The Grand Tour, Part 4: A Little More Paris, Versailles and Giverny

Having completed our two full day trips, we decided to slow down a little. First of all, we were exhausted. Second of all, we needed to take a laundry day in the middle of the trip. We got to explore our immediate neighborhood, trying out the patisserie.

Better rested, we ventured out once more. The portal in the first picture above was one of the inventions displayed in a metro station; the whole look was very nearly steampunk. Here, I think we are looking at the Hotel du Ville?

At picture, place or both, we saw an exhibit on the history of Paris, its public services, etc. It was clearly for Parisians, all in French with very complex grammar. In comparison, the newspaper announcement they displayed from the 1800s explaining every person had a right to vote was much easier to comprehend!

Needing some greenery, we visited the Bois du Boulogne and met this muskrat!

Our first half day trip was the obligatory Versailles. We only got to see the palace itself, no time for the gardens. This was my second viewing, and with another decade and a half of theatre under my belt, the false marble painted in the restored rooms was much easier to spot!

Later in the evening, we checked out the Paris Plage. That’s the beach, folks. Now it’s not natural, they cart a bunch of sand to one of the Seine’s canals. It was quite the attraction! Zip lines, bumper boats, sunbathing, bars.

There were also three levels of French as a second language class for immigrants! One group was drilling colors, one was doing something with verb tenses, and the third was practicing writing letters.

Our other half day trip was to Giverny, and Monet’s gardens. They were beautiful! It was really interesting to go inside and see some of the replica paintings – having seen the original just a few days before, we could tell the difference!

It’s possible we were homesick for our chickens, because Jeff couldn’t help but snap a photo of this confident bird. We rounded out this part of the voyage by buying a little modern impressionist piece from an artist in the village.

Mundane Mending

I am pleased to report that I have finally powered through my massive pile of mending:

  • I closed up a couple of tears (one about palm width, the other fingertip size) in a long flowing skirt;
  • I put the second button back on the waist of my brown pants (and boy has that been waiting a long time); and
  • I hemmed five pairs of pants that my mom gave me – and I really hope I like the length, ’cause I pinned all five at one go and didn’t try any of them on in the course of things…

Tinkerbell came and sat on my lap during the pants hemming session. Lucky for her, I was curled up on the couch so I could comfortably hold my hemming up over her head. And then she was further spoiled when I later returned to the dining room for a snack and instead of making her get up off of my chair, I moved it around the table and put a different chair in my spot instead. Of course, she promptly moved over to his chair so he’d have a hard time sitting down, too.

Making Tunics, Part 2

I started by sewing Jeff’s under tunic, the soft beige cotton (sacrificing the probable underskirt for the Regency dress). I mentally compared it to the vest I’d recently fitted, and knew I had a problem. Jeff couldn’t get it on. I added a triangular gusset under each arm. It was still too tight, so I added another, this time with the point up. Finally it was close enough.

I left the sides of the heavy red over tunic open through the torso. There just wasn’t enough fabric left to add back circumference. I hacked off the sleeves, put in the seams on the skirt, and called it a day. The rough, unhemmed look seemed like the best choice for this simple outfit – I guess we’ll have to hope that we won’t use them enough to need to wash them!

I moved on to the soft brown linen I wanted to be my own under tunic. As I started on the side seams, I realized I’d cut and/or sewn it at the wrong placement and rotation – I’d used the torso for the sleeves, and ended up needing center front and center back seams in addition to side seams. I started piecing it together, and added what I’d intended to be a skirt panel to the center front to get enough girth. The next panel became triangular gores on either side to widen out the hips. I added skirt panels horizontally instead of vertically, extending the length more slowly in order to get all the way around. The front was still shorter than the back by the time I was through, but it ended on the selvage so I could once again skip the hem. It was much shorter than I wanted.

Then I went back to the rough beige almost burlap that was left. With the sleeves and side seams stitched, it was a tight fit. And a bit scratchy. I cut off the sleeves and added them to the ends of the brown tunic as a decoy longer sleeve. That eased up the fit a bit, too, I expect. Rather than fine tune any further, I got out the minuscule bit of fake leather I was saving for Jaime (where it wouldn’t have been enough) and made belt pouches. The best bit? The belts themselves are just lengths of black cotton rope…because Lily’s a chewer, and we’d already bought a 100′ coil of it to avoid the $10 charge every time she wears one out.

If I get ambitious between now and April, I might try to make us caps…

Surprise Blouse

Since I’d cleaned out the costume closet to make and put away all the prop bags, I’d come across a green skirt that desperately needed a blouse. And since I’d been matching blues for the historical mash up fantasy dress, I found something of about the right formality level (though to be honest, I’m still a little dubious about the color coordination). I got out a 1940s blouse pattern (Simplicity 3688) and quickly found out that the yardage was going to be pretty scant on this project, too.

Tink is back to help once again!

