Friday, August 22, 2008

I love goodies!

This has been an exhausting week. It always takes me a couple of weeks to readjust my habits for the school year. I've been coming home and pooping out on the couch every evening for the most part, though I did work on my denim skirt a little bit last night.

Wednesday I came home to a package of goodies! My Caffeine Swap package came. My pal was Linda who spoiled me rotten! For those who aren't familiar with what I'm talking about, a swap is like a secret pal except that you send only one package of goodies and you reveal your identity with it. This swap was specifically for caffeine addicted knitters! Your package had to include either coffee or tea, yarn, stitch markers, and something small that was hand knit. Of course one can always add extras, which my pal did!
First we have the coffee and tea--Tully's Evergreen blend coffee and Cool Dragon White Tea--loose leaves with fruit bits which smells wickedly good!
Next there were Seattle's Best Chocolate truffles and chocolate Biscotti bites!
Next was a Raspberry Tea Chocolate Bar and two skeins of Malabrigo Merino Silk in a lovely variegated green. This yarn is wonderfully soft and I hope to make a scarf with it.
But wait! There's more! My pal made the cutest kitty stitch markers! I know I'll be using them on my next top down raglan!
My pal also knit 4 catnip mice for my furry babies. Greg was the first to smell the catnip and he followed me upstairs where I opened the package. I had to hide the mice because he wouldn't leave them alone. I guess the catnip scent stayed on the tissue paper because he started playing with that and getting rather silly. After I photographed my goodies, I gave him the ziploc bag with the mice and I let him pick out the one he wanted before going downstairs to give the other kitties their suprises!

Thank you again Linda! You are the best! I am truly spoiled!

Bushism of the day:
"You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror." --George W. Bush, interview with CBS News' Katie Couric, Sept. 6, 2006

Kitty Cam: Mikey and Harley get their catnip mice!

Monday, August 18, 2008


As they say--All good things must come to an end. Tomorrow is my first day back at school full time. Ugh! Don't get me wrong. I love what I do. I just hate getting up at 6 a.m.! I will never be an early morning riser. It just goes against my circadian rhythm.
I love the easy pace of summer. My school year is extremely scheduled and fast paced. It is a very stark contrast to summer. The first week back is comprised of room set up, planning and a lot of meetings--in fact, if you asked anyone, they would say that there are too many meetings. When the powers that be want to see test scores rise, then the assumption is that teachers need more training in order to make that happen. When you've been teaching as long as I have, these training sessions become rather redundant as more than likely, you've sat through similar ones before.

My last weekend was spent running errands and sewing. I did finish my two yoga tops. Both are made from the same Kwik Sew pattern out of cotton/spandex. The leopard one has black stretch lace trim and the fabric is cut away behind the lace. I'm quite pleased with both of them.

I love Kwik Sew patterns for knits. The major pattern companies design their knit patterns just like their others. Kwik Sew and Stretch & Sew patterns are designed differently. They use 1/4 inch seam allowances and their construction methods are different than those used for woven fabrics. The patterns from both of these companies are usually very quick in their construction and they fit the way knit garments are meant to fit.

I also cut out a denim skirt and my brocade jacket. The jacket was time consuming as it had quite a few pieces plus lining and interfacing. I was delighted today to receive the buttons I ordered from the Button Shoppe. I called them on Friday to order the buttons and I got them today! Now that's what I call fast--particularly when you consider that they came from California! I can't begin to tell you how beautiful these buttons are. They are pressed black glass with a green/gold aura or luster on them. Aura coatings change color depending on how the light hits them. You can sort of see this in the first photo. The second photo shows a button with the brocade and the satin that will be used for the bound buttonholes.

I'll be able to start this jacket this week. I had to wait for the buttons as bound buttonholes must be done before the jacket is fully constructed.

Product Review
A few weeks ago I purchased some Black & Decker cordless power scissors. I had found that my Dritz scissors were no longer holding a charge. I had gotten the Dritz scissors 5 years ago before I had surgery on my right hand. I liked them, but I felt that they were difficult to control and I didn't use them on lightweight fabrics. I also couldn't cut precise shapes with them. When cutting the pattern notches (which I cut outward), I would cut around them, then I would go back with regular scissors to cut out the notch. I got frustrated recently with this and with the fact that I had to use them with the power cord which was cumbersome so I started looking at consumer reviews for the Black & Decker ones--all of which were very positive. The first thing that impressed me was the price! The Dritz scissors were $69. The Black & Decker range from $15 - $25. Can't beat that. The cheaper ones are a basic model with one all purpose cutting blade. They are not particularly suitable for fabric, but they seem to be what is available in the local stores like Target, Walmart and Home Depot. The more expensive model has an additional fabric cutting blade with a flat shoe, which is a necessity, and a table clamp which is something I probably will never use. These scissors hold a charge for quite a long time. They have an ergonomic design which feels good in the hand. What surprised me was how controllable these scissors were. I was able to cut all my pattern pieces with outward notches without a hitch! I cut my denim skirt, my brocade jacket, interfacing and china silk lining!

