Monday, January 30, 2012

Seaworthy Seams


What do a sailor and a sewing machine have in common?

A lot more than I imagined.

When I wrote up my profile for my Etsy shop, I posed that question, the answer being that I sewed in memory of a sailor. 

What I didn’t realize was that sailors actually sewed sometimes!

thumbnail sailors

Sailors of the Steel Navy had a constant need for someone to sew. Men with a sewing machine and skill could make money creating fancy variations of standard uniforms, proudly worn by sailors on liberty. These custom made uniforms adhered to Navy regulations, but featured higher quality material and embroidering. Sewing was also an essential skill in the maintenance of the ship. Repair work on hammocks, canvas awnings, and even the sails of early steel ships required a nimble hand.

(From A Sailor’s Life in the New Steel Navy,

sailors sewing

It’s always been easy to love a man in uniform.  But a man in uniform who also knows his way around a sewing machine? 

USS Richmond 1900 Lay aloft

I’m on board with that!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

For the Love of Dot Dash Dash Dot…

I’ve always been fascinated by Morse Code-the series of dots and dashes (or dits and dahs) that represent the letters of the alphabet in coded form.   It was formulated by Samuel F. B. Morse in 1836. 

Every time I’ve listened to  a message being transmitted in Morse code, I’m amazed.  It seems like it would be difficult not only to memorize all of the various combinations for letters-and numbers and punctuation marks as well-but then be able to both send, and understand a message too.  At a high rate of speed no less.

I learned that during World War II some of the Morse Code receivers were so skilled that they could tell who a sender was just by the small variations in how the dots and dashes were transmitted!  Now did Pete have to learn Morse Code?  I have his report cards from his early days of training in the Navy, and while I didn’t see any grades for a Morse Code course, he did receive pretty low marks in penmanship.  Perhaps he would have benefitted from learning Morse Code after all!

Below is a chart of the Morse Code representations for the alphabet, numbers, and punctuation. 


I thought it might be fun to make a Morse Code necklace out of the odds and ends of vintage beads I’ve collected over the years. 


Using the chart above, I’ve spelled out  “Pete”. 

.—.  .  -  .

I used a textured bead as my “spacer” both before and after  the “Pete”, and between each letter, too.  The small jade colored beads are the dots, and the long black beads are the dashes.  The rest of the length of the necklace is made up in small aqua and black beads.  I think it turned out to be a very unusual and pretty piece of jewelry.

Here’s a link to a site where you can type in your name and listen to the way it sounds when transmitted in Morse Code.

Have fun!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Snow Day


This is our backyard this morning, only I took this picture before a dense fog rolled in.  It’s about 11 degrees outside.  Cold, snowy, and a perfect day for a day off from school for Amy. Only the school district here does not believe in snow days. 

It’s sad, because as a kid, I remember the excitement of listening to the radio and waiting for the much anticipated announcement that school would be closed for the day due to snow.  I think every kid deserves that experience.  Only once, since Amy started kindergarten 11 years ago, have the schools here been closed because of  snow.  And even then, the announcement did not come by way of the radio, but as a posting on her school’s webpage.  Hardly the same thing.

Do you remember snow days when you were a kid?


Friday, I went thrifting with my friend Paula, and I found these bookends.  I thought they were so fun, and they are perfect for making me feel like I’m on a sunny beach somewhere. Maybe I’ll use them to organize my travel books on Hawaii.


And then I found this little guy.  I went back and forth over whether to get him or not.  I found him both cute, but not cute at the same time.  I’d pick him up, and then put him down.  Finally I decided against him, and Paula actually said she was proud of me.  At the last minute though, I went back for him.  If I wasn’t going to rescue him, who would, I wondered?  I have to admit as I carried him to the checkout stand I put his little face towards me so as to avoid any stares of dismay from other shoppers over my decision. 

And now I’m so glad he is mine.  If you turn him upside down there is a name-Doris Thompson-and the year 1975.  I Googled the name for fun, and as it turns out there was a Doris Thompson, from Maryland. I found her obituary, and learned that one of her hobbies was ceramics.  Her husband died in 1975.  I wonder if he was a sailor?  Doris had many, many grandchildren and great grand children.  It’s possible, I suppose, that one of them ended up with this little guy and he somehow ended up in another part of the United States.  Pure speculation on my part, but it’s fun to imagine…

Now the question is-if he’s to be my mascot, he needs a suitable name.  Any ideas?

Happy Monday-and I hope all of you have a great week!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Seeing Double, Seeing Red


As I was browsing Google for pictures a couple weeks ago, I stumbled across this one.  Not only is it a great vintage illustration, but the sailor looks an awful lot like my dad in his sailor days.  I know it isn’t of course.  This picture dates back to WWII and my dad would have been to young to be out with a woman like that, but still…it sure looks like him!  Is it true, as they say, that everyone has a double-even if it’s only on paper?

