Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Round Up

 What did I make in 2014? I designed these needle felted stockings for new babies
Snowmen/Gingerbread people
Is this my favorite? Red Poinsettia on white wool felt
Four Calling Birds, Cardinal variety
Four Calling Birds on Blue
Handmade Vanillas  Brandy, Rum, Bourbon and Vodka (recipe for these is in my Toll House Cookie essay.)

  In the fall of 2013, I took a online class offered by Penn on Modern Poetry, recommended by Bad Mom, Good Mom. I enjoyed the class, but best of all, it inspired me to start writing again. I was so inspired that I wrote "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Bad News" . On a whim, I submitted it to The-Toast.
No one was more surprised than I when they replied that they would be delighted to publish this in January of 2014.

Inspired by the incredible sexism of the NY Times obituary of Yvonne Brill, I wrote the blog post about their incredible wrongheadedness. But our friends at the NY Times continued to be sexist trolls, which spawned a Twitter hashtag: #NYTwomensobits
I read these and thought  NO, they are doing them wrong. They should write them as if we were in The Handmaid's Tale, but as if women were in power. So I wrote a few, submitted them for fun and got this reply back: Write MORE. So I  wrote some Misandrist Obituaries, published last January.

In the spring, I took an online class at Duke in Behavioral Economics: A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior. I liked this so much, I wrote, How to Avoid a Bank Robbery, which was published on Medium.

Inspired by the amazing sexism that accomplished women face, and the unacceptable attitudes in the media regarding their clothing choices, I wrote Wearing the Pants, A Brief History of Women wearing Pants in the West, published last summer.

I read a study about cats, and how they hear you calling, but choose to ignore you and wrote:
T.S. Eliot and the Science of Naming Cats. There is a lot of interesting research out there about cats. Basically, scientists have discovered that they are all acolytes of Ayn Rand, and Slytherins.
He hears you calling him, but chooses to ignore you. Cats are not dogs, people.

  While reading a cookbook, I noticed in the headnotes of a chocolate chip cookie recipe a glaring historical error. Cookbooks full of inaccuracies like this (Food writers are very seldom trained in historical research techniques), but this one was particularly egregious. They claimed that the Toll House Cookie recipe was based on a Colonial recipe called a "Butter drop-do". Curious about the weird name, I did some research and discovered that everything we thought we knew about the origin of Toll House cookies was based on a web of lies.  My Secret History of Toll House Cookies was published on Dec 5th.

They still keep publishing the wrong stories. It's amazing how difficult it is to correct a deliberate falsehood. Read my essay and tell Epicurious to get their act together. Do it for Ruth Graves Wakefield.

That's a brief list of what I did in 2014. I wish for all of my Dear Readers a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Needle Felted Christmas Stockings

This year I added some new designs to my stable of needle felted Christmas Stockings. I detailed the process of making them here.
The stocking above is a gift for a new baby.

Needle felting can be done on many fabrics. These stockings are made of wool felt, which doesn't ravel and is very easy to work with.

The Poinsettia Design is my own - I free cut the petals and leaves to get a primitive look.

I lay them on the felt until the design pleases me, and then felt it down with my machine.

After that I sew them together. I have a bunch more to show you later this week.
I always get new ideas to try whenever I make them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Ghost from Ardennes

Found in an old cigar box, pictures of my Uncle Edmond. He was a tail gunner in the 510th Bomber Squadron, 351st Bomber Group. He is buried in Ardennes Cemetery.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Feels Like the First time...

J found this picture of me, from the very first time I voted. My mom made me pose for a picture. "MOM! This is stupid!"

This is at my old elementary school, in my kindergarten classroom. I am a freshman in college at this time. 
Of further interest, I made the top I am wearing. It was a knit top. Pale green, with darker green little leaves. Not seen: the green denim jeans I made to go with it.

