February 29, 2008

Leap Year Sewing Day!

How often do I get an extra day to sew?  Every four years!  In second grade I knew this boy named Philip who was born on 29 Feb.  On his eighth or, poor kid, 2nd real birthday, his dad brought Baskin Robbins ice cream clowns for each child in our class.  I'll never forget what a treat that was.  We ran into each other as adults and, when reminiscing, he hadn't forgotten the event either.

Now that I can see the red waistband against the printed apron, the horizontal checkered stripe doesn't bother me.  The red is strong and the checkered ties will be cute when everything is sewn together.  It's only pinned for the photo.

I got my little car back from the shop this morning.  Ahh, much better now.  After breaking down for the first time ever, a proper bath was in order to make everything right.  It took me 2.5 hours, but that's what I get for neglecting my ride for nearly six months.

February 28, 2008

That New Apron and Magnets

I made six aprons like this to add to inventory.  The fabric is weird, now that I'm looking at the photo.  The horizontal checkered strip is bugging me.  Did I use the wrong material?  I'll make waistbands and ties before continuing the worries.

The inside of our new washing machine needs to air dry after use, but the door falls open and bangs the sliding closet door.  I made a stringy-thing with two magnets inside cloth pouches.  The picture explains more clearly than I can.  Does this make sense to you?

February 27, 2008

Contemporary Asian Art

The art now coming out of China astounds me.  It is fresh and interesting and, best of all, contains images of people of my own ethnic background.  Here are a few lots I like from Sotheby's scheduled for auction on 17 March 2008.  Guess which one is my favorite?  Meanwhile, I'm making cute 1960s-style aprons while awaiting delivery of our new washer and dryer, and a phone call from the garage about my little car.

"Ninety-Nine Idols Series - No. 99," by Yue Minjun, 1996:  Oil on canvas

"Crying" by Yin Jun, 2006:  Oil on canvas

"The Dream of China," by Wang Jin, 2005:  Transparent polyvinyl, embroidery with fishing thread

"May 4th Movement," by Pan Dehai, 2005-2006:  Oil on canvas

February 26, 2008

New/Old Apron

ADORABLE!  I love this apron.  All it needs is a solid color waistband with ties to match the skirt.  The shape came from my Mom's 1960 Christmas issue of Better Homes & Gardens.  The full apron design has a strapless bib held up with boning, and is secured around your middle with the usual waist ties, but I omitted the bib in favor of the cute skirt.  More of these to come.  This is a sample to see if the pattern works, so I get to keep it, but I'm so short that food-prep-splatters will get me anyway!  Almost 50 years later, the girth of most Americans has increased since the 1960s, so the pattern will require enlarging.

After seven years without mechanical issues, my poor little car was rendered helpless by a broken idle sensor, according to Dale the tow truck driver who owns an M3.  I feel better knowing we won't have to replace the car.

February 25, 2008

Double Yo-Yo and Starch

I'm diggin' these yo-yo embellishments!  Ahh, MUCH better.

My pal Nancy recommends starching 100% cotton fabrics before cutting.  She uses it for quiltmaking and it is esp good for working with half-square triangles cut/sewn on the bias.  I tried aerosol spray starch and always marvel at the crispness.  I like "heavy" starch.  Wal-Mart sells Sta-Flo liquid concentrated starch in 64 oz bottles.  Mix the starch with water and pour into a spray bottle.  Historical note:  when collars were separate pieces from shirts, they were soaked in starch and pressed.  Dirt and perspiration accumulated on the starch, not on the collar, and washed out easily.

February 24, 2008

Yo-Yo Pocket

Heehee, now THIS one I'm satisfied with.  What do you think?

February 23, 2008


Here are a few simple aprons for upcoming Mother's Day shows.  If you know me, you know I'm doubting myself again:  "Will these sell?"  "Are they good enough?"  "Will anyone want them?"  "Do I need to embellish?"  Oh boy, just DO something about it!  (a) relax; OR (b) embellish; AND (c) stop worrying!

February 22, 2008

Yo-Yo Apron

The apron turned out quite nicely!  The pattern allows for several sizes and this one is large, so the green ties are not so visible on my small dress form.

The pattern has a folded flap at the neckline which reveals the lining.  In my version, my lining fabric is not a perfect match, so I removed the curve and added yo-yos.  The yo-yos also provide some cover:  the fabric has an off-color image of a husband reading his newspaper on his "throne" with his wife on the other side of the door.  The caption reads, "Let him read his paper in peace."  Eh, I covered part of that!

