Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fun with felting

At last I've completed a sewing project worth reviewing and blogging about.  It actually started way back in October when I went through my fabric stash and unearthed a couple of wool jersey pieces way down at the bottom.  They probably date from the 1980s because I was quite fond of wool jersey dresses back then.  I have since more or less sworn off wool of any kind because of moths here in Texas (and probably also here in our very accessible old house).  These two pieces were nibbled on, especially along the outward facing fold, and since they were unusable as so, I decided to felt them, something I had long been wanting to try. 

Vogue 8430I found three articles on felting wool jersey in my archive of Threads magazines, and after a little experimenting with some scraps, I plopped the first piece into a washer full of hot water and then into a hot dryer with satisfactory results.  The articles suggested repeating the process three times, but even one time left me with such a reduced piece of fabric that I stopped there.  Unfortunately there was not enough for this Marcy Tilton jacket (for which felted jersey is one of the recommended fabrics).  The second piece was longer and by dint of careful placement of the pattern pieces I was able to use it.  It also helped that there are no hems or facings on this jacket.  All those outer edges are simply cut and left raw since felted jersey doesn't ravel.  I'm not a raw-edge sort of sewer, but after trying various stitching effects on the edges, I had to conclude that they looked better left alone.

As always, I made a muslin for the jacket which led me to make a couple of crucial fitting changes.  (For details, see my review on Pattern Review.)  The result is a jacket that I'm really pleased with.   The felted jersey was easy to sew, if a bit bulky.  Of course, it wasn't the three-hour wonder that other reviewers had boasted about.  I think I'm constitutionally incapable of making something quickly.  And, of course, I couldn't just leave it plain.  When I showed it to Mr C, he asked "what are those lines all over it?"  Those, I explained, are embellishment.

That first shorter piece of jersey is still laying on my cutting table, silently challenging me to come up with an idea for turning it into another jacket. I just hope I'll get it done before winter here is over.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Illustration Friday - Secret

After congratulating myself in January for having attained my 2012 goal of doing one Illustration Friday per month, I didn't keep up this year.  And I managed this one only by a fluke, because I had given up on it yesterday when I should have had it finished in order to link it to IF.  But when I went to the IF website today to see what the new topic was, it had not yet been changed. So I worked on this a bit more until I was somewhat satisfied with it.  Only somewhat.  Sometimes things come together and sometimes they don't.

Monday, November 4, 2013

White birds at White Rock

 A spin around White Rock Lake on our bicycles always includes a stop at Sunset Bay where a variety of water fowl hang out on the mud flats and fallen tree limbs.  What a surprise to discover a lone elegant white swan!  From what I could find out it is a Mute Swan and has been at the lake for several months, but no one knows how it came to be there. The American White Pelicans are also here to spend the winter, providing an ongoing show as they glide around the lake or soar overhead displaying the black tips on their ample wings.  The big birds always seems to be escorted by a flotilla of amusing little coots.  If you'd like to see some really fine photos others have taken of the pelicans and various White Rock Lake birds, click here and here.  Such a treasure we have in this lovely lake right in the heart of East Dallas!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Drama in my life

A whole month and more has gone by without my writing a single post here on my blog.  It wasn't that I had nothing of interest to blog about, but rather that I hadn't enough time to blog because of too many interesting things. Foremost among them has been a new acting class at the Skillman Southwestern branch library.  My first foray (in my entire life) into acting was back in February with a class focusing on Shakespeare taught by Hassan El-Amin of the Dallas Theater Center.  Fourteen very diverse "senior" individuals came together, learned, laughed, and participated in what all agreed was a very enriching experience.  So much so that most of us were unwilling to simply bid adieu and close the door on this new activity.  So we organized ourselves and chose a new project: Spoon River by Edgar Lee Masters.

