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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Husqvarna Serger Contest Entry

I wasn’t born here in Tucson, but in my time, I’ve grown quite a spine, like a saguaro.

I was born in Savannah, Georgia, to Midwestern parents. In Savannah, the church ladies dressed their daughters in spendy smocked dresses. My mom learned to smock even more beautiful dresses than the pricey store-bought ones. When I got pregnant, she immediately wanted to know the sex of my child so she could start smocking. I had a daughter, Alice. Here she is at the beginning of August, wearing a beautiful dress smocked by her Grama.

My personal sewing history had, up until the last couple years, been a mess of tension problems, furious seam ripping, pipe dreams I could not play into existence, and laughable results. When I was in Junior High in the ‘80s, girls were required to take Home Economics while the boys took Shop. I grumbled all the way through burned pigs-in-a-blanket, scalded hot cocoa, crooked cloth napkins, forgetful table setting, and then… then came the foot pillow project.

My awkward, pubescent peers and I were allowed to select our own material to sew a large pillow in the shape of a foot. The other girls brought in their tidy yards of pink cotton prints. I don’t remember how my fabric choice came to be approved by my mother. She must have steered me toward some demure (bo-ring) cotton, and my stubborn railing wore her into exasperation (and amusement) as she must have foreseen how disastrous this project would be! After the other girls showed off their cheerful girly calicos, I unrolled a hairy slab of white faux fur with a pile at least three inches long. The Home Ec instructor pursed her lips.

Mny small hands could barely cut the fabric into a foot shape. I couldn’t fit the two layers of fabric under the presserfoot. I sewed much faster than the instructor asked. I promptly jammed the machine each time my teacher laboriously freed it from the roadkillish hunk of fur. My teacher asked me to stop. She even promised a passing grade for my effort to sweeten the deal. Any normal sixth grader would’ve enjoyed the time to write notes to her girlfriends, or draw caricatures of her peers. I wasn’t normal. Instead, I took the ‘pillow’ home to my mother, who hacked into it with the seam ripper each night, and gave me a deconstructive reading of how I had caused the latest pillow problem.

Somehow I finished with a vaguely foot-shaped pillow, of which I was immensely proud. Home Economics ended and I leapt ahead into the future. In graduate school, I machine-pieced a few quilts. After receiving my MFA, I sliced deeply into my left thumb with a rotary cutter, clean through bone, with the entire tip hanging by a thread. At the hospital it was reattached. I sewed the remaining ‘geese’ and readied my quilt for hand-quilting by my then 89-year-old Grama. I swore I’d never use a rotary cutter again.

And then my desire to make more quilts overpowered my fear of Olfa cutting blades.

I had my daughter.

I wanted to sew for her.

In my search for a natural, handmade doll for her birthday, I fell in love with Bamboletta Dolls. I managed to acquire one, then two, then three, then four.

I decided to sew for them. There are quite a few talented doll clothing-makers on Etsy, but I had my own ideas to add to the table.

My husband was laid off from his job in June. I decided to try my hand at selling my doll clothes and quilts, so I set up an Etsy shop called Dreaming Monet. I’ve spent hours perusing sewing blogs and fashion books for inspiration and explanation of various techniques. I sketched and described design ideas into a small notepad. I’ve spent dozens more hours learning how to execute these ideas – sometimes by the firing squad of my own eagerness to figure it out NOW, and sometimes executing in the sense of actually making my idea materialize—and selling it to someone who does not know me, for her child to dress a treasured doll.

But there is this.

My daughter.

Sewing clothes for my child, her dolls, and other peoples’ children and dolls is time-consuming. I spend hours carefully ironing hems under twice, often burning my fingertips with the iron’s steam. Many of the designs I imagine are simply impossible to create lacking a serger. To have more flexibility in my designs, more efficiency in sewing, more professional-looking hems and seams, the ability to complete many more projects in the same amount of time; to be able to provide income at a time when we are financially struggling, to soar farther and farther beyond the hilarious foot pillow and my sliced-off-and-reattached thumb, I ask you to please consider me in the Husqvarna Serger contest. Winning this contest would so very positively change my life, my husband’s life, my child’s life, and maybe even the lives of children and dollies around the world by allowing me to make my creations more available. Thank you for your kind consideration of my entry!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Strange Popcorn and Other Vices

I'm a vegetarian, and have been for 17 of my 33 years. On a recent Whole Foods shopping trip, an end cap with brick red bags of gourmet popcorn caught my eye, and the sale price was enough of a discount for me to pause. 'Bacon Ranch popcorn? What in the world?' I picked up the Popcorn, Indiana bag prepared to be disgusted. Then I read the ingredients. No bacon! Theoretically, I could consume this product. So, I bought it thinking that perhaps an eventual review of this offensive flavor might make it to McSweeney's Reviews of New Food section.

Later that night, at home, we watched a movie. What better occasion on which to indulge? I ripped into the bag and was hit with a funny smoky aroma. 'What the...?' I hesitated a moment before putting the first kernel in my mouth. Then quickly--a second, third, seventy-seventh piece.

The popcorn was amazing. Normally a popcorn purist, I prefer mine hand-cranked on the stove with a small amount of butter, very lightly salted. In fact, I have gone through two hand-crank poppers in my time (and now need a third). But now, on impromptu 'just to buy a gallon of milk for Alice' trips to Whole Foods, I hunt down the bags by Popcorn, Indiana, and I ... buy them, even full priced. Whole Foods likes to keep me on my toes and they never keep this popcorn near the other popcorn, and it's always in an unlikely place. In the frozen aisle? Near bulk foods on the verge of the produce section? With the tea? In any event, I'm hooked. Bacon-Ranch popcorn, I'll have you no matter where I find you. There is no escape, for either of us.

