Monday, May 31, 2010

What a perfect start to a beautiful morning...

I've been writing about New Orleans and discovered this. Wonderfulness: Etta James & Dr.John - I'd Rather Go Blind ( Blind Girl).........

Sunday, May 30, 2010

...and back up to #3

It's been well over a year that my knitting book has been on the market so is is doubly thrilling when I see it climb back up the charts in competition with some amazing knitting books. Today I saw this:
What makes this exciting to me (other than the fact that it is my book) is that this is an independently published book which is competing with books published by distinguished publishing houses like Interweave Press and XRX Press. Quite a coup for us little indy presses....

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

When Knitters Lose Their Minds

How to knit a mattress with 1000 strands of yarn.......... Extreme Knitting!

Late Night Thoughts While Listening to Dr. John

On breezy summer nights when the curtains are billowing in the sea breezes and I can hear the trains coming and going from the station up the hill and the boats in the harbor I have a hard time settling down. I wander around the house doing little projects and listening to music and dreaming. Last night I discovered a CD of Dr. John's “Afterglow” and popped it in the CD player. Perfect. I don't know how that CD ended up in a box of beads I had forgotten I owned. 

I organized a bookshelf and came across my copy of Ron Hansen's Mariette in Ecstasy and spent an hour re-reading parts of that. I've read that book half a dozen times and when I was writing Each Angel Burns I kept referring to it for the sheer exquisite beauty of the language.

I cleaned out the freezer. I fixed two pretty white cotton camisoles that I have never worn because the shoulder straps were too long. I cut out a couple of patterns I plan to use soon. I noticed the picture of a pattern I had pinned to the bulletin board over my sewing table. It is a blouse that I loved but I never bought the pattern – just saved the picture (right). I realized it was exactly what I wanted for these 2 new saris and, by performing a Google search, I discovered that, though it is long out of print, there are several vendors online who had copies of it. One is on its way to me now.

So I made a big bowl of cole slaw and sat on the back porch and drank a gin and tonic. I had gone out to dinner with three girlfriends but didn't indulge in the wine. However on the back porch overlooking the cemetery it was a perfect treat.

I know I'm a dreamer, always have been. I need a lot of alone time --- it's just the way I am, I've decided to stop trying to change that. I know people-who-need-people are supposed to be the luckiest people in the world but people like me, who need leaves rustling in the night wind, the calls of owls, wind chimes tinkling, the far off moan of fog horns as the mists rise, and lots of time to let our minds wander are pretty lucky, too. Especially when we get a night like last night...

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Disaster in the Gulf

Back in the 1980s I was living in Houston Texas and working, at least part of that time at Enron. I was living with a man who was a petroleum engineer for BP, British Petroleum, and, at the time I met him, he was working on an offshore oil rig.

It was all very romantic at the time. The energy business was big business and there was always exciting stuff going on --- parties, conferences, social events. My boyfriend would be out on his rig for 10 days at a time them home for 4 days then back out. He would make ship-to-shore calls to me early in the morning and tell me about the sun coming up over the ocean that far out at sea and all the wildlife he got to watch. I thought being on an oil rig sounded quite wonderful.

Of course there were problems back then too. Nothing as terrible as what is going on now but I was always scared when he told me about something going wrong, someone getting injured, a piece of equipment failing... to say nothing of terrible weather. After a couple such experiences I wasn't so romantic about his job.

I've been thinking about this over the last several weeks as the news from the Gulf gets worse and worse and worse. I wanted to listen to the President's press conference today but had to be away at a meeting and didn't get back until it was nearly over. Now, of course, the spinning begins. You can't trust what you read or hear, this disaster is political fodder and the truth gets trampled to death in the process.

Of all the things about this that there is to regret --- other than the fact of its actual occurrence --- is that this disaster, this environmental catastrophe, has become so politicized it is a complete nightmare. I was thinking about how, after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, even though I and most of my friends didn't think much of George Bush, we tried our best to put our political ideas on hold and be as supportive as we could of the President for the sake of the country. I was proud of the fact that so many people I knew were willing to say, “Okay, we all have to stick together --- we're Americans.”

We sure could use some of that now.

The difference is, of course, that the BP disaster has no bad guys. Well, lots of people blame BP but theirs was not a calculated attack like 9/11 was. But the impact on our future has the potential to be even greater. It frightens me. And it makes me want to ask what in God's name has happened to us? We are so divided and so partisan and so fixated on the agendas of the sides we align ourselves that we've lost all common sense, loyalty, and patriotism. We are all in this together, folks. And we are going to be for a very long time.

