Home and Loving It!

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post–I’ve been home now for just over a week and haven’t had the least bit of motivation to sign in and write!

I ended up buying a new sewing machine yesterday (nothing special, just a bottom-of-the-line BabyLock). I wanted a machine I could take back to NYC that I wouldn’t have to worry about being stolen. My Bernina is just too dear to me to risk storing it in a first-floor apartment. So this BabyLock seemed ideal. Went up to the new Aurora Sewing Center just to look, hoping for a used trade-in that didn’t cost too much, and walked out with a brand new machine on special for an extra $30 off–Holla!

It’s really nothing special–didn’t even come with a zipper foot! (Sheesh!!) But I ordered one and that should be coming in by mid-month. Couldn’t go without a zipper foot–too many pockets and linings and such in my future, and it just makes sense to sew fabric linings at home instead of school. I’ve also been lusting after a binder foot, and looked up several options, between both Bernina and BabyLock. I’ll have to research them a bit more, but I’ve found a foot that might be very nice on Ebay. I’ve told myself I’m not allowed to buy it until I have enough for it in my Paypal account–which means I have to get some stuff up on Etsy pronto!

I’ve been wanting to open another shop–something for my vintage things, as well as clothing and accessories–more on the fashion end of things than what was in my BabaYaga shop. Think I’ll start with some fabric I’m getting rid of for dirt-cheap. That will give me the chance to build up some good feedback in the new shop, and get rid of fabric that’s taking up space in my parents’ house–YAY!! I’ll never use it, so I may as well sell it on the cheap to someone who will…

After that, I have so many ideas for items to make, but I worry I don’t have the “chutz-pah” to get started!


Hot Town, Summer in the City!

Whew! What a past-few-days I’ve had! On Wednesday, my friend Liz called from Buffalo to ask if she could stay on Thursday night before meeting up with her boyfriend and his family the next day–I was thrilled to have her! I met her after my handbags class at around 10pm, and we headed home to Brooklyn and went out for a quick bite before passing out for the evening.

The next day we both had things to do–she met up with her boyfriend while I went on a hunt for a basket-weave stamp for my leather tooling (I wanted it for my final handbags project). Also, I’d had insomnia the night before thinking of all the handbags I could make, so I wanted to check out a quilt store (for a specific japanese-import fabric) on 28th by the leather tools store. I’d been envisioning some great printed fabric bags with leather piping and accents. My roomie came along too, to keep me company, and we made a great day of it!

Once we got to the fabric district, we stopped at the drugstore (more dressing for my thumb), and Rachel found a can of pure oxygen for sale (weird, right?). Of course, she HAD to buy it (I admit, I encouraged) to try later. Then we quickly visited the FIT museum across the street so I could show her the Isabel Toledo exhibit they currently have up (Mrs. Obama’s inauguration ensemble was there). If you have the chance, I sincerely hope you can stop in to see it, if you’re a fashion fan–there were some boudoir ensembles made of pieced lace that made me wanna drop everything and pursue my secret dream of becoming a trophy wife! Just kidding… but only sort of. 🙂

Ended up getting a tool that was similar to what I was looking for, and also popped into the quilt store to find that they did have a bit of the japanese fabric at a fair price, but not the specific colorway I wanted. I’d have to keep looking . On the way back to the subway, Rach took me to Chelsea Papaya (on 7th Ave at 26th)–fresh-squeezed papaya and mango juice that was perfectly heavenly in the heat–and so healthy and inexpensive, too! So definitely recommend that place if you’re in the city.

011On the way home, we stopped at my fabric thrift store and stocked up on some upholstery fabrics, leather, as well as some really cool sample bits of fabric that must have been donated by LeSportsac–I recognized the logo on one of the sheets and realized that they must be printing samples because the back of each had a speed (mins/per run) and temperature written down for the heatpress. Now I know this means these fabrics were printed using dye-sublimation because I spent my internship at Fisher Price using the exact same process to print the prototype fabrics for the company’s softgoods (yay to Fisher Price for giving me all that experience–I can’t thank my lucky stars (*and garters!) enough for that internship)!

My favorite LeSportsac Print

My favorite LeSportsac Print

My favorite print from this little series is to the right–it’s quite detailed and looks as if it was drawn with ballpoint pen and colored with prismacolor markers. It’s got such a great color range–I just love it! I may just frame it and keep it in my room for inspiration, I love it so much!

