Sunday, March 12, 2017

Graduate Scarves

I have written about making graduation scarves (Scarves of Pride ) for the graduates of Women's Empowerment ("WE") 8 week job readiness training.  WE holds about 4 to 5 sessions a year, and I've been making their scarves for maybe two years. It's just another way to use my sewing talents for good.

This March graduating class will the the first class to hold their ceremony in the B Street Theater in downtown Sacramento.  It's a great venue for such an auspicious occasion, so I thought I might make something special this time.  The graduates always choose their colors, and this class chose Gold and Burgundy. I immediately thought of the USC Trojans and decided perhaps a touch of femininity might be in order, lest we look like football fans.

Serging the edges of this Poly charmeuse is the easy part...I used a beautiful shiny gold thread and set my Imagine on a narrow rolled hem setting.

The fabric is not as drapey as a silk (way too expensive), so I thought I might pleat it, so that it would lay flat around the neck. A hand made flower in burgundy fabrics will be attached.

I've made "silk" flowers before and they are not that hard, just time consuming.  All you need is several sized squares and a candle. Using Polyester fabric is important as it melts. Silk would catch fire and burn.

Watch your fingers!!

I chose gold beads (6) to hold the layers (4) together.

They are sewn on to the pleated scarf, about 18 inched from the bottom of one side.


I hope the graduates feel special. It's always a pleasure to attend the ceremony, even if it is a three-hankie event.  Their stories are incredible and their accomplishment is profound. 

I love being a part of this awesome organization. 
Read all about it on the web at

Laurel.  Giving Back.

Friday, March 10, 2017

My first ever Trunk Show!!

My favorite fabric store Stonemountain and Daughter Fabric is scheduling an event featuring all the garments that I've sewn for the Suzan, aka FabricLady. We have enjoyed a 3+ year collaboration, sewing, blogging, wardrobe planning and a special friendship. Others on her team will be joining in the fun and I can't say how thrilled that I am to be a part of this special day.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text

If you live in the area, I hope that you will come by.  Suzan's blog has a huge following and I am a contributor. Actually, it's part of the reason that I've let Laurel's Quill flounder for the past few years. My process is simple: sew, take photos, write about it.  It's not a job, even though I'm busy with it at least 3 or 4 days a week on average.  It's that our collaboration hits all my creative buttons, not to mention it's great to be a part of watching Stonemountain's garment fabric side flourish.

Meanwhile, you know how I am - got an event? Make an outfit!!! We have been concentrating on the Independent pattern designers for the last year, so I try to stick with them even in my own wardrobe.
I chose three simple patterns from 100 Acts of Sewing and three coordinating fabrics to make a casual layered look.

And would ya check out those shoes?? I got them yesterday just to match my outfit!  Love pointy toes!!

The tops are simple so adding pockets is a creative way to jazz them up...

You get the idea.  The fabrics are soft and they will transition into Spring (even Summer) very nicely. I still have several outfits to whip up before the event, so I better get this studio cleaned up from yesterday's melee.  Funny, but I sew the same way I cook: messy, messy messy.  But who wants to be stifled by wiping down the counters during Beef Wellington prep or picking up scraps and pins while sewing a Dior?

Oh and about that Beef Wellington? Incredible!!

Oh MY!!!!!

Laurel. Sewist and Cook...sorta.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Catching up

My oh my, how my blog has suffered over the past year.  I've been in a cocoon of sorts, just not inspired to write too much.  Is that considered "writer's block"? But even as I haven't written or posted, I've certainly been busy with the usual Laurel "things" - sewing, volunteering, knitting, eating, drinking and hunkering down by the fireplace. 

Writing is sometimes easy, and sometimes it's elusive.  Over the past year I had fleeting thoughts of a blog post, but they left without so much as a nod. I've been on a mission in the last few months to do a little less and just "Be" a little more.  In periods of quiet introspection, I wanted this, my final year in the 60's, to be one of consequence. Approaching 70 is tough. But there is a certain peace that is suppose to come at my age, an acceptance of yourself and a ceasing of dragging yourself down with negativity, etc.

