Category Archives: sewing

Rodeo Girl

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Rodeo (Row-dee-0h) Drive Skirt. Photo by Brenda Morrill.

Dear Reader:

Localista find of the week.

Every Wednesday, a few community women get together at the Redneck Studios in rural Newfield, Maine to learn belly-dance and yoga moves. To laugh. To celebrate female energy. To exercise and stretch and grow stronger. Redneck Studios is much like it sounds–unpretentious, down-home, low-key, fun.

Proprietor Brenda has also started up a clothing and home furnishings business, up-cycling skirts and shirts and pants into blingy items suitable for belly-dance and beyond, as well as sewing custom orders for quilts and shower curtains and pillows and more.

She calls her biz Rodeo Drive. Like a cowgirl, not Beverly Hills.

So before belly-dance class the other day, I picked up this richly-textured chocolate velvet skirt, the middle tier embellished with thick-thread embroidery lines with tiny sequins and a flower button or two or three scattered around. The velvet contrasts nicely with heavy cream fringe. I was just taken with it–the texture, the color, the way it reminded me of the “Prairie Look” from the early 80’s.

Later that evening, I wore the skirt to a high school concert with my green Goodwill micro-cable sweater (simple enough to lend interesting contrast to the frou-frou of the ruffles),a hand-knit chunky scarf in browns and golds and cranberry, and ruffled velvet boots.

rodeo drive skirt

I felt bohemian. I felt Redneck. I felt like a Rodeo Girl.

What are your favorite hand-sewn or up-cycled or re-purposed home or clothing items?

Quick Post–Check out the New Kid!

Dear Readers: I like to introduce you to blogs I find inspiring and/or related to some aspects of my own mission of encouraging local living. A writer-friend has started a new project blog: making ALL her own clothes for a year. If you would like to check out the new kid on the blogging block, click here to read A Year In Stitches. I’ll be following it clothesly, er, closely. LOL. You might want to do the same. http://ayearinstiches.wordpress.com

Flabbercrabby Purse and Proseal T-Shirt Makeover

Born to be Flabbercrabby

Oh, Baby-Doll

Dear Reader:

For those of you who were waiting to see how the T-shirt makeover turned out, here it is! For some reason I woke up this morning interested in accomplishing all things domestic. I scrubbed the floors, washed the dishes, did a couple loads of laundry . . . and looking at the clock I could see it was only ten o’clock in the morning. What can I do with all this extra time and energy, I pondered. Aha! The t-shirt!

Dragging out my rather dusty Singer sewing machine my parents bought me for Christmas around, oh, 1989, I wiped it down, cleared off the dining room table, and spent the next forty-five minutes trying to find the website that had the cute baby-doll t-shirt project. Once I finally found it, the cutting and sewing went smoothly, and by two-thirty the shirt was finished. Click here for the webpage and instructions.

I didn’t follow the instructions exactly. The designer/crafter simply cut the arm and neck openings and left them raw as jersey does not unravel. I wanted my shirt to look a little more “finished” and I didn’t have any black thread for my sewing maching. I decided to use yellow thread to match the “Proseal” lettering and zig-zag stictch the raw edges. I tacked down the tiny triagular “lapels” with little embroidered x’s and used gold-colored yarn for the drawstring. I’m not especially happy with the yarn, so I may cut the bottom off the t-shirt and use the material to make a jersey drawstring which cinches the shirt above the belly to make the baby-doll silhouette.

Instead of using the yarn to gather the arm “straps” I took the cut-off sleeves and made two tubes of cloth. There was still plenty of sleeve material left, so I made a matching headband. I intend the wear the ensemble to aerobics class tonight, field-testing my new/old shirt. Here are before and after pictures.

Before . . . . . .

. . . . after!

If anyone in the mid-state area needs to have their driveway or parking lot sealed, I highly recommend Proseal for all your hot-cracking needs.

For you Flabbercrabby enthusiasts, here is the premier item of the label: The “Little Striped Dress” Felted Purse. Notice the cell-phone pocket? As my husband and I are considering dropping our land-line telephone service because, let’s face it, cell phones are redundant (but who can do without one or two in the family these days?), I wanted a purse that would allow me have my phone handy at all times, except when driving, of course.