002I have some major plans for what I just purchased–I hope I have the time and chutz-pah to follow through with them! When we got home, Rach showed me how to make french bread pizza, with spinach/artichoke dip, red sauce and fresh mozzarella–it was delicious! Then we took turns “huffing” the can of oxygen to001 see if it made us feel strange. I have to admit, it did eventually make me feel pretty good, like I’d been in a green forest all day and I felt very refreshed. Basically, my lungs felt cleaner and my head felt clear and alert. We had a laugh over Rachel remembering some snooty hippy back in college telling her, “If big corporations thought they could bottle air and sell it, they would!” Well, guess he was right. ::giggles::

Then Liz and her boyfriend, Alex showed up, bringing Ivan along to spend the weekend! We had a great time staying in and drinking tequila (I very rarely drink, but I had a lot of fun). Went to bad way too late that night!

Saturday was spent shopping in Midtown (went to Kinokuniya–bought 2 more magazines–just can’t seem to control myself in there!). We made our way to the Continental in the lower east side–a bar where one can get 5 shots of anything for $10. Bought two rounds between Rach, Ivan and myself before heading down, down to Chinatown for dinner with Liz, Alex and Ivan’s dad. We had a lot of fun! Ate at Big Wong King Restaurant, then grabbed dessert (I had marzipan from a streat vendor before splitting a Napolean at Cafe ‘Roma).  The rest of the night involved a few great games of pool, a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend’s birthday party (too loud–I must be too old), and a hookah bar where I had this amazing egyptian milk drink (non-alcoholic, thank you very much!). Got home around 3:30 in the morning. I am definitely too old for this!

007Today (Sunday), Ivan, Rach and I all slept in ’til around (::gasp::) noon, had a lovely breakfast, got some work done, then packed up our work and a picnic and took it all to Prospect Park to enjoy the rest of the day. It was just lovely!




A Dollar Bill for Scale!

A Dollar Bill for Scale!


I found these amazing beetles mating (well, the male was trying–the female was really having none of it–always the way, eh?). They were enormous! Not sure what kind they were, but I snapped some pics to help me identify them later, and Ivan got a GREAT close-up shot:

I'm convinced beetles are God's jewels!

I'm convinced beetles are God's jewels!

Aren’t they gorgeous? I think beetles are just beautiful (unless, of course, they are in the cockroach family!). These are definitely not of the roach variety. I think they’re incredible! Towards sunset, I found another one of these beetles near the picnic blanket–I wonder if it’s their mating season? I’ve never seen beetles that big this far north (roaches in NYC do not count, by the way). I’ll have to figure out what these babies are!

So that was my weekend–CRAZY! Got a good amount of work done with my leather tooling at the park, too! Plans to go back to the flamenco tapas bar again tomorrow since Rach and Ivan would like to see it. I’ll try to get pics of the interior this time! 

Whew! That was a long one! Time for me to sleep!! Hope everyone is having as lovely a summer as I am! 🙂

Blood, Sweat and Tears

So one week ago today I saw something that set me into a tailspin as far as order, sanity and insomnia. I was reduced to tears by nothing more than a lowly waterbug. Adding to that, it’s been hot, terribly hot here in NYC (my swede half won’t even allow my skin to take advantage of the perfect accelerated-tanning weather–POO!).

In fact, all that was missing was the blood. Well, today I got that too. I went to school extra early to work in the open lab before class, because our patterns, specs and cost/yield sheets were all due for project #2 in Handbags I. It started out pleasantly enough, though I could have done without Michael Jackson’s funeral playing in the background (our lab has a TV in it for some odd reason).

I set to work right away finishing the last of my pattern pieces when my knife slipped and ran across my thumb–hard. That is why they say “never use a dull blade!” Had I just changed the blade when I needed to, I wouldn’t have been in this predicament (even as I write this, it’s slow going, as the space bar sometimes gets away from me with all these wrappings on my thumb!). I quickly shoved my thumb in my mouth to try and quell the bleeding, but it didn’t seem to be working, because when one of the aids asked if I was okay, I said “I’m fine!” and a very noticeable spray of blood came out along with it and dribbled down my arm in a gory froth. She kind of screamed a little. I couldn’t help but laugh, I thought it was so cool. ::Giggles::

It all sounds a lot worse than it actually turned out to be. I found my way to the Health Center, and a nurse bandaged me up right quick, and said she could stitch it if I wanted, but that it would only be one stitch or so, and so I could choose.  Since I had a project due (more honestly, because the idea of stitches scared me a little), I opted for no stitches, just heavy bandaging, and so now my thumb looks like Ramses the Great. It elicits quite a few stares, and truly, is more embarrassing than painful.


Never since I began sewing and cutting things professionally, and I say, well before that, have I cut myself. I’m always terribly safe–I knew I needed to change the blade, but I wanted to get through all the cardboard and save the new blade for the leather.

