Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Tale of Two Sleeves

Part of this year's Smithson Gown is a lined jacket with two-part sleeves. Now, I've never made a lined jacket (yes, it's true...), so this is all new territory for me. Same thing with two-part sleeves.

After the original critique of the first muslin, I drafted a new pattern and put it together. The collar is better, but those sleeves... Something just wasn't right.

I'm also not sure about the length... This is 24". I might add an inch or two. It just looks too short. The collar was shortened by an inch and on this muslin I did the whole facing thing as well. I like it enough that I'm not going to mess with it any more. The muslin is also taped shut here; I'm going to put a zipper in the final version, positioned so that the folds of the fabric conceal it (rather than fussing with a separating invisible zipper). But anyway, about those sleeves...

The sleeves just looked puffy and ill-fitting. I think that most of this was because the upper seams on both pieces were convex. Not only that, but the stitching line on one piece was nearly an inch longer than the seam line on the matching piece.

After some input from folks on the PMB forum, I re-drafted the sleeve pattern so that the upper seams on both pieces were more concave. The result is a MUCH better looking sleeve. Not perfect, but good enough.

The inner curve of the sleeve looks more natural and feels a lot better, too.

Hmm... Looking at this side view, I do think I will be making the jacket a bit longer. I've got another week to finish the whole thing; the skirt is cut out and ready to assemble, so it's really the jacket that's the issue. But I'm going to spend much of tomorrow and Saturday working on the whole outfit and hope to have it done in time to show at my PMB group meeting on Sunday!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Show is Over...

This afternoon was the final performance of "Hairspray" at the local high school. I'm so glad I got to see the show; the kids all looked like they were having a blast!! And I got some pictures, too!

Here's Tracy in the opening number, "Good Morning Baltimore." I made the skirt, and intended to make the blouse, but there simply wasn't enough time to do it all, so I ended up going to Salvation Army and buying up an armful of shirts and blouses and altering them to suit the actor. This shirt, for example, used to have long sleeves, but the director wanted short sleeves.

I was so tickled to see these dresses again!! These were the green dresses I made for the girl group "The Gems" for the same school's production of "Dreamgirls" two years ago.

The costume mistress wanted eight colorful skirts for the Council dancers, to match the shirts of the council boys. These are just gathered elastic-waist skirts, with velcro-fastened belts. The belts were made out of a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth, cut into strips and sewed together.

I think the hardest assignment I had to do for this show was this dress. The costume mistress specifically asked for an "Ugly Dress" for Edna. So I used this plaid flannel shirting and added ruffles, along with some elastic under the bust to make it truly unflattering.

Matching dresses for Tracy and Edna from Mr. Pinky's Hefty Hideaway. These were fun to make, but I'm still vacuuming maribou feathers from around my sewing machine. That stuff sheds!!

Edna's custom Muumuu. This is a simple raglan-sleeve dress, with knit band collar and cuffs.

Tracy's final outfit was another interesting challenge. The costume mistress gave me a tiered, sleeveless, scoopneck dress, and asked me to add sleeves and raise the neckline (to cover the fat suit the actor wore). I was trying to figure out how to draft sleeves and attach them when my brilliant daughter suggested I make a simple "dickie with sleeves" the actor could wear under the dress. It worked perfectly! I scavenged a tier to make trim bands for the sleeves, just to tie it all together, and also added a band of the sparkle to the neck as binding.

This is Edna's final outfit, and it was a lot of fun to make. The costume mistress wanted it to be flashy, red, and very sexy. I used some silk dupioni left over from some draperies I never got around to making, and added hot-fix crystals to the neck and a band of glitter ribbon at the top of the ruffle. The sash was the finishing touch.
(By the way, the actor playing Edna is not wearing a wig... That's his own hair!)

