October 14th, 2008

Isn’t that a wonderful word? I just love the sound of it! I came across the word years ago, when i bought the “Phantasmagoria” album by The Damned. Then i encountered it again in the movie “Gothic”, which i absolutely LOVE (and i am definitely a minority here), loosely based on a crazy weekend with Lord Byron, John Polidori and Percy and Mary Shelley that inspired the writing of the classic literary horrors they are known for. In “Gothic” they all took a bunch of laudanum, had a seance, read ghost stories from a book called “Phantasmagoria” and then had terrifying visions all night. Whoooohooo for a wild party. Heh!

Anyway, it’s a cool word with some cool meanings….from Wikipedia:

Phantasmagoria was a precinema projection ghost show invented in France in the late 18th century, which gained popularity through most of Europe (especially England) throughout the 19th century.

A modified type of magic lantern was used to project images onto walls, smoke, or semi-transparent screens, frequently using rear projection. The projector was mobile, allowing the projected image to move on the screen, and multiple projecting devices allowed for quick switching of different images. Frightening images such as skeletons, demons, and ghosts were projected.

Leipzig, Germany, a coffee shop owner named Johann Schröpfer began offering séances in a converted billiards room which became so popular that by the 1760s he had transformed himself into a full-time showman, using elaborate effects including projections of ghosts to create a convincing spirit experience. In 1774, he committed suicide, apparently a victim of delusions of his own apparitions[citation needed].Versailles was home to several significant developments in this field. In the 1770s François Seraphin used magic lanterns to perform his “Ombres Chinoises” (Chinese shadows), a form of shadow play, and Edme-Gilles Guyot experimented with the projection of ghosts onto smoke.

Paul Philidor created what may have been the first true phantasmagoria show in 1789, a combination of séance parlor tricks and projection effects, his show saw success in Berlin, Vienna, and revolution-era Paris in 1793.

The most famous of the ghost showmen was the Belgian inventor and physicist from Liège, Etienne-Gaspard Robert, more commonly known by his stage name Etienne Robertson. In 1797 Robertson took his show to Paris. The macabre atmosphere in the post-revolutionary city was perfect for Robertson’s elaborate creations. In an abandoned Capuchin crypt in Paris, he staged hauntings, using several lanterns, special sound effects and the eerie atmosphere of the tomb, he terrified many audiences.

  “I am only satisfied if my spectators, shivering and shuddering, raise their hands or cover their eyes out of fear of ghosts and devils dashing towards them”  

It was not long before Robertson was touring Russia and Spain, and the idea of the theatrical ghost show spread across Europe and to the U.S. He is buried with appropriately gothic statuary in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

In 1801 a phantasmagoria production by Paul Philidor (a stage name for Paul Philipsthal taken from the famous chess player Phildor) opened in London’s Lyceum Theatre in the Strand, where it became a smash hit.

Many of the phantasmagoria showmen were a combination of scientists and magicians, many of them stressing that the effects that they produced, no matter how eerily convincing, were in fact the result of ingenious equipment and no small measure of skill, rather than any supernatural explanation. This even extended as far as the exhibitions at the Royal Polytechnic Institution demonstrating the “Pepper’s ghost” effect in the 1860s.

…although the phantasmagoria was an essentially live form of entertainment these shows also used projectors in ways which anticipated 20th century film-camera movements - the ‘zoom’, ‘dissolve’, the ‘tracking-shot’ and superimposition.

Phantasmagoria is also the title of a poem in seven cantos by Lewis Carroll that was published by Macmillan & Sons in London in 1869

So, obviously, Phantasmagoria was the inspiration for this skirt i completed today. I found the white cotton tiered skirt at eh thrift shop a while back, and dyed it with chai tea.

I had a head full of visions of Ghostly Couture…. I bustled up the side, sewed it down, and sewed in panels from a vintage lace tablecloth that is slowly disintegrating, as well as a few pieces of teadyed lace ribbon. I hand stitched it all down firmly, then stitched on a vintage doilie accent, and sewed on some pearl, bead and mother of pearl button embellishments. It’s very tattered, looks like it’s right out of the crypt. I think it will continue to gently tatter and soften up as it’s worn, making it even more “phantom-esque”. I love how it turned out, but handsewing through all those layers was rough! From the inside, it actually looks quilted, which is think it pretty nifty, all those little stitches in a spiraling pattern!

