Wooly Bully

I’ve had fun with my purse making project.  It’s been an interesting creative outlet and learning experience.  I used felted wool to construct my one-of-a-kind weirdly wondrous little bags.  The bags were then embellished with vintage buttons and baubles.

Felting is a process of boiling wool so it won’t ravel or fray.   To felt my wool I loaded it into old pillowcases tied tight with string.  The fabric needed to be contained so the wooly bits don’t end up ruining the washing machine.  It was a mad scientist procedure. A cute yellow cashmere vest would go into the laundry a size 8, and come out wee-teeny enough to fit an American Girl doll.

I spent hours combing eBay for $1 merino vests, angora sweaters, and mohair scarves.  I’d be thrilled if I ran across something unique like a leopard cashmere cardigan or bright blue argyle pullover. Friends and family donated old woolens to the cause.  My sister sent her cool 1969 brown, orange and white ski sweater. Likely she could have eBayed that for some serious money.  In gratitude, I made her a purse.

Neighbors dug through their button boxes and gifted me with fabulous vintage buttons, all sorts of old cufflinks and tie tacks, and fancy collars and trim.  Those I won’t give up.  I love them.  Collecting them is a hobby of sorts.  It gives me an excuse to visit antique and collectible stores.  Below is a snippet of the hundreds of fasteners and frills I’ve gathered.

Since downsizing I haven’t had any interest in sewing.  Friends suggested I wait a full year before liquidating my materials.  We’ve only been here four months. But suddenly 2019 felt like the right time to move on to other imaginative projects.

All the fabric used for production was taking up much-needed closet space.  I reckoned it was time to get the wool out of the guest room wardrobe.  Our only designated storage area is a 2nd floor 36″ by 48″ wire cage.  We live on 29th floor.  We have to travel down 26 floors to just get to our miniscule coop.  (And yes, I have the math right.  There is no floor 13.)   Allowing stuff I was finished using to monopolize an entire closet didn’t make sense.  The Wooly Bully needed to go.

But what to do with all my wool?

I didn’t want to shove it down the trash chute.  It seemed wasteful to dump it.  It may seem like a pile of rejects to the casual observer, but to me, it was creative gold.

I was lamenting how to dispense of it when Terry, our fabulous painter, suggested I post it “Free” on Craigslist.

My posting read

“Free to a Good (or merely mediocre) Home”

I didn’t hold out much hope anyone would be interested in a huge pile of scrap fabric. I was amazed when, right away, I got an email from a local named Virginia. She asked 1) Is the material still available?  2) If so, what is your address?

I gave her the info and–poof— Virginia disappeared into cyberspace.  Maybe my home was too long a drive from hers?  Perhaps the neighborhood scared her?  Possibly Virginia realized even for free it was still just a mountain of shrunken cashmere coats and lumpy fisherman sweaters, chopped into remnants.

Next, I got an email from Michelle.  She asked two things.  1) Is the material still available?  2) If so, what is your address?

Yes!  Still available.

Michelle promised to send her sister Susan over the following morning to take away my treasure.

I shoved it all into giant lawn and leaf bags.  (Why we moved those bags to our condo is a mystery, since we no longer need to fuss with either lawns or leaves.)  These photos represent a small portion of my inventory.

The next morning at 9 a.m. sister Susan arrived in her small Toyota Corolla.  Riding shotgun was Woodrow the black lab, aka Woody.  Woody had eaten the better part of her center console, and both pleather front seats, revealing foam rubber beneath. For the record,  he didn’t appear a bit guilty.

While Woody dined on the car, Susan and I managed to fill her small trunk with the enormous bags.  I asked what Michelle had in mind for the wool.  It turns out Michelle does arts and crafts with children at a local homeless shelter.  Hooray.  My cherished wool will be well and creatively used.

I got an email the following afternoon from a delighted Michelle.  She thanked me profusely and said the first project planned is to make “Valentine Monsters”.   I’ve no idea what a Valentine Monster is, but I’m sure those homeless kids creatures will be made of soft, cozy, colorful felted cashmere.

Christmas

I’ve started this post several times.  I first began when our Christmas experience was fresh in my mind and then again after New Year’s Eve.  I finally figured out why I couldn’t get going.  I was looking to find “funny”.  But our Christmas 2018 experience wasn’t funny.  It was frightening.

It started out fine.  The kids, Mo, Stephen, and Tate, arrived from Chicago on Saturday the 22nd.  Sunday we piled into the car and drove three hours across the state to Port St. Lucie.  Stephen’s parents recently moved there. They sold their Garden City, New York home and are now in Florida permanently.

