Tuesday, April 27, 2010

She was rare and she is gone and how can spirit like hers live on

It's a staycation day today and I caught this story on CNN's home page about blogging the end of a life, about Eva Markvoort. Seeing this changed my day. Maybe the rest of this year. Maybe my future.

Eva had cystic fibrosis and she died a month ago at age 25 while waiting for a second double lung transplant. Check out her blog, 65_RedRoses. The CNN writer pulled quotes from only the last few posts. I know they're on deadline. But if you don't have a publishing deadline, read further back. I read the whole past year and had to stop at March 27, 2009, fully conscious that Eva didn't know then that this would be the last year of her life. Her whole blog is about her strong spirit, her loves, her will to live. And live fully. She truly seems to have made the most of her year. Last year a movie about her first double lung transplant was released in Canada. I'd love to see this movie run in the United States. If you want to see her movie in the U.S., her family urges you to write the U.S. networks and encourage them to raise visibility about organ donation.

We all have decisions about how to use our time, no matter how much or how little time we have. I've been grappling with these decisions "front and center" lately.

I was supposed to attend a free seminar in Chicago today but it's a pain in the a** to drive into the city or even to find parking to take the train. I decided to do online training instead and use the transportation time gained spraying this afternoon to get the dandelions on our 1.5 acres under control before they go to seed in a matter of days. Got 3 containers of Weed B Gone concentrate for a murderous rampage in the sunshine.

I never got to the online training. Instead, reading Eva's blog created a life seminar of sorts for me today. It brought clarity, led me to decisions. I usually get led to decisions through inspirations from others. Serendipity usually leads me to these inspirations and I know enough now to perk up and pay attention when my gut says this is about to happen.

My decision struggle about time has been going on for a year, since my husband launched his business and needs skills that I have but have been reluctant to give in adundance. Even though we'd both benefit. I looked at it as work. I already have a full-time job and trying to work on marketing and communications for his business, even though I love doing those things, is a second full-time job. During the times when I have given my all for weeks at a time for his business, I'm exhausted. I've never been certain, though, if the exhaustion was due to the mental effort (which I don't shy away from) or due to my attitude. I hate to admit it might have been my attitude, but maybe I'll need to admit that. Not ready yet though. Ha.

I believe it is true that we can wear ourselves into the ground with negativity that comes from nothing but our own thoughts. (and having been treated for depression much of my life, currently very successfully so that's not my issue right now, I know what that's like and what I speak of here is not the seriousness of clinical depression, it's garden variety "poor me" negativity) We have the choice of how to respond to what happens around us, what happens to us. I saw while reading Eva's blog for a few hours today how she chose to respond to her decline leading to her impending death. Sure, she video-recorded her moments of frustration and rage, but even those moments seemed to be more for her reader's benefit than hers, like she was trying all along to leave us with something positive.

In contrast, my challenge is some work-related tasks which has no comparison to facing the imminent end of my life sooner than I'd want. Now I feel very ungraceful and ungracious about how I've been conducting my life lately.

I value inspiration, highly. I have for much of my life chosen to seek inspiration, as a very visual person, through visual means. Admittedly, that often tends to lead to a materialistic focus as many of my posts here have been. Things, fabrics, patterns, putting these things together. I enjoy that and make no apologies for it. That play is a necessity of my life as much as I need water and air.

Eva was obviously talented with artistic flair and communicating a message and feeling (apparent in this video which shows a year of her life and contrast that with this video). When you scroll through her blog and her videos you can see what talent she had at projecting feeling through the camera.

She didn't keep her talents to herself. She shared, for the whole world to see, even as she died.

Thinking about this led to clarity in which direction I should take with my time, and how I should think about what I'm doing. My conflict has been in not being able to rectify my need for visual stimulation and creativity, with a call for my skills and time for my husband's business. I've indulged my visual interests with hobbies including sewing. Including on here.

