Under-the-sea Costumes: Home Stretch

We’re almost there. I’ve been working on our under-the-sea costumes for about three or four weeks now. Thursday was the first day that I had several hours of uninterrupted time. What a rare treat to have an afternoon dedicated to getting my creative juices flowing.

Things were humming along with my dress but then I hit a snag. The original plan wasn’t working, or more accurately, I didn’t like it. The overskirt looked bulky, not the smooth, draping look I was after. Furthermore, the layers of sequined panels, reused from part of a thrifted child’s dress, looked messy. What to do, what to do?

gardener of the sea skirt

Overskirt, front panel, seaweed and gardening tools

I went to bed in a funk. It’s a bit of a let down working on something for so long, only to have it disappoint you. The next day I realized the problem: the outer skirt, removed from an extra-large dress, was simply too much fabric. With that sorted out, I removed the original waistband from the skirt and redistributed the fabric more judiciously. Rather than keeping the gathering uniform all the way around, I lined up the side seams of the dress with the over skirt and created a box pleat in the back. Now the skirt flows but without the bulk. In the front I stitched just a few inches of the overskirt to the waistband, then let the excess fabric fall in waves down the front. Much better.

costume details

Costume Details

gardener of the sea

Gardener of the Sea Dress

After removing the sequined fabric from the front of the dress, I replaced it with a panel of material I’m using for the cape. I had just enough left over to make the panel without compromising the flow of the cape. Serendipity! It’s all trick of the eye, as the panel is only 14 inches wide but it works.

With that sorted out, it was time to add some bling. I cut three narrow strips of the cape material, then stretched them to capacity. This created a curled edge and a distressed finish. The idea is to suggest seaweed.  After sewing the strips to the front panel, I added a few green glass beads, some jewelry findings and tied a few knots in the ends.

One of my thrift store finds is an aqua eyeglass lanyard. I sewed that to the front panel as well, and attached my tiny spade key ring. I bought it at a clever shop in Victoria, Canada.  I hope to add another gardening tool but that’s still working itself out in my head.

What’s Left:

My cape: It’s almost done, but I need a pair of buttons and a bit of elastic to attach it to my dress.

Headpiece. I’ve been gathering bits of material and some netting. I’m trying to make something that I can attach to a hair band.

Gloves. I’m still working out the details, but I have the material and a general idea of where I’m going with it.

Mike put the finishing touches on his helmet this weekend and it looks great. He glued bits of moss, some gold jewelry findings and just a hint of glitter. It looks a bit menacing to me with the full mask, but he likes it and that’s what counts.

Guardian of the Sea Mask

Guardian of the Sea Mask

I finished his cape on Thursday, trimmed the tunic and added a few small touches. His costume is essentially done with one exception: I need to sew loops on the cape so it’s removable.

Guardian of the Sea Cape

Guardian of the Sea Cape

Guardian of the Sea Tunic

Guardian of the Sea Tunic

We attend our first of three Halloween parties next Saturday, so with my busy week ahead, I need to carve out time for these last details.

No-Candy Countdown:

no candy countdown october 20

Candy-free Countdown

As my 31-day, no-candy countdown continues, I’m enjoying the feeling of being more in control of my food choices. I hope those of you joining me on the journey are feeling positive as well. Please let me know how you’re doing in the comments below.

Pumpkins on Parade:

pincushion pumpkin

Pincushion Pumpkin

Nothing reminds me of sewing more than a bright red pincushion. Today’s pumpkin should feel right at home.

Thank you for the additional suggestions for pumpkin dress up. I’ll be working on a few of them later this week.

Resurrecting Frank and Shelley

Shelley's Makeover

Shelley’s Makeover

Last August I wrote a series of posts that brought out the giggles in all of us. Pauline recently reminisced about the demise of poor Frank (I dropped him!) and his cohort, Shelley and what fun we had.

In case you missed the silliness last year, here you go:

Pauline, at The Contented Crafter suggested earlier this week that “Frank [the pumpkin] may feel a little left out” after seeing Shelley’s fashion makeover. She opined “Could you not knit him a scarf or maybe come up with a hat for your cooler nights?”

I knew Frank wasn’t long for this world, being a split pumpkin full of staples and all, so I did the next best thing: I put him on a pedestal (always good for improving ones sense of stature) and floated a festive Hydrangea for stylish panache.

Frank and Shelley

Frank spews seeds

Then poor Frank ‘tossed his cookies’ while cousin Shelley looked on in horror.