I knit the bottom and ruffley top with a bulky-weight yarn with some wool and the middle stripes with medium-weight 100% wool. I was guessing the middle stuff would shrink alot more than the top and bottom, creating a “waist” for the purse . . . and it worked! I think the handles give it a sundressy look. I still have to attach a button to the pocket flap and may sew in a cotton lining to give the bottom more stability. But isn’t it cute? It’s really darn cool to be Flabbercrabby.

Remember, anything you design and handmake can be labeled “Flabbercrabby.” Go ahead and put your creativity to work. Send me a photo of your masterpiece and I’ll post it here. . . Outside the Box.

Tee Shirt Eureka . . . or not so much.

Inspirational Tee Shirt?

Dear Reader:

So, I’m sweating and aching and groaning my way through my Thursday night aerobics class at the Limington Town Hall, and I’m thinking about the tee-shirt I’m wearing because, let’s face it, my brother-in-law’s paving business doesn’t exactly make for sexy workout gear (see picture) when the various pieces of my latest obsessions coelesced into one glorious idea. I would have shouted “Eureka!” but I didn’t have any breath to spare considering we were doing the umpteenth set of leg kick/arm punch combos. Here’s what I was thinking:

a)I probably look like a dork in this tee-shirt, but at least it’s black and black is slimming. (huff, puff)

b)Actually, printing company logos onto tee shirts is great advertising for local businesses. If someone makes a snide comment about my exercise outfit, I’ll claim I’m doing it because I believe in local business. (Ouch, my thighs are burning!)

c)And anyway, everyone else is advertising various national sporting goods companies on their Nike/Addidas/Columbia/Insert Name Brand Here workout clothes. Why shouldn’t I advertise a local business? Or in this case, a family business? (Hey, thighs about to fall off here!)

d)And, hey, wouldn’t it be kinda cool to start wearing all kinds of tee shirts and hats and sweatshirts with local business logos? It could be my new “thing.” (Seriously? Another set of eight? Is she crazy?)

e)But those tee shirts are so baggy and boxy . . . (Oh my god. I can’t feel my left toe!)

f)Unless I TRANSFORM them and turn them into a fashion statement. Eureka! (Water break? Water break?)

Here is where I thought I’d come up with a unique and inspired idea. I would collect a bunch of local tee shirts and sweatshirts and hats, figure out various ways to reconstruct them into more fashionable shapes and lines, and begin wearing them around town. I’d post tips and instructions so others could create their own DIY fashions. We cool loca-fashionistas could then pooh-pooh the silly fashion slaves with their manacles of Abercrombie and Aeropostale strapped around their chests or plastered on their butts liked cattle-brands.

Maybe I could talk to the home-economics (or whatever they are calling it these days) teacher at the local high school and suggest the students practice their new sewing skills on tee shirt transformation projects. Maybe the school could host a loca-fashion show (do you like that? The double meaning? Loca, i.e. local AND crazy) to raise money for the school system–since the state is going broke and has cut funding but not the mandates–or for local food banks or homeless shelters or people who are just having a hard time buying heating oil or maybe a scholarship or two for a kid who can’t afford the astronomical costs of higher education here in the U.S.

I began picturing a Massabesic High School model-wannabe parading down the catwalk in, say, a Waterways tee shirt halter top paired with a funky tulle skirt and black biker boots. Or a Limerick Supermarket baby-tee with ruched sleeves combined with a fringy, drapey skirt crafted from an F.R. Carroll’s tee worn over a pair of jeans.

“Too cool!” I thought. “Except I have no idea how to tranform tee shirts into anything.” I mentioned my idea to my friend Michele last night and she said, “Oh, a team from Odyssey of the Mind remade their school logo tee shirts a couple years ago.” She listed a number of transformative ideas, and about that time I started to realize that, like most good ideas, someone had already eureka-ed it ahead of me.

So, this morning I jumped onto the internet to see what I could find, and struck paydirt. Okay, I won’t get any big awards for this idea since apparently I’m way behind the proverbial 8-ball (see “My Sources Say No” post of January 6), because I found an amazing source for tee shirt transformation projects. Check out Generation T where you can find projects, books, and inspiration for your own DIY tee shirt fashions. The website is the brainchild of Megan Nicolay, a self-professed “obsessive Do-It-Yourselfer.” I am psyched, psyched, psyched to dive into this website and will probably purchase the books.

