Friday, April 30, 2010

Meet the Boys, Pt. 2: Ronnie

Ronnie Rocks the Red Thread Look

Ronnie adorned with crown of unpicked serger thread

In the first part of this two-part series, you met Riley, my sniffly, foot-pedal-cord-chewing life-threatening-illness-prone runt of a cat. In this second and final part: Life With Ronnie!

This gray-and-white lapdog of a cat meowed his way into our home in November 2007, a few months after our wedding. We both work full-time and had started to worry that Riley, playful guy that he is, was lonely and bored during the day. Clearly he needed a friend!

Some friends of ours had just bought a house in Bushwick, and discovered they had three cats and a litter of kittens living in their backyard--extremely domestic cats that seemed to think they belonged inside said house. Big heavy metal fans that they are, our friends named the cats Ronnie, James and Dio and gave them food and water, but with three dogs and a cat of their own, there was no room in the house for more pets.

We initially thought we'd bring home two of the kittens--so cute and tiny!--but they wanted nothing to do with us and hid behind the lawn furniture. Ronnie, on the other hand, was aggressively friendly--within seconds he was in our laps purring and talking to us, and we just couldn't resist. He was a bit scrawny when we brought him home:


... but he beefed up in no time. It turned out he was already neutered and our vet was fairly certain of what we already suspected--Ronnie and his brother and sister were abandoned housepets, possibly left behind by the previous owners of the house when they moved away. (GRRR! For SHAME!)

And let's just say he has abandonment issues. When not being held or picked up or petted by us or played with by Riley, he just wanders around the apartment yowling forlornly (good practice for having a baby, maybe?). We can't let him in our bedroom at night for litter box access reasons, and he STILL doesn't understand--some nights he sits outside and cries until the wee hours. Within seconds of either of us (especially Masheka) sitting down, he makes a running jump for our laps. Dislodging him is nigh impossible--he has a magical technique of going limp and tripling his weight when we try to push him off.

Masheka and Ronnie

Good thing he has Riley to keep him company. They mostly get along great, but do their fair share of wrestling and play fighting--mostly over who gets to groom who. They have a gross but hilarious fixation on licking the ear wax out of each others ears and our vet always comments on how clean their ears are. But when Riley was deathly ill last year, Ronnie just did NOT understand why his buddy didn't want to play, and we had to keep running interference so Riley could get some sleep.

Riley and Ronnie

Also--the dude really likes catnip. Riley could care less, but put a little bit on the floor and Ronnie starts rolling around and dancing and who knows what until he's covered in it:

Ronnie gets catnip crazy

And that concludes this extremely brief series that has nothing to do with sewing, and everything to do with the fact that I am a crazy cat lady.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How's My Hemline? + Polka-Dot Work Outfit

Pinned up hemline--is this a good length?

Please ignore the bad lighting and the fact that I would NEVER actually tuck this top into this skirt in this fashion--how's my hemline?

Oh how I hate hemming! I feel like I can never get the length quite right. I know many reputable sewing experts say you need a helping hand for proper skirt hemming. But Masheka is no hemming expert, I don't really trust Matilda, and with my waistless 33-weeks-pregnant belly, I have a hard time figuring out where the TOP of the skirt should sit, never mind the bottom. So my skirts always seem to end up oddly long or oddly short.

Anyway, I managed to take a half-hour break from decluttering and iron and pin a 3 1/2" hem on both sub-skirts of my reversible shirred skirt. I used my usual not-so-accurate method--looking in the mirror and bending over as best I could and playing with pins until it sort of looked ok--to determine that amount.

What do you think? Should I go ahead and sew this baby up? I'm aiming for a just-below-the-knee look. Here are side and back views--and no, I don't have frighteningly large elbows, that's just a perspective error.

Pinned up hemline--is this a good length?Pinned up hemline--is this a good length?

I had hoped to wear it to work today, but instead I went for a navy, red and white combo (partly inspired by Susannah's Fashion on the Ration color scheme). I used to worry that red and blue together would make me look like I was dressed up for the Fourth of July, but I first tried wearing red pants with this same navy and white polka dot top about a year ago and fell in instant color scheme love.

