Sunday, October 7, 2012

September was a good month

I haven't sewn anything new since my TSW eDress but I've altered and hemmed and planned for next weeks sewing retreat/workshop in Winter Park FL with Louise Cutting and Linda Lee.    I was all ready to attend last year but too near the very end of the risky TPE treatments and my blood pressure became too low to even consider leaving town.  But that is history and when I finished and went to Johns Hopkins on October 27, a year ago, and got the catheter removed, I scored 39 out of 49 on their neurological test.  At my six month check-up on Tuesday September 25 and I scored a perfect score on the neurology test - 49 out of 49.    I will be driving myself to Florida!

I believe that nothing happens by chance.  We can let others make decisions for us or we can take charge of our own destiny.  There are choices.  If I hadn't taken charge of my life and my body, I wouldn't be where I am today.

I listen to my inner voice.   On one trip to Washington back in 2006 before I retired, I was driving up I85 and was nearly to the VA line.   At the time I drove a Chevy Malibu.  Traffic was moving along nicely and I was coming up on a rest stop and didn't really need to stop for anything.  But something said, stop there and take a break.  I never stopped at a rest stop without a reason before.  So I pulled in and parked for about 15 minutes.    As I drove out and approached the highway, the  traffic was at a standstill.   I merged in with the cars and just a few miles up the road several cars were upside down or turned over - one a Chevy Malibu exactly like mine.    I've had many experiences where a simple, seemingly innocuous choice or decision - some call it intuition, led me to a person or to a different path and consequence than if I hadn't acted upon the suggestion.   

Life is a journey.  Along this segment of mine I have been connected with, and embraced by many wonderful and interesting people who gave me precious gifts of encouragement and comfort, some I've never met except virtually and by phone.   I avoid narcissists and their negativity, greed and selfishness.  My journey isn't over, and as with all my other life experiences,  this one has been a great teacher.  


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Styling like Ralph Lauren and a BIG milestone

Ralph Lauren's Fall 2012 RTW collection looks a lot like what I bought, made and wore in the late 70's, early 80's.  I had coats, jackets, skirts and slacks in the same weaves and color palette.   Like this collection I mixed plaids, herringbones and coordinating tweeds with knits, patterns like paisleys, and fur.   It's classic elegance that is fresh every year and feels good to wear.  I always wore textured hose and tights in the fall and winter and carried Coach satchels similar to these since I travelled a lot.  Over the years I consigned many pieces from those years,  only keeping select ensembles that I update and restyle with accessories.

When I saw his brown pinstripe ensemble with the narrow pant and short jacket with lapel and curved front hem I said that's the Michael Kors Italian pantsuit that I've been wearing for 15 years. The dark brown fabric is 80% wool/15% rayon/5% stretch and has a woven gray/taupe pinstripe.  The pants fit and look just like Ralph's, and I love wearing it with cashmere tops and my collection of previously owned mink and fox collars.  This one is lined in velvet and has clips at the ends so you can style it many ways.   I take exceptional care of my clothing and accessories and have the discipline to stay the same size.  I'm  60 and even though I went through an extended period where I could not walk unassisted or exercise, I am still the same size I was in my 30's.

I bought some new shoes with good ankle support and a nice chunky heel at Out of Hand in Mount Pleasant SC when we were spending some time there the first of the month.  Now that I can easily stand and walk in this kind of heel - Big milestone  -  I celebrated by buying these.   I usually wear a dark brown calfskin ankle boot that I bought at Roberto Spinelli in Rome with the dark brown pinstripe pants and jacket,  but thought I'd show off me standing and walking in these.   Here's a photo of me walking and standing in them while trying them on -  celebration!

I wore a lightweight wool Glen Plaid coat and skirt ensemble similar to this one to the settlement on my first house in the DC area in 1977.   I never wore caps or bowler hats.  I didn't keep that ensemble,  but I love the fuschia accent in the handkerchief and gloves here.

Here's an example of Ralph's mixing and matching, and an Oscar ensemble I kept in the softest mauve, wine, and gray plaid and coordinating tweed.   This was sold as a complete ensemble with tags removed as was the custom in Loehmann's Back Room in the late 70's.   I knew it was Oscar from the style and quality and this was always one of my favorites.   The short jacket is fitted at the waist and came with the coordinating paisley pleated front blouse.    The tweed full skirt, cut on the bias with deep tucks at the waist is the same tweed weave within the plaid of the jacket.   I didn't care for how it fit around the pocket waist closure so I took it apart.   That's just the front and back skirt fabric there.  Looks like it's time to refashion it since I can wear my boots again!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Favorite Time of Year

Late summer/early fall when it starts to get cool is my favorite time of year.   It makes me think of going back to school, family reunions and other good times.   It's the lush green before the leaves start to turn.  You can smell the sweet autumn clematis that has just begun to bloom.   It's the one with the tiny star-like flowers draped over fences like soft lacy blankets that smells like a cross between jasmine and vanilla.  The morning glory vines are mature and the flowers are pretty in the mornings.   The wild turkey chicks are all grown up.

