On Being Eclectic

For many years now, “eclectic” has been the first adjective to come out of my mouth when I’m describing myself. Never more than yesterday have I seen such a compact proof of it being the single most perfect word there is for my personality, though. It was one of those frustrating days when the majority of things I’ve been waiting to receive in the mail all arrive at once. I had a huge stack of packages to open – a real Christmas type moment. Personally, I like it better when things dribble in an item at a time, but the postal service never asked me…

Anyway, when I took an accounting of what had arrived, I laughed out loud. It was me to a “T” – and if properly employed, enough stuff to keep me busy for an entire year! No wonder I always have more to do that time to do it – but I digress…

I like being me, and I love being eclectic. I’d never be able to function in a world where everything was always the same – where I didn’t have oodles of options dancing about me at every moment teasing me to go this way or that. I’ve fantasized at times about only having one thing with which to deal at a given moment, but it takes me about 10 seconds in that line of thought to know I’d go nuts by the end of day one. Besides, I’d never be able to choose the one single interest that I’d want to keep as an only child.

Now, if you are curious, here’s my ever so eclectic packages from the day’s mail.

First off, this is a fantastic new cloth doll book by Antonette Cely. Actually, I’m not sure just how new it is for the rest of the world, but I just discovered it recently. Titled Cloth Dollmaking, it’s jammed with enough information, details, and tips to keep me busy for months – and I’d still not have mastered everything she has to offer in this book, which clearly demonstrates her expertise. Even just to study, it would keep me engrossed for hours, but beyond that, I know I will have dozens of dolls flitting around in my mind, begging for life long before I’ll come to the last page

Next I opened a package containing two back issues of the ever so incredible Gildebrief. If I could only keep one doll magazine in my house, this would undoubtedly be the one. Eye-candy, porcelain doll painting, and incredible, detailed costuming… this is the Cadillac of magazines for the doll artists – particularly those with a strong leaning toward bisque dolls and historic costuming. I’ve seldom seen anything in Gildebrief that I didn’t want to make – now!

Already feeling rich, I opened package three – another flat package, though in appearances only. Due to the cost and timing of the Circular Sock Machine convention this year, even with it being just a short drive away, I had to skip it. Since I don’t have my machine working yet, I had truly longed for the opportunity to go – the perfect chance to put this little beauty to work. As a consolation prize for those of us who had to stay home, extra copies of the convention book were printed and sold, and I’m thrilled! It’s got more info between the covers than I’d have ever dreamed, and even if my CSM were my only toy, I don’t think I’d be lacking for things to try for a very long time. I’m so glad I bought this!

By this point, I was almost of a mind to leave the rest of the packages for another day! However, they were blocking access to the kitchen, so I opened the fourth one – and smiled as my love of reading was blessed with a new treasure, a volume of new old children’s book series for me. One of the many reasons my handle is “Face From the Past” is because of books – and especially these old ones with pictorial covers. I have but few, but I’m terribly partial to them. I just recently discovered Honey Bunch, and I’m quite enamored with her at the moment, and eager to see how much of the series I can find in this edition – without breaking the bank.

Now I had but three packages remaining – though really just two items – or a hundred or so, depending upon how one counts these things. The fifth was two boxes holding enough of my beloved Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool to keep me knitting for months! I got a total of 53 skeins in five different colors and at bargain prices. I also refuse to confess to anyone who isn’t snooping around on Ravelry just how many skeins of Silky Wool I now own. I do so love this stuff…

Having fed my knitting, dollmaking, costuming, reading, and CSM inner people, it was time to come back to reality – though not as painful as some versions of same. I last opened a box jammed full of work – pretty work, I’ll admit, but definitely work. I now have somewhere over 100 antique fireplace tiles, which will eventually be doing duty in my Chocolate and Roses sewing room with something else that arrived recently… I’m going to save that for another post, though. For now, I will just say that I’m going to have something wonderful, but I’m going to have a lot of hours cleaning up and setting tiles before I can enjoy the end result. Stay tuned!