So, another show has closed, and I've already been warned that I will be called next year. I have no idea what show they're doing, but it's always so much fun to work with the high school kids. At the end of the performance, I was called on stage, along with the other parent volunteers, and presented with a huge poster with a picture of the cast and all their autographs and messages of thanks. I can't wait to hang it up in my office!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 26

Day 26: Picture of Your Family

The kids were home from college last week for Spring Break, so we decided to take advantage of all four of us in one place and got some family portraits done. We are fortunate to have an excellent photographer in our neighborhood: Eric Lader. He came over and spent some time on a sunny Saturday afternoon and took some marvelous pictures. We just got the proofs back, and this one is my favorite.

Friday, March 25, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 25

Day 25: Put Your iPod on Shuffle; First 10 Songs

You're assuming, of course, that I have an iPod.

Okay, I do. But it's still an assumption.

Quite honestly, I rarely listen to music tracks on my iPod. The vast majority of the time, I'm listening to podcasts. And those don't seem to show up in the shuffle lineup! Anyway, here's what came up when I did the shuffle:

“In the Bleak Midwinter” (The Best Christmas Album in the World)
“The Hounds of Winter” (Sting)
“Piano Sonata No. 11 in A” (Mozart -- played by Alicia de Larrocha)
“French Suite No 6 in E” (J.S. Bach -- played by Alicia de Larrocha)
“Rinzler” (Tron Legacy soundtrack)
“The Fall of the House of Usher” (The Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery & Imagination)
“Dirty Diana” (Michael Jackson)
“Inside Looking Out” (The Alan Parsons Project – Gaudi)
“Breakdown” (The Alan Parsons Project – I, Robot)
“Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” (Loudon Wainwright)
“Angkor Wat” (Yes – Union)

 Not sure what it all says about my tastes in music!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 24

Day 24: Something You've Learned

How to choose just one thing?? I've learned so much over the 50 years of my life.

I was discussing this question with my husband this evening over dinner, and he suggested I write about my battle with perfectionism.

I'm a total perfectionist; I'd rather not do something than do it poorly. As a result, I will drag my heels on new projects out of fear they will not turn out the way I see them in my head. I self-criticize a lot, and it takes me quite a while to fall in love with something I've made.

However, I've gotten a LOT better at accepting my own imperfection, and I have Cynthia Guffey to thank for it.

It was probably seven or eight years ago that I went to one of Cynthia's trunk shows at a sewing expo. I was so excited; I even got there early so I could snag a front row seat. I wasn't disappointed; the garments were amazing! Cynthia would hold up a garment and talk about the details; we would ooh and ahh. Then she handed the garment to the audience and it was passed from person to person for closer examination.

And that's where the interesting part came in: once I had the garment in my hand, I could clearly see the imperfections (yes, even Cynthia Guffey has imperfections in her garments!). They weren't huge... a jump stitch not clipped, or a corner that didn't lay perfectly flat. But they were things that would probably drive me nuts in my own sewing.

Then it occurred to me: My first introduction to Cynthia's garments were from about 15 feet away, seen as whole, complete garments. So my first impression was of the finished dress. Seeing the little imperfections after I had already seen the finished dress somehow made them less... imperfect.

In contrast, we sewers see our garments first as elements, close-up, as we're peering at them from eight inches away on the bed of the sewing machine. Our first impression of our own projects is of components, and that first impression lingers even after the garment is done and part of our wardrobe.

So I learned to be kinder to myself in my sewing. If I'm getting frustrated with a garment, I will put it on a hanger and look at it from across the room. Usually, any perceived flaws disappear when I do that, and I can relax and continue the process.

This attitude has also been invaluable to my costume sewing; I am now able to remind myself that the costumes will only be seen from 20 feet away at the closest; as long as they're pressed nicely, no one in the audience will be able to tell that I top-stitched the hem instead of using a blind him, or that the waist seam is off by 1/4" at the zipper.

