October 31, 2007

Click on the Image!

Click on the image for a larger photo of my kimono silk rag baskets.  To get an up-close-and-personal, come to one of my three San Diego shows!  Read how I made them on an earlier post.  I'm excited about these baskets.  It feels wonderful to create something beautiful.  Conversely, it feels terrible when it doesn't come out right and, believe me, there are plenty of those.  If you can't get to a show, here is a photo of the flowers on the light blue basket.  Yup, I made each one of those flowers and sewed on every seed bead.  Now you see why it takes so long.

This afternoon I watched the movie The Haunting, with Julie Harris and Claire Bloom from 1963.  The first time my sister and I watched it was on Halloween night when we were little.  Today we both remembered how it scared us to death!

October 30, 2007

Getting Ready to Show

Mailing list and website have been updated, so if you are on the ABC Rags email list for show notices, the broadcast will be coming soon.

October 29, 2007

Stitching Labels

It feels great to finish something!  Labels were glued and stitched to the underside of the rag baskets.  A curved needle would have been useful since the bottom is firm -- it's hard to hand-sew onto a stiff surface -- but I have never seen curved needles appropriate for silk.  The baskets are beautiful and so much fun to make.  I like the idea of painting silk and making more.

October 28, 2007

Turned and Ready to Stuff

Pillows corners were trimmed and then turned right side out.  I worked really hard! (pat on the back)  Seeing this gorgeous pile gives me a sense of relief.  The small white pillow on the left has a hand-painted rose.  The one next to it is hand-embroidered.  The stitchwork is perfect and looks machined, so it was a shame to hide the backside where the evidence is obvious.  I may keep this one for myself -- sometimes I don't want to let go yet.  There are other fabrics like that where the detail work is readily apparent.  Those stay in the sewing room for a while longer.

October 27, 2007

Sewing Lavender Pillows Like Crazy

I sewed for 18 hours today, stopping only to eat.  Normally I like to sleep late, esp after another case of insomnia, but but I rose early due to inventory panic.  I worked really hard on the pile you saw yesterday.  First, ABC Rags labels were positioned with fabric glue, then carefully stitched into place and, finally, thread tails were pulled through to the back and knotted.  It's not nice to have hanging threads and I would be mortified if someone pointed out sloppy workmanship.  Next, the back and sides were sewn up, leaving a hole to pour in pure French lavender.  Before the scent goes in, corners must be trimmed and pillows must be turned right side out.  There are wonderful fabrics:  machine embroideries, hand embroideries and painted pieces too -- all luscious.  Some of these fabrics I purchased in Japan this past spring at an antique market in Kyoto -- now that was heaven on earth.

The fire stories are starting to come out.  This is a photo from today's newspaper (Sean M. Haffey of Union Tribune).  Because of changing winds, some houses were untouched and others burned to the ground.  This photo is particularly interesting because these side-by-side cul-de-sacs are mirror images.  So far no one we know has lost a home, but we hear about friends-of-friends who have.  It is such a tragedy.

October 26, 2007

Five Minutes to Blog

This is my new rule until I feel comfortable with the amount of finished inventory. Yep, that's it, five minutes to barf out whatever I need to say, at least until the bins are full of product. Once I realized I only had 23 days before show time (now, 22 days), I gave myself a case of insomnia. I didn't dilly-dally at the office today either, and went straight home to change gears. I have gone from incomplete dolls to cutting fabric for lavender pillows.

While preparing for Mother's Day shows, I forgot about my Chinese silk stash. I got so caught up buying Japanese fabrics that the brocades got lonely in the closet! So this time I prepared a lot to make up for the omission. Vintage brocades are much harder to find and I refuse to cut up old garments which are still wearable. When I buy brocades, they are usually ~5 yard cuts, still in their wrappers and always from someone who visited Hong Kong in the 1950s and 60s. Sometimes I get new brocades -- the woven designs are virtually the same.

October 25, 2007

OH NO, Only 23 Days To Go!

I've got to sew FASTER.  My first show is November 17, only about three weeks away.  Maybe I can finish dolls by end of month and make lavender pillows in 17 days...  If I don't blog daily, you know why!  The fires are taking up less of my thoughts now, leaving me with more head space to create.

October 24, 2007

I Can Breath Again

This is the back of the Firestorm Doll.  I made a shrug for her.

Things are much better for Tien, Magellan, CoppĂ©lia and me.  This morning’s news was more of the same as late yesterday’s -- thank goodness.  The winds have turned and the fires are heading eastward, so the peril continues for others.  Our cars inside the garage are dusted with a thin layer of ash.  This is nothing to complain about.  No one we know (so far) has lost anything -- thank goodness again.

