Sunday, January 31, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol XV

Mom says each of us has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world, like a bride wears on her wedding day, except this kind is veil is invisible. We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging down over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way.
But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there's a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for a few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to.
Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. Then they don't have to depend on the wind anymore.

Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me, 2009

Here fabric is used as a metaphor. The veil that we put between life and ourselves, to make life bearable, or understandable, or easier to deal with.

Like Gretchen Rubin, I like to read children's books for relaxation, or just to visit old friends.
This book was a happy surprise. A friend who works in publishing mentioned that I might like it, so I read it yesterday and was completely charmed. I won't divulge the plot other to say that the author references A Wrinkle In Time, a favorite book of my kids.
I always read whatever my kids were reading, and we'd talk about the books. We loved Harry Potter, as mentioned previously, but we also loved Philip Pullman's books and enjoyed non-fiction adventures as well. If you have kids, read this one with them. Then maybe re-read A Wrinkle In Time. Compare and contrast. (If you don't have kids, read it anyway.) There's a lot to talk about, and think about, in this story.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Aliens Among Us

An unusually long neck is a giveaway sign of alien life forms among us. Be afraid, be very afraid.
Pattern available here, for aliens who sew.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Get out your bowl and spoon

And I mean a BIG bowl. I made no knead bread yesterday and again today and my son says it is the best bread I have ever made(and I bake all the time.)
I bought this book back in November called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
I have to confess that I scoffed. I set the book aside as I was super busy in November and December, but earlier this week, I read it again and tried their basic recipe. (I have linked to the King Arthur Flour version, as it is awesome too.) It is amazing. The crust is crusty and crunchy and the crumb is moist and delicious. This is so easy to do even a beginner could do it.
I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol XIV

He walked up the spiral staircase to the first floor, where Diana lived: a little sitting-room with her bedroom opening out of it, the whole communicating with the rest of the house by a long corridor that opened into the main staircase. There was no one in the sitting-room. He sat down on the sofa and looked attentively at the gold-thread embroidery of a sari that was being turned into a European dress. Under the golden light of the lamp gold tigers tore a Company's officer lying on the ground with a brandy-bottle in his hand: sometimes in his right hand, sometimes in his left, for the pattern had many variations.

Patrick O'Brian, Post Captain, pg 77

This passage in Post Captain is particularly telling because Stephen Maturin is being torn apart by his love for Diana, but the author doesn't exactly say that; instead he shows you that with a description of the sari fabric that has an officer being torn by tigers. Diana is from India; tigers are from India. She is lovely and exotic and trying to make over her Indian life into life in England; thus the sari being made over into European dress.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

If you are ever in Northern Virginia

...and you want an amazing hamburger, get yourself over to Ray's Hell Burger, in Arlington. (1713 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22209 (703) 841-0001 ) We went at the request of my son, for his 19th birthday dinner. He's a cheap date. The burgers were delicious and the prices reasonable. I had Vermont cheddar on mine and sweet potato fries, (they were wonderful), Mr. Hunting Creek and J. Hunting Creek both had the hot sauce option, and a good time was had by all.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol XIII

"And we mean to treat you all," added Lydia; "but you must lend us the money, for we have just spent ours at the shop out there." Then shewing her purchases:"Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home and see if I can make it up any better."
And when her sisters abused it as ugly, she added, with perfect unconcern, "Oh! but there were two or three much uglier in the shop; and when I have bought some prettier-coloured satin to trim it with fresh, I think it will be very tolerable. Besides, it will not much signify what one wears this summer, after the ---shire have left Meryton, and they will be gone in a fortnight"