I passed this lesson along to each one of my sewing classes when I taught at G Street; I only hope that some of the students were able to take the lesson to heart and be kinder to themselves about their sewing than I was; I wasted far too many years (and yards) beating myself up over invisible gremlins.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 23

Day 23 - Favorite vacation
In early 2000, my husband decided to take early retirement from his high-stress IT job. That summer, we embarked on an epic family vacation – the first family vacation we had ever taken.

Diana and Ian at Disney World

We started out with a rough itinerary and a few basic rules:
  • Anyone could call for a stop at anything that looked interesting.
  • At least one meal per day had to be a good one (i.e. not fast food).
  • Separate hotel rooms for us and for the kids.
  • No more than two long driving days in a row.
Our trip spanned six weeks and over 6,000 miles. Here was the rough itinerary:
  • Five days at Disney World
  • Four days in Sarasota, visiting Bob’s parents
  • Three days in New Orleans
  • Three days in Houston, staying with Bob’s cousin
  • Three days in Austin, visiting Bob’s uncle
  • Three days in Albuquerque
  • Three days in Colorado, visiting my sister
In between all those stops were driving days. Most of the time we had no idea where we would spend the night, so it was always an adventure. This was in the days before broadband internet! We traveled with a “technology box” containing a laptop with a modem, and every hotel we stopped at we would see if NetZero had a local dial-up connection. We used this to find places of interest in the days to come. Nowadays, of course, we just whip out a smartphone and Google it!

Bob with the souped-up lawnmower used by Tim Allen in a Citgo commercial,
at Don Garlit's Museum of Drag Racing in Florida

One of the things that made this vacation so much fun is we decided in advance not to take anything too seriously, and to just have fun. We also had daily contests of “guess the mileage”, where everyone guessed how many miles we would drive on a given day. We also had an overall mileage guess.

Ian and Diana learn how to make baskets with Bob's Uncle Bobby in Austin, TX.

There were so many fabulous places along the way; the kids still talk about the trip as a highlight (especially regarding the food… they both got quite adventurous, eating snails, ostrich, alligator and frogs’ legs!).

Other trip highlights:
Diana with a model of an atomic bomb
(National Atomic Museum, Albuquerque, NM)

Bob and the kids with the unused Saturn V Rocket intended for the Apollo 18 mission
(Johnson Space Center, Houston)
Me on the edge of the Sandia Crest, outside Albuquerque NM.
The family with Paisano Pete, the world's largest roadrunner
(Fort Stockton, TX)
Heading home. This van had the best option a traveling family could want: rear-seat headphone plugs and controls, so the kids could listen to their own music while the adults could enjoy the quiet.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 22

Day 22: What's in Your Makeup Bag

Uh... nothing?

Really. I wear makeup maybe twice a year: once for the Smithson gala, and maybe if I'm getting my picture taken. I've never gotten into the habit of "putting my face on."

Last week, I went to Ulta (a cosmetics superstore) with my daughter. As we were wandering through the aisles, all I could think of was that this was an entire store devoted to making women feel ugly. There were potions and lotions and creams and powders that promised to make all the "visible signs of aging disappear from view". Note: Not "disappear," but "disappear from view." There's a big difference.

Anyway, I count myself among the great unwashed -- I do not shower every day. So far no one has run screaming from my presence due to a cloud of B.O. My skin isn't as supple and smooth as it was when I was twenty, but then again, I'm not twenty anymore, so it makes sense. I've earned my wrinkles.

Monday, March 21, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 21

Day 21: Picture of Yourself

(Hey, no one said it had to be a current picture!)

This was taken in 1966; I was six years old. It was my first airplane flight on Loftleidir (Icelandic Airlines). I have no idea why we flew to Europe via Luxembourg, other than it was the cheapest way to travel with two adults and three children.

I came across this picture during the last week, when the kids were home for Spring Break. We spent part of the time going through all the boxes of old pictures, sorting and telling stories. It was wonderful.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 20

Day 20: Nicknames

When I was a baby, my parents called me "Wammes" (pronounced "VOM-mus"). This was the name of a cartoon character popular at that time, Wammes Waggel, who was a ditzy goose in the "Tom Poes" comic strip.

