viennabelle: (Strawberries)
Well, I went for my last class in the men's 18th century tailoring sequence last week...and it was great! I knuckled down and though the official photo of the class hardly shows--I got more done than anyone else. That said, I am feeling my deficiencies vis a vis the actual 18th c. tailor much more severely. They were--well, so much more than me, in more ways than I can possibly explain. Savviness over cut, pattern making skills, sewing proficiency... Still, I've committed--I'm going to measure and cut two more patterns for breeches next week. Now, perhaps because I am under the mild influence of awesome homemade alcohol, I'm going to confess a dirty secret of the 18th century: properly fitting 18th century breeches requires a most invasive measurement of the male perineum. It was easy to accomplish that with a man I've been living with for the past 18 years...but with strangers, I'm just going to have to get it done (and if that is weird--well, these sucka breeches will be tight and fit, even in the crotch).

That said, recent efforts to plan a multi generational trip to Rome (next fall) have made me aware that standards were so different backin the Rennaissance. Nekkid guys--not a big deal. Renaissance men would much rather strip than damage a good set of clothes. On the other hand, nekkid gals--not so well received. Most men never ever saw their wives without clothes, even after marriage. Another way that the past is a different country...Indeed, an event that had adulterers running in their shifts (garments coming fully to the knees) were viewed as mildly pornographic.

BTW, the trip to Rome is going awesome. Since announcing the offer to family, my in-laws and father and girlfriend are coming. It makes for an awesome company, but a rooming challenge. After a bit of dickering with various landlords, we settled with the owner of an apartment just off of the Via Guila (and one block from the Palazzo Farnese)...in a medieval building with an elevator! Meanwhile, I ran a test balloon to R. the other day--what about staying on by ourselves and going to Florence/Venice. Now R's passion is getting to the Leonardo da Vinci museum (in Florence), so this wasn't really a hard sell. We're doing two weeks! Plus heading sometime to see the Leonardo drawings exhibiting in Williamsburg! Now I just have to get it approved at work (which shouldn't be all that difficult, since it's the Thanksgiving holiday).

But work is the weird part. Work is fine, but it looks clearer than ever that my department is going to head eventually to Chicago. Last week, I got word that the VP wanted me to apply for a lateral transfer to the PR department to act as head of vendor management. I said ok, so Monday I have an interview...with my current boss (who recommended me). I don't get it, but I'll roll with whatever they want. We'll see.

Meanwhile, this weekend is my crazy electronics weekend. I was recently elevated to a full member of NoVA labs--a hackerspace in Reston. I am getting over my technology issues and really enjoying it. Meanwhile, this weekend, I"m starting on assembling a hexcopter. Now if those who know how technologically inept I am may understand--this is a huge challenge. I'm taking it step by step...and hopefully, I"ll end with something that flies!

ttyl,

Mary
viennabelle: (Strawberries)
I finished the last workshop for the coat workshop...with lots to complete, but with a pretty clear idea of what I need to finish. I actually think I will get this piece done before next month's  breeches workshop, at which the core crew will be having a display in public (breeches or not). 

The best thing about this extended workshop has been the crew. By this weekend (which was, for most of us our third weekend working together) the connection was sealed. We may not share reenacting units, but the connection may be deeper.

That said, getting the coat to a place where it looks like a coat was a crap load of work. In period--it would take about a week's labor hours for a single tailor. For me...probably 150 hours, mostly comprised of the "what the heck am I supposed to do now?" category. Now that I have a better mental grasp on it, I'm wondering how many hours it would really take. Right now, that's leading me toward techniques for a riding habit or variant thereof.

Well, my Thanksgiving trip to Rome is going crazy. Insanely crazy. Somehow saying traveling that week makes sense in a way other weeks are stupid (3 work days off to get a full week).  I don't have any reservations, but my family has already overbooked every option we are negotiating at this point. The only thing that might be left in the unit (considering we are likely going to take a couch in the living room) is a single bed...and with an overbooked apartment...who cares? It looks like we may have my dream crew: a biannual crew with a partying sense to take on the most celebratory visits to Europe (I think in two years we'll hit London). And even though we may be the only costumers in the group (mostly since family took every slot), I feel helplessly compelled to outfit 16th century gown to stay in a 16th century home!

