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Paris, someday soon.

In my mind, I have my day-trip to Paris all planned.  I’ll take an early train from London or Amsterdam, and spend the day seeing the sights on foot–the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Seine; and eat at a sidewalk cafe, and then catch the night train back.

I’d like to visit the Beat Hotel

And the Boulevard de la Madeleine

This book, Fall Irmgard, has strengthened my resolve to make the trip.  It is the only book I’ve ever won in a Goodreads giveaway, and lucky me, I won an exceptionally good one.  It is the first published novel by Rand Charles.Fall Irmgard2 a RSR

The story took place in occupied Paris in April 1941, a few months before the US entered WWII.  A young American woman named Addie Bridges, who had been working in Paris and loving it, was reluctantly trying to get back home while leaving France was still possible.  The German occupiers were getting in her way at every turn, while Parisians had all they could handle just trying to endure the Nazi occupation and keep their lives and livelihoods intact.  The book was a long, slow, captivating read.  The author enabled me to effortlessly visualize the scenes–the settings and the mannerisms of each character at every encounter.  Highly recommend for readers interested in that period in history.

Meanwhile over in the sewing corner, I’m trying to figure out what to make with this Paris-themed fabric:  Dress, skirt, curtains, or all three; … andIMG_20180720_071127065_LL b panel RSR

I’m savoring Paris-inspired music.

 

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Daisies, linen and box pleats for bicycling

I was so excited when I brought this 1960s daisy dress home from the vintage clothing store in August 2015, that I mentioned it in my blog right away.

vintage-dress-green-daisies RSR

For two summers I wore the dress as-is and loved its style.  But bicycling in it was a no-go, because the dress is narrow and straight with no stretch and no pleat for getting on and off the bike and for pedaling.  I loved the dress too much to change it.

Eventually my desire to wear it on my bike commute won out.  I formed a bold plan to add box pleats, and worked up the courage to make the first cut.  I measured and sliced the skirt where four pleats would go.  I was lucky to find some fabric for the pleats that was a near exact match of the creamy white color in the dress.

The result:  Ta-da!

vintage-dress-green-daisies pleats added RSR

The next morning as I was preparing to wear the modified dress for the first time, I took a mirror selfie, BHM (before hair and makeup).

Mirror selfie BHM RSR

On its first outing with the box pleats, I bicycled a total of 14 commute + errand miles.  The skirt was perfect, in roominess, length and drape.

After that first wearing, I decided the top of the pleats should be reinforced to prevent inevitable strain and fraying in the corners.  So I added little tabs.

pleat tabs RSR

This project was an unqualified success.  The person most surprised is me.  I feared I was going to ruin the lovely dress for good.  But no, I’ll be using the box pleat ‘hack’ again sometime when I need to convert another dress for bike-ability.  I want to post a set of instructions, but I feel like I need to try it again a time or two before telling others how to do it.  Stay tuned.

 

And their love that was more than the clothes that they wore,
Could be seen in the gleam of an eye…

 

And Never Let Her Go

The difference between this and any other Ann Rule book, is that something made me pick this one up at the bookstore, take a quick look through it, buy it and read it.  Ann Rule has done important work in writing books about stalkers and murderers who outwardly appeared to be leading ordinary lives among us.  I find the books too haunting to read.  But something about this story made me want to know what happened.

And Never Let Her Go

As I read further into this book, I began wondering why I had never heard of this story on the news.  The Delaware Governor’s beautiful secretary goes missing and then the murderer turns out to be a well-connected, married lawyer from a wealthy family, well-known in the region.

The news story may not have reached me in real time in 1997, but in 2000, this book did a thorough, careful job of helping me get to know these people.  Anne Marie was tall, slender, kind, fun loving and beautiful.  Her doom was being at her desk when this man came to the Governor’s office for a meeting.  He pursued her the way an experienced man pursues a trusting young person.  He was practiced at cheating on his wife, and cheating on his girlfriends, one of whom was the wife of one of his law partners.  Before long Ann Marie was trying to figure out how to leave him.  That’s when he turned on the other type of manipulation, in which he made her think she owed him.  He stalked her as well.  When those tactics stopped working and he sensed she was getting away, he murdered her.  With the help of one of his brothers, he dumped her body at sea.

