Sunday, July 29, 2012

Century Homes Calgary and the Gothic Mansion's 102nd Birthday!

Beginning this week until August 6, the City of Calgary is celebrating Historic Calgary Week with a city-wide celebration of homes constructed during Calgary’s first building boom, which peaked 100 years ago. Hundreds of century homes in various communities will be displaying homemade yard signs sharing information about their houses, should one wish to do a self-guided walking tour in any of these communities. The insomniac  and her family are proud to be one of the homes included in these festivities.

Although the insomniac  fondly refers to it as the Gothic Mansion (surely one is allowed a little  artistic license in blog writing), in reality it is a brick and sandstone farmhouse built in the Queen Anne Revival style . Riley Lodge, which is its legitimate name, was built in 1910 by Alfred George Fredrick Riley, son of prominent Calgary rancher Thomas Riley. In 1914 he married Ada Marie Pullen of Yorkshire, England, and he and Ada lived in the house until Alfred passed away in 1933; Ada remained in the house for only one more year. Alfred and Ada had no offspring to whom they could bequeath their home.

The gates (and everything else of any value)
were long gone by the time we acquired the house ...

Judging from the style of clothing, one assumes this must be Ada Marie ...

In 1936, the house was rented to Dr. R. H. McLaughlin who used it as an abortion clinic during the war; the house being raided numerous times during his occupancy. The doctor died in the 1970's in Vancouver, BC during “a bad drug deal”. The insomniac  was just contacted a few months ago by someone writing a book on Dr. McLaughlin's life, which she will most certainly purchase when published, in order to gain a bit more insight into the somewhat checkered past of Riley Lodge.

The insomniac  grew up just three blocks away from Riley Lodge, and around the age of three attended playschool there (a true fact and NOT just another instance of dramatic license). She has only two rather dim memories of the place; one being the smell of urine (perhaps none of the other attendees had been potty-trained yet), and the other that it was very dark and scary inside (an ambiance one has attempted to retain during the redecorating process, and the reasoning behind the Gothic Mansion nickname).

The house remained in the Riley family's possession until 1968, at which time it was sold to the City of Calgary. When the insomniac  and her spouse purchased the house from the City in 1987, it had been rented out to a university fraternity for a number of years and was in poor condition, the balcony having been declared unsafe and boarded up six year's previously. Even now, people still stop and entertain us with tales of the excellent party house Riley Lodge was back in the day, and one can only imagine the fun that must have been had, falling through the second floor veranda to the one below.

Poor Condition might be putting too positive a spin on it.
A Likely Candidate for Demolition is slightly closer to the truth.

Besides its derelict condition, the house also needed to be moved from its original site on Crowchild Trail, as the expansion of Crowchild would take the new road right through the middle of the top floor; yet another small deterrent for anyone considering its purchase. Despite the apprehension of family and friends, the insomniac  and her spouse decided it was a house worth saving and a project worth undertaking. With the City's assistance, a parcel of land three blocks west was chosen for the new location, at the bottom of the same undeveloped hill it was currently sitting on.

If the garage had still been there when the house was purchased,
it most certainly would have been moved as well ...

At one point, as it was coming around the corner, the house was leaning so badly
  the insomniac   was quite sure it was going to slide off the truck and onto the road.

And so, the next twenty-five years were spent restoring Riley Lodge, which truly has been a labour of love. One day, the insomniac  will share pictures of the interior before the restoration, including the graffiti on Every Single Interior Wall, the drawings of demons on the ceilings (in the rooms where a ceiling still existed and hadn't already collapsed onto the floor) and the amusing admonition scrawled with a Sharpie in the bathroom - Don't Spit in the Sink!

All too soon, the day will arrive when it will become necessary to say farewell to the Gothic Mansion, as inner-city property taxes and house insurance for a historic home become too difficult to manage on a retirement budget. Which is why, at an age when most people are starting to plan their retirement, the insomniac  is instead planning to put an end to the intermittent Contract Work and return to the work force Full Time, in order to delay the inevitable for at least a while longer.

One wonders if it might be slightly odd  to become this attached to a house?

The next house will definitely require a dormer window.
After all, where would the insomniac  be
without her Dim and Dreary Attic Dormer?

But when that sad time does eventually arrive, perhaps another Gothic Mansion in some small town will become available, with the potential for yet another restoration project. Even now, one can see the long-suffering spouse cringing as he's proofreading this post. And if you listen closely, you can hear the sound of the insomniac's  Evil (but completely confident) Laughter echoing down the hallway ... Mwahahaha.