I will post photos soon of the coat, though it will be on a dummy mannequin, since Rick is taking the week off for a climbing trip. Must sew...

ttyl...
viennabelle: (Frustrated!)
Over the weekend, I got word of yet another incident where one costumer felt another costumer had slighted her. In retaliation, she got all her friends to shun the offending costumer.
 
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen or heard word of this kind of treatment. Word of these incidents are getting so common that it's gone to the point where I feel it’s time I can't be silent any more. I, who don't post frequently, felt I had to de-lurk to speak out on this subject.
 
In this incident, as with others, nobody bothered to permit the offending costumer a chance to defend herself—to find out if the slight was intentional—or if it even occurred. Instead, punishment was meted out with no explanation to the offender, who found herself inexplicably expelled from expected social interactions.
 
Geesh—how on earth did our hobby become such a club of mean girls?
 
Shunning is identified by psychologists as a form of bullying behavior and has been clinically connected with depression, PTSD and suicide. I’ve been shunned in the past and it was a mystifying and heartbreaking experience.
 
If you’ve done this, look objectively at the person you are shunning and decide if your hurt is really worth getting personally perceived as a mean-spirited bully. While some may follow you on your campaign of retaliation—word will spread, as it did to me this weekend. Believe me—when my friend shared word of this incident, my only perception of the incident was that the retribution was mean, petty and vindictive.
 
It only ended up hurting the bullying costumer's reputation, not the woman who may or may have not slighted her. I"m not going to shun this costumer, but I'm definitely going to be wary of her. Other friends of mine are taking care to completely avoid her.

Now of my friend list here--I honestly don't think anyone would act like this--but I think we have to get Zero-tollerant on this kind of behavior. Children are taught to fight shunning behavior in elementary schools--isn't it about time that we act better than 5th graders?

So, I'm writing this as a open post and hoping it's a subject we start talking about at events and here online. Maybe if more folks write about it in their own LJs and blogs, it might stop. We are the majority, not the bullies. It's time we stood up for civility.
viennabelle: (Default)
Just back from another Burnley & Trowbridge workshop on making waistcoats led by the very talented tailor Neil Hurst. It was a lot of fun, productive--and as usual, eye-opening. 

The dynamic was a little different from other B&T workshops, however. The workshop was much more relaxed, since it was Level One, with concepts covered more slowly. Also, many folks had spouses or children as "customers" so there was a constant hub of socializing. My customer--Rick (aka, DH)--was mentally caught up in a novel he couldn't rip his eyes away from, so he wasn't into much socializing. So, when I had down time in the beginning (after I measured up my spouse and made my pattern), I sewed up half of a cap for myself! In an odd way, it kind of reminded me of what a real period shop environment might have been like...

It wasn't all work and no play, though! We shared an apartment rental over the weekend with another couple, the Dobyns--and had a wonderful time keeping company while doing homework, watching movies and dining with other workshop participants. 

The class featured a very detailed process of measuring, pattern drafting and fitting. Once I drafted my pattern, I cut it out of my lining fabric, test fit it on Rick and fussed over it. He picked (after considerable indecision over fabrics) a gorgeous light wool broadcloth fabric that handled like butter. Combine the right pattern with amazing fabric and correct tailoring techniques--the result was stunning, even in the partially sewn version I left with!

Afterwards, we all were remarking how distinct the period fit really is--maybe it's just the result of more trained eyes, but our hand sewn waistcoats look astonishingly better. Machine sewing using commercial patterns is far from the period methodology. Modern patterns seem to always reflect modern fit details and machine sewing leads to a garment that really does not hang correctly. 