Come to think of it, though, the last time I cut myself I was about 10 years old. My father had brought home a swiss army knife for me–my first one–and I was terribly proud he thought I was old enough to have one. I went out into the backyard to shave some wax off a candle the very same day I got that knife, and managed to gash my thumb so badly it was spurting blood in a thick, rhythmic fountain. Come to think of it, it was the same friggin’ thumb!

The grass was covered in blood, and I was bleeding a LOT. I ran into the house and into the bathroom, where I got a black washcloth, and used a bunch of rubberbands to tourniquet the wound. I did it all very quickly, terrified that my dad would see and decide that yes, I was, in fact, too young and stupid for a swiss army knife. As soon as it was dressed, I wandered dazed into the playroom and passed out on the couch… I think my parents just assumed I was napping. I still have a scar and a bit of nerve damage from that, but they never knew… Until they read this, of course–I don’t care, I can buy all the swiss army knives I want now… Ha!


Anyway, I also promised mum I’d put up a pic of the spec I did for class. A spec sheet is there to show production (generally in a non-english-speaking country) how to go about building the product. It comes in a tech pack, which includes the graded patterns, flat sketches, perhaps an image of the clothing/accessory on a model (we call those “croquis”), and the spec sheet, which gives all the little details that may not be clear from the pattern pieces and sketches.

What you see to the right is not a real spec sheet. Nor do I truly think it would be effective as such.  After printing it out, I added measurements and other drawn details with a pen, but still, I’d never send this to production. Before you go thinking that I didn’t give this project my all, let me just say… you’re right. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing a true spec before producing a prototype, which is exactly what I will be doing later this week. However, as I said, the patterns and spec were due today, while the bag itself is not due until 2 Thursdays from now.

On a side note, there is no standard way to do a sewing spec sheet. No industry standard whatsoever: it’s all up to the tech designer to include the right information. The format doesn’t much matter, as long as you are thorough and include all of the important and specific details. Our teacher seems to think this cannot be taught in a classroom. It seems pretty easy to overlook a lot of things. Though I have a hunch it only takes one or two botched project batches of 300,000 units and a very heated sales meating before the key details needed in future specs come to light. That should make almost anyone incredibly thorough, eh?

A Lovely Night Out

Slept in way too late again. Not that I had anywhere to be,  but still, feel absolutely useless if I can’t seem to get up before 10:30. I feel ashamed to admit it. Still, I’ve had such bad insomnia recently, it doesn’t matter if I go to bed dead tired at 10pm or midnight–I still lay awake thrashing about and unable to sleep. Maybe tonight will be different. I think it’s just been a security thing, feeling all alone while Rach was away on vacation, and I just need to get back on a normal, healthy schedule.

Altogether, I had a very pleasant day today.  I woke up and cleaned a bit, then got down to assembling my roomie’s desk from Ikea while watching “The Last of the Mohicans.” I’ve seen that movie countless times but it still makes my eyes well up at the final scene when Alice jumps off the cliff.

Since I had dinner plans with my dear friend Chong at 7:30pm in Flatiron, I was biding my time to head into the city to do my shopping for school. I had to buy some leather dye for my second project in handbags, but I didn’t want to be stuck with too much time on my hands before dinner. I ended up getting the dyes just in time before Manhattan Wardrobe Supply closed and then hung out in the FIT library until it was time to head out for dinner. 


As I was walking toward the restaurant on 19th, I stumbled across yet another japanese store. Of course, I had to go inside! Very small, but very cute!  Had a very nice selection of vintage kimono (and a good number of them on sale). Also, a lovely place for nicely-priced chirimen and utensils.  Will definitely be going back for Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers!

Chong then texted that she’d be running a bit late, so I did a lap around the block from the restaurant and happened upon a Sephora. ::Sigh:: I knew it was a bad idea, but I simply couldn’t help myself! I’d just gotten an email yesterday trumpeting their new sample set of lash goodies–eleven different samples of mascara and lash conditioners/plumpers/etc.  for the amazing price of ***censored to avoid reproach from my mother who dutifully reads this blog***!!! But seriously, for the amount I spent, I could’ve bought 2-3 mascaras for that price, plus, since they tend to dry out before I can use up the whole container, sample sizes are perfect (and end up being what I buy anyway for purse-space’s sake).  I also asked for a sample of the new BareMinerals foundation and I got it! In my color! So that thrilled me a bit–it even came with a perfectly adorable mini kabuki brush!

