Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Help Us Help People With Disabilities

It’s hard to believe, but Robb and I are doing our *twelfth* fundraising ride for the Bay Area Recreation Program (BORP).

BORP is a Berkeley-based nonprofit with a mission to improve the lives of people with physical disabilities through sports, fitness and recreational programs.  BORP’s programs help people with disabilities gain skills and confidence that lead to success in school, work and life.

In the years that we’ve been connected to BORP, we’ve seen frail disabled kids blossom and become strong resilient teenagers. And much of their success can be attributed to the intense mentoring provided by the BORP family. It’s always lovely seeing young people grow and mature, but these folks are really special. These kids have a supportive network, which is hugely important for people with disabilities. They're playing hard, and they’re thriving.

A few highlights of the past year for kids in BORP’s youth programs were playing an opening game for the Golden State Warriors at the Oracle Arena, winning the National Championship at the Disabled Hockey Festival, and sending two teams to the National Power Soccer Tournament in Indiana. All of these activities require specialized gear, transportation, coaching, and a huge amount of logistical support.

BORP's youth sports programs are as much about mentoring as they are about physical accomplishments. Because almost half of the Bay Area's 686,000 disabled people are people of color, BORP puts a particular emphasis on crafting programs to serve a diverse population. Likewise, there are programs for people with low English proficiency. There are programs for veterans. There's an unparalleled cycling program, a "lending library" made up of the nation's largest collection of adaptive cycles. BORP hosts wheelchair basketball teams for both kids and adults.  They offer soccer for motorized wheelchair users, sled-hockey, and goalball for visually impaired players. BORP have a calendar full of outings, from rock climbing, to boating, to skiing. They operate a beautiful fitness center, across from the Ashby BART.

This organization is very special to me and I have been so grateful for the support of my theater friends.  If you can possibly help this organization, which is so special to me, I’d be so thankful. Secure donations can be made, by clicking this link.

Thanks for your kindness!

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Full Tweed Ahead


Over the last year, Robb and I have been participating in Tweed (and Seersucker) Rides.  This has been such a delightful addition to our lives.  It combines so many of the things we love into one  activity.  Really, where else can one share one's love of cycling and vintage bikes, knitting and sewing from vintage patterns, vintage clothes, vintage cooking and cocktail with delightful like-minded people?

This was our first ride, through the streets and parks of San Francisco.  I made a pair of knickerbockers for the ride, and did some advanced-level reweaving on the moth-holes in Robb's antique plus-fours.  I designed, dyed and knit my cardigan.  You can read about that project here and here and  here.

Robb really looks like he just wandered off the moors, doesn't he?  Our picnic gear looks pretty cute as well.

After a somewhat hair-raising ride on San Francisco streets, we ended up at a lovely cafe.  I was unreasonably delighted to see the Pogacsa delivery wagon.  (Only a Hungarian would appreciate this, I suspect.)

Our next outing was in Chico, which was glorious.  I rode Robb's father's single-speed early 60's Schwinn, and our friend Gary rode a Monark from the late 1940s.

There were some truly spectacular vintage bikes at this event.  This Spacelander is incredibly rare.  There were fewer than 600 ever produced.

Somehow, I found myself the proud owner of a riding costume of uncertain age and a late1960s Raleigh All-Gold.  Three whole gears!  What a luxury!

We met up with friends and family in Sacramento.  Sacramento is incredibly bike-friendly, especially on the weekends.

We picnicked on the grounds of the California State House.  It was a glorious day, spent with lovely people.

When the weather turned warmer, we headed back to Chico and traded tweeds for seersucker.  It's a little hard to see, but I'm wearing a handmade linen outfit, which I sewed from a 1930s pattern, as well as a striped cardigan, which I knot from a 1930s pattern.  (I'm wearing a red kerchief, and standing at the base of a column.)

The folks in Chico have lovely vintage bikes.   I reckon that they have more storage room than we have in the Bay Area.  

And speaking of storage, Robb built a travel case that folds out into a table.  Tweed riders take their picnics very seriously.  Robb brought enough Pimm's Cocktails and tea cakes to share with friends.

 This photo was from the San Luis Obispo Tweed Ride.  A very similar photo was featured in the local newspaper.

I can't say enough about how lovely it has been to find this community.  Before we joined our first ride, I was worried that we wouldn't be accepted.  Maybe our outfits wouldn't be quite right.  Or maybe Robb's adaptive trike would not fit in with the vintage bikes.  But all my fears were unfounded.  I cannot think of a more inclusive group of people, or a more pleasant way to spend a day.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Re-Visiting Abandoned Projects

For a variety of reasons, which I may discuss later, this blog has been languishing. I’ve arrived at a place where I’m ready to pick it back up, again.  And to start this off, I'm going to take a look at some other projects that deserve to be re-visited.