A Tale of Two Bunnies

You couldn’t much tell it by reading my posts, but I have been knitting the last few months. I missed 3 days – my birthday and two days while my daughter was here, but otherwise, I’ve managed at least an hour per day. That’s not as much as I was doing before we started all the house projects, but it’s enough to keep me sane – more or less… Technically, this is “old news” but since I’ve not had the time to share since I cast on – and because it is my blog and I can make the rules – I’m allowed to post what I made 6 weeks ago. Besides, it was fun and a lot different than the sort of things I’ve been making.

It all started when…

I decided to put together an impromptu Easter basket for DH this year – tempted by being in Walmart and looking for doll props in a certain aisle a few days in advance of the holiday. After picking up some of the small stuff I knew he would enjoy nibbling on, I decided to be silly and buy him a Lindt chocolate bunny to nest right in the middle of the array.

He loved his basket, and over the ensuing weeks, everything gradually disappeared, with the exception of that bunny. Well into May, the little fellow was still sitting on the table, and I was getting concerned that as the weather was getting warmer, his quality was going to go downhill rather rapidly. I finally asked if there was something wrong with the rabbit, and the reply came, “He’s too cute, and I don’t want to eat him.” Considering how much of a chocolate fanatic I married, this was the last thing I ever expected to hear.

Cute or not, chocolate isn’t an eternal substance, so something had to be done. Suddenly I thought of the freebie bunny pattern I’d found online at Heartstrings, and the wheels began turning. A trip to Fiberworks secured me a decadent skein of cashmere yarn, technically too light to be considered chocolate, but to marvelous to ignore. I cast on the day before my last knitting class – far too many stitches to make the petite little creatures shown online, and in the wee hours of Father’s Day morning, I put the finishing touches on one chubby and cute as a button bunny. I put him on the table at DH’s spot and went to bed hopeful…

I am pleased to report that my totally silly gift was a huge hit, and Bunny still lives on the kitchen table – and his chocolate ancestor has met his demise. Sad though that may be, DH is pretty content with the swap. I’m just really going to have to be careful what I get him next Easter!

Project notes – knitting is ridiculously easy. I decided to use a seed stitch instead of garter to make the texture less directional. Any size square will work, just so long as you do the sewing up proportionately. I couldn’t find any regular stuffing anywhere at that hour of the morning, so this little guy is full of my beautiful Corriedale roving – a real class act. I opted to add features – embroidered nose and bead eyes. If done for a child, the eyes would have been embroidered as well. I copped out and skipped whiskers, and as much as I’d wanted to use a red bow, I couldn’t find so much as an inch of red ribbon anywhere. With him being so big, I didn’t have an appropriate tail, so I wet felted a ball of my Corriedale and stitched it behind him. Nose to tail, he’s 8 inches exactly, and I have only a couple yards of cashmere left for my own personal fondling pleasure. When I figure out where I laid the ball band, I’ll add the yarn info.

And They Said It Couldn’t Be Done!

Okay… I’m slowly creeping back into something resembling normal for me life, and hope I’ll be able to do a little better about blogging again. I have loads of posts mentally waiting for life! There was a huge let down after DD#1 went home – not surprising, considering the frenetic pace for the weeks preceding and including her visit. Right now, I have no question what I’m wanting to share though. I was going to wait until it was entirely finished, but I just can’t keep quiet any longer!

For many years, I’ve fantasized about keeping the cats out of the front room that I’m claiming as a studio. So long as the cats had access, it was an impossibility to have a work area in there – or for that matter, to even clean the space up. It was once quite neatly organized, but for some reason, they took a fondness to the place and have endeavored to totally destroy it, clearing shelves, dumping boxes, and doing far more indelicate things than I care to mention. Every time I’ve taken so much as a single step to clean up what has turned into a nightmare, they just discovered they had access to even more destructibles, and I finally threw up my hands in total frustration, and to save my sanity, stopped even going into the place, as it inevitably reduced me to tears.

