Dog Training

So, since Jeff has promoted this blog to family and friends with the promise of animals as one of the topics, I guess I should cover that some more. With a new dog in the house, you can imagine that there’s some dog training to do. I’ve never trained a dog before, though Jeff’s mom has in fact taught obedience classes, and I’ve picked up a few tidbits from her.

One of those tidbits is the “hand game”. You put a treat in each palm, close to a fist, and hold both down in front of you for the dog to sniff at. When the dog stops sniffing and sits back on its haunches, you give it the treat from the hand at which it was not most recently nosing (with a reward cue like “yes” when they sit back, which is the desired behavior).

A calm Lily with four paws on the floor – yay!

I was trying to work with Lily on a different command the other day, luring her through it, and she just kept jumping for the treat. Which is when the little lightbulb flashed on in an “aha” moment: that is when you play the hand game! I very pleased to have figured this out – and even more pleased when I related my conclusions to Jeff’s mother and I got a reward cue (“yes!”) of my own. 


This regularly scheduled post interrupted to share that I have found a most miraculous object at my local Goodwill: a gigantic, free-standing embroidery hoop. Finishing Cersei just got a million times easier.

Seated embroidery frame. Probably also good for hand quilting.

The Holiday Dress, Part 2

As it turns out, the bodice on my foofy holiday dress was an adventure, too. From its original placement on the dress form, I pinned darts to the sides of and beneath the bust. I folded down the top hem the rest of the way the way around (with some shaping of course) and worked on the alignment of the back closure. That called for a couple more folds along the side. When I took the pinned monstrosity off the dress form, it was sort of like a flimsy little sculpture. With periodic adjustments, I sewed all of the folds and darts into place.

Then, since the final fabric is more or less sheer, I got out more liner. I had a piece suitable for the front (but not the back) of the bodice, so I decided to let the back stay see-through. I only needed darts below the bust for the liner, which I sewed first, and I folded the top hem and sides against the corresponding parts of the bodice and overstitched them together. Then I tried putting the result on.

That’s when I discovered that the dress form, although adjustable, was not quite at my measurements. It was, in fact, slightly more endowed. And the bodice wanted to flap down a bit, too. Luckily, I’d recently bought a sports bra that for some reason known only to the manufacturer came with removable cups, so I inserted them between the layers, decided I liked the result, and added a seam below the bust to secure them in place.

At about this point, too, I got out the rest of the cheap black velour from Irene and cut a long strip for straps. I turned it inside out, stitched one long seam all the way down, and turned it right side out again before figuring out where to place them.  I wanted it to be extra secure, so I criss-crossed them in back (and set the fit on my own body this time!).

Then it was time to play with the bottom of the bodice and attaching it to the skirt. My default was ending the bodice in a v, since that’s the way the fabric was cut when it came to me. I was inclined to keep it that way, since it provides a fun bit of historical flair. I separated bodice and liner below the waist, putting its liner behind both the skirt and its liner, then cut an extra piece of liner to go in front of the skirt and eventually attach to the bottom of the bodice front – I figured that arrangement would make the seam stronger. I sewed those four layers together with a zigzag stitch(!), lost some layers partway through, and had to back up to reconfigure.

Then I had to deal with the bottom bodice hem. I pinned the bodice and its new liner together, planning to overstitch. The liner fell out completely. I hand sewed it into place. I turned under the original liner and hemmed that, too. Then I tacked the bodice onto the skirt in a few places. It puckers a little bit, and the V isn’t quite symmetrical, but it’s not too bad for probably assembling in reverse order to what I should have done.

Again, bummed I lost a rare progress shot – the skirt is actually all in front of me & unfastened in this do-over!

I decided I did like the contrast of dark green against the part of the skirt lightened by the blue…though this was in the mirror, and I’m not as sure about the darker strip at the bottom. I finished rolling over and stitching the skirt’s and its liner’s waistbands, and then I figured out where I could put the laziest possible folds and tucks in the back to snug it up.  Finally I begged some hooks and eyes from the costume shop at the theatre where I’m helping hold book for a show right now, and I came home and finished it all up!