February 21, 2008

No Boring Posts

Nothing to say, so nothing to post...  I'm sewing (as usual).  Maybe I'll have something to show later.

February 20, 2008

Blue Plate Special

This adorable pattern from Paisley Pincushion is one of the aprons I'm making (no lace on my version).  The fabric has 1950s images, printed text sensibilities from the same era, and is even titled "How to Keep Your Husband."  Some of the advice is quite humorous to me, but "show him you love him" will always be of value.

February 19, 2008

Aquaria, Bearer of Water

Thanks to those of you who voted for her name.  She (and I) appreciate it!  Also known as my Firestorm Doll, she was created during countless hours in front of the TV watching news of last Fall's SD fires.  She carries water necessary to douse flames.

I'm sewing aprons for upcoming shows.  I think starching will present them nicely.  One of the fabrics, called "Party Girls" by the manufacturer, has images of 1940s-style pinups.  Very cute!

February 18, 2008

Basket Weaving Jokes

You know all those basket weaving jokes about easy-to-pass classes?  Basketry is a lot harder than people think and does not come easily to me.  The difficulty is in the fragile nature of dried plant material which breaks under a heavy or unfamiliar hand.

I ended my project early.  The intention was to make a shallow bowl, but the desire is not there.  I still like what I did and am proud of my work.  I want to try things at least once and here it is.  The sweet grass will retain its scent, but the colors will mellow into pale gold.  The finished size is 3.73" x 3.5".

The doll is finished.  I like the way her face turned out and the hair is gorgeous.  I love big hair and this shape reminds me of M2's do.  This doll is a gift for my friend Renee.

February 17, 2008

Sweet Grass Basketry

At Nadine Spier's in-home class I learned how to make a basket with sweet grass and waxed linen thread.  I can't remember what the center stone is, but the grey and lavender colors attracted me.  I love it with the purple thread.  My tendency is to overly-secure my work, so I was pulling the thread too tight, causing grass breakage when stitching through the previous row.  Gotta loosen up!  The technique is time-consuming and fulfilling.  This will be a shallow bowl to hang on the wall.  Pal Hiromi worked on a similar sweet grass project using a luminous tiger eye center.  Our teacher's work is primarily done with pine needles which she grows on her property.  After this I want to try working with pine needles too.  I wonder if my Mother knows specifically what kinds of pine trees she has in her garden?  Maybe I'll use those in my next basket.

February 16, 2008


After lots of starts, stops and procrastinating, the face drawing finally began and ever so tentatively.  I was so scared to mess it up, that I really did mess it up (self-fulfilling prophecy), but remembered I could paint over acrylics and try again.  I'm still not satisfied, although it is improving.  This is definitely a struggle -- not a success (yet!).  For one thing, the colors are all off.  The hair is only a hank of yarn on her bald head.

While you are reading this, pal Hiromi and I will be in Nadine Spier's in-home class on pine needle basketry.  Ooh, a new technique to learn!

February 15, 2008

New Doll

I have a bunch of doll bodies taking up space in the closet.  They are wire armature, padded with strips of quilt batting, and headless.  I also have a handful of those badge holder thingies imprinted with a company logo that you wear around your neck with your office key card.  Our office was throwing them away so I snagged a bunch for dollmaking.  I put it all together and here's how far I got.  The head is temporary, placed there so she looks whole.  Click on the photo for a larger image.

Can you believe this picture?  This is SD east county yesterday!  Photo by Sean M. Haffey, Union-Tribune.

February 14, 2008

Valentine Rain

Happy Valentine's Day to you!  I hope your day is filled with all the warmth that love has to offer, whether it comes from inside you or from others.

It's raining, just the kind of weather to boost the desire to create!  This little house finch is taking shelter under the eaves and seems to be enjoying the downpour.  The other news is, due to lack of funds, hours at my wonderful PT office job have been temporarily reduced by 80%, allowing me lots of time to work on inventory.  My sewing machine will be humming away.  Do I sound sad?  Nope!

February 13, 2008

CNY Cheesecake

The cheesecake I made for Chinese New Year dinner was worth the effort.  I highly recommend the recipe linked in my earlier post.  The crust was delicious too.   Tien thought the entire presentation looked very professional, but secretly, it was easy to lay out Mandarin orange sections from a can.