Have you ever saved leftover scraps of fabric for it's beauty, colors and memories?  Here's what's left from blouse I made and later gave to my sister in Texas with a copy of an Armani pantsuit I had custom made for me in Korea from an Italian birdseye wool.   The fabric came from the best fabric store in the Washington DC area until it closed, Fabrics Unlimited.  They carried Abraham silk and Linton tweeds, and all the best French, Italian, Swiss and Austrian fabrics.  The socialites and embassy crowd came with their dressmakers, and their sales were legendary.   I had limited time to sew and never bought cheap fabrics.   I had to attend social events at Washington hotels, embassies, the Kennedy center and so I needed my clothing to look elegant and expensive.   I carried my own fabric to Korea on trips to the far east because it was better than what the Korean custom tailors in Itaewon had to offer.    I used to shop the back room of Loehmann's in the 70's and early 80's when they got real NY designer garments and removed the labels.  I fit into all the sample garments and found Oscar and other top NY designers for a small fraction of the original price.   

For the blouse I used tiny Italian glass buttons that were the color of the taupe with a little of the wine inside with loops at the back of the scrunched collar.     It went up in smoke with everything else in her house over a year ago.    The leaf and berry motifs and colors remind me of this time of year, colors and unusual combinations I love to put together.   Click on the photo to see the colors and the silk jacquard.    

I need to replenish my serger thread supply before I can sew a few things so I pulled out a muted wool plaid that I bought from Michaels Fabrics last August.    He had a new shipment of Italian wools, assorted shirtings and other fabrics that made it hard to choose.    I had the leaf silk remnants next to it, with the serger thread in a taupey green and blue and look how the colors work together.    I think I'll make an infinity scarf out of the silk.

Chinchilla Update:   The boys remain separated.    Unfortunately Snowball viciously attacked poor old Woodley when I put them together about a week ago.   Woodley dove into his tubes so he didn't get bit.    The cages are side by side.   Woodley is in the big three story ferret cage they both were in and Snowball sits in Woodleys old 3 level cage and looks at him.   I don't think we'll ever be able to put them back together.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chinchilla Shaming

Most of you know I have two male chinchillas.   Woodley II, the alpha male gray,  is healthy and somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 since we got him as a rescue in the summer of 2000.   He lived in my home office in Maryland and kept me company.   Woodley is a good boy and enjoys running across the top of this red couch.

Chinchillas can live as long as 20 years.   When we moved to the Asheville area in 2005, that fall our son bought a young male chinchilla, a white one with black ears and tail.   After keeping them in separate cages,  letting them out to get acquainted and play in the same room, going in and out of their cages (territory),  I put them together in a large, modified ferret cage and they got along just fine.   They never fought and became best buddies, sleeping together like peas in a pod.    That mutual friendship and respect went on for 7 years until we dog-sat Bernie weekend before last.

I was a BAD chinchilla because

The chins become defensive around dogs and will bite them so I kept the chinchillas' cage cordoned off from Bernie's sniffing and curiousity.   Bernie, AKA "the dog" was mostly upstairs, gated off from the stairs, but the chins knew he was in the house.    Snowball bit me hard on the wrist on Thursday.   It was painful for days, and if you look close, you can see the bandage on my right wrist.    What I didn't realize is that he was also attacking and biting his old friend, Woodley.   I heard them making their noises and DH even said they sounded like they were fighting.     I saw gray fur all over the cage and Woodley was inside his house, making clucking noises, keeping Snowball out.   I figured he was exibiting his alpha-male side because of the dog.   When I got Woodley out of his house and inspected him a couple days later,  he had bite wounds all over, some scabbed over and healing and some fresh and bleeding.    I immediately removed Snowball to the small cage and called the vet.    She said that if they were healing that was good and to watch for infection and his behavior - was he eating?  etc.     I cleaned and inspected the bites that were fairly superficial, no deep ones that might have injured an organ.    He obviously wasn't feeling well and needed to be able to heal without the other one biting him again.   The good news is that Woodley is now healed up and back to his old, mooching self.  But they remain separated.   
The perp with his slitty eyes is in the "pris" cage
I didn't realize it when I took the picture, but if you enlarge it, it looks like he's giving me the finger.   Hmmmmmm?

