The "Pittie in the City" bag with removable flower/bow

My latest — a one-of-a-kind tote bag, created for the upcoming auction to raise money for the outstanding pitbull rescue group, Even Chance. The San Diego-based group is devoted to re-educating the public about these exceptional dogs and helping temperamentally sound, abandoned pitties get a second chance at forever homes.

The “Pittie in the City” tote bag is an homage to the over-the-top style of “Sex and the City,” a show I rarely watched but wrote tons of ad copy for back in my copywriting days. The show was okay, but the clothes were so much fun!!! And if there’s one thing people should know about pitbulls it’s that they are FUN! Smudge, my pit-mix (looking unusually serious, below), is just as much of a puppy now, at age 9, as she was at nine months. Forget the nonsense about them all being dangerous. When they’re treated with love and respect, it’s just their nature to be little clowns.

My dog Smudge, part pit bull, part goof ball

Anyway, back to the tote bag …Not long ago, this bag was a pair of vintage velvet pants, just begging to be deconstructed. The front of the bag (shown up top) can be dressed up or down, with the removable flower and bow, all made of scrap fabric. It’s lined with recycled black fleece, so it’s pretty durable and easy to clean.

The other side (below) has a cell-phone (or dog treat) sized pocket with a hand-made “button” closure. I embroidered the pocket with cotton and metallic black and gold yarn, so it wouldn’t get lost in the black velvet surroundings.

Bag from the back showing pocket

At the last minute, just as I was about to mail the bag to the organizer, inspiration struck — how about a matching dog collar decoration? So I made one (below):

but wait, there's more ...a matching flower for your dog's collar!

The dog collar flower is equipped with a velvet cord loop on the back. You can slip it on (or off) easily, so you and your pupster can get some style on together.

And now the bag and decoration are in New York, where they’ll be photographed for the Even Chance auction. As soon as there’s a link, I’ll post it. Thirty-plus other artists have designed bags for the fund-raiser, so there are going to be  some fabulous pieces! In the meantime, you can check out all the contributors’ bios at artforpitties.

Actually, knitting has nothing to do with it. Just sitting for hours at a time is bad for your health, according to a new American Cancer Society study of more than 123,000 men and women.  Too much sitting increased the risk of dying from heart disease substantially.

People who sat a lot but exercised at some point during the day fared better than those who did not. In fact, among women who sat for long periods and did not exercise at all, the risk of dying increased by a whopping 94%! For men, that figure was 48%.

A walking work desk, like the one pictured above, is one solution. And here’s a cool alternative for knitters — a knitting belt — which actually was commonly used in days of yore.

According to the fascinating website Old and Interesting (a name that could be applied to some of my very own friends! Just kidding!!), knitting while walking was the norm in the olden days. Unlike today’s knitters, who usually aren’t knitting out of necessity, our ancestors made things — socks, hats, sweaters — that family members needed. This was before malls and department stores, obviously.

And since there was so much other labor to be done each day, spare time to sit and knit was practically nonexistent. (I imagine the lack of electricity played a role, too. Knitting in the dark usually doesn’t have a really great outcome.) So you learned to knit while walking or doing other things that left your hands free.

In light of this new study on the lethal effects of sitting, maybe it’s time for walking while knitting to make a comeback. I may give it a try on the next hike and report back later on the results.

If anything even approaching good is going to come from this disastrous economy it might be a new awareness about reusing stuff we already have. Reusing more means consuming less, and that translates into less going into landfills — not to mention more money in your pocket. Ka-ching!

If you like that idea but aren’t sure where to begin, check out this post on Zero Waste from Squidoo.  There are dozens of ideas on everything from turning tin cans into lanterns and toys to reusing dryer lint (it’s a great way to get logs going in the fireplace — who knew?).

If you’re into gardening, the Squidoo article shows how to make seedling starter pots from empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls, similar to the ones shown above, but those are made from newspaper. Even if you only find one useable idea, it’s a start!

I’m Baaaaaaack!!

Posted: July 20, 2010 in waste of time

Yes, jury duty. Gak!! One of the worst things was that sharp, pointy objects like knitting needles are not allowed. Imagine! I’ve taken 15″ long metal knitting needles on planes. What do they think, that a juror going to become overwrought by the prospect of justice being served and stab someone? Actually, whoever makes the cafeteria’s alleged “food”  should be stopped, but I wouldn’t risk breaking a knitting needle to do it.

Seriously. Here’s why:

How Dirty Electricity Can Affect Your Health and What You Can Do About It

If your first thought on reading the headline was ‘dirty electricity – what’s that?’, you’re far from alone. So here’s a short explanation: Our reliance on technology has made life easier, but it has also led to an ever-growing amount of exposure to radiation. While there are various types of radiation, electro-magnetic frequencies (EMFs) are particularly worrisome, because they are so ubiquitous. EMFs are by-products of electronic usage, including devices like computers, kitchen appliances, cellular and cordless phones, handheld gadgets like Blackberries and gaming platforms, as well as wireless internet (WiFi).

