Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cherry blossoms

One of my favorite parts of spring are all of the blooming trees. Especially the pink cherry blossoms. Last weekend gave us our first taste of summer with an 81°F day. Lovely. All sorts of trees were blooming everywhere. While walking from work to the coffee shop yesterday afternoon I glanced down one of the little side streets and saw these beautiful trees. So lovely. On the left of the trees is a lovely mural from the Mural Arts Program. This is a perfect example of some of the things I love about Philadelphia.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

If you don't have time to do it right the first time...

When will you have time to do it again?

I saw these words on a computer printed sign in the mechanic's office at the VW dealership at least 8 year ago. It made a huge impression on me. I've always been a get-it-done person sacrificing good quality for just getting the thing finished. I have had to learn to take the time to do it right. This was one of those projects.
A few weeks ago I found an amazing book online. Actually, I found a page from the book that blew me away, a pop-up sundial.

Then I search google books and found it here. Once I saw the whole thing - I coveted a copy for myself. The book? La Pratique et Demonstration des Horloges Solaires. Got it? Yes, well, for those of you (like moi) whose French consists of one semester, that would be The Practice and Demonstration of Solar Clocks, aka sundials. Printed in 1624, the book was written by Salomon de Caus and is full of movable parts. Salomon and his brother Isaac were famous in their lifetime for designing and engineering water works for the royal gardens. The Library Company of Philadelphia has two of their books (sadly not this one): one on the mechanics of water works and the other on the harmonies of music. Both are beautifully illustrated but neither has any of the movable parts I was hoping for.

Say what you will about the digitization of everything but do I love it. This is the only way I can find a gorgeous book and see the whole thing without actually traveling to whatever crypt-keeping-organization is holding it under lock and key (not all of them of course, but some...) and beg to be allowed to see it. A search of WorldCat reveiled that there are only copies of it in England and France. That is a bit of a commute. And never - never! would I be able to take the book home and sit in a comfy arm chair to "read" it. But I can on my iPad. I can download the entire thing and view it. That is nothing short of fantastic. FYI - currently has three listings for first editions of de Caus books. Price range? $4, 500 - $46,000. Not exactly in my budget.

I am a tactile person and since I am a book binder, well - I just had to try to make one of my own. The book is in the public domain and the digital version is licensed for private use. I downloaded the pdf, opened every page in photoshop, saved every page as a jpeg, made a little mock up of how many folios I wanted in each signature, opened InDesign, and plonked the jpegs in place on the correct pages. No sweat. It only took all night, but I was so excited to be able to see the whole thing by turning actual pages I just couldn't stop. The next morning began the quest for the correct paper. I wanted something that looked like old handmade paper - even if it was machine made. Long story short, in the entire city of Philadelphia there was none to be had.The closest I came was to some Canson Ingres paper at the Drexel art store. But they only had 11 sheets and I needed 12. I was too excited to wait for the right paper and maybe here is where everything started to go wrong? I ended up using my Mohawk Superfine stash, 11x17 sheets. This was an acceptable compromise because the original book is 15" tall and my printer can only print 13" anyway. Fast forward to printed, bound and guillotined, I had the satisfaction of having the book in my hands. Wonderful. Each page is new discovery of some gorgeous graphics.

 In this last image, see the redish line that leads from the center of the top circle to the left side? That means that things is a volvelle. One of those circles moves. (revolves = volvelle). I'm guessing the inner most one, but I need to spend more time with the image to be sure of which part. I would really like to add some of the moveable parts to my copy.

End bands were added of course - any excuse for those.
and then.
with the cover.
the drama unfolded.

How to cover it? Which paper to use from my substantial stash? I finally settled on this orange piece of paste paper I had made. See 'cause it looks like sunbeams...

The Spine. I wanted a leather spine. I had some blue goatskin, calf skin and some clothing leather. The goat was too short, the calf was the wrong color, but the clothing leather was just right. Pared it, constructed the case, put the spine on and then groaned at the thought of having to try to print: La Pratique et Demonstration des Horloges Solaires on the spine. Okay - why should I have to? It's my book for personal use - who cares? I think the book did.

I settled on On Sundials for the title stamping.

It stamped beautifully on paper, but the gold would not stick to the clothing leather. Not for love nor money. Nope.
 Okay - start over.

In my paper quest, I had come across an incredible ultramarine paper. It was so cheap - $3 a sheet! I bought ten. Did that work with the paste paper - meh- it was okay.

Okay - Make new case again, and get ready to stamp. Stamped crooked. groan sigh. Make new case again. Stamp, the text is not centered on the spine. Ask myself - oh can't I just live with it? If it really bothers me in the future - I can redo it. Look at that gorgeous paste paper and think, nah, I don't want to waste it on something that isn't perfect. So - make new case again, Stamp. This time the text is not centered in the opposite direction. By this time the type had gotten hot enough and been used too many times so it started to bend and was also stamping the edge of the type, which was ugly.

