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Highs and Lows

Drew Tolson

I was anxious because I had an appetite for the first time in seven days and no nausea thanks to the medication. Not a profound hunger, no self-imposed fast like a Thanksgiving breakfast egg and glass of milk because you want to make dinner count. It was just suddenly there. Like my stomach had just opened its eyes. 

I leapfrogged onto the barstool, "Two chicken tacos rice beans and a pepsi." The pepsi was a treat; they're best as a treat because that way, a few times during the summer, they're unbeatable.

Exactly twenty four-hours before I was in triage. I had been tuffing out the flu for 6 days, getting shifts covered when I could but always with the, "Today is omega, mother fucker!" mindset. I don't get sick often and never as bad as this, but I'm still convinced it will be better tomorrow.

I felt like a stooge describing my symptoms to the nurse, saying everything other than, "I shouldn't be here, I just didn't think it was so bad enough this morning to make a same-day. My wife suggested emergency room and I, at the absolute leftmost on spectrum of shitty and great, resting my head against the box spring between dry heaves, admitted, because of the time of day, the emergency room was a good idea." They admitted me quickly with me under the impression that the other people in the lobby were waiting for their rides.

Guy behind the counter slides chips covered in black beans and runny salsa. I scoop it up with the chips, feeling the heat clear my sinuses. Next come the tacos. Food, bland as it tastes, feels good going in and going down. I start to feel better.

I start to feel better when the nurse snaps the tourniquet off. The saline chill fades into a cool salty pulse starting at the needle in my elbow pit and then settling in my eyeballs, ears, and heart. The breathing treatment is taking the spring out of my chest and calming my cough. I'm chilly but I'm trembling as though sitting in an icy bath.

The nurse says, "Heart rate is high, even though you took medicine, your body is still fighting the fever. The doctor said you'll need two bags of fluids and chest x-rays. The shaking you're having is from breathing treatment. It will go away soon."

Hours pass and I see more unfortunates come in. My room is closest to the door so I see everyone before they strip down and get stuck in the arm. I'm wearing a surgical mask and feel like it's big enough to be covering my whole body. I'm standing up looking over the top. "Some of these people were waiting longer than me." I mouth, "Sorry" inside the mask.

After a few hours the doctor comes back and discharges me. I'm unhooked from the empty IV bag. I get my paperwork from the nurse and the prescriptions from the pharmacy. After 6 days with the flu, waiting at the round-about for my wife, I've got pneumonia.

My lips feel plump and smooth, not the stale raisins they had been at the round-about. Before pulling out and heading home I take the extra minute to finish my pepsi, now Arnold Palmer style, mixed with lemon agua fresca. "This is how humming birds feel."

I start feeling really good when I leave the restaurant. Crossing the blacktop feels like wading through beef stew. Once in the car with the AC on I'm able to recognize the moment for what it is: The medicine is working and I feel better than I have in days.

Drew Tolson

IMG_2438What I need to know and now is why there isn't this kind of food at the gas stations on the mainland. Don't give me any of that nonsense about people won't eat it because you know anybody'd rather snarf down a plate of some of this than try and drink down the volcanic goo inside of a microwave burrito.

IMG_2448 Pahoa, described to me as "The Topanga of Hawaii" -- Did I mention that yet?


IMG_2155 Mixed Bento Box - fondly referred to by us as "Pile of Assorted Fried Items." Very much side-eye from Jaune as I put it to some fried chicken, spam, a hot dog, and a few other as-yet-unidentified items.

IMG_2410 I asked the cashier to describe Lau Lau. She asked me, "Have you ever had greens?" Have I ever had greens.

IMG_2439 Ruined a home made dinner with this bad boy.

IMG_2466 Not that the salted meats are the world's healthiest, but I wouldn't complain about having rice and eggs and cold noodles and sweet potato available at any-ol' damn gas station (cue old man voice) considering my blood sugar.

Day to Day: Hawaii 2

Drew Tolson

IMG_2069 IMG_2110




IMG_2363 Beautiful old rayon dress -- Fit Jaune like a glove -- but the owner knew what they had and was charging accordingly :{

IMG_2222 So stereotypical. Growing in our front yard in Pahoa

IMG_2079 Shortly after this she tried to climb the chair. She fell down and bumped her head big time. Way to go, dad.


IMG_2078 Sloppy chain stitch

Day To Day: Hawaii 1

Drew Tolson

IMG_2064Back from The Big Island where we spent two glorious weeks. We stayed at an Air BNB in Pahoa on the East side of the island. Much to report so, until I get my pictures  organized, here are some snapshots.

IMG_2123 Graffito on a pole next to the Nanawale Estates water station.

