ELO via Amtrak

In August I traveled to Dallas to see a Traveling Wilbury and his Electric Light Orchestra.

As it should be, ELO’s full sound filled the huge American Airlines Center arena.  The light show was the most extravagant and spectacular that I’ve seen; as it should be for a band called the ‘Electric Light Orchestra’.  There was no bad seat in the house.  There was no empty seat in the house, either.

ELO crowd

My seat was in the nosebleed section, which was fine for ELO’s show only because their sound and lights filled the arena spectacularly, as I knew they would.  The songs were all familiar.  The entire concert was a big, fun sing-a-long with the band and 20,000+ of their biggest fans.

 

Me-made concert outfit (partly):

I’d packed my fun green reflective bicycling dress to wear to the concert.

But as I was getting ready for the show, practical considerations won out.  I was going to have to walk 1/2 mile from my lodging to the TRE transit shuttle that drops off at the concert arena.  I didn’t want to make that trek both ways in a dress with wedge sandals; the return trip in the dark.  So, I opted for a pair of knee-length shorts, flat sandals, and this comfortable floral blouse that I recently made and wrote about last week.

ELO outfit RSR

The blouse has just one reflective bit… the button in the back.  So, anyone sitting behind me who tried to take a flash picture, may have gotten my button reflection instead of the stage.  But who in the nosebleed section uses flash at a concert?  Probably no one.

Back closureBack closure reflection

As for the concert, it was a lovely, lovely night.  Everything was perfect.  (Except for the guy sitting next to me, who had pulled up an ELO set list on his phone, and kept announcing what song was coming up next.  Grrr.)  But this guy below sure didn’t bother me.  The crowd all around me was really into the show, which made it that much more fun.

IMG_20180813_224351809

For the best sampling of Jeff Lynne’s current ELO live show, I recommend the “Wembley or Bust” live CD-DVD set.  I ordered it after I got home, and am quite glad I did.

 

Travel and lodging

The drive to Dallas for me is a straight 6-hour shot down through the middle of Oklahoma, all on Interstate-35.  It’s a boring and crowded highway.  There was a lot of rain in the forecast too, which I didn’t relish driving in.  My solution was to drive to Oklahoma City and then take the Amtrak ‘Heartland Flyer’ the rest of the way.  Turns out it is a scenic, relaxing train ride.

Pauls Valley train stationPauls Valley downtownOklahoma scenery2

Ardmore stationGainesville station

The night of the concert, I stayed at a hostel in Irving.  This was my first-ever stay at a hostel in the US.  I booked the hostel through Hostelworld.  The girls’ room in the hostel slept 6.  When I checked in, the three bottom bunks had already been spoken for.  So this was my view from the top. 🙂

Hostel room

I enjoyed chatting with several fellow hostel guests, who were all passing through the DFW area for their own various  reasons.  I loved the hostel stay, better than a sterile, isolating hotel room.  The hostel was an easy walk to and from the commuter train station, where the TRE train took me straight to the concert venue–the American Airlines Center arena.

Irving train stop

TRE regional commuter train

The next day, I took the TRE back to Fort Worth, where after an afternoon of sightseeing, I boarded Amtrak for the trip back to OKC.  Ft Worth station sign

Here’s the ‘Heartland Flyer’ arriving in Ft. Worth to take us back to OKC.

Amtrak train approaching Ft Worth 2Amtrak train arriving Ft Worth

My departing view of Ft. Worth.Departing Ft Worth

Once the train was on its way, the cafe car opened.

Amtrak cafe car menu

For dinner, I ordered the spicy Buffalo chicken tenders and wine.  It hit the spot.  Each time I see this picture, I want that meal again.

Amtrak meal

Amtrak was also an excellent choice for the return trip, because the weather got severe as we progressed toward OKC.  Strong storms, heavy rains, tornado warnings and a massive area of flash flood warnings even caused all area trains to be ordered to shut down on the track to wait for a bad cell to pass.

Trip interrupted.

Our train arrived at the OKC station about 2 hours late, which meant I would be driving the rest of the way home after midnight, through flash flood warnings all the way.  Instead, I did a very adult thing (for me), and got a value-priced room in OKC for the night.  The storms had wreaked havoc with street lights in town.  It was a dark and eerie quiet drive from the Amtrak station to the hotel.

The hotel I chose is a huge once-fabulous sprawling complex.  As I was waiting my turn to check in, the old maintenance man told me stories about famous athletes and performers who had stayed there back in the day.  He and the hotel were absolutely charming.  The hotel lobby hints at its grand past.

Hotel lobby

The hallway leading to my room revealed that the hotel hadn’t fared so well during the storms.  They’d taken on some water.  Bags of concrete had been used as sandbags, doors were propped open for drying out, and carpet had been pulled and piled in the hallway.  I didn’t care because I was so tired.  I felt bad for the hotel.

Hotel door sand bagHotel water damage

My room was nice and comfortable for the price, but when I ventured over to the door that opens out to the courtyard, I discovered the carpet along that outside wall was wet and squishy.  I didn’t care.  I was tired, and I wasn’t going to need to go out that door anyway.

Wet carpet

In the bathroom was a relic from its past as a luxury hotel–the toilet telephone.  It still works.

Bathroom phone

The next morning, I got up well-rested, and drove home.  There were places on the interstate where flood water had obviously been up on the road.  Staying in OKC had been the right thing to do.