It’s one of those rare occasions when i was able to perfectly re-create what i had envisioned in my head, which makes me ridiculously happy.

I am crazy in love with it…it looks so much prettier and floatyghosty on a live person than it does in the dressform…it has alot of movement and the layers of lace are so wonderfully ragged and lovely, and you get to see a modest bit of leg, too. I think it would look wonderful with lace tights, or perhaps stripy stockings:) It was a real joy to use cast-off, disintegrating old textiles and thriftstore pieces to re-imagine into something lovely. It’s good to have the Muse back in the house!

Hoping you are all having a wonderful haunted day!


Mariposa Calavera

October 11th, 2008

I am in NO way a “fine” artist”…i have never been able to paint or draw well. But for some reason, i envisioned this painting and really wanted to do it. It’s been a work in progress for over a year!!! I painted over a hideous 70’s piece of “art” that i’d gotten at the thriftstore (a reproduction from the Book Of Kells printed on linen in the most ungodly dreadful shades of goldyellow and fuchsia that *literally* wounded the eye to look upon it), and the skeleton was easy enough for me to get…i was very happy with how simple, ghostly and somehow “folk-arty” it seemed, and that was great. But then the wings…oh, those evil wings. I’d work on them then throw the brush down in disgust and ignore the painting for several months until the urge hit me again. It’s been a love/hate relationship. But, i REALLY wanted it done to hang for the Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos season this year, so i committed myself to making it work.

I finally gave up on there being any hope of matching each wing exactly, and with help from my amazing son (who is getting REALLY good with watercolor and comic style art!), we finished our “Masterpiece” at last! I will probably never paint again, but i really do love how our Mariposa Calavera turned out.

Happy Saturday, all!


Makin’ Do and Doin’ lots of Makin’!

November 15th, 2007

So, i honestly should not have took the time to work on any projects for ME while i am in in the the thick of the last-minute prep for this weekend…BUT, i NEEDED to do something fun and totally ALL ABOUT ME to remind myself that crafting is a source of JOY rather than stress! Which lead me to rescuing my poor ruined dress.

This is my favorite dress, i wear it all the time. The other day i got some dishwasher detergent on it…now, i had NO idea that stuff was so bloody caustic! It bleached out a big patch and several little spots near the hem line…i was SO upset! I decided to try to rescue my poor favorite frock before it got tossed into the scrap pile. I cut out several skulls from the Alexander Henry Astral Skull print that i adore, and appliquéd them stratgeically around the bottom to cover up the bleached part, then i decided to sew on a bit of lacey fun, so i added eyelet to the hem. Viola!

There are still some spots, but the polkadot print camouflages them pretty well. I am SO happy with this, i feel like i got  new dress, even! I will be rockin’ this at Mutation for sure! My grandma would be so proud that i “made do” instead of scrapping the whole thing! And I am glad that i took a little time out ot do something nice for ME, even tho’ time is a-wastin’ and i need to be getting all my loose ends tied up for Mutation. Which i HAVE been doing….i have finished up a ton of new stuff!

Palm Mystery bag all done!  It has some issues…the lining was HORRIBLE to work with and it shifted alittle…but i still think it’s pretty and has a kind of shabby gypsy kind of wonky charm….i so wish i could get my camera to take proper macro photos so you could see the Medusa button that i sewed on…i love it!

There is a brand new batch of soap to go along with my ubiquitous Naughty Faerie stuff…

Victorian Rose and Somali Rose oils, clover honey and ground up rose petals. This stuff is rose-heaven.

And…two more little dead ragdollies all done!