If you are a sewer who hates cutting things out like I do, I highly recommend purchasing these scissors. Make sure that you get the ones with the extra fabric cutting blade. I found mine brand new on Ebay.

Well, I guess I better attempt to go to bed before midnight! 6 a.m. will come way too soon!

Bushism of the day:
"Trying to stop suiciders -- which we're doing a pretty good job of on occasion -- is difficult to do. And what the Iraqis are going to have to eventually do is convince those who are conducting suiciders who are not inspired by Al Qaeda, for example, to realize there's a peaceful tomorrow." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., May 24, 2006

Kitty Cam: Greg knows how to spend a summer afternoon.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Picky, picky!

Hello, my name is Vicki and I'm a fiber snob. Yup, it's true! My knitting friends already know this. However, it is in the sewing department where this trait becomes a real problem. The reason is that there are just no good fabric stores in my area which surprises me. The entire Washington, DC - Baltimore area has only 2 real fabric stores where one can purchase fine dressmaker fabrics and certain staple items. We have become taken over by JoAnn's. Now, don't get me wrong--JoAnn's is fine for what it is--predominantly a craft store with some low cost fabric--but you just cannot get anything of real quality there except synthetics, certain cottons like denim and corduroy and some basic notions. This presents a huge problem for someone like me who mainly sews with 100% wools, linens, silks and imported cottons. It is also a problem when I need something in a pinch for a project I'm working on. For example--I was gathering stuff for a wool coat and I realized that I needed interfacing and shoulder pads--two very basic components of any tailored garment--so I went to JoAnn's. I was stunned to find out that they carry no hair canvas interfacing and only foam shoulder pads. Hair canvas is a given in a wool tailored jacket or coat. So I went home empty handed. G Street Fabrics is just too far to go for a quick run. It is about 25 miles away and situated in an area with some of the worst traffic gridlock. I went there anyway. They have everything and anything year round--designer fabrics and evening wear, wools, 3 weights of linen in about 40 colors, silks, every imaginable notion etc. etc. There is no store like G Street and when I go there, I have to plan to spend some time. Not necessarily to buy, but to just walk around and touch stuff and to oogle at the beaded evening wear fabrics which cost hundreds of dollars a yard. It is a truly sensual experience.

Why am I writing about this? Well, let me tell you about a new project and you will understand. First of all, we have a HUGE JoAnn's and I went there for a couple of craft items and I found myself perusing the pattern books. I purchased 3 McCall's patterns:

I decided that I wanted to make View A (the red one) of the third pattern pictured. I had seen similar jackets like this made from textured cotton pique so I decided to look for a fabric like that. There was absolutely nothing of the kind. I decided to browse and found a gorgeous Asian Brocade which I thought would make a spectacular version of this jacket. It would be dressy, but I thought it would look nice with dress jeans and the gold silk top I have. The colors aren't true in the photo. The background is dark olive and the embroidery is bronze and a greenish gold.

I don't typically buy polyester stuff, but I thought that since this was on sale for $6 a yard, it would be a quick and dirty little project that I could knock off in a couple of days. This was clearly not to be. First off, I needed lining. JoAnn's only has white, black, beige, navy and red Bemberg Rayon lining. Bummer. I detest polyester linings and refuse to use them. Bemberg rayon feels like silk against the skin and it is more durable than silk. Of course G Street has it in about 30 colors. Next--buttons! Again--no luck. This fabric calls for a nice button. A plain metal or plastic button looks completely out of place on this fabric. It needs an ornate metal or pressed glass button. The pattern calls for 1 3/8 inch buttons which limits the choices even more! There were plenty of small appropriate buttons, but none in this size range!

The next day, I decided to visit Blanks--a long time Baltimore fabric store. I found their website to check their hours and was totally thrilled to see that they had moved to Columbia--about 3 miles away! I went there only to find that they had gotten out of the dressmaker fabric business and only deal with interior design fabric. The owner said that it was too hard to compete with JoAnn's on price and there were all types of issues with things being made in China. He recommended I go to A Fabric Place in north Baltimore. So I did. I had never been there. It is a nice little boutique type store with mostly fine fabrics. I was delighted to find out about it. It can't compare to G Street in size and volume, but it is a nice option. I was able to find a China Silk lining in a bronze color to go with the brocade and a piece of light yellow green satin to use on the bound buttonholes. Still--I had no buttons.

