Friday, April 27, 2012

Blundering Through A Corset

Last year for World Steam Expo in Dearborn, MI, my roommate Kimmy and I had wanted to make corsets since we didn't own any at the time. (We have three between us now that we bought online at a place that shall remain nameless because I don't want to give them free advertising. Suffice to say, they're awful.) We bought the materials at JoAnn Fabrics and I got started cutting out the pieces and ironing on the backings. My cat Memphis decided to swallow one of the needles (with string) and almost died, so we put the corset materials away until we could get a sewing machine to make the process quicker and easier. and so that Memphis wouldn't try to kill himself again by swallowing things he shouldn't. (He still does this.) 

So about a year later, in a new apartment with more space and a sewing machine, I pulled out the corset materials and started to work on it again. Corsets are a huge pain in the ass. For starters, the pattern we bought is terrible at giving instructions. It took me hours to figure out that it wanted me to make an outside shell and an inside. The instructions don't actually say to make two pieces, nor do they explain how to assemble the inside piece which is slightly - and importantly - different from the outside piece. 

I haven't actually gotten as far as fully assembling the inner piece because I need to add the boning first. The instructions tell me to use the sewing machine to secure the boning, but it doesn't say how. Or, more correctly, the directions it gives aren't feasible in the real world. Thus, I have determined to hand-sew in all of the boning. This really isn't difficult, it's just very time-consuming. We chose plastic rather than steel boning because it was cheaper, but I am glad now because it is also more flexible. Not usually something you want in a corset's boning, but when assembling, it makes things go a lot more smoothly.

I also think that the back of the pattern told us we need less boning than we actually need should I follow the instructions to the letter. It says I should put boning in at the junctions of all the pieces, which is definitely a good idea for a sturdier corset, but looking at what we bought, I just don't think there is enough. I may just say screw it and use what I have, skipping over a few junctions, or I may send Kimmy back to the store for more boning since this is her corset that I am working on. (I picked hers first because I can more easily fit something on another person than on myself when I don't know what I am doing. This is the first corset, and anything like it, that I have attempted to make.) 

I'm pretty much at the point that I am going to toss the directions into the lake outside my patio. I think the ducks will find it more useful for nest construction than I am finding it for corset assemblage. Hopefully on my next free day I can finish the job, since I got a ton of it done on my previous day off with the help of the sewing machine. I think I stand a pretty good chance of having Kimmy's done before World Steam this  next Memorial weekend, so she may wear it if she chooses. (The pattern is perfect for steampunk.) 

I am undecided on whether I want to tackle another corset, the one I had planned out for myself, any time in the near future. I may give it a year so that the memories of pain and frustration fade, much like the agony of childbirth. (Hey, creation is creation.) I do want an overbust corset again, though, and the two that I have now are both underbust. I guess we'll see how Kimmy's turns out first. Maybe the second one will be easier? (That's what they say about having children, too, and my future sister-in-law has proven that wrong  to me. Argh.)

I will be sure to post pictures when it is all done. Maybe Kimmy will even consent to model it for us. I've decided this corset is both her birthday present and Christmas present this year. It's that annoying. I wish I weren't such a sucker for a challenge. Eh bien.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Life is a river, and I am in a bubble bobbing along the surface, moving where it takes me. The Tao Te Ching instructs us to be like water. Very little can stop water. In fact, even if you find something to stopper it up, the water continues to flow, it just changes direction. A bathtub will fill up rather than empty through the drain. A lake will form where a river was dammed. 

Be everchanging - be like water. 

Water also takes things as they come. A river doesn't change its course unless something is put in its way. It is steady-flowing. You don't see water changing directions for no reason. There is something, even if you can't discern with your own eye what that obstacle is.

The river doesn't make plans.

Water also knows that there is always a way. Given enough time, water will erode any substance. It just needs to be strong enough or patient enough. Sometimes both. 

Water is relentless.

The Tao Te Ching also advises us to be always empty so that we may be always filled. This is a tough task. We are always filling ourselves with things. Plans for the future, plans for the present, work, play, decisions, decisions. It's hard to be empty when we feel so full, maybe overwhelmed, by what we have. But if we let those things settle to the bottom, become the nothings they truly are, we will have room for what the river of life brings next.

What life brings isn't always what we want.

So we must be patient, be ever flowing, and ever vigilant. Things will poke at us, we may tumble down waterfalls, or be bounced around by rapids, but the it takes an awful to burst a bubble, even though it does seem so fragile. 

We don't know what the bubble is made of.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Rasputina at the Magic Stick in Detroit

I once again could not get to the internet in time to update this on the correct day. Sorry, folks! Hopefully, that will be remedied sometime in the upcoming week.

What do I have to report on today? Rasputina live in concert at the Magic Stick in Detroit! Tickets were only $14 at the door and my boyfriend Greg was gracious enough to treat me. He even paid for drinks! Seeing Rasputina last year was supposed to be my and Greg's second date, but a sudden blizzard trapped me in my apartment, so I could not go. Boo! Hiss! This year, the weather was quite pleasant and we had no such troubles.