Miss Madeline Usher….suffered from both a terribly unstable family-life and catalepsy…she was interred alive by her brother in the family crypt during an episode of  this death-like malady ….she escaped, but the poor girl left her sanity in the tomb, and died while attacking her equally mad brother, ending the family line of VERY bad seeds! (Obviously i was HEAVILY inspired by Poe, and the wonderful interpretation of “The House of Usher” filmed by Roger Corman and starring my beloved Vincent Price)

And here we have this very annoyed looking young lady…..this doll was a big lesson in “SEEING” my work. Normally, when i make dollies, they tell me their names and stories while i am working on them. By the time i am done, i know all about “who” this little dead dollie is. But not this time. She was done, and i still knew NOTHING about  her other than that she looked REALLY angry about something. I was stuck! Fortunately,  lovely Kim came along and helped me see this girl with fresh eyes. I never noticed that the embroidery on her face resembled a bee! So, per the marvelous imgination of calamity kim….

“Angry Amber…. The Tupelo Terror… The embroidery looks like a bee with honey to me… She was stung by bees while gathering honey for her afternoon cup of oolong souchong.”

Thanks, dear heart, you saved me from having an aneurysm over this doll!!!
Aaaaaaaanyway, here i am making a mile-long blog post when i need to be WORKING! So off i go….this is the last big push before we take off for the garden of good and Evil……no rest for THIS wicked girl until the morrow. I hope you are all having a grand and magical day!



November 13th, 2007

Well, i am becoming a hunchbacked, squinty-eyed over-tired crabby old lady as i stitch my way toward Mutation this weekend….i have been SUPER busy and have been trying very hard to stay focused…no easy feat for the girl with no attention span or self discipline! I am pretty amazed at how focused i am, actually. I want to have a super-awesome time like last year….tho’ i am alittle stressed since my inventory is a bit different this time, and i am nervous about how it will be received. But, as long as i feel i am doing my very best, it’s ok!

I think my favorite creation so far is the “la Luna” linen jacket.

I found this jacket in a thrift store, and fell in love with it…it was so odd-looking with the cut-out flower pattern, and it had some seriously ugly gold buttons….but i knew it had potential to become something lovely. Many hours of handstitching later, it has become “La Luna”, and i am very proud of it! :)

i took the big hideous gold buttons off and replaced them with reproduction vintage deco buttons…

i took eyelet lace off thrifted pillow sham and hand stitched it with some black lace to “frill up” the cuffs….

i came across the cotton lace collar in a big box of fabric scraps i got at a thrift store, the tag says “Peking Handicrafts” It was the perfect size to add to the jacket, so i hand stitched it on and put a button hole in in…..

i removed the original tag and replaced it with the La Luna” lotteria card, just for fun. Notice the tiny tag with the big “S” on it…sadly, this jacket is sized for smaller ladies than me. I tried to make it fit, but the dang thing just won’t button over my chest. Hopefully some much smaller girl will love it as much as i do and make it her own. I am SO pleased with it…it’s unusal for me to perfectly bring into reality what i imagine in my head, but i was able to do it with La Luna, and i am quite sure it must be full of some kind of magical powers, a little charm in every stitch!

i decided to try to use up some of the embroidered pieces i’ve had hanging around here forever, like these little vines…

i sewed them onto the last two “Vera” cloth napkins i’d thrifted so long ago, and made the whole thing into a big soft and floppy tote bag….

Another embroidery that has lingered too long with no purpose….the autumn tree…

becomes a simple comfy skirt….

And i am still kind of hung up on lace and beads and ribbons for cuffs…

there is TONS more happening in the buttonbox, but i must get back to work! I still have a new batch of soap to wrap and tag, bath salts to bottle, dollies to dress and and and and and….will i be ready for the fair this weekend? Who knows! But it won’t be for lack of hard work! I have been doing a ridiculous amount of hand stitching lately, and it’s making blind and arthritic…the things we do for love, no? :)
I hope everyone is well and wonderful… i am missing you guys terribly and can’t wait to get my Mutating behind me so i can catch up with you all! Meanwhile, LOVE LOVE LOVE to all!


Black and White and Dead All Over

October 17th, 2007

I’m back into a monochrome and gray scale mode….

The cuffs are evolving…i thought they’d look extra pretty with little “pearly dewdrops drops” sewn onto the webs!