Now, Spoon River may ring some distant bell for those of you around my age, because I remember bits of it being included in high school English literature anthologies.  It consists of a hundred-plus free verse monologue-poems spoken by the dead of the fictive town of Spoon River.  First published in 1915, it has been adapted to be performed many times over the decades. There's even been one with William Shatner!  To tell the truth, after I started reading through it, I thought it was just too depressing, as Masters was generally critical of small-town life and the people therein.  Plus the 19th century was not all that kind to women, which is amply reflected in these poem portraits.  But, as we chose the characters we wanted to include and honed our interpretation of them, my appreciation of Spoon River grew. There's actually quite a bit of humor in many of them, and there are some lyrical, upbeat ones as well.  We selected it at the end of March, met every other week from April through June, and gave our first performance at the Skillman Southwestern library at the end of June, then another performance at a large senior community at the end of August.  It was totally DIY, in what we chose and how we presented it, including props by one of the members and a program and signage by me.  Mr. C has, of course, been obligated to attend, but this is something I would invite others to see without fear of embarrassment.  And, in fact, we are hoping to present this again at other venues in the future.

In the meantime, right after our last performance, we began a new acting class at the Skillman Southwestern library.  Debbie Rubin, the manager of the library, worked tirelessly to have the Dallas Theater Center supply us with another teacher.  Who turned out to be Michael Schraeder, an actor and drama professor with an impressive resume.  Actually, Mike had some big shoes to fill, because Hassan had wowed us all, but it was very  beneficial to have someone new with a different methodology, especially since for some of us, this was only our second acting class ever.  And this time, instead of choosing something to present, Mike wanted us to write our own short scripts with one or two characters. Oh!  Some in the class wanted to, some didn't, and others, including myself, didn't think we had enough time to do this with any degree of proficiency.  In fact, I was under the impression that the script I wrote was just for a class exercise, which was perhaps all to the good as I would have rewritten and fussed and worried over it far too much otherwise.  I hadn't had any problem learning the monologs by heart, but I discovered it was another matter to learn lines (and deliver them convincingly) when there were other people and their lines involved. Right until the last moment, people were still clutching their scripts and reading their parts.  But, amazingly, the actual performance went off with barely a hitch.  Mr. C professed himself well entertained, saying it was much better than he expected from what I had told him.

We, now called The Skillman Players, owe many thanks to the Skillman Southwestern Library Friends who have graciously sponsored our acting classes, printed up our posters and programs, and provided refreshments at our library performances.  Not to mention being our enthusiastic audience.  So it seems that we, The Skillman Players, are now an established entity.  We're not sure what we'll do next, but after all this, we simply can't not continue. To tell the truth, I've discovered that I really have no desire to be actor, but, on the other hand, I'm enjoying this tremendously.  As one of the other members said to me one day, "I had a bad morning, I've had a bad day, but I come here and forget all of that completely."  

It has been time consuming, and I'm glad to have a little hiatus, so I can dabble in dyeing again and get some sewing done among other things.  But I'm sure I'll soon be ready for some more drama in my life.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

More knit top necklines

I sewed for many, many years, making anything and everything from coats for myself to a sports jacket for Mr. C. But always I made what was on the pattern envelope.  Exactly.  After all, there are so many enticing patterns, and pairing a wonderful fabric to the right one seemed like choice enough.  I still can't keep myself from buying more patterns that I can ever hope to sew, but at the same time I've learned to take liberties with the designs, most especially where knit tops are concerned. 

Simplicity 4076
Once you have a knit top body that fits you, one that you find comfortable and flattering, it's easy to create different looks just by changing the neckline.  My TNT (tried-and-true) knit top body began as Simplicity  4076 which I refined with my usual alternations: narrower in the shoulders and back, wider in the hips.  I've made the surplice version, changed it to an above-the-bust surplice style; made the view with the gathers in the front, then raised the neckline slightly on subsequent versions.  And then I started looking around for other interesting neckline detailing to put more variation into my wardrobe of knit tops.