I will be doing less online and less indulging through hobbies.

Instead, what I realized is, I can choose to change how I look at fulfilling this need with the call for some tasks that must be done now. A big-time investor is stepping into the business. My time to step up is now. This doesn't have to be incompatible with what I want to do. I once loved running a catalog business we had back in the 90s. I loved the design, the marketing. I loved the challenge of understanding the customer and writing for the customer. I can channel that need for creativity into marketing and communications for the business. And it's not just my husband's business, it's ours if we are partners in marriage. Why should I hold back from what I can do for it, because I want to piddle my time "relaxing" online? It doesn't help us. It doesn't have to be work -- the catalog business wasn't "work," why am I making this into "work?"

I have a quality where I don't like to be told what to do. But I will happily do the exact same thing if I choose to do it myself. What's with that? But it's true.

So I am choosing to give of my talents and skills to our business, to seek my love of creativity and visual inspiration and apply it to marketing a business that sells analytics products. Whaaa? Creative opportunity in statistics and analytics? Is this possible? Absolutely!! I've already been doing it, you'd be amazed at how visual metaphors and similes help people connect with an idea that they might not immediately understand. We aren't marketing to statisticians, we're marketing to "roll up your shirtsleeves" sales folks. I'm sitting in a spot where I see both sides and can connect them. I need to embrace my enjoyment in helping people to see these things. I do love to do that.

It's clear that is my calling right now.  (after I kill the dandelions though!!)

I will check in here periodically to post not ideas and inspiration anymore, but to share and review the sewing projects that I actually complete. There won't be many. I will be busy.

But I will be busy being honest with myself. And truly finding how to align what I need with what must be done right now. The two are not incongruent as I previously thought. It's all very clear now. I am alive and here and have much to give and it's time to give it and enjoy doing it at the same time. I hope this serves as inspiration in itself, for others who may be facing similar struggles.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Stunning Buttonholes


Can buttonholes be stunning? If you had asked me that question yesterday, I would have looked at you strangely. The "get a life" look.

Today, I have seen stunning buttonholes.

It's like you'd have to experience communication after death to believe it can exist. I have, and I do.

Now, I believe in stunning buttonholes.

Behold ...

Photo and tailoring prowess from

Beyond the superb detailed photography, check out the perfect raised handmade buttonholes. Do you want to know how to do them yourself? Watch the instruction video on the Made by Hand -- The Great Sartorial Debate blog. This post also shows a flatter and equally gorgeous buttonhole. Furthermore the video is classy, a cut above the typical bland voice narrating instructions. In fact there is no voice at all. It's much better without one and makes buttonhole work look enjoyable.

This totally inspired me to make buttonholes by hand on my next jacket or coat project. My work certainly won't be this beautiful, but I'm thankful for the video to see how to do it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Snaking Its Way Into My Life

I've never been very afraid of snakes. When we were little kids, the boys in my neighborhood played with bugs and snakes. This was in the days before cable TV and video games. When we actually spent most summer days outside. Us girls kept a respectful distance, but I was never scared. Even when opening the mailbox one day and garter snakes rained down out of it. On me. Surprising and shocking, yes. Super scary, no, not as much as big hairy spiders. Now that's scary.

The shedded snake skins in our backyard were fascinating, and pretty.

So no surprise that I'd fall for the python trend. I am not trendy, so I tried to resist. But resistance is futile.

Here's what I plan:

Python coating fabric from EOS
Leather strap in chocolate brown, beige, camel, ??? I need the python fabric in hand to decide.
Chocolate Bemberg lining (or a fuschia or chartreuse would be a fun surprise)
Possibly View C of Kwik Sew 3133 -- a design with a flap
Large oval turnlock on the flap
I'd attach the strap with D-rings or rectangular rings to balance the flap hardware

If you want to make a handbag to take for a walk on the wild side, leatherwise on eBay has great thin leathers for sewing. Right now, embossed and printed leathers up for auction:  lizard, python, crocodile, baby tiger, gator, jaguar, crazy zebra, ostrich, cheetah, stingray, tortoise shell and more. This crocodile has a ton of texture. Lizards and python and crocodile are in various colors. They have beautiful floral embosssed leathers too. No affiliation, I'm just an occasional customer who's loved every leather I've purchased from this seller. If auctions have ended, keep stalking them, often they're relisted.