With millions of appliances, additional millions of cell phones and computers, and tens of thousands of cell towers operating in this country, we are being bombarded by electro-pollution, or “dirty electricity.” Yet, in spite of the prevalence of electronics in our lives, we have almost no data on how the radiation affects our bodies.

What we do know about the health impact of electronics comes primarily from studies involving cell phone radiation. Those findings have prompted strong warnings and strict regulations in the European Union, measures that, for the most part, have not been implemented in this country. Here, only San Francisco is actually doing anything to inform the public that there may be a downside to our dependence on electronics, and so far, city officials are only highlighting cell phones.

Far less research has been done on how human health is impacted by the dirty electricity emitted by ordinary electronic devices. For example, Magda Havas, PhD, a Canadian researcher at Trent University in Ontario, has determined that the dirty electricity produced by electrical wiring appears to elevate blood sugar levels in individuals diagnosed with either Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. In one intriguing experiment, she found that after installing EMF filters to reduce the amount of dirty electricity in an environment, even Type 1 diabetics responded favorably, requiring less insulin than when exposed to radiation. Similarly, individuals with multiple sclerosis reported a decrease in tremors, better balance and less reliance on a cane for mobility in EMF filtered surroundings.

So far, the results suggest that the smartest strategy is to minimize the use of electronic appliances whenever possible, while taking additional steps to avoid electro-pollution from the growing number of wireless networks surrounding us.

Based on what we know today, here are some ways to reduce exposure and help our bodies counteract the effects of dirty electricity.

1. Use electronic devices sparingly, particularly those with variable speed options. Hair dryers, microwave ovens, fans, heaters, and similar appliances release large amounts of EMFs. Opt instead for manual methods of performing as many tasks as possible. Hand-wash dishes, for example, or alternate using a broom with vacuuming.

2. Eat as much fresh, organic produce as possible, to provide the body’s cells with nutrients that can repair damage caused by dirty electricity.

3. Drink plenty of clean, fresh water to flush toxins from the body.

4. Engage in regular, moderate exercise to encourage sweating and further eliminate toxins.

5. Ask your physician for recommendations on detoxification and immune-boosting products. There are many to choose from, and your doctor can help you select the ones that are right for you.

6. Unplug as many electrical devices in your home as possible when they are not in use, particularly those in the bedroom that could be emitting dirty electricity while you sleep. If you have an electric alarm clock, replace it with a battery-powered version.

7. Choose as many non-toxic cleaning products as possible, to reduce chemical contamination in your home as well as your body.

8. Look into EMF filters and “earthing” products, like those from Barefoot Connections that help ground the body and reduce electrical stress.

9. Invest in a pair of shoes with soles made from a natural product, like hemp or undyed leather or spend some time walking barefoot outside. Hugging a tree (seriously!) for a few minutes is another way to rid your body of stored dirty electricity.

10. Minimize the amount of time you spend in areas where wifi is available, like internet cafes.

11. Use cell phones as little as possible, and do not keep your cell phone on your body. Unplug your cell phone charger when it’s not in use.

12. Invest in an LCD computer screen and television set, which emit less radiation than plasma screens.

Expect to see more information on reducing radiation and exposure to dirty electricity in the near future. This is a field that is just beginning to be studied. But in the meantime, while science is sorting out the details, the good news is that you can take steps to protect your health.

Or Why I Cut a Big Chunk Out of a Brand New Beaded and Embroidered Skirt

Pretty nice little skirt, and NWT, in eBay speak (New with Tags). Check out the beads and detailing:

I’m pretty sure the reason someone got rid of it is because, the way it’s gathered at the top, it would make even a thin person look like a Weeble. I was planning on using some of it on a cami. But then I read the care tag. The only way to clean it was with spot cleaning — no washing or dry cleaning. Personally, I don’t want a camisole that can’t be washed or cleaned somehow. So I put the skirt aside.

And then one day, I was in a flower-making frenzy — picking out this and that and experimenting with turning them into flowers. I even made a flower out of a used dryer sheet and, to tell the truth, it wasn’t bad. So when I spotted this skirt in one of the boxes, I just went at it. Ta da!

The backing is soft black felt without cardboard or stiffener of any kind, so it’s completely floppy, kind of like the clocks in the famous Salvador Dali painting, “The Persistence of Memory.” There’s a standard safety clasp, so it can be put on pretty much anything — jacket, sweater, hat, etc. (Apologies for the crummy images, they’re from the camera I swore I would never use again and now I remember why.) Anyway, as soon as I get some better photographs, it’ll be listed at etsy. Now to find a new camera ….

WANTED: Thirty artists with a vision and love for animals to create one-of-a-kind tote bags to raise funds for Even Chance, a San Diego-based Pit Bull Rescue.

If you’re thinking something like, “But pit bulls are scary, dangerous dogs, ooooo, run away!” then it’s time to get acquainted with the truth. Example: Here’s one of the most famous “scary, dangerous” pit bulls ever:

That’s Petey the Pup, from the Little Rascals. Back when Petey was a star, in the 1920s and 30s, pit bulls were famous for being smart, energetic and great with kids. But of course, in those days, breeders were cautious about which dogs were paired, and kept a close eye on the temperament of offspring. More recently, bad breeding practices and owners who value the dogs for fighting rather than companionship have resulted in the current horrible situation, with thousands of pit bulls being mistreated and euthanized through no fault of their own.