I am not looking forward to the blaming that inevitably follows a tragedy such as this.  Yesterday, Ah-nold was being interviewed by a reporter who implied errors.  His reply was, "You are looking for mistakes.  There aren't any."  I loved how he shut down her line of questioning.  The national news is still crazily spinning exaggerations, but unless the local news can be compared with it, it is impossible to see the differences.

I went to the office for the first time this week and it felt good to be there.  This evening I began putting away our IDs, treasured photos, electronics, jewelry, and a few cookbooks I can’t do without.  Teacups I found in the Toisan village house of my maternal great-great-grandfather went back into a safe place and, of course, textiles had to be unpacked too:  a length of linen hand-woven by my maternal great-grandmother, antique quilt tops and some items I made over the years, such as the Chong family history quilt, and recently sewn dolls and silk rag baskets.  Good thing we did not have to leave.  I might have gathered more.

The news says the air is still unhealthy but at least the smoke smell is no longer overwhelming.  Cool ocean breezes are wonderful!  It is not everyday I am grateful for breathable air, something normally taken for granted, so I inhaled deeply while at the office.  Did I mention we have an ocean view there?

Thank you again for all your emails, messages and phone calls!  We love you.

October 23, 2007

Firestorm Doll and Map

I was drawn to working on this doll.  Her waistline is covered with handmade silk flowers and seed beads.  The colors make me think of the angry red flames that have engulfed so many homes and property in San Diego.

I couldn't sleep last night and must have finally gone to bed after 2a.  This morning I awoke wanting news at 7a, but the TV showed no change.  Then the phone rang.  My heart stopped momentarily, thinking it could be a reverse 911 call advising us to leave.  Instead it was a prerecorded telemarketing call advertising carpet cleaning, grr!  For goodness sake -- don't they know we're supposed to keep the lines clear?!  I went back to sleep.  I knew Tien would wake me if necessary.

When I got up again, the news showed aircraft making water drops.  The Santa Ana winds died down enough for aircraft to do their work.  Previously, these westerly winds made water drops ineffective, reducing them to mist.  We are lucky that the only effects to our lives so far has been being stuck inside the house in a region with dangerous air quality.  We had a brief power outage yesterday which lasted only 20 minutes.  I have missed two days of work and Tien's office is closed.  While watering our parched garden late in the day, I could feel cool ocean breezes once again.  Soon I will remove the tape I used to seal east-facing windows from ash/smoke entering through cracks.

Our home is just below the border of the most recent advisory evacuation.  This is a Tues 11:30p map of the area from the SD County Emergency Services's website.  Open the map, zoom in to at least 50%.  It may take time to load.  Our house is in square 1208 and, to be exact, is located above the "R" in Mira Mesa.  Mira Mesa is the name of our neighborhood, as well as the main street which runs through it.

Tien's parents and three pairs of aunts/uncles live in Poway (squares 1170 and 1190) in an advisory evac zone.  I believe the restriction has been removed.  They stayed indoors playing mah jong, awaiting calls to leave which have not come.  During the 1991 Oakland firestorm when Tien's family lost their Berkeley house, I remember three inch pieces of ash blowing from the East Bay into SF; the same is not happening in our SD neighborhood.

Local officials said the worst is over and I hope they are correct.  They seem to have learned a lot from the devastating SD firestorm of four years ago when 3,500 homes were lost.  Inter-agency coordination has been improved.  Firemen, police, National Guardsmen and volunteers are all champions.  So many people want to help those who need it most.  Ah-nold is in town, as is Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric and Brian Williams.  The national news is quite a bit more sensationalized than the local news.

Thanks to family and friends who send love, phone calls and emails to ask how we are.  So far, so good.  We are grateful!

October 22, 2007

Scary Fire

The fires are really bad.  Tien rushed home from Mexico, skipping this morning's round of golf.  The Santa Ana winds of Sunday afternoon caused balls to blow off tees and roll uphill (huh?!).  It made for a challenging game.  I was glad to have him back home well before noon.

Air quality is terrible and sunlight filters through brown skies.  Bits of ash and soot are collecting in the paved corners of our garden.  I can't get the burning smell out of my nose, even inside the house, and a dull headache has been constant.  Tien says my hair is smoke-scented and I have not gone outside!

We are on the boundary of the most recent advisory evacuation order, so we've taken photographs of our home and packed a few things.  We are ready to go in case there is a mandatory evacuation.  Evacuation orders clear neighborhoods before it becomes life threatening and for emergency response vehicles, if necessary.  Have you heard of "reverse 911 calls?"  Recorded emergency notifications ring at your telephone -- very useful.  We will leave when they tell us to.

