Friday, October 19, 2012

A change in my office

I've been reading a lot lately about the hazards of sitting for long periods of time. And that's exactly what I do at work: sit at the computer. So I decided to give a standing desk a try. All it took was a $20 LACK table from IKEA and a willingness to try something completely different.

Here's my office before the changeover:

My office isn't a big room, and that chair really occupied a lot of real estate. Plus, the desk I use (another IKEA table) has no drawers. The cabinet to the right was a recent addition, trying to tame the chaos.

After a few hours of rearranging, this is how it looks now:

It feels very weird to be standing and typing, and I can already tell that my legs are going to need a few days to adjust to the new demands placed on them. But it is doing wonders for my posture; it really isn't possible to slouch when standing at a computer (although I suspect I'll figure out a way pretty soon).

There's still a lot to be done to organize other areas of the office, but I'm taking it slow and not trying to change everything at once. Baby steps!

Do any of you use a standing desk? If so, how do you like it?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Little Mermaid" costumes

This afternoon I got to see the closing performance of "The Little Mermaid" at the local high school. Hooray for quick recoveries!! The cast and crew did a wonderful job, as usual, and I got lots of hugs and thanks and a lovely basket from the director.

But for me, of course, the real reward is seeing the costumes on stage, during the performance, brought to life by the actors. They did a masterful job!! I didn't get any pictures during the show (photos were prohibited), but will snag a few when the official photos are posted. In the meantime, here's a shot of me with the three "major" costumes I did.

Of course I used PatternMaster to create all the base pieces. For Sebastian, I made a simple turtleneck and pants, then used 1/2" foam to make the shell pieces. The claws were simply giant mittens that slid over his hands, and they worked perfectly. They're kind of hard to see in the above picture.

For Flounder, I started with a hooded pull-over top and made it big and floppy. There was a casing with a drawcord around the bottom edge so it could look more poofy.

And oh, Ursula... What fun I had with this costume. Since the part was double-cast, I needed to figure out a way to not have to make two entirely different costumes. So I created a bodysuit for each of the two girls, and a buckle-on harness that had the tentacles on it. The tentacles were given some body by using foam pipe insulation, with some extra batting rolled around it to fill them out. Each tentacle was made out of three long triangular pieces, two black and one purple for the underside. They moved beautifully during her scenes.

Next week the same school is doing "The Giver." I only did a few things for that show (the Giver's robe and a few accessories for the other actors), but I'm still looking forward to seeing how well the book translates to the stage. Right now, though, I'm really chomping at the bit to do some sewing for ME!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I owe a debt of gratitude to William T. G. Morton.

Note: this post contains non-sewing content that might not appeal to the squeamish, and has a picture of an internal organ.

Without the pioneering work of William T. G. Morton, my experience yesterday would have been unthinkable.

Morton is widely recognized as the first true "anesthesiologist" as he administered the ether to a patient at Massachusetts General Hospital on October 16, 1846.

Fortunately, advances in anesthetics in the 166 years since then means that surgery is safer then ever before. Yay for science!!!

So yesterday morning I went into the local hospital to have my gall bladder removed. Two doctors agreed that it should come out; they saw evidence on the various scans that showed there was a pretty big stone in there. Even though I wasn't having any symptoms (aside from the initial attack in late July that precipitated this whole medical odyssey), I learned that gall bladder issues can lead to pancreatic issues -- which are FAR more serious. So I decided to follow their advice.

Gall bladder removal used to involve a long incision across the abdominal muscle, a multi-day hospital stay, and a 6-week recovery period. Now it's all done laparoscopically, with four small incisions and minimal muscle damage, and it's outpatient surgery. The incisions aren't even sutured shut anymore; they use glue, so there are no stitches to be removed later. Amazing! My operation was at 10:00 a.m. and I was home by 2:30pm.

I asked the surgeon if I would get my gall bladder back as a souvenir and he rolled his eyes. Then I asked him to at least take pictures, which he did.

Here's what my gall bladder looked like, along with the stone that was removed from it.

Yeah, that's a stone all right. More like a boulder!! Yuck. And it all got removed through an incision just over an inch long.

So now I'm home, recuperating, taking things very easy. I hope to feel up to working on some sewing projects in a few days, but I won't be rushing anything! Luckily there's a lot of deskwork I can take care of.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A New York Weekend

A few months ago, one of my favorite blogs announced a special "Speakeasy" tour of the Garment District in New York City. I really love going up there for fabrics; the last time I got there was a whirlwind one-day search for my Smithson Gown fabric. But this... a guided tour of secret fabric showrooms? To translate an old Dutch saying, "I can be glued with a wet finger!" In other words, I signed up almost right away.
But I didn't want to do it alone. So I suggested to my friend Regina that she might also be interested in the tour, and if she was up for it, we could make it a multi-day visit, which would allow her to see more of the city than just a few square blocks. She, too, signed up right away!
We decided to go up on the Bolt Bus on Thursday and stay through Sunday afternoon. This meant enough time to see several different parts of the city, from downtown to uptown. And boy, did we make use of every minute!


We arrived in the city in the early afternoon. After dropping our bags at the hotel, we jumped on the subway and headed for Union Square.

