Sunday, November 27, 2011


Dear friends! I'm sorry to have disappeared on you! It seems like it's been AGES (or at least a week) since I last wrote. Not that you're looking for excuses--we've never been ones for excuses, you and I--and not that you've been counting the days. But I do feel I need to explain. See, there was a last-minute cross-country trek to see my parents who have just moved to a tiny town in the Sierras, and there were all those mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving along with several glasses of wine and a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, and then there was a quick jaunt to San Francisco to see my glorious left-coast friends and eat super burritos from El Farolito and animal-style grilled cheeses from In N Out Burger and hike to the top of Bernal Hill. And then there was this puppy. That's right, all in one week! From turkey-day travels to first time dog owners, it's been a week for the record books.

Yesterday marked the first day I attempted to re-enter real life. After a few hours of playing with our new little pup (who is tentatively named Indie--or Doctor Jones, if you prefer), I turned to Robb and said, I need to photograph my newest bags! And the sun is going down at like 2pm these days! And so we grabbed the camera and the dog--who only the night before had learned how to walk on a leash (see me snapping my fingers and whistling above? That's how he knows I'm the boss!)--and we headed down to my favorite neighborhood brick wall for a little photo shoot. 
We didn't intend for Indie to be in the shots, but he just sat his cute butt down next to me and refused to move. So I stepped on his leash so he wouldn't run out into the street (not that he would do that...he's a very civilized dog), and Robb started snapping photos. Of course, most of the shots are squirmy and ridiculous, but there were actually a few usable ones in the mix!
Other than Indie lending his cuteness to the photos, I must say that yesterday was the first day I started to see how one can be a puppy owner and still manage to have a life. Or a job. Or a blog. As we were sitting in the dog shelter on Saturday afternoon, waiting for our adoption paperwork to go through, I have to admit that I wondered if we weren't losing our minds. Who gets a dog during the holidays? How am I going to make HeyAllday bags with a puppy running amuck in the house? Are we total lunatics??? And yes, perhaps we are lunatics. But if the last two days have shown me anything, it's that part of life is accepting new challenges. And while constantly watching a puppy to see what he's put in his mouth can be tedious, just having him around is opening up my heart in all sorts of new ways. Maybe I won't make as many bags as I wanted to this holiday season, and maybe all of my Christmas shopping will have to happen online this year. But I have a sneaky suspicion that it will all be worth it.

Of course, I can't wait to tell you more about my other adventures last week, which include cowboy hats made out of construction paper and a satanic sewing machine, but I felt I would be remiss to not first introduce you to our new addition.

Yay!! Puppies!!!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

2011: Year of the Bedroom Lettuce Garden!

2010 was the year of the bedroom peppers. Remember how Robb and I dug up his pepper plants around this time last year, put them into giant pots, and then moved them into our bedroom windows? That was kind of weird. But it worked! Sort of. Actually, they kind of "died" for awhile, but then came back to life in the spring, and then we moved them outdoors and they grew tons of flowers, which all beared fruit...but the peppers tasted kinda weird. Like, not really hot, and sort of papery. So, a fun experiment! But also sort of a failure! I'm okay with those odds, but I got to thinking we could do better this year...with lettuce!
And chard! (That's what's shown above.)

OK, actually, the lettuce was supposed to go outside. I had this whooooole thing planned out in my head where I was going to plant the lettuce in October and then build this sort of shitty coldframe type of structure so that I could keep them from freezing. But then it snowed on Halloween, which pretty much killed all of the lettuce I had already moved outdoors. I still had a bunch of lettuce growing in pods on our sunny bedroom windowsill, though, so I got out a long container, filled it with soil, and transplanted the lettuce pods to the container. 

So far so good! They seem to like our bedroom! I have the window cracked open so they can get that chill that they like, but the radiator nearby keeps 'em from getting too chilly.

I admit, it might be a little weird to take your salad spinner into the bedroom to grab your evening's side dish, but those are circumstances I can live with. 

