Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Guilty blog pleasure of the month

Sometimes you happen upon a new blog and start looking back at all those previous posts -- and the next thing you know, it's time to go to bed.  You keep reading back, and clicking on internal links to old posts, and then you have to go to Google to figure out who she's talking about, and time passes....

That happened to me a couple of weeks ago and I am well and truly lost down the rabbit hole.  The blog is so different from anything that I thought I was ever interested in, but here I am looking for it first thing in the morning when I turn on my computer (and since it emanates from Europe, five hours ahead, it's usually there).

I discovered it on one of the sidebars on Sandy Snowden's blog.  And the winner is -- The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor, which describes itself as "purely frivolous and perfectly harmless snark and admiration for all things stylish and royal."  It comes every day and keeps you posted on the public appearances of kings and queens, princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses, counts and countesses and lord knows what other varieties of royals.  You wouldn't believe how many of these are out and about, mostly in Europe but also in Asia.

Usually the blog talks about the clothing and jewels worn by the various fancy folks, with particular joy when they show up in tiaras.  The blogger is a fashionista, knowledgeable about designers as well as about clothing construction.  When a gown doesn't fit right, or a zipper pull is too obvious, we'll hear about it!!!

I have learned so much in the hours clicking through this blog's archives.  I have learned that a "parure" is a big matched set of jewels, such as a necklace, brooch, belt clasp, tiara, comb, bandeau, bracelets, pins, rings and earrings.  If you own one you can wear several pieces at once on fancy occasions.  Or you could mix and not match if you own a bunch of other stuff.  And often the tiara is constructed so you can take it off its headband armature and wear it as a necklace.  So convenient!!

I have learned that tiaras come in specific styles, such as these "kokoshniks," which echo the traditional Russian headdress.  Whether you wear your tiara up on the middle of your head (more height) or down on your forehead or partially buried in your hairdo makes a big difference in the overall effect.

(All photos from The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor blog.)

I have learned that even royals have limited wardrobes, and wear their favorite outfits many times.

I have learned about wearing the sash of your noble order.  For both men and women, it goes under the belt, which is handy to prevent it falling off your shoulder or drooping into your soup (perhaps the reason why so many royal ladies choose dresses with belts?).  For men, over the jacket if your uniform coat is buttoned up, but between jacket and vest in formal dress and unbuttoned uniforms.

I have learned all kinds of gossip: which royal married a former almost-nude model, which royal didn't bother to get married until after the baby was born, which heir to the throne married her personal trainer, which royal had to step out of the line of succession because his sweetie lied about her relationship with a gangster.

Did you know that three European monarchs abdicated recently?  And that all three of the new kings have wives who are drop-dead gorgeous?  And a good thing, because queens have a demanding day job, which is to show up at various events wearing beautiful clothing and looking drop-dead gorgeous.  (A lot of queens happen to be taller than their kings -- just saying.)

The blog loves royal weddings, and had I not read it, I would not have realized that Prince William's red coat didn't fit right, causing nasty wrinkles around his right shoulder.  And if you want a whole lot of comment and opinion on royal wedding gowns, this is your place to go.

Why am I so transfixed with this blog and its subject matter?  Hard to say.

For one thing, it's lovely to see beautiful women wearing decent, beautiful clothes.  I am usually grossed out by the ridiculous hookerwear that is touted in the name of fashion, both on the runway and at entertainment-world events like the Oscars.  I am glad to see that big-name designers can also make clothes that you or I might happily wear out in public.

As a fanatically committed small-r republican, I have an evil fascination with the people who cling to the obsolete rituals of royalty.  Sometimes I wonder how ordinary people (usually women, but not always) allow themselves to marry into such formal and meaningless lives.  Could you stay sane and feel your life was worthwhile if you had to go open a senior citizens center today and attend a royal do in Sweden tomorrow?  On the other hand, do countries with royals get better hands-on attention to worthy causes than we do?

Too much to ponder.  I can hardly wait for tomorrow's dose of royal hemlines.  Check it out and see if you agree.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Those discharged sleeves...

I wrote yesterday about using dishwasher gel, which contains bleach, to discharge text on my quilt sleeves.  And realized from a couple of the comments that I had not made myself clear as to exactly where I put the ensuing fabric.

I said that I don't like labels, as customarily handled in the quilt world -- rectangles of computer-printed fabric that give lots of information about many aspects of the piece, its maker, construction, materials, inspiration and care instructions.  For some reason putting all that info on a label seems like a bad cross between the care tag on your dress and the "about me" section on your Google profile.

But I do think it's necessary to identify the quilt in a permanent manner, and what's so permanent as the hanging mechanism?  So I write my name, the title of the piece, and (usually) the year it was made on the sleeve.

