Friday, August 22, 2014

Morning Contemplation


The first thing I do when I get up on a summer morning is open all the doors and take in the sights and smells of our yard. I pour my cup of coffee, tune into my praise music, feed the koi, and begin to think about my day. The beauty that surrounds me reminds me that I am blessed to be living here at the Hacienda, surrounded by garden plants, flowers and trees.





 
 
This summer morning I have begun to focus (obsess?) on our upcoming trip to France. Smoldering beneath the excitement of traveling in a foreign country is a tiny undercurrent of fear: fear that something might happen, I won't be able to communicate, I'll get lost, I'll get sick, etc. Thankfully Dave is not that way at all - everything to him is an "adventure". I tell him that my worrying is just my way of processing and planning, I guess. Somehow I think that if I chew on it long enough I will have all the bases covered and be prepared for anything. I do try to shove them into the background, and contemplate instead all the wonderful aspects of seeing new landscapes, experiencing the culture, eating delicious food, etc.

Being a worrier is a bad habit and like all worriers, we do out best work in the early morning. Thankfully, it's never strong enough to overshadow the draw of traveling. Usually the minute I'm on the plane soaring skyward, I get over it. My pragmatic self shifts into gear and tells my psycho-worrier self "It's gonna be what it's gonna be, Laurel. So take a breath, sit back and hang on!" I think it's a God thing...whatever happens - good and bad - He's there. Trust, Laurel...trust.

And I get to see some of His best works of beauty...this time touring around the French countryside!


******************************************************************************

TRAVELING WITH GOD
From 2008, first published in Laurel's Quill
in February, 2012

Perched on a tiny pedestal near the cash register at Starbuck’s Kenneth/Madison store sits Stan.  Stan is a homely little man/doll with a bare chest and a big nose. Customers of the local coffee shop sign up on a schedule to take Stan on vacation with them.  Across the room is a bulletin board covered with pictures of Stan taken around the world – Stan on an elephant in India, Stan in Ireland, Stan swimming with Dolphins, etc.

Dave and I signed up to take Stan to Europe in May.  He probably had been there before but we hoped to show him new sights and experience new adventures together.  Three days before our scheduled departure, I went to pick Stan up, as he was supposed to be arriving back from a two week junket to the nation’s capital.  Alas, Stan had not returned to his perch by the cash register…sorry Stan…no Europe for you.

It would make a great story if I told you that I decided to take God with me to Europe instead of Stan.  You know…like I was immediately overcome with a sense of godly purpose, spreading the Gospel to strangers I’d meet in every sidewalk cafĂ©.  Honestly though, I wasn’t thinking of God much during my packing and planning, like so many days that manage to slip through my fingers without so much as a passing thought of Him.


We left for Europe, full of excitement and anticipation, and though I didn’t put God in my plans, He showed up anyway. As we rounded the corner of a darkened Paris street, I caught my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower - twinkling, majestic and reaching for Heaven. I was overcome with thankfulness – many never see such beauty.  I felt the same way as I entered the room where the lovely Mona Lisa sat in gracious repose for the curious throngs – what incredible gift from God was given to the man who captured her likeness?


God was everywhere, every day. In a single twenty-four hour period I was awestruck by miles and miles of yellow flowered hillsides that graced the road to Berlin, only to be brought to tears by the letters and photographs displayed in the Jewish Holocaust Memorial.  That same quietness marked our visit to Omaha Beach, where surely God must have cried on that windy June day in 1944.






For every day that we were humbled by the history of Europe, there were no less than four or five that were marked by magnificent beauty, joyful sharing and adventure that surely rivaled our best attempts to conjure up Heaven! 







Just take a drive through the vine covered hills of Tuscany, swim in the crystal blueness of the Adriatic, loose your purse with passports and credit cards only to have them returned safely into your hands by two strangers and tell me there’s not a loving, gracious, generous and merciful God who NEVER leaves your side. 

 And Stan…well, he’s just a doll.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Happy Birthday, FabricLady!

One of my favorite chick flicks is "You've Got Mail", a loose adaptation of the 1940 classic "Shop Around the Corner". In the old version, two employees at a gift shop in Budapest who can barely stand each another, don't realize they're falling in love as anonymous correspondents through their letters. In the 1990's version, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks correspond via email - he, the owner of a mega-giant book conglomerate who plants an huge outlet across the street from her shop, a small boutique book store. 