As a bonus, I sat down with Angela Burnley and figured out all the things I was doing wrong with my gown construction from the workshop I took last summer. I am very glad I held off on sewing to ask her--I was headed in slightly wrong directions on a couple of small finishing points. Fortunately, not much more left to complete on that project (well, not counting trim)!

Additionally, I brought  along the child stays I'd made previously (in another B&T workshop). It done, except for binding--and I had promised to donate it to the Yorktown Battlefield museum. I brought it and showed it to the costume director and he was thrilled--that was gratifying.

A bit of homework remains, but it's been totally fun! Can't wait until the next workshop!
viennabelle: (Harem Girl)
On the side, I've enjoyed photography for a long time--though my work in this hobby has largely been focused on events--mostly political appearances and a few weddings. Through sheer necessity (and work), I've learned to take informal portraits--to the point where I've been paid for some photos and my candids have been featured on major campaign websites. However, outside that box, I feel that I lack photographic skills. This year, I got a new camera--and I really wanted to broaden my capabilities. I started listening to podcasts and quickly found that my favorite was Photography Tips from the Top Floor by Chris Marquardt. Ironically, this podcast is mostly only in audio, but Chris' clear way of explaining the more complicated aspects of photography transcends the media: he breaks down complicated theory into understandable points. So, when I learned that he was going to run a workshop right here in Washington, DC--I jumped at the chance to learn from him first-hand. That's what I did this weekend.

Read more... )
 
 
viennabelle: (Default)
I've been plugging away at the purple silk Robe Anglaise that I started at the workshop set up by Burnley & Trowbridge. Last week, I spent at least 12 hours fussing over the skirt pleats. I'd made one of these gowns years ago and the memory of pleating had become delightfully forgotten. Those pleats were a true pain (and memory came back of the agony beforehand)! When I finally got something I could live with, I stitched the pleats together (though I have not sewn them in the gown yet).  I also finished most of the hemming.

Then there were the sleeves...

We draped the sleeves in class, but there was no really connection between the independent fitting efforts for the sleeves and the gown--so they needed to be refitted to match when setting them. Fortunately, [livejournal.com profile] joslinm  came over Saturday, we had a fun time with dinner & the guys and she fit one sleeve for me.

Sunday I worked at basting both in place--first, carefully marking where the fabric met, cutting it back and then replicating the fit on the other sleeve. There was a complicated bit about setting them differently on the top from the bottom, which I never realized when I made my last gown. I took my time, basted it in place and brought it to my sewing circle meeting last night.

My friend [livejournal.com profile] debbiedoodle  is one of the most knowledgeable people I know on the 18th century clothing--and she looked right at the sleeve and instantly realized I set the sleeves incorrectly--sliding them over (instead of under) at the top, and the opposite on the bottom. 

Ergh...

Well, at least it isn't the hardest thing in the world to fix. I'm pretty sure I reversed it somehow when I worked on it last Sunday.  I'll re-baste it, put in my final stitching and chalk it up to experience.

Debbie is making a gown for herself, so we had fun checking out the accessories she's got planned and discussing how to trim mine (my latest thought is that fairly simple is most period correct, which she said was right for mid 1780s). 

So, back to work! This weekend, however, I have a photography workshop--so I may not finish this one until next week. Then on to making another gown (my plan is to make another so I remember what I've done).
viennabelle: (Default)
I made progress on my purple robe anglaise last night. I hemmed the front edges of the skirts and started stitching down pleats. I still have to backstitch them in the gown, but I think I'm going to steam them first, since I have really over handled the silk making pleats. All I have ahead is the bottom hem, sleeves and the back facing. However, doing the sleeves on my own will be interesting, since they aren't fully fit yet and should be fit on me live...

My plan after this is to hold off on trimming until I make another gown. I will also probably remount the petticoat, since it's longer than the gown and I want smaller pleats.

Right now, I want to get the thoughts of the workshop fully in my brain, so hence the notion of a new gown soon. I have some lovely camlet (wool with a little silk and linen) for one I can wear to events.