Don't forget to vote!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tutorial: Furoshiki Techniques

One of my fondest memories of Japan was watching our Saleswoman wrap our packages when we bought gifts to take home.
She was so talented! She didn't even need tape! It was like taking a master class in origami.
The nice people at Spoonflower have a lesson in wrapping with cloth here, just in time for the holiday season.
  Wrapping a bottle of wine or fancy olive oil with this technique would make your gift even more special. There are so many cute quilting fabrics with unique designs, so you could truly customize even the wrapping to the recipient. I can hardly wait to try it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Halter Tops

Is this pattern magical? It says ONE SIZE, but please note: it does not say, "One size fits all", or "One top to rule them all", it just states: ONE SIZE.
At first I wondered, maybe it has additional pattern pieces included, because I know from living in the material world that not all women are the same ONE SIZE, no matter what clothing manufacturers and fashion magazines might think.
Then I realized that this must be from Simplicity's "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" Collection.
It's for stretch knits only.Magical stretch knits.
Imagine the practicality of having a pattern that truly was ONE SIZE - whatever size you were.
My guess is that this was left accidentally from a person from a parallel universe where either everyone is ONE SIZE or their patterns magically fit everyone.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Dress from 1957

My mother wore dresses like this, before I was around, of course. I used to peek in her closet when I was a kid and imagine wearing those big skirted floral pieces of fifties froth, with white gloves and those pointy toed pumps.
The Black dress for cocktails in the city, the flowered one for lunches at the country club.

I especially like the thought of going to my office in the black version. I'm the editor of Vogue, and i have the cool Miranda Priestly glasses, (the better to give cold condescending looks).
Where would you wear this lovely dress? Would you choose wool jersey, or silk shantung? Linen or pique? Wool crepe, or faille? Whatever your fantasy, if you are a size 16 (fifties sizing), bust 36 inches, find it here.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Links of the Week

Harry is helping and wants you to know that he is not in the way

If you sell your work, or are thinking about selling your work, this discussion of pricing is pretty interesting.

These GIFs from the Smithsonian made a nice antidote to the events of this week.

I learned a few things from this podcast about making a living as an artist . 

Here's a picture of a deer eating my hostas and daylilies:

This article about how oldest sons are given more food and attention in India made me inexpressibly sad. This is a quantifiable demonstration of the patriarchy in action. I'm not picking on India here; there are ample examples of this tendency to funnel resources to sons in Western Culture as well. Just think of Primogeniture in England, Henry VIII and countless other examples.

I think all of this calls for another cat picture:

David's Portrait of Napoleon, improved with Ginger Cat. Link below for artist.
Harry recommends this blog with four paws UP.
Have a great week!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Wearing the Pants

Dr Mary Walker, picture courtesy Library of Congress
Sitting Bull's Daughter in leggings  

Women working in the canning factory, during WWI, picture courtesy Library of Congress
Amazon Warrior in Pants picture courtesy Wikipedia

My essay on the right to wear pants is up today on The Toast. Did you now that it used to be illegal for women to wear pants? Did you know that in many places it still is? Find out more here.
Published today on

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wax Print Dress In the News

Photo of Dr. Biden and Vice President Biden from the Washington Post
Don't you love this wax print dress? Dr. Biden had it made when she was in Africa. Read all about it here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

In Progress: Hawaiian Shirts

  Mr. Hunting Creek loves the shirts I make for him. He gets lots of compliments and comments and he always brags that I made it custom for him. He has been asking for more shirts, and I agreed BUT he had to help me cut them out. I have both MS and arthritis, and my hands get very tired of cutting. He then said these magic words: 
 " Why don't you teach me how?  I can cut everything for you. Then you can just sew".

Like Buddy the Elf, I have favorite things and non-favorite things:

Favorite Things about Sewing
Actual Sewing of Things
Collecting Beautiful Fabrics to Make Beautiful Things
Collecting Patterns
Finishing Things, see above

Non-Favorite Things About Sewing
Winding Bobbins
Cutting Things Out
Stress, or working on a deadline

He selected McCalls 4079, which is a great pattern with many variations and good instructions.(It is OOP but there are several other options that you could try, including Colette's Negroni and this one.)
 I have made it before, so it has already been adjusted. He then was escorted to the shirt fabric shelf and selected two tropically
themed fabrics, one of which I had purchased in the state of Hawaii, so you cannot get more authentic than that.
  I always, always buy a yard extra for shirt purposes, after an unfortunate experience with accidentally slicing something and having not enough fabric to cut another piece, leading to some very creative problem -solving that I would prefer not to repeat.(I use extra shirting scrap pieces for pocket linings, shirt collar bands, inside yokes and cuffs and boxer shorts and other uses.) The extra fabric allows me to match patterns without stress, and stress is one of those Non-Favorite sewing things that I'd like to avoid. This is supposed to be fun, after all