∏ – ∏ – ∏

Today it was every critter for themselves: houseflies, pincer bugs, squash bugs, you name it. Opportunists came and went, including something with very sharp teeth. I’m glad I missed that transaction. Soon I will don some gloves and rescue a few seeds so that Frank’s legacy lives on.

pumpkin collage

Frank’s Tale

stapled pumpkin

What do you suppose is beyond the dark abyss?

frank the pumpkin

Frankenstein is a novel written by English author Mary Shelley about eccentric scientist Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was eighteen, and the novel was published when she was twenty. The first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818. Shelley’s name appears on the second edition, published in France in 1823. Source: Wikipedia

We miss you Frank.

No-Candy Countdown:

Another day, another happy face stamp. Candy Cravings, gone.

Under-the-sea Costume Update:

We picked up a few baubles at the craft store this week and set about creating a crest for Mike’s costume. We’ve got the concept down, but the Crazy Glue refuses to stick to the rubbery chest plate. I’ve considered sewing it in place, but I’ll try my hot glue gun first. If you have any experience marrying rubber and glass, please let me know.

costume crest

Working out the details of the crest

Pumpkins on Parade:

If I could visit a time in fashion, it would be the roaring twenties. I love the silhouettes, the bright red lips, and the dancing. My fair pumpkin below insisted on soft-focus photography for that fresh, dewy look. I was happy to oblige. Thanks for the ‘eyelashes’ Boomdee. 😉

1920's Glamor Pumpkin

1920’s Glamor Pumpkin

NEWS FLASH! Halloween Takes Over Gardening Blog

One of Mike's carvings: pumpkin campfire

One of Mike’s carvings: pumpkin campfire

We interrupt this regularly scheduled gardening blog to bring you…Halloween!

You may have noticed a few changes, right off the bat.

Everyone’s welcome, whether you’re dropping by in the present or visiting from your ghostly past… or back from the future. This pumpkin-loving gardener is setting the stage for a spooky month.

First up, what exactly is Halloween? In a recent international Skype session with several of my favorite bloggers we talked a bit about the tradition. The Wikipedia article linked here is both fascinating and extensive with nearly 200 citations. If you have the time, it’s a great read.

Who has time you say?

Point taken.

So, here are a few notes from the site Halloween at the Party Spot

  • Trick or treating comes from the Middle-Age practice of the poor dressing up in costumes and going around door to door during Hallowmas begging for food or money in exchange for prayers. The food given was often a Soul Cake, which was a small round cake which represented a soul being freed from Purgatory when the cake was eaten.
  • Halloween is also known by other names:
    All Hallows Eve, Samhain, All Hallowtide, The Feast of the Dead, The Day of the Dead
  • Halloween is recognized as the 3rd biggest party day after New Year’s and Super Bowl Sunday.
  • Halloween is Oct. 31 – the last day of the Celtic calendar. It actually was a pagan holiday honoring the dead.
  • Trick-or-treating evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out treats and food to placate spirits who roamed the streets at Samhain, a sacred festival that marked the end of the Celtic calendar year.
  • Halloween is correctly spelt as Hallowe’en.
  • Halloween is one of the oldest celebrations in the world, dating back over 2000 years to the time of the Celts who lived in Britain.
  • More than 93 percent of children go trick-or-treating each year. (source: NCA)

Read more at Halloween at the Party Spot.

No-Candy Countdown:

Over the next 31 days, I’m keeping track of the candy I **don’t** eat.  I’m going to enjoy all the things I love about October while continuing to lose the extra pounds. I’m feeling virtuous today, mostly because it’s day one. That said, I didn’t have a day-before-binge either so I think I’m on to something.

Under-the-sea Costume Updates:

This year I’m creating a costume from my imagination: an under-the-sea gardener.  I’ll share my progress throughout the month. The first party is October 25th.

Thrift Store Finds

Thrift Store Finds

I love dressing-up. It was great fun as a child, and the passion continued to adulthood. In my youth I enjoyed sketching dresses and sewing clothes for my dolls. In college I studied costume design and fabrication. I worked as a costume cutter, assistant cutter and stitcher at various theatre companies in my early twenties.  Those years are among my most treasured memories.

I drifted out of theatre a few years after graduating college. I lacked the stamina for the transient nature of the work, the mediocre pay, etc. Growing up in poverty lead me to realize that I crave stability. I never lost my love of the art though.

Getting Silly with Our Pumpkins:

If you’re a regular reader, you know all the fuss that went into my pumpkins this summer. If not, you can read about the squash bug debacle here and here. In the end, three survived, each about the size of a cantaloupe.  Aren’t they sweet?

pumpkins 2014

This Year’s Pumpkin Crop

I’ve been known to dress up my pumpkins too, so watch for future silliness. Here are some highlights from past years:

Pumpkins Ready for a Party

Pumpkins Ready for a Party

If you have any suggestions for ‘pumpkin costume of the day’ please let me know. I’ll see what I can do.

Operation Dill and a Harvesting Quandry

Squash bugs, you’re on notice: Operation Dill is under way.