I did not go to the office today and sewing was not a pleasure.  Not sure what will happen overnight, but we are glued to the TV.  More later.

October 21, 2007

Sunday, A Free Day to Sew

Tien went to Bajamar for his annual golf overnighter.  This left me with hours and hours to sew.  The first doll was another simple gathered skirt made from Doshi's shibori silk scraps.  Flowers made from the same silk will embellish her waist and her shoulders, but this doll will remain mostly deep red for simplicity.

The second doll wears a trapeze dress over pasties and boy-shorts (ooh!).  They'll be hard to see unless I raise her dress, but that's not very polite.

My only foray outside was at 3p to visit big-sis Nancy.  Along the way, I noticed the beautiful sky turning brown and the dangerous smell of smoke.  All morning I had been watching Turner Classic Movies which does not do local news, so Nancy updated me on the various fires around San Diego county.  Just walking back to my car, ashes got into my eyes.  At home air quality inside our house is terrible and my eyes are burning from the smoke, esp since the sewing room faces east where the Santa Ana winds are coming from.  I can still hear trees blowing tonight and it is expected to continue until tomorrow evening.  It makes the fires move faster.  At least our bedroom is on the west side of the house, so the smell is not as severe.

October 20, 2007

Yo-Yo Clothes

I started yo-yos on Thursday night, but we went to dinner at my in-laws' house on Friday where yo-yo making continued.  They're time consuming!  Each circle of fabric is 2" across; edges are turned under and a running stitch goes round, then the thread is pulled taut and knotted.   Here is the finished doll.  Yo-yos which make up the skirt contain tiny lead weights so they hang better.

On Friday, Kuan, my brother-in-law, brought a guest to dinner.  Jim is a friend from New York who worked with Kuan at Agency.com.  Their office was across the street from the World Trade Center.  Jim took us through his morning commute on September 11, 2001 (by that date, Kuan was living in Zambia).  Among other things, Jim described the ground shaking and then running for his life as the first building came down, while a solid wall of dust chased him from three directions.  Once he was engulfed by the particles, breathing became difficult until a stranger allowed him to share clear air in his car.  Of course he described many more details.  I had never heard a first hand experience until this evening and it was different from anything I read in the newspapers.

October 18, 2007

That's IT!

Today I fussed and futzed for hours (see what I mean?) trying to avoid another gathered skirt, but I had it in mind from the start with that pale fabric.  The difference in texture from one end to the other, plus the shiny gold threads somewhere in between... and when I think of how feminine it feels to be in a full skirt... well, I just had to!  But that's it, I'm done, I think, with dresses.  Now I'm on to decorations in lieu of clothing, and this is what you see pinned to the doll.  Look closely; she's wearing a few small gold yo-yos and, yes, there will be more of them all over her.  The cut circles and a length of waxed thread sit by her side.

October 17, 2007

This Was Tough

I could have spent weeks fussing and futzing around with this dress.  I had been avoiding it all day and, at 9:30p, got down to business.  Nothing would lay properly; there were bumps and protrusions.  Finally, I got it right and stitched everything down.  Phew!

The blog's title is changed.  The more I read the words "fuss" and "futz," the more of each I did.  There is way too much of that going on already!  It's not a practical mantra during inventory production.

October 16, 2007


I said I would try something different and here is the result.  Draping is more sculptural than what I've been doing.  Most of this gown is pinned for sewing and the hair is a twist of perle cotton embroidery thread just for the photo.  Tien took one look and decided she needs high heels!  I adore a man with an opinion.  If only the cats would tell me what they think.

October 15, 2007

More Gathered Skirts

I'm on a full-gathered-skirt-roll, so I had to try something different.  I ended up with full, gathered pants.  Not much of a change but still great fun.  Let's see what alternative we come up with tomorrow.  Still, this is entertaining!  I find myself giggling when an idea comes.  On the red doll, the bit of gold threads for the belt came from the wrong side of a piece of obi.  The red fabric is a remnant from shibori artist Doshi.

October 14, 2007

Stitching on Sunday

The black and white doll's dress is complete. The brown doll with longs sleeves was the sample I began this series with -- she will stay home with me. The blue doll has a skirt made firm with a crinoline base; actually, the blue side will be underneath, while the top will be white and covered with handmade silk flowers like the ones made for the rag baskets.

October 13, 2007

Cow Girl Grows Up

Here is the doll I wondered about, made from the cow fabric. I love the way she turned out. The black ruffle surrounding her shoulders was a scrap used as a tie around a roll of fabric I had purchased -- you never know where the right piece will come from. Two layers of silk give the skirt richness. The bodice and the ruffle are only pinned together for now, to be finished tomorrow while Tien is on the golf course.