Saturday Update

Today I examined Woodley all over, and he's still got a big scab on his back behind his neck.   There are no abscesses or infection.   The boys are still separated.    I cleaned their cages and scrubbed the tile floor where they live downstairs - same room where the TV is.   They like watching baseball with DH.   I put another tube (cardboard cylinder that is used as a form for concrete) like the one in Snowball's cage there back into Woodley's cage.   They love their tubes because it's like being in a burrow, and he's been sleeping in it ever since.   Their favorite snack is apple branches and apple leaves.   It's a good thing we have an ancient apple tree that always needs trimming.

I've been walking to the end of our street where the mailboxes are and back every day.   It's hard but it's good to be able to do it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

TSW eDress

Size 1.5 before washing/drying
Too large
eDress after washing/drying
eDress has shrunk one size, the armholes are back to normal,
and the bindings curl nicely

While awaiting the arrival of Louise Cutting's newest pattern, Take Me Anywhere,  I ordered this download pattern and printed it out.   It looks great on each of the ladies on the TSW site.   I compared the sizing and measurements to similar styles I wear and decided to start with size 1.5 - better larger than smaller because this knit shrinks up after regular washing/drying.   Due to fabric limitations, for this first dress I folded up the dress portion ten inches, similar to what I did with the TSW Tosca dress pattern.  I left the band the same length.    

I used fabric that was left over from several previous projects including the eShrug.   It doesn't ravel and ruffles up at the cut edges, and you can work those stripes.    So I got to play with it again for this wearable muslin of the eDress.   You can see how I styled and executed the bindings at the neck and arm edges on the TSW eDress Flickr Set.   This knit does not have stretch so sewing on the armhole binding stretched the armholes out.   I then washed and dried the dress with a load of cotton clothes, even though the fabric was pre-washed in cold water.  The "after" are the headless photos above to emphasize the overall fit and changes that I anticipated.

My next iteration of this dress will be in the smallest size and in a meatier, stretchier knit.   In the right size the eDresses will work for me in longer or even shorter lengths, and I may make the eDress/skirt shorter than this dress.  The shape of the skirt is similar to the skirt I'm wearing with the Babette peplum top in a previous post.   Another dress and skirt are part of some transition coordinates I'm working on that include some TSW Ann's tops and the TMA  jacket.    The band allows you to pull together coordinating fabrics in interesting ways.

BTW the top of this dress is the same shape and sizing as the Ann's top so you could easily make a top out of it.    All in all,  I think the pattern will yield some wonderful casual coordinates and this first dress looks nice with this white ISCHIKO summer jacket.    

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Peplum top from dress

Here is the peplum top I made from the too-big, frumpy dress.   I separated the skirt from the top at the waist and used the already nicely rolled hem edge for the peplum.    Where the front had just been gathered below the cartridge pleats, I added cartridge pleats and stitched them down to mirror the stying on the bodice.  In the back I added darts at the waist, and instead of gathering the attached peplum,  I put two soft, inverted pleats just below the darts, and eased up any excess.   I still had to leave the waist a bit roomy or put in a zipper to get it over my head.   I'm wondering if it would look better if the peplum was shorter, but it's the same length of the current Vogue patterns peplum top, and the Peggy Sagers Giorgio top with a peplum effect.    Actually refashioning and altering isn't my favorite thing to do, so I'm done with this top for now.

So here it is with several different bottoms.   I created a Flickr set of proportions, pulling photos from my Flickr library.   It's interesting how certain combinations just look right and others, iffy or just frumpy and wrong.   I like the top with the short skirts and the cropped pants.   It's a boho look with the double layer georgette rayon skirt above.  Now my former dress is a comfortable casual top that I'll get a lot more wear out of.

With matching skirt - Yes
With bias short skirt - Yes
With cotton cropped pants -Yes
With jersey gored EF skirt - No

Friday, August 10, 2012

Refashioning and One Year Later

It's amazing how moving makes you take a new look at your wardrobe.  I bought a few pieces that were waaaay to big for me.  But big is better than small because you can always alter and refashion.   Then some things you don't wear as much because you don't have the right coordinate.    So I'm breaking in my sewing room arrangement by altering and re-styling things I like, warming up for fall sewing.

I like peplums and it's nice that the designers showed many variations for this spring/summer.   I bought this neat Babette SF peplum top made in her signature pleats to get more wear out of this charcoal/cream stretch cotton bubble skirt with shades of gray.

