply illustrate that I didn't understand the question posed. I'm too old to be so insecure, but there you have it.

On a more positive(?) note, I've made some progress in tearing apart old ill-fitting and unattractive clothing so I can reuse the fabric in new projects. Here's a pretty bit of paisley I liberated from a wrap-around skirt that, despite being labeled a petite-large, was not large enough to go around me.


14 July 2010

Now I've Done It!

I've booked my flights to and from London Heathrow, departing August 10 and returning September 27--49 days and 48 nights! I'll actually be going to London, Aberystwyth, Cardiff, Bangor, Liverpool, Manchester, Utrecht and Pecs and sundry spots in between, most of the time alone but sometimes accompanied by my 80-year-old mother or my husband. The expedition began with a spur-of-the-moment decision to attend a festival and conference in Mid-August celebrating the influence of Wales on J.R.R. Tolkien (have I mentioned I'm a geek?).


Then there's the Critical Legal Conference, where I'm presenting a paper, in Utrecht two weeks later. Then the announcement of the conference on Electronic Justice in Pecs ten days after Utrecht. Why pay (or make my employer pay) for multiple round trips from LA to Europe when I could stay in dorms and hostels and try to make it through the day on one English Breakfast? I never did this sort of thing when I was young and foolish, so now that I'm old and foolish I guess I'll give it a whirl. In some wrinkle-proof, wash & dry me-made clothes, I hope.

07 July 2010

Kimono Quandary

I have had a kimono since I was 18. I guess, since I am 58 next week, that makes it at least 40 years old and, therefore, vintage. I received it from the Japanese family who hosted my younger brother as a high school exchange student in Hokkaido. My mother and I had asked him to bring home some silk; his host family told him the duties on fabric would be too high. He should bring us "used clothing" instead and so they gave him a used wedding kimono! (Since I got the story 40 years ago from a 16-year-old I could have it wrong.) It has no cranes on it that I can find, but it is certainly hand sewn silk and gorgeous. Here are some details:

My quandary is, what should I do with it? It has put in time as a curtain, a wall hanging and a halloween costume (!). I now know that the Japanese routinely take kimono apart to reuse the fabric, but I'm not sure I have the hutzpah for that and, anyway, what would I use it for? Help, please.

03 July 2010

Ignore me, please.

No, not you. Although I have done almost nothing to attract attention to this blog yet (I haven't even told my mother), I do like to check sitemeter to see if anyone has stumbled in here. But I can't get sitemeter to ignore me, so all but about 2 visits are me. I did manage to get my home ip address ignored, but then I promptly left town for a week. I suppose if I accepted all cookies the ignore-this-browser function would work. Come to think of it, maybe the persona I'm allowing to develop on this blog should adopt that as a philosophy of life: I accept all cookies!

Arvind Balaraman, FreeDigitalPhoto.net

30 June 2010

Is 650 Miles too Far to Go for Fabric?

My brother picked me up at the Arcata Airport this morning and took me directly to Eureka Fabrics--well, ok, directly to lunch and then a walk along the edge of Humboldt Bay, but before we got back in the car--where I picked up this one yard linen remnant which I plan to put in a frame and hang earrings from. After I eat the chocolate.

Here is a picture of my hosts:


And here is the edge of the tablecloth where I am currently sitting:


Which is of interest because only yesterday I was admiring Susan's beautiful vintage hemstitcher attachment as part of her fascinating catalog of vintage sewing machine attachments at Spare Time. And there it is in front of me--hemstitching! My brother was surprisingly unimpressed when I told him I knew how it was done.

29 June 2010


I'm off to Eureka, California (Ferndale, to be precise) for a week to visit my brother who's up there hiding from the 21st (and maybe the 20th) Century. I had no idea there was so much California north of San Francisco! It is necessary to abandon my new space because my DS has invited who knows how many of his friends to crash at my house while they attend Anime Expo 2010 down at the Convention Center, and technically My Workroom is also The Guestroom. It is also DD's pied-a-terre when she deigns to visit.

I gave up on completing a draft by July 2, not because it was impossible (which it was) but because repackaging my research to fit that particular call for papers would suck all the interest out of it for me.

Meanwhile my proposal to present a paper at a conference in Utrecht in September has been accepted! I've also registered for a conference in Pecs, Hungary, two weeks after the one in Utrecht. I won't be presenting at that one but the topic, a comparative examination of Electronic Justice, interests me greatly and is important for my role as a law teacher. Now all I have to do is 1. scrub up some funding; 2. write the Utrecht paper; 3. make up some all-purpose clothing to get me through this adventure; and 4. figure out where to get my hands on a bicycle in Europe.

I wonder if I'll really pull this off.

28 June 2010

Setting Up Still

I mean, still setting up my workroom. I'm reasonably proud of these curtains, which I bought at Goodwill then cut in half. I turned one half up-side down and ran the rod through the curtain pocket of one half and the hem of the other. To conceal the fact that the hem was two inches while the curtain pocket was only one, I top stitched both pieces at the curtain pocket then ran a line of decorative stitching two inches from what is now the top of both sides. Like this:

My assistant William is not impressed either.

OK, now I have my room, my curtains, my familiar, my proposal and my machines:

(including the two printers under the desk, both out of ink!) What shall I do?
My goals for the summer:
1. Write at least two important (or, at least, recognizable) theoretical and doctrinal works to present at conferences and point to as the justification for my fall semester sabbatical.
2. Sew a wardrobe of pretty skirts and tops I can pull on over my lycra bicycle knickers (knee pants, not undies) when I bike to campus or any other civilized location.
3. Related to number 2 but a hair more ambitious, find a style that suits my middle-aged hobbity body and fill my closet with it. If I'm really successful at that maybe I'll start my own fashion line. I already know what I'll call it: Oxymoron. I'll carry only size Petite-Extra Large.

But first, a draft by July 2.

26 June 2010

Lights! Camera!

Well, camera anyway. Yesterday I completed and submitted a proposal to present an Important Theoretical Work at a conference in Europe at the end of the summer. Today I'd like to get back to sorting things out in what I've decided to call My Workroom. After I watch USA v. Ghana. Yes, I'm one of those irritating Americans who forget soccer/football for 3.5 years at a time and then become devoted fans of the World Cup. According to Stuff White People Like, I do this because I like to pretend I'm a European. That's not quite it, though. I like to feel that I live in a world with many different countries of which the US is only one and by no means the most important or dangerous. Plus Landon Donovan is very cute.

Anyway, the camera. Here is the view out My Workroom window where there is a magnificent cedar. It has probably been there since the house was built (along with all of its little neighbors in the San Fernando Valley in 1949) but this is my first opportunity to enjoy the view. It makes me happy.


24 June 2010

Curtains up!

Welcome to my blog. I'm a law professor who should be writing important theoretical and doctrinal works. I finally have a room of my own, having booted my twenty-something children out of it. That's "twenty-something" years old--not the number of children!

Will it be an office or a sewing room? Can it be both? We'll see.