Then I headed to Pipa (38 East 19th St) for tapas with Chong. It was just beautiful! The walls were covered in sea things, like barnacles and shells. It’s attached to ABC Home and has a lot of their chandeliers clustered all across the ceiling–it reminded me very much of being in Ariel’s under-the-sea trove. I’m really regretting not getting a picture now, but I didn’t think it would come out with the low light levels. I had chosen this place because on Monday nights, a flamenco dancer and Spanish guitarists perform. It was quite lovely–the music went so nicely with the Spanish food–some type of lovely steamed spinach with figs in a sauce, bacon-wrapped figs and nuts on beds of endive, some crab and shrimp things, and some chicken soup that was like no chicken soup I’ve ever had before–very good! I really enjoyed the dancing–and it was so nice to see Chong again! An old friend from an old life that feels like it wasn’t even me who lived it… It’s nice to be around people I knew when I was 18–I feel like it was a million years ago!

Then she took me to Max Brenner’s–a chocolate bar in Union Square (did I mention she’s the Devil?!). We ended up splitting a gorgeous fruit and chocolate waffle, on top of the sinful hot chocolate and fruity golden latte. I would HIGHLY recommend this place–so much better than the Chocolate Bar back home (I know, it’s treason, but Butterwood’s chocolate simply can’t compare to what I had tonight). Hope it doesn’t turn into a bad habit–my arse just couldn’t handle it! 🙂

Then came home to watch some racy British television with Rachel (as has so often become the norm with us). I hate how much I love those smutty Brits! ::laughs::

Ah well, off to bed I go–I’m bloody beat! Perhaps I’ll be able to get to sleep before 3am tonight (cross your fingers for me!).

Just a quick video…

I just HAD to post this because I love it so very much. The end is sort of 4th-of-July-ish, too (thanks Cynthia, for showing me!)…


My New Favorite Store

The other day I struck out in search of a store that might carry those craft books I like so much from Japan. I googled a little while for Japanese bookstores in the New York area before coming upon two stores that caught my interest. Both were in the general vicinity of one another, so off I went to catch the B-Train to Bryant Park!

First I went to Book-Off, a japanese used bookstore on 41st right near the giant NY Library (be still my heart!). I had been expecting them to sell books all in Japanese, but most of their selection downstairs was in english. Not what I was looking for, but still had fun looking. They had a nice collection of cooking and home-type books, as well as a little craft section, and the prices were quite reasonable, ranging mostly from $4-$15. Plus, I like that all of the books are used–Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! 🙂

The second floor of Book-Off was full of Manga (which, I’m not sure I can acurately describe–a kind of japanese comic). There were some japanese cultural and art books lining the stairwell, but again, not what I came for.


I was a bit discouraged, and headed back towards Bryant Park–but not before I stopped to grab my first NYC street hot dog! Directly across 6th Ave from Bryant Park is Kinokuniya (1073 Avenue of the Americas). Can I just say, I think I’m in love? This store is amazing! Most of the first floor is devoted to magazines (almost all in Japanese). And the prices are great–I picked up the August issue of Vogue Nippon for $12.80 (I pay $22 for it at Barnes and Noble with my discount), as well as a GapPress Pret-a-Porter Tokyo for $21.40 (again, less than Barnes and Noble).

Upstairs they have some beautiful photography books; many are dedicated solely to photos of old clothing or textiles! So beautiful. There is also a cute little cafe: Zaiya.

Just before I got in line to pay for my magazines, I noticed a stairwell going down. I had almost missed the entire bottom floor! Down there, they have crafts, hobbies and stationary, as well as some beautiful japanese gifts. I must have spent an hour and a half down there just in one section.002

::Sighs:: Isn’t it beautiful? Those are ALL japanese craft books. Beading, embroidery, felting, quilting… and on the other side  are all sewing books! Kids clothes, womens, mens and accessories, as well as home goods–the patterns come in the back of the books! Most titles are from $14-$26: perfectly reasonable for any craft book nowadays, without adjusting for the fact that they’re imported!

As you may or may not know about me already, I’m slightly obsessed with japanese craft books. Now, I know I can’t read japanese–but you don’t need to! They are so well-illustrated and diagrammed! And the aesthetic is just beautiful–not the gaudy projects you find stateside.

I ended up not buying anything from this floor. I must say, I was a bit overwhelmed. I did leave with two books in mind, though–one on bullion embroidery ($40, but I think it would be worth it), and one on animal embroidery ($16), which I’m really kind of regretting not picking up right now. I think my sister might like that one, too, so I may just have to run back up there tomorrow and snag it. We’ll see. I didn’t want to go nuts and make myself broke after one visit–I have to pace myself!

All that shopping made me work up one hell of an appetite, so I made my way back up to the top floor to Zaiya for some chicken curry and mango oolong tea. It was very good. I really can’t wait to go back to this store!


