Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dress Journal #4: Excavating the Sewing Room

I've been a bit busy. Between grad school, regular school (the one I teach at), holidays, and construction on the house, I haven't set foot in the sewing room since Memorial Day weekend, 2010. That changed today.

Part of this sudden desire to clean and tidy is simply not being able to stand the mess any longer. On the other hand, if I clean up the sewing room, I can begin working on the wardrobe I need for Gallifrey One next February. There's quite a bit to build and--by my calendar--only 315 days left in which to build everything.

I'm not exactly starting from Square One: Dress Journal #3 details everything I need to build; all the fabrics, notions, and findings were purchased last year and carefully put away in one place; some of the underpinnings are already cut out and partially sewn. Now I just need to find my sewing room so I can go back to work. As you can see from the photo, it's pretty small, so it's easily buried under the debris of daily living.

Excavating it wasn't quite as difficult as I thought, and turned up a couple surprises. The first was money--$11 stuck on a shelf after a trip to the fabric store and subsequently forgotten. The second was some additional fabrics I didn't remember buying, and a beautiful length of navy blue silk ribbon for a hat. Another pleasant surprise was how far along everything was before life intruded on my costume construction: nearly everything is purchased and all the fabrics have been washed and pressed, so I can focus on the cutting and sewing.

Next steps:
1) Dyeing the weft yarn to weave 2 yards of blue-gray herringbone tweed for a vest.
2) Replacing the cover on Helga, my long-suffering (?) dress dummy
3) Finishing the underpinnings so I can start construction of 2 different sets of outer garments
Old House Blues: Attack of the Mole Men

2011 will go down in history as "the year we really worked on the house." We've owned the Big Damn House for 17 years. It was in decent shape when we bought it, and we've done some additional work on it ourselves, but it's now 103 years old and some major issues need to be addressed. The floors are a bit "bouncy," I've spent 17 years patching cracks in plaster that magically reappear after a dry summer and/or a wet winter, and both bathrooms really need some attention.

When we sold the Los Angeles house in 2009, we decided to use the money to work on the BDH rather than invest in another piece of property. We paid the horrendous taxes, banked the money, hired a civil engineer, and had plans drawn up to tackle the biggest task on the long "to-do" list: replacing the foundation. It really is a problem area: the concrete used in 1908 was crap, there are no proper footers, and 103 years of shifting soils--and a major earthquake in 1989--have pretty much destroyed the foundation. It's cracked in several places, and one of the cripple walls (additional bits of the foundation that support interior load-bearing walls) completely tipped over at some point. The foundation has shifted enough that it's very slowly tearing the house apart--replace it, and a host of problems, from doors not shutting properly to the never-ending plaster cracks, stop.

By late 2010, we had the plans, sent out requests for bids, and--once we recovered from the shock of what it was going to cost--hired a construction company to replace the foundation. It's a tricky job: we're still living in the house as they very gently slide huge beams under the house, slowly level it, then dig out and replace the foundation. That's where we are right now.

The construction crew (christened "The Mole Men") are usually here when I'm at school, so this week--the first week of Spring Break--is the first time I've been around when they're here. It's a bit disconcerting, and I've had to adjust my "non-work" schedule a bit: the Mole Men start to work at 8:00 a.m., so no lounging about in my bathrobe, drinking coffee and answering emails. The dye yard is full of lumber so I can't dye any fibers outdoors. There's an amazing quantity of banging, power tool noise, and periodically jackhammers and reciprocal saws as they clear away the old foundation and the hillside to make room for the new foundation. At one point yesterday we lost our electronic connection to the rest of the world when a Mole Man dropped a beam on the digital wiring and pulled it out of the terminal box. Today they were adding some additional beams under the house and the entire house was shaking and and making the sickening noises houses make during earthquakes.

It's all scary and an inconvenience, but there's already a difference in the house: the floors feel less bouncy and the house seems more stable. Eventually, this attack of the Mole Men will end: they will leave a much better house in their wake.
A Bit of Housekeeping

I'm microblogging (i.e., I'm tweeting) quite a bit these days. Much of this is due to getting an iPhone at the beginning of the year, which has turned out to be an amazing communication device. I love being on the InterWebz whenever and wherever I want, and I'm sharing more of what I think is interesting (and most likely isn't to other people) with the world.

All this microblogging has meant that I'm not sitting down to write proper blog entries as often as I used to do. It's difficult to write an entry (which can take me from a few minutes to over an hour) on a regular basis when I'm also posting to Twitter and Plurk. Technology to the rescue: Twitter has a widget which echoes my tweets to my blog. I've added a Twitter feed (it's on the right), so my blog is now up-to-date.