Disclaimer: No baby tigers were harmed in the making of this post.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul."

-- Alphonse de Lamartine, French poet and politician who visited Istanbul during his travels to the Orient

Oh I so agree.

Spring/summer project:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What's Your Color?

Yeah, another color personality quiz. Verrrrrrrry interesting results, considering that my distaste for the print in the last post is somewhat due to the yellow color. And while flipping through April's Harper's Bazaar to pass time on a Chicago-to-Philadelphia flight yesterday, I had a major dislike of this year's yellow fashion trend. The only yellow I ever like is the daffodils and forsythia blooming in our gardens right now. Maybe because after a long Chicago winter, color outside is very welcome and those are the only flowers blooming.

Anyway, a color test for you.

Surprise surprise, yellow is my color.

"You are quite the powerful thinker. It’s this talent that allows you to overcome a plethora of great obstacles. Luckily, this doesn’t affect your ego and you give off a pretty easy-going appearance. You enjoy the finer things in life and also have an attraction to art. If you can help it, you try not to rock the boat. But you also can’t stop yourself from searching for new ideas, methods or styles."

Hmmm. I do think all of this fits me. Why yellow for this? I don't feel like a sunny personality.

Could I grow to like yellow? I once despised orange. Now I love orange. I even committed to buying two paprika orange chairs for our living room six years ago, and love them as much today as I did then. They pop against our chocolate brown leather sofa and they look great with the orange and gold paisley cushion covers I've collected from India. Orange grew on me.

Yellow will never grow on me. I'm sure of it.

Um, am I sure of it? Edited to add, painfully obvious when this is the first post on the page and the photos are lined up just so -- perhaps yellow totes are OK.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Stylin' the Anna Sui Vogue 1177 Pattern

I have curtailed pattern acquisitions except for new releases that are truly different than patterns I already have. This pattern passes the test and will be acquired -- the Vogue 1177 Anna Sui dress. Which I would wear as a tunic with skinny pants.

From the looks of the photo, I would have completely bypassed this pattern. I do not like this print and the photo doesn't show the most interesting feature of the pattern -- the tuck, pleat and gathering details. Do you see them?


Oh, here they are!

So I would sew this in a solid color. Likely black. Because I think all this detail could make black interesting. And because I'm only 5' tall, all these tucks and gathers in anything but a tougher-looking color could look childish on me. I want to toughen this up. Here's how I'd try it out:

Fabric:  Black Bamboo Voile from Vogue Fabrics -- If it's lightweight and summery, it may work with all the gathers and tucks. Do I order online or make the drive to Evanston? Because the voile is likely sheer, I'd make the cami too.

Bangles:  Black Crystally Glittery Bangles at Bluefly and Tiger Resin Bangle at Bluefly all on one heavy, unbalanced, over-laden arm. Why not. The handbag will be on the other side.

Handbag: Black "Fringe" Bag at Bluefly -- I would never buy this despite the price but we're having fun here. Isn't that what Anna Sui clothes are all about. This looks like a style Luxirare might make and her blog has certainly influenced me to think a little tougher.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Stylin' Series: Summer Sandal Season

The first public sighting of sandals on my feet this year occurred last Thursday when it was over 70 in Chicago. Had to do a quick rub-down of the heels with a pumice stone and rapid fresh coat of paint on the nails -- the feet weren't quite ready for public display -- but that's never stopped me from wearing sandals.