The movie is a romance, but the underlying sub plot depicting the demise of her precious Shop Around the Corner as it becomes overshadowed by the giant chain is all too familiar in today's economy. "Box stores" are everywhere touting huge inventories,  mass produced products and self-checkout lines. There are no Megs to query, no experts with advice...just aisle after aisle of stuff you don't need, can't find and don't want.

As a whole, Fabric stores are no different. If I want candles, Halloween decorations or silk flowers I can go to any of the big-name chains.  If I want fabric - I mean real fabric to make a new outfit - I'll drive 100 miles to Berkeley to my precious "shop around the corner" Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics.  There are precious few of these specialty stores left and they survive because of the hard work and perseverance of people like Suzan Steinberg, who still believe that customer service and product knowledge are the cornerstone of enduring success.

As I shared in my first post about our budding collaboration (see original 2013 post below), Suzan and I share a vision of a renewed interest in garment sewing. Over the past year, we have created a new buzz about sewing for yourself on her blog Fabric Lady, and I personally have been blessed to play a small part in her life. We have made over 50 garments together, many of which she wears and displays in her shop on Shattuck Avenue.

I admire, respect and love you, my Leo-Sister, and congratulate you on the continues success of your precious "shop around the corner", StoneMountain.  Have the happiest of Happy Birthdays this weekend!






Be fierce, Suzan...afterall, are we NOT Leos?

 Laurel. Sew On!!


*******************************************************************

My Exciting New "Gig"
(Published in June, 2013 in Laurel's Quill)

Okay, it's not like I don't have enough projects or anything, but you know me - there's always something new that pushes my creative buttons.  Over the years I have juiced my entrepreneurial spirit sewing for others, designing dresses to sell, creating unique one-of-a-kind necklaces, selling paintings on the street corners, doing interior design and house staging, etc.

My friends know that have always wanted to have my own fabric/yarn/jewelry/artwork etc. boutique, but somehow it was never in the cards. When I visit a shop that I love, I try to imagine how I might "become a part of it", but more often than not, I will just breathe in its ambiance, buy a few trinkets and leave, wishing I had had the chutzpa to do it myself.

Along came Suzan Steinberg, co-owner with her father Bob, of my favorite fabric shop in Berkeley, Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics. Suzan put out a notice to her customers that she was looking for people who might be interested in sewing garments for her, as well as samples for the store. I promptly replied to her. expressing an interest in more than just the sewing gig, but some sort of "collaboration" that might also include my love of blogging and photography as well as feed my inner need to create, teach, otherwise influence and inspire others (there's that "corporate" head still trying to rule!).

Suzan and I met, threw around some ideas and quicker that you can say "fabric", I was sent home with bags of material, patterns and notions to make several outfits for her. Somehow, things are just meant to come together - it's almost like I've known her for years. I will be a guest contributor on her blog, FabricLady, that will feature some of the outfits that I am making for her, along with some tutorials perhaps, and whatever else Suzan has in store!



I am excited to work with her creating some garments that not only showcase the quality and variety of Stonemountain fabrics, but just get women to want to start sewing for themselves again. Both of us think that fashion sewing is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and for my part, the more I can get that message across, perhaps more of the big "chains" will start to take notice and truly be able to call themselves "Fabric Stores".

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Laundry Crisis Averted...

I am not prone to "cheating" on Stonemountain And Daughter Fabrics by spending a lot of time shopping for ready to wear garments. I can make just about anything for my wardrobe, but let's be real, some things are just not worth the sewing hassle.  Jeans, simple t-shirts and sweaters are among those things that I regularly purchase in department stores.

"Lobster" jeans from Cabi

Recently, I purchased some linen crop pants (hel-lo! something that I could have made!) from Tommy Bahama for way more $$ than I care to say.  I also ordered a couple of classic knit polo shirts from Land's End, splurged on a pair of lobster colored skinny jeans from CAbi and nabbed a cute lace tank from White House/Black Market.

I love all these garments, but what are the chances that 1) all of them would be dirty at the same time and 2) that I would throw them all into the washer...together.  Yep, those pretty lobster red pants were hidden in my carelessly thrown together wash load.


Let me just admit that I stopped letting Dave touch my laundry years ago just because of this very thing. Imagine my horror upon transferring my load to the dryer...all those pretty white things now a glorious shade of baby pink.  (BTW, the CAbi jeans are still pretty!) Luckily, I did not dry them but quickly threw the white things in the washer again with some Oxy Clean, which is touted to be a non-chlorine stain remover.


After the Oxy Clean? That would be a No.


