Archive for the 'Creativity' Category

Wheel of Morality, turn, turn, turn…

Tell us the lesson we should learn. And today’s moral is…..The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. (Except in New Jersey, where what’s blowing in the wind smells funny.)

Every house needs a Wheel of Morality, how else are you supposed to make important decisions? 

And so armed with only a rather large wooden disc (destined to become the WoM) and banking on the wood working expertise (and loads of power tools) of  the Brothers W, we set to work.

Step one: Come up with a plan.  That was all Bob & Keith, since my plan was this: leave the wood shop with a WoM. I mostly just kept my mouth shut because at a certain point I had no idea what they were talking about.

Step two: Make the Wheel of Morality

Sounds easy, right? Uh-huh. Sure.

So first things first – Make some smaller discs to hold the bearings. I’d say this was easy (and for me it was because mostly I just followed Bob around and held stuff if necessary) but in reality it took a darn long time to make these two little discs, then fit the bearnings in them. First there was drawing them, then using the band saw, then making sure they were round. Then routing them. Then sanding them. Then drilling a hole in them into which to sink the bearing.

It was sometime around using the 25th different giant powertool to get these things round, that I began to wonder if it was going to take an entire week to make just these little hubs. It had not ocurred to me that making two little discs would take so long (I also didn’t factor in that some people are perfectionists). But hey, who am I to complain, this WoM is going to last through generations to come. Years and years from now someone way down the geneological line will be making important decisions using this very Wheel of Morality…all thanks to Bob’s hard work and patience.

And so eventually (thanks to Bob’s patience and a kickin’ assortment of tools) the bearings were nicely sunk into the two very round, very smooth, very pretty hubs and it was time to start gluing stuff together!

So what you see above is the wheel face down with an I-beam and some assorted weights on it to make sure it was going to glue nice and tight. And trust me. It did. There will be no taking this thing apart. Ever. (And in case you might be wondering, I had originally painted the checkerboard on the disc years ago for Chad. But I don’t particularly like to play chess, so it didn’t get much use and had most recently been reglegated to living the basement with the rest of the scrap lumber.)

So while the glue did it’s thing,  I got a lesson on how to use a wood lathe. Oh yes, yes I did. Me and big power tools. But relax, I counted my fingers and I still have 10. And I have to say it was lots of fun. You might not thing it would be, what with the standing in one place and making slow progress, but oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!


The most important part of my lesson seemed to be, hold my left hand on TOP of the handle. You know, to prevent the  tool from flying across the room, through the window, through the hedges, over the neighbor’s car and eventually landing 300 feet down the street, should the tip somehow get snagged in the wood I was turning. The one thing I came to realize was that I am way too short. Yep, short. that’s me. These things are set up for tall people. I needed some serious platform tennis shoes  or maybe some cinder blocks to stand on. Or maybe build myself little stilts that I could fasten to my shoes. (Being a short person in a tall person’s workshop makes things awkward.)

Anyway, after letting me play a bit, Bob got down to business and turned a very nice spindle which fit the bearings perfectly (as if that’s a shock).


After confirming that yes, the bearings did fit perfectly, it was time to line up the hubs and glue the second one down. And today’s moral is….make sure your spindle is done before gluing the second hub on, so you can line up the bearings properly (and also, Do not back up. Severe tire damage.)

Next up: the stand.

Bob went off to the far reaches of the wood shop in search of the perfect piece of wood to turn into the WoM’s stand. When he had not emerged in a reasonable period of time, and after hearing some suspicious sounds of thumping and clunking, I was beginning to grow concerned that perhaps he had encountered the giant ground hog that lives under the wood shop and had somehow ticked it off. Not concerned enough to venture back to the far reaches myself, because it was HOT back there. But concerned none-the-less. Around about the time I began to consider sending Chad back to check on the situation, Bob emerged with some rough hewn, not quite square pieces of wood.

Ok then. And I thought making the hubs was an undertaking. In order to turn that rough looking stuff into suitable pieces from which to craft the WoM’s stand we had work to do. Work that involved planing, cutting, planing, sanding, planing, measuring, planing, cutting….


All of that meant I got to try out some other power tools. The first of which gave me a bit of a start, not because I’d never used one before, but becuase I’d never used one that had more power than my car! Holy cow. When I pulled the trigger the darn thing nearly drug me out the door, down the driveway and across the street. Which, as you may imagine, amused the guys.

From a rough, uneven piece of wood scrounged from the back, came this beauty of a stand!


And so just in the nick of time, before we all died of heat stroke, the Wheel of Morality was done!


Well not really because even thought Bob re-cut it to make it round it doesn’t spin quite right. Which means I need to add weights to balance it. And then divide it. And then paint it. And then create a ticker at the top so it doesn’t spin for 300 years. But mostly, it’s done!

Wheel of morality, turn, turn, turn. Tell us the lesson we should learn. And today’s moral is…..Never ask what hot dogs are made of.

While Bob & I (mostly Bob) were slaving away to make the WoM, Keith and Chad were working on another project. This lovely shelf set for the touchscreen computer in our kitchen. Chad brought his mock up (which he’d cobbled together in our basement out of random scraps that we had flung about) which is on the right in both pictures below. And from that Keith helped him create the New Hotness which is on the left in both pictures. Stain grade gorgeousness baby.


