Miz Shoes

I Talk to the Trees

Man, that was a stretch, but you try figuring out a rock lyric with the word “lichen” in it. The tree trimmers were kind enough to leave all of the oak tree trimmings with “green stuff” on them in my yard, cut to manageable lengths and neatly piled. When harvested, I had a quart mason jar filled with (primarily) Parmotrema Praesorediosum (I looked it up.) I have a pint jar with about a quarter cup of it marinading in my bathroom, despite it failing the bleach test. (You look it up.) Hope springs eternal and all that.

Today I am about to boil up the rest of it and see what happens.


Miz Shoes

Money…That’s What I Want

I am sad to announce the ignominious end of Mild Burning Symptoms. Instead, I bring to you an updated Tante Leah’s Handmades. Just click on the shop link and see what happens.

Miz Shoes

Move Along, Nothing to See Here


I’m just testing the code here. We seem to have a glitch in Mild Burning Symptoms. It’s minor, and as soon as I figure out what is wrong, we’ll be live and selling off our worldly possessions, or as much of them as we can. This lovely portrait of someone you don’t know can be an iconic (or ironic) beach painting on YOUR wall. Stay tuned.

This time last week, I was in a spinning workshop in Sarasota, with the incomparable Jayce Boggs. It was mind-boggling. I had fun. I met great women. I ate great food. I slept on a couch. I heard great stories. I learned great stuff from a great teacher. I swapped my yarn for glass and money and strawberry mice and all sorts of cool stuff. I’m ready to move to Sarasota for good.

Upon my arrival, I was mesmerized by the pile of fiber on the pool table. EVERYONE was mesmerized by the pile on the pool table. I still think one of us needed to jump naked into the middle of it and one of the others to document the event. I would have been happy to perform either role. Nobody took me up on the offer. Next year.

I set up my Ashford Traditional in a sea of Babes, Lendrums, one Ladybug and a few other wheels I couldn’t name, and then went off to hang out with Surrogate Daughter Number Two in her dorm and meet her pals. She graduates this month, and this was the last chance we’d have to do that. I ended up in a deep conversation with her and her roommates about (in order of flow): The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Across the Universe, Thomas Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, the Hell’s Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (the movie), Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail (the book), Richard Nixon, Nixon Youth, and ending at Karl Rove/the Bush election/Republican machine. It was at that point that MizShoes determined that perhaps she was not the most apt teacher of modern American history, having a leftist skew to her POV.

The next morning, the room was filled with spinners of all ages. Only one gender, though.

We learned all sorts of art yarn techniques, and had a wonderful weekend doing it. For the full set of photos, go to my Insubordiknit Workshop album on Flickr.

Miz Shoes

Take a Little Bit of My Heart

Last week, I dug my prized possession, a 1986 Nikon F2A out from the bottom of my closet. I was shocked at how much dust coated the Domke bag. When I opened it, I got a nasty shock: the lens cap and skylight filter were shattered, but the lens itself was ok. I can’t remember the last time I put a roll of film through this camera. But the meter worked, and the solid thunk of the shutter sounded right. Then I looked at my lenses. Every one of them had mildew and mold on every element. I dragged everything down to the local pro shop, and they looked at me like I had grown a third head. First of all, no. They did not sell used equipment anymore and had no interest in even looking at my gear for trade. Second of all, it would cost more to refurbish the lenses than they are worth. Third, go down to this guy, they said, he buys film cameras.

At first, I thought I was in the wrong place. It looked like the seediest of pawn shops. But it wasn’t. It was, it is, a camera grave yard. There were cardboard boxes stacked six deep in the aisles, and every one of them was filled with camera bodies and lenses. Nikons. Cannons. Minoltas. Twin lens reflex, medium format. SLRs. So much junk. My body alone had cost me $800 back when it was new and I had to go to New York City to the camera district to get that deal. I had a 300 tele that my parents brought me from Japan. I shot more concerts with that equipment, more grip and grins, more parties and family reunions than I can remember. But I sucked it up. This is not my bread and butter anymore. I am never going to have a darkroom in my house. I will never shoot film again. I have switched to digital. I can let go.

I left with an empty camera bag signed by some of the musicians I shot over the years, and a $50 bill, not even crisp. To say that part of my soul died would not be an exageration, but not from the dingy bill, from the sight of all those cameras waiting to be sold for scrap. The only people who buy film SLRs these days, said the man as he shoved the money at me, are students.

