Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sew What?! A 1940's Sun Suit

Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that I am decluttering, stash busting, and overcoming the hoarder in me.  In actuality, I am usually doing quite the opposite - only making things worse by enabling the same terrible behavior in Mary.  The overwhelming "need" to rescue things from trash barrels, thrift stores, estate/garage sales is a monkey on our collective back.  And if we can't get rid of the monkey, at the very least, I would like to train him to recognize awesome vintage scores and to haggle like he's in a Baghdad bazaar.  I will admit that I am improving (the first step is admitting that I have a problem, right?) but when, on a road trip through Albuquerque, NM, I saw chenille sailboats peeking out from a rack full of unremarkable thrift store clothing, it was immediately obvious that this piece was not going to be abandoned to whatever fates the scorching desert sun offers to pink and purple, chenille sailboats.

This vintage, chenille beach cape languished in a closet for the
last couple of years waiting for me to figure out an appropriate
 ensemble; purple/salmon/lavender is a difficult color story to replicate.  

Our recent adventures on Catalina Island didn't begin and end with our friends' wedding; we made a long weekend out of it and that, of course, proved the perfect opportunity to bring the sailboats out of dry dock.

As we took the photo of Mary with the statue,
 this baby sea lion was perched on the rocks immediately
across from us.  He was not about to be outdone by some
crummy, old statue! 

Using a pattern that Mary created, I made a gathered,
halter-style bra top with a keyhole cutout.  The shorts
were altered from a contemporary pattern and then
given the Mr. Tiny treatment with a sailboat based on
the cape's design.

Using a satin stitch in varying widths, I machine-appliqued a
 sunset and sailboat on the shorts of Mary's sun suit in colors
coordinating with those on the beach cape. 

I call it a "sun suit" because, while it was technically safe to submerge in
 water, the two-piece set doesn't really have all of the desirable wicking
qualities and ultra-snug fit of a proper swimsuit.  Wanting to dive in,
 Mary was a little wistful at the water's edge.

Looking not unlike the bathing beauties for which Catalina Island
 was so famous in its heyday, Mary strikes a pose for the fine folks
of Avalon, CA.
(photo by Amber Foxx)

Mr. Tiny, Mary, and our pals Damien & Allison.
I like the fact that we ran the gamut of styles and levels of dress/undress.
White pants?  Don't mind if I do!
(photo by Amber Foxx)

Having done more than my fair share of sewing, planning, packing, performing, and preparation, I was ready to use our Catalina weekend as an excuse to relax and enjoy our sunny, Southern California weather.  While Mary sauntered around the tiny town of Avalon, Mr. Tiny was, swinging...pretty.

The new album cover - "Mr. Tiny Swings in Avalon"


Mr. Tiny

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hopping Mad: The Bunny Museum

I've found that a certain level of diplomacy is imperative when communicating my feelings on any given subject; I never know exactly to whom this blog will reach so I try to be extremely careful in my choice of words.  When it comes to one of Pasadena, CA's most famous repositories of historical "art and artifacts," however, there really is no other way to express this sentiment - IT IS CRAZY!!!

No, we're not talking about The Norton Simon Museum.  In a quaint neighborhood, on a charming street, in a fairly unassuming cottage there lies a giant secret - more like 30,000+ little secrets.  While Mary and I prefer to refer to it as the Bunny Ranch, The Bunny Museum is the private home/collection of Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski.  Just in time for Easter, we found our way to the Guiness Book of World Record-holding, largest collection of bunnies.

Clue #1 that something is slightly different here is the wire, bunny
fence surrounding the 10-foot-tall topiary in the shape of a rabbit.

wacky tacky walks a fine line between kitschy/wildly wonderful and just good, old-fashioned insanity.  As we approached the front door, I couldn't shake the feeling that we should have told somebody where we were going.

Good thing Mary was on top of it.

Clue #2 that we were in for something odd was the hanging
 bunny on the front door.  I admit that I was a little frightened
that something bad was going to happen on the other side of
that threshold.

While it would have made for an especially-compelling (and probably Emmy-winning) episode of Law & Order - one in which Josh Brolin takes a break from the rigors of making major motion pictures for the challenge and thrill of playing Mr. Tiny - I had no desire to become the next permanent addition to the collection.  I was surprisingly relieved to see more people join our team.  Even if the other group included a grandmother, her daughter, and granddaughter, I felt that the "safety in numbers" rule still applied.

Candace Frazee
What's up, doc?  No seriously, what is going on here?

We were greeted at the door by Candace, the owner of the home/museum and invited to "Hop on in," once we had paid our "Bunny Money," a mandatory, five-dollar, suggested donation.  Candace explained that twenty-one years ago she and her husband, referring to each other as "Honey Bunny," began to exchange bunny-themed gifts and have continued to do so EVERY SINGLE DAY ever since.  