So much heartfelt thanks to the Brothers W for letting us invade the wood shop (and the house) and spending their entire Memorial Day working on our projects. You guys are the bestest.

chris on June 2nd 2010 in Creativity, Geocaching

Prom Dress 2008

I was a day late and a dollar short when it came to deciding what to wear to the company Christmas party this year. Oh sure, I have a closet full of elaborate dresses. What girl doesn’t? But unfortunately quite a few of them had allready been pressed into service over the past 9 years. And I was too lazy and far too short on time to whip something together.

What did that mean exactly? That meant I reached into the magic closet of dress up and pulled out something rather old. I’m not sure the exact history of the dress I wore this year, but it came to me from Chad’s grandmother’s house. I had the same issue with his grandmother’s dress as I did with my Nun-nun’s dress last year. Man, our grandma’s were tiny. WAY tiny.

Borrowing from last year’s lesson, I took out the side zipper on the dress and stitched that seam up. I then cut the center and put in a placket & eyelets so the dress could be laced up. Voila! Perfect fit.


Picture 1 of 11

chris on January 12th 2009 in Creativity

Red Elizabethan Dress & Loose Robe

A blast from the past. I thought I should try this dress back on and see why I completely ignore it in the costuming closet. Now I know why. Apparently when I made this particular bodice I was a bit more roundy. It’s completely loose now. Wow.

The skirt was originally made to go with a different bodice (we’ll call that one Red Bodice A – RBA for short). As RBA was my first go (aside from my wedding dress) at a proper bodice using the Eleanor of Toledo model, it was a bit difficult for me to get myself dressed. So I can only surmise that my motivation in creating this bodice (Red Bodice B – RBB) was so I could get dressed without having to hunt down the master of the guarderobe (aka my poor husband) and wait patiently while he tried to lace the darn thing up.

That being said, the sleeves that were made to go with this bodice were recently untied, altered and put with the Sage Green Elizabethan Dress where, in my humble opinion, they look much better. So for this photo shoot I went ahead and tied in the long sleeves that originally went with RBA. That left my chemise sleeves showing. All in all, not such a bad effect.

I will note though, that the sleeve points need to be fixed as they just don’t cut it anymore. But since they were the first pair of separate sleeves I made, I figure I should go a little easy on my critique.

So, details of RBB that I should point out.

  • unlike RBA, this one is not self boned or even reinforced. What was I thinking? RBA and my wedding bodice were so heavily boned , someone could gut punch me and I’d not know it.
  • I was inexplicably pleased with the way the white ribbon embellished the bodice.
  • heavy gold trim was just that – heavy.
  • Firs time I tried tabs. Why did I use two different styles on one article of clothing? I have no idea.
  • Overall, RBB needs to be taken apart, taken in and boned.

On to my absolutely favorite garment ever….the loose robe.

A small bit of history about this particular piece. I was at my local upholstery store when I saw this fabric. It was a bit pricey (for me at the time) but I inexplicably fell in love with it. Not my usual color, but I was so stunned that I rushed home, grabbed a swatch of the red material and drug Chad to the store with me. That’s how overwhelmed I was. I was concerned I could not possibly determined (with any certainty) that the two materials would go together. I have never had such a reaction to fabric since. It called to me.

Flash forward and I had completed the loose robe (again pattern courtesy of Janet Arnold and her fab book). At the time it did not have sleeves. Which was period. But after a triumphant first showing, I decided I wanted to actually wear the thing. I had just enough material to make sleeves.

And I must say, there is something completely majestic about putting that robe on and walking at a brisk pace. The pleats allow the material in the back to billow out. Talk about making an entrance! I’ll also add that I saw the actual garment that Janet Arnold took the pattern from while we were at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London a few years ago. You have no idea how thrilled I was when I saw that my back pleats were a very good likeness to the original!

chris on November 21st 2008 in Creativity

Sage Elizabethan Dress

It had been a while since I’d made an Elizabethan dress from scratch and I was starting to get the itch to sew. The end result is this sage dress. (Although I will admit I scavenged the beaded sleeves from a previous dress.)

The sage material was originally purchased for and made into an Italian-style Renaissance dress. I was happy with that incarnation, but the material called to me, begging to be made into something more extravagant. So after being worn only twice, I had a photo shoot and then took the seam rippers to it.

One of the little details that pleases me to no end, but isn’t generally noticed by others, is the blackwork collar. The chemise was originally created several years ago when I was just learning to do blackwork. And I foolishly picked the back of the collar for this piece. I then decided that adding blue glass pearls & beads would be a fabulous idea. A lot of work went into this piece.

Most of my other bodices are modeled after the Eleanor of Toledo bodice in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion (c1560 – 1620). The downside of that model is that I have to have someone lace me in. For a change I went with a front opening on this bodice. Which left me with a bit of a conundrum. How do I fasten it?

My answer arrived at the last possible minute when I recalled how I had fastened some other garments. I simply sewed buttons on alternating sides of the split and then added ribbons opposite the buttons. Easy to fasten and holds tight. Problem solved.

The glass pearls on the overskirt,  bodice, skirting & shoulder tabs were all sewn on individually. It took quite a bit of time, but the end result was well worth the effort.

The underskirt worked out by happenstance. I’d run across it at a fabric store on the remnant table. For years it lived in my fabric closet until desperation sent me to excavate for a suitable fabric. I suspect that eventually I will add beading to it.

The overskirt will also receive some additional embellishments. As it was I ran out of not only time but glass pearls before the dress’s debut. I am nothing, if I am not a procrastinator. I used the cheaters method for cartridge pleating, having done the entire method by hand at least four other times. For this skirt I used drapery tape that gave me even pleats and reinforced the overall effect.

chris on November 19th 2008 in Creativity