Gathering inspiration, ideas, materials, tools, information; Gathering together with friends, new and old; and Making things beautiful, delicious, healthy, sustainable, and useful ~ Gather & Make.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Introducing - Jackie O ~

I was recently in Jackson Hole for a girls' trip. Amidst the skiing and eating, and biking and eating, and hot tubing and eating, and just hanging out and eating, we did get a wee bit of poking around and shopping in. We mostly hit the "op" shops or thrift stores, but we did meander past a boutique that happened to be selling some mannequins, the same type of mannequin that I had been wistfully dreaming of purchasing online. Lucky me, for they were less than half the price, just the right size, in tip-top shape, and yes, we did have room in the car to bring her home. So I purchased her, strapped her in the back seat next to me, and we became best buddies on the 12-hour drive home. Since she hailed from Jackson Hole, we appropriately named her Jackie O.

When weather and lighting permit, I will bring Jackie O outside and snap a few pics of her attired in my newest projects.

This is the fitted dress in ochre.  I used the Angie's Fall stencil, brown paint, maroon thread, in negative reverse applique. I wasn't sure which color thread I wanted to use, so I stitched up a little sample to see what I liked best.

I felt the burgundy gave me a little color pop without looking too busy.

Here is the same fitted short dress pattern, also in Angie's Fall stencil, reverse applique, tan paint, gray thread. I used the organic cotton that I indigo dyed last summer (read about it here) for the bottom layer, and Alabama Chanin hand-dyed indigo organic cotton on top.

The paint was so subtle that I had a really difficult time seeing it when working the pattern. Note for next time, use a darker shade of tan!

Here's the same dress with the indigo skirt I made here. I like the extra layer in the cooler weather, and it looks pretty too. I paired this outfit with my brown cowboy boots and brown leather moto jacket. The A. Chanin wrap cardi in black with my black wedges will look nice as the weather warms; and white flip flops with no skirt in the summer.

Close up of skirt/dress layering.

Here's a few pictures of Jackson Hole, breathtakingly beautiful. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hygge and knitting group ~

For the past year now I have had a standing date once a week with an interesting, genuine, kind, and funny group of women. Serendipity brought us together, and I am most humbly grateful that they have generously welcomed me into their fold. They are "The knitting Group", and I am doubly grateful, because really, I do not knit. Oh, I can have a go at it. My lips will purse and my brow will furrow, and all conversation around me slips into an abyss as I concentrate on the chicken scratch markings in front of me, and I try to translate it into a wrap or knit or turn. Is the rabbit jumping into the hole? Or do I fling the yarn behind and around?  When I really put my mind to it (and nothing else), I can knit a square or two, or perhaps a hat or felted slipper. But really, I do not knit. These ladies see my distress and thankfully do not mind that I veer from the knitting path and bring something to stitch or crochet or at times, nothing at all. When I do join in and knit, there is always generous and welcomed advice and a helping hand from any one of these talented knitters.

Soon after I joined the group it was decided that we would have a square swap. We would all use the same yarn, a bulky, soft, ecru, wool, reminiscent of the traditional Irish fisherman's sweater. Each of our individual squares would be a design of our choosing. We would make nine of them. Then we would exchange our squares, bind them together, and each have a small lap throw of our very own. I must admit I was skeptical that I could participate in this lovely affair. My heart was in a bit of a panic thinking about knitting squares, squares that HAD to be a certain size, and squares that would eventually reside in the homes of these fabulous knitters. But they reassured me, offering their guidance and advice when needed.

I'm so glad I rose to this challenge, because during this year of knitting our squares, we have laughed and cried; discussed the funny vagaries of our aging bodies; contemplated the meaning of life; exchanged recipes and repairman phone numbers; mostly we have laughed. You know that deep down belly laugh? That's the kind of laugh I'm talking about. There is always some interesting fact or hilarious story that just seems to pop up during our afternoons. We are a multi-generational group, but our commonality defies a number in years. I do not feel an age difference, just true camaraderie.

A couple of weeks ago we gathered together for the exchanging of the squares ~ Ta-da! A tea party was planned for this auspicious occasion by our most gracious host. Hygge - "In essence,hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people."  Our host has a special knack for creating a warm, cozy atmosphere, pure hygge, and her tea party did not disappoint.