 Men's casual shirts are pretty easy compared to women's blouses, but I have a small quibble with the pattern envelope above. I have never ever made a shirt in three hours. Also, why on earth would you want to do that?  Today I will  wind two bobbins (because nothing is so annoying as running out of thread while topstitching) cut out the interfacing for the collars and make the collars, since that is the fussiest part, so I like to do that first.
  Tomorrow I'll sew the yokes to the front and back. Then attach the collar, sew on the sleeves, sew the side seams, hem sleeves. Thursday mark buttonholes, and sew buttonholes. Sew on buttons. Then hem. Hemming after buttons and buttonholes is something I learned to do after a sad experience where the fronts were ever so slightly off and I noticed it and then could not not notice it so the shirt had to be rehemmed. Ripping out and redoing hems is another NON FAVORITE thing, so we like to prevent that from even happening.
He wants it by Saturday. Did I mention that I hate deadlines?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Clearance Sale

We're having a SALE on selected patterns, including Indygo Junction, Christmas Patterns, Amy Butler Patterns , selected quilt patterns and more. We have to clear stock and make room for new Fall and Winter Patterns, so take advantage now and save. 
As always we offer FREE SHIPPING if you buy three or more patterns!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ladies' and Misses' Elegant Slacks

Every year my wonderful brother gives me a box of vintage patterns for Christmas- how well he knows me!
McCall 6794 is from this year's batch.
Vintage patterns have some nice details that are well worth stealing and adapting to modern patterns. For example, the pocket facings, above. This solution allows the sewist to use a lightweight fabric for the inside pocket, but with a facing of the pant fabric so the pocket fabric is not visible. Very nice. The pants have a side zipper inside the pocket treatment that I might steal borrow for a skirt.
There is one page of somewhat terse instructions that include recommendations for a hand-worked buttonhole.(Because everyone knows how to sew). They don't mention suggested fabrics because everyone knows what pants are made of.
I love old patterns and cookbooks not just for the information they put in, but for what they leave out.
Old cookbooks assume we all know how to cook, so their recipes are "reminders" of how certain dishes are made. Similarly, vintage patterns sometimes don't mention fabric types,  seam finishes, or other techniques, because they assume that all sewists will just know to do them.
  A pants pattern from 1947 also tells us that women were wearing pants for casual occasions. I'm assuming this is "casual" because the background of the illustration is somewhat "countrified". Nowadays we'd wear jeans. Fun fact: designer jeans specifically for women were introduced in the 1960's by Andre Courreges (who also invented the miniskirt, along with Mary Quant.)

P.S. Wondering what the difference is between a Ladies' and Misses' sizes. The pattern does not elaborate. Everyone must have just "known" this as well.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Time Travel Vacations

I want to go to a place where I could wear something like these dresses. If it has to be the past, so be it. A tech company needs to devote their energies to Time Travel Vacation Packages, where we could go on vacation for a day or a week in the past. Not to change anything , just to observe. And to wear things like these dresses.

 Silk satin wedding dress, designed by Norman Hartnell, 1933, given and worn by Margaret, Duchess of Argyll. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Satin and Lace for a Princess

Lace and Satin Dress For Throwback Thursday
 I made this pretty dress for Ms. Hunting Creek's First Communion. She picked out the pattern, which has the V shaped princess-approved bodice, a full swishy skirt and little lace wing sleeves. The bodice is lace, underlined with the satin. Have you ever sewn with polyester satin? It is so slippery and slide-y and uncooperative! I had to resort to hand basting the satin to the lace for the bodice to underline it, because it just would not stay put. Once the bodice was done, then I had to hand baste the gathered skirt to the bodice and make the gathers even. I should have also underlined the skirt because I can see my hand hem in the picture,but I was working with a deadline here. Also, no one would notice but me, so the motto here was get the dress to the church on time. I had to send my husband away with his mom and the kids so I could focus on completing the hem. My mother in law (not a sewist) was driving me crazy by hovering and saying, "you'll never get this done in time! Why didn't you start earlier?Why didn't you buy a dress?"  If only she knew just how many times I had finished something just before curtain time, so to speak.
Of course, I did get it done in time - an hour to spare! almost cheating! Ms. Hunting Creek loved it so much she wore it several more times: Halloween, a school play, and of course, for Princess Dress up.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Blast from the Past