First order of the day was some lunch. If there's one thing about New York, it's that you could live there for decades and eat at a different spot three times a day and never visit the same restaurant twice. The choices are staggering. Guided by our noses, we settled on Morocho, a Peruvian food truck parked at the side of Union Square.

 Regina enjoying the first bite of her lunch. We ended up taking our food over to the High Line and eating while overlooking the Hudson River.

 After lunch we wandered into one of my favorite stores, Olde Good Things. They carry a wide variety of things, mostly architectural salvage. They also have some gorgeous and unusual pieces, like the chandelier above, dripping with hand-blown glass fruit. Maybe when it's time to replace the old wagon wheel lights in my sewing room...

 I was also entranced by this Griffin piece. You can't really get the scale of it in the picture, but it was almost two feet high. It was made of cast steel and carried a $1200 price tag.

 Regina and I loved the name of this store. No idea what they sold.

We also stopped by the Lion Brand Yarn store, to ogle the different fibers and gape at the colors. It's a fantastic little store.

For dinner, we went to Ellen's Stardust Diner. It's quite a tourist spot, but so much fun! All the waitstaff are singers, and we were treated to everything from Elvis to opera. The singers would walk up and down the skinny platform just behind Regina. The diners often joined in, and it was all such a rollicking good time that you really didn't mind that the food wasn't really stellar.


We got up to a dreary sky, but held out hope that we wouldn't get TOO wet during the day's tour. Unfortunately, the skies opened up for the first hour of our adventure, and it drizzled off and on until mid-afternoon. But it didn't dampen our spirits! Mimi Jackson and her helper Cindy Chock led the group of 14 shoppers to a series of fabulous stores in the garment district. The thing about all the stores we visited was that, unless you knew they were there, you'd never find them! They were all located on upper floors in non-descript buildings. No flashy signs or other pointers. Which made finding them all the more special!

The first stop was C & J Textiles. The sign says "100% silk" but they had sooooo much more. I ended up not buying anything there but was tempted by many things, including this wonderful lace-embellished netting:

I didn't even ask the price; I knew it would be way, way out of my budget. But it was just amazing. I could easily see it as an overdress for my next Smithson gown.

Next up was Metro Textiles, which I've been to before, but that didn't stop me from finding some nice shirting and a knit solid.

From there we went to Rosen & Chadick, a two-story marvel with fabrics of every description. I was thrilled to find the exact shade of green twill I needed for work pants.

Next up was Fabrics & Fabrics, which used to be called Lace Star. This was another amazing place, with a ton of unique fabrics, including this one that caught Regina's eye:

 I'm not sure what could be done with a print like this... you would certainly lose quite a lot of yardage to make best use of the motif.

I ended up with two pieces from here: a scarf print with a fleur-de-lis motif, and yet another piece of solid blue shirting. Uh-oh... am I in a blue period?

Here's our group, with Cindy (center, in blue) telling us what our next destination would be.

 It was Manhattan Wardrobe Supply! I've ordered from them via the web before, but it was so much fun to go there in person and browse the aisles. One of the things I spotted was this huge array of Velcro, in a wide variety of colors. Now I know where to find it!

Over lunch, Cindy suggested we also stop by Westpfal Scissors on 25th Street. I'm so glad we did! I was able to find a leather punch I'd been wanting, plus blades and a new Olfa cutter.

 They had this fantastic wall hanging in the store, made of antique blades and cutters of all kinds.

 We also stopped by City Quilter, where I picked up some crossword-themed fabric I'd been searching for.

 After a rest in our hotel room, we ventured out again for some dinner, this time at Szechuan Gourmet on 39th Street. Their specialty was supposed to be spicy food, and wow, they weren't kidding! We really enjoyed our green bean/asparagus/eggplant with mushrooms in spicy garlic sauce, and the braised spare ribs and mushrooms.


We had considered going to the Maker Faire in Queens today, but the iffy weather was a concern. Plus, it would be an hour's trip on the subway to get there, and there would be a lot of crowds and walking, so we decided to stay in the city and go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One of the pieces we saw was this year's rooftop installation, "Cloud City" by Tomas Saraceno. Climbing in the sculpture required timed tickets, which we didn't have, but we still enjoyed looking at it.

After the museum, Regina went back to the hotel to rest while I met up with an old friend from college who happened to be in town. It was so much fun to reminisce with her about our crazy days at the GW Hatchet. But eventually she had to head home, and I went back to the hotel to pick up Regina and head out for a wonderful sushi dinner at Akaya Sushi on E. 31st St. between Madison and Park.


Regina didn't feel up to walking any more, so she spent the morning at the hotel relaxing. I decided to head out and do a little more exploring on my own. I headed uptown for the GreenMarket on Columbus and 77th. What a fantastic market! I bought some fresh teas, as well as a bag of Indonesian pepper for Bob, and a jar of spicy garlic jelly. Yummy! From there I headed back downtown for a trip to Murray's Cheese, followed by a stop at Toy Tokyo. For me, no trip to New York is complete without going to these two places.
Finally it was time to get on the bus and head back south. Now I've got new fabrics and tools to play with, and will certainly be turning out more creations as the weeks go by! And, of course, I cannot WAIT to go back to New York and do it all again.