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, pg 211

People sometimes mistakenly think that Jane Austen is sweet or nice or romantic, but she is really very clear-eyed and tough about a woman's place in her society.
She is also wickedly funny.
Look here how she skewers the empty-headed selfishness of Lydia with just a few lines.
Funny story about this physical book: When I was looking for another book in my bookcase, I found two copies of Pride and Prejudice. My daughter said, "Oh I bought that one in Rimini (an Italian beach resort, where she was vacationing). The only books in English that I could find were classics, so I read Jane Austen, and Treasure Island on the beach in Italy."
This may be the first documented case of Jane Austen as beach reading.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sew For Fun

We take you to a top secret meeting of McCall's Sew For Fun Product Development team:
"What about his and hers ethnic tunics? Chicks dig his and hers stuff!"
"Genius! Hey - Let's make it so both tunics will fit on a flat sheet - because we know girls love sheet designs! And give layouts for that."
"Brilliant! - Hey - I know- howzabout we throw in a special Sew For Fun Craft project?"
"Like what? A tote bag? A picnic blanket?"
", I'm thinking something guy-oriented - I know - a tent!"
"A Tent? Sew a tent?"
"Yes! Chicks will dig making tents to match their his and hers tunics! It'll be HUGE!"

This pattern cracked me up...but if making tents is your thing, here's the link to the listing. Be sure to send us a picture of your shirt with matching tent. Hello Kitty sheets not included.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Things can only get better

It's been a busy week on Little Hunting Creek, my hometown...I had hoped not to have to say this, but I am very, very disappointed in Massachusetts. As my dad always says, just because a guy looks good, doesn't mean he'll be a good husband..I mean...Senator. Yes, he is hot, crazy Massachusetts voters, but I thought you were better than those crazy California voters who voted for Arnold. At least Arnold is married to a Democrat.
I'm also disappointed in Arlen Spector. Yes, Arlen, I too have wanted to tell Michelle Bachmann to be quiet many times myself,(usually my children lead me away from the TV and tell me to remember my blood pressure) but it is inappropriate for you to tell her to "act like a lady". If that means what I think it means, you just told her to sit down, shut up and let the men talk. And didn't you learn anything from the whole Anita Hill debacle?
Or is it that we can't teach an old dog new tricks?
In my experience, when we act like "ladies", that means we are quiet, submissive and let the older, wiser men do everything for us, because they know best.
Sorry, Senator Spector, there are no ladies here any more.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I don't know how they do it...

...but left alone for only twenty minutes (while I took a shower), I come back and he's watching James Bond! Again! every time I wander from the TV, it's either James Bond or football. Is there a James Bond movie on 24/7/365? Discuss.

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol XII

This kimono belonging to the geisha Mameha - whom I'd never heard of at the time - was a work of art. Weaving its way from the hem up to the waist was a beautiful vine made of heavily lacquered threads bunched together like a tiny cable and sewn into place. It was a part of the fabric, yet seemed so much like an actual vine growing there. I had the feeling that I could take it in my fingers, if I wished, and tear it away like a weed from the soil. The leaves curling from it seemed to be fading and drying in the autumn weather, and even taking on tints of yellow.

Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha, 1997

This may be one of the saddest books I have re-read in a while. The heroine was sold into servitude at age nine. The descriptions of life in Japan are very vivid, but as I read I thought about how many women all over the world are still sold into slavery. An excellent book on this subject is Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's Half the Sky.

I have a small collection of kimono and haori. They are all handmade, and subtly beautiful. I can't wear any of them, though - the original wearers were much more petite than I am. I have a couple hanging as art in my living room, and they are a feast for the eyes. When we were in Kyoto we did see a few women in traditional garb walking on the street. The people there mostly wear western dress for daily wear, but I have read that kimono are still worn for special occasions.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

All Wrong

Just as otherwise sensible women will confess to a secret attraction to rodeo cowboys, international playboys and Nascar drivers, I love patterns that my rational self knows will not look good on me. I am short and curvy, and this model is tall and willowy. There's a reason they show clothes on tall, willowy models. Everything looks good on them; that's why they are models. I will list all of the reasons why this dress (which my inner princess longs to wear) is all wrong for me. I am short, and also short waisted. I have an hourglass figure, but it's an hourglass in which a great deal of time has passed. This dress would not be kind to the hip-endowed hourglass. Also the neckline would be problematic for those of us who wear undergarments. In the past I would buy aspirational patterns like these, but never make them. Now I know better. Instead, I should buy Vogue 8631 instead.

