Monday, February 14, 2011

The sailor tops are here!

Oh at last! I have been meaning to make a lower-cost, more casual garment available as a ready-to-wear garment for a long time now. As much as I enjoy making the custom pieces, it's just not super practical in the long run to focus on as the sole aspect of my business, especially since I am now with child.

The first piece I chose to make with a team is this fantastic scoopneck/boatneck? knit sailor top. It has all of the details that I would like in a casual top: design, fit, nice fabric, really great for everyday but not too casual. It's made from recycled cotton that was actually woven right here in LA! I made half in navy/cream stripe and half in a great celery green/cream. I was so happy to find it, I must pick up the rest of that fabric before it's gone. I think they turned out great, I hope you agree! It has a nipped in waist, flattering neckline, and puff sleeves with box pleats (all the stripes match!). My friend Mianca did a wonderful job in her modeling debut, and our talented friend Maritza took some great shots. Stay tuned for more ready to wear soon!

Friday, January 28, 2011

My mom, Mrs. Sew and Sew

I'm asked pretty often how I got started sewing. It's largely in part of being around my mom, who made most of our clothes growing up. It just doesn't seem weird to me to think "Gosh, I have nothing to wear tomorrow night, and I've been dying to have a blue dress. Ok, better get a move on and make one if it's going to get done in time!" It's really empowering to think that we can creat the basic things that we use every day. I think it is very similar to how I look at food. Food and clothing are some of our basic needs, and we can impact their availability creatively. With cooking, we can be creative at least 3 times a day! Here's a pic of my mom with my sister and sister-in-law at the pumpkin patch. I miss the Midwest in the fall!

I grew up in the mid to late 70s, when there was a movement much like today to have a vegetable garden in back and sew your own clothes, paint, sculp, make crafts like macrame. We made crafts constantly. You can see in the background of the photos my mom's paintings that she painted, she is really artistic.

My parents had a huuuge garden, filled with rhubarb, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, carrots, etc. and then a strawberry patch too! We went apple picking and made pies together, picked strawberries and made jam. It really impacted how I consider food and how we procure it. I watched my mom sew all the time and saw how much time it took to create one garment: the planning, the shopping for materials, the careful cutting and piecing. She even embellished with hand embroidery and applique, you can see the overalls with a little dog on the front, how sweet! We laughed as teenagers about my brother in gingham with a bow tie, but now that I'm expecting a little one of my own, I'd do just the same I'm afraid.

Both with food and clothing, modern marketplace forces have taken us to very abstract places with how they're produced. Most of our food travels over 2000 miles to get to us, and most of our clothes are made by slave laborers in Asia or obscure Pacific Islands that are falsely labelled "Made in the USA". We buy both food and clothes for far cheaper than we ever did, scale-wise, but there is a cost involved in the soul of the means, IMO. As fans of vintage clothing, we have to remind ourselves that things were manufactured differently back then: 95% of the clothing in the world was made by union laborers in the United States, and now it's only 5%. Many ladies sewed their own clothes to save money.

I think this is why it's become so meaningful for people to take the methods of production into their own hands, it reminds us of how much work our foreparents did on a daily basis, the tradition of skilled craftsmanship, and it's also really fun! Thanks Mom!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

First round of cute maternity options!

You vintage collectors may not have planned on having a little one--and then all the sudden wow!!!! You find yourself expecting and not having a single thing planned for when you get huge.  That's the situation I found myself in.  I had no secret stash of cute maternity things stashed for that "someday if it happens" moment.  I had made most of my vintage-y things myself anyway, so I never saw the need.  Thankfully my dear friend Niki of Bombshellshocked came to the rescue with a surprise Christmas gift of a bunch of fantastic 50s maternity patterns and a ton of great vintage buttons!! Gosh I love that girl! The first pieces I chose were a fabulous 50s swing coat.  I have a bolt of this luscious rayon tencel gabardine that worked beautifully, it drapes just like the old stuff.  And you can use so many great buttons on it, a good chance to roll through some of my collection.  I also made this fab wool capelet with a convertible scarf.  It fits everybody! I can't wait to make the pencil skirt with this clever modular panel in the front to pair with the jacket. So many cute ideas, thanks Niki!

Oh and she just launched an etsy store with all vintage kid's clothing under etsy seller Accomplice Vintage. Such cute stuff! We are expecting a little girl, but I'm still in love with the sailor suit. Here's her shop!

Now it's also time to think about the adorable kid's patterns too, my head is much to do!

It's tough to switch your mindset from the emphasis on the teeny wasp waist and strong 40s shoulder to...well...a rounder silhouette.  I tried to keep an open mind about maternity clothing when I found out I was pregnant and took a peek out and about on the net at the modern options.  Whoa! Not cute! Not fun! Not flattering whatsoever! Just because you're pregnant doesn't mean you have thrown away your desire to look put together.  I saw this as a possible blessing in disguise--maybe I need to be making cute maternity clothes! Whether they're from a vintage pattern or not, it is all very much needed out there.  I found next to nothing in the organic, made in the USA, eco-friendly vibe either.  There is a lot of room for improvement in the marketplace, so this is a start! 