Polka Dot Red Navy, Red and White Work Outfit; 33 weeks pregnant!
  • Red plastic beaded necklace from cheapo costume jewelry store. Cost: $4. Cost per wear: 10 cents.
  • Blue cotton LOFT maternity cardigan: gift from Mom Cost: Free.
  • Blue fake leather belt from random NYC discount store. Cost: $10. Cost per wear: $1.42.
  • Gray lacy camisole: LOFT. Cost: $14. Cost per wear: 35 cents.
  • Navy and white knit polka dot wrap top, LOFT. Cost: $20 (sale rack). Cost per wear: 66 cents.
  • Red knit skirt, thrifted. Cost: $2. Cost per wear: 5 cents.
  • Purple nubuck flats: Privo by Clarks. Cost: $80. Cost per wear: $4.40.

Total Cost: $130.

Total Cost Per Wear (so far): $6.98.

Knits are a pregnant girl's best friend! The only genuine maternity-wear item in this outfit is the cardigan--the rest are all just stretchy items I've had for ages. And the cardigan is actually a bit on the loose side even at 33 weeks, hence the belt.

Yes, I probably should have ironed this, but that would be deceptive--I rarely iron knits, even when they need it.

P.S. In case you're wondering, yes--I got a haircut! But don't worry--I made sure it was still long enough for a lazy ponytail.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Dashed Yarn Dreams Can Now Be Yours

Someone ELSE can knit a fabulous Central Park Hoodie out of these 7 hanks of Cascade 220 Tweed in lovely Magenta... now selling for 99 cents on eBay. My carpal tunneled hands certainly can't!

It hurt, but I did it! As promised, I instituted a ruthless yarn stash purge, and began listing anything that seemed vaguely salable on Ebay. The proceeds, if any, will offset the cost of the Medela Pump In Style I just bought.

Here are the lots I've put up so far, and the dreams delusions that have died with them.

  1. Central Park Hoodie dreams. From the moment I saw the Central Park Hoodie on Ravelry, I had to have one. But I can't. Goodbye, tweedy magenta hoodie!

  2. Organic yarn blend dreams. I'll blame Interweave Knits again. They did a review of organic yarns (Fall 2007?) so I picked up a couple of skeins of Vermont Organic Fiber Company O-Wool Balance. (As of this writing, going for 99 cents on eBay).

    I even handwound them sitting by the fire on a lovely camping trip at Macedonia Brook State Park in Connecticut:


    They were going to be a lightweight tweedy striped hat for Masheka. But he only wears black or gray hats. Goodbye manly yet colorful hat!

  3. Chanukah and Christmas Scarf Dreams. Before my hands gave out, I bought a LOT of random balls of yarn in different colors to make holiday gifts, mainly from this gorgeous book, Knitting New Scarves:

    As you might have noticed from my mini-wardrobe contest plans, I love mixing purple and chartreuse. These three skeins of Morehouse Farm Merino (no bids yet!) would have made a lovely long modern scarf or two. But I can barely knit for myself and Cartoonist Baby, never mind for others. Goodbye scarves!

  4. Stranded colorwork dreams. I wanted to get beyond making basic striped hats like this one:

    Finished stripey pink/green/purple Portland hat

    ... So I acquired a whole mess of Cascade 220 and 220 Heathers with some vague idea of making super-warm and colorful winter accessories, such as Adrian Bizilia's Entomology Hat & Mittens:

    I made some small samples, and had schemes of charting my own patterns after practicing with purchased ones. Oh well! Goodbye Cascade colorwork dreams!

    Currently at $1.29 on eBay

    Currently at 99 cents on eBay

So those are a few of the dreams I've let go. And here are a few I'm still clinging to--at least for now:

  1. Baby sweater dreams. Unlike adult-sized hoodies, baby sweaters are doable even at my glacial pace. Here's the Baby Surprise Jacket I made for Cartoonist Baby this past winter, though I still haven't figured out a baby-safe closing device (maybe giant sew-on snaps?):

    Orange & Blue Baby Surprise Jacket -- Front

    And I just started making her another Elizabeth Zimmerman number, the lacy Baby Sweater on Two Needles from Knitter's Almanac, with some superwash yarn I hand-dyed in 2008:

    My handpainted pink worsted looks like spaghetti
  2. Endpaper Mitts Dreams. Cascade colorwork I can survive without. But Koigu Premium Merino colorwork? Hmmm... I got these at Purl Soho:

    100_4679.JPG 100_4679.JPG copy

    To make Eunny Jang's free Endpaper Mitts pattern:

  3. Sock dreams, baby and otherwise. Besides the kettle-dyed pink worsted, I also painted a bunch of sock blanks and some blank lace weight on the same day:

    Sock blanks (and lace weight) all in a row

    ... And really, sock yarn takes up SO little space! And teeny Better than Booties Baby Socks like these are quick and easy:

    Bordeaux "Better than Bootties" Baby Socks

    They were just leftovers from my Monkey socks.

