Sunday, October 31, 2010

Raccoons ate my pumpkin

I knew a smooth Halloween was not in the cards for me when I stepped out on the front porch three days before the big event to discover what had been making that curious thumping and crashing sound the night before.

Raccoons ate my pumpkin!

Actually there were four uncarved pumpkins marking the porch steps, and thankfully they only dug right inside of one. Another had some holes in it, and the remaining two had the sort of surface scratches that meant they were probably going to stay non-rotten until I actually had to cut in there and find out. Also, it was garbage day, and the trucks hadn't been by yet, so I was able to run the two wrecked ones to the curb for instant removal.


The one I cut into was fine; I didn't risk it with the other. The cut-into one became a cat, with spaghetti whiskers - and may I recommend boring holes for the spaghetti rather than expecting it to push in there on its own? I broke a lot of spaghetti while trying not to have to look around for a tool that would do that. The non-cut-into one became a canvas for a second cat drawn on with marker. I forgot to take pictures of either, mostly because they weren't finished and in place until about 45 minute before the first trick-or-treater, a neighbouring zombie with impressively cut-up pants, arrived to terrorize my house.

End Spoiler.

The night before Halloween I was invited to an outdoor movie party, wherein the guests would be watching a movie projected on a sheet at the back of some friends' house. I missed last year's party but I knew that good use was made of blankets and several layers of long underwear, so I dressed accordingly (which you should read as 'unattractively') and filled a bag with blankets and walked over - only to find the back yard was empty.

I didn't have the wrong house.

The party had been moved to indoors.

Also, a bunch of other people decided to wear costumes. So while I was in the bathroom peeling off layers and trying to decide what I could leave on that would look remotely presentable in a party situation, everybody else was wearing cool wigs and/or hats and crazy-yet-flattering outfits and taking silly pictures of each other.

It was a fabulous party and I had a great time in spite of being way too hot but about three minutes into attempting conversation with people I either knew well and like a lot or had never met but wanted to know better I realized I was about as exhausted as I've ever been in my life. I mean, I could barely string a sentence together.

Thankfully about an hour in somebody handed me the resident baby and I was able to spend the rest of the evening curled up in a chair with her. Sleeping babies are only slightly less restful than briefly awake babies that stare and stare at you before snuggling back in and nodding off again.

As I was leaving I ran into a friend who was just arriving. I told her I had cool wig envy and she said she'd had hers on for 20 minutes and it was itching her like crazy and did I notice she had only one false eyelash on because they are super hard to glue in place? I had, but said that I thought it was part of the effect, which was true. I mean, how cool is that to show up in a weird dress with a crazy long-haired wig and one false eyelash? You're like creepy demented zombie lady, then. That is totally going to be my goal for next year, when probably it will turn out to be an outdoor party after all.

Of course the nice thing about having Halloween on a Sunday is that you really can spend the whole day just doing that. And since I have a thing about decorating the lawn, this is a super nice feature.

When I first moved here, there were no kids to take candy off my hands, which was problematic. So I started doing all these beacon things - several carved pumpkins all lit up and glowing in the driveway, an open door, lots of lights inside, and so on. Leaf bags became a fixture - I'd draw faces on a bunch of them and gradually I started adding branches for creepy reaching arms and putting floodlights on them to make them a focal point.

And more kids did start to come over the years, mostly because more kids moved onto the block. But now I've made a tradition of the Leaf Bag Ghouls and the Headless Man (coveralls stuffed with leaves, accessorized with an old pair of men's snowboots and a pair of filthy work gloves) I really have to keep up with it.

This year's big project was the Giant Leaf Bag Ghost, rendered by stacking up a bunch of leaf bags and throwing a length of white cotton purchased for bag linings over the lot of them. Why do I still have a huge length of white cotton when I could have sewed it into bags, do you think? Because it won't hold a press, which is just so unsatisfying. I will totally use it again outdoors though. It makes a great ghost.

The Leaf Bag Ghouls are usually in a row, starting with a happy oblivious one and leading up to a really terrified one who realizes he's standing next to a Ghoul of the demonic variety. This year, they were progressively more scared of Giant Leaf Bag Ghost.