Anne Marie kept a diary, which would seem to make an open-and-shut case.  But no; it was anything but that.  When he was arrested and prosecuted, he manipulated family and friends from jail; trying to get them to lie for him.  He paid a thug to break into another girlfriend’s house to scare her into lying for him.  Meanwhile, he was setting her up to take the fall for his crime.

Maybe I was drawn to this book because I was close to Anne Marie’s age, and worked with some suits who thought they had perfected the double life.  I don’t know.  When I finish a book, I usually pass it on.  The ‘keepers’ that remain in my possession, take up less than a single shelf in my bookcase.  This is one of the keepers.

Read and watch more:  

Book:  There was another book written about Anne Marie’s murder, titled ‘Summer Wind‘.  It is a shorter book, but also did an excellent job telling the story.

Newspaper articles:  The Delaware News Journal recently did a story marking the 20-year anniversary of the murder of Anne Marie.   https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/2017/11/15/thomas-capano-convicted-murdering-anne-marie-fahey-and-conviction-how-happened-one-turn-after-anothe/851736001

That newspaper story links to this in-depth report on the case and several key individuals.  https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/2017/11/15/20-years-after-capano-arrest-juror-breaks-silence/839587001

Movie:  Ann Rule’s book was made into a TV movie, also titled ‘And Never Let Her Go‘.  It starred Mark Harmon.

The movie is available on DVD https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000UAE7J0

I couldn’t find an official movie trailer, but here is a collection of scenes from the movie.

The movie contained a clip of this beautiful song, which made me search for the song and buy the album.

Twenty years before #metoo, and the outing of Matt Lauer and Bill Cosby (two of a growing list), we all knew there were people among us in our daily lives, shrouded in respectable suits and positions, underneath which they honored nothing but their desire at any given moment.  They thought they had somehow been endowed with an entitlement to take what they wanted, by criminal means if necessary, and have their colleagues and subordinates help keep it all in the closet.  They are still out there among us.  Don’t be their next target, and don’t be an enabler.  My wish is that Anne Marie never be forgotten.

It worked! I stretched a shrunk rayon dress back to size.

Absentmindedly I tossed this dress into the wash with a load of colors, on the cold gentle cycle.  Out came a tiny dress for a shorter stick version of myself.  Turns out it is one of those awful super-shrinky rayon dresses from a prior decade.Care label w comment

I didn’t take a picture of the shrunken dress, so you’ll have to imagine the dress in this picture not draping freely from the dress form, but instead fitting snugly with open gaps between the buttons down the front.  The sleeves were skin-tight on my arms.  It was bad.Rayon dress 1 -- rsr

My only options I thought, were to put it in the donation box, or repurpose it into another garment.  Then I found this unshrinking method that uses hair conditioner.  This blog gave super easy instructions:  Almostherealthing.com  I checked a couple of other sites to compare, and they were mostly consistent on the method:

In a tub or pan, combine warm water and hair conditioner, in a ratio of 1 quart of water to 1 tsp. conditioner.  Soak the garment in the solution for about 10 minutes.  Remove the garment and blot with a towel to remove dripping water, then stretch and reshape and dry.  Repeat if necessary for more stretching.

I didn’t have hair conditioner on hand for the unshrinking project.  Dollar Store to the rescue!Conditioner

I was dubious.  But…wow, it really worked!  The unshrinking was easy and inexpensive.  It’s truly regrettable that I didn’t take a ‘before’ picture of the dress in its shrunken state, for dramatic comparison purposes.

