Author: pocketalchemy

Tooth Fairy Time

Of course we would hit this all important milestone when I was not particularly prepared. But it is here, 5-and-a-half-year-old Rudi lost his first tooth on the weekend. I knew it was loose but it didn’t seem that loose. However he managed to hit his face on a chair and the tooth popped right out. He was so surprised that he even forgot to cry about the face-hit! A very thrilled and proud boy is he.


Happily, luckily, I had the foresight a while ago to buy charming little blue tooth envelopes from Wildhorse Press (one of my absolute favourites, I highly recommend their cards and prints) for him to put his first few teeth into. Because I have not yet made a tooth pillow — it’s on the list of “Things I’m Determined to Do.” You know that list? Yeah …

For the actual tooth fairy work, I did some late-night googling to see what other people are doing. So much fun, I do love charming, mini things. And I shamelessly, happily sourced some creative and free printables from other artists, because they have done an amazing job and I am not a graphic designer. The tooth certificate is from Toys in the Dryer, I just downsized it when I printed it, and the little yellow tooth fairy envelope is from Handmade Charlotte.

The note I wrote myself using a 9-point Snell Roundhand font. I made sure to get in a reminder about eating fruits and veggies since fairies hold a lot more sway than I do in that department! I wrapped a book and added a Loonie (that’s a $1 coin in Canada) and we’re off, catapulted into yet another realm of growing-up-land, spinning some more magic.

Room of My Own: The Pocket Alchemy Studio

PA studio 1

A number of years ago I saw master crafter and blogger SouleMama’s home studio space, probably around the time it was originally posted in 2007. And since that fateful day I have not been able to get her gorgeous room out of my head. It was the workspace of my dreams, turquoise walls, stacks of fabric, chockablock with whimsey and inspiration. It was as if she’d actualized the room I’d create given, well, the room. I checked in on it often.

PA studio 2
Fast forward to 2013 and now I have a proper room of my own! A studio, a workroom, a dreaming, concocting, making place that’s just mine, full of the colours and busy, eclectic-ness  that I adore. The first thing I did was paint it turquoise, a very retro shade that I find inspiring.

PA studio 6

I have a  beautiful White sewing table, circa 1910, courtesy of my thoughtful in-laws. I love all the drawers and doors, it’s Arts and Crafts sensibility. The original machine sits upstairs on a bookshelf so I can enjoy her out of context.

And why yes, that is a fairy door on the lower left of my sewing machine. They’re excellent neighbours, occasionally checking in, but mostly keeping to themselves. My boys are utterly enchanted by it! Day-to-day I work on my schmancy new Janome with which I am still acquainting myself.

PA studio 3

I  did a major clean up and decided it was  time I photographed my studio-room to share here. Naturally the space vacillates between being about this tidy and looking like a crafty bomb exploded in it. Of course this is how I prefer it! When my space is clear(ish) I feel calm inside and the possibilities for creation are not drowned out by the thousand things to pick up or deal with.

PA studio 4

My walls are covered in things that inspire me. Old buttons, sewing bits and bobs, art made by friends so that I am not only surrounded by beautiful things to look at but those pieces are attached to dear, creative folk. I never feel lonely.

PA studio 5

Historically I’ve been one for a subdued, autumn pallet of colours, but lately, increasingly, bright colours are appealing to me. After using colour sample cards for programs in one of my dance shows, I decided to make some bright, happy art from the leftovers. Flanking my recently acquired Underwood typewriter sit a turquoise Singer I rescued from garbage day and sweated home on the Toronto subway system many moons ago, and my grandmother’s singer.

PA studio 8

Jars of curios and little-boy treasures sit beside useful items like machine oil, a pencil sharpener and my craft-sized Tiny Serger. Since it’s a basement room, there used to be another window, but a kitchen was added to the house years ago on that side. The renovators cleverly created a little shelf in the old window cavity. Naturally I made this into my own wee gallery. Currently on display: some early Anne of Green Gables editions and hand-bound art books by my friend Lindsay Zier-Vogel. I’m thinking next year I might curate a monthly mini art show that I share on my blog once per month. So stay tuned. And keep inspired!