Bob on Guam

And last week I found a really cute vintage picture frame online. From the listing pictures of it, and the description, it struck me as a really cool frame.  I’d been looking for one so that I could display Amy’s school picture in the sewing room.  I’m in there a lot, and I wanted to be able to gaze at her sweet face while I’m sewing. 

The frame arrived yesterday-in a thin plastic mailing envelope, no less. As I feared, the glass was broken.  But that wasn’t what disappointed me most.  It was the presentation, or lack of it.  A bit of tissue paper and bubble wrap, and the frame itself was dirty.

Now I’m not bringing this up here to criticize anyone.  But what I want to know from you, my readers, is this-does presentation matter to you? I know careful packing is the most important element, but in my eyes, the frame would have seemed more special-more like an object of value, if it had been treated as such.  

When I ship out my bags, I try to make it an event for the customer when they open the box.  Nice tissue paper, a thank you card, and a little extra token of my gratitude.  Because I can still hear the voice of one of my apparel design professors from my college days.

“Presentation is everything!”

I like to think my double would agree.  Wherever she is.

Monday, January 16, 2012

In a Perfect World

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Unlocking a Great Idea!


It was one of those “Aha!” moments.  I looked at the rug in the sewing room, and looked at the curtains.  And then I thought of the rug in Amy’s room.  And the lights turned on. 


Old rug..

blue curtains

Barkcloth curtains (and my mannequin’s arm!)

palm rug

Rug in Amy’s room.

I know this isn’t an earth shattering revelation, but all of a sudden it came to me that Amy's  rug would go perfectly with the sewing room curtains, and I asked her if she’d care if I switched her rug for the rug in the sewing room.  She is getting a room makeover as her Christmas present, and so it did not matter to her. She’ll be getting a new rug of her own choosing soon.   And so she helped me do some rug swapping right there and then.  (I feel guilty in that the sewing room rug still had bits of thread on it from my last sewing project, but I’m going to vacuum it for her.)

The sewing room is so striking now, with the rug and the curtains.  Why I wonder, didn’t I think of it before?

I guess this is my point today.  What causes those “Aha!” moments to happen?  What causes our thoughts to suddenly see things in a new way?

Monday night, I was contemplating what I would come up with for today’s post, and I could think of nothing.  Sometimes, I have so many ideas that they line up in my mind like airplanes on the runway, waiting for their turn to take off.  And at other times, nothing…

And then I happened to look at my key chain, full of so many other things than keys I actually need and use-a number 19 tag (19 is my favorite number), a Valerie keychain from a dear friend, a WWII era Victory key, a mini tape measure, a lucky horseshoe and penny, and my giant safety pin, given to me by my mom years ago-a sentimental favorite (almost confiscated at the airport once when they couldn’t decide if it could be used as a weapon.) 


So my question today-what do you keep on your keychain just for fun, or sentiment, or luck?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why it Still Matters: The Legacy of My Uncle Pete

This is a repost from a year ago-I thought it was well worth repeating.  I’ve added a few more details and some additional photographs, as well. 

with Adeline Manila

If my Uncle Pete were alive today, he’d  be 98.  By now,  he would have accumulated a lifetime’s worth of stories and memories.  He would have a past that would go beyond his trials as a POW, and though forever changed by those experiences, he would be defined by other, happier times, too.

Instead, my uncle died January 9, 1945.   Sixty-seven years ago today. Killed while aboard the Enoura Maru, a POW transport ship, or Hell Ship, when it was bombed as it sat in Takao Harbor, Formosa.


The sinking of the Enoura Maru.  It was tied up along side a Japanese oil tanker, making it an attractive target. The Enoura Maru had  previously been employed as a livestock transport ship.  It was filthy when the prisoners were crammed on board-packed in so tightly that many could not sit down.  They were given practically no food or water.  My uncle died when the hatch cover over the hold where he was confined  was hit by a bomb and crashed down,  killing many men.


In the couple of years before the war, Pete, a Pharmacist's Mate, was attached to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Canacao, in the Philippines.  He was wounded in the attack on Manila on December 10, 1941 and  became a prisoner of war when the Islands eventually fell to the Japanese .  He spent most of the war interned at the Bilibid prison camp in Manila, and at this camp, a hospital was set up to care for sick and injured prisoners.


Bilibid Prison Hospital, where my uncle would have worked.  Note how emaciated the prisoners are.



Wooden crosses marking the graves of deceased POWS.  My uncle had carpentry skills and was given the job of making these crosses.