I've since learned that in the 40s the ladies would make/buy great dresses that look like a normal shirtwaist dress, with a length of fabric hidden inside a row of buttons.  You would button the dress at whatever width you happened to be at the moment.  I'm sure I've passed up countless patterns like this due to the fact that the pattern companies NEVER placed illustrations of pregnant ladies on their maternity pattern covers! I thought it was seen as the greatest desire of all womanhood to become a mother in the 30s-50s, what happened to the cover art, you have to wonder?
Oh and here's a great maternity feedsack blouse from the late 30s early 40s that my girl Sara found for a steal--how cute is this?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

New Orleans wrap up

I'm sure you're all on the edge of your seats to see how the rest of the trip went.  Well it was a whirlwind of pleasure.  I need to write a bit of it down so I can even keep track of it myself.

Day 2:

Well after the first rocking night at the Stomp, we were kind of in a brain fog and just getting our bearings as to where we were located in town, how to get around, etc.  New Orleans is great in that it's a pretty small town.  You can get anywhere in a cab or, even better, on the streetcars! Our friends Rob and Susan invited us to join them for a 2nd line parade close to their neighborhood.   There was also a Saints game, which pretty much puts the town on hold.  The Saints won the Super Bowl last year, and it really galvanized a town that has been through so much hardship.  Everyone watches the Saints! So we grabbed a quick sandwich (you can eat amazing sandwiches for every meal and never get bored!) and ran over to thier house.  We watched the game and jumped on bikes to catch the end of the parade. 

Let me explain a bit about parades in New Orleans: they are the glue that holds the city together.  They are organized by African American community aid groups, and involve multiple brass bands, and lots and lots of dancing.  These groups go back over a hundred years and used to provide burial fund for the slaves.  Now they do community work, and each group chooses their weekend to host a parade: with freshly made fancy costumes, bands, and multiple neighborhood stops at churches, restaurants, and bars.  It is an all-day event.  It's a participatory act, it's actually seen as kind of unseemly to sit and take photos.  You gotta get into it! The "2nd line" means the second parade.  The first parade was traditionally the funeral group.  Here's a bit of a 2nd line featuring the amazing Trombone Shorty here.  Yeah, some of the houses are still messed up, it's pretty sad.  Katrina really wreaked some havoc.  Then I stupidly dumped the bike while trying to balance a beer in my hand and brake, it didn't work out too well.  It provided some amusement for the folks in the neighborhood, where they reminded me that drinking and driving includes bikes, too.  Here's a scene in Uptown where they live, it wasn't damaged in the storm.  Super cute!!

We ended the day at  Bachanal an outdoor wine patio where you can grab whatever cheese you'd like, and they unwrap it for you and voila! There's your cheese plate.  It epitomizes the artsy funky vibe of NOLA.  There is an outdoor grill featuring a guest chef of the week.  The food was spectacular of course.  And it's in the 9th ward! The Afro-Cuban band had been playing every Sunday for over 20 years.  They were great. Then we headed off to The Three Muses for some fabulous cocktails and dessert hosted by their friend Cocktail Chris, with possibly the best Django jazz trio we'd ever seen playing at the front, The Hot Club of New Orleans. 

Day 3:
We finally got to hit Mother's, one of the seminal soul food cafeterias in town.  The specialize in "debris" roast beef, which is like shredded pot roast, and baked ham.  They serve both on a biscuit, which paired with some turnip greens and a few eggs really starts your day right.  The museums were closed today, so it was a bit of a low-key walk about the town day, which is fine.  There is crazy-good live music every night however on Frenchman Street, so we hit that later on. 

We ended up at the Apple Barrel, which is about the size of an apple barrel.  You gotta love a place where you duck under the trombone to get inside the club.  We bumped into a New Orleans legend Uncle Lionel, and John chatted with him all night, he was a hoot!  I got to dance with him, that was great.  He's gotta be in his 80s.  You may have seen him on posters for the brass bands, he asst. leads the Treme Brass Band, always with his bass drum over his shoulders.  It was jam night, so John got to sit in on drums, he was psyched.  There was an amazing piano player that could have contended with Dr. John for amazing songs, and an adorable Japanese girl blowing the harp like you've never seen.  Stunning!

Day 4:

Boat day! Today we were priveleged to be invited out on Susan and Rob's little skiff to go out on the bayou! It was beautiful, a sunny 75F-80F.  We grabbed some po'boys and muffalettas, and stopped for some daiquiris at one of the many drive-thru daiquiri places.  Los Angeles was experiencing a record heat wave of 113F at the time, which we had a hearty laugh about as we were enjoying our delicious shrimp po'boys under a shady tree.  We took a stroll through the preserves and it was absolutely lovely.  John spotted the only alligator we saw, they were being shy that day.

