The Basics of Fitting and Alterations at the Brooklyn Brainery

18 Jun

On Saturday, one of my students from my first alteration class at the Brooklyn Brainery just happened to stop into Kill Devil Hill (my place of business), wearing the romper she altered in my class. 

It was a beautiful coincidence.

I’ll be teaching another session of The Basics of Fitting and Altering on July 2nd. It fills up quickly, so get on the wait list to be the first to find out about future sessions! It looks like I’ll be teaching more of these as time goes on, as well as a more in-depth, multi-session version of the class. So keep your eyes peeled!




A Quilt for Computer

13 Jun

A few weeks ago, my 2005 iBook finally croaked. Years I’ve been waiting for it to die so I could upgrade without guilt. And while browsing the Mac Store case selection, hugging my brand new MacBook Air I thought, “$45??? F-that. I can make my own G-D case.”

My own G-D case

True, I don’t have the fancy neoprene, but there are other ways to protect a laptop, right?

The following week I was in Park Slope and spied some beautiful hand-quilted pillows in the window of a home furnishing store. I couldn’t find any terribly similar images online, but something along these lines:

Your laptop needs a little padding (I assume, since laptop cases always have it… When it comes to technology, I mostly have no idea what I’m talking about). Who needs neoprene when we have QUILTING!

A quilt is like a sandwich. Fabric is the bread and batting is the good stuff.

I pulled out some Guatemalan ikat to be the face of my case and some basic whatever for the backing (I also lined the case, so the backing will never see the light of day).

Cut your pieces the size of your computer (or whatever it is you may be making a case for) plus 1 1/2″ all the way around to account for ease and seam allowance.

(Pay no attention to the pathetic girth of my batting. I ended up combining this batting I had laying around with a layer of stuffing that I also had laying around. If you’re buying batting, get some nice fluffy stuff, at least 1/2″ thick.)

Quilt Sandwich

Now you sew your sandwich together. There aren’t really any rules for this, sew it any which way you please. By hand, by machine, in stripes, zig-zags, diamonds, around the shapes in the pattern of your fabric. The world is your oyster! I hand-quilted mine with stripes to reiterate my striped fabric, using four different thread colors that coordinated with the colors in my fabric. 

I like the hand-made aesthetic of purposefully imperfect stitching.

Once I finished quilting both sides of the case, I dug out a colorful zipper (long enough to go around the top corners, so getting your computer in and out of its case isn’t infuriating) and a lightweight lining (to hide the yucky innards)…

And assemble! 

You know how to do that, right? My apologies to anyone who actually wants to know… I didn’t document it and I don’t have the patience to type it all out at this moment. Surely there are other helpful resources out there…

Happy quilting!


Just When You Thought You Had to Throw Them Away…

5 Jun

For over a month now I’ve been working at family-owned Greenpoint general store, Kill Devil Hill. We sell an assorted collection of antiques, gifts, house-made candles and soaps, products from other local artisans, custom-made aprons and denim repairs (among other things).

It had never occurred to me before I started at Kill Devil Hill that a tear in a pair of jeans was reparable (apart from, perhaps, with an unsightly patch). But oh how wrong I was! If you have a pair of jeans that are full of holes (or just inappropriate thanks to one inopportune crotch hole), but you just can’t bear to part with them, you are not alone. As it turns out, we Americans really love our jeans. Bring them on by the shop — 170 Franklin St @ Java — and we will mend your holes!

This new-found knowledge, of course, inspired me to dig out some of my old trash-bound jeans and fix them up.

Sad jeans…

Happy jeans!

Close-up jeans…
mended hole on left,  original denim on right

Never give up!


Portrait-Robot de Melody

25 May
I love organized clutter. It is perhaps the most inherent aspect of my aesthetic ethos. Artfully arranged collections of interesting objects. It comes as no surprise then, that one of my very favorite modern artists is Arman. His portrait-robots being the works I find most compelling.

Portrait-robots, as he called them, were works made up of personal objects discarded by the subject. Essentially, garbage in a box, hung on the wall.

Portrait-Robot de Daniel Spoerri, 1962

Portrait-Robot d’Elaine, 1962

Aren’t they lovely? His early portrait-robots were small, later pieces grew to be quite large.

Portrait-Robot de Jacques de la Villegle, 1965

Portrait-Robot d’Arman, 1992

Ever since I learned about him in an art history class a few years ago I’ve been thinking of making my own. And now, looking back on his, I wish I had the time, space, and resources to take it further. But for now, my little shadow box will do.

About a year ago I began saving all my fiber scraps from projects, which make up most of my Portrait-Robot de Melody, along with a few other small objects I have no practical use for. A pair of broken sunglasses, empty thread spools, dried flowers, shells I picked up at the beach, packaging materials, various found objects.

