Friday, July 3, 2015

Not always perfect...

Even expert sewists can throw together a spur of the moment garment, giving little heed to straight seams, even hems, or perfect facings. Sometimes, you just want something to wear to celebrate the moment.

The Fourth of July is tomorrow, and we always have a BBQ pool party and Fireworks with friends and family. It's probably one of the few times that I feel like wearing red, white and blue...(not exactly great colors for an Autumn).

Solution:

1.) By a cheap patriotic T-shirt at Michael's, styled for a man. (yuk...so unflattering) $3.99.

2.) Cut the heck out of it.

3.) Buy some cheap fabric at the local chain store. $2.50.

4.) Add some side inserts and face the neck and armholes. 

Result:

Probably won't hold up in the wash, but who cares...it only has to last through the day:)

 

 Laurel. Feeling Patriotic.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Scarves of Pride

A graduation sash/stole has a important role played in a graduation ceremony. The sashes, stoles and scarves are meant to depict various forms of meanings such as being a member of a specific organization in school, to honor accomplishments or to show gratitude. They are considered to be a way for the graduating students to reveal their gratitude and appreciation of the ones who have assisted with their needs during their educational life: " Thanks for helping me make it through. Thanks for making it possible for me to succeed. I didn't do this alone."


Each graduating class of Women's Empowerment chooses a  signature color for the scarves they are to wear during the ceremony. The scarves are passed on from sister to sister as they enter the stage. I have been privileged to make two sessions' scarves.  It's another way for me to give back to this wonderful organization for homeless women who are striving to better themselves technically, emotionally and spiritually.

Here's the "How-to"...

This session my dear friend and collaborator Suzan, aka Fabriclady from Stonemoutain and Daughter Fabrics donated a lovely stretch lace fabric in "Magenta", the chosen color for Session 59 grads. There was about 8 or 9 yards on the bolt, so I hoped there would be enough for the 24 scarves.

I used my entryway floor tiles as a way to size and cut the fabric...


 I used purple thread to serge the edges - purple is Women's Empowerment's logo color.


Once the scarves were cut and serged, I embellished one side with jewels to add some sparkle. Some jewels needed adhesive and other were supposed to be self adhesive.  (I use the term loosely as I saw several ladies with little jewels stuck on their cheeks...must have fallen off during the ceremony) So use the glue!




The embellishments were only added to one side of the scarf, to give meaning to the notion that the ladies change during the 8 week program...

And here's the story..



 
Graduation ceremonies at Women's Empowerment are a three hankie morning. Listening to the personal stories of overcoming adversity and fighting through struggles is a sort of "rising out of the ashes" triumph for many of these women. They emerge from the intense 8 week program with a new hope for the future, literally "empowered" to change their destiny. In the words of one graduate, "I am no longer defined by my past".



The success of Women's Empowerment is well established in the community, and they take notice of the accomplishments of these women in the public media, noting that many of them find housing and jobs as well as reestablish broken relationships with their children and families.



I often wonder what separates me from many of these women when I hear their stories.  Why did their lives take such a hard turn from the dreams that they must have had as children? We "can't know", as my daughter would say...we can only smile at the way they determined to take a new path toward a self-worth they never had, an inner strength they found and a budding confidence that developed in just a short eight weeks.

And the scarves? It's just a small thing for me, but I am honored to have served this awesome organization. And thanks, FabricLady, for being a part of something that's special to me.

Laurel. Because I can...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A little change, please...

I always thought I should have pursued interior design as a vocation.  I've dabbled with staging homes for sale, hung wall paper for friends, and given decorating ideas to those who asked.  I will say my hat's off to the real designers out there - putting yourself between an opinionated husband who thinks he's a contemporary modernist and a whiny wife who just wants "shabby-chic" is nothing short of heroic.

When I was younger (do all old bloggers say that?) I hoisted my own furniture around regularly, re-upholstered chairs, and repainted walls at the drop of a hat. I loved changing my environment along with the seasons or my mood. We've been in the hacienda for 12 years and I hadn't done much of anything to the decor, short of changing a few pillows, rugs and artwork. I have some "Big" decorating challenges which make it a tad difficult to just switch things up...

Like this...

And this...


And my personal favorite decorating nightmare...the "You can never move this, Laurel!" statement piece...

You just can't move these pieces around much in a 2,400 sq foot home...so you move everything around them, you re-cover the sofa pillows, rotate the art, repaint the walls.

After twelve years, suffice it to say that the paint on the walls in the hacienda are looking a little shop-worn. Not that my color palette is dated (aubergine never goes out of style!) but like many of us who are creative, we just get tired of seeing the same thing. Unfortunately, I'm not a fan of painting.  It's not the actual exercise of throwing it up on the walls like an HDTV star...it's more about the bending down, ladder climbing, paint in your hair, manicure demolition and horrid clean-up that I hate.

