September 30, 2007

Sewing Dolls, Phase 9

I'm getting bored with these titles; aren't you?  Tomorrow's will be different as I continue to blog the dollmaking process.

These are the backs of doll heads with a slit for the neck to fit into.  The head in the center is the front: unstuffed, light skin toned, faceless for now and temporarily hairless.  I've tried to work with other skin colors, but frankly, lighter skin is easier to paint/draw on.  It's difficult for a non-painter (that'd be me) to create a satisfactory face on deeper hues.

September 29, 2007

Kitty Litter Box, homemade

Rather than spend $35 on a new litter box for our kitty kritters, I made one from a $10 plastic storage bin with a locking cover.  Sorry for the photo (is this like showing a toilet?), but it might be useful, plus it's clean.  I marked a rectangle on the short end about 4" from the bottom to keep litter from spilling out.  I cut the rectangle with a razor blade.  (There must be something better to cut through thick plastic, and I was too stubborn/lazy to go to the hardware store.)  To make a swinging door for the hole, I cut another rectangle from a plastic file folder slightly narrower than the hole, and 3/4" longer.  Using heavy duty packing tape, the plastic was adhered at the top on the inside and outside, with the extra 3/4" plastic overlapping on the bottom.  When a cat goes inside, the extra length helps to keep any bits of litter inside the box.  The smells and dust stay inside the box too, and removing the locking lid makes cleaning easy.

September 27, 2007

Questioning Myself

There are 51 days until the first art show of the holiday season.  For sale will be vintage kimono silk rag baskets, leather-string bookmarks with antique Peking glass and, of course, lavender pillows and cloth dolls.  Is that enough to sell?  Will my booth be too sparse?  Will I finish everything in time?  Will my office job leave me with enough energy and desire to create during these remaining days?  Will my customers like my work?  Will I remember the names of my regulars?  Will there be others who walk past without noticing?  Will I be able to fulfill my home duties without strain on my husband and our two kitties?  YES to all these question and YES I worry.

I just remembered having unfinished quilts to sell this season.  Above is a handstitched felt garland for sale too.  The colors are happy!

September 26, 2007

Sewing Dolls, Phase 8

Just when I thought all the legs were stuffed, I found one un-done.  It's too late to finish tonight, so I'll leave it for tomorrow.  It sure won't get up to walk away!What good fortune -- our epiphyllum bloomed again this evening!  There were two blossoms.  In the background you can see the spent flower of yesterday.  The plant is not attractive, but the flower is extraordinary.  If only I could share the scent with you... ah, LOVELY!

September 25, 2007

Sewing Dolls, Phase 7

I have to stop calling it a mess.  It's not messy at all (yet).  These are today's stuffed legs.  I like the shape of the toes en pointe -- so ballet-like!  Shakespeare In Love kept me from doing more, but that's okay.  The pointe ;-) is to enjoy the process.

The cactus flower is an epiphyllum.  It blooms in the evening, has a heavenly-scent all night long, and is spent by morning.  The flower lasts for one night only.  The plant was left behind by the original owners of our home.  Now several people have cuttings, including my Mom who has had success with blooms.

On the way to dinner this evening, we saw a man on a bicycle waiting for the light to turn.  He wore a black baseball cap with something white perched on top.  As we got closer, we saw it moving.  It was a pet rat!

September 24, 2007

Sewing Mess, Phase 6

All the arms are stuffed and so I've begun working on legs.  The challenge is to keep from creating cellulite in the thighs.  Hmm, this gives me an idea to do a pair of "before" and "after" dolls once inventory is done!

September 23, 2007

Sewing Mess, Phase 5

There are several tools I like to reach for and am esp grateful to have.  One is a small, lightweight and powerful wet/dry vac.  It effectively sucks up dust and thread bits from inside my sewing machine and doesn't weigh much at all.  The other day I also used it to clean the inside of the car, then put the hose on the blowing port to rid the garage floor of dried leaves.  Wow, that was the best $30 I ever spent.

The other tools I like a lot are hemostats and stuffing forks.  They help to place bits of stuffing exactly where I want them to go, like inside these doll arms.

September 22, 2007

Empty Nest Syndrome

Today this quilt went to its new home with Christine and Joel.  There is a lot of scrunchy texture in the surface of the batik fabrics because the lines of quilting stitches are close together.  I'm so pleased with the way it turned out that if I hadn't intended it for them, I would have kept it!  When I sew, I stitch lots of love into the pieces because the recipients are on my mind.  Seeing a quilt I made a gift of is like visiting an old friend and it makes me smile.

