Saturday, April 30, 2011

That was fun!... Another blogger meetup.

It is so much fun to meet other sewists!

Beth, of SunnyGal Studio, decided that she was lacking in blogger meet-ups, so she arranged one today at the Balenciaga exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.

Sewing-related culture and sewing talk?

Count me in!

I was the first to arrive at the museum, and happened to run into another meet-up group - this was a small group of spinners from Ravelry. I chatted with them while waiting for my group to show.

It was great to see some BABES that I know from previous gatherings, plus several new folks, some of whom are blogless. :) After absorbing the amazing Balenciaga garments, we had lunch and chatted extensively, the way sewers can: Burda, Patrones, KnipMode, fabric acquisition, we covered it all.

Left to right:
Jean, Beth, me, Jennifer, Sydney, Rose, Jillian, Natasha

Thanks to Beth for arranging this outing! (And thanks to the obliging Australian tourist who snapped our photo. :) )

Here is some eye candy from the exhibit.

And the museum...

The De Young

And who doesn't love a safety pin scultpure?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Underwhelmed, McCalls

Mc 6352

The summer patterns are out and I am very underwhelmed, McCalls.

Looking at their offerings feels like internet shopping for my 18-year-old daughter. Yes, there are some dresses she would rock, and that are beautiful, like the one above, but my market segment is almost completely ignored.

The only pattern that I might consider buying is the new Palmer Pletsch fitted pant, Mc 6361, but I won't be rushing to buy a fitted pant pattern in the near future, even at a steep discount.

Mc 6361

Where are some cute jackets, McCalls, or some nice tops that would work for the older woman with some fluff?

Thank goodness I have lots of Vogues to play with. :)

I haven't sewn all week. Lots of work and some unpleasant family drama. (Is family drama ever pleasant? :) ) But I hope to get something accomplished this weekend.

Happy Sewing! :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Michaels Fabric Box has Arrived!

I just received a box containing the fabrics I bought when visiting A Fabric Place (aka Michael's) in Baltimore last week. I don't normally post fabric purchases, but I promised a preview, so here you go!

Navy & White Silk Dupioni Ikat

When I saw this, towards the beginning of Michael's tour, I was on it like a monkey on a cupcake. There were only 2 yards left, which is sad, because I would have happily bought more.

Teal & Black 100% Wool

This is a soft wool, and the bold design is woven, not printed. It has a wonderful, soft hand. This will make a great jacket. If I recall correctly, he also had this in purple.

Cotton Velvet Zebra Print

I was looking for a cotton velvet print and, while this is not the sort of print I had in mind, I could not resist this wonderful fabric. The photo does not do it justice. It is rich, drapey, and almost gives the impression of an actual pelt, but with a better hand.

Betsey Johnson Cotton Bubble Print

I remember seeing this on a few sites many months ago. I kept looking at it, but held off ordering. I'm glad I did, because Michael had it in several colorways, for a good price. I chose the autumnal colorway.

Black Print Poly Crepe

This fabric is a really nice heavy poly crepe. It has a beautiful drape.

Butter Linen Jersey

I had a difficult time photographing this. It is a linen jersey in a soft yellow/light mustard color. There is also a small percentage of another fiber because the whole piece is just very slightly metallic. This is such a high-end piece. He also had this fabric in a taupe color

Polka Dot Embossed Green Lambskin

It was difficult to photograph this piece. This is the most beautiful green lambskin embossed with polka dots. If you call Michael's and mention sham's blog, you get any of his skins for $4 per square foot instead of his usual price of $8 per square foot. I don't get anything for this, but it tickles me to have a "sham's blog" offer of any kind, so do call if you are interested. :)

Green Cashmere & Silk Blend

Wow, this fabric is so hard to photograph! I can see why Michael's relies on swatches. This fabric may be my favorite of the entire bunch and I could not capture how wonderful it is. The cashmere and silk blend is pure heaven to the touch. The color is possibly best described as "sage green", but that's not really accurate. There are many different colored threads, giving it an almost heathered appearance, though I don't think that's quite the right term, since I think heathered implies black threads. I think. Anyway, this is really beautiful and I bought enough for pants.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Trip Wrap-Up

My recent vacation back east was 9-days long. I've already covered my visits to A Fabric Place (aka Michael's) and FabricMart under separate posts, but those were not the only fabric stores we visited.