In the meantime, I wanted you to enjoy these pretty green leaves on this dreary day (well, dreary in NYC anyway). See, look! Green things!! Growing! Don't you feel better?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Swimming in a Sea of Fabrics

Oh friends, I have been for FABRIC. Yummy yummy fabric. You see, I've come to a realization: when you're making bags (or sewing anything, I suppose), it really is all about the fabric. Seeing how it behaves (is it thick and unruly when folded or does it glide right under the presser foot like a dream?), and picking a lining that "sings" with the outer fabric.

And then, once I've picked my fabric, I must decide on the right look and shape for each particular bag. I swear to you, some of the bags I have been making lately speak to me (and, unbelievably, it's not because I've been making so many bags that I'm losing my mind.) What I mean is that I look at each one as I'm making it, hold it up to the side of my body (you know, like it's a bag), and if I pay attention, it tells me if I'm on the right track...if the bag is showing the fabric in its best possible light. If it's wrong, I simply turn it inside out and start trimming away to create a new shape, almost like I'm whittling away at it, and then sew it up into a new configuration. In this process, I've learned that I prefer to eyeball things rather than measure. And I've also learned that I don't like to make the same bag twice.
In some instances, like with this hot pink checkered bag, it would be nearly impossible to make the same bag twice since I used an old wool skirt as the bag body. It was a sweet little skirt, but it had some holes near the hem, so its days as clothing were over. But now it lives again in a new form! And since it was made from an old vintage skirt, there is literally no other skirt out there just like it. So this is it folks!
I've also committed to a checkered lining theme. Don't even ask me how this happened. Sometimes you're just in the fabric shop and all of a sudden something seems so RIGHT. Before I knew it, I had ten yards of a thin cotton checkered fabric in five different shades. Including orange! (When I got home, I literally could not remember why in the world I needed orange, but c'est la vie...I'm sure I'll find a use for it.)
In my opinion, the checkers work equally well with neutral modern fabrics, vintage 80s style fabrics, and even with this Indian fabric above! In this case, the crimson checkered lining has a keffiyeh-like effect, which I'm way into.
A word about this Indian fabric: it is so amazing! My mom bought it for me on Etsy last year, and they are actually fat quarters cut from old saris that a woman in India then mails to people all over the world. I've been trying to figure out all year what to do with these, and I love love love seeing them put to use in bags. I decided to go a little girlier with the orange sari fabric above and picked a floral lining. (Yes, the orange check fabric with the orange sari fabric was waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much.)

So yes, so far I have found fabrics from vintage skirts in thrift stores, from discount fabric shops, and from Indian saris. But last week, I couldn't resist also buying some new pretty upholstery-weight fabrics from Fabricworm. They're just so luxurious! And vibrant! Oh, I had such a hard time choosing, and yes, I wound up going with just about every color of the rainbow. And so, going in rainbow spectrum, here's a pic of each fabric, all of which are destined to become HeyAllday Handmade bags. 

From what I can tell, I have no discernible palette, which might well be a problem when you look at all of the bags together. But for me, as foggy as it may be, I see a through-line: The fabric must have a sense of humor. Whether it has a lively design or features an elephant or a whale, there must be something that is just slightly over the top. I love the gold of the sari fabric because it's just so gutsy and glitzy, not trying to hide from anything. And sometimes the size of the bags I make is comically large, the straps generously long, and yeah, I find that kind of funny too. Though it's also practical!

But what's interesting--and what I've only just recently come to understand--is that once I've made one bag one way with a particular fabric, I'm not interested in making it that way ever again. Why pretend that I'm a factory? Each piece is meant to enchant me while I make it, and hopefully, enchant others too when they see it. And for me, there is nothing quite as enchanting as transforming a yard of glorious fabric.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Nancy Drew Book Review

I have to be honest. It has taken me DAYS to write this book review because I have just been too excited about my Nancy Drew book and haven't known where to begin. From the moment I opened it up and felt that vintage yellow spine sort of crack, a thrill ran through me. And every time Bess made a declaration about what she was going to eat or Nancy made an unheartfelt observation about a victim, I was so tempted to underline the text, and yet, I felt like I needed to keep my copy pristine for the next reader. It's just. So. Good.