If you’ve never driven across Florida I will fill you in on the sights.  Ugly.  Nothing but palm trees, orange groves, cows.  And more cows.  Mostly black.  Occasionally brown.  I have a friend, JR, who owns cows.  He could have identified them.  To me, they were simply black and brown.

Tate slept for three hours.  I read.  Mo, in spite of being in the back seat, didn’t puke.  It was a fine uneventful trip.  Palm trees, orange groves, cows, sleeping baby, no puke.

When we got to Port St. Lucie we were greeted by Stephen’s family.  Parents John and Jane.  Sister Kelly, her husband, and three children. We dined on pizza, watched the kids play, then to went to our hotel.

Christmas Eve day we climbed into cars again, this time for the hour drive to Palm Beach.  Stephens eldest sister and her family have a home there.  Palm Beach is where the ugly ends.

Stephen drove us by Mar-a-Lago and past lots of fancy mansions attempting to hide behind tall hedges.

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Hung around with Christine and her family for a short while then back to Port St. Lucie and Christmas Eve dinner.  Delicious beef tenderloin.  Christmas day more great food, lots of gifts, watched the little boys tool up and down the street on bright green scooters while the older girls made batches of slime.

By now you are wondering, “What is frightening about any of this?  Other than the slime and ghastly proximity to Mar-a-Lago.”

Here’s what.  We didn’t start driving home until after sunset.  Three hours.  Tate didn’t sleep because he’d had a long nap.  I didn’t read because it was dark.  Mo didn’t puke because we got lucky.  Yay that.

Stephen was at the wheel. We were on the back roads because things were slow going on the bigger highway.  We saw nothing.  No palm trees, no cows, no orange groves.  Only rarely did we see another car.

Suddenly BANG!  The car filled with smoke, Mo and I were tossed forward against our seat belts, Tate burst into tears, and the guys slammed into airbags.

We’d hit something.  I assumed it was a deer.  Stephen managed to pull the car well off the roadway, Jim turned on the emergency flashers, Mo climbed out with her shrieking child and rocked him in the tall weeds.  My brain immediately screamed, “rattlers and gators and crocs–Oh My!”

Stephen figured out our location and called 911.  The guys assessed the damage and we all settled back into the car to wait for help.  The nearest gas station was thirty miles away.  Would we need to be towed?  We couldn’t use our seatbelts. They freeze when airbags deploy.  I didn’t know that.  We later learned that police will yank on them following a burst airbag accident.  If the belts move they can tell you weren’t wearing them and issue (too-bad-so-sad-about-your-accident) tickets.

As we waited, discussing our options, a white pickup truck passed slowly,  then pulled over in front of us.  My first thought was, “Yay, Good Samaritan.”  That thought was immediately followed by, “Oh No–this is FLORIDA!”  Half the population of this state is toting handguns.  The other half carries Colt Automatic machine guns.  Our “good samaritan” could turn out to be whacked out Christmas killer.

We learned he had hit the “deer” shortly after we did.  The “deer” turned out to be a giant female wild boar.*  She was either pregnant or recently had babies.  He noticed her full udders as he dragged her off the road.  Once he saw we were all okay he left the scene.

     *upon completing this post, Jim read it.  He pointed out that boars are male. Sows are female.  He’s such a show-off know-it-all:  doing crossword puzzles in ink, making three-syllable words in Scrabble and now this.  Knowing wild pig information.

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While waiting for the policeman we had a pow-wow.   Should we attempt to drive home without wearing seat belts?  Mo and Stephen are of the generation that never rode belt-free.  And, after all, belts and bags had just saved our lives.  Did we want to risk another hour on the road without them?  Possibly Ms. Wild Boar’s mate was at large and angry, hoping to avenge his wife’s murder.

I told Jim we would settle the discussion democratically–we’d vote.  The kids and I voted for towing.  Jim, not so much, but he accepted our point of view.

At long last, a cop arrived.  If he yanked on our seatbelts I don’t remember.  What was decided is that he would follow us to the county line to be sure the car was safely driveable.

Once we reached Pinella’s county Jim asked for another vote.  All of us agreed to head for home.  We arrived here at 1 a.m.  Alive, well, exhausted and very grateful no one was hurt.

Except for the pig and the car.

But Floridian pigs are an expendable nuisance.  And cars can be repaired.

Fortunately, we live within walking distance of everything.  Plus our generous neighbors loaned us their cute convertible.

So all is well that ends well.

In case you ever have a similar experience, here is what to expect your automobile to look like.

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We met the tow truck across the street in a parking lot.  It was too enormous to go into our parking garage.

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