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. And if you happen to live in Calgary, check out the Century Homes Calgary website for a map of the walking tours. The insomniac  is actually planning on dragging herself away from the computer and taking in a few neighbourhoods herself!

Goodnight, my pretties.


PostScript: In the hopes the long-suffering spouse gets bored and doesn't proofread right through to the end of this post, the insomniac  is going to let you in on a little secret - she has already  discovered another lovely Victorian brick house in a small town just north of Calgary, and it has a Widow's Walk! One might actually be able to live in a house without an Attic Dormer, if one had a Widow's Walk ... Mwahahaha.

    B&W Photos from the Glenbow Archives  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Paint it Black, Part II ... And a Sad Farewell

This weekend, the insomniac  was eagerly anticipating a special day at Lauren Lane Decor, trying out a new brand of chalk paint that Tara Jamieson, the owner of Lauren Lane, was planning on carrying in her store. On Wednesday last, an inconceivable update to the Lauren Lane Facebook Page was issued: It is with great sadness and heavy hearts to say that on Sunday, July 8, Tara Jamieson, founder of Lauren Lane Decor, passed away in a tragic accident.

Tragic and  heartbreaking ... here was a thirty-year old girl who had taken the plunge that some of us only ever dream of - she had started a business doing something she loved, and was doing well at it.

Two short months ago, she wrote in her blog about New Beginnings:

I have been at this furniture stuff for a while now. I opened my studio
last fall and things have been falling into place one piece at a time.
I burnt the candle at both ends for a long time and didn't actually leave
my "old job" until January and these past few months have been a
really big transition for me. I worked in an office for 10 years
getting up at 5:30 am - spending hours in traffic or on public transit
every day, staring at a computer all day and making sure I met
deadlines and dealing with more paperwork than I can even
fathom now. I was good at what I did so I thought that I loved it.
I was fooled!

Right now, after spending these past few months doing what I love
to do all day long I am IN LOVE with what I do. I work 7 days
a week and longer hours than I ever did before. My to do list is
longer than it ever has been and that's just fine with me.
I don't mind paying that price right now to make my dreams
into a reality. I go to bed at night excited for what the next day
will bring - rather than struggling through the week and
wishing for a weekend. I have made alot of sacrifices and taken
alot of risks these past few months but one thing I don't have
is regret. If something happened to me tomorrow -
I would be ok because I'm the girl that WENT for it!

A poignant reminder to us all. None of us can ever know what plans Providence has for our lives. It is never too late to follow our dreams and be the person who WENT for it, so that we, as well, will have no regrets.

And so this post is for Tara, with gratitude for sharing your boundless enthusiasm, artistry and knowledge with those of us fortunate enough to have learned from you. 

Medicine Chest - Before

Annie Sloan Graphite and Emperor's Silk Chalk Paint
Centre Panel shown Unwaxed

Stencil for Centre Panel
Same Stencil used for the Attic Walls
(and obviously not properly cleaned afterwards!)

Stencilling in Progress

Finished Stencil - Centre Panel still Unwaxed

Entire Door Waxed with Two Coats of Annie Sloan Dark Wax

Completed Medicine Chest

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams ... and no regrets. Goodnight, my pretties.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Gothic Mansion & Wildlife Sanctuary

During the past few weeks while the insomniac  was attempting to capture a few “artistic” photos of the garden in bloom, there were quite a few instances where just as the picture was being taken, some form of wildlife or other suddenly ran or flew through the shot. In the two short years that Kaos, Protector of the Gothic Mansion has no longer been patrolling the grounds, the wildlife population has virtually exploded, and from the number of species that now consider the grounds their permanent residence, it seemed it might be time to officially rename the Gothic Mansion to the slightly more pretentious Gothic Mansion & Wildlife Sanctuary.

But the overabundance of White-tailed Jackrabbits and Spruce Grouse inevitably bring the beasts of prey, as well. Two weeks ago, a mother coyote and her three pups downsized the jackrabbit colony by at least two members. By the time the spouse came upstairs to announce the coyotes' arrival, it was too late for a picture, as Mama was carrying dinner off somewhere more secluded so she and her pups could finish eating in peace. Later that week, the Sanctuary was lucky enough to witness the appearance of another magnificent  predator; a Great Horned Owl.

I see you, trying to get a decent photo of me ...

