Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Japan Prep, DOL Ashland 2017, and More!

Margy and I in Ashland


So... basically I planned to write a "Preparing for Japan" post, and that's it. Next thing I knew, I was writing a massive post on DOL. I apologize for the extreme length but, basically, this is an Accidental Post.

Preparing for Japan

I've been planning a visit to Japan for many months. I wanted to share a few tips I've learned, in case you make a similar journey. (Note, I will be updating these tips, to keep them in one place.)

Everyone asks me which tour I'm taking. I'm not taking a tour! I've planned my own trip. I will spend most of my time in Kyoto, taking day trips from there. I'm also spending some time in Tokyo. My itinerary fills me with joy—since I'm traveling alone, I need only to please myself! I should add that I'm flying in and out of Tokyo with friends, then we go our separate ways (though we may meet up for lunch at Google Tokyo). So at least I can lob spitballs at their heads during our 11-hour flight. I found a convenient hotel near the train station for that first night, so we all booked it. It will be easy to get outta town on the bullet train the next day.

I've been wanting to visit Japan since I was 11. I don't know why it took me so long, though I am not a fan of Japanese food, so maybe that's part of the reason. I am a huge fan of Japanese culture and aesthetic sensibility. If I had a bucket list, which I don't, seeing Kyoto in the fall would be at the top of the list.

  • I purchased a Japan Rail Pass. This can save you money, but must be purchased before you leave for Japan—it is physically mailed to your non-Japanese address. Their website has a page to help you evaluate whether it makes sense for you. It's definitely saving me money. My rail pass cost $405 for 14 days.
  • I pre-ordered a portable wifi device. Wifi can be spotty in Japan, based on the experiences of numerous friends. Some hotels/Airbnbs provide a free portable wifi, but I ordered one to be delivered to my hotel the first night. You can also pick it up from the airport, but the airport railway office closes for the night, and I'm landing late in the day. If my plane is delayed, the office might be closed. Use the link to pre-order wifi. The link cost $20 more for the same dates, and had to be picked up at the airport. The link I used (the first one) delivers to an address in Japan for free. It cost me $79 to rent a device for 2 weeks, instead of the $97 offered by the second link.
  • Many businesses in Japan accept only cash, so you will burn through money. A good place to get cash is at a 7/11, which are plentiful, I'm told. I also purchased yen ahead of time here in San Francisco because I don't want to be scrambling for yen when I land late in the day, suffering from jetlag.
  • Many people in Japan don't speak English and I certainly don't speak Japanese. My friend Kathy (who is flying with me!) found some great phrase books at Kinokuniya, but I found my copies online. These "point-and-speak" books will be very useful! Let me give you a sampling from each. First, the general language book:
    From the food book:
  • Several people warned me not to expect hand towels in bathrooms, and to bring a package of hand wipes.

RIP, Nancy Zieman

Most of you have probably heard of the sad passing of Nancy Zieman. She was a pioneer in the field of home sewing. Many sewists of my age have seen (or been aware of) her TV show for years. She has been valiantly fighting bone cancer which was diagnosed a few years ago, and had metastasized from breast cancer.

Rest in peace, dear lady. Thanks for everything.

Britex Coat

I recently returned from a very special Design Outside the Lines retreat in Ashland, Oregon. Diane Ericson's guest teacher was Kathryn Brenne. Kathryn specializes in couture sewing, which was a fun juxtaposition to Diane's free, artistic approach. Both women are creative, but in different ways. Here are some pics from our week in Ashland. While there, I shared photos to Instagram, but you'll find more below.

My project for the retreat was a coat made from a gorgeous brocade from Britex (which is currently on sale).

I used many couture techniques on this coat and, once I returned home, I wanted to finish it before heading off to Japan. My goal was to finish last weekend, and I worked for many hours over both days. I attached the last covered snap at 11:50pm on Sunday, so I just made it. I haven't been able to take pics yet, but I hope to soon. Meanwhile, I posted many in-progress pics to Instagram.

Only chopped up scraps remained from the coat, thanks to the pattern matching and relatively small yardage I had. I pieced some of them together to make myself a travel bag. This reversible fabric is truly stunning.

Stay tuned for an actual blog post of the coat!

DOL Ashland 2017

Ashland DOL was so special, the more so because Margy came. She flew to San Francisco and we drove together to Ashland. (ROAD TRIP!) In fact, attending DOL was her idea. There were lots of friends I'd already met, and friends I only knew from the internet. It was so fabulous to see all of them in person!

Without further ado, here is a sampling from my hundreds of photos!

I got a haircut!

Crystal, a DOL attendee and friend of Diane's who lives in Ashland, is also a stylist. She cut hair for several of us. Can you imagine a more magical setting for a haircut?! It also meant I couldn't see what she was doing until it was done, but I trusted her completely.

Check out Crystal's tool belt!

Gayle captures the moment I see my haircut. I love it!

With Gayle (who had just gotten her hair cut, too) and Crystal

I bought a hat! And, gee, you can see I really needed that haircut.

I met Wendy of West Zen Studio! I also saw Debra, her BSF (who I got set up on Instagram), again!

Gayle, of Gayle Ortiz, is positively glowing!

We've just arrived in Ashland, but Margy knows how to relax and soak up the atmosphere!

Look who welcomed us!

So good to see Diane Ericson again!