Last year I did a short post on knit top necklines, but here I'd like to show you in more detail exactly how I graft other necklines onto an existing pattern.  Keep in mind that I've taken no pattern drafting classes or the like, so this is a somewhat trial-and-error method.  But, with a little (or to be honest, a lot) of patience and some experimentation, you should be able to achieve satisfactory results.

Monday, August 26, 2013

My Etsy shop is open!

I know I must have an entrepreneurial gene.  It sent me around our neighborhood when I was kid selling greeting cards and such and made me consider trying to earn some money sewing when I was first married, but it has mostly lain dormant.  It showed some signs of life in the late 90s when I glazed and stenciled a whole bunch of flower pots and had a booth one year during the Munger Place home tour, at the end of which I stashed the remaining pots in a cabinet along with all the lovely little business cards I made. (The pots have made handy occasional gifts over the years.)  When my friend Linda and I go to art festivals every year we always fantasize about being one of those vendors, selling our creations to the eager throngs. But, frankly, I know I couldn't take sitting there smiling stiffly and making small talk with those throngs for hours on end.  So...what about an online shop?

I've been eyeing Etsy ever since I discovered it, considering what I might make and sell.  Printed and dyed scarves?  Something digital?  Or how about those mini crossbody bags that I made for myself recently?   Possibilities I still might pursue.  But what I am now actually offering in my Etsy shop is vintage: clothes, shoes and sewing patterns.  To be specific, my own clothes, shoes and sewing patterns.

I named my shop All of My Yesterdays because this is my past in silk, cotton, linen, and, yes, in polyester.  This is my coming-of-age in mini-dresses and maxi-dresses, and my career years in a whole range of outfits.  Lots of mauves and roses and lavenders and a predilection toward the feminine.  (Well, I was a woman who came home, donned overalls and stripped paint off of woodwork and knocked down old plaster walls.)  I started out sewing Vogue patterns back when I was young and impoverished, and I kept on sewing even when I worked in department stores and had both the means and the daily opportunity (not to mention the employee discount) to buy ready-made.

So, indeed, I had a lot of clothes.  And shoes.  And sewing patterns.  That is, I still have them, or a good many of them because a large old house has a nice large attic. And then they went to a storage unit.  But now they've come home, and they're filling my dining room and a good portion of a spare bedroom.  I decided that I no longer needed to hold on to this tangible part of my past, keeping them forever packed away.  But neither could I bring myself to simply haul them off and donate them, knowing they would be just more anonymous garments squeezed on racks and pawed over indiscriminately. How sad would they be!  (Okay, I tend to anthropomorphize my possessions a bit.)

Thus an Etsy shop seemed just the solution.  I would get to try my hand at selling something (with all the work done comfortably at home), and my retro wardrobe would have a chance to find its way to happy new wearers.  I hope.  I only opened my shop yesterday, and I'm not waiting for my first sale with bated breath.  Whatever happens, the whole experience of setting up the shop has been interesting.  And labor intensive, but, then, I do tend to do things thoroughly.  Beyond the major tasks of prepping the garments and photographing them, there are also details like shipping and payments to become informed about.  Etsy has reams of info on all the things to take into consideration when writing, for example, your profile, your policies, your About page, etc.  It can be both instructive and overwhelming.  On the daily Etsy Finds email where they frequently feature a shop, a woman said that she opened her shop on a whim one afternoon when her son was staying home sick from school.  Huh?!

Anyway, I'm giving it a try.  So far I only have ten garments listed which seems paltry for the amount of time I've put into it, but I'm now over that doing-something-new-getting-it-right stage, so I think things will go more smoothly and quickly, or so I hope.  At this point I'd need to be charging a couple of hundred dollars or more per garment if I wanted to be justly compensated for my time.  There were certainly a few occasions when I seriously questioned my decision to do this. But once begun, I felt I had to see it through. And I have enjoyed revisiting my wardrobe: examining, cleaning, pressing, photographing and writing about each garment.  Remembering when I wore it, who I was then.   