I searched buttons online and found a lovely ventdor called The Button Shoppe where I found these:

WoW! Just what I had been looking for! 1 3/8 inch Czech glass with a gold aura. I called and ordered 5 of them. I'm hoping they match--it is so hard to tell with online photos. The funny thing is that the buttons, which were $8 each, cost more than the fabric and lining combined. So it goes. My quick and dirty, cheap little project turned into another major ordeal. They say that the devil is in the details and it is these details which distinguish a finely crafted garment from a homemade one.

Picky, Picky!

A bit of nostalgia

Not a project this time--just a photo! This photo was taken a couple of years ago when Ems lived in Pittsburgh. Bird went over for her birthday party. It's rare to catch them together these days!

Ems is moving back to the Burgh on Labor Day weekend. This suits me much more than her previous plan of moving to RI. I love RI but it is just too far. Now we can make weekend trips and see both kids!

Bushism of the day:
"See, the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s**t, and it's over." --George W. Bush, chomping on a dinner roll while talking about the Middle East crisis with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the G8 summit, St. Petersburg, Russia, July 17, 2006

Ooh--naughty, naughty! Almost as bad as when Cheney said "Go f**k yourself!"

Kitty Cam: Mikey (alias Gelly the Belly) takes a nap break in the middle of the floor!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Long time gone!

WoW! I can't believe I've gone such a long time without a post! Things have been a little hectic around here. My cousin and her too kids came for their annual summer visit, so my regular routines were totally out of whack for the last week! I also had to work on Monday. This is my last week of freedom. Next Tuesday it will be back to school for the year! I have to try to adjust to the early mornings again so I am going to try to go to bed by midnight from now on.

First of all, DH and I have been working on some minor home improvements. Here is our latest:
We installed this Hunter remote control fan ourselves in the family room two nights ago. We are desperately trying to take measures to conserve energy. Our electric costs have increased 80% in the last year and we have oil heat. I was hearing on the news today that heating oil will be 30% higher than last year and we paid way too much last year as it is! We have also been putting Gila Platinum window film on our back windows. The back of our house gets the late afternoon sun and it makes it at least 10 or 15 degrees hotter than the rest of the house. The film adds a very slight tint and it actually keeps the windows cool to the touch. It is supposed to help trap heat in the house during the cold months. At night, it becomes reflective and you cannot see out of the window easily. Harley has been seeing his reflection in the French door and freaking out, thinking it is another cat! It's been amusing to watch him!

I got another package from my Secret Pal! Check this out:

What karma! I was just getting ready to order that book in the KnitPicks sale! Needless to say, I absolutely love the kitty markers! Thanks again, Secret Pal! You truly know how to spoil me!

I finished my other red top:

It's just like the sleeveless one except for the long belled sleeves. I probably should have made a size smaller as I feel it is a little big in the shoulder area. The fabric is cotton spandex so there is a lot of stretch. I could definitely use more negative ease, but I still like it. I raised the neckline just a little more since I will wear this to school.

I pulled out some cotton spandex prints I bought last year to make two more tops:

Both of them will be sleeveless. I would like to find some black stretch lace trim for the leopard one. I like tops like this to wear to school with a shrug or jacket on the days I have yoga. All I have to do is change into my yoga pants before I leave then I can just walk into yoga and kick off my shoes!

My order from Webs came. I bought Tahki Sierra for the Surplice Camisole from Knitting Lingerie Style which I'm knitting for the Sexy Knitters Club KAL.

Sierra is 70% silk and 30% linen and it has a tweedy appearance. It is a soft wheat color.
I also got some Bristol yarn gallery King George for the Opulent Raglan.

This yarn is a warm chocolate brown and it is 45% merino, 45% alpaca, 10% cashmere. Like buttah!

I also bought the pattern for the Silken Scabbard. I'm thinking that I might use KnitPicks Elegance for it. There are two colors that I love--one is a peacock blue and the other, called Raisin, is a deep deep purple!

My friend Barbara came over today and we went out to lunch. She is my sewing buddy! We used to skip the end of the year staff party and spend the afternoon at G-Street's annual sale. Sometimes we get together and play with dying wool batts or overdye fabric--or whatever! Anyway, she was clearing out some stash and brought over a lot of wool fabric. Most of it was gray or plaid in colors that I don't wear. I did take two though. The first is a brushed white coating. It is just like the gold fabric I have to make my 3/4 winter coat. There are 6 yards! I need a dressy winter coat that I can wear over my midcalf dresses. I have two that I really can't or don't wear. One is a great coat I made in the late 80's, but it has huge shoulders and looks very dated. It is the warmest coat I have ever worn. The other is a spectacular vintage coat by Lilli Ann from the 40's. It is absolutely stunning with all those details I love about coats and jackets from that era. After gaining a few pounds, I simply cannot button the front as it has a 26 inch waist! Try wearing that over winter clothes! With 6 yards of this wool:

I want to design something with vintage lines but with some very unique details. I don't know what, but it will come to me when I'm not trying. This is why I don't buy stash fabrics. I just don't know what to do with them. I usually pick a pattern then look for fabric. When I see the right fabric, I immediately know it. If there's doubt then it isn't the right one. I'm the same way with yarn. I also chose another piece which is a lighter weight butter yellow woolen.
I have no clue what I want to do with that. I will probably do a suit or a winter coat dress with vintage styling. I'll know when I see the right pattern. There are about 5 yards of this.