This is not the first time a Great Horned has made a visit, although they only appear twice yearly, in the spring and autumn, and only stay for one day. Even though they are year-round residents of Alberta, it always seems as if they are on their way to or from somewhere else, and have just stopped at the Sanctuary for a quick rest before continuing their journey.

The insomniac  recalls the first time a family of Great Horned Owls arrived in the middle of the night, probably sometime in late October since it had already snowed. Awakening to a “hoo-hoo-hoooo”, the insomniac  elbowed her long-suffering spouse in the ribs and shrieked, “There's an owl on the weathervane!” to which he replied, “It's one of those effin' pigeons!”, yanked the covers over his head and rolled over, all the while muttering further obscenities. Having not received the enthusiastic response she had hoped for, the insomniac  then proceeded to wake her youngest offspring, forcing her into snow boots and parka, and dragging her out into the frigid night to see the Owl Family, confident this would be a memory her offspring would cherish forever. However, when recently quizzed about the incident, said offspring had absolutely no recollection whatsoever of this cherished memorable moment.

He's staring at the magpies, who are
chastising him severely for invading their territory ...

The owl landed in the Blue Spruce at 4:11 a.m. The reason one knows the exact time is because one grabbed the alarm clock to check, having been rudely jolted from a deep sleep by the deafening uproar from the crows and magpies which heralded his arrival. Every bird in the neighbourhood was extremely concerned about the owl's exact whereabouts, and there was a steady stream of them landing on his branch the entire day, presumably checking to make sure he hadn't moved and started hunting yet. On the plus side, the diversion did manage to keep the Flicker away from the Gothic Mansion's metal chimney for a few hours, which he uses to sharpen his beak and which creates a melodious clanging echo from the attic right to the basement.

The Northern Flicker (centre) who kept anxiously coming back
to check on the owl's whereabouts ...

The owl spent the whole day in the tree trying to catch a bit of sleep, and left sometime around 10:00 p.m., causing yet another great uproar. During his stopover at the Sanctuary, there was nary a Jackrabbit nor Spruce Grouse in sight, but a few days later everything was back to normal and the wildlife back in full force.

Ever since moving to the neighbourhood twenty-five years ago, there has always been a pair of Spruce Grouse in residence. Last year was their most prolific yet, with nine babies - eleven of them parading across the grounds providing much amusement. The grouse seldom fly, preferring to quickly run away when startled. Unless Kaos happened to have an atypical burst of energy that day and gave chase; then they flew.

Spruce Grouse - this year's brood should be arriving any time ...

The colony of White-tailed Jackrabbits has definitely expanded since Kaos of Illinois has been gone, and with an average of four babies per litter and one or two litters per year, it's no wonder the Sanctuary is overrun. (Kaos was born in Illinois, in case you were wondering how that particular nickname came about.)

Every morning this past week as the insomniac  left for work at 6:25 a.m., one of the new baby jackrabbits was sitting in the middle of the driveway, seemingly just waiting for one's arrival. Once the car started down the drive, he would run just slightly out of the way, then stop. And this is how it progressed: insomniac  moves the car a couple of feet - baby rabbit runs a couple of feet - insomniac  moves the car a few more feet - baby rabbit runs a few more feet - insomniac  moves the car ... An additional ten minutes was added to the morning's commute, because it is a long driveway.

White-tailed Jackrabbit - Summer Coat

White-tailed Jackrabbit - Winter Coat
In the long driveway ...

There's been a Murder of Crows hanging around the Sanctuary lately - six to be exact. According to one's limited research, when crows live in the city they are known as Urban Crows. Two of these Urban Crows were obviously this year's babies and two were the parents, but the remaining two looked to be older than the babies but younger than the adults (judging by the length of their tails, which is the only way the insomniac  knows how to distinguish young from old). After further research, apparently offspring from the previous year remain with their parents and help care for the new babies. The amount of information one can gather from just a few minutes on Google! In any event, the insomniac  always welcomes the yearly return of the baby crows and magpies, as they are quite curious and unafraid of human contact, allowing one to get quite close for photos. And yet the pictures still manage to come out pitiful ...

Bird's Eye View from the top of the gazebo ...

Watcha' doin'?

The crow on the left dropped something down the chimney,
and now he's looking to see where it went ...