About 5 years ago, I suddenly got the idea that I could put a door on that room – and the job would be simple enough I could do it myself. There were a few small problems with which to deal, however. The biggest challenge was simply that there had never been a door in that opening – and neither side was a traditional doorway. Instead, there was an opening into the front room, on one side flanked by a 3foot long wall and the other 15″ of wall that ended in a graceful, Italianate curve.

At floor level, I was dealing with a very wide, flat molding which couldn’t be removed, because it is the original plaster molding, and I wasn’t about to destroy something like that.

When I started looking online for how-to’s, I came up with about three jillion sites telling me  how to stick a pre-hung door into a normal doorway, and not one site with the imagination to solve my problem. SO, I posed my problem, complete with photos of the space, to the boards on the This Old House site. I got answers alright – basically telling me I was nuts and couldn’t do what I wanted. Night after night I sat here looking at that doorway just beyond the computer thinking and plotting, and I finally was sure I knew how to manage it. I got prices at Lowe’s for the door, lumber, and hardware – about $450 – but DH adamantly refused to finance it, and it seemed there was always something bumping the purchase into second place… a doll… a trip… a barrister bookcase… However…

After two years of cleaning the litter box in there and watching the room continue to deteriorate, suddenly this spring, DH actually told me to get a door! After I came out of my dead faint, I practically ran to Lowe’s, terrified he would change his mind if I didn’t act instantly. Unfortunately, life (at least as I seem to experience) is seldom that simple… In the five years since I window shopped doors, Lowe’s has changed suppliers – several times. I was told I could no longer purchase the door of my dreams in the odd size required by the opening. I actually manged to get clear out of the store before I started crying! But I didn’t give up… Within 5 minutes, I’d come up with a few other options and started making phone calls. A friend of DH’s found one for me, but the price was $900 – a definite no go. Then DD#2’s former minister gave me the contact that got me on budget – just $400! I wasted no time giving him the down payment and the exact measurements of the hole, with him assuring me that it was his job to know what size door to have built. Toughest part was waiting the 6 weeks for it to actually get here – especially since I’d wanted it installed before we started the papering. I thought it would be nice to be able to move things from the sewing room to my new fantasy safe spot.

Life isn’t meant to be easy… (Yes, this is a reprise.) The door was delivered 2 days after my birthday – June 30th to be exact – giving us just 2 days to get it installed before the messy work was supposed to start at the other end of the hallway. I was a little surprised to see just how big a door looked out of its hole, but what a lovely sight it seemed. It was hard for me not to just stand outside staring at it all afternoon!

DH was primed to get busy on it instantly after supper, but he was only on the job for a couple of minutes when he came to me with the horrifying news that the door was not only much too narrow, but also far too tall! So much for trusting the expert… I’m not quite sure how, but I kept my head. It might have been a bit more difficult if the salesman who sold it to me hadn’t been over an hour away at the time, though. I kept thinking about “6 more weeks” and getting this nasty knot in my stomach… then thought to call the man who had given me the recommendation originally. He does doors professionally and works with the company all the time. Perhaps I was missing something? Well… no, I wasn’t. Turns out the reason the price quote had been so good is that the salesman had just quoted for the standard door that was closest to the size of my opening rather than the custom built he had told me I was getting. I wasn’t amused. He agreed I had a right to send it back, but gave me a second idea… call Mark, who frames doors for a living. Not only was Mark home, but he was coming into town and said he’d not mind looking at it. He did a lot more than that, though. He showed up in his work truck with all his tools, and proceeded to cut the door down to size for us, refusing to take a penny for his time. It’s such a blessing to have good Christian friends who walk their talk. :o) DH decided he could shim the sides, and Mark gave him some installation pointers.