On the heels of realizing that a technology I loved and practiced was dead, I got a box in the mail from Gallofornia. In it were two packages of GettaGrip Sewing Clips, a couple of t shirts and two bags, a big red canvas bag (perfect for my knitting) and the cutest little blue velvet purse you ever saw. I am so psyched! I Skyped Paulie when I opened the box and he had some fabulous news: the clips have been featured on Sandra Betzina’s blog, AND she’s putting them in her newest book, coming out in the fall. I cleared out the sewing area of my studio this past weekend, so watch out. With my GettaGrips in hand, and my sewing machine in the clear, I’m going to be sewing up a storm for the rest of the year.

As I tried to explain to someone earlier, my bestie invented the GettaGrip, a hot new sewing tool, or maybe, my bestie IS a hot sewing tool, but either way, check him out and BUY A SET!!!!

Isn’t he hot?

Miz Shoes

Devil in a Blue Dress

Do you remember me talking about my friend Paul Gallo and his house of Gallifornia? Do you remember how peeved I was when he was dissed by Tim Gunn and didn’t make it on Season 5 of Project Runway? Well, I got a note from him today. His patents came through. The money came through. The packaging was designed. The production took place, the items shipped and passed through customs. Gettagrip Sewing Clips are for sale NOW!

Check it out: gettagripclips.com and buy a set. Don’t forget to tell Paulie that I sent you.

Miz Shoes

Star Maker Machinery

Tante Leah, Tallis Maker to the Stars

Or, you know, I would be if I could just get a star to accept the gift of one. I’m not going to name names here, but a certain Rock & Roll Hall of Fame drummer (or more likely, his agent) just refused this one.

Grey, beige, brocade tallis

With all of the nice Jewish boys out there who are currently hot comedic stars, you would think that at least one of them would like to upgrade his tallis from the one he got when he was Bar Mitzvah’d. Steven Spielberg has how many kids? Surely one of them is turning 13 and needs a tallis. Why not a Tante Leah custom design?


Why? Because nobody knows I’m out here, making the most elegant, individual and did I say beautiful tallit around. I’ve decided that the way to fix this glaring omission is to get myself a celebrity endorser.

The question is who. Adam Sandler? Andy Samberg? Paulie Shore? (Is he even still around?) Sarah Silverman? Who represents the quality and sophistication of a Tante Leah product? Tim Gunn? Well, yeah, probably, but he’s not Jewish and I don’t think I could afford him anyway.

Rose Tallis 1

After much thought and deliberation, I am convinced that the celebrity endorser Tante Leah’s Handmades needs is Ben Stiller. So here’s the offer. In exchange for Mr. Stiller allowing me to use a photo of him in a Tante Leah tallis, with an appropriate and enthusiastic endorsement (ex: Round for round, and pound for pound, there’s no finer tallis in town) I will donate 10% of my gross to Mr. Stiller’s Stillerstrong charity. (This could add up to bupkis, or if Mr. Stiller does his job well, it could make a decent donation, say $250 a year.)

Yesterday, I pulled out everything from my studio and piled it around the house. Boxes, baskets, piles. Fabric, quilt tops, unfinished projects by the pound. Roving, Knitting supplies, spinning supplies, quilting supplies. And papers. I spent a few hours culling the paper. Then I went to the Container Store and dumped a grand on shelving/organizing tools. Was up till midnight building the new shelf/basket system. Now the big question: did it help? That remains to be seen. But I am amazed at how much STUFF I was able to cram into my studio. I was also amazed at the amount of dust and dirt a baseball bat, judiciously applied, can loosen and remove from a rug. No wonder our fore-mothers beat them every spring. Holy hell.

On another note: the human spammers who are infecting my comments with drivel and ads for limo services and mailing lists? Go die in a fire. And quickly. Thank you.

To the media: Anesthesia is not a sleep aid. Michael Jackson was not administered a powerful anesthesia to “help him sleep”. That’s like saying someone shoots heroin to “take the edge off”. A junkie is a junkie is a junkie. Looking for a high or a low. MJ just had enough money to pay those with dubious morals to acquire his drugs for him. The doctors, nurses, pharmacists who were complicit should all have their licenses revoked. For that matter, the drug company that sold the Propofol to a doctor and not to a hospital? They are culpable, too, and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t give a rat’s patootie about Michael Jackson or his addictions. But the hooha following his death has just gotten me sick. Dude was a high-functioning junkie. Pure and simple. Just like Anna Nicole Smith. And junkies tend to die of ODs. End of story. Sad, but hardly the stuff of Shakespearean tragedy.

Miz Shoes

Every Day I Write the Book

When the Number One Surrogate Daughter went off to college, I wrote a book for her. In it I passed along all the knowledge I gained from my years in school. I told her how to get a bad roommate to move out, how to make friends, how to recognize the Seven Drunken Dwarves, and what to do if you find out that you are Slutty, Pukey or Argumentative. (The others are Sloppy, Loquacious, Unconscious and Jolly.) I offered up advice on how to pick a major, and gave her an extra reading from Walter Pater.