Even Chance rescue group is working to change that image. Because the truth is, pit bulls are sweet, funny and loving dogs. Take one look at this face and tell me you don’t want to get a smooch from that pooch! (By the way, that’s Alaska, one of Even Chance’s recent happy adoptions.)

You can help Alaska and dogs like her by supporting Even Chance, especially if you’re artistically inclined. One of my favorite websites, GirlieGirlArmy, is teaming up with the group to sponsor Art for Pitties.

Here’s the deal: “Art for Pitties needs designers, pit owners, painters, animal advocates, illustrators and artists to personalize tote bags with one-of-a-kind artwork that will be auctioned online for charity.”

You can help by creating a tote bag, donating, or just passing the information on to others who may be interested. More details are available at the GirlieGirlArmy website (link above). And while you’re there, sign up for their free weekly newsletter, a great source of information for anyone interested in compassionate fashion (i.e., vegan) and other enlightened hipness.

Full disclosure: As you might have guessed by now, two of my best friends are pit bull mixes, so in this case, I actually know what I’m talking about — for a change.

(Warning: This post is totally off my usual topics, but I hope you read it anyway. It’s a very small tribute to the people, culture and wildlife currently under siege in the Gulf of Mexico disaster.)

It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never spent time in Louisiana how incredibly rich, colorful and addictive the place is. I’ve lived all over the country, and have never found anything that can compare.

The time I spent there was in New Orleans (the French Quarter street, above, is near my old home) without a car, so travel outside the city was limited. But it didn’t matter. The qualities that make Louisiana so unforgettable permeate everything. The wonderful people, amazing food, irresistible music, a landscape of indescribable beauty. I’m not a good enough writer to do it justice. For that, you need to read someone like James Lee Burke, whose genius with words captures the essence of Louisiana as few people can.

Or spend a little time listening to the local music. Dixieland is great, and Dr. John is brilliant. But the Zydeco music that originated in the Creole communities long ago is my favorite. It’s hard to describe Zydeco, but if you can listen to it and not jump up and start dancing, get a check up, because there’s something wrong!

Sad to say, there are no good YouTubes of my favorite Zydeco musician, the late, great Boozoo Chavis performing. But here’s one featuring his song, Trail Ride Breakdown, as a soundtrack:

If you want to hear more, search You Tube for Zydeco or Cajun music. But put on your dancing shoes first, because you’re gonna need ’em! And please, send the people and animals of the Gulf good thoughts. If this area is lost, we are all poorer for it.

Some days I avoid the news like the plague, especially lately. It’s profoundly distressing to read about all the horrific things going on in the world and feel like there’s nothing you can do about most of it, other than write a letter to some politician, and we’ve seen how effective that can be (not!).

The best antidote, for me anyway, is to make something. It’s probably a control thing, I admit it. But it’s nice to feel like you’re doing something to make the world a little better, a little more beautiful. That’s especially true when using something that would otherwise be trashed.

And that’s one of the great things about the people who sell on etsy — the amazing wealth of talent and creativity devoted to reuse and repurposing. Which brings us to my latest find — JustineJustine.

When a store describes itself as “handmade colorful jewelry and upcycled bottle caps,” how can you not check it out? Here are a few of Justine’s wonderful creations:

Bottle cap earrings! They’re so cleverly designed, it takes a while to figure out exactly what they are. And here’s another pair, also from recycled material:

Broken mirror bits and wire — brilliant! Not just because she’s reusing material that would end up in a landfill, but also because they’re so stunning.

Last, but not least, here’s a sample of one of her many items made from acai berries:

Gorgeous! And this is just a little taste of Justine’s work. Where does she get her ideas? I asked her that recently, and here’s her reply:

My travels! before I settled down in Mexico I traveled a lot … I saw so many beautiful colors and different materials in each country! I wanted to capture that colorful exotic vibe and I think both bottlecaps and açai do that pretty well.

One thing I love about creating new clothes from older pieces is that you never really know how they’ll turn out until they’re done. At least that’s been my experience. And here we have Exhibit A: a great little denim jacket that I appliqued with vintage denim, adding a flower and two leaves.

Kind of sad looking — not at all what I was hoping for. But that just meant it needed more work, right? The floppiness of the flower petals was fixed by stitching them into place, but it was still missing something. And then this arrived …

Yes, hand-spun art yarn from one of my major etsy faves, FromMyArtToYours. Pictures don’t do this yarn justice — it’s soft as a cloud and such a dreamy color. Originally, it was going to go on a pale blue camisole, but as soon as it arrived, it was obvious that it was destined for that denim jacket. Are these the perfect couple, or what?

Adding yarn vastly improved the little flower, too.

There’s a little more yarn on the front:

Plus, there’s enough left over to make something else. Or not. When yarn is this pretty, I just want to keep it in a bowl by my desk to look at. In this case, “art yarn” is an absolutely accurate description!