I feel sorry for this President. He inherited one of the worst messes in our country's history and, while he tries to do what he can despite obstructionism that is a downright disgrace, one disaster after another occurs --- natural disasters, domestic disasters, endless obstruction, endless whining, carping complaining and finger-pointing. I don't blame James Carville for expressing his outrage but I'm sure President Obama wishes he could clone himself so he could be everywhere he needs to be at the same time. We are out of time, out of money, out of ideas, out of patience, and out of sorts.

I keep thinking about an accident that happened on the rig my old boyfriend was working on. Something had gone wrong, I don't remember what, and the entire rig was in peril plus a bad storm was moving up from the Caribbean. They had to send teams of divers down into the base of the rig to work on the repair before the storm came but the pressure at the depths they needed to go to prevented them from staying down for very long and the entire crew was frantic. Non-essential personnel was being evacuated by helicopter and boat but, of course, the BP execs weren't going to run the chance that they might lose the rig.

Everything worked out and the repairs were completed in time but it was a nightmare while it was going on. Compared to what we are dealing with now it was nothing.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Package from India

The latest and last (so far) of my packages from India arrived today. I am thrilled with the two saris it contained they are both pure silk and absolutely could not be any more gorgeous.

The first one, below, I ordered because the silk is iridescent. This is created by weaving the warp thread in one color (green here) and the weft thread in another (purple). You can't really appreciate the iridescence until the fabric drapes but then it shimmers. (All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.)
This sari has an overprint on the pallu in a delicate paisley pattern.
The pattern is only on the pallu end. The rest of the fabric is plain (if you can call shimmering purple-green plain) but there is a woven in pattern on the borders in a green metallic thread.
You can see some of it in the folded over part in the photo above.

The second sari is beyond gorgeous! The main body of the fabric is a deep plum color that gradually blends to a grayish-purple at the borders.
However the pallu and the two borders that run the entire length of the fabric are woven-in designs in gold, copper and tiny dots of silver. The thread is not metallic except for the little dots of silver.
As you can see in the photo above the borders are stunning.
The picture above shows the reverse side of the pallu and borders so you can see how the border is actually woven and not overprinted. This fabric is beyond elegant and I'm thinking it might make a stunning robe or evening dress.

So these two and one more on the way and I am done with ordering saris for awhile but if I ever do see anything comparable to these I might be sorely tempted. I did see one that is pure silk and has a hand-painted design of a temple amid flowers on the pallu. But I'm not going to buy any more for awhile. Honest. I'm not.


Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Magical Spaces

Over the weekend I was talking to my sister Lisa who was worrying about the state of her yard. She has over half an acre of yard and mowing it is a chore even with two sons to help. I suggested she forget about mowing it and turn it into a meadow instead. She thought that was a good idea but was afraid her neighbors might object. Well, I suppose there is that.

So we got talking about “the woods” where we played all the time when we were kids. Because there had once been a house there in which an old woman had lived there were lots and lots of flowers. She had many rose bushes that had gone wild in the years since her death and lots of perennial plants too, daffodils and jonquils and lilies of the valley. It was really quite an amazing place.

Down near the stream that ran through the woods we often found two species of wild flowers that I have loved all my life, Lady's Slippers and Trillium. I've been told that Lady's Slippers are actually a species of orchids. How wonderful. We used to pick them to bring home until our mother told us that we really should let them grow so they could replenish themselves. I don't think there was a lot that I found more magical back then than coming upon a clump of beautiful Lady's Slippers or Trillium tucked in the damp shade of the hemlock trees that bordered that little stream.

Over the weekend a bunch of wonderful people here in Gloucester did a heroic thing. Down on Rogers Street which runs parallel to the harbor there was an eyesore that existed for years, a lot, known as I4C2, which was zoned for marine-industrial use and had not been used in years. There was a big, overgrown chain-link fence around it and the lot was filled with massively overgrown weeds --- talk about a meadow. Through various means, the city recently took possession of the lot and the DPW went down there and removed the fence and mowed down the weeds. Last weekend, under the leadership of the endlessly ambitious and dedicated Ed Collard, a group of dedicated citizens went down to work on this huge lot. A call was put out to gardeners to bring their thinnings and spare plants to be used in a garden at the corner of the lot.