My sewing room is still a mess and the desire to create is absent.  I don't like this feeling.  Allowing myself to have these rests is the hard part.  I feel guilty for not working, but Tien is happy -- it means I am watching TV with him (and knitting, wink!).

February 12, 2008

Oh, Brother (in law)

These raggedy snowboard pants belong to Kuan, my husband's brother.  Kuan charms me with that grin, saying, "PLEEEEEEEEEEEZZzzzzz," and I end up with his mending.  These pants were made of sweatshirt jersey.  The crotch is the first to go with stress/strain on the seam from sitting.  After hand-stitching the holes closed, the repairs were dowsed with Fray Check, then patched from the inside.  Patches were made with heavy-duty Heat 'N Bond and quilting cotton.  My bulletproof patchwork will last longer than the rest of the pants.

Did any of you locals feel the 5.1 earthquake on Monday at 10:30a?  It was centered in Baja California, about 150 miles from where I was, so we got a pretty good shake, but nothing scary.

February 11, 2008

Sewing Room "Explosion"

Do you ever get mad at yourself for buying, keeping, accepting from others, saving, intending to recycle, and then, before you realize it, there is no space to keep it all?  That's hoarding.  While there's not a narrow path between "walls" of uncut fabric to my sewing machine, I sometimes hide things on the floor of my walk-in closet so I must squeeze sideways through a partially open door.  Then I get upset with my packRATness (is that a word?) because I'm solely responsible for these acquisitions.  Being sentimental is also a problem.  How can I get rid of something that a cherished person gave me?

Tien said my sewing room looks like it exploded.  I'll spare the images, but the goal was to fully open the closet door.  Fabric and supplies were all over the floor and trailing into the hallway.  Projects I lost interest in went into the garbage along with supplies I wanted to recycle.  Things were donated too.  There's nothing left for Ebay.  Didn't I already do this recently?

I know this quilter who sews one quilt from start to finish and refrains from purchasing supplies for the next until her quilt is done.  She has rare self-control which I've never seen in any another craftsperson.

Clearing my sewing room clears my mind.  Does that make my mind a sewing room?  Certainly there's not much room for anything besides sewing.  Makes sense to me.

February 9, 2008

Changing Gears: Aprons

This is my blind hem machine, one of four sewing machines I own.  It was handy when I sewed made-to-order curtains for clients of interior designer pal Benjamin Garduño, our "Minister of Design."  (Each machine has a specific purpose:  standard sewing; serger; embroidery; and hems.  I've been fantasizing about a needle felting Embellisher machine too, but it would be difficult for Tien to understand a purchase of a machine that requires no thread!)

The hem machine's needle is curved for taking up just a thread or two of fabric on a pre-folded and pressed hem to invisibly sew a chain stitch.  The motor is powerful -- it feels like a race horse that wants to take off on its own.

I'm sewing aprons and the hems look perfect.  Here is a sample of the face fabric hem and the back side hem.  Pretty cool, right?

February 8, 2008


After propping Firestorm Doll on a stand, I decided Pattice should have one too.  Her purple train would drape nicely, so I decoupaged a 99 cent wood plaque.  Remember those old books I got a few weeks ago?  One is in French and, although quite old (1920 inscription), its value is only a few dollars, making it a guilt-free candidate for torn pages.  The tearing sound of old, dry paper was strangely lovely.  Those unsolicited credit card applications that come in the mail are often accompanied by faux bank cards -- they make great glue squeegees.  Next the plaque will get a coat or two of polyurethane and Pattice will be able to stand on her own.  I just gave myself an idea:  Maybe the next stand could be a book.

I found this picture on SFGate.com -- this would make a cool hairdo on a doll.  It looks like a bouquet of giant yarn donuts.

February 7, 2008

Gung Hay Fat Choy

Congratulations and be prosperous!  I send my best wishes for good health, prosperity, wealth in all its forms and an abundance of peace.

February 6, 2008

Eve of the Rat's Year

Thursday begins the lunar year 4705, the year of the rat.  My husband's family and a few close friends will close out the old year tonight with a big dinner.  Mum-in-law will have gone to a lot of effort preparing fresh ingredients for her annual hot pot meal, with rich chicken broth, seafood, vegetables, meats and, finally, noodles.  She'll have been standing and cutting for hours and will be quite worn out, but with our gratitude for good food, I think she won't mind too much.