Meanwhile, Angela (of Burnley & Trowbridge) has posted pictures of the workshop I took for this gown on her Facebook page. I'm also loving checking out the photos from Costume College--so inspiring, yet so distracting!
viennabelle: (Default)
As mentioned previously, I spent this weekend to Burnley and Trowbridge's Robe Francaise workshop. It was taught by the very talented Brooke Welborn, a journeyman mantua maker who graduated from the Williamsburg apprentice program at the milliner's shop. I travelled with my fitting partner, Melissa Jarrett and our respective spouses, Rick and Dave. 

After a very difficult start (getting bumped around by our accommodations, so we didn't get much sleep the first night), Rick and I went to Colonial Williamsburg for our one free morning...And at 9 am, it was already muggy and 105 degrees! So, we went quickly to the places with a/c, starting first at the Millinery Shop. We checked out the current project--a lovely robe anglaise with over the top trimmings...
Piccies after the cut! )
viennabelle: (Default)

I thought I'd post here, since it's been a while since I've posted anything--and a while since I've been sewing. Since work has stopped me from doing pretty much most events (the inevitable reality I've faced since I earn no vacation time), I've skipped pretty much everything this year. Add to that the extra 20 lbs I've gained over the past two years left me ill fit in most costumes. So, I've demurred from most events. Fortunately, I'm back on Weight Watchers and getting interviews for new jobs. Two weeks ago, at the urging of a friend, I went to the local sesquicentennial reenactment of the early civil war battle that occurred locally. It was a very big event and I felt darn good! It's nice to have costuming mojo back, though right now I don't have any events in mind (though I suppose there are always dances at Gadsby's tavern).

Which is a very good thing, since in three week's time, I'm going to Burnley and Trowbridge's Robe Anglaise workshop. I've made these kind of gowns, but I've never felt good about folding down the back pleats. So...hopefully this will do the trick. In preparation, I've finally bound a set of stays I made two years ago (what a pain) and I made the petticoat for the gown.

The class is for a hand sewn gown, so I made this by hand. The silk is pretty dark--but it's what I had on hand and after emailing shots of it to Angela, it was deemed okey dokey (I may post more about my fabric choice thoughts later).

So, earlier this week and yesterday, I got sewing. It's a basic apron tied petticoat (tworectangles of cloth sewn up the sides to 10" of the top, then pleated onto two lengths of twill tape like front and back facing apron strings).  I'd say working on it took five hours, including time I spent un-doing the back and reworking it to make it fit better over the bum roll (I added more fabric to accomodate that). 

I'm holding off trimming it--true Robe Anglaises were, from what I can see in period prints and portraits, generally sparsely trimmed, particularly in American portraits. I'm thinking I'll probably stick to just some pinked ruffles at the neckline and possibly the sleeves. Another consideration I've given is achieving a degree of period accuracy...I'm aiming to put this dress in the very early 1780s when there was a brief rage for things purple. The profile of period skirts was pretty full, but Robe Anglaises were not commonly worn with panniers, so far as I can see. I fit the skirt with a bum roll--got a nice full period back look, but that didn't give much side fullness. So, in an experiment, I put my corded petticoat on over the bum roll. That gave it a really nice full look. I don't know if corded petticoats were ever used--has anyone ever heard of this?

BTW--the jacket is an old one from the closet--I noticed the ribbon coordinated, so yay, I scored another outfit! This top is super light, so it might be just the thing to wear if we decide to dress out some night.

I can't say how much fun I've had getting back into hand sewing! However, today I'm going to tune up my featherweight. No, I'm not totally down on machine sewing!

BTW--I notice that almost nobody is posting on LJ of late. I've noticed some folk posting issues with DOS problems on Facebook last winter--is that the reason for the exodus? Is the community moving elsewhere? I've seen some folks reposting on Blogger. Is there any reason? I find reposting such a PITA--and I have found the Blogger interface a clunky substitute for Wordpress, without the community benefits of LJ. However, maybe there's some kind of new community feature there that I've missed? Anyone have any thoughts?


viennabelle: (Harem Girl)
Not me, but I know some folk here who would love this...making your own perfume.
viennabelle: (Default)
On Thursday, I got a double set of goodies! The first was a order of new embroidery flosses I'd been waiting on for a while--the items were back-ordered, so I had to wait, wondering just whether the colors would work well together. I'm pleased to say, they do!