Here is the dress after unshrinking and drying.  I’ve had the dress for years.  For ‘vintage’ events, such as WWII or 1940s themed occasions, it is my go-to garment.  It’s super comfortable and bike-able.  It goes well with a straw sun hat.  I’m glad to have it back.  Rayon dress 2 -- rsr

I’m wearing the dress in this shadow picture, taken at the end of a vintage homes bicycle tour.  Bicycle dress shadow -- RSR

About that $1 bottle of conditioner…

Now that I have a nearly-full 32oz bottle of hair conditioner on hand. I need to figure out what to do with it.  Here are some ideas.  20 Genius Uses for Hair Conditioner  This article makes hair conditioner seem like WD-40 for the body.  I’ll certainly be giving some of the suggestions a try.

This machine is a sewing ambassador.

There I was, browsing through my then-fave antique furniture dealer/restorer, telling myself I didn’t need any more furniture.  Then I came upon this.  Machine in cover

The hand crank turned easily, and all the parts appeared to be there.  The price seemed low.  I’d never worked with an antique machine, and my curiosity quickly won out.  Decals

This was more than 15 years ago.  The internet was still new enough that personal web pages consisted of a lot of plain text and a few little photos.  But lucky me, a few people had done DIY pages on bringing an old Singer back to life.  All it took for this one was some sewing machine oil, and careful cleaning of the head, to not ruin the decals.  A universal bobbin and needle were all the parts I needed.  Soon it was sewing beautiful stitches on a test scrap.  Crank view

The decals are the “Lotus Petal” design.  The serial number is stamped on the base, in nice big numbers.  There is a little storage compartment under the hand wheel, for holding attachments, etc.  Serial number and equipment cupboard

I love looking in the storage compartments of old machines.  They are like opening a time capsule.  There were a few specialty feet in this compartment.  I confess, I still haven’t used them.  I need to make that a future fun project.  special feet

There was also an online database of Singer serial numbers, that quickly told me this machine is a Model 66k; one of 75,000 manufactured in Clydebank, Scotland, in 1917.  Handcrank machine history w heading

Around the same time I got the machine, I acquired a little stack of scrappy stars in another antiques shop.  In keeping with their vintage status, I decided to assemble them into a quilt top using my ‘new’ hand crank sewing machine.  Then, I taught myself to hand-quilt.  Then I took the finished quilt into the shop where I’d bought the stars.  The owner got choked up, and told me her mom had made the stars.  She loved how I framed them in red and muslin.  Quilt

The sewing machine currently resides in my sitting room, on top of a treadle base.  There is another antique sewing machine folded up in the treadle base.  This first purchase and all of the wonderful experiences that came from it, caused me to buy more old Singers and put them back into ‘service’.  My feeling is that they need to be re-appreciated, and used occasionally.  And that’s a duty I thoroughly enjoy.  base-pup rsr

This hand-crank machine’s most recent use was at a workshop where outdoors enthusiasts were learning to make custom straps with buckles, adjusting slides, and other embellishments, for camping, hiking, and biking.  A small bit of straight stitching on the straps was optional.  This sewing machine being non-electric, low-tech, and virtually unbreakable, was not threatening to people who had never sewed, or who’d had a bad first sewing experience.  Everyone opted to take a turn with it.  I think I (or more likely, the machine) successfully recruited some sewing newbies that day.

 

Adding a side pleat for bike-ability

Over the 4th of July holiday, I worked up the courage to to hack into one of my fave summer shifts to make it more bike-able.  The dress is straight, and the fabric a sturdy woven cotton with no spandex.  Getting on and off the bike and pedaling were all problematic.

IMG_20180705_184701379_LL a

I opened the side seam 9 inches from the hemline, and added a 9″ zipper and a stretch panel in coordinating fabric.IMG_20180705_184810535_LL aIMG_20180705_184737782 a

Success!  I can unzip the pleat and have room for pedaling a bike, and then close the pleat up the rest of the day.IMG_20180705_184714214_LL a

The steps I took in order:

  • Open side seam to 9 inches from the hemline.
  • Sew in 9″ zipper.
  • With zipper open, pin triangle insert in place behind zipper, lining up fabric edges.
  • Topstitch insert in place through all layers.