Then there was this Vera Wang dress in an interesting fabric that I loved.   I already owned the skirt and found the dress for less than I would have paid for the fabric.    Only problem was that it was huge, the waist was too high, it was too long and overall looked frumpy on me.   Then for two years it hung in the closet.    So I took another look at it and the lightbulb went on!    Peplum top ! waist a little high - no problem because that's the way they're styling the peplum tops.     Just figure out the best length to cut it off, hem it and take it in some in the back.   I'm going for a stylish summer top that works with different bottoms.

Before - frump city
Gathers below the cartridge pleats   

Next was this interesting summer ensemble from Doncaster.  The jacket is definitely Chanel quality and the fabrics are gorgeous but the only skirt they had at the clearance markdown was a size 14, too big and too long for me.   But you can always take bigger in so I bought it.   The skirt style is just like Loes Hinse Swing Skirt I've made a few times, so I measured and compared to those, and decided to use the same waistband technique Louise Cutting uses on her One-Seam pants and her skirt patterns.    It's a very pretty waistband technique, esp for soft fabrics, and would enable me to take the skirt up at the waist and not mess up those gorgeous flounces.   The silk georgette print and the solid lining were a bit wiggly to work with so I used a 2 1/4" template to press that made it a lot easier.

Before with waistband and darts

Removing waistband - these Kai scissors were wonderful to do this

After using Louise Cutting's signature technique

Before and detail of double flounce
After with coordinating cotton tweed jacket

This week we're dogsitting Bernie, our son's pomeranian.    He's a cutie and follows me around everywhere.    We walk down the driveway and down the road.    He likes to dig at the edge of the driveway in a certain spot.

It's hard to believe that it's been one year since I returned home from  Johns Hopkins hospital where they put that catheter into my chest and began the plasmepheresis treatments that continued until the end of October.   As I look back on those times, and the months since,  I remember all the special people who truly were my angels.    My physical therapist, Kathie who saw me when all this began and who happily discharged me on the 16th of July.    My sewing friends here in the US and around the world,  some who contacted me after following my disastrous journey prior to getting into Johns Hopkins with helpful advice and friendship.   The doctors and medical professionals at Johns Hopkins, and at Mission Hospital who attended me during my plamapheresis treatments.  I particularly want to thank Wendell and Susie, the RNs in the hemodialysis center and all the doctors at the Mountain Kidney and Hypertension Center who run that unit.    Wendell coordinated with the doctors and nurses at Johns Hopkins, assured them that their procedures mirrored those at JH, that allowed me to be treated here rather than stay in Baltimore for three months.    Those were tough times but the care they gave me enabled me to get through it.     And the good news is that the treatments worked.  Fast forward to this month when I was making reservations in Baltimore for my next check-up the end of September.      

I'm looking forward to October when I get to go to Louise Cutting and Linda Lee's workshop/sewing retreat in Florida.   For now,  I am happy to be able to do all the things I couldn't do a year ago.   I still don't have the endurance I used to and tire more easily.   I may not get that back but at least I can walk up and down my road and driveway and do anything I put my mind to.

To all those who took the time to write and comment and encourage me,  thank you.  Over the years I have met people with serious physical problems that were different and many times a lot worse than mine.   They never played the victim and inspired me with their courage and determination to live and not wallow in self pity.  Put your mind to it and create the life you want and do what you can do.  That's what I did even when I didn't see any light at the end of the tunnel.   I'm glad and fortunate to have found doctors who knew how to make me well.    

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A new house and a re-styled outfit

Outside kitchen window
How to get to the front door
You asked for pictures so here are some.   This is a contemporary house in a private neighborhood off a private road just outside the Asheville city limits.  We have almost an acre of all trees so I don't need curtains on any window.   In addition to these wonderful windows, there are many skylights and clearstory windows that let in lots of light - even in the bathrooms!   There is lots of open space with room for my carpets on the lovely oak floors.    My sewing room is on the lower level - you can see the stone patio in first photo.   I donated much, and kept only minimal furniture and other necessary items.   My goals were no clutter and easy to clean.   And I have no trouble going up and down those, or any other stairs, even carrying a grocery bag with handles in each hand. 

I'm wearing a knit Anything But Ordinary top from Louise Cutting's pattern that I restyled by removing the sleeves in 2009, and a Loes Hinse Tango skirt I sewed in 2006.    Can't remember where the variegated knit fabric came from.