Here is a shot of the full range of thread I plan to use. In the top row, I have spangles, gold thread, rolls of Gild Sylke Twist and one roll of Soie Gobelins. On the bottom row, it's all Soie Perlee, which will be my primary silk for color work.  Needless to say, I need to get more gold thread (my recent effort making a priest's ordination stole pretty much sucked up two rolls of the stuff). By the way, I'm still working with color choices for the blues and lavenders--I am going to draw from the colors I have, but I'm not sure I'm going to use all of them.

The threads variously came from Hedgehog Handworks, Needle in a Haystack (who also supplied me with the linen) and Thistle Threads. These are all outstanding embroidery suppliers--I recommend them highly.

There's a thing about my choice of threads. For the colorwork, I'm using Au Ver a Soie's line "Soie Perlee." This is the thread used in the Plimoth Plantation Jacket Project  (i.e., my inspiration) --and it's got a super shiny luster--and is tightly spun, rather like a thin pearl cotton thread. However, it isn't the most commonly used product Au Ver a Soie sells--it's got a limited color range--and color cards are not available. Moreover, the local needlework stores (unfortunately, slaves to cross stitch and needle point customers) don't stock it. But--on the other hand, the silk thread lines available locally weren't filament silk (cheaper silk threads are made from chopped up fibers, which are far less shiny) and they also didn't have that nice tightly spun quality which makes detached stitches far easier.

So I took a shot in the barrel and ordered Soie Perlee. I think I'm a good gambler! The colors work together--and resemble the colors of the period.

My other goodie is Jane Zimmerman's "The Art of the Elizabethan Embroiderer!" A needlework friend recommended it to me--and while it took a while to receive it (Jane self publishes this)--it's fantastic! Jane has been fortunate to inspect several Elizabethan jackets and scrutinize their stitches. In this slim volume, she's documented a bunch of different variation filling stitches besides the standard detached buttonhole stitch. Squee! New stitches! I was so excited, I brought it to work Friday and read it over my lunch!

This weekend has not witnessed much stitching. I am expecting the onslaught of a month of houseguests, starting with my friend Joanna, who returns on Monday to DC to do initial research for her dissertation. Tomorrow is graduation day for several in my EFM group. So, my focus has been cleaning. However,  I am finding it rather tough to avoid spending a little time stitching....I've got a new lamp on the project and it's working much better, though the new stitches are challenging my innate lack of direction!
viennabelle: (Default)
What's Done So Far 5/10/10A background on this project...About a year ago I spent a weekend stitching on the Plimoth Plantation jacket project. Since I came in at the end of the project, most of the embroidery was complete, so I split my time between sewing on spangles and stitching in tendrils with gold passing thread. However, in preparation, I'd worked on the sampler project required for participation. It seemed deceptively simple--little shapes in detatched buttonhole stitch. I managed to complete and submit my sampler, but I hadn't been happy with the results.

Since then, I've practiced in a desultory manner--but slowly my skills have improved. A week before going on vacation last month, I realized a kit project I'd ordered wasn't going to be ready before I left. So, I decided to take the plunge and come up with my own project.

Initially, I attempted to scale up a design of an original (child's sized) coif--but I discovered that the repeats weren't nearly as regular as I thought they were! When I tried to add on new repeats, the design became a mess, so I scrapped that idea.

Then I came up with the idea of designing my own, much as drafters had done so in the era. They  adapted desired elements out of common motifs, usually onto a circular vine pattern. So, I started taking out jam jars to trace out circular vines and played around with motifs.