Along with the Urban Crows, another of the insomniac's  favourite birds that frequent the Sanctuary are the Black-billed Magpies. Although judging by conversations overheard after the arrival of the Great Horned Owl, perhaps not everyone in the neighbourhood enjoys them quite as much as the insomniac  does. Once again, one's scant research revealed that magpies are permanent residents, seldom venturing far from where they were born. Generally, one can look forward to the arrival of two or three offspring each year; these offspring will begin breeding in one to two years. Which explains why there isn't a day goes by when one hasn't heard the familiar yak-yak-yak that seems to annoy the neighbours so much.

Mom (or maybe Dad) gathering the uneaten fish food, which the spouse
retrieves from the skimmer and puts on the rock especially for the magpies
(and yet he claims he doesn't like them) ...

Fish food spilling out the sides of her beak ... she (or maybe he) does have three
hungry and very vocal youngsters to feed this year ...

Besides the permanent residents at the Sanctuary, there has been an occasional visit of a more unique nature, such as the appearance inside the Gothic Mansion of a small brown bat a few years ago. One is still not quite sure how he managed to get inside, but it was definitely an adventure trying to get him back outside. The spouse was in the parlour holding a window screen to keep the bat from flying into his hair (wink,wink) while the insomniac  sat on the stairs and tried to prevent the bat from flying up into the second-floor bedrooms. Each time the bat came near the stairs, the insomniac  would jump up, flail her hands and yell, which caused the bat to make an immediate about-face and fly back into the parlour, where the spouse would try to guide him towards the open front door, using the screen as a shield. After thirty minutes of this nonsense, the bat finally flew into the screen (possibly his bat radar wasn't working due to exhaustion), which stunned him long enough to allow one to pick him up and rush him outside. After a few dazed minutes, he regathered his wits and flew away into the night, never to be seen again. Unless that was him again last summer, flying around the insomniac's  head as she was sitting by the pond. Perhaps he came back to say a quick hello ...

Would a bat make a good pet? He was pretty adorable, but freakishly fast ...

The insomniac  and her spouse consider themselves quite blessed to have all this wildlife on the grounds, providing them with a constant source of entertainment. Especially since the Gothic Mansion & Wildlife Sanctuary is situated right smack in the middle of inner-city Calgary. Between coyotes, owls, and the occasional lynx, it really couldn't get much better even if one were living in the country - although then you'd have to deal with larger and much more frightening predators. There's a lot to be said for inner-city living.

Last week was the two year anniversary of Kaos' passing. We really miss you, Big Guy ...

Kaos, the Wonder Windhund. He went by many names ...

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams ... Personally, the insomniac  is hoping to sleep in slightly longer than 4:11 a.m. this weekend. Goodnight, my pretties.


    Lone Pine Compact Guide to Alberta Birds
    Google and Wikipedia

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Evolution of the Insomniac's  Style, from Romantic Goth to Elder-ly Goth

One of the insomniac's  many obsessions has always been fashion; a dead giveaway being the number of pins on her Dark Fashion Board, surpassing even Gothic Gardens and Decorating Inspirations. And so, a brief look at the insomniac's  wardrobe through the various stages of her life thus far, and how the onset of Old Age is forcing her to constantly re-evaluate her style while still trying to maintain her predilection for All Things Dark. 

In the beginning, when she was younger and much slimmer, the insomniac  had a passion for vintage clothing and had quite the impressive collection, almost all of which was black. Only a bit of the collection remains because, as much as one would like, it really isn't possible to save absolutely everything. Almost everything perhaps, but not Every. Single. Thing. So one has limited oneself to conserving things that were the most unique - anything with beadwork or handwork of any kind, anything Victorian, most of her shoes ... Upon reading this list, it might seem as though the insomniac  has, in fact, saved everything she ever owned, but please believe her when she says - not even close.

Crepe Blouse w/ Ruched Detail

Crepe Jacket w/ Soutache Detail

The following silk velvet outfit was only worn on special occasions and although one absolutely loved the jacket with its beautiful ruching, the skirt always seemed as if it had been made by a different person - someone less skilled than whoever made the jacket - as it never hung properly and required one to spend a large amount of time fussing around with it. The insomniac  has never enjoyed clothes that require fussing, preferring things that can be put on in the morning with no further thought given to them for the remainder of the day. The silk lining in the jacket is now shattered and will need replacing, should one wish to ever wear it again. Which is quite unlikely, since one's tolerance for fussy clothing has decreased even more so as one has aged, if that's even possible.

Maybe it's time to remake the skirt into something else ...