How flattering, hmm?

When I was around nine, my parents bought a vacation house in central Connecticut, on Amston Lake. My brother and I would sit on the rocks at the lake shore in front of the house late at night and do wolf-call imitations; we were pretty good at them, too, because we loved to watch the lights snap on in the houses across the lake. My brother started calling me Wolfie, and that nickname stuck for YEARS... all through high school, in fact.

But when I got to my 20s, I started becoming irritated that people didn't seem to want to learn how to pronounce my name. I'd tell them my name is Welmoed, and they'd ask, "What do people call you for short?" and I'd reply, "Welmoed." Come on, people; it's two syllables! Some people tried to stick me with the nickname "Vel", but I stomped on that pretty hard.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 18 & 19

Day 18 - Something you regret
I lived in Holland for a year after graduating from high school. During that year, I didn’t visit any museums, historical sights, or anything. I kept to a very narrow “comfort zone”, consisting of my apartment, the local library, and the main shopping street in Utrecht. Looking back, I could have done SO much more… even just taking the train to Amsterdam or something, and wandering around. But it simply didn’t occur to me. I missed out on so much!

Day 19 - Something you miss
Living in the middle of a city. Yesterday we had a “family day”, and spent part of the day wandering around Dupont Circle in DC. Seeing all the little shops, boutiques and restaurants really made me miss the years I spent living downtown, where everything was just a short walk away and getting places didn’t mean spending an hour on the road fighting traffic to get into and out of town, or sitting in a Metro train for an hour. Maybe someday I’ll live in town again, but that’s not gonna happen anytime soon.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I'm Tired!!

This afternoon I delivered the last of the costume work for "Hairspray." Here's the rundown:

From Scratch:

  • Two fat suits
  • Eight satin skirts for the Council girls
  • Eight white vinyl belts for the Council girls
  • One pleated plaid skirt for Tracy
  • One gaudy dress with maribou trim for Tracy
  • One gaudy dress with maribou trim for Edna
  • One muumuu for Edna
  • One ugly plaid dress for Edna
  • One glamorous red silk gown for Edna

Honestly, I lost count. I replaced about five zippers, shortened about six dresses, added sleeves to a dress for Tracy, turned a wrap skirt into a zippered skirt, and replaced several sets of hooks and eyes.

Sorry, no pictures yet... That will have to wait until the show pictures are posted. I didn't get any decent pictures of my own. Opening night is Friday, but I won't get to see the show until Saturday.

30 Days of Me: Catching Up

I've fallen behind on my posts... Oops! Life got in the way for a few days. So forgive me if I lump a few into a single post.

Day 15: Bible Verse
I probably do own a bible, since I was given one by a friend in High School. But I'm not Christian, so it's never been a part of my life. I'm somewhere between Agnostic and Atheist, with a bit of Pagan thrown in, but mostly believe in the awesomeness of nature itself. People created religion in order to feel important in a world largely beyond their control.

But anyway, my favorite religious quote is from the Jewish teacher Hillel, who lived in the first century CE. When asked to relate everything the Torah had to say while standing on one foot, he replied:
"Do not unto your neighbor what you would not have him do until you; this is the whole Law; the rest is commentary." 
The world would be a much better place if more people followed this with more than lip service.

Day 16: Dream House
I'm actually living in my dream house. The only things that would make it absolutely perfect would be a full staff, a bigger kitchen, and the money to pay for it all.

But seriously. I love our house. And we're working on enlarging the kitchen; since we're doing all the work ourselves, it's going to be several years before we see any real progress. And this post reminds me that our home website is sorely in need of an update. But before I update it, I need to declutter and make the new window treatments. There's always something to do!!

However, I will add that my personal pipe-dream is to own a small apartment on the west side of Manhattan, facing Central Park.

