Saturday, February 28, 2009

Accessories of Old Giveaway

Hi everybody. Allow me to introduce Andrew. He's the engaging and charismatic guy who, together with his wife Lisa, own and operate one of the best vintage notions shops in the country -- Accessories of Old in Bethesda, Maryland.

To say that their shop is a treasure trove is an understatement. There are vintage trims, vintage ribbons,

vintage buttons, vintage millinery flowers...

and oodles and oodles of vintage seed beads that are still in their brown paper packages and have not seen the light of day in over 50 years! ALL vintage!

The goods in their shop are fabulous but, honestly...

it's their friendliness, their positive life attitude, and their willingness to build relationships for the long haul that makes Accessories of Old unique and worth going back to over and over again...

Yesterday, I had to conduct "real business" with Andrew and Lisa because we are planning to host an exclusive opening of their shop on a Sunday in May when Allison Aller will be in town teaching her Crazy for Flowers workshop.

They both agreed, without reservation, to open their shop on Sunday and offer a special shopping event to our Guild. Woohoo!!!

Now, Andrew and Lisa deserve the Best Buddy award for that feat alone but...they also deserve it for giving me EIGHT cards of vintage glass buttons to giveaway to all of you!

These cards are unbelievably pristine and gorgeous -- and I have EIGHT to giveaway!

So here's what I need you to do...leave a comment on this post and answer this question..."If you had $100 to spend in Accessories of Old...what would you most want to buy and why?"

I'll pick EIGHT winners from the comments I receive on Tuesday night and announce the winners on Wednesday morning. Have fun shopping!

Oh yeah, and should you click over to Accessories of Old and not see something you're looking for...don't hesitate to pick up the phone and call Lisa or Andrew. I guarantee you, they will go out of their way to assist!

P.S. Thanks for all the Pants Pants Revolution love from yesterday. You sure know how to make a girl feel good!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Pants Pants Revolution is up for the vote...

Remember, Pants Pants Revolution?

Well, the whole impetus to PPR was to send it in to a sewing stash contest at French General. The idea was to get your stash out of your closets and drawers and use it for something where you could see your stash all the time. You can see Kaari Meng's post about the entries here and you can view all of the entries submitted here. Also, if you feel so inclined, vote for the entry you like best. And, no worries, I'm totally OK if you don't pick mine. I've already received my reward. And, if you get a minute, take a peek at French General's site. There are many wonderful notions to use in your project there!

Stay tuned tomorrow because I have a really fabulous give away to announce from that wonderful vintage notions store I've told you won't want to miss it!!

The Raven...Nevermore

"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary..."

If you've forgotten, that's how Edgar Allen Poe's famous poem The Raven begins. See, I know it by heart now since Jack has been trying to memorize it this entire week for his public speaking class. He prides himself that, even though it's very long, he really liked it so that's why he picked it. Luckily, when he was struggling with the entire poem, the teacher backed down from the original 18 stanzas and is only making him recite 7. So, every night, all this week, I've been reading and listening to this wonderfully written masterpiece. And, it led me down a path this morning and I found Urban Threads...

Their site is full of very hip and urban machine embroidery and hand embroidery designs similar to Sublime Stitching and including this design Nevermore. I just purchased a number of them but my all time fave is this one...

They also offer a free design every month...last month was Nevermore (I missed it!) -- this month is this design which is also their logo...

I also really enjoyed reading through the archives of their blog. They have done a great job of creating a very vibrant embroidery community. There's even a Flickr site for pictures of items made from their designs. Loved it!

And, another connection is that Edgar Allen Poe spent most of his life reading and writing within the city of Baltimore, my hometown. This year there is a year long celebration titled Nevermore 2009 to comemmorate the 200th anniversary of Poe's birthday which is January 19.

Pic courtesy of mikeyexists

Poe's home and grave are both located in the city and every year on his birthday the Poe Toaster comes and leaves three roses and a bottle of cognac on his grave...and it's been happening since 1949.

There are two great posts about Baltimore and Edgar Allen Poe by my fellow Baltimore blogger, Meg Fairfax Fielding at Pigtown Design -- one about The Raven and one about The Poe Toaster. And there's a wonderful website to checkout here titled Knowing Poe.