My design is mostly based off motifs in the 1608 Trevelyon Miscellany at the Folger Shakespeare Library. It's an original pattern book of embroidery designs from the Tudor period--and many of the designs in it are commonly seen in Tudor embroidered objects, especially jackets, coifs and cushion covers.  I'd seen the original book on display a couple of years ago when we'd gone to see a play at the Folger, so I returned to study the designs out of a facsimile edition the Library kept for public reference. 

To be honest, this is a big challenge for me. Those motifs are small, but they sure take a lot of time to stitch (though when I do it, I barely notice the clock)! As you can see, I've got a lot of work to do. I'm hoping that by journalling this, I'll keep a record for my own reference--a record not just for recalling the decisions and challenges I faced, but also to pull myself back to working on it once other projects seem more appealing. I figure to make my posts public--maybe it will inspire others to try it, too (if you do, friend me so I can get inspired back!

One thing I'm learning--I stitch much better by natural light. So, I have my little setup put by the sliding glass doors to the deck--it may not be south facing, but it's the best light in the house. It's a nice thing to do before heading out to work.

I held off posting this for two days due to difficulty posting the photo...it took me that long to realize LJ doesnt like bitmaps.
viennabelle: (Default)
I haven't posted here forever, but some friends are asking what projects I'm working on. So, here is a glimpse at one thing...



I spent most of the spring working on a minister's stole (commission). After, I knew I needed another embroidery project. So, I got two. This one takes inspiration  from the Jacket Project (no, it's part of a coif, not a jacket--I may be insane, but not that insane). The other is my level one Japanese embroidery project. These are things that make me happy. :)
viennabelle: (Strawberries)
This is a quick post because I'm speeding off to a meeting (I'm delegate for my church to the VA episcopal annual council)...

What can I say--I hit a wall earlier this week. I started feeling a bit tired Monday, but by Tuesday, I could only manage to get to work and get to sleep. Probably a passing virus--I was able to hold work together thanks to modern medicine, but I didn't sew those days. That said, I have managed to take on the breeches (described previously) and the waistcoat of doom. Here are some quick cell phone photos of my efforts:

 

I'm particularly happy about the waistcoat. The wool on it is handspun and handwoven--so of course, it's hand sewn. Actually, the breeches are fully handstitched as well, since I restitched the entire thing when I modified them. With DH's home stitched shirt (sadly, a little scarred by black powder burns), he has a nice start to a farmer's outfit. Maybe I'll make him a jacket--but I think I'll let him earn that (I have too many UFOs to finish, anyhow)!

By the way, since I'm up posting piccies, here is a shot I took a week and a half ago of the inside of the child's stays I'm sewing. This was taken after I whittled out stays from oak staves (I felt crafty with that!) but before I'd tacked back the seams. It's a cool inside shot, since it captures a lot of the techniques that are unique to hand made stays (sorry guys--I'm a convert--cookie cutter patterns just don't cut it anymore).


Finally, for the heck of it, photos of my friend Amy's blizzard baby, from a week ago (aww....)


Ok, gotta get dressed and ready for today's meeting. I'm going to bag up the "Neverending Kirtle"--I think, my last large handstitching project. It will give me something to work on through today's long meeting...
viennabelle: (Busy Sewer)
I posted a diary entry of today's effort towards my Olympic Challenge here. If you feel like boosting productivity during the Olympics--join in and share what you do!
viennabelle: (Olympics)
Two years ago, knitting writer Stephanie Pearl McPhee came up with the concept of the Knitting Olympics on her blog the Yarn Harlot. The idea was simple...Start a project during the opening ceremonies and finish it by the closing ceremonies. In 2008, I knit fast and furiously and made a tank top. This year, the Knitting Olympics returns, but while pawing through my yarn stash last night, I realized I'm just I'm not that into knitting.

I want to sew.

Then I realized...the Olympics are for all sports!