Though the door didn’t go in as quickly as either of us could have hoped (Yeh… life isn’t easy…), it is now solidly in place and waiting for paint. :o)

Now, if you would like to know what we did to make this work, it’s really quite easy. We put in a frame around the potential doorway, securing it to the walls with the appropriate fasteners, and starting it directly above the top of the molding.

After removing the doors, the frame was set into the new doorway and shimmed into place, with care taken to make all faces properly level. Once it was as close to perfect as possible, the frame was then secured to the doorway that we’d built.

Doors were reattached, holes drilled for the double dummy knobs, which are normal antique knobs installed without the workings, which weren’t needed with the ball-catch closure and would have cost a lot more, and the plates and knobs were installed.

The last step was fitting a casing around the double frame, fitting it to the wall and giving a finished look.

I’ve primed the wood (Yes, I’m sloppy, and yes, this is the same shot as before – and the baseboard WILL be painted!), but still have to do the actual painting and touch up, and once that’s done, I’ll be able to take that white plastic off the windows and decide what sort of curtains to add.

And they said it couldn’t be done!

Published in: on July 29, 2008 at 10:57 am  Comments (2)  
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Second Thoughts

So, I’m putting primer around the half window in my sewing room last night, and as I worked toward the right hand side, suddenly found myself face to face with this…

an arachnid nursery. And not just one, but two fairly large by Ohio standards, and seriously ugly, female spiders flaunting their reproductive abilities just inches from my nose. Apologies to those of you who are fond of the creatures, but I’ve just never managed to warm up to spiders – and the bigger they are, the less happy I am to see them. These gals didn’t even have webs – which makes me all the more nervous. I made a mental note to ask DH to do something about them ASAP, as the thought of hundreds of teeny spiders with the potential to grow as large as their mothers, hatching out at the edge of the window didn’t thrill me at all. After washing out my paint brush, I went back in to take a photo of the girls, so I could disgust or enrapture my readers, depending on their personal tastes, and much to my shock, I found one of the eight-legged creepers gone without a trace – egg sac and all – and the other resettling herself in a new position. That’s when it dawned on me that I would do well to rethink my plans for the next couple of days. I’d fully intended to crack the window open a bit so I could paint it without worrying about it sticking closed. For some reason or other, I’ve suddenly had second thoughts about that idea… and I won’t even talk about the rather severe goosebump problem I’ve developed…

As for the window, the former-homeowner-paneling-addict lined the recessed opening around the half window with paneling, neatly aligning the grooves with what was on the wall, then edging it with real plastic molding.

Paint and real wood moldings was the obvious rescue solution, so I pulled everything out of the window, spent a half hour scrubbing 30 years of grime off the frame, then smiled sweetly at DH, who graciously packed the grooves with wood filler. I sanded it all smooth yesterday, washed all the dust off everything for about a 6 foot radius around the window (sigh), and, of course, have now started painting. I can’t wait to compare before and after photos, but for the moment, this is all I have.

I also now know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I’d have never finished the task had I decided to fill the grooves on all the paneling in the room. I would have gone stark raving mad first!

And, I have to brag a bit about one thing that I’ve finished with several days of work. Remember the possum belly that I avoided showing in photos – the one that was cluttered beyond belief, more than 12″ deep in some spots? I’m happy to report that it now looks like this!

Too bad that I have a sewing desk that is even worse off than the possum belly and has to be cleaned up before I can do any more walls – meaning pretty much immediately (another deep sigh…). I will leave the current condition to your imagination, but I will say that my not so darling little mousy friends apparently partied not only all through the clutter on top, but figured out how to negotiate the closed drawers as well. I’m really not too happy about that – and not all that excited to go through and clean it all for that matter. However, it’s not the sort of stuff one just tosses to the trashman and replaces easily, so I guess I’m going to have to grin and bear it. I still think it is thoroughly unfair that in this cluttered house, I’m forced to clean mouse mess out of the tidily organized drawers. (Am I allowed to sigh three times in one post?) Shouldn’t there be some sort of immunity for things that are put away properly?