Ranging from collectible knick-knacks to dime store toys to pieces from Pasadena's Annual Tournament of Rose's Parade, the collection is an expression of their abiding love of and their unique obsession with rabbits and rabbit paraphernalia.
What would be the living room if there was room to live.
One of these things is not like the other.  Can you spy the living creature?

Display shelves line the walls and every available space is filled with figurines, stuffed toys, advertisements, penny banks, artwork, cookie jars, and even taxidermy -  all rabbit in nature.

Mr. Tiny doing his best rabbit impression.
I'm very sensitive to pets/pet odors...there were definitely live animals on the premises.

Bunnies from around the world!

A little like Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, this room appeared to have "No
windows and no doors."  The den was basically a giant ball pit of stuffed
rabbits with a small hollow carved out for a loveseat and Hoda & Kathie Lee

Real bunnies living in the laundry room

One sees some pretty cute things at The Bunny Museum, but "The Bunny Trail" in the museum's rear garden is home to some equally fascinating/frightening relics of rabbit history.

Once the framework for a Rose Parade float, this decaying
 bunny face is now a piece of garden art.

This brings memories of Bunnicula to the forefront of my overactive imagination.

We left our mark in 3D chalk

I'm grateful to Candace & Steve for maintaining their extensive bunny bonanza - but also a little scared.  It goes without saying that it probably takes a good measure of the March Hare's madness to perpetuate the ever-evolving collection; it seems they embrace that fact, even touting on their website that they have the "#1 Insane Museum" and the "#1 Weirdest Museum in the Los Angeles."  We wish them well in their extreme commitment and many happy years of exchanging daily bunny gifts.

"Here Comes Peter Cottontail" - Gene Autry

Be sure to check out the Funny-or-Die videos featuring The Bunny Museum (I couldn't figure out how to imbed them).  As Candace said, with much practice, as we left the museum, "Have a 'Hoppy' day!"

The Bunny Museum
1933 Jefferson Dr
Pasadena, CA
(626)798-8848 (open by appt. only, call for reservations)

Cheers & Happy Easter!

Mr. Tiny

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sew What?! A 1930's Garden Party Dress

Wedding season has descended upon us and frankly, I couldn't be happier!  No pressure, but anyone out there who is presented with the opportunity to get married and invite me as a guest, is strongly encouraged to do so; I'd be overjoyed to attend.  Call me nutty, but even for someone so very unattached as myself, weddings give my romantic nature a boost and fill me with hope. 

You probably saw that we were fortunate enough to attend our friends' gorgeous Catalina Island wedding last weekend; this weekend, we were treated to yet another wonderful wedding for our pals, Rob and Ashley.

Rob & Ashley

Situated high atop a verdant hill in Glendale, California's renowned Forest Lawn Cemetery (the site of many celebrity nuptials and many celebrity resting places), the Church of the Recessional was ideally apropos for a couple who has long been noted for their Hollywood high style.  Because they are such a fashionable pair, it only seemed fitting that I create yet another dress for Mary that was suitable for the occasion - a church wedding with an afternoon, garden party reception.

Knowing that the prevailing style of the day would be 1930's and that I had a fittingly Depression-era budget ($0.00)/little time (a week)/an unholy amount of unused material (three hoarders' worth), I did a cannonball into my giant mountain of fabric neatly organized stash and selected a few possibilities.

I ended up choosing an all-over floral print fabric that I had earmarked for a 50's-style day dress; I was mildly hesitant to use it as I was afraid it would read as a weird pastiche of conflicting influences.  On the other hand, it went fortuitously well with the heirloom, pansy brooch from our great-grandmother and the stunning, vintage hat.

Mary's vintage hat came from our favorite, local vintage store, Swellegant Vintage.
One of the hat's beautiful bunches of pansies  - Mr. Tiny likes vintage millinery flowers more than he ought to!!!

Mary & Jennifer (last week's bride)
The dress was appropriately ladylike but still held up to all of Mary's shenanigans.

Benny (last week's groom) & Mary
Honestly, they're even more like brother and sister than Mary and I.

We were elated to see our good friends, Lauren (Wearing History
and blog) and her husband, Matt (a dapper groomsman).

The dress, with its eight-gored, tulip-shaped skirt, attached capelet, and neckline bow (can
 you tell that I am crazy for bows?) was finished by a self-fabric belt with a green,
 vintage buckle and green, vintage gloves.  The reception was held at the indescribably-beautiful,
home (built in 1907) of friends; if I was a better photographer, I would have captured
more of its endless charms.  Mary inspects the beautiful flowers as designed by LA Deco Flora.

 During the garden party, however,  I was able to capture all of the garden flowers in full bloom.

At the end of a lovely party, the bride bid us goodbye in her custom-made farewell frock.