How about a Sewing Olympics? It's a fun, non-competitive way for us to take on new challenges--and to try to see them to completion. The Yarn Harlot's concept is that we document our project, challenges and foibles on our blogs (I suppose this might get me back to writing on my Live Journal). I've set up a Live Journal Community (SewOlympics2010) for anyone crazy enough to get involved to showcase their efforts.

So, here's my proposed adaptation of the Yarn Harlot's knitting rules to sewing:

The 2010 Sewing Olympics

Eligibility: Any sewer who, embracing the "Citius, Alitius Fortius" ideal, would like to challenge themselves while embracing the Olympic spirit, and is just whacked enough to play along with me. Hand-sewing, machine sewing, embroidery, beadwork, quilting, and any other construction technique using needle and thread counts--just sew! After all, there are multiple events for each sport, right?

Concept: You must initiate a project during the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, Friday, February 12, 2010 (or within the time period of the games) and finish before the Olympic flame goes out Sunday, February 28. That's 17 days. Blog it and let us know what you are up to. Re-post highlights (or links to entries) here.

Rules:
1. The project must be a challenge for you to complete in 17 days.
2. There are no rules about what a challenge would be. Like the real Olympics, there are many areas to compete in. If you are a new sewer, something simple is great...If you are experienced, use your own conscience. I would also propose a "decathlon" event for anyone crazy enough to attempt multiple projects.
3. While this is intended to be somewhat difficult (like the Olympics) it is not intended to ruin your life. Don't set yourself up for failure. (Olympic athletes may cry, but they do not whine pitifully, sob and threaten members of their family with scissors because they haven't slept in five days. ) This is intended to (like the Olympics) require some measure of sacrifice, and be difficult, but it should be possible to attain.
4. No starting up before the flame is lit. 
5. Finish before the flame goes out.
6. You may drape and test fit before the games. ("training.") (sorry--not much time for that).

Medals?
The Sewing Olympics has only a gold medal. (There is only do- or do not.) Finishers get a gold medal button for their blog (anyone want to design a medal?) and the joy of knowing that they are an Olympic level sewer, no matter how experienced they are. You are only competing against yourself. (Well. And the Olympic schedule.)

Who's in?
If you're just crazy enough itching to be part of the Sewing Olympics, consider carefully. Done right, this will suck up 17 days of your life and could become an epic enterprise.

17 days, multiple sewers, one dream. The Sewing Olympics.

Good luck.

viennabelle: (Mourning)
I wanted to update everyone...

This morning we went in to the vet and finally figured out Scout's problem: he had feline leukemia. There were options for prolonging his life, but in the mind of the veterinarian, Scout was in great pain and at the point of starvation. So, we decided to put him to sleep. Scout died peacefully in our arms.

Meanwhile, Pilot (the older cat with one eye) is on the mend. His appetite is improving and he is responding to his antibiotic shot. We are very encouraged for him. By the way, the vet does not think Pilot's illness is connected to Scout--the signs are different and appear to be virally caused.

As for Scout's FLV, we believe he caught it as a kitten and it had been dormant ever since (he had been fully vaccinated for it over the whole time he'd been kept domestically). As a precaution, we had the two remaining cats tested--both Pilot and Snuggy are negative and are vaccinated. So, there is no danger to them.

Scout will be cremated and at Kathy's request, the ashes will be laid to rest in Dave's garden. That was Dave's wish, it's a place Scout loved, so that's really appropriate.

Thanks to everyone for the kind wishes. We've been truly touched by the kindness and concern. We miss Scout, but feel happy that we kept him happy for as long as we could.

Mary and Rick
viennabelle: (Tightrope)
I haven't been posting here for a long while, but thought I'd drop a post, since many of David Malinak's old friends are online here. As many of you know, we adopted David's two cats Pilot and Scout after his passing. Once they resolved initial conflicts with our other cat, they settled in well. All appeared fine.