Published in: on July 16, 2008 at 9:54 pm  Comments (2)  
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It’s a Frame-up… or not…

I’ve had two frustrating framing projects for about 10 years now – made more frustrating by not having the time to spend hours on end searching ebay daily for possible fits. While excavating the top of my possum belly baking cupboard today, I came across the items again and thought I’d share my frustrations. Who knows? Maybe someone out there reading this has the perfect solution!

The first item is a darling paper cut I bought on ebay. Seller said it was “vintage” for whatever that is worth. Personally, it looks laser cut to me… but I adore it whatever it is and would love to have it framed. Problem is, I can’t see beyond the first thing I ever imagined for it – one of those flat, black frames from maybe the 1920’s or so – like this one.

The actual dimensions on the paper cutting are 6.75″ wide and 7.875″ tall. I really think it would look nicest if it wasn’t “floating” in the frame, but rather sitting on the bottom with extra space at the top. I don’t want much, do I?

This is the second item – or rather items. I couldn’t take my eyes off these pictures when I first saw them, and I still think they are some of the dearest prints I’ve ever seen. There is no mark anywhere of a title or artist, and I’d love to know who did them and approximately when – and how they would have originally been framed. Since they were obviously  mass produced items, surely a number of them have survived. My set arrived having been removed from their original frames. I dumbed into one frame that fits fairly well – for all the good that does me. That one is metal and shown in the photo. The pictures are oval and the glass is bubble glass – domed outward – and the pictures are fitted up against the glass, so I need something that will accommodate that shape. The glass measures slightly narrower than the backing piece and is difficult to measure accurately because of the bow, but it appears to be 5″ x 7″.

Any and all information and ideas welcome!

Published in: on July 13, 2008 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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So much done, but yet so much to do… The biggest single task in my sewing room has been completed; the wallpaper is up – unless I’m forced to count the liner that goes on the back wall. Today, I’m not counting that. ;o) DD#1 has come and gone, remarking, oddly enough, that she was sorry she didn’t give me a birthday present. I told her that I thought she’d given me one that was quite extravagant, considering the amount of effort she poured into helping me with the walls in that room over the past week. I also informed her that if she were still a homeschooler, she’d definitely have passed this course with flying colors – that she’s unquestionably ready and able to tackle papering on her own or as the lead in a project. Yes, I’m VERY proud of her. :o)

Quick summary of the second half of the papering…

This is the back corner of the room where the papered wall will eventually meet the painted wall. As you can see, they both are starting out with a not so stylish, plastic-coated, wood type product, which I understand was quite the rage in the 1970’s. Irritatingly enough, I totally forgot to take a good before picture, and only have one from after I moved the possum belly. At that point, it looked even worse than reality, as the possum belly has a very large, flat top and was just barely accessible when the rest of the back corner wasn’t. Needless to say, it turned into a nightmare of a clutter catcher, and we will be spending some extended quality time together sooner than later. I’m not in the mood to share that photo at present for some odd reason…

First job – after moving the mounds of stuff from this half of the room back to the half that we worked in last week – was to scuff sand the walls. I only did part of the future painted wall, but thought that it would be positively lovely to have a head start when it’s time to finish it. I debating as to whether I should discuss just how much pleasure I took in destroying the paneling…

Next we did what turned out to be the most miserable part of the job. The walls needed washed down. Between the filth of the last 30-35 years and the sanding dust, it turned out to be a lot more than just the quick wipe-over that we’d anticipated. Neither of us was in a particularly cheerful mood after about the first 15 minutes or so… I never thought it could feel so good to slap primer on a wall! You can see in the photo that for some reason, certain panels seemed to bleed right through the primer. I decided it was safer to go back and add a second coat of primer, even though it promised to be stain blocking. Somewhere in the midst of all this, DH caulked all the joints between panels and the ceiling.