I learned to knit a little bit better; how to block a square; and how to sew my squares together: But more importantly, I've been given the gift of friendship with all these women, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Alabama Chanin class at Art & Soul~

Happy dance, huge smile, swell of gratitude, these are just a smidgeon of emotions pinging around after Sundays' wonderful class. It always amazes me how quickly a room full of women can come together and share and laugh. Glenny at Art & Soul Retreats does such an excellent job of facilitating the perfect environment for any creative type to gather and enjoy. Thank you, Glenny.

We spent the day exploring all things Alabama Chanin, from the basics to the elaborate in hand stitching. Everyone came away with a solid understanding of how they can make their own heirloom pieces. I was promised photos of completed projects; and I can't wait to see them! I only wish I had more time to spend with each and every one of these talented ladies, to get to know them better.

A special thank you to Kristina for her lovely picture memorabilia that she sent to me after the class. It's the perfect reminder of a wonderful day.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Art & Soul meet and greet~

Sunday was a happy whirlwind of a day. I drove the three and a half hours to Portland. What a beautiful drive: over snowy mountain passes; long forested expansive views; picturesque river weaving its way to and fro along the road. The sun playing hide and seek would light up the water to that pale, icy, Alpine blue, sparkling diamonds along the surface, then disappear and plunge it into inky, mysterious darkness. The drop in elevation exchanges pine trees and craggy mountains for ferns and lichen covered trees. Miniature waterfalls explode suddenly from the sides of the cliffs. Every twist and turn brings a new vantage point and awe inspiring scene. Lucky me, the roads were clear and I could do nothing but enjoy the drive and drink it all in.

I arrived at the Sheraton a little early, and was warmly welcomed by Marie. I set up next to Susan Schenk who makes amazing paper collages. Her student samples from her pet collage class showed the striking resemblance of their pet portraits! Susan was so cheerful, and took me under her wing as a new instructor, introducing me around and making me feel right at home.

The time flew by as ladies asked questions and perused my sample books. Many had no idea what Alabama Chanin was, and it was a treat to introduce many to a whole new medium of making. Others had already been captivated and were Alabama Chanin enthusiasts, to say the least! I was thrilled to see one woman wearing her Alabama Chanin coat she made from the Craftsy class. It was gorgeous! She did an excellent job and wore it beautifully.

I brought mini-samplers and supplies for a demo, and about a dozen of us gathered together and began to sew. There was as much talking and laughter as there was stitching! I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and truly hope that my new friends will take up the needle and thread and make their own Alabama Chanin projects.

All too soon the evening ended, and I had to say au revoir until next weekend, when I have my Hand Stitching and Embellishing class on Sunday. I am so excited and looking forward to another wonderful day of camaraderie, teaching, and making.

Monday, February 16, 2015

One of  my favorite things about visiting the Alabama Chanin Factory in Florence, Alabama was being able to try on all (and I mean ALL) of their gorgeous styles and sizes of clothing. I have to say their sizing chart is spot on, and it has never steered me wrong. But in our ready-made world of shopping, there is something rather unnerving about sewing for weeks or months without really knowing whether the finished item will truly fit.

While I'm not able to carry a whole store around with me to my classes, I wanted to be able to offer just a slice of my experience to my students. The corset is probably the most popular and timeless item from the Alabama Chanin collection, so I've been stitching up a "set" of corsets, sizes small through extra large, for my students to try on at my classes. I'm hoping that seeing the flattering fit and feeling the quality of organic cotton will afford my students the confidence to have a go at stitching up their own wardrobe staple.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Cotton bolls and one lone plant ~

I grew up in a farming community in California. In fact, I lived on a ranch in the middle of cherry orchards for a time. But I had never seen a cotton plant until a few years ago on my first trip to Alabama. I knew that cotton was an integral part of southern history, but I personally wasn't very familiar with this fluffy, white plant and all that it entailed. Lucky for me, during my first class at the Factory of Alabama Chanin, Natalie Chanin introduced us all to the world of cotton, from its raw, microscopic form, through production, and how it related to the beautiful garments that were created at her company.