Day 17: Something You're Looking Forward To
Once the kids are out of college and on their own, I want to take a long, rambling, no-fixed-agenda trip around the US with Bob. We'll put a mattress in the back of the van so we can camp if we choose, but will probably stay in hotels most of the time. We'll stop whenever and wherever we like, seeing interesting museums and visiting friends.

Monday, March 14, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 14

Today was so busy, I almost forgot to post for today.

Day 14: A Picture You Love

I'm going to interpret "picture" rather loosely. Here's one of my all-time favorite illustrations: a cover of the New Yorker magazine.

But really, I could have chosen any one of hundreds of pictures on my hard drive. It was very hard to pick just one!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 13

Day 13: Goals

Are these supposed to be realistic goals, or pie-in-the-sky goals?

A really unlikely goal is to be a "Not My Job" guest on the NPR show "Wait... Wait, Don't Tell Me." The likelihood of that happening is just about nil. But a gal can dream!

Other goals:
Get all the family photographs into albums (which should take about ten years or so).
Go on an extended cross-country road trip with my husband, not following any set itinerary, going anywhere that interests us or catches our fancy.
Turn Redwall into a non-profit arts colony, with Artists in Residence and outdoor performance space.
Build a new kitchen for Redwall, doing most if not all of the work ourselves.

As for short-term goals, I'll settle for just getting the clutter cleared out, the pictures hung on the walls, and new draperies finished.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 12

Day 12: What You Believe

I believe in science and discovery.

I believe that the plural of "Anecdote" is "Anecdotes" and not "Data".

I believe that everyone is capable of good; some simply choose not to rise to the challenge.

I believe that everyone has the right to their own beliefs, but not the right to impose their beliefs on anyone else.

I believe in being honest, kind, patient and generous.

I believe that my life will have had meaning if I have helped just one other person achieve a dream.

Friday, March 11, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 11

Day 11: Favorite TV Shows

I grew up watching TV (what baby boomer didn't?). But I've found that, as I get older, I spend less and less time simply watching a TV show. I don't have the patience to get into a series like "Lost", which requires much thought and speculation and thrives on plot twists, and unless you watch it from the first episode you have no hope of figuring out what is going on.

When we moved back to Redwall in December, my husband was researching what kind of TV service we should get. When we lived here previously, we had Dish Network. It was nice, but expensive. For the last four years we had Cable TV (Comcast). Again, great selection of channels, but after the introductory period the bill was topping $300 per month!!

So, I made a radical suggestion: Let's not have any subscription TV. We have an antenna; let's just see what we pull in over the air for free, and supplement it with our Roku box. And you know what? We haven't missed a thing. Of course, one thing that contributes to that is the fact that our TV is not in the living room; it's upstairs in what used to be our daughter's bedroom. So watching TV becomes a conscious decision, rather than a default activity. I also chose not to reconnect the TV in my sewing room, and instead I listen to podcasts on my iPod.

That said, there are a few shows I like to watch, and I will sometimes purchase episodes from iTunes. My favorites are:
  • Mythbusters
  • Hoarders
And, that's it. I've never gotten into shows like "Project Runway" or "American Idol"; ever since I worked on an episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" I just cannot stomach so-called "reality TV." We were fed lines; scenes were re-shot multiple times; everything was carefully staged.

Give me a decent book any time. My list of favorite books would be a mile long (And I do find it interesting that this "30 Days of Me" question list does not include anything about favorite books).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 10

Day 10: Something You're Afraid Of

Wow; these questions certainly aren't just about silly things, like what's your favorite color?

For a long time, I had a fear of flying. I was a total white-knuckle passenger. Then, about three years ago, that fear went away. I have no idea why or how, but it just disappeared. Now I'm fine with getting on an airplane; I just don't have many reasons to anymore.

I was also afraid of heights for a long time. Couldn't climb a ladder without feeling nervous. Again, this fear went away quite suddenly last year, when I found myself climbing a 20-foot ladder to remove some awnings at our house. Even though the ladder wobbled and swayed, I was fine with it and felt no fear at all.