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Illustration Friday - Fresh

 I found this charming school girl in stockvault's free photos, and I thought she looked like the essence of fresh in her pristine white blouse.  She has her fresh, new notebook open, ready to write down what she is learning. (Perhaps a French lesson, and she is dreaming of the day when she will go to Paris.)  You can see the original photo on this stockvault link; I made a few changes, removing an item at the edge of the desk and most of print from the book, plus another ornament that was in her hair.  Then I made several copies on which I used different filters, blend modes and masks to arrive at the image you see here; I also changed the color of her jumper from black to dark blue and added the edge of the paper that overhangs the desk.

For the background, I used an abstract golden background I had previously made, on top of which I layered several photos of foliage in various blend modes simply to add texture and color and complexity.  The final step was the daisies (fresh as a daisy!) which I cut out from a photo from stock.xchng.

I never know what I will eventually think about each illustration I do until some time has passed and I can look at it more objectively.  When I have just finished one, I am usually somewhat amazed at what has taken shape from this combination of assorted elements, and there are always certain details that I am especially pleased with, that seem just right. So it is with this, and I hope it gives you a moment of enjoyment to view, as it gave me much enjoyment to make.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Graphics Fairy Brag Monday - Indochine


The central image came from the wondrous website of the Graphics Fairy, a veritable trove of vintage photos and art, all absolutely free. On Mondays participants can show off the many ways they have used those images in their creations, on everything from digital works like mine to pieces of furniture.  Very inspirational, so be sure to take a look.

On the photo I used, the words Indochine Francaise can be seen on the postage stamp, and Saigon is the first word penned at the top.  The date, 1906, can also be seen.  Something about the image just appealed to me, and without any concept in mind, I chose it as my starting point. Originally I composed it for a birthday greeting; this is a slightly altered version.  For those of you who may be interested in some general how-I-did-this comments, read on.  For everyone else, thanks for stopping by to have a look. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Money, money, money

We examined it, we read about it, we even got a little bag of it, the equivalent of about 40 bills of mixed denominations - alas, all shredded.  These little souvenir bags of worn-out money were being given away at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas first open house on Thursday.   And what a interesting and informative event it was!  The staff in this highly secure place and the numerous policemen could not have been more welcoming and  pleasant; there was even a table with an array of cookies and other treats.  Mr C said that Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernake has been concerned about public relations and trying various avenues to help the public understand exactly what the Federal Reserve does, so maybe that accounts for the all-out hospitality.  But whatever the reason, it certainly made for an enjoyable experience. 
 The Dallas Fed is a striking contemporary complex built in 1992.  From the corner of the visitors' hall, you can look across Klyde Warren Park to the Arts District.


 Here are various displays, some interactive, on the regional economy, historical currency and the history of banking in the United States, explanations of how the Federal Reserve works and more.  This is a scale used by the Dallas Fed to weigh gold shipments that were used by many national banks to purchase their initials shares of capital stock in the Federal Reserve.

For the open house, there were also displays from the Bureau of Printing and Engraving in Fort Worth, the only place in this country outside of Washington, D.C. where paper currency is made.  (Did you know that?  I certainly didn't.)  Tables manned by craftsmen - Intaglio engravers, platemakers and photoengravers -  who actually do the work featured examples of the several processes that go into printing the new $100 bill that will be released in October.

