Saturday, April 28, 2007

Millinery: Five Hats in One Day: A black lid

Continuing with Millinery Mania, here is the second of five hats created in one day.
The black hood in the lower 5 o'clock position was the last hood to get dunked into the hot water and gelatin sizing bath.

I telescoped the hood into itself, and then pinched up parts of the straw in a random pattern. I folded the edge of the hood like a one fold hem that was about a half inch wide.
A spring style clothes pin was placed to hold the pinches and curves in place while the hood dried.

This is the hood now dried, viewed from the under side.
I put it on my head and gently eased the hat down to loosen the folds.
I also lightly steamed it to release some of the pinches to let the hat be pulled down a bit further on my head.
Once the steamed area dried, the hat's pinches resumed being stiff in the new positions.
Using a pick stitch, where the needle would take only a small stitch on top of the hat, and then a longer stitch along the inside of the edge of the hem inside the hat, I hemmed the edge, shaping the hem as I went to make the width uniform.

Because the hat is designed to rest on the top of the head, a sweat band is not needed.
(Hurrah! I hate putting in sweat bands! I always miss placing the sweat band ribbon seam center by about a half of an inch, then tell myself it doesn't matter, then wind up redoing it.)

Finished product!

The hat is light as a feather, and is held in place by a hat pin. I have a wonderful feather tassel that I am considering adding, but for now, I like that by varying my hat pin choice I can co-ordinate my black hat with my outfit.
The green beaded hat pin is perfect with the green shell I'm wearing under my charcoal grey suit.

I've lightened the photo so you can see the pinching and swirls on the hat as modeled on Joan.

I ran out of hat labels awhile ago, so I borrowed an idea that I saw on a hat I got in New Orleans.
I just signed my name using a metallic silver ink pen!
Now hard would it be for YOU to make a hat?
Come on, join the fun.
It IS easy!
(For information as to where to obtain supplies, see the link in the first line of this post!)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Librarian life: More Fun at Work

I got caught on Youtube at work!

Click here
or go to:

Turn your sound up and hit play.

Yup, that's me in the boots.

Oh yeah. It's good to be me too....

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Millinery: Five hats in one day: Green Cloche

Daughter Laura RN gave me six parasisal straw "hoods" for Christmas, a "hood" being an hat that has yet to be shaped.
I decided today that I deserved to make the hats.
The house was in reasonable shape, and Bernie was out of town.
So let the hat mania begin!

Below are the hoods before I began.
They are silver grey, navy, brown, olive, burgundy and black.

The first thing I had to do was size the hoods.
The sizing could be bought from a millinery supply place, but I find gelatin works great.
The sizing adds just enough stiffening to the straw that it hold it's shape, and adds a little gloss to boot.
I put two packages of unflavored gelatin into about a quart of boiling water.
I stirred the mixture really well so there were no grains of gelatin left undissolved in the water.

Next step: Dunk the hood.
The dye on the parasisal straw tends to bleed, so I dip the lightest color first, then the next darkest color and so on. I decided not to make the burgundy colored hood this time as I was making an olive green hat, a navy hat, a brown hat and a black hat after the silver grey, so there was really no good place in the line up for a reddish tone.

You can see how dark the gelatin water was by the time I finished dunking the black hood.
I let the hats dry slightly after I dunked them. To avoid dye drips on surfaces I try to remember to line the counters with newspaper, and to wear clothes that won't get ruined if I bump into the drips.
Hats are usually made on a wooden block so the hood can stretch on the wood and pin onto the wood while it dries.
I have some wooden blocks, but I wanted to experiment with "kitchen blocks."
My millinery guru Kate is a big fan of thinking creatively to find alternative hat blocks.
We both go through department stores trying on vases and bowls on our heads, while trying to get a glimpse at ourselves to see how it looks.
It is a wonder we have not been rounded up by the local nut squad and put away in a padded room.
My Dansk pottery deep casserole/soup pot had been whispering to me for awhile, so I decided to give it a try.
I thought it looked pretty good on my head as a hat!
I covered the outside of the pot with saran wrap so the hood's sizing wouldn't stick to the pot as it dried, which would effectively glue the hood to the pot.
Pulling it free would destroy the blocked shape, so it is always important to use saran wrap between the block and the hood.
Since I obviously can't use pins to poke into glazed pottery, I used clothes pins to hold the olive green hood onto the pot, stretching the hood on the bias to get it to take on the shape of the pot. I also slipped an elastic band around the pot just below where the rim began, to make a crisp edge between the crown and the brim.
The hood stayed on the pot until it was totally dry.

