Tuesday, December 9, 2014

In love with the little things...

My friend Sue is hosting a table at our church's annual Women's Christmas Brunch.  Sue is the Area Coordinator for Dress a Girl Around the World, so naturally nothing but a DAG theme would do for the centerpiece...which I readily volunteered to make for the table.

Because my daughter is so crafty, I invited her over to help out. We had so much fun making the miniature sewing tools and supplies needed to make the perfect little dresses - just like the real ones we make every month at DAG sewfests.  The main part of the centerpiece is about 12-13 inches tall, but what's a DAG centerpiece if it doesn't have a globe representing the places where little girls live?  So our centerpiece is a little over the legal height limit, but no one will notice because it's so darn cute!!!

A jewelry stand, little doll clothes hangers and other miniature stuff, 
add a few Christmas touches and a wield a mean hot glue gun...


I printed tiny images of bias tape on sticky labels...


The tiny dresses brought back memories of sewing doll clothes...tedious, but fun.
 

My favorite items are the tiny bolts of fabric...
 




Cuteness Overload!!!
Thanks for your help, Amy!!!

Laurel. Michael's is my friend.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In Search of Style

If we confine ourselves to shopping in department stores, outlet malls and discount retailers we will always be able to find something to wear that is popular, perhaps even "trendy".  If we only buy our wardrobe online or from the dozens of catalogs stuffed in our mailboxes, we will probably find something at a bargain price that suits our fancy, but not without a modicum of  hassle and a lot of time. This is why I sew...I'd rather spend my precious time constructing a garment that fits me, fit's my style and doesn't always squeeze my pocketbook. And I am usually guaranteed of a good outcome, especially because my precious Stonemountain, my "muse", is just a freeway away...(can a fabric store BE a muse?)

To actually see an Alexander McQueen gown? Perfection!
Part of the joy of sewing for yourself comes with finding your own personal fashion sense, your "style". We get that by experience. When you have sewn garments for a while, you start to know what looks good on your body and what makes you feel good about the way you look. The other side of sewing for yourself is that you can get into a rut, always constructing the same looks, using the same fabrics. And this is why we "window shop": to get a sense for new designs, new uses for fabrics, etc.

Admittedly, you can still get into these ruts by limiting your window shopping experiences. If you go to the same department store over and over, you're likely to see the same thing over and over again. Department stores tend to overdo everything - if a dark printed polyester knit is popular, then everything in the store is made out of the same type of fabric and color pallet.(perhaps a gross exaggeration, but it seems that way sometimes).


Streetwear...black is STILL the go-to color, Zan
I like to window shop at smaller boutiques and the high-end boutiques within the high-end retailers. I want to see what the designers are offering up for the season. I'm no Project Runway candidate, but I like to watch it for inspiration (although I swear I can sew better than any of them). And despite their lack of sewing prowess (Kini being the exception this season) I have gotten a couple of design ideas.

The end all/beat all source of inspiration would be a trip to New York or Paris. Okay, we can't all do that, but I was blessed with a vacation this year which included 5 days in Paris. Just sitting at a cafe table for an hour will provide a person with enough inspiration to create a seasonal wardrobe. Strolling the streets of the Marais or fighting the crowds at the Galleria Lafayette provides one with ample opportunity for new ideas.


Tulle Streetwear.






Budding fashion sense...







Get out the credit cards...unless you SEW!

mmmmm..Vivienne Westwood... where would I ever wear it? BUT....

Too short for me, but cute!
Bet you can make this Chanel jacket...Hel-lo!


Digital prints.. STILL big this year.

DVF - does she ever go out of style???
In the end, I only actually "purchased" a pair of jeans at a high-end sidewalk sale in Avignon, Provence.  They have this sale once a year in September, and you could find the most amazing "bargains". I use the term loosely as everything in fashion is relative.


I am "SEW' ready to get back to sewing for me and The FabricLady. Our pile of fabric awaits!

Laurel. And sew on and sew on...

Monday, September 22, 2014

Was it the Buffet or the Anticipation?

On the road to Paris...

I guess I'm excited about being in Paris today, after some two weeks driving through the French countryside, because I hardly slept last night. We are meeting up with Brian and Doris there to spend six days touring, eating , and enjoying some good wine . Brian and I worked together for years prior to his career at one of the Big 5 audit firms...perhaps that explains the rest of the story...

When I finally dozed off around. 4:30 I had a hilarious dream about E & W. I dreamed that they were in the same hotel that we are at in Orleans, France, but in my dream were in Canada. 

Let me digress... This place is a bit of a dump... But it's clean and cheap for a one night stand. We ate in the restaurant last night and had the weirdest food- Dave had lasagne which they served with French fries and I ordered tortellini which came without sauce. Hmmmm



Back to my dream - I'm wandering the lobby in my pajamas ( I don't usually do that) and I see a woman I knew from high school and I hollar out to her and wave. She's dressed in  an "Auditor navy" suit, and when she comes over toward me in my pajamas, the big doors to a conference room open up and E&W people that used to work with stream out on a break, I guess. 

There are old Surewest friends in the room too and a couple of them see me and rush over. It's then I realize that I'm in my pajamas with a stain on the top (I've been on the French roads for two weeks)) so I'm mortified... Jodi tells me that I look so tan! I mention the gross pasta dinner and she and her other friends thought the food here was wonderful and they LOVED the hotel!

I spy Paul Thompson who is looking his old dapper self, totally suited up, and I want to say hi, but my pajamas are holding me back.. Then I see Dan Bessey in shorts and flip flops and deside that he must be " the client". 

I decide at this juncture that I need to leave before any of these people see me. They all this hotel is grand and I'm running back to my room wondering what they've been smoking. I find myself in the huge opulent ballroom of the hotel, and decide I must have misjudged my "one night stand" French hotel...

But here's the best part of my dream... I happen to catch a glimpse of myself in a gilt mirror... I have the worst case of bed head: I have an American flag scarf half off my hair, which is greasy and sticking straight off the other side of my head... And my head is shaved below that. What a horror! 

I think that's when I woke up, laughing. Who can really speak if the dreams/nightmares that we have after eating tortellini with no sauce??? I certainly don't want to interpret that one. I do know that it was a bit nostalgic, seeing the old E&W folks... In my dream they hadn't changed. I however was definitely not wearing my Controller outfit.

On to Paris:)

( Note: below, My face after working in yard back home... Must be the genesis of the flag on my bed head...)



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.




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