Inspired by my excellent friend Emma, who blogs at What Would Jane Sew, I’m going to post photos of my many, many unfinished projects, as a way of getting things back on track. I’m going to split these into categories, to keep from getting overwhelmed.  I'm also going to write about knitting at another time, to keep this from getting overwhelming.


A lap-sized quilt, that I believe is entirely quilted.  I think I just need to deal with the binding, and give it a good washing.

Another lap-sized quilt.  I need to examine my quilting on this one.  I am not actually sure I like the pattern I sewed.  I either have to sew a lot more, or pick out some of my stitching and call it done.  After that, I need to figure out the binding.

A flannel plaid quilt I started when Robb and I lived in Baltimore, which was more than fifteen years ago.  I was interested in the patterns created by combining plaids that I had harvested from used flannel shirts.  This was a bit of an experimental quilt, and I never really figured out how to expand the composition.  I think it might work better if I could find some plain flannel, to contrast with the riot of plaid.  I've got a pile of flannel shirts that I've been dragging around, with the intention of chopping them apart and using their fabric for the quilt.  I was really, really broke when I started this project.  I had more time than money, so the idea of harvesting fabric from second-hand shirts made sense.

(I need to take a photo of this project.)

This one makes me really sad.  I bought this fabric on the trip Robb and I made to Hawaii.  When Robb broke his back, I set it aside.  The problem is that I'd gotten the idea to use masking tape of mark my stitching lines (do not do this -- ever -- it's a terrible idea) and after sitting in a bag for a a year or two, the adhesive from the tape transferred to the fabric. I have never found a way of removing the adhesive residue.  I should try a few more solvents, and if they don't work, I should throw this in the trash.  This one is really hard for me emotionally, because it symbolizes all the travel Robb and I are no longer able to do, and also the things I've ruined due to my own neglect.  It's a huge bag of negative emotions that haunts my closet.

A strange bit of assemblage that I sewed when I was an intern scenic artist.  (I did not sew the cross stitch.  It came from a thrift-shop, once upon a time.) . At the time, I was living in a double-wide trailer with a dozen other interns, no internet, no cellphone, no car, and no access to a library.  I was  in a tiny town that was home to the theater where I worked, a private airport, a very fancy hotel, and a lot of very, very, very fancy private homes.  I went for a lot of long walks, taught myself about Connecticut wildflowers, picked a lot of black raspberries, and baked them into pies.  And I sewed this weird thing, because I needed something to do.  It was all very 19th Century. A well-educated young woman sewing decorative nonsense together, to ward off loneliness.  If I make this into a pillow, it will be destroyed.  I don't know what to do with this.  There's at least one more unresolved project from this time in my life.

Another scrap fabric project, also dating back to our days in Baltimore.  I don't know what this wants to be.  I'm not even sure I like any of the colors.


I'm not even sure If I can still fit into this 1940s cocktail dress.  One of the studs has fallen off, and I need to move one from an inconspicuous spot to make up for the loss.

The buttons on this dress originally had rhinestone centers, which have all fallen out.  I need to replace these buttons.  I also need to repair the seam that attaches one of the sleeves to the body of the dress.

I need to secure the dangling fringe in this 1940s suit jacket.

The stitching on the back of the neck of this shirt is a sort of chain-stitch, and it has pulled out.  I need to re-sew it.

This Edwardian shirtwaist has a button that needs to be moved slightly.  It gaps a bit at the moment.

Clothes I've Made

The skirt I pair the Edwardian shirtwaist with needs to have a closure sewn on the waistband. Currently, I'm holding the skirt closed with a safety pin.  This outfit needs a sash, as well.  The blouse should be worn tucked in.

I sewed this dress from a 1940s pattern.  It still needs a belt.  I made shoulder pads, but I'm not sure where they are.  I'm pretty sure that there's still a bit of the hem that's unfinished.

This blouse needs one more buttonhole.  I sewed one on badly, picked it out, and need to re-sew it.  For some reason, I'm not confident about sewing buttonholes.  I also need to sew on the actual buttons.  This is the first button-down shirt I'd ever made, and I want to wear it.

There's a tiny flaw on the center back of this blouse that needs to be re-stitched.  We will not comment on my Resting Bitch Face.

This dress needs something, but I'm not sure what.  Maybe a belt?  Maybe a gallon of gasoline and a match?  It's horribly frumpy, and I don't know how to fix it.


This has been sitting on my loom for over a year.  I just need to finish it.  I'm not actually sure I know where my notes are for this pattern.

