Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay, Wasting Time Soulfully (Field Trip)

Click on the illustration above, for a mighty fine view

Spent a nice bit of time this afternoon on a bench behind the
San Francisco Ferry Building wasting a little time of my own

Sittin' in the mornin' sun,

I'll be sittin' when the evenin' come

Watching the ships roll in,
And then I watch 'em roll away again,


 I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay

Watching the tide roll away

Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay

Wastin' time


 Thanks Otis, you said it all for me.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Last Stop Before Oz (Hiking Edgewood)

Planning a trip to Oz?
You won't find a better way to get there, then a hike up to the top of
Inspiration Point at Edgewood Nature Preserve

Click on the illustration above for an enhanced view of this Oz portal.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Measure of Inconvenience (Union Protest)

Bet  it's inconvenient for this
gentleman to go without work,
 due to the strike
But reduced wages and benefits,
are even more inconvenient
I'll be boycotting Northern CA Safeway stores until the USW dispute is settled. There's a lot of grief in the world. This is grief that touches me, because I've been shopping at this grocery store for the 45 years I've lived in CA. I don't want the dollars we spend on groceries supporting management that doesn't care about the living standards of the people who clean the aisles and restrooms, and take out the garbage.

It certainly will be inconvenient for me to walk another half mile down the street to avoid shopping at Safeway while I wait for the United Service Workers to settle their differences with Northern CA Safeway stores.

It will be inconvenient if I can't find the brand of salad dressing I like, or have to take extra time to run my errands. It would certainly be easier just to duck in and take advantage of the specials.

I'm guessing it's a little more inconvenient for these folks to stop work. What's it about? The newswire says...

"The janitors were motivated by their frustration with says, 
contractors' unfair intimidation of workers, including illegal threats of
termination, and proposals to sharply reduce standards for wages and benefits.

"I walked out because Safeway's janitorial contractors are not working with us
to negotiate a contract which will remedy unsafe and unhealthy conditions in
the stores, and help us support and build a life for our families," said
Leodegario Acevedo, a janitor in Santa Rosa. I am standing up for my

Monday, January 21, 2013

View from the Choral Terrace: Kettle Drums on the Move (Bing Concert Hall, Stanford)

A View from the Choral Terrace
Where all we have to heft is our music
The new year sparked an increase in campus musical activity, playing and singing in the new Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University. As a community member of the Stanford Symphonic Chorus, I was quite pleased to be included.

The instrumentalists who play timpani have their work cut out for them shifting the great big kettle drums into place.

Enchanted by Sewing Podcast: Vests and Tutus (Ench-005)

This is my new
 double flannel Birdie Vest
More about fabric and stitching

Hey, have you heard the big news in the sewing world? The latest and greatest Enchanted By Sewing podcast   has hit the streets with it's fifth episode, the January Show: Vests and Tutus! 
Listen to the podcast online by clicking here, or.... do what the Cool Cats do and Drop By the iTunes store to Download

Show Notes for January and previous Podcast Episodes at

Below are some web links related to 
this episode.

A Nod to Vests in History
In The Scarlet Pimpernel, one of my favorite classic romance stories, Sir Percy Blakney wore vests (He called them waistcoats and it sounded like weskits). You can download a free text or audio book version of this public domain work from Librivox.

McCalls Vest 2260

Connie Crawford for Butterick 5473
Folkwear Tibetan Panel Coat/Vest

Tutus versus Tofu
The Nureyev Exhibit at
the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park
Runs through mid February 2013

I sew to create my own look, so I don't want to recreate the picture on the front of the pattern envelope. As a sewist, I also don't want to be inspired, by overly affected by, other people's designs. So, it's a good thing I didn't see this video, which focuses on the Lilac Fairies costume before Larissa encountered that exact garment in my e-book novella My Heart Beats Faster in Past Times. If I had, I wouldn't have been able to get caught up imagining my own version. But now, I can just get a kick out of seeing what somebody who created the real deal came up with.

Recreating a Tutu's Splendor | Theme and Variations

A great youtube video by the costume shop at the NYC Ballet. I first saw this at the Nureyev exhibit at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco

Wikipedia describes several different styles of tutus and explains more about how they are constructed.

Interview: Jewels - Behind the Costumes

Friday, January 18, 2013

Amaryllis: Sure Fire January Blues Reliever

With vacation from work and school well past, and several months of wet or cold to get through in the Northern Hemisphere, it's easy to get the blues in January.