I think I am pretty much caught up on my projects! That's it for now!

A bit of nostalgia

The lovely white coating I got today inspired me to show off one of the coats I made some years ago. This coat has always been one of my favorites. Unfortunately it is dated with the huge shoulder pads and boxy shape. It was a stunner when I wore it. It was made in 1991 from Fire Engine Red Boiled Wool. I wanted one single design element to be repeated in various parts of the coat. I chose triangles to be the theme. The coat was titled "Isosceles" with the name being embroidered on a suede label with the year and the fiber content. The buttons were isosceles triangles and the button holes and welt pockets were scalene triangles. Wherever there was an isosceles triangle, there was an adjacent scalene triangle. One would be black and one white. The triangular bound buttonholes and the welt pockets were done in lightweight ultra suede as were the triangle patches. The pattern was a Burda pattern and I designed the cuff as the pattern only had plain sleeves. I'm sorry that it isn't at it's best. It needs to be cleaned as the white suede is particularly dirty. I used to get a lot of comments on this coat as the triangular pockets and buttonholes were quite unique!

Buttonholes and buttons:
Welt pocket:
Back slit:

Bushism of the day:
"One thing is clear, is relations between America and Russia are good, and they're important that they be good." --George W. Bush, Strelna, Russia, July 15, 2006

Kitty Cam: The tiny tuxedo twins have the right idea for how to use a treadmill!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Secret Pal 12 Question #8

I'm a little behind here: Secret Pal question #8:
What is your favorite supper for a hot summer evening?

Being from Maryland, my favorite summer recipe is Maryland Crab Cakes. The link will take you to a recipe for them that was on Martha Stewart. These are wicked good and authentic Maryland style crab cakes. Of course it takes Maryland blue crabs to really make a Maryland Crab Cake, but not everyone is lucky enough to have access to those. Maryland Crab Cakes are traditionally served with sides of French fries and cole slaw, topped off with a pitcher of beer. I haven't made any this summer. I think I will have to do that before I go back to school. When it is really hot, I like salads so that I don't have to heat up the stove.

*Edit* My darling son who is currently living in Pittsburgh, left a comment as to how crabcakes should be eaten: "Not any beer will do. It must be a s---ton of Natty Boh (National Bohemian). Eating crabcakes with out Natty Boh is like eating a Primanti's without a cold Iron City. Its just not right."

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Home again!

This is a brief post. I got home Monday 7/28 in the evening. I have photos from Boston and other stuff to share which I will do over the week. DH flew in to Providence last Friday and we spent the weekend doing some sightseeing before heading home on Monday. Boston is the one place that I am always sad to leave. It's weird. I only visited MA once as a small child and I started going there 7 years ago to do research. For whatever reason, I feel like I belong there. If I could pick up my life--family, job etc.--and move it there, I would. The thing that strikes me odd though is that I am still a Marylander--specifically one from the DC suburbs. Even if we ended up in Boston after retirement, I could never say that I am a Bostonian. Those words just cannot pass my lips. I find the same to be true about my current place of residence. We live closer to Baltimore, but when people ask, I tell them I'm from DC. It's where I grew up and it is a major part of who I am.

I am always very pensive when roaming around Boston. There's something sobering about roaming the places where our American Independence was born. I often wonder what our founding fathers would have to say about the current political climate in our country and our current administration. I found a quote from Ben Franklin that said:"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." How do you think Ben would feel about the Patriot Act?

My family research resulted in more puzzles to be solved so I am heading to DC to work in the DAR library today. I leave you with some photos from the Granary Burying Ground, one of the first stops on the Freedom trail. I always take a stroll through it to visit some old friends.

The cememtary is wedged between a church and several apartment buildings across the street from Boston Common.

Boston Massacre victims:
John Hancock:
Paul Revere:
Samuel Adams:
Ben Franklin's Parents:
And I cannot forget Mother Goose!

Bushism of the Day:
"I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me." --George W. Bush, talking to key Republicans about Iraq, as quoted by Bob Woodward

Kitty Cam: Harley does the cow in the sun!