I all but gave up on Facebook this year, following only a few family members.  I only check it once a day usually, which is considerably less than the 20-30 times a day that became my habit. I would have ditched it all together, but for my collaboration with Suzan and my own Laurel's Quill page. Looking for approval (still?) after 70 years is a tad negative (did I really mean pathetic, LOL!) in and of itself. And I must admit the election cycle last Fall with all it's memes, negativity, bashing, etc. did me in.

These days, I am concentrating on what I love to do most...

Reading, knitting, etc. in my cozy little corner in the Hacienda...if the urge to drop off hits me, then slumber away, little grasshopper...

Creating fabulousness for me and Suzan in my She-Cave Studio...

Starting to draw and paint again...

Started knitting again...notice how I've got a theme of "relaxation" going here...

 Keep the sewing machine humming along with Me-Made clothes...

 Trying to be more stylish and yet be comfortable in my age..

Finish stuff I started forever ago...

Get back to entertaining (I love to set a pretty table) once in a while...dinner guests this weekend...Beef Wellington, huh!

Find my natural hair's been red for so long, people believe I am a sweet daughter Amy the hairdresser says "you're grayer than you think, Mom".  Bring it on!!

Keep eating healthier...gave up caffeine for the umpteenth time...

And yes, working out.  When you have to heave yourself out of the front seat of your car, it's time...

Do more Girlfriend things...

And, most importantly, feed my soul through my collaboration with Suzan (aka FabricLady)
with who I have been working with for almost 4 years. Now, she keeps up HER blog (I am a contributor), so if you really want to know what I'm doing, just go there. LOL!

I spent a couple of hours yesterday in my Corner Chair, looking at photo albums of our trips through the years and old blog posts.  I used to write so much, but these days I'm a poster of my life on Instagram. I love photography and the spontaneity of it all. I've tried Medium as a vehicle for writing, but perhaps I should just give this old blog a jump start and try it back on for size.

we'll see...

Laurel. Age is just a number.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Requiem for Facebook

I've been mulling over a personal change for over almost a year. I'm saying goodbye to Facebook. I know, it sounds like a drastic action for a self-admitted social media junkie for the past 10 years, but I fear my FB relationship with "me" has become toxic over the years. I will be 70 in 2017 and I am weary of the inner strife that trying to please others has brought me, and FB is just a painful daily reminder.  I think it's time to grow up.

It hit me like a slap in the face in the wee hours of the morning.  I woke up with my ear buds still in my ears - playing nothing, I might add (as is my Pandora habit), I turned on the little iPad on my pillow to "see what's going on" with my friends in social media. It took me almost a whole 30 seconds to scan through posts of Memes, re-posts of political satire, ads for Target, and various other non-personal diatribes. There were a few cat photos (at least that's personal!), pretty scenery and inspirational messages, but for the most part, nothing.  Nothing.

You might say, perhaps a better group of friends, Laurel?  The truth is that I have many FB friends, many of whom I love dearly. I have culled that list over the years, so if you are still seeing my posts, you're still there. During the election from Hell, I stopped "Following" many, as I was exhausted trying to weed through all the vitriol and BS. Though the list is short these days of friends that I follow, I am nevertheless weary of what FB has's not YOU, it's just become a platform of sorts for what others think I want to read - I guess that's why they call it social media. I guess I just don't really care whether the Olsen twins have changed and "read here to find out why".

But more to the point on this, perhaps my last FB diatribe, I am even more weary of my tiresome addiction to combing through it everyday (several times a day) looking for what, I'm not sure. All it does is make me crabby. I already took it off my iPhone as it sucks your battery dry - is that not a great metaphor?

Compare this fruitless exercise to a stroll through my Instagram. I follow a lot of people (hundreds, in fact) on this social media site and I can scan through countless beautiful photos (and some bad ones too) from creative artists, sewists, and well, people like me. IG is short and sweet, with few ads and when you click on a hashtag/link you usually are not bombarded by ads or other links.  Sure, those IG accounts exist, but at least I have the choice to see what I want to see. It's not necessarily more "personal" than FB, but what occurred to me this morning was that it made me happy, made me smile, made me want to create, want to learn and want to inspire others.