Well, the turn out was incredible. Not only did a bunch of folks show up to work but they got so many plants donated they wound up making 5ive gardens. Someone brought a bunch of beach rose bushes and there are also rhododendrons. The place looks amazing. But the bast part is it has opened up a view of the harbor that is just stunning. You can look out across the lot to the harbor and see the old Paint Factory on the far side. It is not only breathtaking but a real bonus to the business owners who have shops across the street!

There is much to be said for wild places --- or semi-wild places and I hope our new waterfront park flourishes and thrives. Whether it is a woods sheltering Lady's Slippers and Trillium, or a waterside park lined with beach roses these places are a delight to the senses.

Thanks for reading.

Seven New Teeth & a Hawaiian Shirt

Is this cute or what? Little Jack has teeth and attitude!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Two years ago today...

Two years ago today my dear friend and fellow author Mark S. Williams left this world. He is deeply missed.
Please visit his web site:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Over 30 Years of Folkwear

Sometime in the mid-1970s I discovered Folkwear Patterns and fell madly in love with them. The first one I ever bought and made was the Syrian Dress which I made from a very lightweight rust-colored linen and embroidered in black, purple, rust and gold. It was quite fabulous and, back in my hippy days, got a lot of wear and attention. I began purchasing the patterns and still have most of them.

Sometime after I made the Syrian dress my boyfriend at the time asked me to make him the Ukrainian shirt which I did out of a linen-weave brown cotton and it turned out quite nicely. I moved on to a number of other garments probably the most popular of which was the Kinsale Cloak. I made that one many times both for myself and for other people. Mine was made of a brown and gray woolen tweed and I wore it for over 20 years then gave it to someone who loved it and begged me for it. When I was going through my belly dancer phase in the mid-80s I made a lot of the patterns in their “caravan” line – the Sarouelles, the Afghan Nomad Dress, the Turkish Dancer and the Gaza Dress. Mostly they were made from the saris purchased in the sari shops in Houston. I still have a couple of them.

I've been thinking about this because I recently discovered the Folkwear web site and spent a long time drooling over their Photo Gallery. Now that I have all these pretty silk saris either here or on their way I am trying to decide what else to do with them. One of the treasures I have stashed in my sewing room is this bundle of 100% silk which I bought from someone who purchased it intending to make herself a kimono and then never got around to it.

The silk is beautiful, light but with a weighty drape and very fluid. There is a total of 12 yards in the three pieces and, while I haven't decided what to use them for, the kimono is not a bad idea.

This other piece of silk is 6 yards long and was given to me wrapped in a smaller piece of pale pink silk which I used to line a black and gold burn-out silk velvet scarf several years ago. I still love to wear it. My benefactor said she bought it to make a dress for a wedding that she wound up not going to. I've been hoarding it but this year I think it might find its way into another Gaza Dress.

The three pieces of fabric below are unusual blends of 50/50 silk/cotton. This blend makes for a gorgeous fabric --- light but with a weighty drape and it wrinkles very little if at all. I have one ankle length, short-sleeved summer dress made from this in purple/green and every time I wear it I feel like a queen, it is so light and ethereal. All three of the pieces in the picture are 4 or more yards and iridescent. I know I also have a piece in sand/blue somewhere. These are purple/blue, teal/rose, and sky blue/pink:

So, while I still don't know what I am doing with all this stuff, as long as I am motivated to sew I'm not going to worry about it. I still have all my Folkwear patterns and, though both my hippy days and my bellydancer days re long gone, I bet I can still carry them off. I think that hippy > bellydancer > eccentric old lady sounds like a very good progression.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just for Fun: 2 Silk Bags --- Pretty

When I emailed pictures of my new silk saris to my sister Anne she loved the green one with the little elephants on it. She said, "Oooo, wouldn't that make a pretty bag?" So because I had a ton of silk left over, I decided to try making a bag. I did some fancy piecing to take best advantage of the borders and this is the result:

Pretty cute, huh? I had som leftover black velvet from the jeans I made a couple weeks ago so lined it with that:
The button is a Czech glass button that was in my button box which has a very cute elephant on it.