In a few weeks, I plan on having an updated, black and gold “Proseal” tee shirt to show you. Can you see me rubbing my hands in gleeful anticipation? I’m going to try to turn it into something I can wear to my aerobics class. I’m hoping that others will notice my cool shirt, ask how I did it, and soon the entire area will be wearing local logos instead of mindless fashion labels that are really nothing more than profitable advertising for the multinational company that owns the name on your hoodie.

Think about it: they con you into paying sixty to a hundred bucks for the privilege of advertising for them. Come on! They should be paying YOU!

Break free from your fashion chains, tranform a tee shirt, send me a picture, and we’ll have our own virtual fashion show right here . . . Outside the Box.

P.S. I’m calling my fashions Flabbercrabby & Stitch. I love the slogan “It’s cool to be Flabbercrabby!” It’s just so much fun to say, don’t you think? And in the spirit of collaboration and sharing, I am “open-sourcing” the name and slogan, so use it if you want (but it will be very bad karma if you take it and copyright it and sell it to some conglomerate. Very Bad Karma!)

The Confession Issue

Ripe On The Vine

Ripe On The Vine

PART ONE

Forgive me, Reader, for I have sinned:

Last weekend I had the overwhelming urge to go shopping and buy some new clothes.

It really isn’t all that complicated. I had broken my foot at the beginning of July, I had lazed around on my butt all summer while the foot healed, and I had gained weight. I simply wanted some pants that fit. And maybe a nice, bright, stylish top to go with. And some pretty earrings. I was in full-blown consumer mode for the first time in months, and I didn’t even try to fight it. I stumbled. Hard.

To cut myself a small break, I did try to find a Mardens (a Maine-person owned company, not a conglomerate-owned company) on my way to the mall. I heard there was one going in on the site of the old Wal-Mart in South Portland. Apparently, Wal-Mart had deserted one cement-block box and built a new one a few hundred yards down the road. Someone told me they were selling the old building to Mardens, but the site was still and bleak as only empty, big-box retail buildings can be, devoid of personality or charm.

Even a ghost-town would have more interesting architecture.

Okay, I may be projecting my guilt onto the Wal-Mart’s of the world rather than owning up to my complicity with them. For one thing, last month the school sent home a list of supplies my daughter is supposed to take with her to the middle school. She needed folders, pens, dry-erase markers, colored pencils, book covers (whatever happened to covering books with paper bags from the grocery store–and what do the kids do with dry-erase markers, anyway? Do they get their own white boards?), and a three-ring binder plus reams of paper to go into said binder. I bought what I could at the Sanford Mardens (pens, loose paper, sticky notes, tape, gluestick), but Dear Daughter had specific requirements when it came to the design of folders and notebooks, i.e. they couldn’t be plain and ordinary. They had to be cool and colorful and funky.

Off to the new Sanford Super Wal-Mart we went. Dear Daughter found what she wanted . . . and I came home with a bunch of spiral-bound and marble-top notebooks for me. How could I resist twenty-cent and fifty-cent notebooks? My conscience screamed at me all the way home, but I kept thinking about how in a post-oil future I’d be happy for a supply of paper. Uh-huh. Justification. Self-delusion. The Wages of Sin.

Maybe I was infected right then by the back-to-school virus that makes one long for new clothes, new shoes, and the latest shade of lipstick advertised in the September VOGUE. Or maybe one sin leads to another. In any case, I didn’t have the strength to resist temptation. One Friday night, despite thunderstorm (and tornado!)warnings, I headed to Macy’s women’s department and checked out the sales racks where a pretty fushia top jumped into my hand. No sooner did I think “khaki pants” did the perfect pair present itself . . . in the right size . . . on the other side of the rack. On the way to the dressing room, I spied a blue, ruffled top on clearance. And wouldn’t you know it? They all fit. If I were superstitious, I’d have thought a devil was aiding and abetting.