Now, back to the Traveling Wilburys for a moment:

A fellow music lover told me that the Wilburys had intended to keep getting together to make music from time to time, and to possibly add new members.  So I’m thinking, should Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan convene the next generation of Wilburys?  Who should the new band members be?  Should their music follow the same style and formula as the original Wilburys?  The departed original members can’t be replaced or mimicked.  But do it right and their spirit will be there with the new guys.  I have a few ideas of who should join Jeff and Bob and make some new Traveling Wilburys music.  I’ve grouped them in threes, to keep the band at five members:

Option 1:

  • Robert Plant
  • Gillian Welch
  • An Avett brother

Option 2:

  • Lindsey Buckingham
  • Dhani Harrison
  • Carlene Carter

Most of these are really huge stars, so why would they want to do it?  Well, you don’t get much bigger than Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and a Beatle, so the standard has been set.

The county fair and a campout

The night before my recent trip to the vintage clothing store, I went to the county fair.  I enjoyed looking at all of the hand crafted items, and home grown produce of the local 4-H’ers.

There were some excellent handmade garments on display, by teens and by grade schoolers.  To my distress, what you see here was all of the constructed garment entries this year.  This downtrend makes me want to stop what I’m doing and personally try to reverse the trend and bring young people into the wonderful world of sewing and handmade clothing.

DG County Fair garment construction teens

DG County Fair garment construction grade school age

There was beautiful home grown produce.

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There was gorgeous woodworking, and a fun repurposing challenge.

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The foods entries were great.  They had everything from breads and baked sweets to canned and dehydrated produce.  I was too busy admiring to remember to take a picture.

Over in the animal buildings, there were newly shorn sheep in fabulous jackets.  Two of my favorite jackets were the high necked trench coat and a fabulous hot pink number.  The sheep were quite friendly, too.

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As for the other animals, there was a handsome rooster that did a great cockadoodledoo, but refused to do a repeat performance for my camera.  There was a lovely dairy cow who looks great with purple accessories, a perfect pink pig that belongs in Charlotte’s Web, and a spotted pig on the loose, who had the prettiest floppy pig ears.

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It was demolition derby night, too!  This event was packed; standing room only.  This picture should come with sound.  The motors were loud, and the crowd roared with appreciation.

DG County Fair Demolition Derby

Campout!  

That night, hotel rooms in town were scarce and pricey, but that didn’t matter to me, because I’d opted to take advantage of the gorgeous weather forecast.  I packed my tent, chair, backpacking stove, and breakfast, for an overnight at the lake campground just outside of town.  The lake was a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) construction project in the 1930s, and has been nicely preserved.  My siblings and I loved visiting this lake when we were growing up.  Point of trivia:  William S. Burroughs had a little cabin at this lake in the last years of his life.

On this particular night, my thirtysomething nephew came out with his lawn chair.  We sat and talked while looking out over the lake until 1am, mostly sharing fun memories about the lake and about our siblings, parents and grandparents.

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Four woman aviators; one with a side hustle as a designer

MARY ELLIS

Several times this summer, women aviators were on my mind.  Most recently, the news that Mary Ellis, one of the last living female WWII pilots has passed away.  This BBC article gives a summary of her wartime service and her life after the war, when she was put in charge of Sandown Airport on the Isle of Wight.

Woman WWII pilot

 

AMELIA EARHART

Amelia and I were born more than six decades, but only about 50 miles apart.  Hers was one of the first biographies I read as a young girl.

Amelia-Earhart-propeller a

Her accomplishments as an aviator are universally known.  But did you know:

  • She sewed her own clothes
  • She designed practical flying attire for women pilots, and
  • She launched her own line of women’s clothing designs.

Amelia Earhart Adjusting Sleeve

Amelia clothing line2

Amelia Earhart fashion label a

Amelia Earhart fashion magazine page5 a

She pioneered the use of ‘Lastex’ yarn, that may be a sort of precurser to the now-ubiquitous and indispensable Spandex.

amelia earhart vogue ad Lastex a

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary–“Lastex”:

Lastex definition from Merriam Webster

During the Great Depression, she made her designs available as sewing patterns.

Amelia Earhart patterns magazine article

It’s more well known that Amelia had a line of suitcases.

amelia-earhart-travel-luggage

 

 

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The suitcase line bearing her name continued after her disappearance.  Below is a May 1947 ad; ten years after her disappearance.

Amelia Earhart luggage ad 1947 a

Before she became a pilot, she served as a nurse during WWI.  During this duty, she contracted pneumonia.  The pneumonia treatment left her with a sinus injury that plagued her with headaches and other complications, requiring occasional treatment and hospitalization for the rest of her life.

Amelia Earhart WWI nurse

From the time I was little, she inspired me with her independence and determined character.

More reading about Amelia’s sewing and designing:

 

AMY JOHNSON

Amy was a British pioneer aviator.  I’d never heard of her until I one day looked up the meaning of Al Stewart’s song, Flying Sorcery.  Wow, what a lovely tribute.   Amy Johnson is another person I wish I could have known.  In 1930, she became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia.  She set other flight distance records as well.  Like Mary Ellis, she flew for England in WWII; ferrying planes to the war front.  While on one of her missions in 1941, she died in a crash in the Thames Estuary.  The circumstances of her crash have never been fully explained.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Johnson 

 

ONE MORE

So, why women aviators, and why now?  The answer is that on the same day I read the news about Mary Ellis’ passing, I was talking to an acquaintance who’s had a long career as an aviation engineer.  She casually mentioned being able to ‘cross another thing off her bucket list’.  That ‘thing’ was an emergency landing she’d made a few days before, while flying alone through rural Oklahoma.  (By crossing it off her bucket list, she meant she never wants to experience it again.)  She told the story calmly and technically, how the engine started acting up, so she maydayed the nearest manned air traffic control tower, which was an entire state away, in Fort Worth, TX.  The controllers stayed in continuous contact with her and talked her through the entire process.  Long story short, she safely landed at an unmanned airstrip in rural Oklahoma.  I was hanging on every word she said; my mouth probably gaping open in awe.  She immediately shot to the top of the list of women badasses I personally know.

 

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…

 

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