So here's how Nancy Drew re-entered my life. Last June, my sister and I descended upon our parents house to help them clean it out. You see, they're moving for the first time in 32 years, and we had a lot of crap to sift through in order to dig them out of there. (Not that they're hoarders or anything. You just, you know, accumulate a lot of stuff over the course of 32 years.) One of the discoveries we made was a giant box full of old hardback Nancy Drews. I believe that somebody, maybe my grandmother, bought these for me and my sister when we were kids. But truth be told, I never really got into Nancy Drew. I remember reading a couple here or there, but I was always much more interested in what the Wakefield Twins were up to over at Sweet Valley High. (I mean, they were getting felt up and going on motorcycle rides with bad boys and getting into accidents and falling into comas...Sweet Valley was pretty enthralling for a 13 year old girl.)

So when we found the box of Nancy Drews, me and my mom and my sister all kind of sighed. Oh Nancy, we thought, why do you have to be so boring? We felt bad that we had never really read the Nancy Drews and we kind of knew deep down that Mom was going to donate them to Goodwill, so we each took one and promised to read it. I chose The Clue of the Broken Locket.

Reading a Nancy Drew book as a 34 year old woman in the year 2011 is sort of a strange experience. As you read the book, you find yourself wondering what "ladies hiking shoes" looked like in 1965. Or how long it took for Nancy to re-do her titian coif after getting dunked in the lake when mean old Mr. Driscoll drilled holes in her canoe to keep her from her "nosy sleuthing." One hour? Two hours? Did she have to sleep in rollers? One of my favorite would-never-happen-in-2011 oddities is when the girls' boyfriends come out to visit them at Misty Lake (where they are sleuthing) so that they can go see a groovy band, The Flying Dutchman, play a show--but the boys aren't allowed to stay at the cottage with the girls. Even though the girls have, at this point, been physically attacked not once, but twice (both times with logs and rocks hurled at their heads, knocking them out), had their cottage broken into and their possessions wrecked, and Nancy has been kidnapped and escaped. But no, the boys are going to stay at Mrs. Hodgkins lodge up the way. For the sake of modesty. "Goodnight, girls! Good luck fighting off your attackers!"

But other than these little societal oddities that we modern ladies might find amusing, the stories are pretty darn enjoyable, and the mysteries are pretty well unraveled. Note that author Carolyn Keene doesn't mess with things like emotions or descriptions of scenery or clothing. She makes sure that Nancy sticks to the facts--who cares how Nancy feels about Ned Nickerson (or if, in fact, he feels emasculated by Nancy's line of work?). Nancy, after all,  only has a mind for clues and evidence--nothing else matters when she's on the case. Except there is one odd thing that happens throughout the book: I am fairly certain that every single meal is reported, and it is usually reported by her best friend, Bess, who is introduced to us as "a pretty blonde, inclined to be overweight." I swear to you, if Bess opens her mouth at all in the book, it's either to talk about food, or to put food into it. One of her first lines in the book really gave me insight into her character and her near-constant fear of running out of food: "We don't know a thing about how good the food is in Misty Lake. Why don't we stop for an early supper?...Look! The sign says fresh broiled lobster. Mmm!"

Other than Bess's hunger, I suspect that Carolyn Keene used meals as a way to help the reader understand the passage of time. As in, "two hamburgers, a bowl of tomato soup, and a pecan pie later, Nancy decided to investigate the grounds of Pudding Stone Lodge once more."

Needless to say, reading this book made ME awfully hungry. I knew I was really invested in the book when I found myself one Saturday reading the book in bed, in my pajamas, while eating macaroni and cheese. Delicious!

Some other interesting observations about Nancy: she really is rather unfeeling. And this was, in fact, one of the only places where I did write a note in my book because I was laughing SO HARD. It's at the end of the book [SPOILER ALERT: She solves the mystery], and they finally find the woman who has been held prisoner inside of Pudding Stone Lodge--this woman's children, in fact, have been held captive by the villains, who are training them to perform in the circus!--and the woman is now free and reunited with her children. She has literally been free for 15 minutes when Nancy says "Sit down, Susan, and clear up a few more puzzles for us," and she goes on to ask her a million questions about the clues so that she can tie up her mystery. As a reader, I'm thinking, Nancy, this woman has been locked in the cellar for a year! Show some tact! Have you even offered her a glass of water?

Ok, in looking back at what I've written, I've come to realize that this is less of a "book review" and more of a "Nancy Drew in general" review. But the point is this, if you like campy writing, and you like Scooby-Doo style mysteries (this one even included a phantom boat!), you should really pick yourself up a Nancy Drew mystery. I guarantee that you will be telling all of your friends about the insane things that Nancy and her friends eat, and thinking to yourself "No, Nancy, don't break open the antique clock in order to search for a's probably valuable! And it's not your property! And...oof...too late." The books are all worth reading. In fact, my sister and I are desperate to know what happened to the rest of the books in the box at my parents' house! Perhaps we need to hire Nancy Drew to track them down at the local Goodwill?

And now, you're probably all wondering, what on earth does Nancy Drew have to do with crafting? The answer is this: very little! EXCEPT for the fact that I realized recently that one of the photos in an STC Craft knitting book, My Grandmother's Knitting, has a photo of a very pretty girl in a very pretty sweater reading THE VERY SAME Nancy Drew book. Other than that, there is absolutely no connection to craft.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Slow Down, Focus

I just spent I don't even want to tell you how long trying to decide which photo I should include at the top of this post. Mind you, the photo really has nothing to do with the post. It's just one I like. A photo I thought of using for the banner of this page, in fact.

But actually, perhaps this is a good metaphor for today's theme: I need to focus. Don't get hung-up on the dinosaur picture. They are all cute! Just pick one and move on.

You see, I have decided that I would like to participate in a holiday craft fair, and this particular craft fair will take place in approximately 5 1/2 weeks. At the moment, my current HeyAllday Handmade inventory includes 7 turban headbands, 3 1/2 carpet bags, and 4 stuff bags. But in order to participate in this craft fair? I will need a lot more stock than that. What if it's crowded? What if the customers like my stuff? I mean, it is the holidays...the one time of year when society tells everyone that they have to buy gifts for EVERYONE. Maybe these customers will be jolly and generous? Maybe they will be drunk? Either which way, I must be prepared. And so I start to make a list--a very scary list--of everything that must be done before then:

-Make 15 carpet bags and 15 stuff bags (at LEAST).
-Forget about the sewn turbans for now...those are for springtime anyway.
-Crochet 20 turbans...these make great impulse buys!

So that means that I need to make 3 of each type of bag and 4 crocheted turbans every week between now and December 10.

And suddenly I am feeling insane. Can I do this? What if they turn out shitty because I'm working so damn fast? What if I stop sleeping altogether? What if nobody even wants to buy any of it? And then I have, like, 40 bags at my house and a zillion turbans, and alllll that time spent. Will I literally be crocheting at the Thanksgiving table?

And yet, I actually think that I can do this. And I am just hopeful enough to believe that maybe, just maybe, the customers will buy some of it. If I can just keep my head down, keep to my schedule, continue to love every second of the creative process, and possibly lure friends over to cut out fabric in exchange for home-cooked meals. If I do these things, then maybe, just maybe, I will succeed.

I wrote this yesterday on the way home and felt somewhat calmer after getting it out. So I thought, hmm, maybe this could help another insane crafter somewhere who is attempting to prepare for a holiday craft fair. And so I share it with you.

11/1/11  6:30ish pm
Slow down, focus. There is no need to mindlessly hit refresh.

I know what it is. The synapses want to fire in that way, the one that you have come to recognize as self worth. It's in numbers, hits, pageviews, dollars spent, likes, loves, and comments. It can be bought and bartered, but it doesn't matter. What is said is said, what is made is made, regardless of whether or not anyone else is looking. To care so much extracts the heart from the matter.

I know what it is. I am vulnerable. To tell the world and not succeed (and here's where someone--probably your mother--says it's better to have tried...).

Focus. What do you want to make? What do you have to say?

Last week, I understood. Not the full picture, but my next step anyway. I was hit with the thought that I had finally percolated and was ready to be consumed. This is where I am supposed to be. I nearly burst out laughing as it hit me. Tears of relief in my eyes.