Here’s the worst part: It felt so good to be in an air-conditioned store with a smorgasboard of clothing options, soothing music pumping through the sound system, and an attentive saleswoman eager to carry my three sale items to the register, where, with a quick swipe of the credit card, I bought myself a big, warm slice of American Consumerism. After six months of local buying and doing-without, that twenty minutes in Macy’s felt like coming home.

I walked out into the humidity of the parking lot with its circles of brightness cast from the sodium-light streetlamps and wondered if maybe I should simply give in and live the life I was born to, this energy-sucking, high-speed, overabundant, luxurious American middle-class life. It’s an old issue for me, this tug-of-war between the world that is and the world as it used to be and might be again. I never felt totally comfortable with modernity, didn’t trust that it could last or even progress much further, and yet for my forty-one years it has continued and it has progressed.

I like to read fashion and shelter magazines, romance novels, and chick lit. I watched the entire run of SEX AND THE CITY, and I just ordered the movie from Netflix and hope to watch it this week. This part of me appreciates our instamatic lifestyle–music at the touch of a button, movies at the click of a mouse, travel at the turn of an ignition key. It’s magic, this life we have here at the edge of the century, and I wonder how many of us actually stop to admire the sheer audacity and brilliance of our modern life even as we ponder the possibility of its ultimate demise.

I’d never heard of personal computer when I was my daughter’s age. The internet hadn’t been developed. A mouse was a little rodent you hoped not to find in your cupboard. Talking to someone on a screen was something from the cartoon The Jetsons, and I remember watching the cartoon and thinking “that will never happen.”

As I type this on my laptop, the little eye of my web cam stares at me, accusingly, like the eye of some techno-god irritated by my lack of faith. Maybe technology will save us, after all, as our oil supplies diminish and we continue on with our consumerish ways. Delusion. Self-deception. Sin?

Is it a sin to want the comforts we’ve enjoyed for so long? I just don’t know for sure. It’s easy to plunk down that credit card and walk out of the mall with new clothes when you don’t stop to think of the third-world worker who made them. When you don’t stop to think about your fellow Americans who lost their jobs when the manufacturing sector closed shop here in the U.S. and moved to those third-world sweat-shop hives. When you refuse to think how those dollars could have been spent supporting a local business struggling to make it in a “flat and crowded” world. (See Thomas Friedman’s book.)

Unfortunately, I thought about those things and suffered pangs of guilt.

Farmer's Market Fare

Farmer's Market Fare

As penance, I headed off to the brand new farmer’s market in Newfield the next morning. The market was set up at Willowbrook, a historical village and museum. At nine in the morning, the vendors were just setting up, and I was charmed by the setting, the goods on display, and the nice people. I came away with a loaf of Anadama Bread from the Brother’s Bakery in Alfred, a bouquet of curly, green kale, some cookies from the Boy Scout troop, and a pair of earrings.
Earrings From Farmer's Market

Earrings From Farmer's Market

For those of you in the neighborhood, the market is open at Willowbrook on Saturdays at nine am. There is also a new farmer’s market that has opened up in South Waterboro, just up the street from the Milk Room. This one is also on Saturdays. I checked it out a few weekends ago, on it’s opening day. Vendors were offerering local produce, homemade charcoal for the grill, ice-cream, pottery, and some hot food items. The Shaker Valley Farmer’s Market even had a band on site to celebrate the day. See this write-up about it in the Waterboro Reporter–our local newspaper.

Rockin' out at the farmer's market

Rockin' out at the farmer's market

What have I learned from all this? The obvious lesson, of course, is that we aren’t perfect. All we can do is try to do the right thing . . . whatever we think is the right thing . . . as often as we can. For me, this means putting on my new clothes and acknowledging the sheer luck of having been born in this place at this time. It means regretting an impulsive and possibly selfish decision to do what came easiest rather than suck it up and wear the old clothes until I found a local option. It means vowing to do better in the weeks and months ahead.

While out and about, I picked up a book of sewing patterns which included a pattern for a pretty, wrap skirt. That’s one step in the right direction. The book is called WEEKEND SEWING: More than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitching by Heather Ross. Click here to see the book. Ms. Ross has compiled a lovely bunch of sewing projects including table napkins, an apron, a tunic, kids clothes, and even slippers! She has included patterns that can be traced onto transfer paper. I’ve never done that before, but I’m looking forward to trying. It’s definitely time to get out my dusty sewing machine. Back in college, I used to make some of my own dresses, but then clothes just seemed to get cheaper and cheaper in the stores. The cost of materials was more than buying something premade. Not stopping to think about the reasons why this might be, I simply put away the sewing machine and got on with my role as a Great American Consumer.