September 21, 2007

As If I Could Hear My Sister

My little sister Janine has a big, hearty hoot to go along with massive amounts of fun-ness (is that a word?).  She also has a good degree of shyness about her, which is why you only get to see her laughing.  She sent me a link to an article which she felt she could have written.  I'm sharing it because I didn't do any creative work today, but it is related.  Just like me and my little sister!

September 20, 2007

Sewing Mess, Phase 4

I know it doesn't look much different today as compared to yesterday, but I really did make progress.  All the bodies are stuffed, and I started putting pipe cleaners into the arms, but ran out of "bones."  Ooh, this has been fun!  Are you enjoying the evolution of these dolls?  I am!

September 19, 2007

Sewing Mess, Phase 3

Progress seems slow to me and I often feel as if there's not enough time to play (interchange with "sew" or "work").  Several bodies have taken shape.  It's amazing how much fiberfil can be squished into such a small space!  Guess that's why it's called "stuffing."  Tonight for the first time I watched "Children of a Lesser God" on TCM.  What a great movie.  Maybe that's why progress seems slow.

September 18, 2007

Sewing Mess, Phase 2

It's not really a mess, but it really is Phase 2.  The stitching lines were marked with a water soluble blue pen, stitched, then spritzed with water so the lines disappear.  What you see are doll limbs laying out to dry.

While sewing I like to listen to classical music or jazz -- anything calming and without lyrics so the voices don't get into my head.  I also like to listen to (and partially watch) Turner Classic Movies.  There's something soothing about the sound of old movies, even if the voices do get into my head.  That's when I look up at the TV and find inspiration.  This is a scene from Ziegfeld Girl, 1941, where all the women are in fanciful gowns.  Ooh, if I can costume my dolls like a few of these.  How fun!

September 17, 2007

Sewing Mess, Phase 1

Ahh, it comforts me to hear the hum of my sewing machine.  I stitched some doll bodies tonight and turned two of them right-side-out.  Nothing stuffed yet, but this is what my sewing room table looks like right now.  It's going to get messier -- you'll see!

September 16, 2007

Some of My Roles

I'm a wife, mom to two kitties, housekeeper, a family member to my husband's kin and an administrative assistant at my office job.  These roles take time and each have their own responsibilities, all of which are important to me.  If I lived nearer to my immediate family, being a daughter, a sister, an aunt and cousin would involve more of my life, so I cram those roles into short periods when I go "home."  And then there is taking care of myself:  sewing, naps, meals, knitting, and surfing on the computer.  It's been seven days since I switched on the sewing machine.  I miss my role as a seamstress!

September 15, 2007

Muriel Maffre, Ballerina

I miss living in SF.  I miss walking briskly in the Financial District, going to Chinatown for lunch and groceries, the culture and energy of the city, the diversity, and the independent businesses.  I miss the San Francisco Ballet.  My cousin Gloria and I had season tickets.  We used to attend Thursday evening performances.  Muriel Maffre, the impossibly long French girl, was my favorite dancer since I first saw her perform "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated," a modern dance perfect for her odd extensions.  In 2004 Tien took me to see the Nutcracker and, once the music started, the tears flowed, for I was in the War Memorial Opera House watching ballet again and Muriel was the Snow Queen.  She left the company this past May, so I was so glad to find this modern improvisation piece.  Her movements are mesmerizing.

I realize how good I had it now that I don't have it anymore.

September 14, 2007


Since this is a creative blog, I thought I'd better tell you how the rag baskets came about (see previous post).  Several years ago I bought a nice bundle of kimono silk linings, intending to make pillows with them.  When they arrived, only then did I realize that their "hand" was too soft for that purpose.  So I held onto them and they gathered dust and became a little more vintage.  Then I got the idea to make rag baskets out of them.  That entailed taking a class because, for me, it's easier to be shown, versus figuring it out from photos or written instructions.  Additionally, a teacher who's been there and done that will also know the pitfalls and tricks of the trade.  That's where Nadine Spier came in.  So now ya know!

Kimono Silk "Rag" Baskets

I guess anything could be called a rag if it is torn.  I ripped Japanese kimono silk into strips to make these rag baskets.  It takes about two days to make a basket and another two to four days to stitch tiny flowers (I'm slow).  Nadine Spier taught me basketmaking (check out her amazing pine needle baskets).  The tiny flowers were adapted from instructions for ribbons in an excellent book entitled The Artful Ribbon, by Candace Kling.  The detail work was so satisfying, but it took forever!  All 12 will be sold at upcoming shows.

September 12, 2007


I have not sewn for two days and I miss it.  I have several dolls marked and ready to be sewn, but there has been no time for stitching.  Additional space planning takes a lot of time, esp with my steep learning curve.  I don't have proper software either, so if I told you what I was using, you would laugh.  However, the project is progressing and that's what counts.