Miss Scarlet is alittle mopey that she can’t model this skirt for us…but this skirt is for the NARROW girls, and way too small to wrap around Scarlet’s hips! :) This is another second-hand skirt “upgrade” project…i added lace ruffle to the hem and i embroidered a little skully onto a scrap of plaid corduroy from a pair of my beastie’s out-grown pants and sewed on little button-eyes and some lace to “girl” it up a little.

I have also had tags on my mind…a dear friend of mine (who i miss very very very much, you know who you are!) once made an *amazing* voodoo-doll pin cushion out of various tags from her old clothing, and it really caused me to be more mindful of the tags inside our garments! One day i plan to get some “pandora’s” tags made, but until then, i had an idea to use some pieces of fabric that perpetually float around my studio space…

Hmmmm…i see wool, cotton and acrylic, but i *really* wonder what that “5% OTHER” is! A byproduct of Soylent Green perhaps… :P

It’s been a lovely week so far….i am still immersed in the “busy season” and i am enjoying it immensely! Lots of projects still in the works and time is ticking…. Why can’t October last all year??? :) Love and Boos to you all!

Crazy Daisy

June 6th, 2007

Oh my yes, it’s another skirt! One more thrifted sheet sacrificed to my unstoppable sewing mania. I really like using thrifted sheets and curtains right now as i muddle my way along the learning curve…if i mess them up, no big deal. I am sitting on the GOOD stuff i have accumulated until i am more confident…my Day of the Dead fabric collection is growing, just waiting for me to get good at this sewing gig. :)

Meanwhile i hack up sheets and feel great delight when a project turns out to be wearable. Like the daisy skirt! I love it (even tho’ the pattern makes my eyes hurt JUST alittle)

For this one, i used a really wide grosgain ribbon for the waist. Originally i left it long, to tie a big bow on the side…but i decided i hated it that way so i cut it off and let it just be a simple waistband. And i am still slightly bemused that i am so into yellow these days. I would NEVER have worn this before!

In other buttonbox news, it would seem that, altho’ my garden got neglected this year, a few things decided to make up for the lack of nice flowers…my gardenias are blooming up a storm. It’s wonderful! The scent makes me want to put on some Billie Holiday and laze about on the porch drinking something cool and gin-y. Alas, there is no lazing for me today…tomorrow we are having our windows replaced. This means that TODAY i am running around here trying to clean thins up just a little bit so that the poor workmen don’t have to pole-vault over the baskets of laundry and scattered toys and book-piles. With all my sewing, i confess that the rest of the house has been pretty well neglected. Who wants to dust when there are skirts to be made! Yo-Yos and embroidery! Apron-collage to work on! Blogs to read, post to write, shop update to plan….my very first bellydance class tonight…. SO many things that i would rather do than housework! Yuck. But, it must be done and i have put it off as long as i can by babbling here. So off i go to wrestle dust-bunnies the size of rottweilers and a laundry pile that rivals most mountains. Wish me luck!

As Big as a House

June 1st, 2007

My work-in-progress pile just grows and grows! There are two almost-completed skirts, two big embroidery projects and a dress all cut out to take to my final sewing class tomorrow morning.

Why am i afflicted with this craft ADD that makes me leave things on the verge of completion, while i jump ahead to other things! Today, i forced myself to try to finish up at least one of the skirts i have been working on…

Straight skirt made from a thrifted curtain panel. I loved the houses and trees, and i made a bag out of part of it last year,

There was tons of the fabric left over, so i decided to cut it up and play with it a bit.

i am very happy with the way the appliqués turned out, however, the zipper is wonky and making a weird puckery thing happen across the booty. Also, it needs the dreaded darts. So its time to say hello to my seam ripper again, le sigh.

Overall, i like the design, and it does fit my body much better than the dressform. I just really really want to get it RIGHT, tho’. I do so hate taking stuff apart adn re-doing…but that is how we learn, right?


Happy Friday, everyone!


Thrifted Vintage Sheet + New Sewing Skills = JOY!