Not by a long shot.

Peggy was very thorough in planning this trip, which included stays in Philadelphia and Washington D.C., as well as the central Pennsylvania area.

Here is a partially annotated summary of the fabric stores we visited:

  • FabricMart in Sinking Springs, PA. Blogged here.
  • A Fabric Place in Baltimore, MD. Blogged here.
  • G-Street Fabrics. We visited two locations, the first in Rockville, MD, and also the one Falls Church, VA. We visited the Falls Church location twice - I really love the $2.97 tables at these stores! I discovered that they restock those tables on Friday afternoon so, of course, we had to go back. :)
  • Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet. We visited two locations, the first in Lancaster, PA and also the one in Lemoyne, PA. These were the only discount stores I visited where I found nothing to buy. You know how discount stores can be hit or miss on any given day and, for me, these were a miss.
  • JoAnn Fabrics. During my visit to the east coast, JoAnn's was having a rare week-long sale called the "Daffodil Rush" sale. This included patterns (which I didn't buy because I am stocked up on patterns) and half off their Red Tag fabrics. When I shop at my two (sorta) local JoAnns, they do not have decent Red Tag fabrics. But I was very impressed with the Red Tag fabrics at the stores in Pennsylvania, so I visited several (these stores are everywhere) and came away with some worthwhile booty. I visited the stores in Carlisle, PA, Arlington, VA, and at least three others where I never asked their location.
  • JoMars. We visited two locations, first the one on I Street in Philadelphia, which is in an area that has suffered depressingly under the poor economy. We arrived here at the end of a long day and were all exhausted (and Carolyn's cold was getting worse). And yet I managed to find some nice fabrics hidden amongst the mediocre fabrics. The next day we visited the store on Jackson Street (also in Philly) where I found even more goodies. :) If you aren't familiar with JoMars, be aware that they sell other items. When you first enter, you see cheap shoes, luggage and the like, and the fabrics are hidden deep in the store (either in the back or upstairs), so don't be confused.
  • Exquisite Fabrics in Washington D.C. This store has beautiful fabrics, but they are pricey. I didn't find anything here, but maybe it's not fair because I stopped here after visiting FabricMart and A Fabric Place. I hadn't been in the store long when when my cell phone rang and I stepped out to take the call, so I may have missed some great fabrics and good prices.

We also visited a variety of clothing boutiques in our travels. My favorites were Tiger's Eye in Lititz, PA and Helia's, which has a location in Georgetown, Washington D.C., and another in Alexandria, VA. I managed to purchase items at all three boutiques. :) I have talked a bit about these in this blog entry. I also enjoyed the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA. I found a necklace there and, on a recommendation from one of the artists in residence, a nearby yummy Lebanese restaurant called Pita House.

What did we skip? Initially we planned to hit Fabric Row in Philly, but Carolyn was in the throes of a nasty cold and, while she rested, Peggy and I decided that there were places we'd rather spend our time visiting, such as several Philly boutiques.

D.C. Cupcakes in Georgetown

And, just because I want to include a few other pictures...

I did wait in line for cupcakes at D.C. Cupcakes. I guess I have to watch the show now to see why this line was so darned long. The Red Velvet and Pumpkin Spice with Maple Frosting cupcakes that Peggy and I enjoyed were good. Not great, but good.

Washington D.C.

And, yes, I took a tour of the Washington D.C. Mall. It was my first (and possibly last) time to D.C., so it seemed like a good idea. I didn't take any pictures on the tour but, as I walked past the Iwo Jima Memorial on the way to Arlington Cemetery (where I was starting the tour), I noticed the hands on the statue's flag pole and was inspired to take a few pics. I really like the unity of the hands.