Let's hope Jack doesn't falter and fall prey to the Raven's lament...or his public speaking career may be...

oh, come on, you know what I'm gonna say... yes, and even though it's hokey, I've still got to say it...and then I promise I will do it...


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Hands that Sew the Sequins

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that I am immensely inspired by haute couture fashion.

I find the embroidery, embellishment, and elaborate handwork worthy of my respect and study. You may not realize that this work is created by a handful of artisans -- artisans who labor to transform a designer dress into a walking work of breathtaking art.

It is handwork that defines haute couture dresses and one dress can cost as much as $150,000 (give or take a couple tens of thousands). Needless to say, the market for these dresses is dwindling in modern day, and as a result, so are the artisans.

In the 1920's, there were over 10,000 french embroiderers and today the numbers have shrunk to about 200. The House of Lesage, France's oldest embroiderer still provides services to famous haute couture design houses such as Lacroix, Dior and Chanel. There is a beautiful article titled, "The Hands that Sew the Sequins" from the New York Times in 2006 here.

Lesage has an embroidery school in Paris and it is my dream to go to school there one day. This is the cover of their school brochure and the pages are dog-eared from dreaming...

So, as you look at the creations that I present to you today from Christian Lacroix, pay close attention to how textures, threads, flowers, threads...are all placed and draped and styled just like an artist paints a painting.

There is a deliberateness about the choices that result in an overall final work of art that is compelling and beautiful and wondrous.

And isn't that what I am striving to do in my work? To manipulate fabric, beads and thread into the most beautiful expression of my spirit that I'm capable of?

My study is here. It's in the haute couture houses of fashion where designers such as Chanel and Dior are buying up ateliers that specialize in making the best shoes, millinery, buttons, lace, preserve it, to safeguard it's not lost.

If you look at the big picture, the needlearts as they were practiced during Elizabethan times or in the days of Marie Antoinette are dying. The degree and the complexity of the work that is being created today, pales in comparison. No wonder Penelope Cruz chose to look back 60 years in choosing her gown for the Academy Awards.

There is good news still and that good news is that there IS beautiful work still being done -- and it's being done in the fashion industry. In a quote in the NYTimes article from Valerie Steele, the director and chief curator of the Museum of Fashion Institute Technology, she says:

Fashion isn't necessarily about concept but about craftmanship. You need the people to make the best ribbon, the best lace, the best hats. This is essential to keeping French fashion prestigious and creative.

So perhaps the next time you look at a haute couture gown, you will pause and reflect on the artistry of the hands that used the irons to fashion fabric into flowers,

that spent the hundreds of hours beading sequins and glass onto lace with a tambour hoook,

that couched gold bullion over yards of silk...

And for my crazy quilt friends, isn't a haute couture dress the ultimate fancy quilt? Though not made with scraps, it is a unique combination of silks, chiffons, velvets, trims, buttons, millinery feathers and flowers, crystals, beads, sequins and yes, embroidery. Still made by hand.

It inspires me more than I can translate into words.

So this is the reason, my friends, you see so much "fashion" on a needlework blog.

All fashions shown here today are from Christian Lacroix Spring 2009 Haute Couture collection. You can see his full collection here and watch his fashion show here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

From Extraordinary to Extra-Extraordinary

Let's face it. At the Academy Awards we expect the extraordinary -- that's why so many of us tune in and watch it. So to be extra-extraordinary you have to re-define and rethink your approach to the evening. We have all come to expect that everyone will be beautiful.

But I believe that there was one woman who fit the occasion better and was more beautiful, more extra-extraordinary than anyone else.

Penelope Cruz showed up in a 60-year old vintage couture gown by Parisian designer Pierre Baumain. This was a dress that she had seen eight years ago and dreamed that she would one day have the opportunity to wear it. When she was nominated, she tracked down the dress, was delighted to find that it was still available and she bought it. I mean, this is a story of consummated love!. It's extraordinary -- and the fact that she found it, loved it, wore it beautifully to one of the most important events in her life; and then, be-decked in Chopard jewels, she WINS best-supporting actress and becomes the first Spanish actress ever to win an Oscar. Not only that, but the whole theme for the Oscars last night was that 1940's/50's Old Hollywood Glam and she couldn't have been more perfectly coifed.

