Friday, May 24, 2013

Blog on-hold until mid-June

I'm looking forward to the postcards I'll be writing here starting up again mid-June

Friday, May 17, 2013

Daydreaming About Summer in the Land of Fruits and Nuts

Folks used to think fruits and nuts when they thought of California. Now when I tell people where I'm from, they think silicon.

Still, even in Silicon Valley, which is much cooler than the great Central Valley of California,  we still grow 'em. Both damson plums and walnuts  grace my yard and serve the local population of birds and squirrels, not to mention the occasional raccoon, possum or skunk, well.

If we're really lucky we even get a few.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Technicos Threadin' The Needle (Hand Sewing)

Co-Pubished with my Sewing Blog 

Bet you already knew that Thread the Needle is an old children's game, and also a dance step patterned after the game. I always get a kick from learning more about common events in daily life, by reading about old recreational pastimes. 

Though, in historical times, working with a sewing needle was probably about as typical an activity as other domestic tasks, I've never heard of a game called Wash the Dishes (though let me know if you've heard of one!). I'm guessing that's because dish washing is a more straightforward process. Hand needle threading has always been just ever so slightly challenging. And of course you often come up against it when you least want to deal with that finicky little task. These days we can typically change into another shirt if we rip a seam heading out the door, but only a generation or two ago, that might not have been an option. It was your day clothes or your Sabbath garment. So you quickly threaded a needle and ran up the seam. And it was just as important as it is today,  to get that thread into that needle eye quick-like-a-bunny.

As I've already mentioned in my post about threading a sewing machine needle, a little spit goes a long way. Yes, I lick the end of the thread (and I do wash my hands before I sit down to do this), but I also spread a little, well I just have to say it again - spit - over the eyehole of the needle. Just as in the case of the machine needle, the water molecules want to buddy up, and the thread is more likely to be attracted to the eye of the needle.

My other favorite needle-to-thread technicos include... beeswax. You can buy beeswax in the notions department, but I keep the stumps from the beeswax candles I buy from the farmer's market and use those. (I like to support those businesses because, and I know you know this too,  local honey promotes good diverse hive health, which is one of those save-the-planet kinda things. Agricultural mono-culture is a big concern for the future of my favorite fruits and vegetables.) Beeswax stabilizes the thread and makes it easier to push through the needle - less fibers on the end of the thread to push against that tiny needle eye.

Also I always make sure to cut the end of my thread at an angle. That makes a point that slips through more easily. I learned this from the same Viking Sewing Machine dealer who taught me the spit trick!

These are the tips that keep me in stitches. has needle threading tips, including - but not limited to - those I use


Dance Description and cool wood cut illustration from Webfeet

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Togetherness: Mother-Daughter Sewing (Ench By Sew-008 )

(This post is co-published with my sewing story-journal, Me Encanta Coser,

Hey, the May 2013 "Enchanted By Sewing" Podcast is available in the pod-o-sphere!

Why so early this month?

We Want to be on Time for Mother's
- or is that Daughter's? -

You can listen to the show right on the web by clicking on this linkOr, download this podcast free from iTunes, to play on your favorite mobile device/mp3 player (like an iPhone or an Android), by clicking on this link to iTunes.

• This podcast episode is dedicated to Lori Van Monan, a mother who has influenced my sewing, blogging and podcasting tremendously. Lori is the creator and producer of the long time Sew Forth Now Podcast, as well as the Girls in the Garden Blog, which she continues to host. Lori  (who recently became a grandmother !) continues to sew for her four daughters, who are now young women. She also often shares ways that her mother and grandmother influenced her sewing. Thanks again for sew much inspiration Lori!

Daughter Kristen and her mother Tammy
are sewing cohorts and classmates
in the Cañada Fashion Sewing Program

In celebration of Mother’s Day… Laurel reflects on her own experiences with mother-daughter sewing. She also finds out that this relationship doesn’t always fit into a traditional pattern. This conversation with sewing cohorts, who happen to be related, may surprise you as much as it did the show hostess.
• In this month's podcast I spoke with daughter Kristen, and her mother Tammy in the  Cañada Fashion Sewing Program lab. In the illustration on the left, Kristen is wearing the dress she sewed for class, that we talk about in the 'cast. Below you'll find the alteration Kristen made to the sleeves she wasn't happy with.