Frankly, I was enchanted with those soft cotton bolls. Feeling their cushy fibers in my fingers really connected me to this plant, and helped me understand just how important this bit of fluff really was.

When I decided to become an Alabama Chanin sewing instructor, I wanted to get enough cotton bolls to share with all my students. I knew not a lot of people from the Pacific Northwest had ever seen, let alone felt a raw cotton boll. I wanted my students to "feel" the connection like I had that first time I held one.

Recently, I went to visit my parents in Arizona. We were talking about farming there, and it hit me, perhaps Arizona was another cotton farming area. Was it so? Yes, they raised cotton in Arizona! In fact, there was a cotton gin just a few miles down the road from where I was staying. In the car we hopped, and we drove straight over there. The ladies in the reception area were so nice, but they had no cotton bolls left. The season was finished; the fields picked; the cotton ginned; and all that was left were drifts of white fluff along the edges of the cotton fields. Though one woman added, as an aside, that she had just seen a plant, one lone cotton plant, all by itself, somewhere, but she couldn't remember for the life of her where she had seen it.

Wouldn't you know it, but the very next day, as we were heading out of town, along the side of the road, across the highway from the barren cotton fields, amid some tiny drifts of forgotten fluff, there stood a lone cotton plant! Out we jumped, and in the dessert, in the middle of nowhere, we harvested some cotton. I packed it up and shipped it home.

I will be so happy to share this unanticipated boon with my students at Art & Soul in March. I hope they enjoy it as much as I do.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Doggy wear ~ Alabama Chanin style

My daughter surprised us recently with the news of our first "Grand Dogger" (thank you, Cheryl, for this cute and fitting title). This beautiful, fluffy, white Samoyed immediately found a place in our hearts with her sweet nature and smiley face. My daughter had a bandanna for her to wear, and when she put it on, she pranced about and posed for just a moment with her new adornment. We thought it might be fun to make a few more neck scarves for Luna to wear, and so I set about gathering fabrics and ideas for her new "wardrobe".

Beings that it was Christmastime, she definitely needed something for the season. The idea of the ugly Christmas sweater struck, something red and green, sparkly, and just a tad over the top. I had some scrap red jersey. Jersey meant no need to worry about edges and fraying ~ easy! I cut a triangular shape, then stenciled in white fabric paint the reindeer and snowflakes. I cut two-inch slits, keeping them at least 1/2" in from the edge, all the way around the two shortest sides. I wove a thick, green satin ribbon through the slits. With sparkly gold thread I stitched a sequin and bead onto each segment of the woven portion to secure the ribbon and dress things up a bit. A girl can always use a little sparkle and this was supposed to resemble the ugly Christmas sweater where more was merrier. I left the tails from the knots out as it reminded me tinsel, and added a tiny plaid bow. I wish I had a picture of Luna in it. The red really set off her white coat, and the green ribbon hung down just a bit like the ties on a little sailor suit. She looked like a true Christmas dog.

The Ugly Christmas sweater doggy scarf.

Next, I started on the Alabama Chanin scarf. I cut out my triangle shapes from green and blue fabrics. My green scrap was a bit smallish, thus the difference in size. I do like the edging effect, though. Next I used the Bloomers stencil and with a silver Sharpie traced the stenciled shapes onto the green fabric. The Alabama Stitch book comes with a placement Bloomers stencil included.

Alabama Chanin styled scarf before stitching.

I pinned the green fabric onto the blue fabric. Then with a double strand of gray button craft thread, I hand-stitched just outside of the Sharpie line. I used a running stitch and knotted off after each element. Using the reverse applique method from the Alabama Chanin books, I snipped off the top layer, just 1/8" inside each element. The lime green fabric was jersey, so no need to worry about fraying; but my blue fabric was woven, and thus subject to coming apart. My house was full of kids and Christmas, and rather than trying to pull out my sewing machine and iron with ironing board and find room for them, I opted to use Fray Check on the woven raw edges.

This was a super quick and easy project. I finished it in an evening, while watching a movie with my kids.

I'm sure I'll be looking at my scrap fabric a little differently now, dreaming up more pretty scarves for our Luna girl to don.

Here's a picture of my daughter and Luna skijoring.