The secret to making the bag is using a good, stiff, iron-on interfacing to stiffen the silk which is very fluid. I liked this one so much I decided to try making one with the gold silk I used for my "deer" shirt:
I had some silk dupioni in a deep burgundy with a gold iridescence to it so I used that for the lining:
I'm not sure if I like the button which is also Czech glass so I may change it.

Well, I'm going to send the green one to Anne and I'll probaly make a couple more, they are so easy to make --- basically just four rectangles (bottom, sides, handles, closure loop) cut from the silk, interfacing and lining. I made the second one in about an hour.

This is a fun, entertaining project for when I am in between bigger projects. And a good way to use up stash scraps that were too pretty to throw out.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Escape" by Carolyn Jessop

For some years now I have been reading about the FLDS, Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, with a mixture of horror and disbelief. It is hard for me to believe that tens of thousands of women and children can live with the oppression, abuse, and basic lack of human dignity that they are said to endure without legal recourse. Estimates are that between 50,000 an 100,000 FLDS members are active in this country and, until recent years, very little was done about the rampant sexual, physical, and emotional abuse that is ubiquitous in their society.

A couple years ago I read Jon Krakaur's “Under the Banner of Heaven” and more recently Elissa Wall's “Stolen Innocence” which led me to Carolyn Jessop's “Escape”. Of the three of them “Escape” is far and away the most fascinating read not in the least because Ms. Jessop writes well and has a surprising sense of humor despite the grim nature of the subject matter.

Basically the story is this, she was born into a polygamist family in which she had three “mothers” and over 30 siblings. Her biological mother was horrifically physically abusive, beating her children every day, and the kids accepted this as normal because that's how everyone else lived too. She grew up seeing other children with bruises, welts, burns, etc. and had no idea that other people did not live that way. At the age of 18 she was given in marriage to a man of fifty. She was his fourth wife. He went on to take three more during the 17 years she lived with him and bore him eight children. By the time she escaped he had over fifty children by his seven wives. Beatings were a regular part of life, for both the wives and the children. Despite the fact that her husband was a wealthy man they frequently had little food. Many of the children were malnourished and all of them were brainwashed, brow-beaten and kept in abject subjugation in the name of their religion and the decrees of “the prophet”, the leader of their religion.

Merrill Jessop, center, with the first six of his wives, Carolyn on far right
But the book is more than just a catalog of horror stories. It is an excellent study of how an intelligent woman who wants the best for her children can endure years of mistreatment all because of the indoctrination of a set of beliefs that allow her NO self-esteem, no self-interest, and no understanding that she doesn't have to live this was. The web of captivity is almost mind-boggling. Everyone is a spy. “Sister-wives” spy on one another and report everything to their shared husband as they try to compete for his favor. Older siblings spy on the younger wives (many of the children from the first wives are actually older than the younger wives) at their father's request or to help their biological mother gain favor. There is no help from the law because most of the police departments are populated by FLDS members. Economic oppression keeps women and their many children dependent on the “priesthead”/tyrant/husband.

It is a disturbing book and yet you cannot help but admire Carolyn's perseverance and devotion to her children. The hardest part for me was when she finally managed to escape taking her children with her only to discover that her children were so thoroughly brainwashed too they didn't trust her, despite her sacrifices for them and kept trying to escape from their mother and return to their father out of fear that they would be condemned to hell if they did not. In the end seven of the children grew to trust their mother but one, the oldest girl, went back.

As I was reading I couldn't help but think of the thousands of comments I have read in recent years condemning the abuses of children within the Catholic Church, my church. And, while I make no excuse for those abuses by Catholic clergy who should have known better, with a few exceptions, they pale by comparison to the institutionalized abuse within the FLDS. Girls of 12, 13, 14 being married to men who re old enough to be their grandfathers and kept continually pregnant --- many bearing 12, 14, as many as 20 children. The sexual abuse of both boys and girls from childhood by family members, teachers and clergy. Boys in the early teens being driven out into the middle of the desert and left there so they will not be competition for the old men and their desire for younger and younger “wives”. In a way it is almost impossible to believe that thousands and thousands of American citizens live this life every single day in this country and get away with it year after year.

In recent years more women have escaped and begun to speak out. Warren Jeffs, the former prophet, is now in prison leaving behind over 100 wives. But, as I read, I just kept thinking how are they getting away with this. Why is no one clogging up internet message boards and news forums with outraged condemnation like they do about the Catholic Church? Are the numbers of abused not great enough? Do people just not know or want to know?