I think it is ironic that in the same breath that I decided to close my FB account in 2017, I was inspired this morning by reading a very personal, very touching account of a friend's personal struggles this year and her hope for a better 2017. Posts like this one are few and far between, because most of us will not risk having our lives out there for everyone to see.  We hide behind memes and re-posts of others' thoughts and beliefs instead of giving others all a real piece of ourselves.  I too am just as guilty, lest you not "Like" me for what and who I truly am. And isn't that the real goal of FB - to be Liked? To be accepted? Even the marketers have that as their goal, let's be real.

Yes, let's be real. Me and my "non-confrontational, can't we all just get along and love one another, did you Like my post" self is going to give it a rest.  It's huge for me, so let's call it what it is...anyone who is facing 70 should finally NOT give a rip what anyone thinks. And you should not keep doing things that don't give you joy and zest for life.

But please know that I love you all for who you really are, for your caring hearts and brilliant minds, and not necessarily for your FB posts. Thankfully, I KNOW you better than that.

I haven't written on this blog for almost 6 months...I can't promise that I will start or be more regular with posts, although I started it because I love to write - I just got bogged down by whether I was "followed" and again, "Liked".  See? Time to get over myself!!

So, if you want to keep up with my endless photos of sewing, good food, family, places where I go, and general thoughts on life, you can find me on IG, FabricLady's blog which I ghost write, and maybe even this blog, if I get really ambitious. And if you have a great photo to share or want to chat, then by all means, pick up the phone or drop me an email.

Life is cake, laugh with friends, hug your family.  Be real...yeah and I'll probably peek to see if you liked my post, LOL!


FabricLady's Blog

My IG account @laurelsquill

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Quest continues...

One year ago I started to walk in earnest. My goal was to get stronger - I didn't want to be one of those bent over old ladies who couldn't get themselves out of a chair.  I wasn't in terrible shape at the time, but I felt weak in so many ways. I set out on the all weather track at the local high school and found that I loved the rhythm of the oval.  I walked all summer and, much to my chagrin, they threw me off the track in late August when school started.  I continued walking with my daughter at the local Mall, but it wasn't the same.

That first mile one year ago was a little tough on the legs, and to say that I was a little winded would be an understatement. I decided to document my progress by using a stopwatch.  I have always been obsessed with track and field events and just timing myself made me feel like a "miler". 

Far from it, little grasshopper...

Fast forward - it's June again, and school is out.  The track is empty, unless of course you count the other wanna-be's out there like me. And this year I am more determined than ever to get stronger, but even more than that...I will be be 69 this August, and I want to be able to actually run a mile by my birthday. Yes, the whole mile...running.

Today on this beautiful Saturday morning, I'm back on the track.  

One year later to the day, my walking time has improved...

But I said I wanted to I've started to run as much as I can around the track 
for four laps or one mile...It's not much running so far, but here's my second mile 
and my first running attempt...

I know I'll never be a Jim Ryun, but there a lot of people even older than my 68 years who can run a lot farther than one mile.  I just want to be one of them. Stronger. Healthier. 

I finished this morning just in time for the arrival of some potential recruits...

Meanwhile...after the workout (also do lunges and stairs), a little nourishment by the pool...some proteins, carbs (yeah, I know) and morning caffeine (because "it doesn't cause cancer" now) and my "pills" - the tiny one for my blood pressure, the white one to keep the urinary track on track and the orange one (turmeric) just cuz it's supposed to be good for your liver and joints.

And then...let the games begin....

Scarves for the Women's Empowerment grads....

Laurel. Miler.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Curse

I've always wondered why such a natural process might be called a "curse". I'm referring to a woman's menses, her period. It's been given many pejorative names over the years - "ride the cotton pony", "on the rag", "leak week", and the less innocuous "my monthly friend" and "that time of the month". 

In fact, I'm kind of thinking that men have coined most of the subhuman phrases to basically devalue an albeit inconvenient but vital process for procreating humanity into perpetuity. Right down to the Donald's off color, ill-conceived and some what subliminal referral to what seemed like Ms. Kelly's period during a presidential debate, men (and women too!) have have blasted, sneered at, made fun of and grumbled over a woman's menstrual cycle through out history.  And here in our Western civilization especially, we women have largely ignored the jokes and ridicule partly because we have the "luxury" of handling our bodies conveniently and without great notice... and of course, with the help of a ceaseless array of products, pills, sprays and whatever else we might need. We breeze through our cycles and never miss a beat in our busy lives - we can "even ride bicycles and swim!" and we teach our daughters to do the same.  We don't even know the meaning of a curse.