But if I’m going to be serious about staying out of the Boxes, I need to start making my own clothes again. Wish me luck!

PART TWO

Fiction. It’s been awhile since I’ve tried it, but in keeping with today’s theme I thought it was only right that I tell you about my latest project. I’m writing a confession magazine story. And I’m having a blast doing so. If you don’t know what a confession magazine is, I’ll fill you in. You know those thin magazines with titles like TRUE STORY and TRUE CONFESSIONS you see in the grocery store next to the teen magazine and crossword puzzle books? Those are confessions mags. Each issue has six or seven stories of varying lengths, all in first person, most following a formula that goes something like: heroine makes a bad decision, heroine digs herself in even deeper, heroine suffers, heroine repents, heroine is redeemed.

These stories aren’t as bad as they sound, actually. They may not be what they purport to be–true–but they can be true to life. Since I haven’t had much drama in my own life, I’m forced to take smidgeons of personal stories I’ve heard over the years and to try to morph them into a story resembling truth. And isn’t that what all fiction is–even the most literary of fiction?

I was thinking about the power of story the other day. Here’s a confession: I listen to Christmas music in the summer. Just the instrumental stuff, but still. I don’t quite know why I get the urge to hear O Holy Night in the middle of August, but there it is. So I was thinking about Christmas and the Christmas story, Jesus’ birth, the angels, the star, the whole deal. I’m not a true believer as I once was, but I have to admit there is something powerful about the story, something that speaks to me even though I think the “truth” of the story is about on par with those of the “true” confession stories. A little bit of reality mixed with alot of desire for order out of chaos.

It struck me that we humans have a deepseated need for story, for the order of story, and if we could only realize that the various religions are all attempting to create that order, telling of a universal truth if not an exact historical one, we might be able to tolerate or even celebrate our religious differences. How many religious stories speak of the god being born, usually under mysterious and magical circumstances, growing, and eventually dying . . . and then being reborn. It’s an old, old story found in many cultures and religions, Christianity obviously included. One could argue that the pre-Christian religious stories were only there to prepare the way for the One True Religion and all those that came after are mere peversions of the same, I suppose, but that’s a stretch for me.

So, the big question. Can we fulfull our human need for spirituality, for order out of chaos, if we lack unquestioning faith in one religion? Or can the story itself be enough?

It seems to me that as adults, we are able to filter what we learn of religion. We take what we need from it and let the more disturbing elements go a little fuzzy and bleary along the edges. Kids don’t have that filter. If they hear it, and if a trusted adult tells them it is The Truth, they’ll believe it. Concretely. Think about the kids being taught in the madrassas in the Middle East right now. Think they have a filter for what they are being taught?

I was taught that one of these days Jesus Christ was going to blow a trumpet, dead Christians would rise out of their graves, live Christians would disappear into the heavens, and all hell was going to break loose here on earth. No filter. For years I lived in fear that my salvation “didn’t take” and that I’d have to live through said hell on earth before being thrown into a fiery pit. Lovely stuff for a bedtime story, right?

Now I have to think that the adults in my life just didn’t realize they were using a filter. They were not going to worry about the supernatural stuff. Not really. There was a mortgage to pay and jobs to do and, well, church to go to. Those prosaic concerns filtered out the usuable stuff like the Ten Commandments from the less usuable stuff like lion-headed locusts in the story.

But what about the kids? I wrote a story about this about six years ago. It’s called Second Coming. I’ll post it under my Fiction Corner, but with a warning for those of you who are strong in your Christian faith. It isn’t pretty. There’s stuff in there that will disturb you. In other words, Read At Your Own Risk, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Since writing that story (and, man, it was cathartic!) I’ve come to a more tolerant view of my Christian upbringing. I can see the beauty and power of the Christian story, so wonderfully encapsulated in the music. Birth, life, death, rebirth. Good stuff.