Ultimately I decided that the issue is the whole story seems so bizarre, so surreal, so unimaginable that many people just cannot believe it. It's so damn weird-sounding that it defies belief. But, if writers like Elissa Wall, Flora Jessop, Brent Jeffs and Carolyn Jessop are to be believed it is very real and very frightening. I recently saw a book about the FLDS called “God's Brothel: The Extortion of Sex for Salvation in Contemporary Mormon and Christian Fundamentalist Polygamy and the Stories of 18 Women Who Escaped” by Andrea Moore-Emmett. I hope these books continue until something is finally done to stop it.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Listen to Author Daniel Silva

An interview with one of my favorite writers! Daniel Silva - Listen to Daniel

I'm Sari, So Sari

Over the weekend I completed all three of the shirts I wanted to make from the saris I bought from India and I love all three of them but I discovered a few things I thought I'd pass on to anyone contemplating doing the same thing:

- If you plan to make clothes stick to buying pure silk saris. The “Art Silk”, “Gaji Silk”, etc. may be pretty but their fiber content is largely synthetic. If you don't mind wearing synthetic fiber that's fine but nothing feels as luscious as real silk. Since they are all basically the same price go for the silk.

- Purchase a good quality fusible woven interfacing. Rayon is excellent. It will make both the sewing and the finished product much more attractive.

- Also purchase good quality woven seam binding. Rayon is excellent here too. It doesn't have to match perfectly (I use either black or white) but it makes the hems and facings both more attractive and more stable.

- Keep your iron handy and press as you go. Silk can stand up to a good deal of heat but the synthetics will melt so be careful.

- Change your machine needle often, at least once per garment and, if the fabric includes metallic thread, more than than that.

- When you are sewing the seam hold the fabric taut as it feeds through the needle. Silk can get slippery and bunch up but if you hold it nice and taut as it feeds you won't have that problem.

- Prepare yourself to feel very, very wonderful when you wear your silk shirt in public. I wore the deer shirt all day Saturday. Everyone commented on it and it is so light and breezy I felt nearly naked.

I found a gallery of fashions on a pattern review web site showing lots of different garments sewers had made from saris. Also, Threads Magazine has a good online article about saris.

So, having learned all that I decided to go nuts and buy a few more. This time I limited myself to 100% pure silk and wound up purchasing 3 more at an average of $15/each on eBay.

This fist one I bought because I love the design which includes elephants, camels, peacocks and other delightful little figures. I won't know until I see it what I'll make from it but I love the design.

The second one is a paisley but the silk is an iridescent two-tone of rose and green. Since I already have some large scraps of pure silk in that same color combination I'm eager to see if it matches.

And the third one has such a gorgeous design I couldn't resist. The description said “antique vintage weaving”. Since none of the others said that I'm looking forward to seeing what I get.

I also could not resist purchasing 2 lots of 100% linen --- both 60” wide, one in “oatmeal” and the other in “pale maize”. Can't wait to see them --- I think linen trousers would look great with silk shirts.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mrs. P Gives 'Em HE!!

Now and then I stop to visit Mrs. P (“P” for “Pissah”), my 80-something friend, who is always interesting to talk with. She grew up here and has lived in Gloucester most of her life, married a couple of times, raised a bunch of kids, and is the best person to talk to when I want to know the background of any given situation. Mrs. P is an avid reader and I usually find her in her lounge chair deep in a thriller. I love talking to her about books, she certainly has opinions about the state of literature today. She's reading the newest James Patterson right now but isn't impressed.

“He used to be good,” she told me, “but now he's famous so he can just get by on his name. This one isn't that great.”

I'm relieved to report that she likes my books. She's read all of them and is my first choice as reader whenever I finish a short story. She tells me exactly what she thinks, what I need to work on, and what I got right. Over the years I've given her other manuscripts to read by writers I am working with and, I'll be honest, she is the most reliable, don't-bullshit-me critic I've ever encountered. You can't bullshit Mrs. P.

While we were chatting today the phone rang. “Do you mind if I get this?” she asked. “I'm waiting to hear from my niece.” Since she had already removed her hearing aide my response was irrelevant. She listened a few minutes and then said, “Are you kidding? I'm 83 years old and living on Social Security. Do you know how much money people get from Social Security? You should be sending money to me.”

Oh, brother, I thought, someone looking for a donation is going to regret this call.