IMG_2169 Got one for myself, but not at this shop. Please note the pattern on pocket matches the shirt body -- Very important.


IMG_2151 Kīlauea Iki Trail - Caldera floor

IMG_2303 Bathroom at the Worst Thai in Hilo.

IMG_2186 The good stuff. Not your ABC Store Lion brand.

IMG_2368 Four thousand dollars (plus?) worth of quilts.

IMG_2308 Self Portrait



Come Back Blog! Palaka: The Historic Cloth of Hawaii

Drew Tolson

banner-palaka I'm a blog lover, there's no question about that. Lots of what I do here is just aping my favorite bloggers. Im also always looking for new blogs from which to draw inspiration. It makes me sad when I find a great blog that has gone silent. Palaka: The Hawaiian Denim is a perfect example of this. The writer, silent since April of 2009, has amassed a wikipedia quality blog about the traditional Hawaiian work shirt called a Palaka. Now, I have a rule about needlessly reblogging something if it's already available somewhere else so I won't crib any of the content. What I will do is make a call to the author to bring this blog back!

Do me a favor, go and read all of the back posts (All 5 of them). Then leave a comment on the About page or send an email to the author. I guess, based on the email address and brief posting life of the blog, that the author is either a faculty member or former student of the University of Hawaii system. Maybe the blog was just a student project? Whatever the answer, I want this blog to come back to life! In the meantime, being the workwear lover that I am, I'll be searching for a Hawaiian-made palaka shirt of my own. Something yarn dyed, indigo...

Day to Day 37 - Double long with annotations

Drew Tolson

IMG_0688Operations Specialist

IMG_0687 Stitching horse for sewing leather. Would have bought if I wasn't out of state when I found it.

IMG_0086 Yahoops.

IMG_0060 Blue's Fairy House

IMG_0156 Blue as a chicken.

Untitled Playing around with a quilting guide food

Untitled Playing around with trademark infringement

IMG_1179 From the Swift Vintage booth at TVM

IMG_1392 Oxford cloth pretzel pocket (OCPP)

P1130411 Mister Freedom lot 54 jeans

IMG_1912 Found art in the backyard.

IMG_1919 Push It

IMG_1936 Stumbled upon some good stuff at The Quilt Emporium. Quickly becoming a favorite store -- would love them to stock more indigo dyed fabrics!

IMG_1942 Mild Winter in Topanga Canyon

IMG_1954 Christmas madness, carts piled up after people take them past the DO NOT CROSS OR WHEELS WILL LOCK line.

IMG_1960 Watermelon Radish was spicier than I expected.

IMG_2668 Donatio

IMG_0940 So much happening on the front of these pants. Had to do some research to find out what that loop is for. I never noticed belt slip being a problem until after reading about these loops.

IMG_1293 Always looking for stripes at the thrift store.

UntitledEbay saved search eventually turned up a hardcover copy for a third of what this seller wanted for paperback.

1930s JC Penny Work Shirt

Drew Tolson

IMG_5209J.C. Penny  Top-n-Bottom work shirt. A find from my trip to Seattle and environs a few months ago. Made a point of going to every vintage store I could find on yelp. This one was from Lucky Vintage. I'm OK blowing up the spot because it's not in my normal rotation. Sorry Seattleites. They had a few good things here, but their shop in Ballard, Lucky Dry Goods had more menswear though. Lots of the kind of thing you'd see on Sanforized (a favorite blog). Faded hoodies, USA-made converse, vintage denim, and plenty of -- no surprise -- old Filson gear.

IMG_5211 The collar was shredded so I patched it up with some khaki twill, leaving a little bit of wear showing for kicks. The collar doesn't lay quite right for the time being but, after a few ironings, I'm sure it will fall into line.

IMG_5218 Hand sewed the patch on because I didn't want the swelled-edge look you can get from sewing a patch on with a lockstitch (although that is a good look in some situations). You can see here that there is a break in the fabric on the left-shoulder side -- I took this patch fabric from what was left after I hemmed a pair of khakis. I cut the leg open at the inseam and left the outseam intact.

IMG_5208 Gussets on the sides and remnants of chainstitch runoff.

IMG_5210 Detail of somebody's old Oops with white paint.

IMG_5215 Lots of the construction is dual-needle chain stitch which is no surprise. The width between the two lines of stitching varies all over the shirt––anywhere from 1/4 inch to 3/16ths inch. With my limited knowledge of machines of the time, I assume that they were made on a Singer 134w class machine, based on this website, a 134w5. Here are some images of that machine pulled from said site:


134wIf you're interested, one can be yours (sans machine and guarantee of working order or complete parts) for just under a grand. Maybe Santa can slip one in my stocking next year.