Once it was dry, I took the hood is off the block (aka "pot), and I needed to add a sweat band inside the hat.
The band will both make the hat more comfortable to wear, protect the straw from sweat, and most importantly in this case, be used to fit the hat to my head size.
I measured my head with what is called "belting", which looks like ribbon but has a saw tooth edge rather that a flat checkered looking edge. The belting will be used as a sweat band.
Most ribbons now days are polyester or synthetic, and are not usable for sweatbands.
I sewed the belting ends together, checked again to see that the size was comfortable, then divided the belting into fourths.
I pinned the belting equally around the interior of the hat edge, and then pinned it evenly around the rest of the way, and stitched the belting to the hat.
Usually I do that by hand, but today I used my sewing machine.
The sweat band can be used to made a hat fit larger or smaller, even though it is important to have blocks that match a person's head size.
In this case, I just eased the parasisal to my head size.
Next came the fun part: Trimming the hat!

Bernie had discarded some silk ties when he cleaned out his closet awhile back, and they didn't make it to the clothing donation center.
I thought the tie fabric was too cool to give away, and that I could use them in hat making.

Awhile ago I had bought some trim up in Arlington, near Dallas (where the Weather Channel is telling me there is a tornado and rough weather right now....) back when I went up to Victorian Elegance with the two Junes.
The trim was expensive stuff, so I only got about 10 inches.
I had to be clever in how I used it as there wasn't going to be enough trim to go all the way around the crown as a band.

To design my trim I first played with the tie.
I wrapped the tie around the side of the crown of the hat until I was happy with the design, and then I pinned it into place.

Then I played with the trim positioning, and the hat "wearing" style.
I decided to wear the hat as a cloche, and arch the trim on the tie fabric.

In hat making you should work "light", that is, try to eliminate as much weight from the trim as possible. I should have discarded the tie lining to make the trim lighter, but eh, what the heck.

Then I decided the hat needed some feathers.
I tried a few that I had in my millinery supplies, then thought I'd use some of the turkey feathers my dad sent me from one of his successful hunts awhile back.

(That was the cat's favorite part of the whole process. They have been yelping and yowling around the house since I got the feathers out, clearly convinced that SOMEWHERE there is a turkey that they should be able to catch. They keep smelling the feathers, then go tearing around the house meowing like crazy. I finally threw them outside just to shut them up. If there had been a live turkey in the house, it would have beat the heck out of those two ridiculous cats. What were they thinking?)

I curled three of the turkey feathers, gently easing the shaft against the edge of pair of scissors and bending the shaft until it bent slightly, bending it every quarter inch to get an even curve.
I also trimmed down the flues on the downside of the feathers to make the feathers narrower.

Next I decided to flute the edge of the brim.
I measured three inch increments on the brim, placed a clothes pin at each mark, then held the brim over the tea kettle spout to steam the brim, and gently eased the parasisal into a fluted shape, like the edge of a pie crust.

Lastly I attached a vintage silk veil just under the edge of the tie fabric.

And here it is...the finished project:

The point or end of the tie is at the back of the head, and the rest of the tie wrapped twice around the hat.
I used the least amount of stitches possible to tack the trim to the hat.
Hat trim should look as if it could float off the hat, not like it is nailed down with loads of tight stitches.
I couldn't get the hat down into a full cloche level on Joan, as her hair was in the way.
I'll try to get a picture of it on me when Bernie gets home.
Laura requested that I make her a cloche, so if she likes this one, it's hers, although it is probably too big for her.
And I'll bet she won't like the wanted plain edge, right?
Let me know Sweetie!