We ended up in Lafayette Square to enjoy the unbelievable Rebirth Brass Band play a free show.  A lot of people had just come from work, the ladies were in their heels and work skirts, but there were also families, kids, and dogs.  We ate yummy tasting plates and drank some more tasty Abita beer.  The band rocked the house! John was in awe of the drummer.  The bar really is super high for music and food here! I turned around and every single person in the crowd had a smile on their face.  The feeling of "we're all in this together" is palpable and real here.  Life is hard, let's get on with it and enjoy it while we can.

Day 5:
Habitat for Humanity day.  John and I like to take a day on our trips here to volunteer to help build a home for Habitat.  We feel like it's important to help contribute to rebuilding this historic world-class city that has influenced so much of the music and culture as we know it.  We hit the site early and started meeting all of the really great volunteers.  They came from all over the world to lend a hand.  A huge group was from Australia, we had the two bikini girls from Ireland, and lots of folks from all over the US.  It makes me all misty every time, people showing up, having a few laughs, and making the world right.  I ended up on a scaffolding nailing up siding with the two very hilarious gals from Ireland, who had spent the night at the casino drinking vodka.  They were really into safety belts, however, so I tried to keep it together.  They took off their tops right away to work on their tans, singing Lady Gaga.  Since most of the group were men or the ladies who prefer ladies, the crowd was psyched.  Many Facebook pictures were taken: up on the ladder, toolbelt on, toolbelt off, lots of caulk photos.  Jokes galore about that.  "Your caulk sucks, hand me your big caulk, fill in your gap with the caulk," etc etc.  They sang show tunes and we rocked out our side wayyyy faster than the guys (sorry John!). 

We caulked, hammered, and painted til 4.  The Irish girls were long gone for naps and we rocked it out with the other randomly wonderful volunteers.  It really is a great experience, I highly recommend it.  You can do as much or as little as you like.  It's pretty laissez faire, if you like running a saw, go for it.  Just sign the waiver first! I was particularly impressed by a rockin mom who project managed the whole building of the front staircase.  She rocked the house!

I had serious anxiety even choosing a restaurant for our "fancy dinner".  I mean, should we hit one of the historic old-line restaurants like Galatoire's, Commander's Palace, or K-Paul's Lousiana Kitchen, or maybe even Emeril's? I had cooked for Emeril at my old restaurant and it would be really meaningful to go there.  But Paul Prudhomme was one of the first New Orleans chefs that had really popularized the local cuisine.  He was the first chef I knew of when I was little that served that kind of cuisine.  I chose randomly and we got a table at Cochon, a place I was dying to go to.  It was fabulous! It was casual enough to serve pitchers of beer, which we totally were up for after a hard day, but fancy enough to feel really taken care of.  Boudin balls, roasted spicy oysters, and it was totally tough to even choose an entree: they had stewed rabbit with cornmeal dumplings, fisherman style roast fish, lots of pork specialties.  I chose the fish special: local pan-roasted drum fish with capers, brown butter lemon sauce, and some wonderful tidbits around it.  John got the beef brisket with horseradish potato salad, sooo good.  We had a fried peach pie for dessert, and just had to try one of the moonshines from the Moonshine Menu.  I s#$t you not, there is a moonshine menu!

Day 6:

Boo, our last day.  We started the day at Brennan's, one of the oldest restaurants in the French Quarter.  Their traditional brunch tasting menu involves an absinthe cocktail, one of their extremely rich egg dishes, prime rib, and their famous bananas foster.  Wow! We just had eggs.  I had fried trout atop creamed spinach, topped with poached eggs and hollandaise.  John had a tasso omelet that could have fed the whole neighborhood.  You know we polished it off like the troopers we are.  The fantastic washroom attendant helped us with directions to the wonderful Backstreet Cultural Museum.  Everyone wants you to get the most out of their city. 

The Backstreet Cultural Museum is in the Treme neighborhood, right around the corner from Congo Square.  Congo Square was the only place during slavery times where the slaves were able to perform their music, which happened every Sunday and happens every Sunday ever since.  We owe the existence of African influenced beats and jazz itself to this place.  Here's a little rundown by one of the actors on the new HBO series "Treme" here.

The museum is a tiny place, filled with fantastic memorabilia of the African American community.  The wonderful host takes you through personally, giving a great rundown of the history of the Mardi Gras Indians, Fi-yi-yi (like the Mardi Gras indians, only with animal style African inspired themed costumes), and the local community groups that organize the parades.  Then who should walk in but Fi-yi-yi himself.  It's times like this when you have to ask yourself--what is the universe telling me? He told us of the development of that style of parade gear and how it brings the community together, how they all met up after Katrina and hold each other up.  Fantastic! Each of these costumes take all year to make! They're all made by hand, each weighing over 100lbs.  Here's Wendell walking you through the museum here

We then hit the church across the street that the lady at Brennan's said we shouldn't miss.  There is a large monument to the unknown slave, with a chilling sculpture of arm chains welded together.  A house around the corner had a touching sign on the door saying "Love is the only thing that can turn an enemy into a friend, MLK Jr".  Poetry everywhere you look.  We can't wait to go back.