IMG_5214 The shirtsleeve plackets are all single-piece which is another neat touch that you'll only find on reproductions and vintage-inspired clothing. This single piece of fabric is less likely to rip than two pieces sewn together are. Not a problem with today's poly stitching but I imagine it was when these shirts were popular.

IMG_0924 I went and ruined this fantastic shirt already by patching up the collar, so I had no problem adding an extra button and buttonhole down at the bottom of the front.

IMG_5206 This is the first time I've done a buttonhole like this. Not too bad for hand work.

IMG_5205 An old blue cat-eye button from my stash fits the bill nicely. Sure, I have brown buttons, but why not blue?

IMG_5202 You can expect to see more of this shirt on the blog in later times as it has become a favorite.

If you have any vintage finds that you want to share, please let me know about them in the comments.

Missed Day

Drew Tolson

Chalking this one up as a missed day. I'll make my penance, I promise. In the meantime, I've been working on the blog backend. I'm trying to streamline the writing process and also keeping all of the blog images hosted on-site. There is a Wordpress plugin that has been doing the heavy lifting of transferring my old pictures from over from Flickr, Cache Remote Images. It finds any remote image, saves it to your site and replaces the url in the image tag with one pointing to that image on your server. Says it hasn't been updated in two years, but works fine on Wordpress 3.8. Thanks to AndrewLucy at everyone else at the Topanga Canyon Wordpress Meetup last week for your help!

People: Painted Jeans

Drew Tolson

IMG_1522I made this lady out from across the apple store one day by the jeans. She tells me that they're a commission from a San Francisco based artist named Melissa Ayr . One leg is left alone while the other is a wild abstract splatter that looks like a Trapper Keeper I had in the second grade. I 100% approve of and encourage this look. I wish I had asked what kind of jeans they were.

Antique Handkercheif

Drew Tolson

IMG_5226Picked up a few yards of antique fabric a while ago. Finally getting around to making something with it. Indigo, faded in spots from storage, and a little musty. I believe it's calico, but my knowledge on that is limited.

IMG_5229 Like a polka-dot pattern, but grid aligned and squares instead of dots. Is there a name for this pattern? Is it a discharge print?

IMG_5228 Handkerchief, roughly 13 inches square + a little bit for the selvedge. The stitching is a little wobbly. Comes with the territory when you sew on a treadle machine.

IMG_5230 Irons up beautifully so you can see the character in the print and weave. Sending this one off to a friend before I make one for myself.

Wearing Vintage: Old Levi's 501s and M-51

Drew Tolson

collageLet's play dress up.

IMG_5137 A simple combination of 501s and a military jacket. The t-shirt is a new American Apparel pocket-tee (minus a few inches at the bottom where I hemmed it to where I like my shirts to hit). The pin is one I've talked about before and is worth showing again considering how much I love the symbol. I wear it here as a medal, the only one I deserve, for meritorious service in a thrift zone.

IMG_5129 The jacket is 1950s, an M-51 (It even has its own wikipedia article!). I had been wanting an olive drab military jacket for winter. The M-65 being the obvious player to fill this role, but I wanted something in my preferred era. My hopes were not high when I saw this at Greg's booth one Sunday morning. Olive drab jackets aren't hard to come by but my size and era specifications limit the pickings. Pulled this jacket down from where it was hanging on the easy-up and the first thing I went looking for was this:

IMG_5134 ...SHELL, FIELD, M-1951. Dated Jan 1952. Condition just as I like it, faded and worn, but with no rips or fraying. The fading caused by the snaps under the surface are particularly enjoyable. It sweetens the deal that the guy's name is written in it. IMG_5136 I'm a 44" chest but the jacket fit perfectly. Maybe these are measured with the button-in liner in mind because I know I'm no 37".

IMG_5142 The Levi's are a vintage store purchase. A pair of Single Stitch little e "66" 501s. These have the kind of low contrast fade that I have come to appreciate. Whiskers aren't as pronounced as you get when you wear a pair for 2 years and wash them as many times. These instead have what I will call "dark crotch." The leg-twist here is wild; when worn, the outseam rests in line with the toes.

IMG_5148 Union Special hems with the folder on the most narrow setting (3/8"?). This extra narrow hem seems less popular among the makers of modern high end jeans, preferring the 1/4" hem from what I've seen. I do know that Sugar Cane does narrower hems on their reproduction jeans.

IMG_5143 36x34 -- my waist and length plus enough extra to make the large cuffs that I love so much. Hole in the butt doesn't phase me at all -- I repaired it just after I took these pictures.