My saving grace was the fact that I was not using the largest size of the pattern. I could nestle each piece right up to the next as I cut out just enough fabric. Plus, since it was a knee length skirt, I cut three quarter sleeves (and may take them shorter when it comes time to hem them). Even so, the sleeves are cut cross grain instead of directly on the grain.

That’s a Wrap!

I finished up more little things, which means today has lots of pictures!

First I got out the Sherlock/Jaime shirt and whipped up some cuffs. They’re certainly not perfect, but they give the right appearance. The cuff links go right through the cuff to the shirt itself and back. They’ll need to be safety pinned on the opposite side to keep them from pivoting like they did in the picture, though. Of course, Tink wanted to help…

Then it was time to make up Sherlock’s prop bag. As with Irene’s, I took the two-sided fabric that wrapped the kimono (choosing the plaid side this time), sewed up the bottom and sides, added horizontal stitching for the bottom of each pocket, and cut open the pockets. There are spots for pipe, watch, belt, magnifying glass, hat, and scarf.

I quickly did a pair for the Doctors from the fabric cut off the bottom of the kimono, with much less detail this time. Just three big pockets for the iconic Converse tennies, K-9, and everything else (sonics and ties for both, of course, plus brainy specs and psychic paper for him and a khaki headband for me). The K-9s still take a lot of space.

One last set for the fantasy renaissance outfits, and this project is done for now. These were the kimono sleeves, so they’ve got side openings instead of front. Both hold shoes on the bottom, with hose on top for him, and outers sleeves on top for me. All of the prop bags got stitched directly to the hangers as well – so that’s a dedicated 3-4″.



Cutting Irene’s Underthings

It got worse before it got better. Not that it’s gotten better yet.

When we last left the scene, there was fabric everywhere. Now there’s more fabric. Most of the “white to beige” category had absolutely minuscule amounts of yardage, which when compared to the patterns I meant to use were quite dismal. Needless to say, they would not be sufficient. So I hauled out the motherload of very thin, delicate white fabric that’s going to be terrifyingly sheer as chemise and drawers. But at least there’s more than enough beige for Irene’s corset, Regency short stays, and hopefully even the lining of the Regency day dress.

The sewing detritus takes over – or maybe the cat does. And the filing cubby is filling up…

I laid out the white and started cutting the pattern pieces…which is when the cat decided to come “help”. It is possible that I encouraged her, waving strips of scrap in her face, but I take no responsibility for her penchant for lying on crinkly things. Her parking herself on top of the pattern pieces is her own doing.

So far, the chemise is cut, the corset is just about laid out…and the cat has vanished, so I’d better get back to it while I’ve got the chance…


Recarpeting the Cat Stands

Jeff and I actually first made our cat stands many moons ago, when we discovered that buying the suckers was going to be a serious pain in the wallet. We bought eight feet of 4×4, which the folks at the store cut down to two 3′ and one 2′ length for us, along with some scraps of (nicer looking) plywood for the base and the top. There was some slight awkwardness holding the first flat piece in place while we added the second – possibly they should have had two screws each. Still, it’s kind of fun (and occasionally handy) to be able to rotate the top around for cleaning, moving, etc. Then we wrapped carpet remnants from our house around two of the three posts, nailed them in place, and voilà! Cat stands.

Since Tinkerbell enjoys shredding the stands as much as the next cat, though, the carpet was getting rather the worse for wear. Short carpet fibers regularly swirled around the living room, and the longer warp or weft threads dangled irritatingly from the stand itself. It was time to seek out additional carpet. I kept meaning to wander over to the flooring place just down the strip mall from our gym, but December sent me into hibernation mode, and I kept failing to accompany Jeff to his personal training sessions.

Enter my mother and her new carpet! I spent New Year’s with my mom, and while exploring closets found the remnants from her recent carpet acquisition. I asked, she said yes, and they made the trip home with me.

I then killed two birds with one stone and gave Lily a nice long walk while simultaneously visiting the neighborhood hardware store for tack nails (actually intended for carpet!). Amusingly, after I’d pulled the old carpet off, Tink actually tried to maul the post-less old carpet she was used to, knocking it into Lily’s water dish.

I cut out the first piece of carpet for the 3′ stand, found that it wrapped much more tightly than I’d anticipated, and began improvising. The first side I could indeed attach with several moderately-spaced new tack nails. I also put a couple on the opposite side to keep it tightly wrapped. Once the carpet covered the original side for a second time, though, it was too thick for the tack nails. I got the last couple of the longer, original nails out and dug through the discards I’d pulled from the old carpet for a few more straight-ish ones. A little lumpy visually, but effective.

I cut a shorter and narrower second piece of carpet for the 2′ stand. It still wrapped too tightly. I decided to let the extra width billow out, since I was out of long nails. I tacked down the beginning and end with moderately-spaced lines of tack nails on the “left” and “back” sides of the post. I didn’t like how off-center the result was, so I added a couple of tack nails on the “right” side (and I think the front of the left, too). That forced the extra width to the front of the post, which you can see in the photo below.

Completed cat stands!

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. 

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.