PA studio 7

Quick and Dirty Cowboy Accoutrement


I have been away from my blog for much of October, working on a project that shall remain secret till it is revealed next fall — oh anticipation! This much I can say: I am  delighted and honoured that the project I working on is going to be included in Leanne Prain‘s upcoming book Strange Material: Storytelling Through Textiles with Arsenal Pulp Press. Very exciting. All shall be revealed upon publication in 2014.

Now about the cowboy pieces: it was just halloween! And as you probably know, I make costumes. 2-year-old Gene wore Rudi’s cowboy costume from a few years ago and Rudi, at 5, obviously wanted to be Spiderman, so I went ahead and bought a second-hand Spidey costume that fit the bill. I think he was particularly excited to have a store-bought costume after always having had homemade ones. Sometimes you have to admit when it’s not worth making yourself!

So I thought I was just going to sit back and work on other things, but at 8:35pm on October 30th my lovely husband texted me at the end of my yoga class to say if I wanted something fun to do on the way home I could find him a cowboy hat and belt! A last-minute cowboy: challenge accepted. I could only find a horrible foam hat from a dollar store before everything closed, but it did the trick. I will not dignify it by including it here though, it was sad. Project get-a-much-better-cowboy-hat is underway for future last minute cowboys. No belt luck. So my costuming head started whirring as I drove home.


I cut out 2 cardboard ovals, drew a longhorn and some stud details in hot glue, let it dry and covered it all in tin foil. Ta da! From a reasonable distance it looks like a true, huge ol’ cowboy buckle. I added a foil loop at the back and and it just slipped over a regular belt. Sorted.


Lastly, I dug out a felt holster I’d made for a costuming gig in the summer, which I wrote about here. The budget for that job was limited so I decided to use my own materials and time to make a holster for the sheriff character and just lend it to the production since I figured (rightly, hurray for foresight!) that it might come in handy in my house full of boys. I just didn’t expect the adult boy to be the first one who used it! The pistol stayed home during the work day since hubby teaches grade 4, but we pilfered our son’s sheriff badge and handkerchief and found some emergency stick-on moustaches in my costuming stash.

Cowboy accoutrement sorted and in bed before midnight. Yeeeeeeee-ha!

Apple Picking, Autumn Savouring

I grew up in Alberta where there are not a lot of fruit trees. And somehow, I have reached my mid-thirties without managing to pick a single apple from a tree. So when a friend suggested we take ourselves and our 2-year-old sons to Avalon Orchards, an organic orchard near Barrie, Ontario, I leapt at the chance.


We had a beautiful, crisp day to pick. The boys revelled in the wandering and the eating and the tripping over ground-fall. Eating different apples in quick succession was like sampling wine, tasting the different notes in each fruit, sweetness, spicy, tart. I just felt so absolutely, utterly good. Solid, sweetness-in-the-belly good — full of friendship, the freshest fruit and the nostril tingling, mustiness of nature hunkering down.

I love apple names, they sound so thrilling  — Nova Spy, Nova Mac, Freedom. All 3 of these late harvest apples are sitting in my kitchen ready for eating and baking, apple crisp season is here. I adore this time of year and it’s way too brief, so off I go to get some hand sewing done on the porch. Happy thanksgiving, for the large and the the small, for each other and for crisp autumn days that sharpen our edges in the best way.

Filling a Friend’s Fridge

I have a dear friend, the indefatigable Lindsay Zier-Vogel who came over to visit last weekend. She filled my fridge. Literally. She arrived with a laundry basket of supplies, cracked a bottle of wine and proceeded to make us dinner, then also massive amounts of delicious chili and soup for the freezer. She pulled out pre-made banana bread and homemade jam and jelly. She even cleaned up.