A candy-striped amaryllis bud opening suddenly in a chilly window, reminds me that a good dose of spring time is just around the corner.

Anybody can bloom  in an unexpected place.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

California: Cold Time Pursuits

When it gets cold in other places, the natives go skatin'.

When it gets cold 'round here,'s not really that cold. We're talking somewhere in the 40's.

Best cold weather activity for San Francisco Bay Area?

Making beer.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Embellishment: Keeping it Simple with Decorative Stitching

My bird'y vest is flannel, lined with flannel
The decorative machine stitching adds weight that
helps the fabrics lay better, and gives the garment
a more definite edge.
There's always a sewing tradeoff between focusing on one garment, learning techniques and finishing up some of those unfinished objects (UFO's).

Not to mention artistic fever.

This month artistic fever hit big time. I imagined using all kinds of specialized embellishment techniques. Surely I was going to do all kinds of elegant work on the vest I was creating as fodder for my January podcast. How about quilting it? I thought about creating a motif of pieced flying geese blocks and turning them into diagonal pockets. Wouldn't that be darling? Of course the pocket-blocks would be machine quilted as well as the entire front and back. Then I read an article in an ancient Threads magazine about Sashiko. There's another technique I've always meant to spend time learning. I mean..... how long could it take to learn? (Yes that's a joke :-) Or, I could experiment with machine techniques for doing Shasiko. There's plenty of info on the web!

Yeah, let's get real!

Am I actually planning to get some work done this month? Sewing time is hobby time and it needs to be carefully budgeted. Besides that, I've got several projects cut out that I'd really like to finish up. I stopped in the middle of the flannel birds vest above to cutout and finish a rose pink tee I've really been enjoying wearing today. If I'd gone off focusing on major embellishment techniques there would have been no time to get a tee shirt done. And those half-done light weight denim trousers would be haunting my dreams. OK, they still are, but I have high hopes of getting the buttons done on the bird'y vest and getting on with them.

The tradeoff, of course, was to use decorative machine stitching. I love the look and the heft it adds to the edge of my vest, as well as the hem, sleeves and neckline of that rose pink tee. It doesn't even matter if others notice it. Every time I slip one of these garments on, I get pleasure from those stitches.

And it takes little more than extra thread and maybe an extra 30 minutes or so of sewing time.

Every time I slip on the sleeve of my new
rose tee, I enjoy the hefty band of
decorative machine stitching on the edges.
I used a lengthened feather stitch for this shirt.
Decorative machine stitching is an embellishment that gives me hobby time to cut down my stack of UFO's.  It's my budget sure-cure for artistic fever.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Bay Laurel, Umbellularia californica, in Bloom (HIking Edgewood)

California Bay Laurel
Umbellularia californica
 is in bloom now at Edgewood Nature Preserve
I was surprised to find that California Bay Laurel already in bloom at Edgewood on a New Years Day hike at that preserve. I could have sworn it didn't bloom that early last year.

Below are some historical human uses I gleaned about this noble plant, when I prepared a field trip report for the California Native Plants class at Cañada College last year.
~ ~ ~

I’ve met several people who substitute California Bay Laurel leaves for the Mediterranean Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) . Kozloff (p. 248)  agrees with this practice saying “They (the leaves) can be used for seasoning but have a stronger flavor than L.Nobilis.”
However, in 1976 then UCSC Environmental Studies professor Ray Collett[1] told his students, of which I was then one, that the leaves of the California Bay Laurel were poisonous and should not be used to flavor food. Toni Corelli[2] takes a middle ground saying that “Leaf oils may be toxic to some people.”
Corelli also says that native people used the leaves “medicinally to cure headache and as a tea for stomach ailments. Oils from the leaves were rubbed on the body to ease rheumatism. Leaves were also spread on floors to repel fleas; boughs were buned to fumigate lodgings and to fight colds. The nuts were roasted, cracked and eaten.”
The Ohlone weren’t the last people to use the leaves against bugs. At UCSC in the mid 1970’s my college roommate used the leaves to attempt to rid our room of fleas.  Ray Collett also suggested that students who suffered from bedbugs try the leaves.
Modern use, other than firewood, includes woodworking. Woodworkers, include environmentally contentious landscape refuse salvagers, use the wood for a variety of wood craft, including these lovely little Dryad flutes.[3] The makers of the Dryad Flute says, “It is valued by woodworkers for its beauty and the variety of figure and coloring in its wood.  It is considered a tonewood by luthiers (luthiers make guitars as well as other lute-related instruments) for its ability to reflect the sound wave without deadening the tone. “