There was also a cheap white cotton t-shirt in the load that I decided to experiment on...
with Clorox.  Didn't even phase it.  


I really didn't care THAT much about the other white things, but those linen crop pants are among my favorites. You can search Pinterest and find all types of concoctions that promise to remove stains and whiten.  But one friend mentioned good old Rit Color Remover as a possible solution.

Try finding Rit Dye/Color Remover. Target no longer carries it.  
The customer sales rep mentioned Michael's. That would be a No.



I remembered (or thought I had) in Winco.  After combing the aisles, I finally scored some color remover.  And just in case, I bought some more bleach, some whiteners and other products. My daughter read something about Peroxide and Baking soda??? Scary, but if I get desperate, maybe...


I went online to get some hints about how to use Rit's Color Remover. I remembered my Mom dying clothes on top of the stove...big pot of boiling water with constant stirring. And the process has not changed in 50 years.


I poured the boiling water into my kitchen sink and added the little magic packet.  The instructions day it takes from 10-20 minutes of constant stirring to remove the color.  Patience is a virtue and not one of my strong suits. But as I stirred the smelly ( perm solution??) brew, I could see the pink cast start to fade. on the t-shirt.  I bravely threw in the polo shirt with the navy polka dots, the lace tank, another printed top that had a tie dye pattern on the front and stirred for what seemed like an interminably long time.


Most of the "pink" fabrics were cotton and a couple had a little Lycra in the content, but all seemed to respond well to the Rit product...some just took longer. I think the polka dots suffered a little, but at least it's not pink.


It's working...
Use this BEFORE you try anything else
























I made another batch of Color Remover for my precious linen crop pants. Miracle of all miracles, I may have saved my pants. I am working on getting the last tiny remnants of pink - it's barely there...perhaps if i hadn't used the laundry product first.  But they are wearable.


Untouched photo...LOL!


Yes there is a moral...several, actually.  I'm not blaming the manufacturer of the bleeding lobster jeans...consider it operator error. So take time to sort your laundry and save yourself some grief. And when in doubt, always be sure to check your labels for care instructions, whether you are buying ready to wear garments or fabric. FabricLady would probably say "That'll teach you not to buy linen pants when you can make them". And finally, don't be so hard on your husband...you too can make stupid mistakes!


Laurel. Pretty in Pink, but I'd rather have White!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

For A Paris Evening...

My friend Angel made this soft capelet several times and when I tried it on I was mesmerized with
how sweet it was.  Although she knitted hers in a yummy, more wintry yarn, I thought it would be perfect for a summer "Evening in Paris". The pattern is called "LuLu"...so French - the designer says it's her alter ego.

The model even looks like Brigitte Bardot...
I found a white cotton and acrylic blend - easy to work, forgiving. The lace pattern is not difficult (as lace goes) and it works up very quickly. What I love most are the little flowerettes around the yoke - so feminine.  The "sleeves" are added to the bottom of the capelet, and it is mildly restrictive for movement...but since I wasn't planning on doing anything too athletic other than lifting my wine glass, it should be perfect!

Finished and ready to wash and block. 


I use a large fiberboard coated with Contact paper to block my knitted garments.
I set them outdoors under a fan to hasten the drying process.





Because of the cotton blend (I hardly EVER knit with acrylic) I am hoping that it will remain soft and cozy...but not too hot!

My little French coquette, Colette, is right at home in my new LuLu. She is thinking that it will pair beautifully with some of my linen crop pants or soft maxi skirts. It would look awesome with any of  Suzan's travel pants, but alas, Zan, like the fringed linen skirt, I'm not making you a LuLu sweater. LOL!  In truth, I love to knit, but I don't get how women can be so selfless making knitted garments for friends and family - it's sooooo much work...I can barely get anything completed for myself!!

But hey, Zan, you can borrow it anytime:)



Speaking of SYW projects (that's "Slit Your Wrist") projects, I'm back to the Habu shawl...was thinking of giving up (and I still may) but I switched to wood needles, and it's working better. I haven't cried for an hour. Colette will love this one too and it also would be perfect for Paris evenings.

We'll see...sewing is so much easier!
 



Laurel. Selfish Knitter.




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Last Minute Gift...

I am a procrastinator.  I think that I've mentioned that personality defect once or twice on my blog.  I think about doing things and for some reason, those thoughts slip back into my brain storage where I keep all the things that I intend to do...someday.