My lovely little pumpkins are ripening but it’s a race against the clock.

Precious Pumpkin No 1

Precious Pumpkin No 1

Precious Pumpkin No 2

Precious Pumpkin No 2

Precious Pumpkin No 3

Precious Pumpkin No 3

With less and less vine for the squash bugs to eat, my trio of pumpkins remain vulnerable. Last year this happened…

This pumpkin never had a chance

2013: A sad day

I’ve been hand picking squash bug eggs and removing adults from the vines for weeks, but predictably I missed a few. They hatched into destructive nymphs. I just can’t keep up.

Pauline at The Contented Crafter suggested planting dill. Apparently when grown together, pumpkins and dill make excellent companion plants. I raced to the garden center between appointments, but between the heat and my busy schedule, I didn’t plant them right away.  I deposited all six pots on top of the EarthBox, leaving them to wilt.  Boo!

I eventually gave them a good soak and they recovered. I pulled the three pumpkins together in a group, careful not to break the vines. I surrounded the fruit with dill.

ripening pumpkins

Ripening pumpkins

Curious how they would react, I placed a dill plant near a bug congregation. They scattered! Ha!!!

Then I had a good laugh at myself. Of course they scattered when a bunch of leaves disturbed their reverie.

Would it last?

I checked last night and found an adult intruder sitting on the pumpkin stem.  No, no, no!

Next Monday I leave for a much-anticipated, week-long vacation to Victoria, Canada with my bestie Boomdee. Yay, me!

The men of the house will do a cursory check on the plants, but none of them are on board with hand-picking bugs while I’m gone.

So…should I harvest them Sunday morning before leaving town, hoping they’ll continue to color? Or should I leave it up to Operation Dill and take my chances?

What would you do?

Six Ways to Control Squash Bugs in your Garden by Sarah Toney

 

If Fences Could Talk

We’re finally seeing some fall action here in San Jose, which for us means cloudy skies and temperatures south of 50 F (10C).  It also means perfect hiking weather!

Almaden Quicksilver trail view

Almaden Quicksilver trail view

My walking partner cancelled this week, so I took myself up to the Quicksilver trail for a ninety-minute hike.  I love social hikes, but now and again, it’s great to go alone. I’m able to tune in more to the nature around me, to see things that I might have missed.

On my recent hike, I noticed the number of fences running along the trail head and into the hills as I climbed.  Wooden fence posts seemed to be re-joining the landscape. Once tall trees, whittled into fence posts, forgot all about formalities. They were gradually returning to a natural state.

decaying fence

Like the understudy in a play waiting in the wings, here was their chance to shine. Each fence post took on shape and character, gathering moss, lichen and weathered decay. Fences meant to keep trespassers out quietly invited small guests in. Signs of a woodpecker, insects and moss were everywhere. I had the sense that if i lingered awhile, those fences would tell me a story.  That perhaps I wasn’t alone after all.

If those fences could talk, what do you think they would say?
crossing fence posts fence with barbed wire fence with lichen

Halloween Countdown:

lacy pumpkin

All dressed up: Lacy pumpkin

Carrot Countdown

If you look to the right (in the sidebar) you’ll see that we only have seven more days till the carrot harvest. I bought cell pack starter plants at the nursery in late August and planted them with the wee ones next door (aka Jassy’s day-care kids).

Cell packs of carrots (bottom, right)

Cell packs of carrots (bottom, right)

newly planted carrots

Newly planted carrots (Jassy made each of them a place-holder)

I’ve kept a sharp eye on them in case they faltered. I didn’t want someone’s first gardening experience to be a dud. So…when one of the small plants drooped and then dropped, I sprung into action. In the dead of night (well…late afternoon anyway), I swapped out one of the healthier carrots on the other side of the curb garden. I want  each of the tiny gardeners to harvest a carrot of their own.

carrot tops

Healthy carrot tops, seven days till harvest

When Boomdee was here last week, she wondered aloud if we should have thinned them.  Hmmmm…I have no idea.  I’ve always thinned plants that I planted from seed, but for some reason assumed these were one-carrot-per-cell pack. This morning I scraped away a small amount of soil at the root line, and sure enough, several tiny carrots are growing together.

It’s too late to do much about it now. Chalk it up to another lesson learned at gardening nirvana.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for harvest day. I’m pretty excited.

Halloween Countdown:

eight pumpkins

Final count (probably) not counting the still-green pumpkin growing near the curb garden.

We’re Off to See a Different Mouse

We’re waving goodbye to Mouse (the cat) today as we fly to Disneyland for a short holiday.  Mickey Mouse, here we come!