The Holiday Dress

Filed fabrics – with bonus cat! (Actually, I am given to understand cardboard boxes are not great for fabric – something about the glue, etc., etc. Plastic is better. However, I am hopeful that this new knowledge [and this blog] will incentivize me to zoom through lots of projects quickly, making its storage longevity moot.)
I actually “filed” all of my fabric when I re-organized the basement last month. Turned each banker’s box on its side, re-folded and placed each piece of fabric so that when it was full I’d be able to see a bit of each so that I could plan new projects faster and more neatly. Well, a new project wormed its way into my brain. As I teased in my last post, there’s a gauzy green that really wanted to become a foofy holiday dress!

So last week, I pulled Cersei off the dress form, got out the fabric, and … worried. There wasn’t much. A big chunk that might just provide the skirt front and back. Two more chunks for skirt side panels – this thing wants to be foofy, remember – and one more chunk for the bodice. I folded over the top of the bodice piece and pinned it to the front of the dress form, then wrapped it around to see if it would meet in the back. It did, barely.

I figured from there I was safe to cut out the skirt.  I got out my yellow polka dot dress (the actual dress, not the pattern!) to roughly copy the front panel, and did indeed manage to get the back panels from what was left of that chunk. In retrospect, I should have made the waist measurements on all three a bit smaller, since I followed that up by trimming the other two strips of fabric for the side panels.

I realized I was going to need a liner and something to help add poof, so I grabbed a bunch of black fabric and some black floral lace and took everything upstairs to where my sewing machine – and electricity! – were waiting. I cut parallel panels for the skirt liner, stacked skirt and liner in two piles, and put each one together. Since I wasn’t too concerned about the exact final length, I then hemmed each one.

Then I started ruffling the lace. Using the longest stitch possible, I put two  parallel seams in the top of the lace as close together as possible. I gathered the seams tightly on the first one, and compared my results with the circumference of the skirt. The three pieces I had were not going to cover the entire hem. Luckily, this was a lace-y fabric, not something with a defined edge, so I cut each of the pieces in half horizontally and gathered them all. I decided I wanted the lace to hang about an inch below the hem, placed it appropriately, and sewed it on. (I should note that I decided the “right” side of the liner would be oriented towards the wearer, so the lace covered the rough edge of the hem on the side that would ultimately be facing the skirt.)

I tried both layers on, and discovered that 1) there was way too much waist, and 2) there was nowhere near enough “foof”. So I went back down to the basement, grabbed the light blue version of the floral lace, and started cutting it into strips. I ended up sewing two more layers of ruffle to the entire circumference of the liner, with each layer sewn high enough above the previous one to (mostly?) prevent overlap. That left an extra several inches bare on top, so I rolled the waistline over several times andbasted it in place. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about the blue

The funny thing is, I swear I had a progress shot on the dress form…but since it’s been lost to the ether, you’ll have to settle for it being laid on the ground! Hem’s on the left, obviously.

lightening the color of the top of the skirt. I thought for a moment that I could simply reverse the liner and put the ruffles facing the wearer, but that would crush them and the expected foofiness. I figured I’d better wait until the bodice was ready to see if I liked the contrast before deciding to add a second liner on top. And so will you!

Interlude: Animals, Part 2

Now that you’ve met the chickens, how about the dog?

This is Lily, the beagle. Also my feet…

Jeff mentioned wanting a dog this fall. I enabled him, looking at photos on pet shelter sites and Craigslist, and joining a closed regional Facebook group for pet rehoming. We made a couple of inquiries about specific dogs, applied at a shelter with a nice variety of breeds, and made a list of what we were looking for.

Item #1 was good with cats. Surprise, we actually have one of those already – look down and to the right! The first dog we actually got to meet in our search process was Lily (then Paisley – “Lily” just fell out of Jeff’s mouth in the course of the interaction). We thought we were just going to get our feet wet, see how well we’d be able to evaluate a dog and its fit for our home. We’d even said in our shelter application “if we were smart, we’d wait until spring”.