This is the kind of style that looks good on me; why do I scorn this and want what is bad for me? A mock wrap is attractive on many figure types, and I even already have fabric that would work. (Of course I have fabric that would work for every single pattern Vogue offers; who am I kidding?)
If I were realistic, I would forswear my international playboy patterns and settle down with a nice practical wrap skirt, a cute tshirt and some jeans. We could have a long lasting relationship...long walks on the beach, cozy dinners by the fire...
What patterns do you covet yet know they are all wrong for you?

If you are ever in D.C. ...

And are wondering, "Where can I get amazing pizza?" then you need to go to Two Amy's in Northwest D.C., near the Washington Cathedral.
Last night was my daughter's 25th birthday, and this was her choice for her birthday dinner. She is quite the pizza expert, since she has eaten pizza all over Italy and all over the world (they have very good pizza in Thailand, in case you're wondering), and she had heard good things about Two Amy's wood fired pizza.
The rest of us are also picky about our pizza. We all loved their pizza and the suppli al telefono weren't bad either.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Double Your Good Deed

I learned this morning that the company I work for will match any charitable donations I make for Haiti up to a thousand dollars. It's worthwhile to check with your company's HR department to ask if they have a similar program. (And if not, why not start one?)

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol XI

It was usual for ladies who received in the evenings to wear what were called "simple dinner dresses": a close fitting armour of whale-boned silk, slightly open at the neck, with lace ruffles filling the crack, and tight sleeves with a flounce uncovering just enough wrist to show an Etruscan gold bracelet or a velvet band. But Madame Olenska, heedless of tradition, was attired in a long robe of red velvet bordered about the chin and down the the front with glossy black fur. Archer remembered, on his last visit to Paris, seeing a portrait by the new painter, Carolus Duran, whose pictures were the sensation of the Salon, in which the lady wore one of those bold sheath-like robes with her chin resting in fur. There was something perverse and provocative in the notion of fur worn in the evening in a heated drawing-room, and in the combination of a muffled throat and bare arms; but the effect was undeniably pleasing.

Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence, pg 104

This is a book with many wonderful descriptions of clothing; Edith Wharton uses dress as one of her methods of character development. Note her description of ladies' dress as 'armour', which of course, it was. Armour in the Social Wars. The movie based on this book has wonderful sets and costumes and the clothes are beautiful. Ever since I re-read this,I want,no, need a fur-trimmed red velvet lounging gown like Countess Olenska's.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sewing Wish List

Now that I think I've gotten my sewing mojo back (it took a long hiatus there, because I was sick)I've started to think about my next projects.
I've been seeing lots of cute tshirts with fabric flowers on them. That looks easy and fun to do.
I'm not sure about the Three Graces T shirt.(But it is calling my name. It is so pretty!) I'm wondering if it would look good on a person who is large busted? There's a whole lot of fabric there.
I'd also like to make a lace blouse. And a fly front skirt. Also some silk pajamas out of the new HotPatterns Pajama Pattern.
What are you sewing for spring?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mom! You Can't Say that!