  4. Puff-Sleeved Feminine Cardigan dreams. I'm waffling on the bag of eggplant merino I bought to make this lovely pattern by Stephanie Japel from Fitted Knits. But DK-weight sweaters are not really suited for the glacial knitter, no matter how cute or retro looking.

  5. Malabrigo and Alpaca dreams. Thus far I have not managed to get rid of a single skein of Malabrigo. Don't care how much it pills--I wear my purple Malabrigo hat all the time, and my Malabrigo Fetching Mitts came in handy in today's chilly weather:

    Mikhaela's Two-Tone Purple Malabrigo Fetching Mitts

    I'm also having trouble purging the eight skeins of lovely straight-from-the-farm undyed alpaca I bought at the Windsor County Fair in Maine. I do LOVE alpaca yarn as a rule--the below is my Misti Alpaca Chunky Cherry Garcia neck cowl...

    Marine Misti Alpaca Cabled Neck Cowl

    ...which I wear on all cold days--including today. But I don't really do neutral colors like brown or cream, even though I DID meet the adorable alpacas who produced them:

    "Nestle" Worsted Alpaca (Blue Sky Alpacas)

    So they should probably go. Maybe? Er...

Whew! Enough yarn talk for now. I need to stop writing about decluttering and get back to actually doing it!

P.S. Thanks to all of your for your wonderful suggestions on what to do with our destashed yarn, fabric art supplies and the like! I'll likely donate a bag of random balls or skeins that I'm not selling (and anything that doesn't sell on eBay) to an organization that makes hats and blankets for preemies, as they were asking for yarn on Freecyle and offered to pick up. Which is ideal, since we are carless Brooklynites and I am SO pregnant and Cartoonist Baby will be here SO soon!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Almost Done: The Reversible Shirred Skirt

I haven't had much actual sewing time lately, what with my sewing machine troubles and the childbirth classes and the apartment-decluttering rampage. But! I finally got some time in yesterday morning and finished my endless rows of shirring. (Which, as Heather discovered, can be a SLOW, BORING and PAINFUL process--sorry Heather!)

The above image is what it looked like after I attached the two skirts together at the waist. I just have to tack them together and hem it now. AND I'm happy to report the stretch fit is perfect--it looks just like my sketch, and should still work post-preggo, too.

Reversible Shirred Skirt Sketch

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Declutter Overload: How to Say Goodbye to Yarn?

So with Cartoonist Baby scheduled to arrive in just 4-8 weeks, Cartoonist Husband and I have ramped up our mad decluttering frenzy (last mentioned here in the context of ruthless knit and woven fabric executions).

Our 850-square foot 2-bedroom Brooklyn apartment is fabulous, and quite large by New York standards. But like many artistic types, we have a serious clutter problem. Which we've been denying over the years by cramming everything we couldn't fit elsewhere into the guest bedroom closets and drawers--off-season clothes, Masheka's guitar, my college photography and anthropology projects, Masheka's college film reels, holiday decorations, fabric, yarns, camping equipment and travel gear, freelance cartooning files we have to keep for tax purposes, every single diary or sketchbook I've ever kept, old letters and mementos from friends and family, photo albums, art supplies...

And now it ALL has to go somewhere else--or just GO. Once Cartoonist Baby outgrows her bedside bassinet, that's going to be her room -- and my mother's room, since my amazing mom is going to be watching our girl during the week when my 12-week maternity leave is up.

The process has been agonizing, to say the least. Sure, we've made big strides in the following areas:

  • Clothing clutter: We've taken at least 10 bags worth to the local Goodwill in the last four months alone. This is made easier by my pregnancy--I can't try things on and go "well, MAYBE that could work if I just..." No, it couldn't. And if something was already too small BEFORE I was pregnant, keeping it is just self-flagellation. I've also sold about 7 pairs of shoes on eBay, and donated 3 or 4 more to Goodwill.
  • Furniture clutter. We replaced the HUGE drafting table in our bedroom with a teensy folding one--we do most of our art digitally now anyway. My parents replaced the king-sized guest bed with a comfy folding couch bed. My bedside table has made way for our Arm's Reach Mini Bassinet.
  • Random things we haven't used in years clutter: Goodbye, George Foreman grill--the broiler works better anyway.
  • Stuff we won't be using for a long time clutter: We've loaned the camping stuff to my parents indefinitely.
  • Book clutter: We've gotten rid of over 150 books via Amazon and Goodwill... leaving just 1,600 stacked 2 or 3 deep on a multitude of bookshelves. Progress, right?!