Pocket Alchemy Jelly and Jam

Life is fast and full for me these days and I have a hard time keeping up with 2 little boys. I find the shifting identity that is part and parcel of staying home with the little folk challenging, sometimes downright paralyzingly overwhelming, along side the attempt to fit my own work into the days. Lately, paralyzing-overwhelm has been winning. Lindsay knows this, we chat and text often. Her act of kindness reminded me that filling the fridge of someone who’s stumbling, if you have the means and time, is one of the very most awesome things you can do.

Chili, sausage-pesto pasta, red pepper jelly, ginger jam, carrot cake and there's sweet potato soup in the fridge. My cup runneth over.
Chili, sausage-pesto pasta, red pepper jelly, ginger jam, carrot cake and there’s also sweet potato soup in the freezer. My cup runneth over.

I imagine one day I will waltz into her house, on a day when I have my s*%@ together a little more than she (that day will totally come, ahem!) and fill it with news and booze and delicious homemade goodness. And she might just have a glimmer of just how truly excellent her instinct was to march in here last week and own the kitchen and the conversation for a while. It made a huge difference.

Party pour les Petits Pirates

Contrary to my title, I must admit I am not French at all. I am not even a bilingual Canadian except for my extensive ballet term vocabulary and my grade 11 level conjugation skills! But I do adore alliteration. So I couldn’t resist going with my frenglish title because of all the P’s! Anyways, this is the story of a party I held for small pirates, specifically my wee Gene-bean who recently turned 2 years old.

Pirate party loot bags and clues

We were at our Muskoka cottage for the big day and Gene’s big 5-year-old brother and his even bigger 8-year-old cousin would be his guests for the festivities. I thought that a treasure hunt would be grand in that amazing landscape and keep lads of all ages happy. Which led me to the pirate idea. Really anything involving adventures and weapons and dress up works for these guys, thus a modest cottage pirate party was born. Of all the things concocted for this fête, the felt-on-flannel map below is my favourite. Charming if I do say so, non?

Felt on flannel treasure map

As usual I wanted to make this party as handmade as possible. I love to make and craft, I thrive on creating — for me, the act of imagining and making is part of loving-up my kids when I have the time to do it. Baking, on the other hand, I have given up on. I’m not very good at it, I don’t really enjoy it and in the end they only eat the icing. So I bought a cake with mounds of icing and decorated it so it was a little more fun! As you can see below, I just jammed a couple of tentacle fingers we had lurking in our dress-up chest into the cake (very kraken!) along with some dollar store cupcake topper ships and used the cupcake papers to surround the cake. Icing: eaten. Birthday boy: delighted. Cake: success.

Kraken cake.

The treasure hunt took the kids around the cottage and surrounding property revealing handmade pirate sashes, felt eye patches and pirate hats. From clue to clue they travelled in their new pirate duds, eventually finding some random bounty including chocolate Canadian coins, those squish coin pouches I thought died in the 80s (but was glad to find still exist, I loved those things!), little wooden airplane gliders and silly straw glasses for drinking pirate’s brew, a.k.a. Shirley Temples.

Pirate party treasure hunt bounty

The font I found for free on and is called Pieces of Eight. It worked a treat and included a lovely “X” for making the spot and some sabres and skulls, all necessary when making pirate-y name tags and clues.

Lastly I had to make Gene’s favourite baby dolly a wee matching pirate hat and patch. He caught his breath with delight when dolly was revealed, then immediately proceeded, with no apparent provocation, to hang the baby by his neck from a string on the window sill. Very pirate-y indeed mateys. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Felt pirate hat and matching dolly

End of the Nursing Epoch

Epoch ep·och (ˈe-pək, ˈe-ˌpäk) | an event or a time marked by an event that begins a new period or development | an extended period of time usually characterized by a distinctive development or by a memorable series of events | a division of geologic time less than a period and greater than an age

GeneNursing2013I knew the time was coming. And in many ways I was so very ready — to have my body back (more or less), to not be tied as intensely, as literally, to someone else. On a more practical note I am profoundly relieved to not have any more f*%#ing yeast infections on my nipples. Good times!