As her younger sisters went to college, they received copies too. A year ago, encouraged by the girls who’d read and shared my book, I sucked up my courage and sent my manuscript to a literary agent. She loved it. She also told me that I was way behind the trend, and if she’d gotten it six years prior, she could have sold it, but the market was glutted with girls guides.

Still, in the internet age, who needs a publishing house or an agent? We have Lulu, and other print-on-demand sites. This weekend, I reformatted and tweaked my book. I found an old photo of me taken at a party in my dorm room, backgammon markers wedged in my eye-sockets like Little Orphan Annie, and a box of Screaming Yellow Zonkers behind me, and scanned the negative. I uploaded everything, and now, available for your reading or gifting pleasure, I present to you “The Girls Guide to College (that your parents won’t want you to read). A simple click on the cover will put it in your shopping cart.

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

Miz Shoes

Selling England by the Pound

Do you know how hard it is to find rock lyrics that have to do with selling and money? I mean, aside from the obvious ones? Anyway. I’ve updated the old Etsy shop with three of my hand-spun yarns and some of my cool beaded stitch markers. They’re cheap and they’re available. Kind of like me, thirty years ago.

Shop on!



Miz Shoes

5 Golden Rings

Last week, during the regular boys night out, the boys were actually hanging around the kitchen table. I’d asked Mr. Rings to bring a jewelry neck display so I could photograph my newest piece. He brought the velvet stand, and then asked what I was going to photograph. I showed him the mossy/violets/felted/beaded necklace and he acted as though he’d never seen any of my work before. The long and the short of it: yesterday I went into downtown South Miami, and placed about a dozen items for sale at 5 Golden Rings. There’s a beaded fetish doll, a heavily beaded cuff, many necklaces and even the stitch markers.

He told me that he’s going to make a display in his front window, just in time for the holidays.

(ETA: a picture of the display)


How’s that for happy holidays?

Miz Shoes



Today is World AIDS Day.


I started losing friends to that disease in 1988, and those first few years were terrible. Scotty. John. Richard. Shel. Alan. Ken. Nick. I started volunteering with an AIDS service organization, and later served for 7 years on their board of directors.

I am so lucky that so many of the men I love are living well with HIV. The years of research have helped to control the disease, but not to cure or prevent it. It’s been 25 years since Care Resource was started. We all hoped that it would have fulfilled its mission and been dissolved by now. Such is, unfortunately, not the case.


This is my Red Ribbon Quilt, and it is for sale in my etsy shop for the remainder of December (AIDS Awareness Month). Half of its sale price will be donated in your name to Care Resource, an AIDS service and research organization serving thousands of people in South Florida. You will receive documentation for the tax deduction. If you would prefer your donation go to a different AIDS organization (perhaps your local one) I can arrange for the money to go where ever you like. I will ship this for free.


There are nine hearts, each one different. There is a red ribbon winding around the border. The piece has been quilted in a feather pattern. Fits a queen or double bed. Reverses to a retro print of a sailor.

Size: 70 inches square

All Tante Leah quilts are made of 100% cotton and come from a non-smoking home, but they probably contain trace elements of pet hair.

Miz Shoes

I Get My Back Into My Living

Thank you to RJ who shouldn’t feel guilty, because I did tag the entry with “Maudlin Crap”, and to CousinSteve who wrangled invitations to his sister’s house (yes, that makes her my cousin, but I have so very, very many cousins) which I graciously declined. Thank you, too, to the Number Three Surrogate Daughter, who also felt responsible. Even the GirlCousin and the Smithy are feeling vaguely unsettled. I’m feeling much better now, and thank you and I’m sorry to have whined so well as to trigger an epidemic of Jewish Guilt. Snap out of it! I did.

I made four sets of stitch markers to put in the TanteLeah etsy shop. There were actually five sets, but I wasn’t satisfied with one set, so until I figure out what kind of head pins to use, there may not be more sets. There’s this set: huge baroque pearls and vintage Austrian crystal on a copper pin. Fits up to a US size ten needle,

pearl markers

This set is vintage Austrian flower beads, a single modern glass bead and the copper head pins. Again, they fit over an American size ten needle.

spring flower markers

And another set on copper, these have African trade beads, vintage Austrian flowers, turquoise blue white hearts. Fits up to a US size ten needle.

tribal turquoise markers

Finally, the set I’m keeping for myself: these have the tiniest little dark wooden skulls, coral, trade beads, the turquoise white hearts and wee chips of gaspeite. These only fit up to a size 9, and I think they’re going to be my favorite sock markers.

tiki markers

But wait! There’s more. I felted a piece of the yarn I spun and plied into a very fine cord. I added a carved/painted bone button to one end and made a loop in the other. Now, I’m embroidering it with beads and pearls. I want it to get heavy, but still show the felt in places. I’ve been working on this since last week.

dragonfly necklace

Miz Shoes

Turn, Turn, Turn

Or, you know, spin, spin, spin. A few weeks ago, Star and I made a road trip to the Palm Beaches, where I purchased a used spinning wheel. In case you wonder, yes, spinning wheels are still produced. This isn’t an antique, merely a gently used Ashford Traditional. I brought it home, and have been teaching myself to spin. Why? Why not. Actually, I wanted to spin the tzitzit for the Rose Garden tallis. Didn’t happen.