  Kristen is a died-in-wool Romantic, like me. You'll hear us talking about this Romance of Hats book just before our official interview time began. Kristen and I both took the millinery class on campus through the Cañada Fashion Sewing Program

Updated sleeves Kristen created for
her purple dress
Stone Mountain and Daughter is a fabric store in Berkley,  is a favorite of many in the Cañada Fashion Sewing Program
o   Tammy is a fan of Katie R. who works there and has helped this new sewer feel confident about choosing fabrics
o   Kristen likes the cotton sateen sold at Stone Mountain and Daughter

-       Tammy is sewing Kwik Sew pattern, hoodie style 3693
o   “Easy and great for beginners”
Yes! I admit that I bought this pattern from Pattern Review, after hearing about Tammy's plans!!

-         Sewing Velvet
o   Woops, Laurel, when it comes to pressing velvet,  it's a nail BOARD not a nail brush!

• Tammy and Laurel are both into crinkly/ruffled knits
Laurel's Fashion Forward Mermaid Tee
This is the kind of fabric Tammy and I were talking about
sharing a liking for
* This "Bisou Stretch Mini Ruffle Knit" (the link below is for Fabric.Com) is one of the styles of ruffled fabric Tammy and I were talking about. I bought my mint-green version at Stone Mountain and Daughter, and made my "Fashion Forward Mermaid" tee shirt  (above) with it, using a deconstructed (non-finished edge) at the neckline and sleeve edges. (Sorry I can't find a link for this fabric there. If you can find it there- or at some other favorite source- feel free to post a link) Stretch Mini Ruffle Knit White

This Morton Salt Girl's dress, may well have been Mama's inspiration for my own butter yellow outfit as a kid.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sir Douglas of Brittex (a San Francisco Field Trip)

I don’t think I’ve ever entered the San Francisco Sewists Mecca,  Brittex, and not encountered Sir Douglas on the first floor.  This man isn't simply a salesman, he's a kindred spirit who shares his love of fabrics with nearly every customer who enters the shop. 

Despite the fact that I’m typically headed for the third floor (notions, trims and buttons), this gentleman always has a kind word for me. I’m also always struck by his gorgeous vests, which seem to be a part of his everyday costume. Vests are a special love we both share, agreeing that they give us that slight touch of formality. They also give this man a real sense of presence, helping him to appear dressed up, without the need to wear a suit jacket. 

You don’t see salesmen, or other professional men, wearing suit jackets in this area, as you once would have done. Despite the fact that Brittex is in a very traditional part of San Francisco, suit jackets seem to make men feel overdressed. You'll see them outside, but once a gentleman walks inside, he sheds his jacket. Besides, when you sell fabric you need to move around. Vests allow Sir Douglas the mobility he needs along with the slightly dressy look he wants.

This particular vest is a vintage one. Don’t you love the buttons? I think it's velveteen. I’m also partial to it in combination with this striped shirt and those delicious metal buttons.

OK, you know what happened when I stopped to admire this outfit, and ask for permission to include Sir Douglas in my blog. Yup, two yards of beautiful green and blue plaid wool to make up into a vest for next years cooler season!
Hey, it was on sale!

If you're traveling to San Francisco, Brittex is just off of Union Square. It's a short walk off BART (the underground). Use the Powell Street Station. When you're tired of shopping in Union Square, take a walk down Market Street towards the water (ask anyone which direction that is) to the Ferry Building. Pass through the building (I didn't say you shouldn't check out the fun boutique style shops and local artisinal products and often a farmer's market) through to the water side and soak in the beautiful views of the Bay, bridges, islands, sea gulls and the whole deal. Oh yes there are also usually street vendors just before you reach the Embarcadero - that's the last road before the water that runs perpendicular to Market- selling all kinds of fun goods from tables and booths, hand carved special pencils, inexpensive jewelry, bags, etc.