Sorry, if you're walking through the quilt show and feel the urge to sneakily turn back that lower right-hand corner to read my label, you'll be disappointed.  But I'm not much on that practice either.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sewing sleeves

I have a bad habit, or perhaps you could call it a superstition -- I rarely sew the sleeves on the back of new quilts until they have been accepted into a show and are on their way out the door.  Sometimes I plan ahead sufficiently to make the sleeve, even if I don't sew it on right away.  But other times I have to do that too, just before the deadline.

Yesterday I had to deliver a quilt to a local juried show so Tuesday night I found myself in the laundry room, writing my info on the sleeve in bleach.

I never put labels on my quilts because it seems kind of bush league -- did Mark Rothko print out a neat little label on his computer, maybe with a cute little flower on the side, and affix it to the back of his paintings?  But since every quilt needs a hanging sleeve, I have turned that into my ID field.

I write my text with Finish dishwashing gel, which contains enough bleach to discharge beautifully.  I like this brand better than others because the gel is stiff enough to hold the bead perfectly rather than seep into the fabric and ooze into a blurry line.  I apply it with a standard ketchup squeeze bottle.  This time I needed to get some fresh gel to refill my squeeze bottle, and was delighted to find that it had enough oomph to start discharging almost immediately.

By the time I finished the second sleeve, below in the photo, the first one had already developed an enthusiastic discharge.  (If you use old gel sometimes it takes an hour or more before the reaction is complete.)  I let the gel dry for several hours before running the sleeves through the wash, because I don't want the wet gel to offset onto other areas of the sleeve, or worse, onto a Tshirt sharing the wash.  Ask me how I know this can happen.

Then it was only one trash TV program's worth of hand sewing to get the sleeve on the quilt in time to deliver it to the show.

You've seen the quilt before -- it's the bottom half of a larger piece that I made several years ago but just cut in two last fall and finished into companion pieces this spring.

Left Coast

Here's its twin:

Flyover State

With any luck, this one will get to go out in public too someday.  And when that happens, I'll have its sleeve all ready to sew on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Book publishing for fun and frustration

How to kill two days and not even notice the time going by -- publish two books!

I did a Blurb book several months ago and have been on their mailing list for a lot longer than that.  But then they sent me a 50% off message and I thought it might be time to do a new book.  I had actually started uploading photos a while back, but stopped when I got sticker shock from the first Blurb project.  Monday night, with the 50% off offer running out, I decided it would be fun to have some books to dole out at Christmas.

I have to tell you that I don't much like Blurb.  Their interface is clunky, one of those "we know what you want to do" computer programs that to a certain degree allows you to bypass their "we know what you want to do" layouts, but only if you sweat blood while doing so.  Yes, you can put something other than the copyright notice on page 3, but only if you pay them extra.  Yes, you can put text or a photo on page 20 of your book, but only if you pay them extra; otherwise the final spread of your book looks like this.  (That's the Blurb logo occupying the real estate.)

Don't know about you, but when I'm paying a buck a page, give or take, I hate to have two pages taken away from me as commercials for the producer.

And I don't believe I've ever worked with a program that has no UNDO button!  If you do something wrong, or even worse, if you just do something that the program gets pissy about, you have to painfully reconstruct what you had before -- if you remember it right.

After a couple of hours of wasted time I figured out how to specify my own layouts instead of using the (inadequate) ones on their standard list.  But it still chops me that the instant I click on one of my custom layouts, the menu instantly reverts to the standard list, so it takes me three clicks instead of one to specify the next page.  And I still haven't figured out if there's a way to specify my favorite typeface for the entire book, rather than scrolling through a list of 200 faces to find mine at least once per page.  (If I loved Arial I wouldn't be so bitchy, since it would be at the top of the list, but I love Palatino....)

Blurb's default face for body type seems to be Georgia, which isn't a bad face at all (it's just that I love Palatino).  So why does it default to Trebuchet on the title page?  How many people who don't know typography from tomography end up with books that inexplicably come with a non-matching title page?  How many of them even recognize it?

When I finished up the book yesterday morning and hit the "send" button I was struck with one of those irrational thoughts, along the lines of "that bottle of wine was fabulous, why don't we order another?"  And sure enough, I spent the rest of the day on another one.

Book #1 is a series of photos of a door and a bench.  I've been struck with the poetic and existential implications of this combination for several years, and have gone out of my way to photograph them wherever I go.  Book #2 is a greatest-hits compilation of my favorites from the "Sign of the Week" feature on this blog.

I even set up a mechanism to sell the books, in case anybody is moved to want one.  But thanks to the clunkiness of the Blurb site, I am so far unable to figure out how anybody might access the page to buy one.  If I ever find out I'll let you know.

Well, enough crabbiness for one day.  I had a lot of fun making the books, even if not so much navigating the system to make them happen.  If Blurb sends me another coupon I might even do another one.  Meanwhile, if you know of a self-publishing site that's cheaper and less frustrating, let me in on the secret!