 Make new case again. Accept that I must reset type. Wonder if the spirits of the book were disgusted by the English title and so decide to set Horloges Solaires for the spine. It's not the entire original title but it is in French.

I checked and double checked the type position and tested and tested, and while the title was a little difficult because it was so long, it worked. Phew. Finally.

But then, the paste paper just didn't seem right. There was an instinct that said, don't use this. Don't you have something else? And sure enough, after thorough excavation of my decorative paper drawer, there were two sheets of this beautiful Japanese paper I've been holding onto for at least 12 years. Perfect.
With all the case making the boards had gotten a little short at the fore edge, but thank goodness that was an easy fix in the guillotine. Chopped off 1/16" of the text block and it fit perfectly.  I am very happy with the result.

Little pat on my back for sticking with it and getting it right!

Now... I need to do the research to figure out all the pages that have movable parts and see if I can't reconstruct them for this book. Wish me luck.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Not the kind of excitement you want for Easter

Right there in the house behind mine.
I had to call them because the idiot that rents the house next door (on the left) has been using this property as his own personal dumping ground and ashtray. Except he doesn't stub his cigarettes out before tossing them casually into the abandoned house.  Miss Mary called it. She said all of that dry stuff would catch on fire one day. And wouldn't you know it? Today was the day. It has been incredibly windy all weekend.  Like - my laundry flying sideways kind of windy: 
I went downstairs to start another load because in this wind it dries in about 15 minutes. I happened to look out my back door to see smoke coming up from the back of that abandoned house. I ran to see if Mr. El was still in the front but he wasn't. What I thought he could do I have no idea. By the time I got back to my back door the flames were leaping up above the crashed in wall about a foot. All the smoke blowing into my yard and I knew I had to call 911. Where's my phone?! Upstairs. Ran upstairs, called, and I think they were there in about five minutes. Not kidding. Because the fire was in the back of the house, I would have to point out which house it was to the fire fighters so the operator asked me to meet them at the corner and direct them.  I had enough time to go outside and look at the fire one more time (why?! to make sure it was still there??) and then hustled to the corner. A guy walked passed me and then came back and told me - There's smoke up there!  I know! I said. And then we heard the sirens. I am only three blocks from the station, but still, I am amazed at their quick response. Maybe they were on alert because of the windy day. 

Less than 1/2 hour later the flames were out and it was all over. But I am still shaking. I realize what I was most terrified of was an ember or something flying over to my house. Either to my huge, dry, Newport Pine or worse, my roof. Thankfully, that did not happen. Thank goodness I was home too. I had just gotten back from a 2-hour bike ride.What if no one had noticed until the whole house was up in flames? Ugh. I hate to think. A great big thank you to the Philadelphia Fire Department and to the powers that be that this wasn't worse.  

And now, I wonder what will happen next for the property. Will it have to be torn down? Just a few weeks ago I was looking through it to the original stained glass windows. I wish I could buy it to control what happens on that space. But who's got money for that?

And so, now, I think I will go outside and remember to appreciate what I have and be thankful. Yesterday was spent enjoying my beautiful garden. More crocuses have come up and the first daffodil has smiled on us. 

I also started some seeds for teddy bear sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias and lupine. I can't find the packet of Amish cockscomb I just bought but when I do, those will also get started. 
As always, Jacques was very helpful.
I also think I will go write a thank you note to the firemen - working on Easter! Hoping you and yours are happy and safe.

Monday, March 30, 2015

little projects

 Even though I haven't mentioned many house projects lately, it doesn't mean they aren't' still there. Oh they are, I've just accepted them as part of the fabric of my life. But some things -
 are a time sensitive situation.

This is my front gate. By all appearances, puh-LENTY of room for peoples to travel into my property.
But for some reason that little patch of ground, just inside the gate post, always gets trampled. 
I am baffled. 
This year the little crocuses I transplanted a couple of years ago have appeared. They have never bloomed due to the trampling. 
 This year, in an attempt to preserve the poor little crocuses, I decided to move the dirt back and put bricks where people trample.
It didn't' take long, maybe 15 minutes. I added about 6 inches(18cm) to the "walkable" space there in the front. 
It is supposed to be warm for the next few days so maybe the crocuses will bloom.
That will be a nice "welcome home."