No single item sticks out or seems unlike something you could buy today -- Nice when I don't want to look too costumey. I also enjoy I'm using the military jacket for exclusively peaceful purposes -- the abundance of pockets makes for a good substitute for a diaper bag when I'm out with the baby.

I'd like to do more posts like this. Reader, do you want to see more like this?

Tea Dyed Sashiko Thread

Drew Tolson

IMG_0195I had some Olympus #1 Sashiko Thread I picked up from my friends at The Quilt Emporium in Woodland Hills. The #1 color is really really white and doesn't look good when used to mend old clothes. This is, of course, not an issue that I can't resolve.

IMG_0194 With help from my friend Earl Grey, I made a nice strong dye.

IMG_0196 Simmered for a few minutes and then left in the tea for a few hours after.

IMG_0236 Very nice result. The kitchen counter here though could use a wipe down.

IMG_0243 And here used to patch the torn pocket of my favorite beater chinos. Looks much better with my sloppy stitching than cocaine white.

Day to Day 34

Drew Tolson

IMG_0248Holes in a WWII fatigue jacket.

IMG_0255 Doesn't everyone sharpen their seam ripper?

IMG_2958 Leather washers for rivets cut from scrap.

IMG_0542 I know that some people think these kinds of pictures are annoying. They are my absolute favorite.

IMG_1608 Hello winter clothes, out from storage for the first time all year.

IMG_1599 Goodbye summer clothes. I'll see you in 2014.

IMG_1602 I will miss you, seersucker doggies. I will miss you most of all

IMG_1138 Crystalized indigo kept in a blue ball jar for animistic purposes.


UntitledEarly designs for apron pockets.

Lee 101-LJ Blanket Lined Storm Rider

Drew Tolson

IMG_5176As promised in my TVM November 2013 Haul post, here are more pictures of my newfound Lee Blanket Lined Storm Rider. My favorite feature of the Lee denim jackets is the zig-zag stitch down the front. Glad to add one of these to my collection.

IMG_5184 I spotted this jacket at the bottom of a pile of other denim jackets on some seller's tarp. I must be getting good at picking denim because I could tell that this one was worth looking at among the jackets of a less interesting vintage. I took off the sweater I was wearing and slipped this one on -- a perfect fit. Interrupting the seller who was having a conversation with another picker, I asked for a price. "Twenty bucks," the guy said. I handed over a 20 dollar bill. "I'd keep it for myself if it fit." he said as he tucked the bill into his pocket. "Looks good on you, makes you look like James Dean." Now, it was Paul Newman who famously wore one of these, along with a Steve McQueen doll, but there was no reason to share this with him.

IMG_5177 This is the first time I've ever worn a blanket lined jacket other than just trying it on in a store. Very warm! Makes this jacket suitable to be worn on a cold evening without an additional layer. Cold here is subjective, considering that this is Southern California. The sleeves are interesting because the blanket lining is floating inside of the denim sleeves -- They're attached at the shoulders and cuff only. I wonder, is this a feature or some necessity of production?

IMG_5181 Sewn on cat's eye buttons on the back tabs instead of riveted metal post buttons. Lee must have done this as a response to the "rivets scratch the furniture" issue that also resulted in Lee using the x bar-tacks on their jean pockets. This picture really highlights the character of the denim. In addition to the wear and fading on places where the fabric is buckled, you can also see a pattern created by the weft as the color of the warp threads has worn down -- Like a cross hatch or grid pattern.

IMG_5178 Union Made in U.S.A. With the help of a very fine blog and a post at, of all places, the fedora lounge, I can say that this jacket dates to the 1970s. I like being able to see how the machine operator sewed on the patch. Because the stitches don't have to go through to the outside of the jacket, the operator could be a little sloppy putting it on. Also note the grid pattern where the blanket lining is worn thin. They must use this as a base layer on which they add the recycled wool for this kind of blanket fabric. I'd love to know more about how they make this stuff.

IMG_5182 The denim is right hand twill -- Unusual because I thought Lee was known for their left hand twill. Perhaps they switched over during the 70s.

IMG_5185 Verdigris on the buttons. Below you can see a slub in the fabric, just below the patch.


IMG_1767 I've been helping out with the neighbor's chickens this week and the storm rider has proven to be very useful. Tempted to find an old chicken patch and sew it on in tribute to the jacket's 1970s heritage. I'll let you know if I find a good one.

Day to Day 33

Drew Tolson

IMG_1675I was feeling negative zero about my Day to Day options last week, really had to dig into the ar-chives to find something worth showing. Thankfully, this week has been so much better.

IMG_1748 3/4" AC



IMG_1757 Baby Green's stuffed bunny. The musette makes a fantastic diaper bag.

IMG_1777\ Newly seasoned cast iron.



IMG_2552Some aht