Want to try your hand at millinery?
You can get hoods here or here.
They also have traditional blocks and millinery belting.
They just don't have Dansk pots!

Rhubarb Bar

To follow up on the Rhubarb saga...yes I did get it made!
I was at the part where I needed my jelly roll pan, when I discovered that somewhere along the line I have lost my jelly roll pan.
So I improvised with an aluminum serving tray that was jelly roll pan deep.
Bernie got some, and my co-workers got stiffed as it was too messy to travel.
I might freeze some of it, as it tastes great with vanilla ice cream.
My mom says she has a great rhubarb bread recipe that she is going to dig out for me to try.
Let's just hope the produce guy has rhubarb once I get the recipe...
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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Walk through the clover, and over a bridge

There is a bayou just a short walk from our house, a place I would have called a drainage ditch before I moved here.

A bayou (by-yo) is fun to walk to, because you can stand on the bridge and look down at turtles and snakes and small fish going about their business.
Plus the sound of a bike clattering over the wooden planks is always a nice old fashioned sound.

Right now the red clover is in bloom along the banks of the bayou, mixed in with the pink Evening Primrose. A slight breeze causes the whole scene to ripple like a body of water.

We took a long walk, about an hour, and then headed home along a street. I was walking on the grass, and Bernie was walking on the street, when suddenly he called out: "Snake."

Of course that tells me nothing about where the snake might be, so I usually attempt to levitate about three feet above the soil, like a cartoon character, all the while looking around frantically.

In this case, the snake was a baby copperhead (poisonous critter, even if it is a baby) and it was in the curb area, with its body going straight up against the curb. From where I was, I could just see his little head peeking over the edge of the concrete.

Bernie decided it needed to be "saved" from possibly being flattened by passing cars.

He likes snakes.

I root for the cars.

He grabbed a small stick and urged Baby Copperhead along into the grass and into the bushes. The snake was about a foot long and as big around as a typical hot dog.

Ugh. One baby snake=several baby snakes in my book, plus a mommy and daddy snake.

I think I'm going to go back to riding my bike now that the weather has warmed up a bit.
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Give me the rhubarb or else!

Yesterday at work I amused myself in dull moments by surfing around my favorite blogs.
Lovella's blog, as usual, was one of my first stops.
She had baked a yummy looking Rhubarb bar, complete with step by step pictures of how to create the tasty looking treat.
I swear she also figured out how to post how it smelled too, because after one look, my mouth was watering.
Three hours later I was off reference desk at the library and heading to the grocery story on a mission.
Naturally I was wearing a hat. Wearing a hat gets you what you want most all the time.
I headed directly to the produce section, prowling for rhubarb.
Swiss chard was on display, and I was momentarily fooled into thinking I had found my rhubarb.
I looked rhubarb.

Just about that time a nice young man name John who was wearing a produce department apron happened by.
I stopped him, and asked if there was any rhubarb available.
He assured me that yes indeed, they did have rhubarb.
And walked me over to the Swiss Chard.

He looked puzzled for a moment, then said he was sure they had some in the back.
I walked with him over to the swinging doors that lead to the back of the store storage area.
A few minutes later John returned with bad news.
They didn't have any rhubarb.
The good news, he reported, noting that I was beginning to have a forced smile, was that there would be rhubarb delivered tomorrow. After two.
Hard to say...

His voice trailed off as he watched me fumbled in my purse.
His manager stepped over to his side.
(I guess I looked scarier than I thought.)

I pulled my trusty camera out, and did what I had to do.
I took John hostage on my blog.

I explained how I had been looking at pictures of rhubarb bars that were freshly made up in Canada just hours ago, and that my friend who made the bars could not possibly fly all the way down to Houston to bring me a plateful to share.