And yet, and yet … as I write this I feel the prickle of tears and have been a puddle of moodiness for the past couple of months as Gene weaned himself. And now it is complete. No more milk. He already forgets how to latch so when he tests out the boobs in a moment of half-sleep it feels weird for both of us and he smiles up at me and says, “done!” and snuggles in for huggy-loveies (how did I become the lady that says things like that?! But I did. Ah well.)

The end of an era, though “era” doesn’t seem like a big and juicy enough word for this event in my life. Inside it feels like a seismic shift, and the landscape of my body has altered quickly. My natural small-boob-ed-ness is returning, though things are settling a lot lower on the map of course! I walk around and feel freer, but also bereft. It’s evolution, I delight in Gene’s growth and enjoy his wee-man-ness as he finds his words and his sense of humour finds legs. He’ll be two years old in a few days. And yet.

Gene weaned in his own time, he was ready and he’s fine, I just need a little time to find my feet on the other side of this epoch in my life and body. Less than a period and greater than an age, I am ever grateful and powerfully changed for this time in my life.

A friend posted a link on Facebook to a lovely blog about mothering though somehow I found my way to this post accidentally, though so appropriately. It really moved me, it’s beautifully, hilariously written. Worth a read if you want some more on the topic.

43 Costume Changes in 95 Minutes

Arles Struvie and Thurston Wheelis at Radio Station OKKK
Arles Struvie (Peter Shipston) and Thurston Wheelis (Mike Petersen) in Greater Tuna. Here they are at Radio Station OKKK presenting their morning Wheelis Struvie Report.

That’s a lot of changes that is. It is. It is. Backstage was a finely oiled machine of 43 quick changes over the 95 minutes of play. Ladies and gents: I just concluded my first ever theatre gig this summer costuming the play Greater Tuna. I’ve spent my career as a costume designer in dance and a wee bit of film so this was new territory but I’m happy to report that it was fantastic fun!

Didi Snavely who sells used guns and knives. Her slogan is, "if Didi's can't kill it, it's immortal!" She's a bit rough around the edges.
Didi Snavely who sells used guns and knives. Her slogan is, “if Didi’s can’t kill it, it’s immortal!” She’s a bit rough around the edges.
Phinas and Leonard
Phinas Blye and Leonard Childers. Phinas calls into On The Line With Lenord to announce his nth run at city council. This character was in the most intense series of changes where we went from Arles to Didi to Phinas to Stanley to Didi back to Arles in about 4 minutes flat. There were characters layered upon characters!

I’m not sure I’ll ever have to create costumes for 20 characters on two actors ever again. Plus work as a dresser during each show. Every show was a feat of trust and fellowship, humour and forgiveness between the two actors, the other dresser (my indispensable other half), myself and our stage manager.

Charlene. She’s in her senior year and didn’t make the cheer team (again). Devastating. Being the only dancer in the crew, I got to choreograph a little cheer routine for her. Peter worked tirelessly to coordinate the head nod with the heel bounce — he got pretty convincing as a wanna-be cheerleader! I am quite proud of Charlene’s padding. Peter is tiny so there are custom pillows sewn into the jeans at the sides and back for the thighs and there’s a fat suit attached to his bra with a bum that tucks in at the back!
Peter bravely sharing Charlene's fat suit. Attached to the bra it opened on the side and velcroed around the actor. I couldn't resist adding the belly button!
Peter bravely sharing Charlene’s fat suit. I couldn’t resist adding the belly button!
Charlene's fat side view. Note the bum and extended belly, they just tucked right into the jeans.
Charlene’s fat side view.   The bum and belly tucked right into the jeans and worked a treat.

Greater Tuna is an American play about the citizens of the rural Texas township of Greater Tuna. It centres around the daily programming on Radio Station OKKK (yup, not a mistake, that’s three k’s!), “serving the Great Tuna area at 275 watts,” with local lives and dramas unfolding around and on the radio. Tuna was written in 1981 and is reportedly the most-produced play in the USA. The script is funny to read, but in action it is F-U-N-N-Y! And awful. And heartwarming. And heart breaking. And timeless, as relevant now as in ’81.