We also attended a terrific presentation from Charlene Williams, associate director of the BEP's Western Currency Facility in Fort Worth (who obviously loves her job), on the history of the BEP, the money production process and the security features in U.S. paper currency.  There we learned that the BEP, which has regularly scheduled visitor hours, will also have special craft demonstrations during the last full week of July, so we are planning on going to that.  And we discovered there are regular visitor hours to see the Economy in Action permanent exhibits here at the Dallas Fed, well worth doing even without the added attractions that were part of the open house.  Indeed, a good way to pass some time in air-conditioned comfort during summer's 100-degree days while learning some fascinating facts about money, money, money.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Up White Rock Creek

White Rock Lake is a magnet for walkers and runners and cyclists, not to mention folks just enjoying being out by the water.  And on the water are usually some rowers and kayakers and perhaps a sailboat or two.  But enter White Rock Creek, that slightly mysterious wooded mouth at the north end of the lake, and the urban world slips away.  Or so it seems, although in the course of our one and a half mile journey up the creek this morning, we passed under a bridge thundering with rush-hour traffic and just beyond that to one side was manicured parkland.  Still, it's easy to imagine being in some secluded wilderness.  Well, okay, you do have to overlook the odd floating bottle or plastic bag draped over some tree roots; sadly it's not pristine.  Each time we've been there, we've talked about how, with some attention, this could be the kind of jewel that White Rock Lake has become.  But then, I guess it wouldn't offer this illusion of being remote and secret.

Our craft?  The noble Sea fits in the trunk of the car and inflates in less than 15 minutes.  (Pumping it up is great exercise for the legs!)  Mr. C. bought it four years ago; in addition to rowing about on White Rock Lake, we've taken it to Broken Bow, Oklahoma where we had an idyllic day on the lower Mountain Fork River.  And it's ferried us about the truly mysterious recesses of Cado Lake in East Texas with its moss-dripping cypresses and expanses of lotus.  The first time we rowed up White Rock Creek, it was an adventure, not knowing exactly where it went.  We had to portage around a huge fallen tree that required scrambling up and down a high and very muddy bank. And, curious to know what lay beyound each bend, we continued much farther up the creek where the snags (and the trash) became thicker.  Then one of those snags snagged us!  A few minutes of panic as a section of the bottom deflated, but we were able to make it back, all tired, hot, wet and muddy.  Mr. C said he had a great time.

Today was not, fortunately, as "adventurous," but it was a very pleasant way to begin the day.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A little purse for Linda

Let's see...I've dyed and stenciled a t-shirt for my friend Linda (whom I met at my first job out of college).  Another time I made her a linen jacket, also stenciled.  And there was a Christmas when I stenciled and painted a little box for her.  Last Christmas I gave her one of the pair of passion flower scarves I dyed and stenciled.  This year I thought maybe she'd received enough stenciled gifts from me, so instead I made this little appliqued, embroidered and beaded purse for her birthday in June. 

Originally I was simply going to make another of the mini crossbody bags I had sewn for myself this spring.  But I decided to change the design a bit, making it larger, curving the bottom, closing it with a flap and button rather than a zipper.  It measures about 5x7 inches with a 1-inch gusset. The rounded bottom does makes it easier to attach the gusset, rather than having to pivot carefully at the bottom corners as on the earlier bags.  I fused the same firm interfacing I used on those bags to the black linen front and back-and-flap (which were cut as one piece).  The back also has an outside pocket which you really can't see in the photo; I fused a lighter interfacing onto that.  Then I lightly fused pieces of the turquoise and green linen to Pellon Wonder Web, using a non-stick sheet on the other side of the web.  Next, I drew the geometric shapes, outlined them with stitching and cut them out.  I then arranged and fused them to the black linen. 

I had never tried free-motion stitching on my sewing machine before, and it was rather difficult to get the hang of it.  I chalked the stitching pattern I wanted to follow using a Dritz allover stipple stencil that I found in the quilting department.  And I stitched r-e-a-l-l-y slowly.  Then I sewed on some beads here and there because going over the top seems to be in my nature. 

I faced the flap with black linen and lined the purse with some silky light turquoise fabric I had in my scrap collection.  In fact, the only thing I purchased for this project was the button.  Unlike the earlier bags where I sewed the strap directly to the gusset, this time I used D-rings because I wanted the strap to be narrower than the gusset.  The one thing that went awry was that somewhere in the course of the fusing or the stitching, the flap got a little off-kilter; it doesn't show when it's closed, but it's slightly noticeable when it's open.  If I were to do it again, I would definitely thread-trace the seam lines and check to make sure that they were still perfectly straight and parallel after each step.

