Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Musical memories aren't so far away

For 37 years, I’ve had a girl-crush on Carole King.

When Tapestry came out in 1971, I was a sophomore in high school and “So Far Away” was a staple on KOIL-AM radio out of Omaha. Of course everyone wanted to sing along, but you risked looking like a total dork if you got the words wrong. So it was godsend when the Omaha World Herald printed the lyrics one week in their Friday youth section. Anita Shires brought a copy to the Auburn High School football game and about a dozen of us AHS Pep Club members huddled around her newspaper clipping, staying warm in the stands while we sang “So Far Away” over and over -- blissfully unaware that we were looking like dorks, anyway, even though we were getting the words right.

(Here’s where I metaphorically take my teeth out and rap my cane on the floor and talk about kids today having it so easy, just Googling song lyrics any time they want. Even if you could afford to buy the albums Way Back When, most of them didn’t have the lyrics printed inside, so you had to either be REALLY sure of the words you heard on the radio, or you had to wait for the Omaha World Herald to give you a lovely surprise by choosing your favorite song to spotlight in the Friday paper. On the other hand, my memory is a lot more fun than Googling would have been.)

Anyway, Carole King was just so fabulous. I loved her slightly-husky voice and her piano accompaniments and everything about her. I stopped everything when “It’s Too Late” or “So Far Away” came on the radio, just to marvel at the rich sound of it all – and to sing along, once Anita Shires’ newspaper clipping had allowed that to happen with impunity. I stared endlessly at the Tapestry album cover down at the Western Auto store, the only place in town where we could buy music, and marveled at her photo. She looked shy and uncomfortable, sitting solemnly in the background with her big, curly hair and her cat taking center stage. I decided she probably hated having her picture taken and would have much rather been at the piano, hammering out more wonderful music and adding to her already amazing repertoire of classic American hit songs.

I parceled out enough of my tip money from my waitress job at Wheel’R Inn to go back to the Western Auto and get Tapestry on cassette tape – preferable to the album because of its portability. Over the next few years, I wore out not only that cassette tape, but Rhymes and Reasons, and then Fantasy.

When I went away to college, it was Fleetwood Mac and Emerson, Lake & Palmer who captured my musical fancy, but I always fell back on Carole King as “comfort music,” the auditory equivalent of a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup on a bad day.

Occasionally I’d see a news or magazine story about her and continue to be starstruck. She named one of her daughters Louise (my middle name! Yay, Carole!). She was often painfully shy. She became an environmental activist and headline attraction at Democratic Party fundraisers. And then there was that great Gap commercial where she looks at her now-adult daughter with such unabashed love and pride…(what my own daughter hilariously calls “the uterus look.”) She’s in her mid-60s and still writing great music. I think I admire her classic hits even more now, just knowing the path she’s taken over the years.

It’s so easy now to hop onto iTunes and quickly find and download all the music that instantly reminds us where we came from. For me, there’s nothing like Carole King. What’s your favorite comfort music?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I'd sleep in them if I could

New shoes. Red. Comfortable. SO comfortable. Great with black, brown, or blue denim. Oddly adorable. Love them.
Is it because I'm staring my 52nd birthday right in the face?

Monday, September 08, 2008

A batch of aprons

I had such a great time in my sewing room over the weekend! I was looking for a couple of additional quick projects to complete for the United Way silent auction at work next week. I realized I still had a number of thrift store shirts on hand, originally scooped up to make another batch of little girls' dresses. Instead, it occurred to me, why not see how they'd transform into colorful aprons?

Some good-natured co-workers agreed to model them for me today.

It was so much fun to see how many of the original shirt details I could turn into apron features. For the sassy little pink plaid number, modeled here by the lovely Sarah, I sliced the shirt horizontally right below the arms, leaving the button and buttonhole plackets in place along the side edges – and the curved shirttail instantly became a gently scalloped hem.

For the yellow Hawaiian print modeled by Kathy, I used just the back of the shirt for the main apron, then sliced out the only piece of the front that wasn’t marred by old barbecue stains to create a deep buttoned pocket. It doesn't seem to show up well in the photo.

Next up, another tropical print. The front button placket became the waistband, and I couldn’t resist actually using the buttons for something – so I repurposed one of the cuffs for a button-on loop for an appliqu├ęd dishtowel.

The bib apron above in a standard windowpane plaid seemed boxy and frumpy up top until I re-did the seam to make a sweetheart neckline – it added the right touch of femininity (even though it's a tad big on Kathy, but she's model-slim.) I felt better yet about the results when Sarah and Kathy were enthusiastic about them, too.

Besides the four aprons made from old cotton shirts, I made one more apron out of a vintage tablecloth and a little rick-rack and grosgrain ribbon. I didn’t think I’d throw this into the silent auction donation, as it seemed to cross the line from cute and whimsical into the dangerous kitschy-and-approaching-dorky zone. But when Sarah obligingly tried it on, she looked so cute in it that I may reconsider. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A necktie backpack

You'd think that if I were going to take another extended blogging break, I'd have something truly spectacular to post upon my return. Not so, unfortunately -- the summer's been preoccupied with gardening and camping, rather than sewing. However, I did spend the final hours of the Labor Day weekend making this experimental backpack out of a bag of old silk ties I got at our quilt guild rummage sale in April.
I didn't use a pattern or really have any sort of plan in mind with it at all. I just started putting ties side-by-side and zig-zagged them together with gold thread. It almost designed itself. I lined the whole thing with a gold and burgundy cotton, and stitched the wide, pointy end of another tie to the lining to form a cell phone pocket.

I have to say, I just love how it turned out. Bohemian, yet rather chic in a strange sort of way. Here's the back:

And because I had plenty of scraps left over, I made a little zippered makeup bag, too.

These will both go into the annual United Way silent auction at work, which always seems to inspire me to get off my duff and start letting the creative juices flow.