An invitation came today for a fourth craft show for the holiday season, but I won't be adding it to my full schedule.  How sad to turn down business...

Misery does love company.  Magellan and Coppélia went to the vet today for check ups and the crying, yowling and whining was kept to a minimum.  One cat goes into his carrier like greased lightening -- he loves it in there.  As for the other one, the carrier is turned so the opening is on top, and she kicks and wiggles all the way in.  The quilt in the photo was the last thing I sewed in 2003 before I started sewing my wedding gown.

September 11, 2007

Space Planning

Without realizing it, I have begun my new career.  Shh, don't tell me -- if I know, I might become frightened and chicken out.  Actually, that's EXACTLY what happened.  I was asked to space-plan an office.  I stared at the layout and the list of furniture, and I panicked.  I even went back to the person who made the request and said, "Wouldn't this be better off in the hands of a professional?"  The professional I had in mind is due to depart for a week first thing tomorrow morning and I didn't want to impose.  Instead I suffered through it.  Suffering included discouraging thoughts, inadequate confidence, concern about pleasing the inhabitants, and going blank... all the usual stuff.  I must have entertained these thoughts for about 45 wasted minutes.  When I came to, I figured I could copy the existing plan, weed out items, and then put things where I would like them for a good flow of traffic.  Nothing is permanent and most can be changed.  VOILA, I did it!

September 10, 2007

Hello Dolly!

"Say ha-LOW to my leetle fren."  This was one of Al Pacino's lines in the 1983 movie Scarface, only my little friend is this doll and his little friend was an automatic weapon.  The only automatic machinery I have is the buttonhole function on my sewing machine.  Anyway, the Yoruba sample is finished, sans a properly filled head and painted face (to come).  The background fabrics will become her partners in crime.  There is one fabric that looks like a black and white cow.  It will be particularly interesting to see how that doll turns out.

September 9, 2007

Grandma's Handstitches and Yoruba Sample Doll

Today while folding clean laundry, my oil-splattered tee shirts said, "You've GOT to wear an apron!"  I don't know if you've noticed, but aprons seem to be making a comeback.  There are plenty of patterns available, and vintage ones are esp wonderful.  I don't need to make an apron -- I have my maternal Grandma's spare.  Because she always wore her faded blue floral, this one was newly made but kept in a drawer, unused.  Here is a picture of the closure.  I love to look at her handstitched buttonhole.  It makes me feel good.

The Yoruba sample doll's fabric is brown cotton/polyester, which turned out to be quite yucky.  While stuffing the arm, the wrist burst open due to the loose weave.  I'll finish the body and make clothes for her (she's modest), but this girl will stay home with me.  Tomorrow I'll cut out her sisters in higher quality 100% cotton.  Ooh, boy, I can't wait for tomorrow!

September 8, 2007


Dollmaking begins for upcoming holiday shows.  There are exactly 70 days between now and the first sale.  I like to take one pattern, sew a bunch of dolls from it and then make each one unique.  Today I'm testing a pattern by Barbara Roberts called "Yoruba" which is named for a group of people in West Africa.  Although Barbara's doll is dressed to resemble a West African, my doll(s) will probably not have an ethnicity.  In fact, the skin may be striped, spotted, flowered or have geometric markings.  As for clothing, we'll see where the creative process leads.  It's kind of exciting to not know what will happen next.  Like opening the prize from inside a box of Cracker Jacks.  Will I get a plastic ring, a tiny pinball game or a lousy booklet of tattoos?

September 7, 2007

Bits and Pieces

You know those days where you didn't feel like you got anything done but actually accomplished a lot?  That would describe my Friday.  On the back of a quilt I sewed a hanging sleeve, added a little patch with my name and the date, and washed it.  Oh brothers, did it bleed.  Thank goodness big sis Nancy told me about those magical fabric sheets that go into the wash to soak up all the loose dye.  While watching Memoirs of a Geisha for the zillionth time, I finished a pink chemo cap.

My first monthly fabric pack was in today's mail from Treasures of the Gypsy.  It was difficult not to run into the house to open the envelope, in order to savor the impending surprise.  This set is called "Gypsy Mermaid" and the fabrics, beads and trim are shimmering deep browns and rich watery teal.  Oh boy, a package like this coming each month!  Remember when you got your first subscription to Highlights for Children?  That's how this feels.

Tien and I have been talking about taking a road trip to New Mexico where there are a lot of artists.  In fact, Treasures of the Gypsy is based in NM.  Inside Pamela's envelope was another surprise: a brochure for
NM Fiber Arts Trails.  What a find; no research necessary -- just follow the yellow brick road.