Windows looking onto front deck
With a pair of Turkmen prayer rugs
And here's how big the wild turkey chicks are now ... with mom always watching over

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mid-summer and what have I been up to

It has been nearly two months since I posted.   I continue to get stronger and have been doing all sorts of things - yardwork, moving and unpacking, housework, driving a car -  all the necessary things I wasn't able to do a year ago.    Yesterday, Monday the 16th was my last physical therapy appointment.    I had only been going once a month since May anyway but now I'm on my own.    I've signed up for weekly Tai Chi classes based on the program designed by Dr. Lamb, an Australian physician.  These begin in August and are taught by an instructor who is also a physical therapist.

We've had our share of hot and humid days here in the mountains of western NC.   It gets hot and then just about every afternoon thunderstorms move through - some have been pretty destructive, although we've had no damage.   We have had our share of hail too.   Here's a photo of some along a stone wall that beat up my flowers that day.    Those evening primroses took a beating.  We've been busy redecorating our new house and keeping cool like the chinchilla here.  The older gray is inside the house and the youngster lies on top watching me.   The cuties are right outside my sewing room in the lower level of the new house that stays very cool.   

Mr Cool
I'm now able to do everything I want to do, weed my gardens, cook, drive, paint.  I can stand on my toes and my ankles are strong so I can even wear heels, but am unable to do any serious walking in them.  My knee reflexes are back and I can bend, lift, climb stairs carrying heavy bags, and even climb up on the stone walls.    I love to cook, something that I was not able to do for some time because I could not lift pans or carry things.  Here is a sample of what I've been cooking this summer from the photos I posted on Flickr.

Chicken piccata with capers
Southern tomato pie and corn

I'm working on my sewing room.   It's all set up and functional but I'm now in the decorating stage.   Here's the color palette for my sewing room.    My cutting table and all the wood furniture is painted the lavender blue. 

Since the room is very large and has two large closets with shelves in the back, I'm also using it for my rolling racks of clothing for out of season clothing.   Instead of building bookcases, I moved some tall pine Ikea bookcases from our former den and am waiting for the blue paint to dry.   I will have pine room dividers in the blue with the two fabrics here to partition the room.   I also have a day bed and a cabinet in that room - my refuge.   These fabrics match the Laura Ashley fabrics I used to decorate, and are the same colors I painted the second floor, the trim, and my former sewing room.   The lightest yellow is the wall color and the darker blue sample is the trim.   They are relaxing and cheerful at the same time.

I haven't sewn anything new but have done some repairs and refashioning.    I have enjoyed mixing and matching the coordinates I've sewn and bought over the years.    Remember when I posted about some snoop shopping finds in January 2011, especially this fabulous  Etro cotton lace cardigan jacket with the linen trim at Neiman Marcus?   The price was over $1,200 as I recall.  
Detail of Etro lace cardigan
So I'm looking at the QVC website one day for something a month or so ago.  I rarely look at their site or buy anything from them, and lo and behold, there is a jacket that this Dell'Olio guy claims he designed for them that is almost an exact copy of the Etro - lace, colors, trim, pockets, buttons, everything  and they were selling it for $50.   Look at the photos of the Etro and judge for yourself.   So I decided to order one in the terracotta color to see the comparison.    

They probably paid $5 to get it made because the lace and linen trim quality is definitely not the same as the Etro, and neither is the workmanship.  The only design difference is that the Etro doesn't have the trim around the neck and the brown check trim is not on the bias.  Other than that it's a pretty darn close copy.   I kept it because it pulls my orange and brown coordinates together.    Here it is with an asymmetrically pleated Burda Style skirt and a similar style skirt by Gunex, both with Louise Cutting's Anything But Ordinary top in mocha silk noile.   It's an interesting cardigan jacket that I didn't have to sew.

I don't spend a lot of time sitting around, or looking at the internet.  I do like to look at the many excellent and informative blogs written by talented women with real style.   Sometimes, when I try to comment, decyphering those letters and other games you have to play makes what I typed evaporate.   After all I've been through,  I just can't relate to the whining and excuses I see on some blogs and on a sewing board.   I post if I think I can be helpful,  but I'm not an attention seeker, and I never played the victim when I was dealing with this crazy, rare disorder - that's just not who I am.   I don't care to deal with the same phonies and mean-girl cheerleaders who relished in the organized bullying of me when I was at such a low point in terms of my health and mental state.   You'll notice that after the bullying came the shunning behavior ...   Bullying of anyone, anywhere, is disgusting, but that was particularly reprehensible, given the age of the bullies and the ringleader(s).