To be honest, this took a long time to make, and I don't think I'm going to be cranking out any more purses in the near future.  I'm also probably going to be buying Linda a gift come Christmas.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Illustration Friday - Sweet

Actually, this was last week's IF topic.  I missed the deadline, so, officially, I suppose this is an unofficial Illustration Friday entry.  However, I started on it and I was determined to finish it.  What I was aiming for was a digital scrapbook type look, inspired by the accomplished creations of Anja de Dobbelaere.  (And while you're at Pinterest, check out the fabulous posters she's done for Zapparade, a street theater festival in Belgium.)  It seemed so do-able:  start with a photograph or two on some background papers, artistically add some trinkets and other ornamentation on the page, and voilà.  After struggling for far too long with my composition, I came to have a new appreciation of that voilà. Of course, I did probably increase the level of difficulty by trying to create my own digital scrap (new lingo!), scanning in assorted objects such as the lace edging and the buttons you see here, as well as others that I ultimately rejected. The "papers" are from Lost and Taken, a great site for free textures. The roses on top of those are one of my photos, filtered and masked. The daisy-type flowers are also cut out from one of my photos. The calligraphic frames are from a Dover book of Photoshop brushes. And the butterfly is from my old and much-used Click Art collection. Finally I decided it was done, done enough, acceptable, time to move on.


The photographs are from a set of four that hung on the wall in my mother's bedroom.  They are of me, an only child, dated the year after my birth.  Did my mother put the newspaper clipping in front of one of them when they were first framed or she find it and tuck it there later?  And did she cling to the sentiments it expresses through all the years of our often-extreme mother-daughter conflicts, or did she wonder what ever could have happened to that sweet child she once had?  I was, as in the clipping, a daddy's girl, but despite all the differences between my mother and myself, I am sure she did indeed do her best for me.  I thank her for my love of nature and gardening, for teaching me to sew, for showing me the pleasures of reading, as well as for other, more intangible qualities that have helped me through life.  I think of this composition not as being about me, but rather as a tribute to my parents, and especially to my mother, who gave me as good a start in life as any child could ask for.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Illustration Friday - Wild

About the only thing remaining from my original concept for this topic are the tigers. I intended for it to have a stylized, naive look, à la Henri Rousseau, but instead I've ended up with this extremely layered and busy composition. Last night I was on the verge of jettisoning it, but after viewing it afresh this morning, I decided that a bit more work and some additional layers would make it acceptable to add to my Illustration Friday oeuvre.

Except for three layers of Fly Paper textures, all of the elements are from stock.xchng. The tigers and crane were removed from three separate photos. The background consists of a photo with the pond on the left and another with the rocks on the right, plus one with trees at the top. Then there are a variety of ferns from three more photos. All put together with assorted blend modes and filters and masks, in Photoshop, of course. Is it believable? Does it work? Hmmm...   I always seem to end up in the "more is more" camp.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring in the city

Lee Park was April-perfect – all glorious greens, frothy white dogwoods and brilliant azaleas – on our stroll Friday afternoon. Dallas at its springtime best.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mini crossbody bags

Where do you put those essentials – cellphone, credit card, a bit of cash, keys, comb, maybe a lip balm – when you don't want to carry a handbag?  Even if you have a pocket or two, it can be a bit bulky and not too secure.  And, sure, there are wristlets and waist purses and probably some other solutions as well. But I wanted something hands-free and that I didn't have to strap around my waist.  Something that could even be decorative while being minimal.  What I came up with are these mini crossbody bags.  If you'd like to make one, keep reading for step-by-step photos and directions.