Bertha Bumiller calls up Petey Fisk to deliver a scathing talking-to about the stray dogs he keeps sending home with her son.
Bertha Bumiller calls up Petey Fisk to deliver a scathing talking-to about the stray dogs he keeps sending home with her son.

The actors, Peter Shipston and Mike Petersen, did great work. consistent, independent characters emerged and I could tell “who” was on stage while  listening from backstage. There are five female characters in the play and these two male actors played everyone, ladies included. The play was produced by New Actors’ Colony Theatre in Bala, Ontario in their black box theatre, cleverly created in Bala’s curling rink! We had the longest backstage ever.

Stanley Bumiller and Sheriff Givens have an altercation.
Stanley Bumiller and Sheriff Givens have an altercation.

With so many characters on just two actors, it’s a busy play. I loved that the staging was very simple. The only props were a table, four orange chairs and an old radio. Everything else was mimed, which left a lot of space to enjoy the play and the characters and made jumping around many locations believable.

Stanley and his great Pearl contemplate the newly dead Ripper, Pearl's  $2,000 bird dog that she has accidentally poisoned with one of her "bitter pills" -- strychnine-laced biscuits wrapped in dough.
Stanley and his great aunt Pearl contemplate the newly dead Ripper, Pearl’s $2,000 bird dog who she has accidentally poisoned with one of her “bitter pills” — strychnine-laced biscuits wrapped in dough. She’s a class act.
Bertha's boobs. You can see "her" above in the blue dress/grey wig.
Bertha’s boobs. You can see “her” above in the blue dress/grey wig.
Mike was such a great sport in Bertha's low hanging breasts.
Mike was such a great sport in Bertha’s low hanging breasts.

Because I work in dance and that’s where my heart and experience really rest, I mostly costume in abstracts and metaphors, helping to create a feeling, a flavour. Perhaps stating the obvious, clothing needs to stay on in dance yet be very flexible, leading to the constant search for stretchier fabric and a lot of gussets in armpits and crotches. With this gig, it was fun imagining the characters into being through their clothes, literally getting to dress people as people instead of ideas! The biggest challenge was making things work for quick changes. There was a lot of velcro, which I avoid like the plague in dance costumes because it’s unreliable, but it is truly necessary when changing a dress shirt in 12 seconds or less.

Aunt Pearl Burras and Vera Carp viewing the recently deceased Judge Buckner.
Aunt Pearl Burras and Vera Carp viewing the recently deceased Judge Buckner.

Making boobies was almost the most fun. Definitely the funniest! I stuffed nylon stockings with batting and created different breasts for all the ladies. Aunt Pearl Burras’ low-slung breasts were my favourite for pure comedy. We actually placed them at the actor’s belly button!

Petey Fisk's hat with the interchangeable (velcro) animal awareness patches.
Petey Fisk’s hat with the interchangeable (velcro) animal awareness patches.

I think though, that I had the very best time creating patches for hats and for the sheriff uniform shirt. I sourced what I needed on the internet, printed colour images onto paper, covered them in packing tape (essentially laminating them. Note to self: need/want a laminator!) then sewed them onto a felt backing with a tight zig-zag stitch. Presto! Patches on the cheap. They look pretty real though, huh? Petey Fisk, the charming, lisping Humane Society representative had a different animal awareness patch on his hat every time he appeared, each interchangeable with velcro. Subtle, but a fun touch suggested in the original costuming notes.

It was a unique experience to stay at our cottage on a nearby lake, then drive though beautiful Muskoka each show-night to work. That plus a company of excellent, professional and kind folk equals I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Wistful (or vacuous?!) Charlene Bumiller and her dad Hank, the two-timing son-of-a-gun. He and his cowboy boots make the briefest of appearances but the boots were a coup and really gave a good, rural flavour to things at the Bumiller abode.
Wistful (or vacuous?!) Charlene Bumiller and her dad Hank, the two-timing son-of-a-gun. He and his cowboy boots make the briefest of appearances but the boots really gave a good, rural flavour to things at the Bumiller household.