This Victorian lace blouse was worn at the office, generally with a fitted black blazer and one of the many long, flowing black skirts that were in the insomniac's  never-ending collection of long, flowing black skirts, usually with a petticoat peeking out from underneath. The blouse has extremely teensy mother-of-pearl buttons at the back which were quite a challenge to do up, especially with burgundy painted talons (black nail polish had yet to be invented). Over the years, the insomniac  has always worn her nails far too long and to this day prefers dark coloured polish. Although never black; she feels she might be a bit too old to rock that look.

Victorian Blouse

Victorian Petticoat

Based on her choice of attire, the insomniac  surmises from her research she might have been known as a Romantigoth or Victorian Goth, should such labels, or even a Gothic subculture, have existed back in the Dark Ages when she was born. Although she never wore a corset herself (having just missed the Victorian Era by only a few years), she greatly admires the look on today's youth, but is quite grateful she is well past the point it could be considered age appropriate to wear one, as they do seem like the type of attire that require a fair amount of fussing. And should she ever have attempted to wear such an article, she is quite sure her Sainted Mother would have made some kind of snide remark about chippies - an antiquated expression that used to translate as “a vulgar, common girl who wears cheap, shiny jewellery and far too much makeup”, although one has the distinct impression it might mean something completely different these days.

The insomniac  also had a passion for Peter Fox footwear and first discovered them in Vancouver's Gastown in a boutique called Fox & Fluevog. And while John Fluevog claims he “is thousands of years old and Peter Fox is, in fact, Methuselah”, the insomniac  is probably quite close to being the same age, a fact one doesn't usually care to admit publicly. Almost all the PF shoes were saved for the day they would be handed down to the youngest female offspring; upon reaching the age of thirteen, her shoe size determined that could no longer be considered an option. And so now they're being preserved for ... Posterity? The Peter Fox Shoe Museum? The Salvation Army Thrift Store, once the insomniac  passes? Who really understands why she insists on maintaining the collection ...

But for now, the shoes have been rewrapped in their tissue paper and lovingly returned to their original boxes. All except for the black pair indicated by a question mark - that particular box somehow went missing. You didn't really think the insomniac  was so obsessive she remembered all the shoe's names without the help of the box labels, did you? DID YOU?

L-R:  Kimberly  -  7210  -  Kim  -  Helen  -  ?

In addition to the shoes, two pairs of Peter Fox boots were also in the collection - one pair called Brandy that were so worn out and completely beyond repair they were actually thrown away. Having said that, one might just go double-check the basement, as one is having a really hard time believing she actually managed to throw something out. But the next pair were always the favourites, purchased in Montreal for the astronomical price of $498, which back then actually was a staggering amount. The insomniac  walked past the boutique numerous times before finally deciding she couldn't possibly live without them, and would regret it for the rest of her life if they were left behind. And that might very well have been one of the smarter decisions she's ever made, to date. A similar style is still available on the Peter Fox website (you'll never regret it).

Victorian Granny Boot

After the arrival of the offspring, and the subsequent loss of whatever slim figure she once had, the insomniac's  style evolved from tight, figure-flattering vintage clothing to looser,  more practical clothing. At this point, a bit of pattern was added in a futile attempt to camouflage any spit-up or jam-encrusted finger marks that managed to land on her outfit before leaving the house for work each morning.

California Dress, from a now defunct company called Victoria Falls.
Often worn with the lace-up-the-leg PF Kimberley ...

Mulberry Dress, which looked smashing with the PF Helen.
And also made a very nice maternity dress ...

Then came a long stretch of time when the insomniac  stayed home with the offspring. Funds for anything other than the mortgage on the Gothic Mansion and keeping the offspring fed and clothed were just not available. During those lean years, the insomniac's  style (or lack thereof) was limited to black t-shirts and Levis for dressier occasions, or black t-shirts and the spouse's cast-off sweatpants for more casual days. And no, there aren't any pictures one would be willing to share from that particular period ...

Later in life, when the insomniac  returned to work in the Retail World, she was lucky enough to be employed in a beautiful little boutique for four years, and there acquired a  taste for expensive European clothes, being particularly fond of the loose and comfortable Lagenlook style. But her colour palette was still quite limited, to the point where her co-workers finally exclaimed, “For heaven's sake, will you please  buy something other than black!” And because the insomniac  adored these women and completely trusted their sage advice, she broadened her palette a teensy bit and rediscovered grey, burgundy and certain shades of purple. Even so, if you were to take a peak inside her closet today, it is Still Quite Dark in There.