The prototype was made in a leftover lightweight home dec fabric.  The second used denim recycled from an old pair of jeans and stenciled with a combination of Setacolor and Lumiere fabric paints.  The third, in a green linen-cotton blend, was also stenciled with the same fabric paints.  All are lined with assorted silky lining scraps and have a top zipper.

The first thing is to determine the size you want. I decided on a finished size of 4½" x 5½". Rather than having the two sides merely stitched together, I also wanted a 3/4" gusset connecting the two; the length is 14½ (the two sides plus the bottom), plus at least a couple of extra inches. And because the strap connects directly to the gusset, it needed to be the same width, ¾"; the length of the straps on all three bags varied from 40" to 50". There is also an exterior pocket.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A quick trip to Asia

No airplanes or ocean liners involved.  Just a dozen-mile drive north on Greenville Avenue takes us to the Tian Tian Supermarket which shares a strip with a bevy of assorted Asian restaurants and little shops.  The statuary alone is worth the trip!  After lunch at the Jeng Chi restaurant (where almost everyone was wielding chopsticks), we headed to the treasure trove of the supermarket. There are unusual fruits and vegetables, fish and meats, as well as freshly prepared foods, and I like to peruse them all.  But what really delights me are the jars and cans and packages with their colorful labels and intriguing ingredients.  Flavors of countries and cultures that have traveled across oceans, ready to take the senses on a exotic journey while we're seated at our Texas table.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Illustration Friday - Yesterday

It ws a day of golden sun, the meadow purple with larkspurs. She sat with her sister on the grass, both young and eager and laughing, summer in their hearts.  And all those long years later she could remember that charmed moment as if it were yesterday.
I was inspired by this lovely, evocative photo which I found on Flickr from Robert & Suzanne Pittenger's album, dating from the 1910s on.  A simpler time, although not a gentler one, despite all the smiling faces in these photographs.  But perhaps a more optimistic time.  And I hope these people were as good and kind as most of them appear to be, that their lives were as full and rich as in these brief glimpses. Thanks to Paul-W for making it available via Creative Commons. I used Topaz Simplify filters on one copy of the image, as I also did on one copy of the background image which is one of my own photos. Nothing too complicated here, just several copies of each image with different blend modes, some masking and some color adjustments, all done in Photoshop, of course.  A pleasure to compose.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Trials and Tribulations

It was way back in November when I began on this seemingly simple jacket, and come February, I was beginning to feel like Sisyphus, rolling his rock eternally up the same hill.  Or perhaps a better allusion would Penelope with her endless weaving that she unraveled every night, because I was certainly doing a whole lot of unstitching.  

HP 1031
So, why so much trouble?  You can read my lengthy account of the problems I encountered with my first HotPatterns pattern on Pattern Review.  Only the fact that I so love this beautiful heathered violet and could not bear to waste it, as well as a determination not to be defeated by what I had begun, kept me plugging on.

I finished the jacket about three weeks ago, and my frustrations and irritations have faded.  I have found it to be a great little jacket to toss on and go.  Sometimes it helps to simply distance yourself from the details, especially if you tend to be a perfectionist.  After all, how closely do you examine a bought garment?   How perfectly does it fit you?  You don't know all of its intimate details as you do with a garment you've made, so you tend to be less critical, at least that's my thought. 

As I said, this is the first HotPatterns pattern I sewn, and I'm not ready to rush out and buy another one, although they certainly seem to be have garnered a following, judging from all the reviews on Pattern Review.  A comment by Sew 4 Fun about how "...Hot Patterns seem to draft for a tall, plus-size woman so when the patterns are graded down to the smaller sizes the proportions aren't always 'right'."  reminded me of a session I attended at a sewing show on independent pattern designs. In it Bobbie Bullard talked about how independent patterns are often created by the designer with herself and her proportions in mind.  Thus you'll find the flowing styles that complement tall, willowy women designed by Linda Lee for The Sewing Workshop.  While The Cutting Line patterns designed by Louise Cutting help to camouflage a thicker torso and improve the shoulder line.  By that criteria, it seems that HotPatterns are made to flatter the generous form of designer Trudy Hanson. While this doesn't mean you should eschew patterns by designers who have a very different body type from your own, I think it should alert you to certain aspects of fit and styling to take into consideration when you sew one.