Friday, March 27, 2015


Around here, Spring always seems like it is trying to learn how to drive a manual transmission. We get these spurts and starts and sudden jolts. Then, especially if that year Spring is on a hill, we sort of slip backwards until Spring remembers the brake.
 A week ago today, we had another snow storm. Wet sloppy snow came straight down all day.
 And while it hid the crocuses that had started blooming, Saturday was so warm everything melted and the sun shone again. Yesterday it was a lovely 68°F! Tomorrow it is supposed to be 35°F and sleeting. Hopefully, Spring will not stall too long here. 

One of my spring-break projects had been to whip the forsythia into shape. I've wanted to do this every year and finally this year I just dove in. 

The unruly plant right in the middle got whacked down to the ground. This means there will be no yellow on this one this year.  But I am hoping that with all the new growth next year it will be glorious.

As chance would have it, the day I decided to deal with the forsythia, one of my professors from grad school visited. She is also a fantastic gardener and I asked her advice about the plant. Among other things, she told me her mother used to cut stalks early and force them indoors. Since I was cutting the whole plant down I thought well, why not? 
I stuck them in the watering can and brought them inside. 
A week later little buds appeared. I pulled the stalks with the flowers and put them into another vase. 
They look fantastic against the blue kitchen wall. 

Meanwhile the forsythia outside (the one I left alone) has not done anything. It is still sticks. Will I get two rounds of yellow this year?

Friday, March 20, 2015

First Day of Spring

and its snowing.


I'm just coming off of my wonderful week of vacation (stay-cation), my first day off since going back to work, wanting to get in the garden and do oodles of things, also a bike ride would have been nice. But no. Snow instead. 

So I'll just reminisce about my wonderful week last week.
My sister is expecting. The baby shower is this coming weekend and I've been agonizing over what to do. She lives in southern California. Knitting would be the obvious answer (for me) except - it would be kind of a waste of time. It's too warm for the knitting (it was 93°F last week!). I don't know how it came to me, but I realized I should do some t-shirt transfers onto some onesies. It was so much fun!  I think this kid is going to have more onesies that he will know what to do with. 
Now I have a question for you, who's bright idea is it to give a baby WHITE onesies? Won't they be stained the first time the child wears it? I have tons of RIT clothing dye, so I chose my favorite boy-colors (which irks me because there shouldn't be boy-colors and girl-colors and don't even get me started on those awful pastel baby-colors - yuck!) but anyway, ranting aside, I chose Blue, Kelly Green, and Yellow. 

I decided to try my hand at tie-dying two of them and am thrilled with the results! I just boiled everything on the stove-top for about 1/2 hour. Maybe I should have done the green longer, it has become a very light green after washing. But that's okay.

Then came the hard/fun part - choosing what to put on the plain onesies! Originally I had wanted to use some images I've been collecting from work.

There are some great mechanical drawings, compass roses and the penny-farthing! I was also joking with a friend that since I live in Philadelphia I have to send one with the Eagles logo on it. Then of course, I'd have to balance that out with one with the Lakers logo on it (See - 'cause I'm from Southern California and when I was a six-year-old at Sports Camp - Magic Johnson came and made us all swear to be Lakers Fans for life. I take that kind of thing seriously.)  But the dyed colors didn't come out quite like I had expected and so I decided to skip those.

As I was pondering how to decide on more images, I remembered some of my dad's drawings. My dad has a natural gift for drawing. His latest project has been to draw initials for as many people as he knows. Has he passed the 1000 mark yet? I'm not sure. Putting an initial on the onesie is an obvious choice. But my sister is keeping the baby's name a secret until he arrives. We don't know the first initial and so my dad has not drawn one for him yet. What I do have are all of the little tags my dad whips up for Christmas gifts.  Each one has a tiny little drawing on it (these are all around and inch tall or so).

I was able to narrow it down to the few I thought would scan well and be the cutest for a little baby onesie. 

I scanned them at a high dpi, blew them up, cleaned them up, and chose my three favorite. 
 For the two plain dark blue ones, I didn't think the line drawings would stand out so I still had to find something different. I remembered a process I liked very much, bleach stenciling. I found two images on the internet I wanted to use and tried it out. It didn't work. I think it might be because I used a non-chlorine bleach. That's okay - I have time to try it in the future. For now, I decided I still liked what I wanted to stencil so I printed those up instead. An interesting thing happened as I was ironing them on. When the area I had bleached heated up, the color changed a bit - now that area is a sort of lavender color. And I think it works.

I did end up using the penny-farthing which I just love. I used the same image on a t-shirt for my dad for Christmas. Now they can be twins! 
The tie-dyed onesies came out much better than I'd dared hope. I think they are also adorable. 
It is taking all of my self control not to race to Target and buy more onesies and to not call my dad and ask him to whip up some more drawings so I can make more. I think I should hold off until my nephew actually arrives and we can see how this first batch was received. Right size? Did I fix the color okay?  It would be terrible if I inadvertently turned him navy blue.