Leaf Bag Ghost's arms are fallen branches, and his hands are white cotton manicure gloves.

His face is courtesy of hockey tape. I couldn't face drawing directly onto the fabric in case I find a better sewing use for it some day.

He looks too happy to be scaring the Ghouls, don't you think? But they are easily frightened, and they're probably too short to see the smile on his face way up where I slid a beach ball onto the highest bag. He had to be a smiley ghost, because there are some very little children on the block just now. And I needed them to come up the steps because it is Not Good when too much candy gets left over after Halloween.

Of course, once they got to the door, they had to park themselves near Headless Man.

Headless Man got a head this year because I found a broken broom handle in the garage that still had a partial broom on top. Somebody threw it on the lawn at some point in the summer and I never got around to throwing it out. Also, I decided not to be so attached to the white pillowcases I bought at a discount store 20+ years ago. I mean, you can wash these things after all.

As the day progressed, an improvement suggested itself, and the pillowcase was filled with leaves and the hockey tape was pressed back into service for a face.

Talk about luxury for Headless Man. The pumpkin with the cat on it went into his lap, so he spent a very relaxing evening indeed.

The other pumpkin should by rights have been in the driveway on beacon duty but I quickly discovered it was very easy to knock the spaghetti whiskers off its face while dashing past. So I moved it over to the other side of the steps where the Ghouls were standing, leaving the driveway dangerously empty.

Solution: dragging out the two evergreen topiary things that normally stand alongside the porch steps, and putting bags on them, and taping pumpkin faces to the bags.

It would seem that these were the most popular decorations of all, so I think they may make a return appearance next year.

The beauty of all of this last minute do it yourselfness with stuff you already have is that it can be quickly disassembled and put back where it all belongs - no need to find storage crannies for a giant skull or inflatable lawn-sized light-up witch's cauldron.

And now that it is for all intents and purposes November I can sigh a deep sigh knowing that everything is already back to normal except for a giant bowl of un-treated candy it is now my job to consume.

Oh, and Christmas sewing. But I will wait a day or two more before panicking about that.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Call me irresponsible

I have a massive shelf full of fabulous lightweight cotton fabric thanks to my sheet hunt at various thrift stores this summer (and here it is nearly the end of October and neither the felted wool bag nor the writing bugs have been biting, after all that prep and way-clearing)


I succumbed to some Liberty fabric at a craft show on Friday. I couldn't justify a whole yard of it since it was pretty obvious I just wanted it to look at and touch and smile over, so I bought a very small piece of the green sailboat one (it matches my new cardigan and I thought maybe, scarf?) and a slightly longer one, 54" by 18 I think? of the bolder print.

I don't actually wear or even see the point of a cotton scarf, though this may change as I get to the stage of feeling bad about my neck, so maybe I should make little bags, such as drawstring ones for knitting so I can touch the fabric a lot. Or linings for heftier bags, because I don't have enough cotton sheets for lining those, obviously.

What can I say? I have such happy feelings about Liberty from my time in London. And it didn't help that the booth had clever packages for little-girl patterns with a paper doll and one cute outfit as the front card for each design - a different doll and outfit every time, I mean. I don't have any little girls to sew for and I don't collect paper dolls but I do love Clever!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pumpkins, in life and art

The last two days here have featured all the things you associate with your dream autumn:

Just-cool-enough-for-wool temperatures

Richly blue skies

Brilliant sun

Equally brilliant leaves, in some cases still on the trees

And, in my case, pumpkins.

Yep, the annual pumpkin hunt happened Sunday and was its usual success, right down to the butter pecan tarts ingested by me and the locally-produced honey that will be, by way of tea.

The local United Church also held its Awesome Fall Sale (not to be confused with its Awesome Spring Sale). I was pleased to find that whoever baked the toffee cookies for the Spring Sale was back again for Fall.

I scored some vintage knitting things in the back corner of the housewares room:

And - you knew this was coming, right? - a big New Wool sweater to felt:

This thing is huge, with a 44" chest that looks bigger, to me. And for some reason it didn't shrink when it felted; could it be superwash wool? I hope not. I hope it just magically retained its shape after both the hot water wash and the dryer and will not fall apart when I cut into it.