Years ago, my Aunt Virginia, Pete’s sister, dedicated herself to the task of finding as many of Pete’s friends and acquaintances from his WWII past as she could, asking them for any information they might have about her brother.  Over time she developed friendships with some of the men and women  who had known Pete.

I have Virginia’s collection of letters, given to me after her death.  Reading through them, they all mention the same thing about Pete.  That he was one of the kindest, most compassionate individuals they had ever known.  He had a particular concern for those fellow prisoners who were the worst off, both emotionally and physically, and tried his hardest to help them survive, putting their needs above his own. 

I’ve read accounts of the conditions at prison camps like Bilibid, and how the prisoners were treated. I can’t even begin to imagine the trials and horrors that POWs such as my uncle faced.   But this is what I find to be such a testament to  Pete:  that he never lost his own humanity even when all traces of civility broke down around him.

January 9, 1945  may have been a long, long time ago, but Pete’s story deserves to be told over, and over, again. Not only because he was my uncle, and I want to remember him and honor him.  But  because kindness, compassion and humanity are as relevant today as they were sixty-seven years ago.


My Uncle, Roland Erich Going PHM2,  US Navy, Honolulu


Pete’s grave marker at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Oahu.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Little Red Book

30 Jan 1981 --- Original caption: 1/30/1981-New York, NY- Two Department of Sanitation workers begin to sweep up the tons of confetti and ticker tape after the parade for the former American hostages on Broadway 1/30. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year?  I made one.

It’s hard to believe now, but I used to be a real slob.  I was so messy as a kid that my grandmother even wrote me a poem.


And in elementary school, my second grade teacher asked me, one afternoon, if I’d like help cleaning up my desk, and when I said yes, she dumped the entire contents of it onto the floor.  (I still find myself appalled at her attempt to teach me to be tidy.  It just seems mean, now.)

Eventually, I learned to love neatness.  I guess I’m a little obsessed with it these days.  I admit, though, that I can still make a first class mess with the best of them-after baking, or sewing, for example.  (For a funny post about my studio, read this.)  In general though, I like to run a tight ship.

When it comes to being neat and tidy and organized though, I do have my Achilles heel.  My collection of addresses and phone numbers.  Slips of paper.  Corners torn off envelopes.  Random scraps scrawled with numbers, and names.  They are everywhere, and nowhere to be found when I need them.  It’s become quite the joke in my house. 

So this year, I have resolved to find all those bits and pieces of vital information and write them down in one place.  I  bought myself a cute little vintage red address book, made in 1947, but never used.  Waiting all these years to come to my rescue, I think.

address book

address book2

As it says in the Forward:

We write the record of our lives on the Scroll of Time.  Memories of friends we have made, ecstasies we have lived, and unsullied joys we have felt, through the years, form the pages of the Book of Life.

Lest we forget, we pause from time to time, and turn the pages of this Book to live again past thrills, remember friends, and recall pleasant associations.

Now that’s what I call an address book.

So anyone want to be added to my Christmas card list?  Or have me remember a birthday or anniversary perhaps?  Want me to know where to reach you day or night?

I’m your gal, because this is one resolution I really hope to keep. 

Now, if I could just find my little red book.  I know it’s around here somewhere…

Monday, January 2, 2012

An Iconic Bit of Happiness

kit cat clock

Yesterday, we took our tree down.  I’d planned to leave it up a bit longer, but it was really starting to dry out.  Today, I’ll finish putting the rest of Christmas away, for another year.  It’s these days-the post Christmas days-that seem to be the saddest for me. 

With holiday preparations over, and the new year welcomed, I know that Amy’s Christmas break is over and she’ll be returning to school, and it leaves me feeling a little lonely.  And the house, deprived of its festive decor, seems a little sad itself.

This year though, I have something to cheer me up.  My Kit Cat Klock-a gift from my mother in law.  I’ve wanted to have a Kit Cat Klock for a long time.

The Kit Cat Klock was introduced in 1932 by the California Clock Company, in Portland Oregon, and has been produced ever since. It’s even been estimated that on average, one Kit Cat Klock has sold every three minutes in the last 80 years.  In design, the clock has changed a little bit over the years, and  has also switched from a plug in clock to a battery operated clock, but it still has its iconic rolling eyes and wagging tail.  When the Kit Cat Klock made its debut in the thirties, America was in the midst of the Great Depression.  The Kit Cat Klock helped bring cheer and inspire hope.

I love that the Kit Cat Klock has been around for so long, making people smile for 80 years now. I certainly can’t help but feel happier when I look at mine.


For more information about Kit Cat Klocks, you can visit the official website here:

kit Kat

Image courtesy of