Other areas? Not so much. Art supplies are hard--I find it physically painful to throw away or donate a perfectly nice box of partly-used artist's pastels... even though I haven't drawn with pastels in over 10 years. Sentimental and creative stuff is even harder--some objects can be quickly photographed and then trashed (set lists from punk shows I saw in my teens, weird quilts I made from old T-shirts), but what to do with my boxes of letters and diaries and photos? As for all the paper-based business and other files, we HAVE to keep them for tax and other purposes. But the file cabinet is already full...

So, we're working on it.

Which brings me to the subject I've been avoiding: the yarn stash. As much as it pains me, it has just GOT to go. Cartoonist Husband and I have eight large storage drawers in the giant wall-to-wall bookshelves my father built in the livingroom, and I am currently hogging six: four with fabric, patterns and sewing notions, and two with yarn. Some of which can be seen on my Ravelry stash page...

It's not that I don't knit at all anymore--but since an intense bout with repetitive stress injury two years ago, I am a GLACIAL knitter. In order to preserve my hands and wrists for graphic design and cartooning, I knit maybe 1-2 hours a week, usually just during my weekly knitting group. At that pace, I'll still be working from my existing stash when Cartoonist Baby has gone off to college. (Luckily, machine sewing doesn't bother my hands at all--there are too many different varied movements involved).

So most of the yarn has to go (with the exception of the stuff I handdyed, and the Malabrigo, and the alpaca and...). And I don't really have any experience with yarn destashing--is it worth my time and trouble to try and sell the stuff on eBay or Etsy, or should I just donate it? And if I donate it--where to? I asked my knitting group but most of them are wrestling with stash problems of their own and have different tastes.

Please don't mourn for my knitting--I can always buy yarn for a specific project when I need it. At my pace, there is never a yarn emergency where I could possibly be stuck without something to knit.

Also, renting storage space? NOT an option. We tried that before and it was just a clutter-enabling money suck. If something isn't beautiful or useful enough to fit in the apartment as it is, well--it's just got to go.

Polka Dot Crush: New Vintage Lady!

The New Vintage Lady shows off her handmade gardenias, Billie-Holiday-style

Reverse-inspired by the Selfish Seamstress and her sinister parade of nemeses, I thought I'd write an occasional sappy mash note to my favorite stitchy bloggers. First up: New Vintage Lady (aka Shelley J.)

I first e-encountered New Vintage Lady a few weeks ago via Sew Retro, but I had an instant blog crush, with a bit of jealousy mixed in. Firstly, in my biased cartoonist-girl book:

The Lady can DRAW! Which makes sense, since she's an animator by trade. (And as someone whose drawings don't move, animators totally make me green.)

You might have noticed that most vintage pattern envelope illustrations--even for plus-size or maternity patterns--have one thing in common: skinny, wasp-waisted white ladies. Not so New Vintage Lady's line of plus-sized reproduction patterns, which she recently began illustrating with gorgeous variations on her cartoon self-portrait (click any of these to enlarge):

And here's a peek at her drawing development process--unlike my digitally addicted cartoonist self, she uses actual pencils and paper:

The Lady can grade. When she had trouble finding plus-size patterns from her favorite style eras (the 1920s-1940s), she just taught herself to size them up. (Considering how many bust size 32 patterns I continue to cling to, I had better get on that.) I can't tell from her blog what size this fabulous Hollywood 1486 dress was originally--but I'll just guess that she graded it and she can correct me if I'm wrong.

Don't you just love the cut, fabric and asymmetrical button front styling? (It should probably be noted that like many vintage lovers, Ms. NVL has a serious button problem passion).

The Lady can accessorize. And I don't just mean buying vintage accessories, though she does that too-I'm talking some major home millinery. (I don't even know how to wear hats properly, never mind construct and design them.) Check out her depression picnic cloche:

The Lady can repo. When she became obsessed with vintage sewing--and disappointed in the lack of patterns in her size--she didn't just grade them for herself. When Ms. NVL obtains particularly fabulous plus-size vintage patterns from the 10s, 20s, 30s and earlier 40s (i.e. the ones generally safe from copyright protection), she reproduces them, as in the examples above. Here's a 1920s "dustbowl" dress:

The Lady can teach. Who doesn't love a tutorial? (I swear I'll have some up here SOMEDAY!). Check out The Lady's (beautifully illustrated) Style Tips on:

The latter could have saved me some grief over the years, as I am pretty much guaranteed to get major runs in any and all stockings either while putting them on or in the first 10 minutes of wear. (Although I'm so pregnant right now that filing my toenails to ensure a snag-free stocking application will have to wait until I can actually see/reach said toes!)