I'm amazed by all the independent pattern companies that are out there now, such as Collette Patterns, Style Arc and Christine Jonson Patterns, to mention just three.   I've only dabbled a bit in independent patterns: Loes Hines Designs, Silhouettes by Peggy Sagers and The Cutting Line Designs. Usually I find just about anything I want from Vogue, as well as from McCall's and Simplicity, but I have a few interesting independent patterns that I'm hoping to get around to one of these days..

Monday, February 25, 2013

Acting on Impulse

Channeling Cleopatra as she mourns Antony's death
 Admit it, all of you who secretly believe that you could have been an actor (or actress, as I also admit to liking the feminine form of the word).  So perhaps it was that tiny, deep-buried germ that brought me early in February to the Exploring Shakespeare class at the Skillman/Southwestern branch of the Dallas Public Library.  A free class for seniors (alas, c'est moi!) meeting for two hours twice a week. Did I want to invest that much time in something so removed from all my other interests?  Did I need something more to do?  I thought I would just go and check it out; I could always choose not to return. 

Hassan with Sharon and Renita
Well, I had so much fun that first session that I couldn't wait to return.  Hassan El-Amin, the instructor, was enthusiastic, encouraging and amusing as he had us all performing warm up exercises, both vocal and physical, then playing interactive games to get us introduced to each other as we mingled.  Indeed, Hassan, who is a member of the Dallas Theater Center's Brierley Resident Acting Company, was key to making this class a success.  I was constantly impressed not only by his acting expertise but also by his teaching skills and his ability to deal innovatively with some of the impediments that a class of individuals who were both older and mostly total acting neophytes sometimes presented.  We also got to see his professional side performing as the Duke of Kent in the Dallas Theater Center's production of King Lear to which we were all given complimentary tickets. Do check out his website, The Dream.

Clockwise from upper left: Melissa, Peter & Mary, Sam, Gary,
Jeanette, and Gordon
The culmination of the class was to be a performance given at the library at the end of the month.  We each chose monologues or short scenes from Shakespeare's plays.  At the first session that I attended, he suggested Katherine's monologue from the final scene of The Taming of the Shrew, and I volunteered for it since no one else did. Then later, after having read Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff, I also decided to do a monologue from Antony and Cleopatra.  It was so interesting to watch the members of the class begin to learn how to perform the piece each had chosen.  There were those who seemed "good" to me right off the bat, but always Hassan gave suggestions that improved their interpretations.  For others who were more reticent, he continued to coax from them more and more emotion and dramatic flair.

And all the while it continued to be – fun!  For myself who spends the better part of my days in solitary pursuits, working on my various projects, this interaction was very refreshing, an invigorating change of pace, as I'm sure it was for others.  At the end there were fourteen of us in the class (but only thirteen for our grand acting debut, as the flu unfortunately had claimed one member).  Was our performance a success?  I can only relate that there was thunderous applause from the
Curtain call
 audience ...mostly composed of our nearest and dearest, of course.  But believe me, we all took it seriously and tried our utmost, while enjoying it thoroughly.  I certainly did.  We even had a little reception with refreshments afterwards where we all beamed and laughed and congratulated each other.  And, most especially, thanked Hassan. 

There's one more class and even another performance at a large senior living complex here.  And after that...well, some of us, including myself, are considering continuing this brave new endeavor in some fashion.

I should also mention that the class was offered by the Dallas Public Library in cooperation with the Dallas Theater Center, and funded by the MetLife Creative Aging Libraries Project.  Thank you all.

The Class and Cast