Olars Ulla Skirt with Plum Petticoat ...

And at this present stage of her life, such is the insomniac's  wardrobe: predominantly black Lagenlook outfits when working at contract jobs; black t-shirts and jeans when she is not. The only things remaining unchanged throughout this evolution of style being the overly long, dark nails, a fondness for black t-shirts and Levis, and the fact she still enjoys a Really Good Petticoat. Which would explain why a substantial assortment have been ordered for the Attic, with the unspoken understanding that one of every colour will  be ending up in the insomniac's  closet. And this is how the collection grows ... 

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. But before you drift off tonight, the insomniac  asks if you might give some thought to her new business plan ... a clothing line in a comfortable organic cotton jersey with a bit of handwork in a Gothic/Dark Mori motif, suitable for Retirement Home attire; an easy-care wash and wear line for those instances where spit-up or jam-encrusted fingers manage to land on the outfit. The insomniac  welcomes your comments, and any suggestions for a brand name.

Goodnight, my pretties.


This post is dedicated to the insomniac's  former co-workers, who helped her exhume a love of fashion that had been buried for far too long. She really misses you. And though she loves you all dearly and has nothing but the utmost respect for your opinions, the very second her hair turns completely grey she will be ignoring your sage advice and letting it return to its former length so she can resume wearing it in a long braid down the middle of her back. Why on earth would she do that, she can hear you asking? Because that is how the insomniac  rolls, my pretties. That's just how she rolls ... 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Crafting with the Insomniac  - Repurposing Vintage Textiles for your Gothic Mansion

Being a very rainy and cold week, the insomniac  spent a good portion of it in the real third-floor attic getting caught up on some sewing. One finds that sewing, and particularly hand sewing, induces a State of Flow, although in the insomniac's  humble opinion this state really only occurs when all is proceeding as planned and Flow is not being constantly interrupted by the endless reworking of stitches because they don't quite meet one's standards. But it was a good week for Flow, and three out of the five projects attempted were considered a success, which is a pretty decent average when working with vintage fabrics.

And it was a lovely week for spending time in the attic, with the sound of the rain hammering on the roof, the creaking of the weather vane as the wind whipped it around, and the always present background noise of chittering magpies, including their three new offspring who yak-yak-yak incessantly starting around 4:00 a.m., which is roughly the time the insomniac  turns off the computer and heads back to bed in an attempt to catch a few more hours of shut-eye after a sleepless night.

One really does look forward
to the baby magpies every year ...

The first project this week was the repurposing of a vintage table runner which was badly stained on the back and emitted a foul odour. While the insomniac is not particularly fussy about stained textiles (one of her favorites even has what looks to be a dried bloodstain on it), she has a very low tolerance level for textiles of the malodorous variety. And not the lovely musty smell emanating from most vintage textiles (which she loves) but rather the “I've been donated by a household with forty chain-smokers” type of smell (which she loathes). So the first order of business was to attempt to wash the runner; always a gamble with vintage items as the dye generally bleeds like the devil. And bleed it did, but just the rose colour, so some additional imitation dye-bleed in Antique Gold and Olivine was added for good measure. Please don't ask why; the insomniac  just felt it looked better with all the colours bleeding in unison.

Having decided to make a pillow from the runner, the chosen pillow form was measured directly across the middle to determine height and width. One should never measure a pillow form at the edge, in case it isn't perfectly symmetrical - learn from the insomniac's  mistakes, my pretties, learn from her mistakes. Then the two tapestry pieces, plus a lovely piece of faded velvet from another runner, were laid out on a piece of fusible interfacing and ironed on. This helps keeps the pieces from moving around when trying to sew the gold trim back on straight - another lesson learned many years ago and, once again, the hard way. After attaching the trim, the runner was cut down to the correct size for the pillow form; in this case, the form measured 9x13 inches so the runner was cut to 10x14 inches, allowing for a one-half inch seam allowance all the way around.

Top shown with the gold trim pinned and ready to sew.
Bottom shown with the edges of the velvet and tapestry ironed flush together. 