Such is not the case in third world countries. Njeri was born in Kenya and came to the U.S. to further her education.  She is a mother, grandmother and on-fire Christian today and an active advocate for changing the lives of young girls in Africa through one means: sustainable, reusable sanitary pads.  She knows first hand the "power of the pad" because she was there.  She lived the nightmare growing up.

There are no menstrual products in most remote regions of the world.  Even if we do-gooders shipped cases of Always and Kotex products to Africa, they have no organized means of disposing them, let alone toilets to flush them (even though we know you're not supposed to do that!).  Young girls, from the first days of their period are taught how to handle their cycle but the only means available - grass, leaves, sticks, feathers, rocks and if they're lucky, mattress stuffing - anything to stay in school.  They are shunned and shamed by boys, so as a result they stay home and miss up to eight months of schooling over a three year period. Some girls have sat in a pile of dirt for those days if they have nothing to use, adding to their shame.  If they are really lucky, they have a make-shift barrier made from harsh animal skin strapped to their legs, while they stand to take tests at school. But even worse, many are forced into prostitution by men at the tender age of 11 or 12, trading sex for pads. We can't even imagine such a deplorable scenarios.

Listening to Njeri this past weekend talk about her organization's efforts to supple reusable, sustainable hygiene kits for girls in Kenya and other African countries was a real life reminder of why our sew fests have incorporated the Days for Girls ministry. Yards and yards of cotton and flannel are cut, stitched and serged into pads for girls.  A kit can last a young girl up to three years - that's three full years of education reclaimed.  These kits, as Njeri attests, can change a girls destiny.  She no longer has to skip school, she is no longer susceptible to becoming fodder for the human trafficking machine and her risk of contracting HIV is significantly lessened. She maximizes her dignity and value as a woman, increases her chances of becoming a contributing member of her community through education.

It rocked my soul to listen to Njeri.  Her words of encouragement to the sew fest ladies were moving. We ARE changing the life of a young girl somewhere on the other side of the world.  Just like our little dresses, these hygiene kits are a small sacrifice of time in order to give a girl dignity and a fighting chance for a better life. Who knew such a life could be impacted by such a small thing?

To learn more about Njeri's non-profit organization, go to Upendo Women's Foundation, which she founded. Njeri uses kits similar to those we make through our Days for Girls. Come to a Bayside sew fest and help make these life-changing kits yourself.

Laurel.  The Power of the Pad.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Just for Me...

I've been lost in the beauty of summer mornings and evenings lately, spending quiet time reflecting on my renewed efforts to live more in the moment. It's so easy for me to focus on "have to's", worries and struggles instead of doing things that bring me joy and peace.

This month marks the third anniversary of my collaboration with Suzan (aka FabricLady) and Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics.  Zan and I have a date on the books for later this month, but today I just felt like taking the drive to Berkeley to hang out at the shop - you know, living in the moment!  Normally it's quite a frenetic bustle on our scheduled "Fit and Fun" days - I bring completed garments, we have fitting and photo sessions, we peruse the new fabrics and patterns, have lunch and I somewhere in between, I usually have a little time to shop for fabrics to add to my stash. It's fun and exciting and hectic all at the same time.

But today, I just wanted to leisurely stroll the aisles, to see what might jump out at me.  I also spent some time talking with Tilden Yamamoto, an Oakland designer who was doing a sewing demo in a sunny window of the shop. It was cool to watch another sewist/designer's "process".

Zan's young and hip buyers at Stonemountain are bringing in the most unique fabrics these days- shelves of double gauze that had me drooling...ikats by the dozens all begging me "pick me!" I must have been thinking about the beauty of nature, as everything that caught my eye today was green.

And that's what I came home with....they are like little works of art.

Yummy double gauze - a Scout tee? And a summer dress?
 I need a little shift to wear by the pool...Love this ikat!!  
Think I'll use the batik to create a facing around the neck and armholes.

And let's pick up a couple of Indie patterns...

Love View B...probably use that double gauze tiny print above

It was a wonderful few hours in Bay...right up until the traffic on the way home.  Oh well...a day at Stonemountain with Zan and the staff is worth a couple of hours of frantic Friday drivers.

Can't wait to dive into these projects!!

Laurel. Are you "Green with envy"?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sew busy....

My blog writing has suffered these past couple of months. It's times like this that I begin to question my propensity toward over-commitment....too many balls in the air? The problem is that I love everything I'm doing. We over-achievers are like that, thinking we can do it all, have it all.

Can we?  You tell me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

"Celeste" - The Jacket, Part 2

I remember when I used to make a wedding gown, I would ponder for days, even weeks, before I would actually cut a thread of an expensive satin or lace.  I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the pattern, the order of assembly, a particular technique that I would need to use. Hours of planning, mentally obsessing about the gown...and then one day I would just jump in and start cutting.

Making a couture jacket has been no different for me. It has been hard to get it out of my head these past two months, and yet I had not moved forward to take the first steps. Fear? Not really. It's just that the techniques for Claire Schaeffer's Chanel-styled jacket are polar opposite to the way that I have learned to sew. Daunting is perhaps a better word.

In every couture garment process the making of a muslin is absolutely essential.  And since I have made many a muslin for myself and FabricLady, it was a breeze to use the pattern in a traditional way. And so began "Celeste" - made of humble muslin fabric, all to check the pattern for fit, BEFORE I actually cut in her wool.

I cut the pattern pieces exactly as they were designed for my "size". Patterns have changed over the years...I used to be a perfect 12, but these days, I need a Vogue 16 to fit my busty size. I then sewed it together in the traditional manner: princess seams, side and shoulder seams, then sleeves.

The jacket was still a little small around the bust.  I discovered that the side panel under the sleeve was designed to be smaller than I would have normally done - the seams on the three-piece sleeves should match the seams on the jacket under the arm, and they didn't. So to alter the jacket around the bust line, I just made the side panel wider to match the sleeve seams.  Voila! It fit!

I dismantled the whole muslin thinking I would use it for my final pattern pieces and there it sat for several weeks. I again lay awake nights trying to figure out how I was going to transfer all those markings to my fabrics.  Muslin is not transparent (duh!). After some research on various marking techniques, I decided on tracing paper - it's a little more sturdy than pattern tissue. So finally, after weeks of brain drain I was ready to begin Celeste.

The tracing paper pattern pieces have all the 5/8" seam allowances removed, as described in Ms. Schaeffer's technique. (Don't forget that you have to get her book if you want to sew your jacket using her couture techniques, as the Vogue Pattern instructions describe the traditional assembly process.)

And something else I'm not used to doing when I start a garment - cutting ONE section at a time, rather than cutting out ALL the pieces, all the linings and interfacing in one sitting.  I started with the jackets fronts...just because Ms. S. does so in her book.

I cut my large rectangles of wool and silk organza and then settled into a make shift table top in my comfy easy chair by the window, where I had envisioned myself doing all that intricate hand sewing. I used a couple of different colors of thread to do my markings. (I eventually scrapped the recommended white thread as I could barely see it.)

After thread marking of the entire parameter of the jacket front, I marked and hand stitched the organza interfacing to the wool and basted the quilting lines. I then machine sewed the quilting line, using a 4mm running stitch. (Remember that I had checked out the quilting lines in the real Chanel RTW jackets in the Nieman's Chanel salon and found they were done with a machine, rather than hand stitched) So I guess Celeste won't be considered "Haute Couture", as her fabric has been touched with a machine presser foot and needle.  Oh well.

The final quilting line is hard to see, but that's the point.  It's just meant to help the jacket hold it's shape better and keep the fabric from pulling away from the lining - not be a design element.

I spent a little over four hours on Celeste yesterday, largely because I thread traced on side of the jacket in the same direction as the other side - whoopsie - the two fronts should be a mirror image! At any rate, it was great to actually get in there and start sewing.  I'll be finishing the two fronts, marking the button holes, adding some stay tape, and maybe even starting the hand sewn buttonholes.

Until then.

Laurel. Just do it.

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