Tag Archives: sewing

Not dead, nor yet a zombie

[insert typical “sorry I don’t blog here more often” paragraph]

The fact of the matter is that I am still writing, rather a lot, over at Making Light, a blog owned by my friends Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden1.

This is kind of unfair to everyone who keeps looking here for news of me. I know this. I’m going to start doing pointers to Making Light when I’ve posted something there that people here might be interested in, and hanging out here for people who want to talk about those things with me rather than a large crowd of strangers2.

My most recent post is about the quilt that I made this spring: Works and Days of Hands. It’s also about the process of making something like that, and how process and design mirrored each other for me.

Fibonacci spiral quilt: front Fibonacci spiral quilt: back

Another post I really enjoyed writing was Op anger tale, which is an exploration of the relationship between a particular Dutch dialect and Wikipedia.

One thing I’ve been talking about over there, rather a lot, has been the US health care situation. The conversation can get quite heated from time to time, of course, but that heat has certainly caused me to clarify and reaffirm my own beliefs in this matter.

  1. That phrasing makes it sound like we were friends, and then I pitched up on their blog. Really, it was the other way round.
  2. Though many of my friends here are also friends on Making Light, it’s a smaller group.

New dress for Mistress Pink, or, Package tracking as entertainment

Last year, my mother made a [jumper / pinafore] (depending on dialect) dress for Fiona. It was every pink-obsessed little girl’s dream garment, with tier on tier of floral ruffles. From a parental point of view, it’s also very good – corduroy, washable, looks good unironed, long and loose enough that she can wear it for some time before it is too small. Fiona loves it, and has to be wrestled from it when it’s time for a wash.

So in the tail end of the year, with the sewing machine and serger throwing inviting glances her way, Mom asked me if I wanted her to make another one. I thought about it, but Fiona only really needs one obsessive dress, or we’ll run out of shirts and tights to go under it. But I had an idea for the leftover fabric from the first dress. Why not make a matching one for Fiona’s favorite doll, Holly?

Measurements were taken in the dead of night. Guesses were made and rechecked. More measurements were required. Christmas threatened to squat like a toad on the postal services, so the decision was to wait till after New Year’s to send the package. Federal Express then required a crash course in Dutch postcodes (hint: looking at them on the US ZIP code database gets you nowhere). Finally, the thing was sent and all we could do was watch the tracking.

And watch it we did, with versification to keep it entertaining.

On January 3 it arrived in Memphis. Mom commented,

Give me Memphis, Tennessee!
Hep me find the party tried to get in touch with me.
She could not leave her number, but I know who placed the call
Cause m’uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall!

I replied with a mangling of Marc Cohn’s Walking in Memphis:

Warehoused in Memphis
Would that I could see the sights outside
Warehoused in Memphis
Waiting for my transfer. Where’s my ride?

Then it was sighted leaving Memphis, destination unknown. I found myself humming:

I’m leaving on a jet plane
At last I’m on my way again.
Fedex can ascertain
Where next I’m set to go.

Paris, as it turned out, was the next step. Mom announced this with:

The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay,
I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café

The last time I saw Paris, her trees were dressed for spring,
And lovers walked beneath those trees and birds found songs to sing.

I dodged the same old taxicabs that I had dodged for years.
The chorus of their squeaky horns was music to my ears.

Holly’s dress arrived in that most magic of all cities at 8 pm today, January 3.

The first time I saw Paris I was 19 years old. We took a train into town, and we got there at about 6 am. (“We” being Mike Thacker and me.) I walked out onto a bridge over the Seine, and the city was misty and quiet still….the cathedral had been there forever. At that moment I fell in love, as one does at 19, unthinkingly. And forever. I can’t see the real city now, when I go back. All I can see is what I saw in 1965.

The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay,
No matter how they change her, I’ll remember her that way.

I Googled for Paris poetry, and settled on one that starts:

First, London, for its myriads; for its height,
Manhattan heaped in towering stalagmite;
But Paris for the smoothness of the paths
That lead the heart unto the heart’s delight. . . .

It swiftly became:

First, Piedmont, for the artistry that creates,
Flat Memphis that still Elvis elevates;
But Paris for its far-flung motorways
That bear the dress to where the dresser waits…

Before any more versification or doggerel could be committed, the Fed Ex van arrived here in Oostzaan. Fiona was delighted.


Thanks, Mom, for the dress and the entertainment.

5 Little-Known Things About Me

Martin tagged me with this meme, after I took the pictures for his entry. No photos in mine, I’m afraid, but here are five things you probably didn’t know about me.

  1. The bass line
    I have a real affinity for the bass line in music. I love the way a well-written piece will use it to buoy up the melody. I first learned to appreciate it in high school, when I played the bass clarinet (ordinary clarinet didn’t suit my snobbish elitism). Now, although I am technically a soprano, I prefer to sing alto.
  2. Black? Not so much
    Although you can’t tell it by looking at me, black is not actually my favourite colour. I like wearing it, but I prefer looking at shades of green (not too bright) and purple.
  3. Not long all along
    Although I am known for my long hair, I haven’t always worn it this way. When I was 13, I had it cut in a Princess Di style. That lasted less than a year, before I decided I did prefer having it long.
  4. Feats of toughness
    When I was a teenager, I almost never wore shoes in the summer (“summer” being defined as April to October in California). Inevitably, I developed some amazing calluses on my feet. I used to be able to pirouette barefoot on concrete without pain. I gave it up when I moved to Scotland, mostly because we lived in a couple of areas where the dog owners have no manners.
  5. Fabric Fussiness
    I learned to sew when I was 13 or 14, and have been making clothes on and off since then (it’s handy when you don’t match the dominant body shape, or the current taste in styling). This means I’ve handled a lot of different fabrics, and learned a lot about their different properties. Each type of material has its own hand. Over time, I have come to prefer – strongly – the hands of natural fibres such as wool, cotton, linen and silk over synthetic ones. Synthetics have a perceptible greasiness that repels me. I rarely buy anything of artificial fibre now, particularly to wear against my skin.

Dear readers, now it is your turn. Surprise me.

Questions that Answer Themselves

Darn it, what am I going to do about this huge three-cornered tear in my purple linen trousers?

(I didn’t photograph the original tear, because I didn’t have the heart.) I didn’t want to patch them, and I didn’t want to make a new pair. So I learned to darn.

Darning is using spare threads from a scrap of the same fabric to recreate missing cloth. So first you work a bunch of threads in one way, then reweave the cloth by going the other way. It’s time-consuming, detailed work – I would have been faster making a whole new pair of trousers (not as smug, though!)

From the front, with one “leg” of the tear done and the other half done
taken 16 August 2006

From the back, same point in time.
taken 16 August 2006

In theory, a darn should be invisible. In practice, this darn suffers from the amount of thread added to the texture of the cloth in the area outlining the tear. I don’t know what to do about it. Note that I melted some Wondaweb onto the loose threads at the back because I was afraid of it ravelling. It hasn’t changed the texture more than the basic darn itself did.

Front of finished darn.
taken 19 August 2006

Back of finished darn.
taken 19 August 2006