Once the top portion of the pillow was ready, it was time to choose which lucky piece in the Fabric Stash would work well for the bottom. Quite a number of years ago, a remnant of  embossed gold velveteen was purchased, not because one likes the colour gold even slightly, but simply because it was the last remaining piece. One is quite sure you understand the reasoning behind this decision. Such a purchase can always be justified with the phrase “it's bound to come in handy for some future project or other AND it's the Last Piece!”. It was a stroke of luck one actually remembered purchasing the fabric and then was actually able to locate it, but the sad fact is the insomniac  probably knows her Fabric Stash better than she knows her own offspring ...

The gold velveteen was then cut the same size as the front and pinned with wrong sides together, then a one-half inch seam was sewn all the way around, while remembering to leave an opening at the bottom for the insertion of the pillow form. The corner seams were trimmed close to the stitching so as to produce a crisp point when the pillow was turned right side out (might one recommend the use of a point turner rather than the sharp end of a pair of scissors). A nice point at the corners is something the insomniac  is quite particular about, ever since her apron project in Grade Seven Home Economics class was given a failing grade due to improperly turned out corners.

The corners trimmed close to the stitching - not too close, mind ...

Once the pillow case was turned right side out, the open edges were ironed down one-half inch which makes them much easier to sew together. The insomniac  never bothers with zippers in her pillow cases as, once completed, they will never be washed again. Who knows what might happen with the dye the next time ...

Pillow shown with the nicely turned out corners and
the proper tool for getting them that way ...

The original metallic fringe sewn with the braid portion normally concealed inside
left showing, as it was quite decorative ...

Here's a little aside (because seriously, how could the insomniac  possibly make it through an entire post without getting off-topic at least once), this useful item was made from two different sized saucers with a tarnished silver goblet sandwiched between them, all glued together with E-6000. A handy place to store one's sewing implements and an easy ten-minute craft for those days when the State of Flow is just not happening.

Perfect for holding your pins, thimbles and thread ...

Returning to the pillow ... at this point one should always remember to (1) give the pillow case a final pressing before cramming the pillow form inside, and (2) ensure the corners of the pillow form fill the corners of the pillow cover before sewing it closed. The insomniac  prefers finishing her pillows with a whip-stitch, as by the time she attempts to machine sew the opening in a straight line, all the while wrestling with the pillow form to keep it out of the way of the machine's needle, then having to rip out the seam at least three times because it wasn't straight enough, it's generally just easier to hand sew it in the first place. Thereby maintaining the State of Flow.

Pinching the fabric together while whip-stitching is much easier
with the seams already pressed down.

The insomniac  should have used hand lotion before  taking the picture ...

Knot the thread at the edge, pull the needle through the fabric a few inches,
then cut the thread at the base of the needle.
The knot and excess thread will both disappear inside the pillow ...

And finally, the completed pillow. Isn't the faded portion at the bottom left of the rose velvet lovely? Well, perhaps only the insomniac  finds it so ...

Pillow Front

The next project was this vintage tapestry runner, not in perfect shape but extremely beautiful nonetheless. Besides a bit of mending and ironing, the insomniac  decided to leave the runner pretty much as it was. Other than a barely noticeable stain on the front and a few on the back (and who amongst us actually look at the back of a runner once it's down and covered with bric-a-brac anyway), thankfully there were no unsavory odours. And sometimes the best decision one can make regarding vintage textiles is to leave well enough alone.

Doesn't it look like something that would have been displayed
in a French Neo-Gothic Chateau?

The last of the week's projects was the dyeing of two vintage damask runners with black backgrounds but extremely faded gold patterns. Both were dyed scarlet but only one ended up being useable in its original state, as after the vigorous rinsing necessary to eliminate any excess dye, the second revealed a number of worn areas. Never one to admit defeat, the insomniac  will salvage the useable portions and add them to a piece of black cotton velveteen to make a new runner, using one in her collection as an example where another thrifty individual has done exactly that.

The damask runner that worked ...

How the damask runner that didn't work
is going to look after salvaging ...

However, not all of this week's dye experiments could be considered successful. An attempt to dye a stained ivory piano scarf in a scarlet to black ombré effect ended up as a scarlet to burgundy with black splotch effect instead. Although one certainly appreciates the many “happy accidents” that oftentimes occur when dyeing, that particular item will definitely be heading back to the dye-pot. But that is why the insomniac  so enjoys working with vintage textiles - every project is a Crap Shoot, oops, Adventure.

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. And a word of warning to anyone considering sniping the insomniac  on eBay at the last second in an attempt to snag the best antique textiles for themselves - she will  hunt you down. Nah, just kidding! Sort of ...

Goodnight, my pretties.


    Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi