Friday, May 15, 2015

Celebrating women...

Most of my friends are probably getting tired of my raves about Women's Empowerment, the organization that takes up much of my free time. I'm not sure I've ever been so wrapped up in seeing the success of so many women, so it's difficult NOT to share it to anyone who will listen.

Those who have known me for a long time know that I struggled in my younger years, just like many of the women who work to make a better life for themselves through Women's Empowerment. I was never homeless, but I wasn't a very successful husband picker (before my sweet Dave) and I surely wasn't particularly smart in other life choices. In truth, I'm not sure what separates me from these women, why I was spared from a downward spiral of my own creation. Perhaps because I had a strong family support system, something many of these women lack. It wasn't luck or karma, I'm sure, but most likely a merciful God who watched out for me before I ever knew Him.

Regardless of how I got here, it gave me a heart for these women.  From my reception desk, I see them walk into WE in the midst of their own personal storm and walk out months later with a new self-confidence and renewed hope.  We are their support system, their cheerleaders, their teachers, their mentors. They learn to smile all over again, and I am moved.

Last night we celebrated their successes and achievements at WE's annual gala. If I could have captured a photo of all 100 of them I would have.

What a night! 
What special women! 

I am humbled that they call me friend.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Finding Ground...

"Momma said there'd be days like this, there'd be days like this, my Momma said..."

Mom was right.  We can't always be on the hilltop.  There will be times when we are in the valley. The funny thing is we often don't even know why.  We can't put our finger on it...we're just "off". My usual end-all beat-all remedy is to go shopping.  But I also love to just hide out in my sewing room, fix an espresso, turn on the cooking channel and work on a few sewing projects.

Today, Colette joined me in finishing a couple of projects that have been circling in the recesses of my brain for a week or so. One idea was to convert a t-shirt from my volunteer gig with Karen's Bakery in Folsom during the AmGen bicycle tour a couple of years ago.  I loved the logo on the shirt, but I generally don't wear men's t-shirts - they fit weird (duh - they're made for men!). I wanted to preserve the integrity of the logo, yet style it in a more feminine way.

I swear, polka dots are enough to bring a smile to any one's face.

I also worked on a top that I started a month ago that was languishing on Colette.  Originally I put sleeves on it and it looked horrid on me, as the fit was all wrong.  When a project goes south, I have been known to abandon it totally, but I loved this Stonemountain fabric.  I tackled it today, feeling a little more grounded after the polka dot success.

This fabric is rather bold, so I decided to use both sides of the fabric to give it a little edge.  The collar and back yoke are made with the right side showing and the body of the blouse shows the wrong side, for a much softer color palette.

I have to admit that conquering a project problem is very satisfying.  I tried it on, and that little negative Debbie Downer on my shoulder reminded me that my arms are not quite what they used to be. But since it turned out so cute, I decided that all I need is a pair of skinny jeans and a tan and I'll rock this sucker. Now that's being real...grounded again.

Laurel. Sewing Heals.  (LOL!)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"Say Yes to the Dress!"

May 14, 2015 - You still have time to buy tickets:)
Every year since its inception, Women's Empowerment graduates are the special guests at the organization’s annual Gala. This event is the largest source of fund raising for the non-profit, with almost 100 graduates in attendance along with corporate sponsors and community donors.

For some women, it is a chance to be part of a festive evening that they might not otherwise experience. But more importantly, it is an evening to highlight their achievements and victories, both large and small, as they strive to make a better life for themselves and their children.

The preparation leading up to the Gala begins early in the year, as staff and volunteers begin collecting gowns and evening apparel from the community.  The huge storage area bustles with excitement as the event draws near, as each woman arrives at her appointed time to find the dress of her dreams.  To help her along the way, each woman has her own “personal shopper”, a volunteer from the community who helps her navigate the racks of gowns, hundreds of shoes, purses and pieces of jewelry.

All she has to do is “Say YES to the Dress”.

Not sure who had more fum...the ladies trying on the dresses, or the volunteers helping them...

The perfect shoes for the perfect dress???

So many purses, so little time...

When I showed her how beautiful the back was, she said "YES"!

The right necklace makes you feel special.

And the right earrings...

We loved how a dress was tried by multiple women before it found the right home...

She rockin' this dress!! It's a definite YES!

Mother and daughter and baby on the way!

You can't go to a Gala without showing off your "Bling"!

And just in case the women couldn't find the perfect bracelet or earrings, I held a two day "Bling Class" for the grads attending the Gala.  I brought all my beads from home and helped the ladies make their own jewelry for the event.  Many of them had never made any jewelry, but were thrilled with their results. As an added bonus, it gave us all a chance to visit, laugh and share while creating a memento of sorts from their evening at the Gala.

Couldn't have done better myself! I can't wait to see them all at the gala!

Support Women's Empowerment with a donation 
on the May 5th Big Day of Giving!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Photography Challenge

Take one photo each week for a year.  Sounds easy enough or so it seemed when my friend Becky of Rub Some Dirt On It blog fame told me about the My Four Hens Project 52. "You should do it, Laurel".  Each week, Sarah puts out a theme and members (like me) post a fresh image taken that week that relates to the theme. The kicker is that it's supposed to be a new photo, not one of the cool ones you took on your French vacation last year.

I might add that there are over 2500 members, many of them professional photographers.  So there are a lot of stunning photos posted each week, many of them of people. I don't have any cute kids hanging around everyday to capture in mega pixels, so my photos tend to be more about translating what's going on in my life into a single image.

Trust me, it's harder than your think.  Especially when you get the bright idea that you will chronicle your life in photos and publish a coffee table book in December. So I can't just go out and snap any old photo, it has to be relevant to what's happening in my life.

I'm twelve weeks into the challenge and I thought I'd share what I have so far:

Fresh: Last of the oranges off our tree

Storytelling: Sewing this week

Light: Church on Sunday

A Part of Me: My feet (I always photograph them)

Small: I had been playing my piano this week

Happy: Happiness is making a cake for a friend.

Pastel: No relation to my life, but I was desperate for an image. 
And this one was chosen for M4H's weekly "Eye Candy"

Perspective: Eggs were declared good for you and not bad for cholesterol??? I love eggs.

Shapes: My mini-me Colette got a new friend this week - Zanikan.

Nature: Another UTI this week, so lots of fresh, pure water!

Reality: I dreamed of red 6" heels one night, but the reality is that I can't even wear my wedding heels

Shiny: Dave was a little over-zealous while washing my windows - that be a shiny crack!

Not to make too great a point of it, but it's tough trying to be witty and artsy all the time...I considered scrapping the whole thing, but it's a challenge, Laurel!  Oh, did I mention that I'm taking most of my photos with my iPhone, just to make it harder, cuz that's way I roll! 

What would you have photographed for each of these themes?


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Old friend...

Years ago, Mom gave my sister our old family sewing machine - a Singer Centennial that she purchased in the 1950s.  Mom made most of our clothes and taught both my sis and I to sew.  Years later she took up quilting, but gave it up as it was hard for her to see...and after all "how many quilts can you make anyway?"

Recently she ventured into sewing again, making some PJ's with a borrowed machine. It was frustrating as her old machine was so much easier to operate.  At Thanksgiving my sister hauled the old Singer in the back of her truck from Utah to our 90 year old Mom. It needed a little work so I dropped it off at my local Singer repairman to get it rewired and cleaned up.  It took weeks, but they did a great job, carefully cleaning the rust from the motor, replacing the wiring, etc.

Yesterday I hauled it back up to Mom's and we set it back in the cabinet (it weighs a ton!), which she had refinished in a pretty turquoise chalk paint.  I plugged it in, wound a bobbin, threaded it and stitched a few lines on a scrap of cloth.  I had forgotten the sweet hum of this machine that I first learned to sew on when I was 10.   Though the smooth rhythm of needle going up and down reminded me that it once went clean through my index finger (it sews through anything!), we were still old friends.

I remembered a suit I made in high school, back when a field trip to San Francisco required heels and gloves. I remembered my first apron in 4-H and the frustration of learning to gather a skirt without breaking the threads. I remembered my graduation dress from high school with its little embroidered daisy trim.  All that from just listening to the hum of Mom's old Singer.

She told me that I could have it after she was done sewing.  At the rate she's going, it will be quite a while before it comes to Fair Oaks.  Meanwhile, she is as happy as if she just bought a new Bernina and had 5 yards of Duponi silk to sew.

Laurel. Sewing goes on forever!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Vintage Fabric Stash

A friend of mine lost her mother about one year ago and the family is still trying to go through her belongings to get the family home ready to sell. Weeding through boxes and boxes of memorabilia, kitchen gadgets, old photos and craft supplies is somewhat painful, trying to decide what to keep and what to toss. Everything brings back a memory.

After a couple of estate sales and the piles are still huge, it gets to be too much and you're just ready to junk it all. My friend, knowing that I make little dresses for Dress a Girl Around the World No. CA asked if I wanted any of her Mom's fabric stash. We met yesterday afternoon and I went through each box, looking for cotton fabric for our upcoming Sew Fest. It was amazing to see the variety of fabrics in her stash, many of them from the 50's.

If you are a sewist and are my age, you may remember that many of the huge retailers "used to" sell fabric. The way they prepared remnants isn't that different from the way we see them now, but check out the prices!

Seeing these, I thought of FabricLadyand her Dad. I'll bet he has stories to tell about being an independent fabric store owner going up against the big guys.  I think that Walmart is the only national retailer that still sells fabric by the yard, though I am Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics girl all the way.

Amy's Mom had a whole box of 9" squares (quilting?) all cut out - they are perfect for trimming into pockets for the DAG dresses.  But as is common with stuff that has been stored in cardboard boxes for 20 years or longer, the fragrance of the fabric was a tad musty.  The squares filled up my entire front loading washer. And naturally, they all raveled and wrinkled coming out of the dryer, so I pressed every one of the squares so the volunteers could easily cut the pockets.

Other pieces of fabric weren't big enough to make a whole dress, but will become pockets or shorts for Dress a Dude, DAG's new "fashion line" for little boys. I'm joking about the fashion thing, but whenever a missionary takes our cute little dresses to the field, the little boys are heartbroken because they didn't get a new outfit...hence Dress a Dude.

Evidently Amy's Mom was a giver as well - I found ready made cotton bags for the Senior Gleaners that she made regularly for that group. There were a few pieces that weren't suitable for our purposes - a lot of older polyesters, knits, etc. But there were some real treasures in Mom's stash...vintage fabric big enough to make a big girl dress for yours truly.

I see a fifties style dress with a full skirt - I think they call them "midi skirts" these days. 
It's a soft cotton.

And this print is a shiny acetate, perfect for a sleeveless lined sheath dress.

And since I'm not a brown person, this cute print had enough yardage to make two DAG dresses!

I washed, cut and ironed everything I brought home, so needless to say I was exhausted by dinner.  And I remembered how much I hated to iron as a teenager and I have to say, it's even harder on your back as an old lady! Today I will serge up the dresses and get them ready to be put into a kit to be sewn by the women volunteers who lovingly give of their time and talents for Dress a Girl every month.

Thank you Amy for your generosity.  Your Mom would be happy.

Laurel. Ready for Saturday's Sew Fest with DAG
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