Finally, after hours of prep work over what turned into several days (We had two segments to do separately due to needing to move furniture, plus a day long trip to visit a great museum.), we got to the fun part. I’m saying that a bit sarcastically, I fear, as the one day that we had available to hang the paper turned out to be an extremely bad day for me to be doing same. I was exceedingly jumpy inside all day Tuesday and had a miserable time trying to do this sort of a task. Had we had another day available, I’d have called a halt to the proceedings after the first piece of paper hit the wall; it was that bad. Days like that give birth to what I call the “King Mudas Touch.” Everything I touched turned to mud. Amazingly enough, I didn’t fall off the ladder or dump the bucket of water, but past that, I think about everything that could have gone wrong did, and I was extremely grateful to have such a good apprentice. She painstakingly fixed my problem spots when I knew I’d best just step away from them, then worked most all of the last piece into place, complete with the extra long, all the way down the corner of the wall cut.

And despite every attempt it made to be otherwise, not only is all the paper still on the wall 24 hours later, it actually looks very good! Again, it’s only an interim stage, but I’m so excited to see so much less paneling in here! I also want to add that I’m really glad I chose not to put liner up on the paneled wall behind the paper. I might have made a different choice had I been using a different paper (such as a small, all-over print), but since this is a good quality paper, has some embossed texture, and is striped, the light indentation over some of the grooves just really isn’t noticeable. The person who might actually see them is going to have a lot of other things that are much more obvious to criticize, I’m sure!

Published in: on July 10, 2008 at 9:11 am  Comments (3)  
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Chocolate and Roses

Yippee!!! When it’s this long awaited, I’m sure I’m allowed to celebrate a job half done – especially when it’s the tough half! I chose the title for this post many days ago as I was painting the room. I had the uncanny experience of smelling chocolate, which had to be purely psychological and based on the color of the paint. Thinking about the rose wallpaper I would be adding soon, I realized that I was doing my room over in chocolate and roses – so how could I help but love the outcome? Last night, I finally got to see them together for the first time, and the room exceeds my expectations!

DD#2 arrived safe and sound Tuesday night, making yesterday the day I’ve anticipated for nearly seven years. Yes, I bought the wallpaper for my sewing room seven years ago – a very long wait for something I’ve wanted so much! Even with all the prep work, this part of the room was still a major project because of all the corners and the old-fashioned, milled windowsills – and many tight spots.

We took short breaks for supper and a visitor, but spent most of 11 hours working on it – much longer than I’d expected. The last piece of paper took two hours to hang, though, as it encompassed the last six inches of the window frame and sill, a corner, the bookcase, the bump to the paneling, a very uneven wall, trying to force the match between the short top and bottom pieces, and an extremely tight corner that had to be cut blind. The rest of the room is going to feel very easy compared to this one piece of paper!

Though I’ve alluded to it, I’ve not shown a picture of the paneling I so despise. It’s beyond exciting to me to see even this much of it vanish, and early next week, the rest of it goes – assuming I can get all the stuff in the room rearranged to open the working space, take down the high shelves, sand the wall, wash it down, and prime before it’s time for my helper to head back home.

Anyway, it’s still not a before and after picture, but it really shows a change. I had to shoot it over the pattern storage dresser, which is out of place, but I think it gives a good idea of the new look to this point. Oh – and I hung those things back up on the wall not only because I couldn’t resist, but because it made two things we didn’t have to keep moving. :o) Starting look…

and with changes to date…

When I walk into the room now, I can almost feel it sigh with relief to be shed of its 1970’s garb and slipping into garments that fit comfortably. I love the feeling of a happy room!

Meanwhile, it seems that our circus has developed a fourth ring. Look what came!

More on this fantasy item in a later post, though, as it’s become a story in its own right!

Published in: on July 3, 2008 at 11:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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