And it's not a tutorial, but she also did a two-part "Black Hair" series on her blog with her thoughts on the pressure for black women to straighten their hair, her disappointment with the Chris Rock documentary Good Hair, and examples (with photos) of how she does a natural vintage hair style.

So there you have it, my first official Polka Dot Blog Crush! Be sure to visit Shelley's New Vintage Lady site, blog and etsy shop for a whole lot more vintage fabulousness. (And just to be clear, I'm not in any way sponsored by her or getting any kickbacks!)

Friday, April 23, 2010

More Vintage Pattern Stashing & Destashing: 1940s edition!

My recently acquired crayon-colored assortment of 40s pattern gorgeousness


OK, I think I have a problem. Perhaps stemming from a frustrating deficit of actual sewing progress lately? (I do have my machine working again, though and promise to have several finished objects for you this weekend!).

But when I spied the above lot of eight early 1940s DuBarry patterns on eBay, I couldn't resist putting in an eensy little bid, even though they will all require grading up a size or two. And to my surprise, I "won." (If you can really call adding to my over-squeezed pattern drawer "winning").

Really, could YOU say no to a princess-seamed button-backed peplum two-piece dress like DuBarry 5505?

Note how the lines of the bodice seams continue in the gored skirt. And I love the gathering coming from the yoked neckline (though I'd probably make it a very narrow band--it's too high for me as is). Yellow isn't my color, but I love the red.

And how about DuBarry 5525? Isn't it wonderful how the sweetheart neckline is mirrored in the hip yoke?

On the more nursing-friendly front, there's DuBarry 5613--it's technically a "beach/brunch coat", but it looks like a wrap dress to me:

And button fronts provide far better access than button backs:

Is it just me, or are these 1940s DuBarry illustrations particularly lovely? I'm just crazy about the style and styling of these envelopes... well, aside from the fact that they exclusively feature tall skinny white ladies--but that's a blog post for another time.

So yes, I am a bad, bad girl.


HOWEVER! As promised in my previous pattern stashing/destashing post, I have made excellent progress towards destashing any and all patterns that I am 75% certain I will never sew, either for style or size reasons. No matter HOW enticing their seductive little illustrations!

The first step was donating a box of 24 patterns to Pattern Rescue (which I discovered via Color Kitten). They were mostly 70s and 80s patterns that while fun, would be too much trouble to sell, but I tried to put in a few nicer ones as well.

The second was setting up a Polka Dot Overload Etsy shop and photographing and inspecting all the more saleable 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s patterns. I'm still working on this--I've only managed to list 7 so far (though I've already sold one! hurrah!). Some of the ones I've managed to get up so far:

Simplicity 2876. It's a glamourous 1949 V-Neck gown... but despite my grading ambitions, there is no way I'm doing the work to get a 30" bust pattern over my 41" bust -- that would involve going up three sizes to my 36" high bust, and THEN doing a major FBA.

Simplicity 2309. Lovely 1948 pleated bias-cut skirt with side pockets. But even before my waist vanished under my uterus, it was nowhere near 26 inches.

Mail Order 1447. This 1960s shirtwaist was featured in my "A Life in (Mail-Order) Patterns" post--the tabs and pockets are SO cute, and it's in a 35-inch bust... but it's a half-size, I have MANY other shirtwaist patterns, and I'm a relatively tall girl.

Style 2876, 1970. This was HARD--it's a 38-inch bust and I LOVE the seaming (and these hairstyles--almost a Princess Leia look, no?)... on someone else. Repeated dressing-room experimentation in vintage stores has proven that these clean-lined high-necked mod dresses just Do Not Work on my curvy figure.

Photographing the envelopes is quick... but assessing the condition, determining whether all pieces are present and cut/uncut, setting a fair price, writing descriptions and adding tags? Not so quick. Now I know why so many vintage patterns seem to be so pricy! That's real work!

But I figure if I can list them all now, it'll be relatively quick to ship them if they sell while I'm on maternity leave. And any extra cash will certainly come in handy for laundry money to wash all those cloth diapers...