Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Porch railings at last!

You may have noticed, if you are particularly observant, that the porch steps in the photo of Summer Top #5 have a new handrail. Just yesterday DH and I (well, DH mostly) finished installing railings on three sides of the porch as well.

You may wonder why, after seven years of occupying this old building,we suddenly decided to spend $700 to put railings on the porch. And therein lies the story. A few weeks ago, an old friend came to visit. She  said that her husband had been ill for several months.

My friend and her husband own a beautiful old house in a fashionable neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. As she told it, for years they had thought about raising a low-hanging chandelier, but instead put a table under it. For some reason, one day her husband leaned across the table and straightened up suddenly, cracking his head on the chandelier. My friend said her husband had suffered horrible headaches for months as a result of the accident.

We were sitting on the porch at the time she told this story. I had just warned her to be careful not to fall over the edge. Hearing of the pain and misery resulting from a preventable accident made my husband and I determined to put up railings before someone fell off the porch. And voila, there they are. I think they look great! Now if I can just get the sidewalk re-poured...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Princess Has Left the Building

I should be happy, really I should. After seven years of talking about it, my DH has finally agreed to opening a bed and breakfast. We have three empty bedrooms on the second floor, after all, a cool historic location, and lots of energy for a couple of fifty-somethings. We like to wake up early, and we know something about preparing food for a crowd. The city is planning to build a walking trail right past our house.

Next step: get the rooms ready. Remove personal items belonging to our children. Start with DD's beautiful tower bedroom, dubbed the "Princess Room" by her little cousins, who love to stay there.

Forgive me if I have told this story before. When I was expecting our first child, I fixed up a lovely nursery in yellow, turquoise and pink. This was in our little house in College Park, Maryland. When our darling daughter was born, she slept in said sweet nursery for five months before we moved to the Comoro Islands. Nothing fit in our new home in the tropics and despite all my best efforts, the little nest I had made for our firstborn was gone.

Fast forward sixteen years or so, to our move to our current castle. We built another nest for our baby girl, now a junior in high school, with sparkly lace curtains and the period-inappropriate bamboo floors she wanted. Her dad bought an ugly black metal bunk bed while I was away in Washington, but I dressed it in lavender, mint green and pink. The ceiling fan was ultra-modern, the fixtures brushed aluminum.

You can guess what happened. DD lived in that room all of six months before heading out to spend her senior year in France. I stood in the princess's empty tower, on those bamboo floors, under that ceiling fan, and mourned.

Still, during her four years at the state university thirty miles up the road, our daughter came home frequently to recharge her batteries within the round green walls of her tower. For five years, she brought the love of her life, in whom I invested emotionally, too, and then suddenly he wasn't the love of her life anymore, and we both mourned the loss.

Every time DD came and went, more and more stuff got left behind. Journals. Sketchbooks. Jewelry. Posters. Class notes. Guitar chords. Lots of rocks. A Dremel drill, unused, that her dad bought her for making jewelry with the rocks. Photographs of her former love.

And now it is my job to sort through all that stuff and leave only the things that a stranger might understand and appreciate. I worked valiantly for several hours, traveling randomly through various episodes in the life of our little girl, now an independent young woman whom we are fiercely proud of, and now it is all too much, and I can't bear to put one more thing in a plastic tub today.

The princess has left the building.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Freestyle sewing with the nieces

I've had a houseful of family guests this week, including my two nieces. Last year when they were here we talked about sewing, but this year we actually did some. The younger one wanted "genie pants" for which no pattern exists anywhere. I designed the pants and another sewing sister came up with top. I turned the two little girls loose with my old $25 Brother machine, and it was great to see the lights go on in their heads as they took turns sewing the long seams. Finally one of them showed me the seam in her t-shirt and asked, "Was this made with a sewing machine, too?" Their eyes brightened with the recognition of sewing possibilities.

The older girl wanted a t-shirt with a hood. She already had one, so I copied it for the pattern. While we sewed it up, she decided a front pocket and sew-on patches would make it even better, so the project grew.

Both girls love their new clothes. I spent about $11, once coupons were deducted, on the fabric, but watching them discover the fun of sewing was priceless.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Summer top #5

Back in April I had a free evening in Terre Haute, Indiana and walked over from our hotel to a bookstore. With me were the two young beauties who modeled for me in the Trashion/Refashion show, and one of them talked me into buying the Spring 2014 issue of Burda Style magazine.

For a while I really didn't see anything in the magazine that I thought was worth all the tracing. Then I pulled out a piece of deep purplish navy cotton/lycra, left over from leggings I made my third grade daughter (now 22). My pattern stash yielded nothing interesting, so I flipped through the magazine and a picture of a simple sleeveless cowl neck top caught my eye.

The top turned out cute and flattering. My friend Lisa liked it so much, she's out shopping for fabric to make her own as we speak. Should you be inclined to make this pattern for yourself, however, be advised that it is sized very large. I had the thing finished before trying it on. Bad planning; every seam had to be taken out so I could cut a full inch off both side seams and resew them. A two-hour project ended up taking twice that. The armholes are also too deep to cover a normal bra. The instructions for the cowl neck are unclear; when sewing the shoulder seams, you need to sandwich the back between the front and the cowl and sew through all three layers.

Summer top #4

Summer top #4 started out life as a skirt, part of an embroidered cotton jacquard dress and skirt set made for me in Africa, circa 1995. I never liked the way the outfit looked together, but DD wanted the dress, so I was free to do something else with the skirt.

I used Butterick 3928, a jumper pattern from the 1990's, cut shorter to make a top. You can see from the photos how I cut to take full advantage of the embroidery, eliminating the side seams from the hip down. I used a mint green cotton from my stash for the facings and repeated the color in the two buttons, which I bought at JoAnn's for about $2.00.

I like the way this top hides a multitude of sins, although the colors don't go with much besides jeans, so it may not get as much wear as some of the others. I also had an uh-oh moment with the seam ripper, resulting in a tiny hole near the base of the zipper, but it's practically invisible to the naked eye.