"Mom! You can't say that Rush Limbaugh is going to hell on your blog!", my daughter said this morning.
"Why not? It's my blog. I can say whatever I want as long as it's true. Besides, I didn't say he was going to hell. The Scripture did that for me."
"But you write a sewing and cooking blog, your readers might not like that. You've got the Bible and Rush Limbaugh in one post. That's dangerously close to "Kids, get off my lawn!"
I considered. Then I said, "All that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to say nothing. The Quakers believed that they had to bear witness against slavery. They went to jail for that. I would consider it a failure of conscience to say nothing. Besides, I have already been accused by my readers of living in Left Blogistan. And they all know I went to Berkeley. Al Franken called him a Big Fat Idiot in a book, and look where Al is now."
She was slightly mollified but it's clear she thinks I am a dangerous radical.
She also said that I can't write anything more about politics. But you know what? Since I was diagnosed with an incurable disease, Rush and his ilk don't scare me. Hello, Doctors without Borders? This fifty is from me.
And Rush? Get off my lawn.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol X

This one is for Rush Limbaugh, who seems to have forgotten it:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: 36 Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink? 38 When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you? 39 Or when saw we you sick, or in prison, and came to you? 40 And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.

41 Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungered, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Matthew 25 American King James Version

My parents are Roman Catholic, but our next door neighbor played the organ in the Baptist Church nearby, so on Sundays when we were kids we'd go to Sunday School with our neighbors. The Baptists were very nice and we always had juice and homemade cookies afterwards. They made us learn our Bible, so unlike Catholic kids, I know my New Testament. I was thinking of this part in particular the other night when Jon Stewart played what Rush Limbaugh said about Haiti. And all I can say is shame on him for saying that, thinking that and encouraging others to turn away from people in need.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol IX

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats, 1899

Here is a lesser known Yeats poem that deserves to be better known. I like his vivid imagery and word choices. (You just don't see "enwrought" every day). I wouldn't mind some of that cloth myself.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dinosaurs in Overalls

Sometimes while browsing vintage patterns, one comes across something so bizarre one does a double take. Dinosaurs in overalls? Really, Simplicity? (Not that there's anything wrong with toy dinosaurs in overalls, but still...weird.)
But if that's your thing, you can find them here.
I find the Christmas version especially hilarious.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol VIII

Some of my evening and afternoon dresses were made at my grandmother's, where I would stand patiently while Ellen Murphy stuck pins into me and while her assistants stitched the bones of whales into linings to support me during my working hours. Ellen always referred to "my work" which was, of course, "to meet a man."
Ellen would stand a short distance away from me, and making sweeping motions with enormous shears, she would cut wildly into satin and tulle and velvet. I felt like a trembling lay figure as I stood there with her fierce green eyes on me and the shears clicking around me. When the cutting was over, the pinning began. This was even more uncomfortable. Pins pricked the lay figure's skin. It turned out that she was human after all. Ellen objected to any wincing.
"Save your dancing for the ballroom floor!", she would say crossly.
At last she would be pleased. The smile of a satisfied creator would run over her freckled face as she stood off and surveyed her handiwork.
"We'll get him with this one, Miss Lula," she would announce confidently.

Louise Andrews Kent, Mrs. Appleyard and I, 1968

Have you and Mrs. Appleyard been introduced before? No? Then let me do the honors.
She and Louise Andrews Kent, her real life counterpart, lived in Vermont and Boston from about 1912-1968. Mrs. Kent was a prolific writer, and if you come across her Mrs. Appleyard books, grab them. There is no better way to learn how people lived in earlier times (this would be the United States before, during and after both World Wars) than reading her books.
This excerpt is from her autobiography, which contains interesting stories, including one about seeing the Great White Fleet in Bar Harbor before the Spanish American War, and details of daily life as it was lived back then.
People, of course, are the same as they have always been, but also, boy were they different as well.

I have found my Fabric and Sewing In Literature Project lots of fun. I have been re-reading my favorite books (I am a Multiple Reader, as confessed previously) and finding lots of great examples.
What favorite examples of sewing and fabric in literature have you seen lately?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol VII