Tinkerbell (clingy, fae, gets into trouble if you leave her alone for 5 minutes; arrived in our lives as a stray on opening night of Peter Pan many moons ago) acclimating to Lily’s presence.

Well, I went in prepared to say no, and tried not to get too attached. But Jeff admitted in the car on the way home that he wanted her. We went by a local shelter the next day to see if the attachment we felt was special. It was. I picked her up a couple of weeks later…and she seems to have turned out to be my dog! (And Jeff is surprisingly fond of the chickens. So it all seems to have worked out.)

Next Tuesday, we return to real time (almost) and the eagerly awaited resumption of wrestling with textiles: in which I am beguiled into draping a foofy holiday dress by a sheer green fabric (with opaque curly black accents) from the stash.

Interlude: Animals

As Jeff pointed out, you all might like to see the chickens that now live in the coop. We got four hens from his cousin, who raised a very interesting variety pack that included ducks, guinea fowl, and even a goose! We chose names ahead of time, and selected chickens primarily based on their general looks. May I introduce you to:



And Josie.

Craft Area: Sitting Room

Don’t you just want to wedge yourself in that chair and stay forever?!

And now we get fancy! Along with more serious work and tips: Like many of my projects, I went to the big box store with only some idea of what I was doing. We were covering a stairwell, which I don’t particularly want forming a chimney of fire, so I figured I wanted the fire resistant drywall. The guy on the sales floor made sure I didn’t buy stuff that was way too thick, and helped cut it down to the very weird measurements we needed. (And Jeff and I bribed a theatre friend with dinner to transport it all to our house in his truck.)

Jeff and I adhered the drywall many weeks later with Liquid Nails (cutting out an awkward corner where there’s brick sticking out of the floor, and squaring up the far left hand vertical). Then he informed me about the need for mud and tape. What? I just want things to look pretty! So back to the hardware store again…

And finally this fall I got out the wallpaper I’d tested at the work station only to discover pre-pasted is insufficient to secure it to the wall. Cue the  recurring theme: to the hardware store! I used another internet tutorial, and let me tell you, I don’t have a work table big enough for pasting wallpaper, and that’s okay! I just laid it down on the floor…got a little paste on the carpet…bookended it, shuffled it over, finished pasting, and hung it. I think it looks pretty good for a first try. My corners could be better, and it could be less wrinkled, but it’s not completely sideways and the pattern’s lined up well.

As for the decor: the table and crystal basket are more family pieces, the globe and flower prints are thrifted, and the armchair (which someday I might try reupholstering) is from Craigslist.

Craft Area: Display Area

Don’t look too high up – you’ll see over the curtain into the storage area!

Ah, there’s that Cersei progress shot again, taken by pure serendipity. Here is where I can finally share more cleverness and methodology: I didn’t want to have to deal with the City’s permit process and inspections to add a real wall, I just wanted the appearance of one (there’s a support beam and then the furnace and water heater right behind here). So I bought some brown bedsheets at the thrift store, got a giant tension rod, and hung the sheet up as a curtain – cutting a small hole in it to hang the oriental print on a nail already in the support beam.

Fun thrifted items here include: a telescope with wooden base (I thought about painting the tube bronze, too, but couldn’t do it), a former library art piece (of the check out-able variety!), and an old timey map of the world (you know, the kind where coastlines aren’t quite right). And we got the rug on Craigslist!

Craft Area: Natural Light

Giant window ledges may also be known as cat perches…above which looms the one piece of ductwork I forgot to spray bronze with rustoleum.

Turn to your left away from the work station, and you finally get some natural light…well, during the daytime of course! There’s another window just out of frame to the right. Both are curtained with some handy dandy thrift store finds, with cozy butterfly pillows made from vintage prints and backing from the stash (and can I add that I was too lazy to hand sew them shut? I just jammed the stuffing down, tucked the flap under, and ran it through the machine one more time). Still on the list of things to do is acquiring some trim to make especially the top of the window more formal looking.

You can’t see it very well, but the brighter picture has a crowd in Victorian clothing gathered below several hot air balloons – yet another thrift store item, and perfectly suited to the steampunk theme!