But over the years Behr paint and I have become tolerant of each other, and it was time. And since the notion of redoing the whole house is daunting for this old blogger, I thought I'd start with the dining room, one of the smallest. And while we're at it, why not do something with that 30-something Macy's dining room table?


While some of you might be cringing now, I should mention that none of my children care anything about "inheriting" this Asian-style table.  Maybe after my make-over, they'll be fighting over it? Who knows. Oh...can you make a Chinese table look Southwest??
 

My daughter and her kids were all to eager to help me paint and redecorate. I stuck the kids outside to tackle the two arm chairs in the heat. (The pool was just a step away, so I'm not the mean Grandma you might think) I only wanted to change the two arm chairs, leaving the side chairs in their original wood. Too much  turquoise can be a "crafty" thing...too matchy-matchy for me.


Meanwhile, Amy and I made our way around the table, adding a Mexican tile motif to the corners. I was not very familiar with chalk paint, but Amy had the recipe to make our own.


We covered the purple walls with Behr's Premium Plus Ultra in "Dolphin Fin" gray and painted the opposite wall in "Suntan Glow", the same terra cotta peachy color that I've used on the fireplace...very Southwest". Michael and Kaitlyn were just dying to paint walls. (I promise that Amy and I were there painting too...just no pictures of two sweaty ladies...you can thank me later)



Gray is a very hard color to decorate around...just the subtlest hint of blue or yellow changes the whole room, as does the ambient light.  So my walls turned out a little bluer than I wanted, but the addition of the peach, coral and yellow accents warmed it up a little.

I touched up the shades on the chandelier over the table with some paint.


By the end of the two day job, my back was killing me and I was exhausted...so I drove all over town the next day looking for drapes to replace the green silk swag that had hung over the giant picture windows for 12 years.  I thought about making them but our two local fabric chain stores didn't have *!@#%#% and my Stonemountain was too far away for this tired chick. So I bought the drapes instead of sewing them. Not a fan of Bed Bath and Beyond, but they came through for me this time. They made the room pop.



 




I need to find some fabric to cover the other chairs, but for now, I'm done with this room. On to the next...maybe I'll wait a few weeks to recover.

Laurel. Pooped.








Monday, June 1, 2015

A Special Collaboration

Two years ago today, I emailed Suzan, aka Fabric Lady, with questions on the details on the first garment that I was making for her. It was a silk tank with a knit back - it still hangs in the fabric store that I have come to love, Stonemountain. Some 80 plus garments later, our collaboration still hums on.

We hooked up after her newsletter's "seamstress call" in May of 2013.  I answered the call, sent some photos, we met, we shared, and just like that our sewing adventure began. And though my sewing talents may have landed me this gig, I know that it was more about how we connected with each other...two creative souls with a love of inspiring others, creating beautiful things and sharing a part of ourselves through blogging. Neither of us would say that it was fate that we met, but that it was meant to be...the stars aligning, our God watching?

You know when you are doing what you're supposed to be doing.  You know it. It's all about the feelings that you get when you're in the middle of it.  It consumes your thoughts, inspires your creativity and feeds your soul.  Sewing does that for me. And though I can "Do" may creative things (many of them for years) I always come back to the pleasure of handling fine fabric, sewing a straight seam, designing a dress. 

People have asked me repeatedly to sew for them: to make a pants for a hard to fit figure, to alter a dress, etc. and these days, I have declined. What makes sewing for Suzan special is the collaboration. When I sew a garment for her, I am writing a blog in my head at the same time, taking photographs...teaching...inspiring others to create a garment.

My visits to Berkeley for fittings and shopping are more than taking care of business.  They are a chance for two Leos to enjoy a lunch together, share our lives and love of all that life offers. And though our lives have taken us on many separate paths on the way to here, we know we are doing what we are supposed to be doing today. She, running a thriving fabric store and me, adding my two cents of creativity along the way.

Collaboration, friendship, sisterhood.

  














 


Happy "Anniversary", Zan!
 
 Laurel. It's a good thing.









Friday, May 29, 2015

Tiny Cuteness...

A friend asked me to come up with a design for "beanie babies" that would represent tiny "Preemies" born in a hospital... The notion is that guests at the Grand Opening of hospital's new Women's and Children's wing could feel and hold these little "babies" cared for in the hospital's NICU.

They are roughly 10" long and weigh 1.5 pounds, stuffed with Calrose rice. Their little beenie hats are made from the tops of children's socks. Their bodies are made from adult tee-shirt fabrics.

Can't imagine having a baby that size...But in today's highly techno world, they survive all the time:)

I'm delivering them to their new home today...


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! 
MAGIC!!!











I am humbled that they call me friend.

Laurel

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.

Voila!!!
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!)
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