I explained how I needed the rhubarb to make the recipe myself, and that I was going to hold him hostage on my blog until I got some rhubarb.

I told him I didn't care what he had to do, but unless he wanted to have his picture up for as long as it would take, he had better start thinking of a way for me to get some rhubarb.


At this point poor John's manager step up to the plate.

"Um, we have frozen rhubarb, would that do?"

Maybe, I allowed.

The manger walked me over to the frozen food section.
The manager stood by my side as I pursed my lips, deciding if this was going to work. I remembered Lovella had mentioned that frozen rhubarb would work as well as fresh. And at $1.69 a package, it seemed reasonably priced.

I threw four bags into my shopping cart, and wheeled on, as the manager called after me to let him know if I needed anything else.

I swung by the dairy aisle and got butter, and a few other items on my list. I was heading for check out when John raced up to me.

"They have fresh rhubarb over at the Atascacita store" he announced with a hopeful smile.

I pursed my lips again, and tapped my fingers on my shopping cart.

John held his breath.

"No, I don't think so. I don't feel like driving another 20 minutes each way. No, no...the frozen will just have to do."

His face fell slightly, but then he smiled again.

"Well, if there is anything else I can help you with..."

I told him I appreciated the offer, and thanked him for his fine effort.

His face brightened at that, and squaring his shoulders, he went back to his produce.

Bless his heart.

If there had been fresh rhubarb, I might have come back and shared a slice with him.

Instead, his picture is going up on the blog as a warning to other produce departments.

From now on, they had just better start checking Lovella's cooking blogs and make darn sure they have the ingredients needed to make her creations!

Or there is going to be even more trouble ahead.

A year went by...

It's been a year now since I received my digital camera as a birthday gift.
Bernie kept asking me to think about what I wanted in a camera, and of course, I had no idea except I wanted one that would be easy to use.
Finally we went down to the Best Buys store, with its robust electronics section.
After considering a few options I selected a Sony cybershot.
The camera has been an absolute joy to use, and son Jeff got the exact same model later.

Few possessions make me "puppy with a tail a'wagging" happy; I can count them on one hand:

1. My "one speed" bike
2. My computer
3. My digital camera

They are all I need to have a great time all by myself.

A few days after I got the camera, my in-laws came out for a visit and we spent a lot of time outside enjoying the garden.
One morning I was THRILLED to look out into the garden and see that my Louisiana Walking Iris had bloomed!

I had bought one plant right after we moved in, and never noticed anything more about the plant other than it had long green strappy spikey leaves.
Turns out each plant blooms for ONE day, ONE time a year.

No wonder I had alway missed the blooms before.

After the bloom finishes, the tip of the bloom weighs down, and touched the earth, sends out roots, and a new plant forms, with a stem like a bridge between plants.

The plant is also called an Apostle Plant, because it will not bloom until it has twelve leaves.
I thought it was because it kept spreading its beauty everywhere it touched.
In boggy areas of the south the plant spreads in broad swaths, and the blossoms are stunning.

Yesterday I was simply amazed to see the shriveled blooms on several of our Iris plants.
I had missed several of the blooms! This morning I was prowling around hoping for more bloom on other plants.
Several have buds, so I won't completely miss seeing this year's blooms.

I know these plants don't have calendars, or dayrunners or any other sort of time keeping device.
The same amount/ratio of day light/ darkness occurs in the fall, yet the plant doesn't bloom then.

They bloom exactly one week after my birthday.
(How ego centric is that statement? Don't care...I like thinking it like that!)

I'm sure botonist could explain it all to me in scientific terms.
Those terms would in no way remove my sense of wonder...this plant was created to bloom the third week in April, and is faithful to its purpose.

It does what it is designed to do, whether I, or anyone else notices or not.

How very cool is that?

How very cool would it be if the same could be said for all of Creation?

That would be very cool indeed.