I'm eating some right now, in fact.

During the last few weeks, which have been quiet for this blog, I've been busy. I'll showcase a few photos of the last month's work.

Whose Woods Are These capelet.

Silken Wings (white silk dupioni).

Black Forest dress.
Custom order.

Custom order.

Silk dupioni blouse and hand dyed batik petal skirt (custom order).

Custom ordered blouse.

Girls in capes! L to R: Ellia, Polly, Ashanti, Monet

Now I'm on my second bowl of popcorn.... rather than hiding my vices, I thought I would celebrate them in list form. Here are a few.

*Fresh vegetable juice from Whole Foods -- more expensive than a Frappuccino but heavenly. I like the 'kitchen sink' juice, which has whatever vegetables WF has in that day. Though I never go for cilantro or cucumber.

*Fabric. I have kind of an unpredictable taste in fabric. I like retro and reproduction prints, with a soft spot for '30s prints. I'm a fan of (especially, hand dyed) batiks. Japanese import prints -- I am dying to get my hands on some linen-cotton blends, but haven't found any at an affordable (to me) price. I love the whimsy of Heather Ross. I tend to love Moda. Joel Dewberry. And so on.

*Trims. Especially hand dyed silk and velvet ribbons.

*Dark, organic, fair-trade chocolate.

*'Mama's Coffee' (as my toddler calls it) made by my husband at my request -- I am spoiled! -- iced soy mocha.

*Hand dyed yarn.

*Checking out sewing or knitting books from the library, often through ILL, from which I then copy several patterns that end up in piles of other patterns, often to be rediscovered long after and sometimes then made.

*Spending long stretches on the Internet. Facebook, LJ, Etsy, Google, various crafting blogs, artist sites, etc.

*Okra. When I was pregnant, I once bought the last (multiple pounds of) okra at the farmer's market, much to the chagrin of the lady just behind me. That same lady became even more irritated when I got the last loaf of challah!

****ENOUGH VICES!!!!****
Perhaps you'll tell me one of yours!

News for the shop:

For fall, I'm planning lots of 'warmer' clothes for dolls. I'm going to be doing a collaboration with Jennifer of Graciegirls Dolls which will involve me making clothes for her smaller dolls. I plan to start selling clothes for these dolls and Little Buddies (Bamboletta) on Etsy in the coming weeks.

To celebrate and welcome the nearing Autumn, I'm offering a considerable discount on every quilt and bedding set in my shop. If you purchase any quilt or bedding set, I will refund $5 for any set costing $30 to $50. I will refund $10 for any hand-quilted quilt (these run $75). In addition, I will refund shipping costs, even if you purchase doll clothing as well. Simply mention in the 'notes to seller' section you read about the quilt promo on my blog or Facebook, and I'll promptly refund the difference to your Paypal account.

What would you like to read about in future blog entries? I love feedback and constructive criticism, and would welcome hearing from readers. Thank you!!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

We spent the last 15 days in New England visiting my husband's extensive extended family and I am so thankful to be home safe and sound after some excruciatingly frightening air travel. I'm going to be posting a giveaway soon just because I feel so relieved and happy to be able to continue my work of putting beauty out there into the world however I can. It is an honor and a privilege to do so.

The three of us, along with Ellia and Monet, stayed at my husband's grandmother's home with my mother- and father-in-law who also traveled from AZ--though the pilgrimage is an annual occurrence for them. To finally meet the many characters in the family tree in person was amazing.

And I have to say, I am now a huge fan of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. So much so that we are discussing a possible move to this part of the country. Anybody know of any jobs? :-)

We took a rowboat out on a pond. One of the most exciting little unexpected things was when the wind lifted the lilypads domino-style, revealing their red undersides. I don't believe I've ever seen lilypads *move* before. We looked for berries on the bushes edging the shore, but found nothing but a few hard green blackberries.

We went swimming in New Hampshire. I was born near the ocean down South, but hadn't been for something like 17 years, so long that it seemed entirely new again. And it was new, because I was there with my 22-month-old, who had never been to an ocean. We splashed and jumped the waves and 'built sandcastles.' I sheepishly panicked that a floating ziplock bag was a jellyfish. The water was cold but the sand hot and I ran back and forth between the water and our little towel of beach burning my feet then cooling them.

In the woods at Walden Pond, Alice stopped to show Ellia a fascinating pinecone. At the site of Thoreau's cabin, there is a landmark stone with engraved letters. Alice danced on this stone and 'read' the inscription aloud. She picked up more pinecones and acorns (which she also called pinecones) just outside the roped-off indicators of the cabin. We walked to the water and waded in, where Alice squealed with joy and announced, 'I like this Wall Pond.'

All five of us adored Walden Pond. I could have spent days there.

My husband and I did daytrip into Boston on the commuter train, while Alice's grandparents watched her for the day. We spent an invigorating five hours at the Museum of Fine Art (MFA) and then took the train to Chinatown, where we discovered a vegan Thai restaurant (My Thai) which served one of the most delicious meals I ever have eaten. Just finding a vegan Thai restaurant was enough to make me want to live in Boston. When we went inside, I decided I'd like to live across the street. Our appetizer arrived and I decided I'd need to live in the same building. When our entrees were served, I realized I'd need to be next door.

My one pang of regret was not getting to Tanglewood, but--next time.

New England unlodged some story ideas, which is funny for me as I've been producing mainly weird poetry and hybrid work, as far as my writing goes.

So, not the most coherent post I've made, but I wanted to put something out there since it feels like it's been a long time. I've got some fantastic doll clothing ideas to work through in the next few days. Thanks for reading!