However, we'd noticed that Scout was acting slightly listless and thin of late. As it was time for his annual veterinarian appointment, we took him in a little over a week ago, along with the then healthy appearing Pilot. Because of our concern, we had the vet take a blood test. Those results showed a very high anemia score, but no other indications. The likely cause for this is either a parasite or cancer. The former is preferable, since it is treatable. Cancer may be harder to treat. We have started administering steroids and Doxycycline--a course that is prophylactic for either. Scout is not eating much, moves little, spending his days crouched in a corner, but there are signs that he is starting to respond to the steroids.

Monday, we noticed Pilot (the older cat) was behaving differently, lacking energy and having difficulty walking. Pretty soon, he quickly lost all energy and stopped most eating. We took him in to the vet, where he had an elevated temperature. His bloodwork only showed elevated protein levels.

Based on this, we are concerned that both animals might have a shared condition, although the indications are different. With both sick, there is concern they might have feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), which can vary in symptoms, is largely untreatable, contagious and fatal. The vet ordered a titer for that disease this morning off Pilot's bloodwork. We are crossing our fingers that this is not the case.

We have isolated the sick cats, to protect them from sharing any further infection and to protect the one cat that remains well. We are trying our best to help them recover and trying to keep them comfortable. While these cats have only lived with us for a little over a year, they've become family--and are very dear to us. However, I wanted to share this news because I know that, though cats, they have touched many lives--and been meaningful in the ways that they comforted David in his darkest hours..

Mary and Rick
viennabelle: (Harem Girl)
Well, I'm in recovery from an insane month and a half. The fiscal year has changed. I got off work today at 5 pm for the first time in 9 weeks...

Last weekend, when rain, clammy coldness and the swine flu stood in the way of getting off to the Renaissance Festival, I headed to a local aquatic plant club (GWAPA) meeting. The funny thing--this started as DH's hobby--but slowly I've got engaged in it. I was truly inspired several years ago when DH organized a big convention for the hobby and I got to meet--and watch--legendary aquascaper/photographer Takashi Amano in action making an aquascape (and apparently his staff liked me too--photos of me appeared several times in his Japanese aquarium magazine <G>).
 
Amano's approach is drawn from the art of Japanese garden design--iwagumi. Since then, I've immersed myself in practically every Japanese gardening book I could find--and while I don't really understand the cultural/philosophical context (lots of Confucianism mumbo jumbo mixed in with deliberately esoteric Japanese philosophy references)--I have managed a rudimentary understanding of three rock design.

It involves a "father" rock, a "mother" rock and a "baby" rock, selected and positioned in an asymmetrical manner. To keep it balanced, elements are structured using a golden triangle--though in a garden, the effort is to bring this arrangement from multiple (360 degrees) viewing perspectives. It's challenging.

That's why a little tank (a "nano") is good for me. I'm just not ready for five rocks (n.b., there is never four rocks, God forbid...).
 
Despite my learning difficulties, I love making and viewing beautiful miniature landscapes. Interestingly, the Amano approach has not appealed as much to DH--but he loves that I dabble in it.

A year and a half ago, I bought a fancy 5 gallon rimless tank from Japan, along with what is considered a high-tech approach to growing underwater plants: a C02 system, a very good filter, a high powered light and lots of chemicals. By the way--before the fertilizers make folks squeamish, bear in mind one thing: there is no runoff, so the terrestrial concerns about contamination are different (although I would not want to eat these plants). All of these chemicals are nutrients the plants need to grow and can't get out of tap water. The art comes in getting the right balance between them.

Once I was able to assemble everything I needed to plant it, I started experimenting--and found I could get decent results. However, I'd caught a bit of blue green algae and in the work insanity this fall, I let it slide. Sunday, with a bundle of plants bought at the club auction, I realized it was the opportunity to start something totally new. So, I took everything out and replanted it all. Here is a quick snap of what I ended up with on Sunday (btw, it's clearer when you click into the actual shot):


Not bad. Yes, there are little problems I see with the rocks--but I am pretty satisfied. In a few weeks, the plants will green up and grow in...the water will settle and I can add in fish. I will have a new underwater garden. In my living room.

And in the aftermath of so much work, that is a very good thing!
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