May 17th, 2007

I have to say….taking this sewing class is the best thing i have done for myself in AGES. I love learning, and i love what happens to that learning once my mind processes it…

At last, i have sewn a skirt from a “REAL” pattern, with a “REAL” zipper installed. I am over the moon with joy….i made something that i can really wear! All by myself!!!!

It’s all cut from a vintage sheet, so it’s thrifty and recycled!

I just did a simple rolled hem, and added the eyelet and ric rac just for fun…

I had to wing it with the waist…the pattern piece that i was supposed to use was long gone. So i just used bias tape and allowed it to hang long in the back so i could tie it in a girlie bow. The zipper was not hard to put in at all, thank to the fabulous tutorial by Michelle of Green Kitchen.

Of course, i could not resist putting on some flair!

I can’t believe i made the whole thing….damn it feels good to be a crafter :)

But i can’t take all the credit…none of this would have turned out as well with out the help of my new baby….

Janome Sewist 525, how d i love thee??? Let me count the ways…..

My amazingly sweet Mister picked this up for me yesterday for my birthday. Yes, it’s very early to think birthday, but i have really been struggling with my old machine…its the little Brother that couldn’t! In class, i was fighting it constantly, it won’t even sew over the end of a zipper and it pulls to the left while you stitch so you have to hold on for dear life or everything goes wonky. But i won’t speak TOO ill of it….that machine sewed alot of dollies, purses, monsters and aprons and such. I learned alot from it and it did the best it could for me, bless it’s heart. It is ready for retirement with honor :)

My sewing corner looks so much swankier with new ‘Nome, and i hear it calling to me….i am ready to see what else it can do!

Hope everyone is having a lovely day! :)


Gray Day, Pink Tree

March 1st, 2007

Last year, i did this embroidery of a pink tree, not really knowing what i was going to do with it. Eventually i appliquéd little leaves onto it, and then set it aside for the longest time, intending to make it into a bag. Well, that was a mighty longtime ago, but i recently got the urge to resurrect the project….probably because it seems so spring-y to me. And i have truly been pining away for the spring the hurry up and come! So maybe this bag is my invocation of warm dirt and pale pink blossoms a fat flower buds ready to burst into bloom, and i am thrilled to say that it’s finished at last!!!! I should have awaited for a better day to photograph it, because it’s raining and miserable and the light is dreadful. But i am so happy to have overcome all my recent creative blockage and achieve closure with this long-languishing project!!! So please forgive the dark photography and indulge me while i celebrate! :)

You can see the embroidery alittle better here, and the tiny leaves…i REALLY like how the leaves came out!

Miss Scarlet just could not resist trying it on with the skirt i made out of that same old sheet is used in part of the appliqué, the leaves, strap and lining. She is so bright, pretty and full of hope for spring on this wet gray day! I can’t decide whether to put it in the etsy shop or to just keep it for greedy greedy little me! Decisions decisions!

lost treasure

February 25th, 2007

i had a wonderful day out yesterday, spent with friends i rarely get to hang out with. After a delicious mimosa (which i could enjoy GUILT FREE because lovely Kelly did all the driving so i would not be freaked out about having to navigate around the city) , we dropped off our art for the AIDS foundation auction, had the most hideous Mexican food EVER for lunch, and did a bit of shopping at Belladonna’s and some local thrift/junk stores. I found some great books, and other odds and ends…but the most exciting discovery of the day was this beautiful tattered doll.

In the very back of the odd little shop called “Let’s Just Plunder”, in the farthermost corner, i spied a glimmer of something….a shimmery pile of fabric that i HAD to investigate. I picked it up, and found this lovely puppet huddled there, with most of her strings cut, and a bit tattered, but still so beautful. A true treasure hidden away in that lonely corner. Was she waiting for me?

I wonder how she came to find herself there, and where she has been before. Did she cut herself loose from her puppet strings and run away from her previous home? Did she have wild gypsy adventures that caused her to become just a little tired and tattered, lost in the back corner of cluttered junk shop? Maybe one day she will tell me her tales….until then i will wait patiently and give her a place of honor in my home, because she is beautiful. And i can’t help but feel somehow connected to her with her cut puppet-strings….a kind of symbol of freedom, and finding independence, even in small things like days out with friends.

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