I think I am most famous (at least among my family and friends) for procrastination involving birthday presents. Our grandchildren might get their gift a month later than they should, all because Grandma put that task on her to-do list and it got stuck in that brain storage drawer. I'm also equally bad at picking up little hostess gifts beforehand when we have a soiree to attend.  Put those two together: event + gift, and my brain finally shifts into gear the day of the party.

"Gee, I shoulda got a _______ for her." Or "Oh no, I forgot to get them something!" Whatever the reason, my brain suddenly engages and I think about all the things I could have made for that person beforehand. However, when you are creative, 6 or 7 hours is enough time to make most anything. I'm not tooting my own horn here, I'm just saying that I will try anything...once...and Laurel works really good under pressure!

So, fast forward to yesterday and a friend was having a birthday dinner that evening.  No presents were expected but I got the brilliant idea of giving him a work of "art" for his mantle...at 6:00 a.m that morning.  He is a gifted contractor whom I had the privilege of working with a few years ago on a building project. So what contractor would not want a set of custom nails? (Probably none, but hey, it's going to be art!!) I needed to make 60 of them, one for each year of his life.

8:00 a.m - off to Lowe's and Michael's early to get the supplies...wasn't sure yet how I was going to make this little artwork, but just walking around Lowe's gave me a good start, then I finished up at Michael's.

The Raw Material: Paint, 16 Penny Nails, wood blocks, etc.

After making the wood base, I made a grid for the nail holes...
(still using those Excel skills from work)
I have to say that my skills with Dave's drill were rather lacking...what a pain!!


On to the fun part! Spray paint for the initial base of the hand-painted nails...


Took a seat at the kitchen table with my acrylic paints, brushes and voila! 
(well, not exactly that quickly...)
60 Custom Nails - Check!




Gives new meaning to the word "Nail Art", doesn't it Gayleen? (my manicurist friend)
One of a kind.


Laurel. 
No, I'm not going to make you one...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Technology addiction is a slippery slope - just ask the Candy Crushers, the Farm Town farmers, the Minecrafters, the online "Pokers".  Once you get your first taste of victory, it's all over. And like the Apostle Paul who was humbled by his sins, I too admit that among the Techie Sinners of the world, I may not be "Chief" among you, but I'm right down there with you when it comes to Polyvore. I have burned more vegetables, left the house showerless and ignored my unmade bed countless times, all for the joy of creating a digital masterpiece on my computer.

In the Polyvore world, users form groups that you can join, theoretically with the same artistic predisposition as you. Most group owners sponsor contests, where there is some sort of theme or set requirement.  Even huge corporations like Macy's and Wendy's sponsor contests...remember that the chief goal of Polyvore is to get you to buy fashions, jewelry, home goods and beauty products. Many groups have hundreds, even thousands of entries for a single contest.  I haven't figured out how the game is played, or who decides who wins or why, but I enjoy the challenged of putting my spin on their rules.

And after four months of creating all manner of artistic sets, I finally "won" a prize in a contest. It wasn't first place, or even second. And it wasn't even a "big" contest - only 258 entries.  But I won 7th Place!  (Rather like getting a Lavender ribbon in a county fair sewing contest...) The contest theme was "FREE Woman!", and we were challenged to create a set that epitomized a free spirited woman. And being the conservative, traditional chicken that I am, what is more free than a woman who sports tattoos?

"Too Chicken To Get a Tattoo"
 
The irony of my thought process in creating this image is that, like my Polyvore addiction, I am told by a couple of women whom I love dearly that Tattoos are also addictive. That explains why we see so much "art work" on men and women these days...it's hard to just get one. And even though I have such appreciation for the artistry of this inked art, I just can't get past the thought of ending up in a skilled nursing facility bed sporting a sagging image of a blurry butterfly smeared across my backside. 

Not that I would ever get a butterfly...I would want a hummingbird...or a Viking...maybe an image of Colette. 

Yep, no tattoo for this girl. 



 Laurel. "Cluck, Cluck, Cluck..."


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Knot One, Knot Two...

LaurelLeaves Jewelry crashed and burned over two years ago. Contributing to her demise was the overall pressure to produce one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces month after month after month. I had quite a following of clients wanting their own special and unique creations...so I spent many a sleepless night designing in my head, instead of sleeping. 

Secondly, I discovered the magic of Charming Charlie...how could I compete with the store's plethora of necklaces, bracelets and earring in every conceivable color and style, not to mention their Made in ------ prices? Today, I am a huge fan of CC's, but I will admit that even though they don't have the quality that my pieces had, they are sure fun, very accessible and reasonably priced.