Voted Most Liberated Woman of MVHS
  Why it is certainly of the utmost interest to my Gentle Readers that I was voted the Most Liberated Woman of my High School Senior Class, I'd like to point out that the most interesting thing about this picture is not that smokin' yellow sweater vest (love you, 70's!) nor the huge collar of the petroleum-based shirt, but the pants, which I made myself. I made perfectly fitting pants at age 17! I attribute this precocity to the fact that I did not know at the time that pants were difficult to make. They are Royal Blue twill, have a fly zipper, patch pockets front and back, and they matched the shirt perfectly. (Full Disclosure:the shirt is my sister's. We had a Cold War of stealing each other's clothes that was only matched in ferocity by the US and USSR. It matched the pants perfectly! What else could I do?)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Irrational Behavior

My newest class starts today:
A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior 
a fascinating new world of behavioral economics. Brace yourself to learn about the multifaceted quirks of human behavior, from the psychology of money to the effects of labor on love. Join them by going to class here and see much more than the first week’s lectures.
It's not too late to sign up - class starts today, and it is free.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Gendered Quilting

modern quilt design paper shredder kevin kosbab
Quilt by Kevin Kostab courtesy Quilting Arts Magazine

Is it amusing or odd or different that men could quilt? Even though men have sewn for hundreds  of years and are well established as tailors and designers, how is it possible that quilting is considered a woman-only occupation?
Yet it must be so, because the interviewer asks the quilter::
Is there an automatic sense of community among men who sew? Have you had to overcome any prejudice from people who assume that you can't quilt well because you're a man?
Oh, Quilting Arts Magazine. Do you honestly expect your readers to believe that this quilter has encountered prejudice because he was a man? Most women are delighted when a man participates in their pastime.
Here is his polite yet also sexist reply:
K: Yeah, there's a sense of camaraderie among guys who quilt—even if it's because we share the experience of searching out the elusive men's bathroom at a quilt show
What a patronizing and mansplaining answer! Quilt shows aren't held in some weird other mirrored dimension inhabited by women only, but in convention centers, meeting halls and hotel conference rooms, where there are restrooms for all, yet paradoxically, always lines at the women’s restroom. I don’t know why he says the men’s rooms are rare. There are exactly the same number of restrooms.
I bring a different perspective to my quilts partly because I'm a man, but we male quilters all have our different styles, too. Maybe as men we don't feel that we have to make our quilts within the traditional categories, but who says a woman has to make a quilt a certain way either?
How about every person brings their own unique perspective to their art based on their own experiences, and it doesn't make any difference to art whether one is a man or a woman. Why is this even a question?
Occasionally I'll run into some prejudice—one cutting-counter attendant seemed to think I didn't know what a seam allowance was—but more often women will express that they're excited to see a man quilting. There does seem to be an undercurrent, though, of the idea that men have an easier time achieving success in quilting, however that's defined. It's probably true that being a novelty helps, but when I first started publishing designs, I also heard things like, “Oh, yes, men usually do better with that because they have more confidence.” I don't think I'm a hyper-confident macho man, (and I know a lot of women quilters who certainly aren't shrinking violets), and I'd like to think my designs have more to do with it than that. But I don't mind being a novelty if that's what it takes!
Kevin might be right when he says that men might have more confidence, but there is also a cultural factor. Studies have shown that men in traditionally female occupations often make more money starting out and rise to higher positions faster than women do. See BLS studies for comparisons of male versus female wages for the same jobs. (It has been amply documented that women get paid less than men for doing the same job.)
It’s not just the same job issue either; men get considered for promotion faster and rise more quickly than women who have equal experience. There are more male superintendents and principals, even though there are more female teachers. And at the higher levels there are more men with tenure at colleges than women and women report that they find it very difficult to get tenure, even with equal qualifications.
The lesson here is clear - if you are a man, you can succeed and thrive faster in a profession consisting mainly of women, because the way will be made clear for you. It’s not Kevin’s imagination. Quilting has long been considered the province of women, and even though quilts require a great deal of artistic ability and technique and skill, they have only fairly recently in their long history been recognized as an art form. It wasn't until a male art critic wrote about the beauty of the quilts of Gee’s Bend that quilting came to be considered an art at all by art critics. Before then it was just considered a nice womanly craft. Not an art form, because the mostly male gatekeepers of what is “art” had not yet  recognized that those quilts were art. (We'll know when it is considered art in its
own right, not just "quilt art" when quilts are hung side by side with Monets and Picassos in major museum collections, not just at Quilt Museums.)