I purchased a shadow box, which was conveniently backed with foam I could pin into. And using straight pins, I simply pinned my objects into a pleasing arrangement.


11 May
Last month, my dear friend Kendy Gable asked me to do the poster art for Melodica Music Festival, an international acoustic festival that celebrates emerging artists. The third NYC Melodica is happening this weekend at the Sidewalk Cafe and we would love to see you there!
Kendy asked me to create something that merged city and country for the poster, and despite all my brainstorming, the first idea to come out was everyone’s favorite: a tree made up of NYC’s iconic brownstones. 
It started with a sketch:
Although, let’s be real, two of my other sketches were damn cute:
(Born of the same essential idea, obviously, but in two different and adorable incarnations.)
But to return to the poster at hand, I proceeded to sketch out my design meticulously, full scale on marker paper.
I then colored in each house individually using a combination of design markers, colored pencil and fine tip black markers.
See you at the festival!


Earth Day

23 Apr
Sundays are perhaps my favorite day of the week. And despite the rain, today was a particularly good one for me. Every Sunday I wake up to two buttery voices gently lulling me awake on “Being With,” a spirituality program on NPR. I put on something vaguely nicer than usual and cycle on down Flushing. There’s hardly any traffic at all so early on a Sunday, and my route takes me past the Navy Yard. Most importantly that row of abandoned homes; former navy officials homes, I’m told. I went there a couple times with my first boyfriend to explore the beautiful ruins. I make my way to my spiritual home at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregational Society of Brooklyn. I rehearse with the choir at 9AM. And at 9AM our choir director (a brilliant multi-instrumentalist) picked up a banjo and plucked an incredibly beautiful melody. I’d never heard it before, yet it felt heartrendingly familiar.
I’m not sure what it was precisely. Was it just that song? Or the banjo? Or was it the rain poised to descend? The new moon? A lonely weekend? Nostalgia? Hope for the future? Whatever it was, I had a very emotional day in the best possible way, and it started with that song. “The Cool of the Day” by Jean Ritchie. 
Perfect for Earth Day, this folk revival tune recalls an Appalachian tradition with lyrics that warn mankind of the dangers in failing to keep our planet healthy.
After a particularly moving sermon about integrity and a particularly pleasant coffee hour, I biked home, particularly happy to get drenched in the rain.
And after I was warm and dry and cozy in my bed with a PBS Nature special about whales, I revisited “The Cool of the Day” all by myself. Just me and my mandolin in my room. It’s no church choir and it’s no 30-foot-vaulted-ceiling, but here’s my own humble version I recorded for you:

The Cool of the Day
Jean Ritchie
My Lord, he said unto me
Do you like my garden so fair
You may live in this garden if you’ll keep the grasses green
And I’ll return in the cool of the day

My Lord, he said unto me
Do you like my garden so pure
You may live in this garden if you’ll keep the waters clean
And I’ll return in the cool of the day

   Now is the cool of the day
   Now is the cool of the day
   This earth is a garden, the garden of my Lord
   And he walks in his garden
   In the cool of the day

Then my Lord, he said unto me
Do you like my pastures so green
You may live in this garden if you will feed my sheep
And I’ll return in the cool of the day

Then my Lord, he said unto me
Do you like my garden so free
You may live in this garden if you’ll keep the people free
And I’ll return in the cool of the day

“Hello world!” — Baby Beet

Librarian Paraphernalia: Taking it Back!

22 Apr
Summer. A season for two-eyed folks to join ranks with four-eyed folks. A season when the ocularly-blessed among us no longer have to envy the less fortunate because of the radical accessories they are prescribed to indulge in. I’m talking eyeglass chains. They are fabulously useful for keeping your glasses (whether prescription, sun, or ironic vanity) ever-handy. They adorn your glasses while you wear them, and transform them into the best kind of neckwear when you’re not. And they are super easy to make!
Style options are infinite. If you need some inspiration, check out what Etsy sellers are offering. I went for kind of a steam punk vibe because I just happened to have brass chain and fish vertebrae hanging around.

 Most of the supplies you’ll need will depend on your design, but the one thing you’ll definitely need are adjustable rubber eyeglass chain ends.
These are available at most bead-crafting shops, online, or at the ends of those horrible neon eyeglass chains they sell at the drug store for next to nothing.
For instructions regarding basic beading techniques, visit my post from last June, To Bead or Not to Bead… (perhaps my corniest post title yet).
If you’re using chain, you will need jump rings to connect the chain to the rubber ends. This is a simple task with just a pair of pliers or two. Just remember, always open and close jump rings laterally so as not to weaken or disrupt the circle.
 Now, go forth… be irrepressibly hip in a reminiscently secretarial fashion!