From the inside, the pleat looks like this closed.  IMG_20180705_203759195

And open.IMG_20180705_203730248

(The pleat insert fabric is intentionally shorter than the rest of the hemline to keep the insert from peeking out from under the hem when the pleat is zipped shut. )

Ready for pedalingIMG_20180705_191148063_LL bw

Ready for the office. IMG_20180705_191406365_LL aw

I’ve biked in the dress a couple of times since installing the pleat, and it works just as I’d hoped.  There are a few other dresses and skirts in my closet that probably should get the zipper-pleat treatment.

___________________________

A breeze crosses the porch
Bicycle spokes spin ’round
Jacket’s on, I’m out the door
Tonight I’m gonna burn this town down

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

1920s Homemaker

Twice a year, I get to be a 1920s homemaker for a day, 1920s dress

And bring this 3-room house at the Kansas Oil Museum to life. Lease House 3

My few hours there are simple and precious.

On arriving, I first thread the treadle sewing machine, and put the treadle belt in place, and then wait for willing seamstresses and seamsters to arrive.

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When no one is at the sewing machine, I can do some sewing myself, or knit, or …

Hang dish towels on the line, Lease House 1

Sweep the front porch and pull weeds,1920s house front

Tidy up the kitchen,1920s kitchen

Tidy up the parents’ room (which doubles as the nursery),1920s bed & Living room 2

Tidy up the front room (which serves as the sitting room, sewing room, play room, and kid’s bedroom),

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Or visit the grocery store.

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Back at ‘my’ little house, at certain times of day, the kitchen is not well lit, but is always charming.  1920s kitchen table

At Christmastime, the house is heated by a cast iron wood stove, so I bake a pineapple upside down cake on the stove.Pineapple upside down cake

The house is called a ‘shotgun house’, because if you shoot a gun through the front door the bullet will pass through the back door.  I haven’t tried it.  1920s house from the front door

My favorite moments are when a little visitor takes in the whole scene and then looks up at me and asks me if I live there. ❤  My answer is always, “Yes, but only on special days like today.”

1920s back yard

This post was inspired by a lovely post on Everyday Women of the 1920s by The Pretty and the Kitsch.

 

Summer bicycling dress II: 40 shades of green (and grey)

Another bicycling dress is finished as of last weekend, complete with reflective bits.  With this one, I cut out shapes of sew-on reflective tape that I could embed in the print.

Green dress no flash 2 a-w

Front reflector flash a-w

Back reflector flash a-w

Appliqueing the reflective motifs to the dress was a repeating cycle of trial, error and perseverance.  My first attempts were awful.  The grey thread I had on hand ended up being several shades too light, and stood out as white on the reflective fabric.  [Insert ’50 Shades of Grey’ reference here.]  The light thread highlighted every deviant stitch.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of deviant stitches.  Despite how bad it was looking, I kept on going, thinking that I’d improve my stitching with practice, and then I could go back and re-stitch the first bad ones.  But not this time.  This was truly bad.  So, I cut out some new reflective motifs in a wider shape, and bought a darker shade of grey thread.  [Whew, it’s getting hot in here!] Then, success!

Bad vs good leaf stitches a-w text

The thread color was a tremendous improvement, but the points of the reflective motifs were still coming out looking ragged and misshaped.  I couldn’t make the point stay in place to be stitched neatly.  So through more trial and error, I came up with this technique that worked:

  • Start at the wide end of the motif and baste straight down the middle to the tip.
  • Switch to a regular stitch length, and continue past the end of the tip for 3 more stitches.
  • Turn the entire piece around and from the tip, stitch around the edges of the motif.
  • Snip the basting stitch at the point, and pull the thread tail to remove only the basting.