I was shopping at Lithia Park Shoes for some boots. No sooner had Margy sat down when this happened. Meet Athos, who is happy to share his orange fur.

I was thrilled to meet the uber stylish Leslie Gelber (who I "knew" through Instagram). Here she is with Crystal, hair stylist extraordinaire.

There is so much creativity in this spot, I'm surprised they didn't burn through the floor. Left to right: Debra, Leslie, Diane, and Gwen

Who knew Margy likes to photobomb?! With Wendy and Debra

One of the stylish Karen's, Karen T, is wearing a knotted necklace that she made from strips of red jersey knit. Ginny sits behind her.

Debra repurposes suit sleeves into these cute bags. I'm modeling it in the second pic.

Several of us tried on Kathryn Brenne's hat made from felted wool. I think it flatters everyone! Top row, me and Claire. Middle row, Marta and Roni. Bottom row, Wendy

Karen G and Margy

Diane and Karen T

Sherri and Marta

It was SO great to see Claire again! She made this top from a kimono. (She had some good tips about my trip to Japan.)

Karen G and I have a mutual friend in San Francisco who doesn't sew! Check out Karen's adorable floral boots!

Guess who surprised us by dropping in! Marcy and Katherine Tilton just happened to be in the area. Here is Marcy with Kathryn Brenne.

Kathryn Brenne and Katherine Tilton had never met before. (Why are there so many spellings of Catherine?) Left to right: Marcy, Katherine, and Kathryn

So good to see Katherine again!

Very special! (And thanks to Roni for this pic!)

Gayle is wearing a gorgeous vest she made at a previous DOL.

And here's the back.

This pic of Gwen and Margy makes me smile. We were headed to one of our favorite breakfast and lunch spots, Hither.

This shawl is one of Gwen's ongoing projects. She sews pebbles to it, in some cases to cover moth holes. Gwen is recently retired, so I'm expecting to see an uptick in her wonderful creative projects!

It was so good to see Kathryn again! I'll be joining her tour in London next spring.

Debra found some earrings at Webster's that she thought Margy should buy. She didn't describe them to Margy, other than to say, "I saw some earrings at Webster's you should buy!" Margy found the right earrings. They are kind of hidden in this pic behind her hair. Oops.

Here we go! Cool, right?!

Shopping at Webster's. A yarn AND a wearable art clothing AND a jewelry store. A dangerous combo.

Webster's charming window display

Leslie is wearing an amazing coat that she made from some fabric painted by Miles Frode. It can be worn 3 ways—she is holding the bottom part that attaches to the jacket to make a full length coat. It's very clever!

I love the detail on the back of Leslie's (purchased) dress.

I love this photo of Gayle!

Kathryn helps Karen T.

Look at Leslie's amazing glasses!

Barbara, wearing a vest she made, watches Kathryn. Kathryn's fabulous capelet is just a knit rectangle, partially folded in the long direction, and closed with a buckle.

Wendy and Debra

Teaching also occurred. I liked the pieced hem on Diane's top.

A closeup of one of Diane's pieced samples.

Diane showing her fingerless gloves. I love the closures she's used on her top.

I love the removable, lattice collar!

A gorgeous coat featuring a lot of hand stitching.

Kathryn shows us her coat that features needle felting leather to wool.

Kathryn demonstrates the wraps from her latest Vogue pattern.

Kathryn demonstrates her technique of felting leather to wool.

Even sewing, Margy looks stunning! This was my view of the workroom.


With Debra

Debra made this fabulous statement necklace using scraps of a Kantha quilt.

I bought this fabric, hand painted by Miles Frode.

Wendy and Debra at closing circle. Debra collected the charms on her necklace when she visited Paris with the Tiltons.

Karen G and Barbara

Roni and I, newly shorn

I've saved best for last! Lithia Park!

Lithia Park in the fall is stunning!
I have not retouched these photos in any way.


My last pic as we left town. I like that I caught Margy climbing into the car

Edited to add: Check out Gayle's post that includes discussion about DOL!

Halloween 2017

We were busy sewing on Halloween! It was interesting to experience the day in Ashland. Those Ashland folk take Halloween seriously. They close Main street for a huge parade.

My Halloween costume

A tiny bit of the parade.

Does anyone get the reference? Can you explain it to me?

More parade

Kathryn Brenne took this pic in the hotel where DOL was held. The mother created all of these costumes for herself and her family. They came to the Ashland Springs Hotel to take their photos in front of its elegant fireplace. She was pretty dedicated to have 4 children in order to achieve the perfect Halloween costume. ;)

I watched most of the parade next to this adorable family. Mom was Cat in the Hat.

A Halloween decoration in Bloomsbury Books.

Remember the pussy bow I made for DD1's Halloween costume?

She was the Mad Hatter! (As portrayed by Johnny Depp.)

I also loaned her the spools of travel thread to make this sash belt.

Meanwhile, at Britex...

The employees at Britex compete every year for best Halloween costume. Visitors to the store vote for their favorite. I'm happy to report that Lindsey, DD1's close friend who has been working there for several weeks, won with a tribute to Carol Burnett's parody of "Gone with the Wind", "Went with the Wind". The original costume was designed by Bob Mackie.

For those not familiar, here's a 2-minute video where Carol Burnett talks about making this skit in 1976 (when I was a junior in high school... ahem). It has become a TV classic: