Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmastime Silliness with the Twins

The boys sure have enjoyed their first Christmas season. They've laughed and giggled until they've worn themselves out, have shaken wrapping paper and crinkled up circulars from the daily paper, Christopher has mastered sitting up, and Noah has mastered the art of the screech. Herewith, video documentation:

Christopher Gets More Than He Bargained For

Playing in the Good Ship "Noah"

I didn't know boys could laugh together so much. This sort of thing goes on intermittently all day.

Noah Takes Control

...of the video camera. Apparently he wasn't enamoured of all the attention his brother was getting.

To Come on Monday or Tuesday:
  • our babies dance to Aaron Neville
  • Noah's hiccups have him trying to go airborne
  • Christopher says: "mna mna mna mna"
  • The tumble and what came of it

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Twins Again: Merry Christmas!

Noah and Christopher wish you a very merry Christmas.

This morning, Noah played a baby shepherd. Here he is:

On the Third Sunday in Advent, we dined out with friends at Holly Hill Inn, and the boys dressed up. After returning home, they played in the family room, and at one point Christopher decided to take one of Noah's socks off. Lots of laughter followed. Here they are:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dad, a Few More Scenes of the Twins!

My, my, my, are the babies morphing. A few weeks ago, they noticed each other but only one at a time. As of a few days ago, boom, we have two little babies who enjoy each others' company!

Noah and Christopher are fun to feed, too. No more tickling their faces to encourage them to eat cereal. Like little birds, they're ready with their mouths open, these days. Mmm, Noah says, mmmm, good.


Here, then, Noah and Christopher sitting on Mama's lap on a cloudy day, giggling and talking and batting each others' faces.

Now, the results aren't always this giggly...was it two days ago? Christopher liked Noah's apple-bright cheek so much that he reached over and pinched it, and didn't let go. Jane had to step in, and of course Noah was wailing. When I walked in a few minutes later, Christopher played up his angelic face, while Noah's eyes were rimmed with red.

MMM, MMM, Good!

Here we have Noah telling us that rice cereal, like Campbell's Soup, is yummy in the tummy.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Twins Are Growing, and Each Has Discovered He Has a Brother

This past month I've been taking short videos of the twins with my camera. The results may be grainy but they sure are fun. At this point the boys have each discovered that there is another creature like himself in the house. This results in some interesting exchanges. Sometimes things are a little one-sided, and at other times (oh no!) the boys already show their facility for claiming what is another's. You'll see if you watch...

Noah Discovers He Has a Brother

Noah Steals the Ducky Book from Christopher...

and Christopher Steals it Back (after a distracted moment)

Happy Twins Say Good Morning!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Two Little Halloween Bears

Here are Noah and Christopher in their Halloween hats and mitts: they dressed as little brown bears. They didn't want to show their paws, little bums: the insides of the paws have little light-brown paw pads!

I sewed the hats and mitts on my antique Singer 28 handcrank, a lovely machine, so easy to use, so accommodating of fleece!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Half-Edwardian Ensemble (Historybounding)

Edited Sept 17, 2021 to note: This was an early example of historybounding :}

Today is Hallowe'en, and this week on the Sense and Sensibility board it's "Week in Historical Dress". So today I dressed in an Edwardian-inspired mode. Curte and I lunched at the Ashland estate, home of Henry Clay, Kentucky's hero and our nation's Great Compromiser. Afterwards we took a few pictures. The first shot was taken in Ashland's formal garden, which is walled by 7-foot hedges, and arranged into beds of perennials, topiaries and shrubberies, lime trees in pots, and statuary.

About the outfit: The 5-panel herringbone wool skirt and underlying flounced cotton petticoat were drafted from a 1911 pattern. My locket is from my mother's family and is inscribed for Christmas, 1911, while the gold bangle dates to somewhere in the same period. The turtleneck mimics the high neck and tight sleeves popular during that age, as does the loose bun hairstyle. The belt is appropriate for work wear, although its dimensions mayn't be right. As is typical with these types of outfits, my shoes aren't appropriate; I am wearing loafers. I have some heels with a basically proper look, but they are too high, so that the skirt length goes off: it should be around the shoe tops or so.

The second image was taken on the piazza at the back of Ashland house. Ashland was built in the 1850s, and is such a friendly place. It sits on 17 acres in the Ashland Park neighborhood of old Lexington; that neighborhood was developed in the 1920s from Ashland farm and neighboring Woodland Farm (I believe), under the design guidance of the Olmsted brothers. What a rich farm it had been; we live in Ashland Park and the topsoil in our back garden is thick, dark, earthworm-riddled loam. Here it is October 31 and a local strain of phlox, from a family in nearby Versailles, is still blooming, as it has been since June.

It seems that most Ashland Park residents treat Ashland as home and a sort of extended back yard. We lunch there at the Gingko Tree, an outdoor cafe that offers traditional Kentucky lunch dishes, loaded with cream and good things, we picnic there, walk, jog and play frisbee there, we help in the gardens and volunteer in the house, and each Labor Day we attend a jazz concert there. I like to hope that the Clays would be pleased that we love their old home so well.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Christopher and Noah, in Motion

Summer passed, and fall is passing. Outside the bedroom window I hear a heavy breeze, heavy with rain, and cold to boot. Yes, it's 50 degrees; so says the thermometer. Goodbye, warm weather!

It's beginning to be the time of year for more indoor activities, and pulling together family pictures and videos is just one of those. Of course, we've been inside most of the warm months anyway. The twins needed so much care, being preemies, and the drought brought dog days to Lexington from June onwards, with few breaks. There weren't many evenings cool enough to plop the boys in the stroller and take them outside.

Left: Christopher in an arty shot, burrowed into his blankets.

Despite the heat and all the work, we had time to enjoy our new little family, and so this evening I have a few videos and pictures to share. The videos are short, but, well, we enjoy them. Perhaps you will too.

And no, I haven't forgotten sewing. I have pictures to share of several more pieces of vintage clothing I've come home with and studies, and several new online sources for vintage fashion information.

The Twins' First Videos

Here is Christopher trying rice cereal for the first time.

Here's Noah's first solid food experience, and yes, it's rice cereal, too.

Here is a slice of a incandescent Sunday afternoon, with babies and cats, on the front porch.

Finally, we record Christopher's private language. Is he a soprano chipmunk?

A Few Still Pictures

The boys of a sunny morning, watching their mobile. Noah is to the left, while Christopher, at right, works on turning over. Getting himself from back to stomach is his primary activity these days.

Noah at the dinner table.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

In Memoriam: Zip Zip Kitty, April 1992 - June 2007

Our Zip Zip. Oh how we miss her. Our Purrpaw; little Foursquare - her squares of calico color decorating the back of her neck in quadrants; Purrball; Kitty Zip; Kitty in a Catsuit; Wibble; Whipple; Kittens Plural (applied to one cat: go figure); Sweet Purr, Zhip-Zhip. Endless affectionate names to call our sweet best companion for 15 years. Her mother, Inkspot, of whom Zip was probably the last living of her five kittens, is so blue without her kitten-soft, thick-furred, blue-eyed, dilute calico daughter. She asks to go outside and then sleeps endlessly in her rocking chair on the front porch, and we find it as hard to console her as we find it to console ourselves.

At left, Zip Zip in late 2004.

Zip Zip, my husband, and I shared our lives' most important moments to date. Zip's fascination with strings and sewing notions, her waiting at the base of trees, nose upraised, ears perked, tail quivering, while squirrels danced, heads down, and chattering, teasing her just feet above. She wouldn't hunt, but loved to watch, and the squirrel population grazed nearby restful and unmolested. Zip, her tail like a flag, galloping ecstatically to Curte in the backyard, to roll over in the grass and rub her back in it, purring, while he talked to her, Zhiiiip, Zhipppp, you silly. Her bout with bone cancer, which took her left foreleg; I stayed and slept with her in the guest room until she recovered enough to manage the rest of the house. Through rounds of kitty dialysis and special food, from which she'd rebound with energy and purring largely intact.

She helped us through my bout with severe chronic illness, through graduate school, multiple moves, meeting my future husband and thinking he was a good guy worthy of napping in his lap, marriage, two house renovations and endless furniture rearragements, both of which she disliked as a unwanted change in a happy routine. Though our marriage, and move to my husband's hometown: the drive up I-75 left her meowing faintly and continuously in my arms while I tried to steer, while her mother foamed at the mouth, all of us panting because we had the heat on in the Saturn to help the overheating car survive a traffic jam. Through my pregnancy and the arrival of the two boys.

At left, Zip Zip on June 22nd.

She fell at age 15 years to the effects of chronic kidney disease and the stress of getting around without her left foreleg, lost to bone cancer two years ago. The arrival of the boys didn't help: she felt confused and we were all stressed trying to pay loving attention to all of each other, and none getting enough.

Not Much Sewing for Awhile: The Twins Have Taken Over!

My goodness, is time a different entity now! Since the arrival of our twin boys on May 31, time has become both more blurred and less elastic. We live by their stomach clocks: every three hours the boys open their bow-shaped mouths like tiny birds for their next bottle of milk. We grab sleep, wake, run errands, wash them, love and hug and kiss them, during the intervening hours, whose minutes flee so quickly.

At left, our twins at three days old.

So quickly and through the fog of sleep deprivation, so that it's already difficult to remember that their fingers measured less than the length of my pinky fingernail just four weeks ago, that they slept through their feedings, that we hardly knew what color their eyes were, that we were elated and I was in pain from the sequelae to the c-section for weeks, that to compound the change we lost our beloved companion Zip Zip, for whom this blog is named, and spent days worrying about her decline, days crying mourning our loss, until now it's a soft ache that I doubt, like all good loves, will ever fully fade away.

Now we each of us have had some measure of sleep, Mom, my husband, and I, and the boys are growing and growing, and the smaller twin, at six pounds, and plucky as he was in the NICU, is first to look around him with interest, first to examine patterns of black and white. Born at 35 weeks, 4 lbs. and 15 oz., he didn't need but a little forced air for a short time, and the warmth of the heated beds, and by his second day my husband was feeding him with a bottle and he was drinking in the same methodical way that he maintains now. He was Baby B, the baby to the right, before birth, and he didn't move and wiggle as much as his brother, so we named him Noah, which means restful and peaceful.

His brother is more volatile: he gulps his milk and then has a hard time burping; he eats too fast unless you set him up for a slow, quiet meal, and then is gassy and miserable and worries his parents and grandmother. He's bigger, too, and was at birth too, but, we understand from the NICU that the bigger twin often has a harder time. He needed forced oxygen and a feeding tube, and his heated bed, although at day 3 he graduated to our room and to the regular nursery so that we could care for he and his brother. He's still a little slower to develop; his huge eyes watch you with warm, vital interest, and his looks are loving, I fancy, and he loves, loves, loves to be held, but his face has yet to light up to that almost smile that Noah is already gracing us with. He fusses and fumes, and his soundtrack of peeps and gassy groans is practically continuous, even in sleep.

Above, the twins on June 17th.

So these are our boys and for awhile sewing and vintage machines, like other hobbies, move to the background, remembered fondly but with detachment and engaged in at odd moments, and right now, truth be known, not at all.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Box Pleating Dress Trim by Hand and By Machine

I had been planning to trim a bed jacket with box-pleated trim for some time but wasn't sure how to do it. None of my antique sewing manuals were of help; the closest I got was the Harper's Bazar reprints in Frances Grimble's Reconstruction Fashions book. They illustrate complex pleatings but don't say how to achieve them!

Turns out there's help!

If you want to box pleat narrow trim by hand, it's simpler than it looks. All you need is pins and the fabric to be pleated. What you do is to make little accordion (knife) pleats of the same size, one to the right, then one to the left, and then one to the right, and then one to the left, and so on.

To see how it's done, have a look at Jennie La Fleur's YouTube tutorial at Thank you, Jenny!

To make box pleats by machine, you can use a fork to manipulate the fabric to the left and right, just in front of the sewing machine needle. Heather McNaughton demonstrates this on her Truly Victorian pattern site. See her Help and Answers page at and click on Fork Pleating. The video is in Quicktime, takes forever to load. Be patient. I had to wait nearly an hour to download it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Two New Posts All of a Sudden: Why the Delay?

To put it plainly, life has changed a lot since last fall. Back then I was working on an Edwardian corset cover in batiste, with a 26" waist. That waistline is temporarily no more, as my husband and I are expecting twin boys late this spring. So all the sewing action is centered around maternity wear and baby wear. Plus wear for the house...curtains and London shades, crib ruffles. Mom and I are very busy on that score. Yes, that's the other big change: my mother retired to our town and is now close by. It's delightful.

The maternity wear is still retro inspired: I prefer high-waisted loose dresses, not the clingy fashions now current. The two posts below make that clear.

If a chance presents itself, will show the embroidered saques I am making for the boys. The patterns from them come from the World War II era.

Well, dinner calls. When you're expecting, dinner times have a new urgency and it's best not to wait too long.

New Chocolate and Mint Polka Dot Maternity Dress! Brief Dress Diary

Barely five minutes before my friend arrived yesterday so we could go to our ladies' tea society St. Patrick's Day tea, I finished this new maternity jumper. My heart was in my mouth...wasn't sure she'd ring the doorbell and I'd still not be quite dressed and at the ironing board.

Had a favorite jumper that I outgrew a few weeks ago, and loved the bodice. So simple and you just slip it over your zips or buttons or strings. When you get bigger, twisting and turning is less easy than it was.

Plus, the high waist is very slimming. Some of my other dresses have a natural waistline and I look much, much bigger -- I kid you not! Plus, most maternity dresses today highlight the shape too much: I am happier with flowing curves, not tight delineations.

Thought to use the Threads magazine pattern-making trick that uses painter's tape. I placed tape over each piece of the jumper bodice in turn. I made sure to cover each piece entirely and carefully so that when I pulled it off it would retain the shape of the original. (Exception: center front and center back pieces I just did half of, like one would in a regular pattern.)

Then I flattened them all out onto Kraft paper and made adjustments. I added extra room, lowered and widened the neckline, as the original was a little claustrophobic looking, and added 1" seam allowances for fitting. Voila: pattern pieces!

This jumper had no darts, but curved seams instead. They are easier to pattern and produce a lovely line, but are harder to sew.

After that I made a muslin toile, found I had too much room, and cut everything down, and made sure to adjust the pattern.

Using the toile as a full lining, I made up the bodice in the chocolate and mint polka dot polished cotton from Hancock's. Unlike some of their quilter's cotton, this is tightly woven -- it didn't fray much.

For the skirt portion, I used pattern pieces from a maternity dress pattern I already own, but because that pattern was not for late pregnancy, much less a twins pregnancy, I added two panels, one to each side of the front. I fully lined the skirt as well for better body and durability.

Only the front is gathered, and the gathers were handsewn at about 5-6 to the inch, as I think finer gathers look better. Sadly, some of them flattened out a bit too much when I machine sewed over them for durability. Phoo.

The dress has room to grow in both bodice and skirt yet because I have several months to go. It's loose in back. I wanted a straight back line, nothing clingy, but this looseness was too much, so I tied on a ribbon on the waist and it created two back bodice pleats naturally, one near each underarm, so the back still looks smooth (phew!). Now that was a nice, unexpected result.

The only thing I am unhappy with was part of the original: the back bodice seam between bodice and skirt is lower than the front; the ribbon tie accentuates the sliding line. I should have changed that too but wasn't thinking. Oh well.

Yes, the front hem rides up: I have a temporary hem there, but room to hem it properly. Just didn't have time yesterday!

If energy allows, would like to make the Regency dress pattern from Jennie Chancey's Sense and Sensibility pattern line, slightly shortened, as another springtime dress.

Regency Chemise Made into Maternity Nightgown Brief Dress Diary

At long, long, last, I completed the Jenny Chancey's Sense and Sensibility Regency chemise...tweaking the pattern to make it into a maternity nightgown with lace and a ruffle.

Here is the gown on my dressmaker's form, with pillows added to simulate the, um, maternal, look. I howled at the result; maybe you will too.

Here is the gown from the back:

You can see that there is plenty of room. Indeed, when I wore it the other night it turned out to be a great fit: it doesn't bind or cling or bother your torso. Most maternity wear these days has a waistline and I find that soooooooo uncomfortable.

I used the Simplicity version of Jennie's pattern, which as we know has more ease. Then, per her instructions on this site, I added width to the front and back panels.

The gown made of 99-cent natural muslin. Sure, it's a low thread count, but it softens up in a hurry. Let's hope it doesn't disintegrate.

The gown is trimmed with cotton lace hand whipped on at the neckline; it is gathered with Offray pink cording. I added a ruffle at the bottom too, set on wrong side to wrong side, and overlaid with cotton beading threaded with Offray pink and white ribbed ribbon to hide the join. All seams are flat-felled. Sleeve hems are hand rolled and whipped and the hem behind the ruffle made using a machine hemmer.

The gown was sewn on two antique machines. For the flat felled seams I used a 1911 Wilcox and Gibbs treadle machine that you see in the background of one of the pictures. It looks very small up top and has the prettiest cast-iron legs, all scrolls and leaves. It produces remarkably tiny, perfectly precise stitches.

I also used a Singer hand crank of the same era. That machine you crank by hand, as the name implies. It's actually quite a fast, reliable machine, doesn't tire your arm, and can go literally anywhere with you.

I used a Singer ruffler attachment to create a fairly tight ruffle. Have attached pictures of the ruffler on the machine and the results. The ruffler is actually older than the machine: ones made after the 19-teens have more settings.

Here is the ruffler. The regular sewing foot is behind it so you get some idea of the difference:

and the results:

There are a few more photos of the gown minus those silly pillows at

Lastly, because I couldn't resist, here is Zip kitty, our darling who had bone cancer and a resulting amputation, napping in our laundry basket.