[2]Toni Corelli  Flowering Plants of Edgewood Natural Preserve Second Edition 2004 Monocot Press, Half Moon Bay CA

Vintage Threads: Lauren Bacall's Striped Blouse

So simple and so chic
OK, it helps when you look like Lauren Bacall, but...
What women isn't flattered by a classic striped blouse?
I wonder how many times I've watched the movie To Have and Have Not since I first saw it back in university days..... The story's still got it - the people seem as real to me as my neighbors. Despite Bacall's beauty and elegant wardrobe she's just another gal with a problem. Hemingway's tale isn't about celebrities, it's about regular folks with problems and this great film kept true to that message.

The checked suit Bacall wore when we first met her in this classic film, provides obvious inspiration for vintage sewing enthusiasts. Who doesn't admire that bias cut skirt swaying so alluringly against the roll of the starlet's hips, and the wonderful shaping and buttons on the jacket? We all want an outfit like that! But would it do much good for the job we'd imagine ourselves doing in a muggy hotel basement in wartime Martinique?

It's this blouse that I first spotted on Bacall in a scene with Hoagy Carmichael, that really takes me time traveling back to that hotel, and make me itch to recreate her vintage garment. Like the jeans and Oxford shirt that Humphrey Bogart wears in the movie, this chic, striped blouse is a classic any lady would still be glad to create and own. Wouldn't it look great on any woman?

Full-On View of Lauren Bacall in the Striped Outfit
It could be a blouse and skirt
Or a shirtwaist dress
But when I time travel back to Martinique, I'm
making my version up as a shirt tucked into jeans
Later on in the movie we see the full-on view of this beautifully striped garment. With a light belt wrapped around Lauren's waist it's hard to tell whether or not it's really a blouse worn tucked into a matching skirt, or a shirtwaist dress. Does it matter? In my mind I'm hanging out in the cellar of a Martinique hotel with the Resistance fighters, too. And of course I'm wearing an up to date version of  Bacall's outfit. Her skirt is history when it comes to roughing it, but this little striped beauty tucked into my favorite jeans is what I've got in mind for my role in the modern retake on this story. Classically as well as practically dressed, as I always like to be, I'm definitely gonna be ready to really help out  when the police come calling. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Bloom for a New Year: Dirca Occidentalis (Hiking Edgewood)

Please Click on the Illustration Above
For More Beautiful Detail
I always like to start out the year as I mean to proceed through it.

What better way than an afternoon's Bloomin' Hike at Edgewood Nature Preserve?

Can you believe the Leatherwood is already in bloom?

A good omen for 2013, if ever I saw one.

Good Night My Someone: Red Plaid Nightgown

The chicken illustrations are something I created for my
art journal a few years back.
This chicken lives with my neighbor Jen, and is named for me.
I'm proud to say that she (Laurel Chicken) and I appeared in Sunset Magazine's
The West's 100 Best Pets Contest:-)

Sunday morning, I finished the last of the night wear projects I talked about in my December Enchanted by Sewing podcast. 

I've been continuing to look for the missing pattern for this many-times used, Tried and True nightgown, while doing major cleaning and reorganizing holiday-time domestic projects -so far no luck.

Wonder how long this latest flannel addition will last..... I'd guess at least two years but would be surprised if it holds up for four. This was budget, on-sale flannel. I made my husband's nightshirt out of what could be higher quality, but maybe I was simply swayed by the description and the feel of the material. I wonder if better quality flannel fabric has a higher life expectancy, or merely feels better? Perhaps when I get to the textiles class in the fashion program at Cañada, I'll find out more about that.

I noticed while sewing this gown how very loose the weave can be in flannel. The plaid lines moved around no matter how many pins I put in. To give the bodice more oomph, I interlined/underlined the bodice with some blue flowered cotton, a remainder from another long-ago sewn spring nightgown. You can see it peaking out from the back bodice. The interlining was in addition to the interfacing I used down the front to support the buttons and buttonholes. I also used black decorative stitching to further support the button area. 

I did the machine embroidery on this bodice last winter. I think if I were embroidering similarly shaped bodice I'd probably do twice as much. My embroidery machine is older and I think this is the largest size motif I can create.

Working with flannel on this nightie is making me think about what I'll be doing with the flannel vest I'll be sewing soon. I'm wondering if interfacing the entire thing would be overdoing it?