In quilting as in all other “women’s crafts”  women don’t get the respect they deserve. It’s wonderful that Kevin says that women are delighted that a man is participating in quilting. It would be even nicer if men were equally delighted and welcoming to women doing jobs that are primarily done by men. We can make a deal. We’ll let them quilt all they want in exchange for equal pay and opportunity for all.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Got a Book Idea?

My email this morning says:

Get your book idea in front of our editors

Have you been sitting on a hilarious book idea? Enter The Great Tumblr Book Search, The Sequel and pitch your humor book to our editors. Last year, we discovered Sh*t Rough Drafts by Paul Laudiero and offered him a book deal. Now, Sh*t Rough Drafts is coming to a bookstore near you on April 15th.

This year, it could be your turn! The grand-prize winner will receive $300 of Chronicle books and have his or her idea considered for publication. Enter today!

What are you waiting for? 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Unfortunate Pattern Placement

Unfortunate Pattern Placement Award...and the Oscar goes to...
I'm not sure how I feel about wings on my shoulders and rear; it's clear Antropologie never took 7th grade sewing with Mrs. Harper. Click on the link to see their even more unfortunate front pattern placement.
Really, Antropologie? Right here?
This is even more evidence that we need to bring back sewing in the schools, if only to show that there is a better way to do this.

Monday, February 17, 2014

To Match or Not to Match, That is the Question

Stripes must be matched...or else
While browsing the new fabric arrivals every morning, (as one does, like some folks read the NY Times),
I came across this lovely knit from EOS. Then I saw this line and burst out laughing.
"What are you laughing at?", Mr. Hunting Creek asked.
"Look," I said, showing him. "Stripes must be matched."
"That's kind of bossy." he said. "What if you don't want to? Do they make you sign a paper before you buy it, agreeing to match the stripes?"
"It makes me want to NOT MATCH them," I said. "Not match them on purpose. You aren't the BOSS OF ME French red/mint/chartreuse graphic stripe knit!."

There are many ways to not match stripes on purpose, and I spent some delightful time imagining them. Cutting some pieces on the bias and some horizontally and some vertically. Color blocking with a solid or a print. I'm sure I can think of more if I put my mind to it. So thanks, bossy French knit. You've given me some great ideas. How many ways can we not match stripes and still make a harmonious composition?? That may be a good puzzle for 2014.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Questions for J.K.Rowling

Dear J.K. Rowling,

Since we are now in the process of second guessing , I’d like ask a few questions.

1. Why do you now suddenly think that Hermione is “settling” for Ron? I can understand why she might love Ron. Hermione was an only child, raised by Muggles. The Weasley family welcomed her with open arms and with them she got the whole package: ready made family, a witch mother in law and sister who would understand her, and the support and acceptance every young person needs. She wasn't only marrying Ron. She was marrying his whole family. Same with Harry. He isn't really just marrying Ginny. He is getting the big family he craves.

I would have matched Hermione with Draco or Viktor, but don’t those choices say more about ME than about Hermione’s character? Aren't you also projecting a little but here? .

2. Why do wizards get married so young? Also, why does Hermione have to get married at all? This alone seems awfully regressive. If any woman can take care of herself without a man, it would be a witch.

3. What kind of family planning do wizards use? Just curious here, as this isn't explained. Perhaps a potion of some kind?
I would hope that magical methods would be available for BOTH witches and wizards, so that finally the whole burden of family planning isn't on the woman.

4. Even though Mrs. Weasley is a powerful witch, how come she is the one stuck at home doing housework and cooking?

5. Why does Madame Malkin have to pin up fabric on their robes  and hem them? Is fabric resistant to magic? Is that why Lupin’s robes are so shabby? Because he can’t repair and replace them by magic?

6. Aren't there any jobs or industries in the Wizarding world? Is the only career options available working for the government, being a small business owner or being born with money?

7. Don’t you think that you need to write about Wizarding Detectives working in the Muggle World, solving crimes? Of course you do!

Looking forward to your answers.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Our Winter of Discontent

How we spend our time in winter:
                           Etta and Harry fantasizing about being cheetahs and bringing down that deer.

Did you read this? "He complained that his wife was 'unable to lunch elsewhere' because
she was wearing a tiara":
This kind of difficulty is what my daughter said should be hashtagged #nobilityproblems.
I know all of us are grateful for the kindness of a fellow peer.

Only boring sewing going on here: making throw pillow covers. However, lots of writing, thinking and planning. Plus redecorating, baking Cinnamon Bread, and more writing. 

How are you spending your winter of discontent? (can you wear a tiara there?)