“I don't care,” she said after a pause, “if I had any extra money I'd buy something decent for supper. I get sick of eating macaroni and cheese every night.”

Now I happen to know she doesn't eat mac and cheese hardly at all but I'm not going to interfere. No, sir, I know better.

“Okay,” she said, “give me a call when you can do something for me.” She hung up.

Well, I said, I bet he's sorry he called.

She laughed. “At my age,” she told me, “you have to get your fun wherever you can. Have you ever gotten a call from those police people asking for money? Boy, do I like to talk to them.”

I can imagine.

“This one guy called and I asked him how much he wanted so he started telling me these categories --- $15, $35, $50. So I said, 'what about $10?' and he said they didn't have a $10 category. Can you believe that?”

I couldn't.

“So, I asked him why they didn't have $10 category and he said that it cost them more money to collect $10 than it is worth. Can you believe that? So I said, 'wait a minute, you mean if I write out my check and put it in my envelope and put my stamp on it and mail it to you that's not worthwhile for you?' He said he didn't know. So I said to him, 'Look, here's your choice, you can have $10 or nothing, what's it going to be?' Well, he didn't know what to say to that so finally he said, 'okay, I'll send you a pledge card.'” She chuckled. “I never got one.”

Well, that's good, I said. Do you get a lot of calls like that?

She shrugged. “This one guy called, I forget what he wanted money for, and he said he was a Vietnam vet. I told him, so what? I'm a World War II vet.” This is true, she was in the service. “I asked him what made his cause so special and he said he was sorry he bothered me. I told him it was no bother, I was just sitting here anyway. He hasn't called back, either.”

I believe her. It occurred to me I could tell her about the National Do Not Call Registry but then thought better of it. At her age she needs to get her fun where she can.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, May 14, 2010

When my sewing room makes me blue...

...all I have to do is watch this:

But, the encouraging part is that at least this young woman sews! I loved when she talked about having to scrimp to have enough fabric for a project. Heaven knows I've done that maany, many times. I haven't had time for much sewing this week -- I've been updating my professional web site. But more about that later.

Thanks for watching.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fiber Lust

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time you know that I LOVE fine fiber, both in yarn for knitting and fabric for sewing. I suspect a lot of women do, at least among the knitters and sewers I know. For a few weeks now I've been on a fabric buying spree. I've slowed down now until I can catch up with my projects which may take awhile. I get emails from people who ask if I trust buying fabric over the internet and that's a good question. Personally, I'm not averse to taking chances if the price is low enough and I've gotten some really good bargains that way.

A couple weeks ago I was looking on eBay for “lots” of fabric over 5 yards. I wanted to make 2 duvet covers for my 2 down comforters and needed about 8 yards for each of them. I stumbled across and auction that advertised 30+ yards of 40” wide fabric that said it was a rayon/silk blend. The color was perfect, Moss Green, and the opening bid was $9.98 + $10.50 s&h. Now, for that amount of money I decided to take a chance even though I couldn't quite believe it would be real rayon/silk. So I put in a bid.

A week went by, I was keeping an eye on the auction, and no one else was bidding. Naturally I immediately went into a spiral of self-doubt convinced I was the only person dumb enough to believe I could get 30 yards of rayon/silk for $20. The auction closed with me the winner and I was sure I was out of my mind. Maybe I misread and it was 3+ yards and chances were very, very slim it would be real rayon/silk. So I paid my $20.48 and waited.

Well, the fabric arrived a couple days ago and there were 30 yards in there. I didn't actually measure it but I can tell there is a lot. It is a beautiful, soft color, lightweight but certainly fine for a duvet cover and it has a silk, very soft finish. So, convinced there had to be a mistake, I decided to do the burn test.

The big difference between natural and manufactured fabric can be seen when you take a scrap of it and hold it to a lit match. There are subtle differences depending on actual fiber content but the bottomline is natural fabrics burn much like paper would and end in a fine ash that can be easily crushed. Manufactured fabrics, because they are largely petroleum based, may burn but they will end in a hard little plastic ball that gets harder as it cools --- like melted plastic. So I cut a piece of the new fabric, held it over the sink and put a match to it. It burned easily and didn't sputter (like plastic does) and, when I blew it out, there was a soft ash left that was exactly what I wanted. I tried it two more times just to be sure and every time it turned out the same.