Being a perfectionist, I have a fear of making mistakes. I worry about giving people the wrong information. I second-guess myself all the time. I've got what our family calls the "Curse of the Competent" -- that is, people have much more confidence in my abilities than I do, and even though I can usually do whatever the task may be, I worry about whether I've really done it well, or other people are just being polite.

So if I have to boil it down, I'd say that I'm afraid of letting other people down.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 9

Day 9: A Picture of your Friends

I don't have any kind of "group picture" of all my friends, but here's one that holds a special place in my heart:

On the left is my dear friend Jane. She and I met each other when we were very small; our fathers were colleagues at Yale. In this picture she's sitting with me at the luncheon following my graduation from high school. We also share a birthday, although hers is two years behind mine.

Jane and I have managed to keep in touch through the years, and I'm very grateful for that.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

30 Days of Me: Day 8

Day 8 - A place you've traveled to
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have traveled extensively in my formative years. When we emigrated to the United States from Holland in 1962, we came via ship, on the Rotterdam. I have no memories of this voyage at all; I was a little over 2-1/2 years old. My first airplane trip was in 1966, when we went back to Holland. The only thing I remember is that it took forever: it was via Icelandic Air, which meant a 6-hour trip in a propjet from New York to Iceland, a two-hour layover, and another 6-hour flight from Iceland to Luxembourg. Twelve hours in the air!

In 1967 we spend the summer in the south of Spain, in a tiny seaside village called Torrevieja, on the Costa del Sol, just south of Alicante. I spent the first week of that vacation in bed with the mumps; I had developed symptoms the day before our departure, and my father made me wear a headscarf and keep my mouth shut. I’ve often wondered how many people I infected on that flight.

That trip was memorable to me mostly because my parents were largely absent; my father was starting a years-long study of hemp and flax workers in the rural textile factories, and he and my mother spent most of every day working in a lab. I was just seven years old; my sister was nine and my brother was ten. We were pretty much left to our own devices during the day; the wife of one my father’s colleagues was sort of expected to keep track of us. I ended up being “adopted” as a little sister by a group of Spanish college students – all male. They took me everywhere with them, even octopus fishing. I loved the attention! They even serenaded me one evening.

When I was nine, I spent a summer in a camp in the Netherlands, where I was totally miserable. I was so angry that I wasn't allowed to watch the coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing; the other kids were totally oblivious. I was crying in my bunk, worried about the astronauts, when a counselor came and whispered to me that they had landed safely on the moon.
I’ve taken a train trip along the Rhine river, where dinner was served by waiters in crisp white linen jackets, serving boiled new potatoes from silver platters.

Some other travel experiences:
  • Climbing partway up the Matterhorn (not very far, I’ll admit).
  • Visiting Monte Carlo (but was too young to go into the casinos, darn it).
  • Touring the Alhambra, overlooking the city of Granada, and seen a bullfight in Madrid.
  • Spending Christmas in Paris, where I was blessed by the Bishop of Paris.
  • Strolling the beaches of Nice, along the Mediterranean Sea, with its smooth rocks instead of sand.
  • Visiting England, where I stayed with my aunt in her flat in Hackney for two weeks, along with my 4- and 6-year-old.
  • Participating in the Big Ride Across America in 1998, during which I bicycled across the United States from Seattle to Washington, DC, and learned that Montana is ENORMOUS.
  • In 2000, taking an epic 6-week family journey around the country, without any real itinerary, going through 16 states. I learned that Texas is even MORE enormous than Montana.
Now, I’m pretty content to stay put. In recent years I’ve been to Toronto, Washington State, Oregon, Las Vegas, Atlanta and New York. I finally got to see the Pacific Ocean (thanks, Jim and Janet!). Travel just isn’t any fun for me anymore – too much of a hassle. The only trip I’d like to do someday is getting back to Holland and show Bob where I was born.