My contribution to the meal is dessert.  I used to bake a lot of cheesecakes, but haven't during the past ten or so years.  Instead of using my trusty recipe, I wanted to try something new.  This cheesecake is orange-flavored, appropriate because the Chinese word for "orange" sounds like the word for "wealth" -- that's why oranges are given during CNY.  To get the orange flavor, I made syrup by grating orange peels, squeezing fresh juice, and boiling down with sugar until the liquid was 75% less than the original amount.  I think it will be beautiful after I place tiny Mandarin orange sections on the top.  Alarmingly, I won't know how it tastes until after it is presented!

My favorite part will be after dinner when my unmarried bro-in-law Kuan kowtows before his younger married brother Tien and wife (me) to show his gratitude for the red envelope we give him.  In this family it's all done in fun and with everyone laughing, but it was tortuous when I had to do it.  There are many benefits to being married -- being on the other side of this tradition is one of them.  Here is a similar opinion.

February 5, 2008

Rayssea and Emi Wada

The managing editor asked for a statement today, so Rayssea probably won't appear until the Fall 2008 issue of Art Doll Quarterly Magazine.  This is what I told her about Rayssea and me:

"* antique ribbon work interpreted in vintage Japanese kimono silk
* new cotton fabric, mohair/wool/ribbon yarns
* hand painted face with acrylics and colored pencils
* bead weaving in bodice and shoes
I have sewn clothes for myself since I was a teenager, but I'm somewhat new to doll making.  Through dolls I can take part in imaginative dressmaking and shoe design unsuitable for my own daily wear.  Inspiration comes from theatre costumes, ethnic clothing, couture garments and historical fashion.  I enjoy intricate processes with delicate results and experimenting with vivid color combinations.  Hairstyles are a reflection of childhood, playing with my sister’s and cousin’s long hair."

Speaking of inspiration, pal DougE told me about the Metropolitan Opera's The First Emperor, composed by Tan Dun and directed by Zhang Yimou.  The gorgeous costumes were done by Emi Wada who used brick imagery to represent the Great Wall.  The photos came from Met Opera's website.  For more of Ms. Wada's amazing work, think of the rich costumes in Hero and House of Flying Daggers, both movies which I love.

February 4, 2008

Pseudo Studio

M2 left a naming suggestion for Firestorm Doll, Aquaia -- BEAUTIFUL!  Anyone else?

Firestorm Doll can now stand on her own, propped up by a stick in a block of wood.  The difficult part of this was making a hole in her body and shoving the stick upwards.  My dolls are like small people to me (think voodoo) and it wounds my heart just a little.

I made 'shower caps' for my photography lights to diffuse harsh shadows.  Although I have a photo cube, a sort of pop-up white box studio, sometimes the subject is too big.  These muslin circles cure the space limitations.

February 3, 2008

Night Owl

See the time of this post?  I love staying up late.  My siblings too -- all four of us are night owls, but not our parents.  I don't know about my sibs' spouses, but I know it drives mine nuts.  So here I am at my computer when I really should be asleep.  Oh well, there's always time.  And anyway, it's not really that late.

Firestorm Doll is finished.  I ended up not using the airplane.  All she needs is a proper name (pls vote!) and, maybe, something to help her stand properly.  Here are a few images.

February 2, 2008

Post Bird Day

Don't I look young in this picture?  I was four months old.  Look at my mother's beautiful face, so full of pride for her still-quite-new baby.  My father took the photo, which has since yellowed with age.  Dad did a lot of photography in those days, even developing the film in his own darkroom or at a photo studio.

I'm working on Firestorm Doll.  I hope she'll be finished soon!

February 1, 2008

Air Tanker

Here's my version of an air tanker to be held in the hand of Firestorm Doll.  It's made of Tyvek and Sumo Glue, and setting to dry overnight.  In the meantime, Firestorm Doll is at the salon getting her hair done.  Please click on the name you like best:  (a) Cedartha (play on the names Cedar Fire and Siddartha, the Herman Hesse novel); (b) Flame Dame (puh-leez!); (c) Aquaria, Bearer of Water; or (d) Cinder-Ella (buddy Sarah's excellent suggestion).  Any other suggestions, please send via Comments (still trying to make this blog interactive, wink).

Speaking of Aquarius, today is my Bird Day!