It's a little amazing to me that I now have 30+ yards of rayon/silk in my sewing room waiting to be made into duvet covers and some pillow cases. I have no idea what the proportion of rayon to silk is but I don't care, I love rayon and there is obviously enough silk to give it a luster and softness that will be perfect for what I need it for.

So, when I get finished working today it is off to the sewing room to see what I can create. I have a couple more shirts in progress and I just discovered a few lengths of linen I was saving for summer slacks. The fiber is so lovely it is a joy to handle as I work. And the results are so useful how can I go wrong.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

R.I.P. Lena Horne 1917-2010

One of the most fabulous voices of all time. I love this song:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Silk Shirt with Deer

So this is the second shirt made from my saris. This one is 100% pure silk and has a beautiful, fine hand and a lovely feel to it. 
I made it from the same Burda pattern I used for the previous one:
But I adjusted the sleeves to be a 3/4 length sleeve. Because this sari was so elaborate with such lovely designs on it I had to make a lot of decisions on placing the pattern pieces. The pallu was over a yard long so I cut the front by placing it lengthwise on the fabric and I "fussy cut" (as dear Eleanor Burns says) the front so that I could have the large figures of ladies playing an instrument on each front shoulder:
The sari also had beautiful, metallic gold borders running down both sides for the full length of the 5 yards. When I cut the sleeves out I positioned the pattern pieces width-wise so the hem of the sleeves had the gold border:
I liked the look of this border so much that I decided I wanted it around the bottom of the shirt, too. So I trimmed off enough of the border to stitch it to the bottom of both the front and the back:
I have to tell you, my machine needles did NOT like sewing through that metallic thread. As soon as I was finished with the top stitching and the hemming I changed to a new needle. This was a three needle shirt.

I discovered a nice trick for the back pleat. In order to stabilize it and give it extra sturdiness I top stitched around the seam line after I had added the facing and I stitched through all the layers of the pleat plus the facing for extra support. Back pleats have a habit of tearing in fine fabrics.
There was so much length in the pallu that I was able to use part of it for the bottom of the back which I also cut out lengthwise from the fabric:
I love the design of ladies playing musical instruments and feeding deer. Because the fabric was so delicate and slightly sheer and because I had so much of it I decided to fully line the front of the shirt rather than use facing. I also decided against pockets because I didn't want to interfere with the design.

So with the shirt completed all I had to do was add buttons and I dug through my button box:
And discovered these pretty Czech glass buttons:
With this shirt complete I'm ready to move on to the Gaji silk sari with the little elephants on it. It was a busy weekend in the sewing room but so much fun. I think I may have to look for more saris....

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

My First Silk-Sari-to-Shirt

My saris arrived from India the other day and I immediately set to work with my plan for turning them into very cool summer shirts. I started with the one called "art" silk which is a blend of silk and rayon. This is a beautiful fabric with a nice weight and drape to it. The sari had a yard-long pallu which I cut to use as the front of the shirt. The remaining four yards was a pretty floral brocade-type print which I used for the back and sleeves. There was a narrow border along one edge and a wider border on the other side.

The pattern I used is a simple Burda shirt pattern with a V-neck, a pleat down the back, 3/4 length sleeves, and optional patch pockets. The pattern is cut generously to allow it to move freely and for silk this is a good option as you do not want to put too much stress on the seams as you move. As you can see below I cut the front from the pallu (the elaborately decorated end of the sari that is flung over the shoulder). 
I added the patch pocket which were cut with the wider border across the top of the pocket. The same position was used for the sleeves. I actually cut the cuffs separately because I wanted the option to turn them back if I wanted to. The back (below) is cut from the longer part of the sari placing the pattern piece sideways (like the sleeves and pocket) to take advantage of the pretty border along the bottom. There is a deep pleat down the back, too.

In my button box I found eight very cute Czech glass buttons (below) that looked perfect with the fabric.
I decided to bind the edges of the facing and the hems with white bias-cut rayon seam binding which gives a nice finish.

The shirt is very, very light and floaty. It will probably be worn open over a camisole most of the time but is sufficiently opaque that it can be worn buttoned without one.

So for $9.98 + s&h and a few hours work, this is a real treasure. I cut out the second one last night and will post it when it is done. The real challenge in working with these saris is positioning the pattern pieces to take maximum advantage of the pallu and border. So check back. I'll have another one soon and am working on a layout diagram to show how I used the fabric to best advantage.

This is the pattern I used:

Thanks for reading.