This left only one parcel. Harry picked it up and felt it. It was very light. He unwrapped it.
Something fluid and silvery gray went slithering to the floor where it lay in gleaming folds. Ron gasped.
"I've heard of those," he said in a hushed voice, dropping the box of Every Flavor Beans he'd gotten from Hermione. "If that's what I think it is - they're really rare, and really valuable."
"What is it?"
Harry picked the shimmering, silvery cloth off the floor. It was strange to the touch, like water woven into material.
"It's an invisibility cloak," said Ron, a look of awe on his face. "I'm sure it is - try it on."
Harry threw the cloak around his shoulders and Ron gave a yell.
"It is! Look down."
Harry looked down at his feet, but they were gone. He dashed to the mirror. Sure enough, his reflection looked back at him, just his head suspended in midair, his body completely invisible. He pulled the cloak over his head and his body vanished completely.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 1997, pg 201

Invisibility cloaks, caps and other magic articles that render the user invisible abound in literature since the beginnings of literature. There was Hermes' magic cap, also H.G. Wells' Invisible Man, and many, many other examples.
For Harry Potter aficionados, the introduction of the invisibility cloak is a vital plot point. This cloak will make many appearances (disappearances?) throughout the story.
I first heard J.K. Rowling read from her book in an interview on NPR back in 1997, while I was driving home from work. She read the chapter where Harry goes to the zoo on Dudley's birthday, and it was so amusing and interesting that I went to Olsen's Bookstore the next day at lunchtime and bought two copies - one for my kids, and one for my nephew, for Christmas. When we opened presents, the kids (of course) had never heard of Harry Potter. So we read it aloud to each other that whole Christmas vacation. This is a book that should be read aloud to and with children, and we all three took turns reading it to each other. The story really isn't fully appreciated unless it is shared. (Especially the Uncle Vernon parts)
Go read it again - J.K. Rowling is so inventive it is a pleasure to imagine Every Flavor Beans, Chocolate Frogs, Grow-Your-Own-Warts Kit and more.

Invisibility cloaks might soon be more real than you think. Check out what they are up to at the University of California.
(Take that, Stanford! Go Bears!)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol VI

Olaf had been given ten yards of navy-blue silk foulard by a goods salesman. While he was trying to decide how to give it to one or the other of his wives (or cut it in half and give them each five yards) they both found out about it. They both wanted it. They decided it was the most beautiful piece of material they had ever seen in their whole entire lives. Sigrid was going to make it up with a bustle and Linnea was going to make it up with a tight basque and a Francine skirt looped up the middle.
Finally Olaf, in torment, asked Linnea if she would be willing to flip a coin or draws straws with Sigrid for the yardage. Linnea said she would be glad to. He asked Sigrid the same thing and she went on one of her famous crying sprees that lasted three days and three nights. Olaf got so nervous and distraught that he gave the silk to Sigrid and she carried it home from the shop and hardly got in the house before she cut it out. That was two years ago, but Linnea could not hear the mention of dark-blue foulard without feeling like a female Guy Fawkes.

Ardyth Kennelly, The Peaceable Kingdom, page 74

This book is difficult to find, but it is one of my favorites. I read it first when I was a teenager, and recently re-read it as part of my fabric in literature project. I loved it even more when I re-read it this time.
(As a digression, have you noticed that there are two types of readers? One kind never reads a book twice, and the other kind will read their favorites many times.
The One Time Only Readers just cannot understand why anyone would read the same book twice. The Multiple Readings people regard re-reading a favorite book like visiting with a old friend.)
This is an old fashioned novel, with strong characters and interesting details about life in early Utah, just before it entered the Union. It will also make you appreciate how much work women did then to run a household and get food on the table.