I've been avoiding the unexciting colours of my own wardrobe in feltable sweaters lately, thinking I had more than enough of them for all the houseware/accessory projects I prefer, but then last month I looked at a previously felted sweater upside down, saw some light dawning, and cut it to get this:

aka a very wide waistband to which a long strip of pieced-together bits could be sewn.

You will note I am not showing more pictures of how the resulting skirt turned out. Let's just say the concept needs some fine-tuning, shall we?

Getting back to the argyle-esque sweater - it's very matchy with the rest of my wardrobe, and it's so ridiculously large I could cut it off at the armpits, turn it upside down, gather up the waistband a bit, and have a warm quirky knee-length skirt in the time it takes me to do a blanket stitch hem. And... I can't believe I'm saying this, but...

it's also perfect just as it is, worn Boyfriend Sweater-like over a pair of tights.

I am so far from being twenty years old and able to get away with Boyfriend Sweaters it's pitiful, but I'm gonna wear it that way today anyway; it can be a whole pumpkin for now, and if/when I get sick of it, I'll wave the ol' magic wand and transform it into something dressy-uppy. Or what passes for it in this house.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I never have trouble thinking of things to be thankful for, no matter how dire the time, but when I stepped out into this morning's cold Canadian Thanksgiving Day and saw this

well, I just had to feel thankful that there are so many things in this world that can take the trouble to be beautiful while going about the business of being on this earth.

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Princess FishCat - a felted wool project

Last week was Abby's fifth birthday party, which meant present-shopping, which I love, usually. Her father told me that Abby loves everything pink and girly, especially The Little Mermaid and dress-up. I also know she loves cats, having two new kittens of her own.

Sadly the toy store options, though vast, were limited. Disney is putting a huge push on Tinkerbell just now and frankly I found the displays a little depressing anyway, not least because I guessed that many other people would be bringing many of these very same gifts.

So I went to a card store instead and bought this:

I had an evil plan to use up some felted thrift-store sweaters and hit all of Abby's favourite things, all at once.

First I took measurements (design tip: Lands' End is a great place to get average measurements, using their Size Charts) and made these three pattern pieces:

I did try to get a child's crown pattern online but none felt really right - what I did in the end was to cut out a half-triangle to trace for the point that goes onto the fold, then used it as a template for the two sides of each subsequent point until I had half the dimension of a small child's head. The tabs on the back, cut to taper so as not to obscure the gems if the crown is taken to its smallest size, are extra inches to allow Abby to go on wearing this for a while.

The cat's crown didn't need tabs because the cat isn't going to get bigger, so when I realized I could cut the piece out of the top of a felted sweater sleeve I folded the tab in when positioning the pattern.

I didn't have enough of any one colour sweater to make perfectly matched crowns for Abby and the cat, so I made them complementary. After I sewed on a lot of gem pieces I stitched a small piece of the grabby side of Velcro onto the inside of one end of the tab (using bobbin thread that matched the fabric - ha, remembered!)

The mermaid's tail pattern is half the width of the cat's tummy, and stays that width for the length of its lower body, then tapers in to make the fins. These measurements will vary depending on what animal you're making fishlike, so I will leave them to you. I did add in a little seam allowance but not much, since stuffed cats squish and sweaters stretch and I didn't want the tail to just fall off.

This black wool, though textured in a nicely scaley way, was too heavy to sew and generally Ew, but I had this wavy-cabled Aran sweater used initially for mitten backs that offered the perfect shape and allowed me to use the ribbing as the cat's waistband:

I folded the tail inside out stitched it from the ribbing to the start of the fins, then flipped it back and did a blanket stitch border around the fins. You have to do the blanket stitching twice - once with each side facing - to finish it properly. And then I embroidered a little heart on the back.

The crowns took one evening, and the tail about four hours the next day, mostly because it took so long to decide on which sweater bits were best. I'm pleased with how it came out though. She looks pretty cute, don't you think?