Friday, May 07, 2010

You can buy lobsters on the Internet???

Here in Gloucester buying lobsters fresh from the ocean is easy, just swing by Captain Joe's on East Main Street. But in other parts of the country lobster, the really, really good lobster from the icy waters of the North Atlantic, are a somewhat rarer treat. That's why I was kind of excited when a Florida based lobster dealer contacted me about designing and building a web site for his business.

It's actually amazing how this works. He is based in Florida but his lobsters ship from Canada. Most of his clients are upscale private clubs and businesses but he wanted a site that would be tempting to people around the country who aren't lucky enough to live a couple blocks from the ocean.

One of the most enjoyable parts of building this site was having access to some really great photography --- some of it stock, some from the lobster company that ships the lobsters. We considered adding a section of recipes but decided instead to create a page showing beautifully prepared seafood dishes with links to some of the best cooking sites on the internet including, and This served two purposes, it provided a wide range of recipes and instructional videos and it created lots of links to enhance search engine optimization.

The site was built with a server-side store that allows the owner to take orders using any credit card and to update prices and specials on his own. Once the store was in place I made a step-by-step list of instructions for him and he now changes information on his own.

So, even if you get your seafood from the Gloucester waterfront, you might want to stop by Canadian Atlantic Lobster and check out the gallery of recipes and videos. If the pictures on this site don't make your mouth water, the recipes will.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Tossing of the First Lime

Yesterday my package from India arrived and I have to say I am thrilled with the 3 saris in it. Interestingly the rayon/silk “artisan” sari is the most beautiful with a lovely, weighty drape to it and the pattern is woven-in rather than printed-on. The block-printed pure silk sari is gorgeous, though quite a bit darker than the photos. I actually love the color, a deep saffron-gold with burgundy print on it. The “gaji” silk, which burn-tests to being mostly silk, is very, very pretty however the printed-on design is slightly skewed which will make an interesting challenge when the sewing begins.

I already cut out the artisan sari to make a summer shirt and had to make a lot of decisions while doing it on how to position the pattern-pieces to take advantage of the pattern. I wanted to use the pallu, the decorative end that is traditionally tossed over the shoulder, for the front of the shirt. The good thing about working with fabric with a simple weave is that you can position the pattern pieces in cross-wise or length-wise fashion s long s you stay with the grain of the fabric.

While I was working on the pieces I was thinking about a custom we had when I lived in Houston. Around the beginning of May, when things were heating up, there was a party known as the “tossing of the first lime”. It was always a hilarious event held at various venues that had tables and benches outdoors. Everyone came in safari gear and gin and tonics were consumed in significant quantities. At the time I first got invited to a “toss” Masterpiece Theater was running their fabulous series, The Jewel in the Crown, and a number of us in my crowd anyway were enthralled by it. So, having the opportunity to dress like the cast of that program and drink massive quantities of gin was much appreciated.

So, tis the season to sit in the sunshine and imbibe gin, lightly laced with tonic water and a squeeze of heavenly lime and dream of saris floating in the summer breeze. Enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Meet Artist Edward Rice, C.F.X.

As I've said before, part of the joy of my work is getting to work with talented artists. This web site was recently completed for Edward Rice, C.F.X. who is an artist as well as a religious brother. When he first called me about doing a web site for him we were talking about what URL would be appropriate for his site. He told me he was thinking about “'C'”, he said, “like in 'cat' and 'fx'...” he paused. “Like in 'Francis Xavier',” I asked. Hey, I was a Catholic school kid, too.

And so began our working together. Brother Ed's work is beautiful in soft, dreamy colors. He paints florals and stilllifes but I especially love his garden scenes. It took us awhile to hit on the right background to best compliment his work but finally we selected a soft, slightly gray-ish green --- a color that seems to be present in many of his paintings.

Brother Ed is a quiet, soft-spoken man who preferred a simple, clean layout for his pages and galleries. His home page features a small slide show representing the various subject matter he prefers. Inside he chose to have a bio page, a list of galleries where his work can be viewed and purchased, a page to announce upcoming events and contact info. And, of course, the gallery pages of his beautiful work.

So I hope you'll take the time to visit his site and enjoy his paintings, they are lovely. It was a pleasure working with this talented artist and I look forward to expanding his galleries as he sends me more pictures to add. Thank you, Brother Ed.

Thanks for reading.