We had the rare alchemy that happens sometimes during an artistic production, where a bunch of different people are thrown together and happily, they actually really enjoy each other. Every night we all remembered and remarked on how magical it is to be backstage, how there was no place we’d rather be. Anticipation and focus and that je ne sais quoi that keeps us coming back.

Colouring the Matroyshka Tattoo

This month it was time to colour in the Matryoshka dolls on my arm. I had grown fond of the simplicity of the outlined dolls from my first sitting but the plan was always for colour, and it they are oh so beautiful with colour!


Still to do are the graphic flowers on either end of the tattoo, sometime this fall. Til then, I am sitting here, entranced by the beautiful art I’m sporting. Tattoo artist Angie Fey‘s use of colour, whimsey and the fantastical were what drew me to her art. And she turns out to be really easy to hang out with for 3-4 hours whilst inflicting varying degrees of pain — a lovely bonus!

I decided I would tip Angie with art. So I made this little lady, partly inspired by the ones she created for me. I almost didn’t want to part with her and will surely make more soon. I stitched my logo on her backside for a  little sass!


My felt matryoshka dolly was an excellent cottage project, she reminded me how much I love hand sewing. I think I’ll try to make a pattern for her this fall to share since she’s so much fun to make. I also remembered that I need a lesson in embroidery, I want to expand my limited stitch repertoire! I smell a sampler project this fall, I’m pretty much in love with this one.

Finishing with an Ochre Wedding Dress

For the past few weeks I have been swept up in a delightful, merciless whirl of sewing gigs, family cottage time and motivation-crushing heat, but right now I do believe it’s time to catch you up on the wedding dresses!

Ochre wedding dress by S. Kendal

In my June post Starting with a Navy Wedding Dress, I shared a wedding dress I was working on and mentioned another one I was about to start. Simplicity 1614 50s Bateau Neckline DRESS Full SKIRT & EMPIRE midriff Vintage Sewing PatternThe second dress, the ochre dress, started with a Simplicity pattern from the 1950s with a bateau boat neckline and an empire waist. We found the fabric, drapery fabric if you can believe, loving how it complimented the navy silk with pearl-white illusion top on the first dress. I carved the high, bateau neckline down a bit to reveal the bride’s collarbones and a little shoulder blade at the back. I also added a ruched waist, but kept the high, curved empire line of the original pattern, a nice architectural element for a bride who’s an actual architect by trade. Because of the wonderful pattern on the fabric (yes, it is total put a bird on it fabric, cue the jokes, I can take it) we bought extra yardage so I could place a bird over her chest, like a designed-in corsage, and across her shoulder on the back.

By now, both dresses have been made and each has done her duty well: adorning their respective brides down an outdoor aisle on a family farm in one of the most profoundly simple and sincere marriage ceremonies I have even been graced to witness. What a lovely, secret pleasure to see my work walk and swirl the night away on two beautiful ladies so truly in love. I am grateful for the honour of dressing my friends Ann-Marie and Leah. I even got to do the hair, a secret pleasure of mine (seriously, if you ever want a french braid or a bun, call me!) and Leah fashioned her fascinator with perfectly matched ochre French netting. Look how they radiate adoration for each other and how well (if I do say so) the dresses stand beside one another, so different yet complimentary.

Williams-Scherk wedding dresses & hair

Since I was also a guest at the wedding, I needed a gift. And I knew just what to do. There was enough fabric to piece together a quilt from their wedding fabric. And since Ann-Marie and Leah are the handmade-appreciating, sentimental kind of folk, obviously my favourite kind, I knew they’d enjoy the effort. So in between making their dresses I put together this wedding quilt. I’m a total quilting novice, but I loved every minute of it, learning to mitre corners, quilting the pattern of the ochre fabric so that it appeared in relief on the flannel back, stitching hope and love and perseverance into each seam.

20130717-190619.jpgAltogether the most satisfying commission I have ever receive as a designer and seamstress. And two long-time acquaintances because wonderful bosom-buddies through the process. You cannot beat that.