Today in natural light I chose the fabrics that will go with the doll bodies. This is what my table looks like right now.

October 12, 2007

Needs Hair

This outfit was FUN to make.  I'm tired now, but the hair will be a gas to work on tomorrow.  She's got a colorful body, so locks will match.  Maybe an up-do?

For a long time, I was scared to create without patterns.  I had a hard time remembering what it was like to be seven years old, sitting on the floor surrounded by scraps, cutting without measuring and then sewing by hand, not caring how my stitches looked, and focusing only on the end result.  The creativity flowed and I usually came up with a great outfit (or so I thought as a child).  I still have some of the clothes I made for my Barbie.

About 2 years ago I took a dollmaking class from Barbara Chapman who makes gorgeous multilayered dolls with richly textured fabrics.  One of her dolls hangs on my wall.  We students followed her lead, eyeballing measurements, cutting fabrics with estimates and guesses, and stitched by hand.  I WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD AGAIN!  She said, "If it doesn't show, it doesn't count," in reference to imperfect sewing and hidden construction.  So there we are.

Clothes and Hair

What do you think of my doll? The hair is wool/silk/nylon yarn from Japan. I love making dreadlocks -- they're fun. The skirt is a bit of leftover Indonesian batik and the bodice is kimono silk. I think shoes are in order and maybe some jewelry, but added glitz and shine will come after everyone has clothes and hair.

October 10, 2007

Done with Dollmaking

The last doll has been finished!  Oh boy, what should I do next?  Clothes or hair?  Probably clothes...

October 9, 2007

Eleven Done and One More to Finish

I'm almost finished with dollmaking, then doll-dressing begins.  I think it's fun to have the doll's arms up in the air.  She looks joyful to me!

October 8, 2007

More Dolls Done

We watched Rocky Balboa this weekend (aka Rocky 6).  I gotta hand it to Sylvester Stallone for making entertaining movies -- Rocky and Rambo are two of my favorite characters!  I can't wait for Rambo 5 in January.  Tonight, Rocky 2 and Rocky 3 were on TV, and my attention was on the screen, not on the sewing.  As you can see, I didn't get very far.

October 7, 2007

Taking Shape

Six dolls came together which relieves a lot of the pressure I've put on myself.  Here are the finished bodies, along with one incomplete doll that I couldn't resist playing with.

October 6, 2007

Ooh, She's Pretty Too

Another body was completed, also with temporary hair of kimono silk pinned to her head.

October 5, 2007

Naked is Beautiful

Ooh, I'm SO EXCITED.  This doll is ready for decorations.  Tien calls the pattern the "sexy doll" because of her narrow waistline.  He says she looks like a figure from the movie "I, Robot."  Her hair is temporary; it's just yarn twisted around her head for tonight.  She will get different hair later.  There is usually a surprise whenever I'm creating, which means staying open to whatever occurs, but the surprise this time was the ease with which she came together.  She's beautiful even with no clothes.  All work should be this much fun.

October 4, 2007

All My Heads Are Stuffy

Heeheehee, just when a touch of boredom creeped in, I finished stuffing. My energy is renewed to continue the adventure. This is why each doll must be cut from different fabric and why it's important that each face is a little changed from her sisters. If they are all the same, then the sewing room is a sweatshop. I'm a happy girl anticipating the next step!

October 3, 2007

Stuffing Heads

There isn't a photo to go with today's post because the heads do not look much different.  Once the drawing was completed, it was sprayed with a clear coat of fixative.  Now I'm stuffing, but it takes longer than I have energy for.  The oomph remaining after recent long days at my office job means little left for dollmaking and, hopefully, progress will be more significant tomorrow.  Yikes, only 44 days left!

October 2, 2007

Greedy Fabric Hoarder

I have to share my latest purchase.  Try not to laugh at the pile of kimono silk linings behind the finished doll faces.  It is far more fabric than I'll ever use during this lifetime. Ten pounds is a lot of silk and I haven't even taken it out of the bag yet.  I often look around my sewing room and vow not to acquire any fabric until I've used up what I have.  Obviously this promise goes forgotten.

October 1, 2007

Drawing Faces

For me drawing does not come easily.  I know the ability is there because I can feel it inside. However, I don't do it often enough and have to warm up.  My brother Russ, a professional artist, can draw anything, in detail, quite easily and it looks beautiful.  But he does it for a living (LucasFilm), so there you are.  Meanwhile, it took me five or six hours and numerous starts/stops just to practice on fabric scraps.  It was 9:30p by the time I got going, and now it's time to sleep.  Here is what I've done so far.  So far, so good.  Not perfect, but I'm satisfied.  My lifelike representations are meant to be as flawed as we are.