I love for my feet to be free. I love these Michael Kors sandals, and here's what I would sew to wear with them:

Michael Kors sandals at Nordstrom
Vogue 1088 Donna Karan dress pattern (The plainer fabric seems to need detail in this dress to make it interesting. But a question for you -- do you really think pockets like this will make people think hips are bigger? Am I way off base in thinking it's obvious any perceived size is due to the pockets? Isn't that better than thinking it's the hips?? This is why I don't understand Project Runway judges criticizing dresses with hip volume. Seems obvious to me that it's the dress, not the model. Or does this not hold true? What do you think? Just because I know what Michael Kors would say about this dress on Project Runway, I will insist on accessorizing it completely with his products.)
Tessuti Fabrics Edo Jam organic Japanese cotton
Michael Kors sunglasses at Nordstrom
Michael Kors shopper tote at Nordstrom (expensive, total dream time here, but the massive pocket on the dress requires a slim bag profile)
Michael Kors studded belt at Zappos

Saturday, April 3, 2010

How To Make A New Dress Form Look Vintage, Part 1

Do you adore the clean beige look of vintage and pro dress forms, possibly covet a Wolf, but not the price? Me too.

So instead of this:

Image from Threads

I got this:

Far cry, huh!!

It's even more no-name than the Dritz Double Deluxe, because although it has the same measurements, it came in a box without the Dritz brand name. It was $99 on eBay. I've seen these cheap on craigslist too. But truth be told, this thing is so flimsy, particularly the base, that $70 is probably a maximum value price for it.

But it will serve the purposes needed, which are 1) to display things I want to sell for photographs and 2) serve as a basic dress form for fitting and styling until I upgrade someday.

The thing I can't live with is THAT BLUE. While I love to wear blue, there is no blue in my home decor except for fake robin's eggs on a shelf, because robin's eggs are always blue. No offense to people who like blue, it's just too calming a color for me and I feel dragged down by it. I must be surrounded by reds, oranges and fast 80s dance music. Sort of like visual caffeine to keep me awake and alive through the day.

So what to do about the blue? Cover it with beige fabric!

We all know how to manipulate fabric. You could use a linen woven and sew it with structured seams just like a pro form. Include a zipper in the back to allow you to slip it over the form. My form size will be periodically increasing and decreasing, if it's anything like my real body. A beige knit from EmmaOneSock in my fabric stash will be ideal. It's 20" wide, so it's perfect to sew halves together shaped to fit the form's curves, and I can make one size that could stretch and contract as needed.

I will also decorate it with letters and numbers. That's a project for later this weekend.

Meanwhile, other ways to modify cheapy dress forms ...

If you like the decorative finial on the top of vintage and pro forms, search for wood finials on eBay. You can paint them gold or black and install them on top of a dress form. Some samples from eBay:

My base is very flimsy and keeps tipping over, so I will mount the form on a sturdier cast iron base. As soon as I find the right base. Again, search eBay and your local antique shops for potential solutions. Look for a heavy stable base. For a modern look, think outside the box with an iron microphone stand like this one from eBay seller geartree:

An old table base could be converted for a new job, like this one from eBay seller theantiquewarehouse. Not for this price of $400 though! But you get the idea, look for an antique look in heavy iron:

Also from theantiqueswarehouse, here's a flagpole stand that could be a stable possibility:

More ornate, pretty:

These ideas don't have a pole, but no big deal. Pick up a large wood dowel at Home Depot, cut it to the right length and spray paint it black, and you're ready to go.

For more inspiration for lettering and detail for pinning ribbon markings, check out this old corset form currently on eBay:

There are 7 hours left for its auction and it's already bidded up to $261. Plus $70 shipping. You could easily replicate this look with a modern dress form. Drool on it a little bit for authentic water marks, too! If you have access to a baby, hold him or her up, aim, and you're all set with ample drool.

This website sells jewelry, but I like the dress form:

I hope this has delivered inspiration to dress up your dress form!
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