Artwork above, The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol V

A Summer Wind, a Cotton Dress

I was hers and you were his
The night we met out on that bridge
You knew then what I know now
That love put down comes back some how

The comet came, the comet went
And hid its face in the firmament
I looked once and then turned away
When I looked again it was much too late

A summer wind, a cotton dress
This is how I remember you best
A glance held long and a stolen kiss
This is how I remember you best

The fool I was is the fool I am
I've got a wife, I'm a family man
But when I lay in our bed
I sometimes dream I'm holding you instead

A summer wind, a cotton dress
This is how I remember you best
A glance held long and a stolen kiss
This is how I remember you best

The kids are fine
They're six and nine
I think you'd probably like my wife
But the kitchen light seems much too bright
For what I find myself thinking tonight

A summer wind, a cotton dress
This is how I remember you best
A glance held long and a stolen kiss
This is how I remember you best

Richard Shindell, from the album Courier
If you click on the song title above, you'll see a live performance of this song by Richard Shindell

When a man says he remembers a girl in a cotton dress, it must be an awfully pretty dress. Maybe one like the one shown above? The fifties were a prime cotton dress viewing period. Cotton lawn, I like to imagine, maybe Liberty? With pretty pastel flowers. The girls above, muses both, are wearing sensibly low heels for dancing and bridge-set stolen kisses by comet-light later.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol IV


WHENAS in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free ;
O how that glittering taketh me

Robert Herrick
Painting by Huygens

Friday, January 8, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol III

We told her about the problem of Rose's dress. "It should be pink," she said, "a crinoline effect- there's the very thing here in this week's Home Chat."*
She dived into her satchel for it.
"Oh dear, that would be perfect for her," sighed Topaz.
Miss Marcy blushed and blinked her eyes, and then said: "Could you make it, Mrs. Mortmain? If dear Rose allowed me to give her the material?"
"I'll allow you," said Topaz. "I feel justified."
Miss Marcy shot her a quick glance and Topaz gave her the very faintest nod. I nearly laughed-they were so different, Miss Marcy like a rosy little bird and Topaz tall and pale, like a slightly dead goddess, but just that second they so much resembled each other in their absolute lust to marry Rose off.

Dodie Smith, 1948, I Capture the Castle pg 102

*Home Chat was a popular British Ladies Magazine

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol II

Sallie had been buying silks, and Meg longed for a new one, just a handsome light one for parties, her black silk was so common, and thin things for evening wear were only proper for girls. Aunt March usually gave the sisters a present of twenty-five dollars apiece at New Year's. That was only a month to wait, and here was a lovely violet silk going at a bargain, and she had the money, if she only dared to take it. John always said what was his was hers, but would he think it right to spend not only the prospective five-and-twenty, but another five-and-twenty out of the household fund? That was the question. Sallie had urged her to do it, had offered to lend the money, and with the best intentions in life had tempted Meg beyond her strength. In an evil moment the shopman held up the lovely, shimmering folds, and said, A bargain, I assure, you, ma'am. She answered, I'll take it, and it was cut off and paid for, and Sallie had exulted, and she had laughed as if it were a thing of no consequence, and driven away, feeling as if she had stolen something, and the police were after her.

When she got home, she tried to assuage the pangs of remorse by spreading forth the lovely silk, but it looked less silvery now, didn't become her, after all, and the words `fifty dollars' seemed stamped like a pattern down each breadth. She put it away, but it haunted her, not delightfully as a new dress should, but dreadfully like the ghost of a folly that was not easily laid. When John got out his books that night, Meg's heart sank, and for the first time in her married life, she was afraid of her husband. The kind, brown eyes looked as if they could be stern, and though he was unusually merry, she fancied he had found her out, but didn't mean to let her know it.

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol I

'...Now that I come to think of it,' he went on, stalking like Adam across the room to his brown paper parcel, 'here is a present to go with the jewel.' He unwrapped a swathe of Lyons silk velvet, blacker than the darkest night.
After several shrieks of rapture she thanked him very prettily, congratulated him on his brilliant conduct in putting their affairs in order - she had always been sure that he could do it, however complicated, wrapped a fold or two around her pure white torso...

From Patrick O'Brian, The Yellow Admiral, pg 187

Painting from wikipedia. There is some very interesting fashion information there about this time period.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Seems to come out small

Notes on pattern envelopes are just one of the pleasures of collecting vintage patterns. Sometimes the previous owner notes colors, fabrics, or personal reminders, like "Sue's wedding party, teal blue taffeta."