Iwo Jima Memorial
It took me several shots and some luck to get that perfect "unfurled flag" moment.

Arlington National Cemetery

The Wharf at Alexandria, VA

My Pilgrimmage to FabricMart

Any of you who has followed my blog much will know that I love to order from FabricMart. Their great prices, quality fabrics, generous cuts, and $8 flat rate shipping makes them very appealing to the discerning shopper. As a jobber, they don't carry every single fabric you might be looking for, but if you go in with an open mind to see what they have available, you will find treasures galore.

In fact, Carolyn and I often joke about who loves FabricMart more.

We joke, but seriously... it's me. :)

When Peggy invited me back east for a fabric-related road trip, I was ecstatic to realize that she was only an hour or so from FM, so that became a focus for the trip. And of course I invited Carolyn along. And Noile. (Peggy is such a good sport and had encouraged me to invite a couple friends.)

The night before, all three sewists warned me not to get overexcited because, well, maybe I was expecting too much, but it was even better than I had hoped. If you doubt it, just look at how ridiculous I look in this picture with Robert, the owner.

Seriously, this is embarrassing. Had someone just made a salty comment to crack me up? I can not think of a single celebrity who would give me an expression as goofy as this one.

(By the way, thanks to Carolyn for these in-store photos as I wasn't thinking much about capturing the experience. And thanks to the camera-shy Noile for taking some photos outside with my camera.)

We met just about everyone there, including:

  • Robert, the incredibly gracious and generous owner who let us run through every corner of the store &ndash even to the back where the fabric was coming off the trucks and to the Basement of Delight.
  • Julie, of Julie's pics.
  • Chris, who handles billing – her name on the "from" line when you get your boxes. Chris told me how I can use my Discovercard for online orders (the form only allows Visa and MasterCard). And she told Carolyn what magic she needs to get her boxes faster, just like she used to.
  • Sharon, who makes the mystery bundles (and who cut most of our fabric).
  • Jenna, whom I have spoken to on the phone and also helped out with the cutting.
  • The strong guys who carry the ginormous bolts around, 'cause, you know, someone has to do that.
  • The "Roller Master" who puts the fabric onto smaller bolts for the store and to send to retail establishments.
  • Jennifer, who was preparing wholesale orders in the dim basement and remained steadfastly gracious even when I pestered her endlessly to let me take some fabric from the only bolt of to-die-for fabric heading to Stone Mountain. (And no, I didn't get any.)
  • The girls who fill the orders and one, in particular, who cut off the 1-1/2 yards for a customer's order so I could buy the rest of the bolt.

The only person not there that day was Sue, of Sue's pick, which was a shame, but it's not like we warned them or anything. ;) I must apologize for the names I've forgotten. But, like other unnamed intense encounters, my blood seems to rush from my brain to other parts of my body &ndash in this case, my credit card.

So, what did I buy? Here's a sneak peek.

My bounty. The blue and green fabrics on the lower left are linen jersey, but I also got black.

When I returned to San Francisco last night, there was a sizable box waiting on my porch. I haven't opened it up yet, but when I do, I will post some better pictures. Including pics of the linen jersey that Carolyn has already posted about.

And here's a little more background to that story...

The night before our visit to FM, the four of us were chatting, late in the night, over some serious candy carnage. I mentioned that I would really like to find some linen jersey on this trip and that the only linen jersey I had seen for sale was in very limited colors and cost megabucks (around $25) per yard. Imagine my delight the next day at FM when that truck rolled in and started off-loading linen jersey. Robert innocently showed us a couple bolts of the newly arrived jersey, and the staff looked on, amused, as the four of us ran pell-mell through the store to the loading dock in back. Robert allowed us to grab the bolts in the colors we liked.

So, let me just say, if you are anywhere near Sinking Springs, Pennsylvania, that FabricMart is well worth a visit. They have fabrics that are not on their site, including the table of sale bolts. There's not much else in the town, but take some friends and have fun. They even fed us homemade treats – that chocolate covered peanut butter egg made by the local Mennonite church ladies sustained me through the experience. :)

Oh, and Robert mentioned the possibility of having a FM open house in the near future. Get on his mailing list (or become a fan on Facebook) so you will be notified of any events. I can't make it back for this, but it's worth going if you live within a few hours drive.

I don't know if I need to say this, because I say it all the time, but this post is entirely my opinion and is not in any way a paid advertisement. I have never shilled for any business. (And if I did, I'd tell you. :) )

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Visit to Michaels (aka A Fabric Place)

The gang at Michael's. He is the one on the left. :)

The purpose of my trip back east was two fold. First, I was eager to meet some of the sewists I have come to know via their blogs, the sewing forums, and email. Secondly, I was eager to visit some fabric stores that I knew only through their web site presence.

One such store was "Michael's." I quote the name, because that is exactly how it is bandied about among sewing associates. "I bought this (gorgeous wool) from Michaels." "I love ordering from Michaels." "Did you get the most recent mailer from Michaels?"

Frankly, this perplexed me. Where I live, Michaels is a ubiquitous craft store. If they have any fabrics at all, they are quilting cottons, not gorgeous wools. My first thought was maybe they sell wool online only.

I was very confused. For awhile. Finally, it penetrated my consciousness that the Michael's that folks were talking about is a completely different business. Michael's, the online store, is a high-end fabric wholesaler and retailer. They also have a brick-and-mortar location in Baltimore, Maryland, called A Fabric Place, which carries many more fabrics than they sell online.

Michael (the owner) deals in high end fabrics, like Zegna, Donna Karan, and Armani, but these fabrics are greatly discounted from what you would pay in, say, a conventional big-city-high-end fabric store. When I walked into his store that rainy morning, he was on deck and was so welcoming and gracious. He personally took us on the full tour of "A Fabric Place", which encompasses several rooms. There was so much fabric gorgeousness, that it was a bit overwhelming.

And yet, I managed to buy several pieces. Really gorgeous pieces, like the sage green cashmere/silk wool, the blue ikat silk dupioni, the zebra print cotton velvet, the Betsey Johnson cotton print which I have definitely seen for more elsewhere, and the embossed skins. (I have no photos to show as these fabrics are winging their way to my home.)

The two pieces of green leather I bought were embossed with polka dots. <swoon> The regular price for his skins are $8 per square foot, but he gave them to me for $4 per square foot. If this sounds enticing, Michael said that if anyone calls him and mentions the offer on "Sham's blog" that he will give you the same price. (And, no, I didn't get anything in return for passing this offer to you. I am happy to promote businesses that are worthwhile, especially independents, just for the satisfaction of helping them out.)

He has lots of skins in lots of colors, a few embossed, but many not, so give him a call if you are interested. He has excellent customer service. You can also request his swatches if you'd like to go that route, though I don't know if he swatches his leather pieces.

I also want to mention that Carolyn, of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic made me aware that Robin, of A Little Sewing worked near Michael's. So I shot off an email asking if she could join us for lunch and a little fabric shopping. Peggy and I were delighted that she could make it! It was so nice to kibbutz with her over pizza followed up with some nice quality wools. And, just as I expected from reading her blog, she is incredibly nice and fun to chat with.

Peggy, myself, and Robin

and one with Michael!

Robin mentioned that she might come out to visit us west coast sewists and I hope she does!

Edited to Add: I received my box of fabrics from Michael's and posted them here!

Friday, April 15, 2011


Helia's window display. Classic Lagenlook.

I often describe my style as "funky." It is funky, but that is not a particularly descriptive term. My recent trip to east coast reinforced the concept that there is funky and there is funky. As I've visited various boutiques in Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., and Virginia, I have again and again come across funky, but not my funky. Much of it is too young, or too formal, or just too different from the kind of funky I embrace.

You can imagine I was happy to learn there is a term to describe my sort of funky. It is called Lagenlook. The literal definition of this German word is layered look. But the aesthetic doesn't have to be particularly layered to qualify as Lagenlook.