September 6, 2007

Professional Organizing, or Fussing and Futzing?

I am thinking of a career change.  Over the years I've considered it.  Once I was offered a project by our Minister of the Interior (aka interior designer), Ben Garduño:  He had a client who really needed help in their garage, but I turned it down.  My head wasn't in a place where I was comfortable moving around other people's belongings or asking if they really needed to keep something.  I have been organizing for a long time already:  weddings, office moves, home moves, desks of all my bosses, my parents's home, and of course our own home.  I just don't know yet how the pros do it.  Might be fun to learn!

My boss's wife, Dorie DeFranco, hooked me up with Bonnie Zoe Winn.  Bonnie is a professional organizer, a board member and past president of the local chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers (not to be confused with National Association of Pizzeria Operators -- .com and .net take you to different places).  She was encouraging and had an infectious energy.  It's fun to think about doing something that I could be successful at.  The kicker occured this weekend when I said out loud, "Ya know what I think my next career will be?" and both my husband and sister shouted, "PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZER."  Hmmm.

September 5, 2007

Bird Nest

How is it that birds can make such lovely homes without instructions, classes, patterns or examples?  The fence between our house and our neighbor's is being replaced. Yesterday, this organic abode clung to the back of a vine in Janice's and Paul's garden.  Today, a fence builder must have torn it from the vine because I found it laying on the ground in our garden.  I suspected there were birds living there because a pair continually flew into our orange tree to access their quarters, probably to feed their young.  The nest is empty.  There aren't even any feathers or bits of shell in it.

Behind the nest in my photo is a string of colorful lights made to resemble spools of thread.  My brother-in-law Kuan (aka Kuanza) brought it back from Thailand esp for me after a three month globe-trot: Philippines, Singapore, Scotland, Ireland, England, New York City, then back to San Diego.  This is the ideal gift for the seamstress who patches the holes in Kuanza's favorite clothes.

September 4, 2007

Red Heart Yarn

I won't have to buy yarn to knit chemo caps for a very long time.  Mom just gave me all the non-itchy acrylic skeins from her huge stash.  What a bonanza!  If you know somebody who needs to wear a chemo cap, write to me and I will send one.

September 3, 2007

My Cousin Dennis

A zillion years ago, my eldest cousin Dennis was my babysitter on nights when my parents went out.  He remembered that I never wanted to go to sleep (it's still true; why sleep when I can play?).  Creativity runs in my family and Dennis had a garage band, so I thought he was pretty cool, plus he was way older than me.  For many years now, he has been running a post production facility doing highly technical work for the television and entertainment industry.  Dennis is not shy about sharing his opinions which, sometimes, are of great amusement to us all.  (He's a really good sport too.  If you can't tell your family how you feel, who can you tell?)  I don't get to see him very often, but we got to hang out today for a few rare hours.  He colorfully described someone to us as one who thinks she is creative -- Den's opinion is that her product is crap.  I found myself laughing out loud.  Oops, that's bad karma, isn't it?  After some thought, I knew that I was laughing because my cousin is bold and says exactly what is on his mind, without worrying if or how he might be criticized.  I admire that kind of courage and appreciate his honesty.  As for me, I still believe in karma -- that's just my opinion.

September 2, 2007

Stones for Stepping

My sister Janine and I made "mud pies" today -- three, to be exact.  The first two were small ones using seashells which our nephew and niece found at Coronado beach.  The third will become a centerpiece in a walkway of my sister's garden.  "What do you think of this?"  "I like it."  "How about this?"  "It's okay, but try it like this."  "Ooh, yeah, I like that better."  It was fun to collaborate on making stuff, just like when we were little.  How fun for me that she's one of my best friends.

My almost-brother-in-law furnishes his and Janine's house with flowers from his family's florist and greenhouse business.  Their well-known El Camino Real establishment has been serving many of what were once San Francisco's "country homes" since 1933.  Now I think they serve just about everyone.  I love to think about all the creativity going on in their workshops.

September 1, 2007

Ryan's Macrame

Ryan is definitely my nephew.  Aside from the fact that he is my brother's child, he LOVES to make things with his hands, and that is how I know for sure we are related.  Today we worked on basic macrame.  He made basic half knots which, if you remember from the 1970s, is a series of square knots.  He was having some difficulty with a jumble of strings, as it is the core or filler cord which requires a third hand.  Once we fashioned a "belt" to hold the filler cord taut from his midsection, I could see new found joy on his face as the process became more gratifying.  I love teaching him new things.