I tried to repair the weaving on these rugs, which I bought from Amish weavers  back in New York.  This was not a success.  If I had access to a loom, I'd seriously consider re-weaving these rugs.  I don't know what to do with these.  I don't want to throw them in the trash.

I need to sew this onto a backing, so that I can wear it as a scarf.  It's a bit to itchy to wear without a lining.

I'm sure that this is just the top layer of what I like to call the Pile of Denial.  But really, this is more than enough unresolved projects to occupy my mind for the moment.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Dyeing Continues

I've continued volunteering with the Friends of Sausal Creek, a habitat conservation group that works in my urban watershed.  Once again, I pulled weeds for hours in the blazing sun. Once again, I came home with a car full of potential dye plants.  And once again, it's a total miracle that I didn't get a horrible case of poison oak.

This time I brought home young eucalyptus sprouts (which nobody could remember the Latin name of).  A large part of this project is removing the invasive eucalyptus.  Even after the trees have been cut down, and their stumps covered in a plastic tarp, the plant sends out fresh growth.  It's strange to see such lush, soft leaves from eucalyptus trees. Typically, I think of these leaves as very woody.

I simmered these leaves and shoots for several hours, and they produced a lovely orange-brown color. It's odd, because the last time I dyed with eucalyptus, I got a more terra-cotta flowerpot orange color.  I wonder why this batch was browner?

These cakes of yarn are infuriatingly difficult to photograph. The stack on the left should look a lot yellower than what I'm seeing on my screen.  You can see better photos on a previous blog post.

I still have to process the Scotch Broom that I brought home last month. It has been sitting in my studio, and I keep forgetting to bring it home.  I've been working on yet another show that has Broadway aspirations, and that has been sucking up most of my mental energies. We've done two of these shows in rapids succession this year, which has been exhausting.  Unfortunately, both projects are under photographic embargo at the moment, so I can't share pictures.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Swarm to Pollinate


I can't explain why, but I really love working with swarms of bees.  When my friend Yolanda contacted me about a swarm she was going to collect, I asked if I could tag along.  It's always nice to have help with bees.

These particular bees were in a bed of ground-covering juniper, up by the Oakland Zoo.  Yolanda had borrowed a bee vacuum, and was going to try to suck up the bees.  I'm such a tender-hearted weirdo that I can't bear to think of subjecting bees to this kind of treatment, so I asked if I could try picking the bees up with my hands.

The objective in catching a swarm is to catch the queen.  If she is put in the beekeeper's box, and she decides to stay, the other bees will follow her in.

Yolanda had a beautiful collection box, filled with inviting frames of wax comb.  I gently scooped up handfuls of bees and dropped them into the box.  Since the bees were all tangled up in the undergrowth, this took some doing.  I'd pick up a handful of bees, shake them off into the box, and then Yolanda and I would step back until the bees settled down.

Eventually, the bees started walking into the box on their own.  Yolanda had to leave to open her store (Pollinate Farm & Garden Supply) and I needed to finish an outfit for a costume party.  Yolanda would pick the bees up after dusk, when they'd all gone to bed.  These particular bees would go to the store, where they'd pollinate the fruit trees out back.

It was a lovely way to start the morning.

Dye, Weeds, Dye!

I've been really distressed by the state of American politics.  It seems to me that the current administration is intent on destroying everything, either out of greed or spite.  I'm particularly appalled by the idea that they're about to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency and get rid of the Endangered Species Act.  Once they've ruined our wild places and the things that live there, those things will be gone forever.

But since nothing changes if we sit on the couch and fret, I decided to go do some hard work for the environment.  There's a group in my neighborhood, the Friends of Sausal Creek, who work to restore the wild lands in the Sausal Creek watershed.  I wrote to them last week, and got myself on a work crew, restoring the land around one of the East Bay's rarest plants, the Pallid Manzanita.

The Pallid Manzanita is incredibly rare.  It occurs only in Alameda and Contra Costa counties in Northern California.

This plant is being crowded out by other plants, mostly non-natives such as eucalyptus and French broom.

I've been thinking a lot about invasive species and native plants, and how they are a metaphor for the current issues surrounding refugees and immigrants here and around the world.  

I've been wanting to do a textile project with non-native plants, so when I offered to help remove weeds, I asked if I could take away some of the plants we'd cleared from the site.   I was pleasantly surprised when the folks on the project met my query with enthusiasm.  I wielded a wicked-looking weed extractor for several hours, and left with a car full of French broom.

I harvested the leaves and tender shoots, taking care not to spread any seeds in my back yard. (To be honest, there were very few seeds.  The team was pulling out these plants before most of them had set seed.)