Stitching on leafs a-w with text

Voila!  A better leaf shape, and the appearance of neat stitches.Close up of proper result a-w

At first I intended to replace only the ‘worst’ of the original reflective leaves.  But in the end, my seam ripper and I spent a lot of time together, and the entire first batch of motifs were removed and replaced.  It took quite a bit of time for this do-over, but I think it was necessary.

reflector rejects a-w

My sew-on reflective tape was purchased from Amazon:  (Product Link)  The 2-inch wide 30-foot roll was my choice, because that width allows for lots of creative uses.  Smaller widths and lengths are available.

Other construction details:

For bike-ability, I inserted a pleat in the back.

Kick pleat a-w

The dress is constructed from the hem up:

The main fabric with the wild print came from my stash, but there was only a yard of it.  So, I hemmed it first thing, and built the dress upward from there.  Up near the shoulder, the fabric ran out.  There I added the polka dot coordinating fabric, to complete the shoulder.  The main fabric pieces that were cut away for the armholes, were almost but not quite long enough to make the collar.  So again I supplemented coordinating fabric to complete the collar.

Dress collar & shoulder a-w

The inside facings for the armhole, neck and hem are all made from the coordinating fabric.  The cool thing is, I used almost every inch of the stash fabric.  There are no usable scraps left.

The fabric is 100% cotton and comfortable, while sturdy enough to stay in place on a breezy day.

Green dress mirror selfie b

 

Summer bicycling dress

Happy Birthday, Sir Paul McCartney!  ❤  And what does Sir Paul’s birthday have to do with this dress?  Answer:  I wore it to his concert last July.  I finished the dress around this time last summer; just a couple of weeks before he was coming to town.  That made it super easy to decide what to wear to the concert.

Pink dress front

This dress met several objectives–

  • It is ‘bike-able’, meaning the skirt is loose enough to enable mounting the bike and pedaling.  A little bit of spandex in the fabric helps with that too.  The skirt is just long enough that I don’t flash passing drivers.  The fabric is a twill which makes the skirt a bit sturdier in a wind.
  • The dress has built-in reflector motifs for visibility.
  • And last but not least, the fabric came from my stash.  Every bit of stash reduction helps.

Pink dress reflector bodice

Why did I choose this dress for the McCartney concert?  Obviously, because it has a Swinging 60s look.  But there’s more.  I thought maybe when the stage lights panned the crowd, the reflective elements of my dress would light up.  I don’t know if it was visible from the stage, but it was fun wondering if I stood out in the crowd a teeny bit. 🙂

More views of the reflective details:

For biking, I added a kick pleat in the back, and gave it a strip of reflective fabric, too.Pink dress reflector kick pleat

The reflective buttons were made with reflective tape and a covered button kit.  IMG_20180618_132658800

Pink dress mirror selfie b

I ran; I sewed; I read

I ran.  

This morning was my fave annual 10k trail run.  There were muddy creek crossings. STD creek crossing 2 2018

STD muddy hand

STD muddy legs

There was a dam to scale.  It was ‘dam’ high and steep.  STD dam wide shotSTD dam

And then came the descent.  STD dam top view

I stayed on my feet for the descent, but in my mind I was one misstep away from doing a spectacular tumble a la Gloucestershire Cheese Roll-style.

At the race finish, a little mud wasn’t going to stop me from savoring a delicious juicy orange.  STD orange

I sewed.  

When getting dressed for the race this morning, I noticed my HRM (heart rate monitor) was way too loose.  I cinched it down to its smallest, but it was still too loose.  The several-years-old elastic was giving out.  So, I quickly threaded the sewing machine with black, and cut a big 9-inch section of elastic out of the band.

Garmin strap repair 1

Then I sewed the shortened band pieces back together.  Garmin strap repair 2

I put the shortened HRM back on, and it was still too big, so I took it off, cut out another 6 inches.  And sewed it together again.  Then it fit, and I was off to the races…literally.  Garmin strap repair 3

I read.

Back home after the race, I plopped myself onto the couch and re-dedicated myself to reading A Confederacy of Dunces.  I’d started it long ago, and liked it, but then set it aside, forgotten.  Now it is one of the books in the Great American Read list, and it is my choice for the Read.

A Confederacy of Dunces