Congratulations to Rob and Ashley!  We hope that you continue to find all the fun and frolic that life affords you.  Thank you for letting us celebrate your new life together as husband and wife!  And thanks for another great weekend of celebrating the only thing that truly matters, namely L-O-V-E.

"L-O-V-E" - Nat King Cole


Mr. Tiny

Friday, March 22, 2013

Glam Fam or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate My Sweatpants

Do you ever go through old family photos and end up feeling like a total schlub?  I had a chance to get into some preliminary Spring cleaning today and got easily distracted by something infinitely more interesting than clearing out the garage - a box of family photos ranging in date to as far back as 100 years.  What a score!!!  The problem is that the result of cleaning a garage in a t-shirt and pants of the sweat variety is seeing my forebears all dolled up and realizing that, though they dressed themselves intentionally for photos, even on their worst day, they still looked better than a lot.  Granted, these photos are of women; nevertheless, they had me feeling simultaneously proud (of my glamorous heritage) and ashamed (of my sweatpants/self).

My dad's cousin Sylvia; but we always called her "Topper."
In fact, that is how she signed this series of headshots, "Affectionately, Topper,"
 from her days as a hostess at Hollywood's famed supper club, Ciro's.

My favorites are the bottom two; the left is all sweet, girl-next-door innocence and soft curls
and the right is all heavy-browed, brooding, French Resistance mystery.  She had range!!!

The next few photos are of my paternal grandmother's great-aunt Velma.  "Topper" and "Velma," does it get any more glamorous than that?  Well, yes.  Yes, I guess it does.  Now Velma isn't someone I would call a kind woman, a thoughtful woman, or a woman generous of spirit.  She did, however, fancy herself a glamour-puss and never shied away from a camera.  Seriously, there exists in the family archives a series of "artsy" photos of Velma, including one of her crawling up a staircase in the nude.  One day, after Auntie V's passing, we were helping my grandmother sift through Velma's things and we came upon the photos.  My grandma was extremely upset but obviously unwilling to let go of family history; the the next time we saw the photos (after my grandmother passed) the offending parts of the photograph were carefully removed using manicuring scissors.  The combination of a slightly-perverted great-great-uncle and an exhibitionist great-great-aunt (hard to put two "greats" in her title when she wasn't really all that great), make for some fun, and nightmare inducing, wacky tacky family history.

Velma and a man unknown to me (circa 1930's).
Okay, so she might not be a challenge to Wallis Simpson, but it is hard to beat a 30's
 frock, a corsage, and a wide-brimmed hat while sitting on the running board of a car.

A hand-tinted photo of Velma practically upholstered in leopard (circa late 40's).
Is there anything more wacky tacky than leopard on leopard on rhinestones?

Velma in the 50's
That cockeyed plume, the dramatic lighting, and the stone martens casually draped around
 her shoulders are wonderful but they really just play supporting roles to that crazy, fish-net
 veiling stretched over her chin.

I guess I'm running a little low on creative inspiration here, but these photos struck me as worthwhile and worthy of sharing.  I always think that if, Heaven forbid, we were to suffer a house fire, I would definitely grab all the photos and then RUN...or stop, drop, and roll...whatever it is that one is supposed to do in a fire.


Leona & Bob (circa 1950)
See what I mean?  This was a candid shot of my grandparents and they still look spectacular!
The soaring ceilings, patterned wallpaper, and chenille sofa aren't hard on the eyes either.
Also, why can't I look just a little bit like my grandpa?!

 In the end, no matter how glamorous people in my family may have been, we all end up wrapping up the remnants of our biscuits-and-gravy breakfast in paper napkins and putting the leftovers in our big, white purse so the cats can enjoy them later - or at least that was the precedent set by Velma in her waning years.  Do you have any family photos of which you are particularly proud?  Or any that make you feel like you should be trying harder or, at the very least, standing up straight (bad posture plagues me)?  Until the next round of Spring cleaning distractions, I remain yours, sincerely.


Mr. Tiny

p.s.  We're closing in on 200 followers; when we do, there will be another exciting giveaway.  Tell your friends, family, and neighbors.  If they join in on the fun, there will be PRIZES!!!  WOO HOO!!!  Thank you!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sew What?! A 1930's Catalina Gown

Hiya!  Our recent radio silence was due to an exciting, overseas, wacky tacky voyage.  Alright, "overseas voyage" might be a bit of an overstatement, but we did have to pack our suitcases and board a boat.  Our pals Benny & Jenn decided to make it official, and we celebrated their nuptials on sunny, scenic Santa Catalina Island!  Catalina Island is one of my favorite places in California.  Slightly lost in time, it reminds me to slow down and realize that the sun is shining and the ocean breeze is blowing for me to enjoy.  Seriously folks, if you ever get a chance to go, I highly recommend it.  It's so choice...