I harvested two pounds of plant matter, and put it into a dye-pot.  I'd previously mordanted my yarn with alum and cream of tartar.  After I'd simmered the French broom for several hours (on the hottest weekend of the entire summer), I strained out most of the plants and added the yarn.  I then let the yarn simmer in dye for about an hour.

The French broom dyed my yarn a pale, slightly greenish yellow.  Very nice.

This weekend, I divided the yarn into thirds,  and enhanced the color with some simple after-baths.  The skein on the left was "saddened" in a bath of water that had a splash of rusty-nail-water added.  The skein in the middle was dipped in water that had a few glugs of ammonia.  The skein on the right was not altered after its initial dyeing.

I find it truly remarkable how much color variations can be obtained from one plant.  Especially a plant that is considered a real pest to the environment.

If you're interested in reading what other folks are doing in their gardens, check out the weekly blog-fest at Our Happy Acres.

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Stroll Around the Garden

While Robb was busily ripping apart our front steps this weekend, I had a whack at my garden.  And I must say, it needed a good whack.  

The tiny strip of earth between our house and the neighbors' driveway is the site of my fig grove.  It's also the home to about ten million weeds, which I valiantly battled this weekend.  

I find it amazingly difficult to photograph this part of the garden.  The figs always look so stunted, when they're actually significantly taller than I am.  I grew all these plants from tiny babies, and I'm hoping that we'll get fruit from at least four of the five plants this summer.

My dirt-colored kitty Smog is almost invisible on his garden catwalk.

The beans I planted a few weeks ago are doing well.  It's a good thing that I have plenty of extra baby bean plants, because this bed is a magnet for all our animals.  The chickens keep escaping from their part of the garden, and tearing things up.  And the cats seem determined to nap on top of anything I plant. 

I had also planted collard greens in this bed, but I think the snails and slugs destroyed them.  They simply de-materialized.  Strange, really, because collards are such tough plants.  

For the second spring in a row, our lovely plum tree barely flowered at all, and thus has almost no fruit developing.  I don't know if this is a result of our multi-year drought, or due to a lack of chill hours.  I'm hoping that this lack of flowers and fruit isn't a permanent change.  I worry that the climate is changing, or that the tree is unwell.  But I'm such a novice fruit grower that I really cannot diagnose the problem.

The abundance of pluots more than makes up for the sparseness of our plums.

I watch a lot of British gardening shows, and they always advocate thinning the developing fruits.  I just can't bring myself to do this, because it seems so wasteful.  And also, if I'm being totally honest, I think that certain British garden show hosts tortures his fruit trees.  I don't see the point in growing a tree in unnatural forms, unless there's a really compelling reason to do so. I tend to let the trees grow the way they seem to want to.  I know this will sound like heresy, but cordons and espaliers seem like the fruit-growers' version of foot-binding.

I'm sure that I'll come to regret my lack of rigor, when my fruit trees take over every inch of my garden.

It seems that one of the pomegranates is starting to mature.  Last year it set three blossoms, which all fell off the plant without setting fruit.  I'm not sure how this plant's slender branches will support the weight of a pomegranate.

Pomegranate flowers are otherworldly.  Their casings look like they're made of wax.  I need to pay attention, to see if the bees are visiting the flowers or not.

Our red currants are beautiful, but haven't fully ripened.  I didn't photograph our cherry.  It's a baby, and if we get a dozen fruits this year, I'll be thrilled.

Since the Alicia hive swarmed on Saturday, I thought I'd better have a look at the Lori bees.  The hive was jam-packed with honey, so I harvested four frames.  I interspersed empty frames between the honeycomb I'd left behind, hoping that this would deter the bees from building terribly irregular comb.  It's not that I'm obsessed with neatness, it's just that irregular comb gets damaged during hive inspections.  And I don't want to harm my bees.

Since Robb and I live in a tiny house with limited storage, we do not own a centrifugal honey extractor.  We harvest our honey by cutting the honeycomb out of the wooden frames, cutting the comb apart, and letting it strain through a multi-tiered sieve.  I rather like the simplicity of it all.

Once most of the honey has strained out of the comb, we'll rinse the comb with water, and use the honey-water to make mead.  And once the wax is cleaned, I'll melt it so that it takes up less space. Beeswax has all sorts of uses, so we store it until we need it.

Last year we hardly harvested any honey at all.  I imagine that the bees struggled to collected sufficient nectar during our drought.  I'm glad that the bees seem to be having an easier time this year.

I hope you enjoyed ambling around my little garden.  If you're interested in reading what other gardeners are up to, stroll over to the weekly garden party, hosted by Our Happy Acres.

Thanks for visiting!


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