If you aren't familiar with Rasputina (and I know a number of my readers won't be), they are "a cello-driven band based in New York that is renowned for their unconventional and quirky music style as well as their fascination with historical allegories and fashion, especially those pertaining to the Victorian era." So says Wikipedia. (Sometimes it's just easier to let other people explain things for me.)

The Magic Stick is a small venue above a bowling alley called the Garden Bowl, both of which are attached to the Majestic Theater in Detroit. There is a bar and a spacious balcony with a pleasant view of the city.  When the Majestic Theater opened in 1915, it was the largest movie theater in the world, and today is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The front is a wonderful example of Art Deco, though not exactly my personal cup of tea.

This was my first time seeing Rasputina in concert. It was a small crowd, but that was actually kind of nice. I don't usually see bands in small places. Usually I am at the Michigan Theater in downtown Ann Arbor, which is quite different from a place like Magic Stick! (But very beautiful.) 

I have a few Rasputina songs that were given to me a while ago by friends. My favorite is their version of “Wish You Were Here,” by Pink Floyd. At the Magic Stick, they did two more covers of songs that I know, "I Want You to Want Me" and "Bad Moon Rising." Both were freaking awesome! "Bad Moon Rising" actually sounded sinister on the cello coupled with Melora Creager's haunting vocal style. (It sounds so chipper to me when CCR does it!) 

Unfortunately, as is usually the case with me and live music, I couldn't understand most of the words to the other songs Rasputina performed. I enjoyed the pacing and melodies, however, and I would like to hunt down some more songs on the internet so I can better familiarize myself with the band.

Anyone who says cellos can't rock needs to do a quick YouTube search for Rasputina videos. Cellos not only rock, but add a very unique sound to modern music. Often melancholy, but hey, that's just how they roll. 

Anyway, I think I've been milking this coffee for too long. I'll let you all get on your way now. See you next week!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Life From Belleville

We did not end up in Westland as we had been planning since January. (We are also out the money down on that apartment, which irks me top no end.) Since the manager of the Westland apartment turned out to have lied to us numerous times about various things, my roommate Kimmy and I did not feel comfortable signing a lease with her, thus we hurriedly tracked down another apartment to live in instead. Now we are pretty comfortable with a lakeside view and washer and dryer in-unit in quaint little Belleville, Michigan.

Greg apparently did some research and told me that Belleville used to be THE place to have a summer home if you were a rich Detroiter. A number of famous people from the city's past are supposed to have had summer mansions in the area around Belleville Lake (which I will have to investigate and try to track down later). Kimmy did her own brand of research and found some haunted old cemeteries in the area, as well.

Kimmy and I drove downtown to explore, and I was strongly reminded of the old mining and mill cities of Michigan's past (Otsego, Allegan, a bunch of cities in the UP, etc). Downtown Belleville is very dated, which I guess appeals to some people. I won't say it's bad, it just gives me creepy flashbacks of a childhood days spent in Otsego and my father's belief that small towns were traps, not to mention that “small town mentality.” (Consequently, I don't think I could ever live in a small town, like the ones sung about by John Cougar Mellencamp. I could never do that to my potential children, not to mention myself.)

Anyway. So far, I have a positive impression of Belleville, old timey and all. Downtown is brief, but there are a number of restaurants that caught my eye. One is Cajun themed and has a giant alligator on the roof wearing a string of beads. Hard to miss that one! A coworker said it as pretty good, and how can I resist a giant alligator who's ready to party New Orleans style?

Speaking of work, since our new apartment is only 20 minutes down I-94 from Ann Arbor, I am staying at the same store rather than transferring. That makes things easier – for now. We are also close to Kimmy's school as well as her job. I think this was the right location for us! Westland would have been too far.

The kitties are loving the view of the man-made lake/pond outside our living room window. (My bedroom also faces it, which is kind of nice when I need something to stare at while writing.) There are ducks, geese, seagulls (I love hearing seagulls; they remind me of the beach), and Greg even spotted a heron one day. Haven't noticed any squirrels, but Memphis is quite content to watch the funny animals floating by and waddling around our patio. There also isn't a wall blocking his view of the outside world like with the last patio. Poor Sawyer doesn't get much of a view. Memphis keeps chasing him from the window sills, even though we have two, and both kitties can comfortably lie in just one side-by-side. (Who's top cat now?)

There is no internet yet, which is why I am writing this now (Friday) and will post it from my mother's house when we go there for Easter festivities this weekend. My brother and his lovely fiancee just had a baby last weekend, so I get to meet my new nephew this Sunday! From the pictures I have seen, he is a darling addition to the family.

I am going to keep the name of the blog “Life From Ann Arbor” since my life is still pretty much centered there with my job and all, plus A2 is probably the nearest big(ish) city. Now I must go check on boiling eggs. We're coloring eggs later tonight. Yay, Spring!