But here we have, in the golden light of my studio, my first handspun yarn.


It’s lumpy and uneven, but I love it. The roving (the stuff you feed into the wheel) came from The Yarn Wench (over there on the right in my links). That’s it on the far left in the picture, that fluffy stuff. On the far right, we have the single, or the first stuff I spun. In the middle, that’s called 2 ply, and it’s what happens when you take two singles and twist them together. It’s real yarn. Maybe even enough to knit the edge on a hat.

I haz a new addiction. Perfect for South Florida. I love my spinning wheel. I love the whir and the meditative state I can reach. Well, the theoretical meditative state I can reach. At the moment it’s more like the level of frustration I can reach. But I see it in the not too far distance.

Miz Shoes

With These Hands

My niece was bat mitzvah’d two weeks ago, and when she and her mom started planning this, they asked me to make her tallit. I was sooooo thrilled to do it. The Niece studies dance. She’s a member of her school’s troupe. She wanted pink. Not necessarily ballet pink, but pink. The Niece is a red head (Gorgeous red. Coppery red. With a pony tail as thick as my wrist.) She’s also tiny, and with skin like porcelain. So this was an easy call: she needed a tallit that was like English roses in the rain. I had some shrimpy-pink dupioni with an all-over embroidery of vines and flowers in old silver. And I had a length of moss-colored velvet that I wanted to use for her bag. She loved both swatches. Easy. All I had to do was put it together.

So I added some dark olive dupioni to the pile, and an embroidered sheer ribbon in soft mossy slash seafoam green that had beads, and another sequined ribbon. I had the smallest scrap of a green and orange Chinese brocade, so I tossed that on the pile of fabric, too. Some different threads in greens and pinks. Digging further into my fabric stash, I found a very Ralph Lauren sort of green/pink/apricot dupioni plaid. All I had to do was put it all together. Easy.

Off to the fabric store to see if I could find a pattern for the tallit bag, because the dozen or so patterns I have and have used just weren’t right. Found a pattern that allowed for patchwork and various fabric combinations. It even had a pocket and a zipper. So I bought a few zippers, in pinks and greens and some more embroidery threads. Easy. I had a couple of months. No worries. Just had to put it all together.

Did I mention that I’d only used velvet once before? That was for RJ’s tallit bag and it was a heavy, rust colored cotton velvet. Yummy. This green was nylon? Rayon? Something shiny and soft. No problems. I started with the tallit, and put together the stripe. I had to keep pulling back, and editing myself, because my first instinct is always that more is better and if a little bit of glitz is good, great heaping piles of it is better. One by one, the extra ribbons and embroideries got taken away. I finally ended with just the dark olive with the plaid layered over it, then the sheer ribbon over the plaid.


I laid the stripe to one side and started on the bag. And fought with it, tooth and nail for the next six weeks.

I machine basted. I pinned everything with great, long quilting pins, every inch. The fabric shifted when I sewed. I ripped it all out and tried hand basting, and the quilting pins. The fabric shifted when I sewed. I ripped it all out and tried a walking foot. But first, I had adventures in my sewing room wherein it took me hours to tear my studio apart and find the foot and others where the tension on my machine needed hours of tweaking to get the stitches to hold firm.I found the foot and… the fabric shifted when I sewed. I ripped it all out and tried hand sewing. The fabric shifted when I sewed. I ripped it all out and tried any number of combinations of all of the above. The fabric shifted when I sewed. I ripped it all out and then all of my hair out. I drank. I smoked cigarettes. I thought about it some more. I tried a steam-set bonding tape. It flattened the velvet and didn’t hold the fabric together when I tried to sew it.  But then I discovered that the zipper and the gusset just wouldn’t set in correctly. I bought shorter zippers and re-drafted the pattern. Repeat most of the steps above regarding hair pulling, drinking and smoking. I had to go to a funeral, and lost work days. I cried on a stranger on the train whom I know to be a sewer. She suggested tissue paper between the layers. It worked.



I tied the knots on the tzittzit at midnight on the Thursday before the Saturday service. It was perfect. My niece was perfect. Happy endings all around.



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