Sometimes the notes are a little plaintive, like the one here, that says, "seems to come out small". Since this is a Junior size 11-12, bust 32, in my opinion that's already small. There's a whole novel of teen weight and size issues in that brief pencil notation. Was she in denial about her size? Did she, like every other teenager of my youth, wish to be smaller? Did she buy the right size to start with?
(When I write my novel, should I title it, "Seems to Come Out Small?)

(I always longed for hair like View B. Just look at her, she knows she is too cool for everyone else on the envelope. View C is having a hissy because View B got to wear the cool top.)

This one notes that it belongs to "Belle Dial, Period 4". I see that Belle is a practical girl. She is making this jumper for Home Ec, back in the days when girls took Home Ec. This pattern is from 1970, so I am imagining that Belle is about my age. I made a jumper like this one (mine was Simplicity, and yes, I still have the pattern) when I was in Junior High. The vintage patterns sometimes have swatches of fabric included. I like that best. I'll think, Oh view B is perfect in that creamy blue and tan plaid, or what was Belle thinking to use this green?

Belle was trying to be one of Charlie's Angels with this happening vest (cool 70's embroidery transfers included). She even left some embroidery floss in the envelope, but sadly no fabric swatches, so I don't know if she used fake fur shearling or wool or velvet. Either way, it would have been a vest Starsky and Hutch would have approved of.

What notes have you found on vintage patterns?

Monday, January 4, 2010

There may or may not be possums...

My daughter has been watching Hoarders with the horror and fascination of someone driving by a giant car pile up. She just can't look away.
I can't watch. I come from a long line of hoarders, and I am constantly resisting the siren call of owning every fabric I desire, or all of the patterns I ever wanted, even though two lifetimes would not give me enough time to sew what I have already. Two years ago I stopped buying fabric. And in the two years I have not suffered a fabric shortage. I just used what I had. I did buy thread and zippers and interfacing as needed. But I never want to be like the lady who said on the show, "There may or may not be possums in that bedroom. There have been no confirmed sightings, but..." If you just can't be sure if there might be possums in your house, it's official. You have a problem.
(Now when one of our rooms or closets is messy we all say, "there may or may not be possums...")
For example: our front closet, where we keep all of the coats. I do not recall ever getting rid of a coat in the last ten years. Possum territory, definitely.
I think that the fear of ending up like those poor people might have inspired me to clean my closets. That and the fear of possums, of course.
Do you have a room that may or may not have possums?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Undecoration Day

We started 2009 like this in last January.

And ended like this last week.

After we opened our gifts last week, the house looked like this:

And just now as I took down the stockings and wreaths and banners, and undecorated the tree, folded up the tree skirt, put away the wrapping paper and tape and cards and ribbons and all the folderol that comes with Christmas, I thought about how when we decorate, everyone helps. Our background music is carols and we drink spiced hot cider and eggnog, eat cookies and holiday snacks, but oh man, when you UNdecorate, you are ALONE. There are no carols that sing about the joys of unwrapping the lights from the tree. No one writes about the fun they have with their kids taking down the ornaments. No one writes charming essays about the meaning of putting away Christmas. There are no holiday specials about cleaning up the mess. Now all of the commercials on TV are about Jack Bauer's new season of bad guys and terrorists, and Dan Marino's new diet. Not a one mentions that half of Christmas is a tremendous amount of putting all of this stuff away.
My daughter was telling me this morning that the gym was PACKED with people in the morning before work. January gym rats, starting their shape up resolutions. And all of them were on diets. There is probably not one single can of water-packed albacore in Arlington this week.
None of those people, I'd be prepared to wager, are helping someone put the decorations away.

However, once everything is all put away,(by moms all over the country, working to the background noise of NFL playoffs) the house looks so light and airy, so much more spacious and gracious and uncluttered. At least until the next party.
Happy New Year!