My traveling companions are two active 13-year-old boys.  There will be no moss growing under my toes this week!  My son asked me to take photos of the garden today and then again on Friday to compare.  Without further ado, here’s a snapshot of some of the faster-growing garden favorites.

pumpkin buds

June 24, 2013
Female pumpkin buds

young pumpkin

June 24, 2013
Young pumpkin

pumpkin with two snails

June 24, 2013
This pumpkin is further along, but those two snails look suspicious to me. We may not have a pumpkin to photograph.

Basil in the rain

June 24, 2013
Basil in the rain. It’s looking fresh and tasty.

hydrangea

June 24, 2013
Three stages of hydrangeas

sunflowers.1

June 24, 2013
One of these things is not like the other
The sunflower on the left continues to grow up

Have a terrific week!

The Art of Felting: Warm and Beautiful

felting processFelting, simply put, is matting wool. The art of felting has been around for centuries with many conflicting stories as to its origin. This Wiki article sites:

Sumerian legend claims that the secret of felt-making was discovered by Urnamman of Lagash. The story of Saint Clement and Saint Christopher relates that while fleeing from persecution, the men packed their sandals with wool to prevent blisters. At the end of their journey, the movement and sweat had turned the wool into felt socks.
Felt making is still practiced by nomadic people (Altaic people) in Central Asia and northern parts of East Asia (Mongols), where rugs, tents and clothing are regularly made. Some of these are traditional items, such as the classic yurt (Gers), while others are designed for the tourist market, such as decorated slippers. In the Western world, felt is widely used as a medium for expression in textile art as well as design, where it has significance as an ecological textile.

What I do know is that it’s a lot of fun. Merging the wool fibers creates, a warm, durable and water-proof felt, used for centuries. The artistic possibilities, beyond the basics are endless.

My talented friend Liz held a felt-making workshop for a few friends on a visit home from New Zealand.  She’s become quite the expert.  We started with a small pile of wool fibers and a few basic tools, and left with a finished piece.  Liz is also a gourmet cook, a talented seamstress and a gifted fibre artist. You can see more of her work in the Facebook Album Fibre Art.

I wet-felted pieces in orange and black, then combined them to make a small Halloween hanging. I dry-felted the pumpkins on top,adding the orange felted cord at the end.  It’s my new holiday favorite.

felted wool pumpkins

Laura joined me that day, and crafted a beautiful multi-layered piece in white and blue.  She dry felted and embroidered flowers to the piece, then made it into a purse. A certain gardener turned 50 that year, and unwrapped this stunning purse for the occasion!  Getting older has its pluses.

felted wool flowers

Felted Wool Flowers

felted purse

Felted Purse

The Process

It can take a bit of finesse to create beautiful pieces of felt, but the basics are simple. GFWSheep offers a tutorial to get you started.

Halloween Countdown

Felted pumpkins

Felted Pumpkins

Smiling in the Garden

Smiling is good for you. It reduces tension, helps you relax and promotes overall good health. There is always something to smile about in the garden; sometimes I’m lucky enough to catch it with my camera.

I hope these photos put a smile on your face, too.

Kitty in the garden bed

Sure, the pumpkin is nice, but will you look at that cat I grew!?

squirrel closeup

He’s a cheeky little fella

hummingbird at feeder

Look, Ma!!! I can fly with one wing!

dog like flowers

I think there’s a pooch hiding in the tree. Dogwood???

bottoms up

Bottoms up!

Are you smiling yet?

Gifts from the Garden: Late Season Surprises

I love receiving gifts from the garden, little treasures and discoveries I didn’t expect. Here is what she offered up this week.

Turning Orange After All

Acorn shaped pumpkin turns orangeThis acorn-shaped pumpkin was doing well, when a scar on the skin opened into a small wound. With the fruit exposed to air, I assumed that was the end of it. How disappointing.

To my delight, it continued to turn orange.You can see right through to the inside of the pumpkin, so I’m surprised at this development.  It’s a gift!

Raspberry Redux

RaspberriesWe devoured raspberries for several weeks this summer, eating them straight off the vine. Eventually they stopped blooming and  I cut back the vine. This week, they are at it again. Fresh berries in August. Yum, yum, yum. Thank you berry vine for your generous gift. How sweet of you!

It’s a Whopper!

Large, still yellow, pumpkinOne of our pumpkin vines produced three large gourds in late July. They’ve put on weight daily, though the pumpkins to follow mostly shriveled and died on the vine. In what seemed like an overnight sensation, we now have a fourth still-yellow but equally large pumpkin on the vine. I hope it stays warm enough for the fruit to turn orange.  Occasionally the size of the gift is important.

Unexpected Sunflower

Sunflower with small centerI planted Evening Sun and Mammoth Russian Botanical Interests® sunflowers, so imagine my surprise when a third variety appeared this week. I love the shiny yellow flowers and their perfect little centers.  Who doesn’t love a gift out of the blue?

What’s up in your garden this week?