That, my friends, is extra-extraordinary!! She loved that dress and that dress loved her and she glowed because of it. And her acceptance speech was my favorite of the evening -- she was absolutely RADIANT.

And she probably wins my Extra-Extraordinary Award because there was someone else there last night to compare her too.

Someone else tried to carry off the same look.

Now don't get me wrong, I like Sarah Jessica Parker...

But for some reason when I saw her, I couldn't help but think that her look had been done before...

When she walked out on stage I thought she looked just like Glinda, minus the wings...I think it was the hair?

OK. So I give best all-around dress, dress performance and Extra-Extraordinary Award to Penelope Cruz...

Here are the nominees for best FABRIC on a dress...

1st is Anne Hathaway for all those billions of beautiful, catch-the-light!

2nd is Kate Winslet for her hand embroidered and beaded black lace that draped from her shoulder to her waist and down the back of her dress...stunning....

and 3rd is Penelope again for her vintage gown with all of its ruching and ornate detailing...

But I've got to give it to Kate Winslet who was just breathtaking, and she won an Oscar for Best Actress too! It's so nice when my favorite dresses are also the winners of the awards!

And I LOVED that five of the prior winners of the Best Actor/Actress awards came up to introduce the nominees and announce the winner. It was a beautiful way to welcome the new winner into the sorority of best actresses.

Of course, I was very curious about Ms. Cruz' dress so I found some pictures courtesy of e.coleman p.r. of backstage shots of a couture show of Pierre Balmain's in 1954. Aren't they grand?

Pierre was known for his ornate detailing and he dressed Hollywood starlets such as

Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner, Brigitte Bardo and Kathryn Hepburn...

We just don't do detail like they used to...sigh...

Oh, and forgive me but I have to show you one more from the woman who I think is one of the most beautiful on the face of this earth...

Halle Berry. *sigh.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

And the Half-Award goes to Parcheesi


After all that talk the other day about award ribbons...

Well, award ribbon, schma-ward ribbon.

I cut the thing in half...

It's not that I wasn't grateful for the award... It just didn't look good with the purse I had to finish for today and I was stressed because I had to think of another way...

That's how Parcheesi, the purse, was born but I'll get to that in a minute...

You may have guessed, I was feeling a bit grumpy about having to meet a deadline for making all these purses. And I was trying to find away to turn my bad attitude around.

My girlfriends and I have been talking a lot lately about how to turn the ordinary, mundane tasks we have to do into something extraordinary. For example, my friend hates Monday nights because it's taxi-hell for her while she drops four different kids off and picks them up from four different locations for practices. So, she wore a taxi hat and played Cash Cab with the kids; she taught them how to do a chinese firedrill (safely, of course), get the idea.

While I was making Parcheesi (btw, that wasn't her name until this morning), I cut out multiple fabrics at a time and decided to make all the purses a variation of a theme. Then, I asked myself, how can I make this task less dull and more extraordinary?

That's when the Baby Got Game Series of purses was born. Each purse in the series will be inspired by a Board Game! Woohoo! Now I've tricked myself into having fun and my creative juices are flowin'!

And so, without anymore blah-blah, I'm pleased to reveal the first in The Series...Parcheesi.

Each purse in the series will be inspired by some type of Board Game.

I dug in Jack's old toy bin and found a couple of things to add to the inside of the purse as a surprise.

And, I made up "official" looking tags in Photoshop to go on the purse. This one is going to a silent auction for a church fundraiser so I'm trying to give the impression of exclusivity and uniqueness -- think they'll fall for it?

This is the first in a series that has me engaged, energized and excited. (notice the use of only "e" adjectives? wonder what that means...)

And I'm feeling so very grateful for the day. Grateful for the creativity and the freedom to make something with my hands. Grateful for the "e" adjectives.

Here's to making Parcheesi out of fabric and thread.

Here's to making something ordinary...extraordinary.

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