Many of you will recognize the brands that embody this concept: Blanque, Oska, Flax, Eskandar, Skif, Ivan Grundahl, Kedem Sasson, Peter Mahler, Sympli, Babette, Niche, Giselle Shepatin, Heide Ost, ITEMZ, Cynthia Ashby, and Barbara de Jounge. To name a few. There are many others. These are the brands that I enjoy shopping for, and drawing inspiration from.

The patterns that most closely embody this aesthetic are offered by Sewing Workshop, Cutting Line Designs, Au Bonheur des Petites Mains, Marcy Tilton for Vogue (and some of the unnamed Vogues), Diane Ericson's Revisions, Lois Ericson (who has retired but her patterns can still be found). Yes, the two Ericson's also qualify as Art to Wear, but there is overlap.

Now, you won't typically find this clothing at your local mall or discount store. So, where do you find it? Whenever I plan to visit some place new, I google it. I just enter the name of the city or area I'll be visiting and then list one or two of the brands I like. This is how I found The Tiger's Eye in Lititz, Pennsylvania - my hands-down favorite boutique I visited on this trip, and the most like my favorite boutiques on the west coast.

Peggy found the other boutique that I enjoyed this trip. Helia's has two locations, one in Georgetown and the other in Alexandria. The owner (her name isn't actually Helia) makes her own clothing (under the Helia's label) and has some fun looks. I popped into both locations, but only took pics at the Georgetown store. And, yes, I bought a couple of pieces. After all, Me-Made-March is over. ;)

And now, a few pictures from Washington D.C. in the Georgetown area. I was thrilled to arrive just as the cherry blossoms opened up.

And what they say is true, Washington D.C. is beautiful! (But there is very little available to thrill the fiber enthusiast. ;) )

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Eastward Ho!

A requisite picture of a covered bridge in Lancaster county. I love covered bridges.

The internet is such a great way to meet and bond with folks who have the same interests as yours. Take sewing, for instance.

Peggy is a great example of someone I bonded with over our mutual appreciation of Issey Miyake, Au Bonheur patterns, and funky sewing, in general. (In fact, I bought Peggy her first ABdpM pattern as a thank you for a generosity she showed me.)

One of my favorite online sites to order fabric from is FabricMart. <sigh> FabricMart...

Oops, excuse me. :)

Anyway, Peggy invited me to visit and promised a road trip that would include stops at FabricMart, Michael's (their brick and mortar is called A Fabric Place), G-Street Fabrics, and JoMar. To name a few.

I simply could not resist such a gracious and enticing offer. Carolyn and I frequently argue over who loves FabricMart more, so I invited her to join us. And because I knew that Noile might be willing to drive the distance, I invited her too. Suddenly, we had a party. :)

Carolyn, Peggy and me

I brought some See's candy from the west coast.

Candy Carnage.

I highly recommend blogger meet-ups. They are just too much fun. The east coast bloggers seem to know everyone, while us west coast bloggers seem to be further apart and newer to the blogging scene.

I will post more later, though I'm not sure I can wait for the packages to arrive with the fabrics I ordered and to show off the fabric porn (as Carolyn calls it).

The yummy yummy fabrics. :)

SFO Airport Dresses

Like so many airports these days, San Francisco Airport displays artwork along its walkways. Therefore, unless you fly, you will miss the exhibits, as they are behind the security checkpoint. I was in SFO about a week ago and I spied a display with these dresses, which required a closer inspection.

In case you can't see, they are made from Mary Jane and Tootsie Pop wrappers, respectively. Too cute. I have never heard of Mary Jane candy and, in fact, Mary Jane has a somewhat different connotation for me. :)

While I was snapping photos a man came up and also took photos, explaining that he works in the LA garment district. He escaped into the United Red Carpet club before I could strike up a chat with him.

Why was I in the airport? Well, I was taking a rare flight. A fiber-related trip. More later. :)