And finally, I guess I just got bored.  Those who know me well, know that once I have totally conquered a craft (with the rare exception of sewing which I have done for 55+ years), I tend to move on to the next creative thing to continue to stimulate my brain. Unlike sewing, there are only so many ways to make a necklace. However,  I do honor my pieces by doing occasional repairs for my customers...after all, if you wear a necklace to death, expect it to give way at some point in time.

A friend brought over a necklace (not one of mine) that she had received from her daughter. When she opened the box, the string had broken and all the glass beads were loose. She asked me to restring it, and I agreed - it's a very simple thing - stringing beads. But while I was doing it, I was reminded about the pleasure I used to get hand-knotting beads into a necklace.

Hand-knotting is an art form. I requires patience and care, though I have seen the women in Chinatown knot a string of pearls faster than you can say "necklace". For me there is a rhythm to working the cord around your fingers and using the sharp tweezers to form the knots.



LaurelLeaves Jewelry must always have my signature glass leaf...
 

The beauty of knotted beads, just like expensive pearls, is that knotting allows the beads to "float", keeping them flexible around your neck...
 

That was so much fun, I had another strand of stone beads that I finally decided to knot as well. The holes in these beads were bigger, so I had to use a heavier cord...


They look like lapis, but I don't think they are... didn't cost that much!

 

I found this beautiful sterling silver necklace embellishment at Nordstrom...I planned all along to put it on a strand of beads that I knotted myself.  Lovely! And I can put it on the green beads as well.
 


People still ask me if I'm making jewelry. Every now and then I see one of my creations on a friend and I remember making it.  It makes me a little nostalgic and I think about starting again. Hand-knotting these two necklaces was very enjoyable. But then again, I didn't have to produce 100 new one-of-a-kind masterpieces for a party. That's when I come to my senses.

Laurel. I'd rather sew...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"Just Shoot Me" Skirt

I'm wondering if there are little "Fringers" out there in third world countries that clothing manufacturers pay minuscule wages to make fringe on designer outfits. I ponder that question as there is probably no one in the overly-entitled free world who would actually chose to fringe the hem of a linen skirt. I'm beginning to thing that making fringe is God's way of punishing me for trying to copy a designer skirt. I should back up a minute...

I bought this delightful little white linen skirt almost 10 years ago from a well known designer line.  I wore it to my 40th high school reunion and I remember thinking I looked pretty cool for a 58 year old.  I loved that skirt, but as the years passed, my middle age spread demanded that the skirt be moved the back of the closet...for years it languished in between a beaded bodysuit that cost me $400 and a power red Neiman Marcus suit, neither of which I could get into. This year's weight loss from eating healthy enabled me to pull it from the back of the closet and wear it again.



I still love this skirt! It has a handkerchief hemline and it's fringed - very feminine! So I'm thinking "why not try to re-create this skirt, Laurel", since they have never made a black one (rationalization!).  Such a skirt would be a great addition to my Paris wardrobe this Fall.

I admit that I am a quasi-copier when it comes to sewing for myself, but I rationalize my behavior by making a few modifications to the design when I am creating my pattern, just so that it won't be a complete copy. (Let's be real - good design hangs around and is modified/copied/altered/imitated by everyone!) I kept the same lines of the skirt in theory, but adding the fringe at the bottom was a non-negotiable feature - it's what made the skirt so beautiful. I bought some fabulous black linen from Stonemountain and set out to make my version of the fringed skirt.

Putting it together was the easy part - linen is so easy to sew. It's when I started the fringe at the hemline that I began to seriously doubt that I would be able to finish it. Fringing wool and other loosely woven fabrics is relatively straightforward.  I made a Marci Tilton jacket that I fringed, and a shawl with long fringe.  Both were a breeze compared to the hell of fringing a tightly woven linen.


So very tedious, this hemline...my fingers ached from all the thread pulling and tugging. I tried several methods before I just gutted it up and started snipping, pulling, and separating. It took forever.



But the result was worth the agony. 



Wherever in the world they are paying people to fringe garments, I can assure you, they are not paying them enough. I teased Suzan/FabricLady than I loved her, but not enough to make her one of these skirts.

Oh, and for all you Colette fans, I think she still needs more downsizing...though these skirts fit me, I couldn't get them zipped all the way on Colette. Of course she isn't squishy like me at the waist...she planks regularly.

Laurel. Made in the USA.




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