Okay, it’s been an absolutely frantic week so far. On Monday night, I was talking to Sean on the phone, minding my own business, when all of the sudden, a GIANT roach skittered across the floor and under the couch where I was sitting. I screamed like a little girl. I don’t consider myself a squeamish person–I collect dead beetles, this shouldn’t have been as alarming as it turned out to be. However, in my defense, this thing was the size of a horse!

It took a long time for me to calm down, and more than one phone call. After I stopped crying (yeah, really) I put on my cowboy boots, got right down to work and spent the next hour and a half hunting the poor guy down. It must have been quite the picture; me in my night shorts and bra and… cowboy boots. Armed to the teeth with a broom and a spray bottle of bleach. I ended up cornering him behind the shelf next to the couch and spraying him with bleach until he made a run for it–as soon as he was out in the open, I got him!


I feel bad about it now… but check out the size of him! I couldn’t let him live, and I surely couldn’t let him go on his merry way–it had gone way too far for that.

I took more pictures, for my own morbid amusement, but I’ll spare you from having to look at the rest of them (unless you want to; email me for a great close-up of his underside!).

Immediately after my roommate called me back (it only took 3 unanswered phonecalls, one text and FINALLY, a pic message of the image to the right before she actually responded) and listened to my hysterical fit, I ran out to the store and bought a big-ass can of Raid. I then proceeded to begin my own “Operation Cloroxschlacht.”

I’m still not exactly sure how I got to sleep that night–at about 3 am, halfway through bleaching the kitchen floor, I just slumped. Couldn’t go on. Left all the fans on full blast in the whole apartment (I did some research–they HATE wind), and collapsed into bed.

It’s amazing how sunlight can bring sanity back into your world. I’m much calmer today. It took 2 days, but I’m okay now. Still bleaching everything. And there will be some changes happening to the apartment. First of all, we have no screens and our apartment is right about the garbage room in the basement. My roommate loves to leave the windows open–I figure he just wandered in thinking, “What’s this? Why… don’t mind if I do!”

Turns out he was a “Water Bug” roach. That’s apparently the best kind to see, because it does not mean you necessarily have an infestation. Small comfort when you’re home alone at 10pm. It’s the comparatively tiny German Roach you need to be afraid of; they’re the ones that carry disease and procreate at a rate that in half a year, one pair could fill up the average american living room 1 yard deep with roaches. Eugh. Of course, the less worrisome Water guy is invertly the most disconcerting, with their average size being about 2″ plus. Also, I found he was also probably a male, as the females don’t do much moving around, what with their being in the family way most of the time. This guy was definitely a mover and a shaker. Now he’s a dead mover and shaker.

Enough about him. Today I spent most of my day on a different and altogether much more fun kind of hunt: lining for my handbag project! I’m at the cutting stage for project #2, but decided just last night that I wasn’t happy with the golden bengaline I’d purchased as lining for my first handbag project. I combed through the fabric district looking for the perfect silk tartan–an olivine green with chestnut and chocolate brown. I went to B&J Fabrics first. Our teacher likes that store, and it’s lovely if you want some amazing printed silks. But really not much in the way of tartan–their selection was decidedly more W.A.S.P. than Highlander. I was disappointed, but comforted myself thinking that maybe I could find something better somewhere else without the $62.95/yd price tag.

I walked down 38th, going into every non-spandex fabric store I came upon. Nothing. Walked up 8th Ave to 39th and made my way down that, too. Finally found some gorgeous tartan in the color I was looking for. It wasn’t a perfect match to the one in my mind, but it was so close I had to get it. Then I grabbed some more for my second bag. The store I went to, Bazar Fabrics, Inc. at 256 W. 39th had a LOT of gorgeous silk tartans. Most of the other stores had maybe 10-12 to choose from–this place had probably over 120 for me to look at. Beautiful–and the guys that work there are just lovely!002

Handbag Project #1
Handbag Project #1

So I’m totally in love with project #2’s materials: 2 natural calfskins, some brown lamb for the binding, piping and straps, and the silk tartan lining fabric. At right is my first project, which I am still in the process of finishing–it’s a flat-bottom tote bag.

I learned how to use a Nakajima Cylinder Arm Industrial to sew the straps and I am in LOVE. I love Jukis, but my loyalty has truly been put to the test. I’m not sure I’ll sew on anything but the Nakajima from now on (it also helps that so far, I’m the only one in the class who’s been taught to use it–so no competition for machine time).
Can’t wait to get started on #2, but still need to work out the design I’ll be tooling for the fittings. I’ll update once I figure that one out. ..

Email Me at StarsAndGartersWP@gmail.com