The wedding reception was held in the world-famous Avalon Casino Ballroom.
I love this picture of the Casino; I took it on the way home as the
 fog was rolling in and the lights were still shimmering on the water.

Finished in 1929, the Casino Ballroom has been host to the biggest jazz and big band legends the world has ever known.  Thankfully, Mary and I were included on the bill with an all-star line up of musicians for the evening's entertainment.  I am still trying to process that I played the same room as Benny Goodman (not nearly as well, as long, or to as much ovation, but it was a thrill!). 

Every detail of the Art Deco, island wedding was pitch perfect...especially these awesome fish-shaped cream puffs.

A gratuitous shot of one of my favorite foods on Earth!!!

The ballroom's, amazing, Tiffany-glass light fixture and vented, Art Deco ceiling.
  I have been to the ballroom many times but have successfully fought the urge
to lie in the middle of the dance floor and just stare at the ceiling.

Of course, a vintage wedding called for a new dress for Mary, so I got to work!  Most of my sewing decisions come from a near-lethal combination of economy, procrastination, and foolishness - this dress being no exception.  I have never sewn chiffon before.  In general I am too lazy to match plaids perfectly.  And I have never made a floor-length, bias-cut gown.  So what did I do one week before the wedding?  I decided to dive right into a bias-cut, plaid/check, chiffon gown - figuratively speaking, of course.

This dress makes me believe that everything should be cut on the bias.
Okay, maybe not chiffon (particularly plaid chiffon) ever again...but everything else.
I am pretty pleased with the way that the dress turned out; it even had
a few expert eyes fooled into thinking that it was "real."
The scarf at the neckline was looped into a draped bow through
a vintage, rhinestone belt buckle from our grandmother.
Who knew how frustratingly fiddly chiffon can be?  I guess everyone before me who has ever sewn with chiffon.  In all honesty, I think it took me longer to cut it out and match the plaid than it did to sew the whole darned thing!  The beauty of this bias-cut gown is that I had to put in absolutely no closures whatsoever.  The gauzy chiffon (bought on discount at JoAnn of all places) had enough give to slip right over Mary's head and cascade to the floor.  Glory, Hallelujah!

I am, however, going to give it to you straight (the warts and all version).
Finances have been better in the past and, wanting to be frugal, the best
 I could do for the belt buckle (having used the real one for the bow) was this
 ring/clip gizmo that somehow made it into the wacky tacky sewing stash.
 It looked a little odd in just the bare I bedazzled it.
Is it a stunning reproduction of an Art Deco-era belt buckle?  No.
Did it fool anyone into believing that it was a piece of priceless, heirloom
 jewelry?  Also no.  Did it work in a pinch, reflect/refract light,
 and get mostly covered by the bow at the neckline?  Yes, indeedy! 

Given the black/orange/yellow/white color scheme, I was surprised that the gown did not read too Halloween-y (if it did, don't tell me).  

It was actually an ideal color scheme and Mary ended up
coordinating perfectly with the wedding favors; the
couple's last name is Reese and each guest was treated
 to an organza bag filled with Reese's Pieces!

It was a beautiful wedding and an fun chance to get dressed up, spend a relaxing weekend with good friends, meet new friends, and listen to some incredible music.  Mary's new gown had plenty of fun fluttering around the floor too!

Emily, Mary, and Jesse
We got to spend the whole weekend with our pals but they
looked way too good to have Mr. Tiny muddle up the picture.

Mes amis - Laurence, Mary, et Sylvain
These fine folks flew in from France for the wedding!
My vote for "Best Dressed" of the weekend definitely goes to them.
You can see more of their incredible wardrobes and follow their
adventures at Laurence's blog, Lost in the 50's.

Meine freunde - Katharina, Mary, und Eva
This wedding was practically a UN Summit with Germany well represented.
I guess they're afraid of giants...
The food, fun, and friends were great, but the entertainment was unparalleled.  The amount of talent in the rooms was unbelievable and I only wish I hadn't been too busy dancing to capture all of the amazing performers as directed by our pal, and saxophone all-star, Marco.

The incomparable Carl Sonny Leyland

Vicki Tafoya & The Redondos (not pictured)

Sax legend, Big Jay McNeely

Amber Foxx & Big Sandy
French piano-phenom Raffi.

They even let Mr. Tiny get up and embarrass himself.
(photo by Kat of GoForKat)

The real stars of the show were the bride and groom, Jennifer and Benny.  We are so honored to have been a small part of their big day.  I couldn't be happier for them and even though they don't need it, I wish them all the luck and happiness that life can afford them.  I am grateful to have had such a wonderful excuse to visit one of my favorite places and, yes, even to make a new dress for Mary.

The happy couple.
Congratulations you two!
You really did make Santa Catalina the "Island of Romance."

"26 Miles (Santa Catalina)" - The Four Preps


Mr. Tiny