Friday, May 31, 2019

Late Spring Check-in

It's been a fun year so far.  I'm turning 70 (yahoo as far as I'm concerned!) so I decided what I wanted was more travel and more classes/retreats/time with sewing buds.  You might say, if you know me, really Gayle you already do all of that.  Yes, that's true but this year so many opportunities have come along I felt the privilege of saying yes to all of them.

I will fill you in on everything soon but first I want to tell you about the highlight.  A month in Japan with two wonderful friends...who also sew.  

The trip was conjured up last year at Shakerag Workshops while standing in line to get lunch.  Two women in front of us had been to an indigo workshop on a farm outside Tokyo the previous year and were raving about the experience.  They mentioned that the class they would love to take there was a two week hantan making class.

My friend and I looked at each other and said, "Two weeks?!"  No way.  But, not three days later we were signing up.  And what a lucky thing we did!  This experience was one we'll never a very good way.  

Bryan Whitehead is the founder of Japanese Textile Workshops in the mountain village of Fujino, about an hour and a half outside Tokyo.  There is so much I could tell you about him, his knowledge, experience and the class but I'd have to write a book.  I'm just going to highlight my favorite bits and hopefully you'll get a taste.  Here he is on our first day whirling us around Nippori, the Tokyo fabric district, with armloads of Japanese denim.

We arrived at the farmhouse late the first night.  Rounding the corner and walking up the steep driveway I saw the glow of the house in the distance.  It literally drew me to it.  I was mesmerized from the moment I saw it, radiating with warmth and spirit.

It's going to be very hard to pick out just a few photos of this experience.  Every element of the home is handmade by Bryan or one of his artisan friends.  

Hiro, his business partner, does so many things to make the home and experience incredible not the least of which is that every single room (and I'm talking hallways and bathrooms!) has a gorgeous flower arrangement.  The one above was outside our sleeping room.  You can't tell from the photo but it was about 6' long X 5' high.  Simply incredible.

Hiro also made all of our meals.  Every one was better than the last, they were all so delicious and gorgeous, yet super healthy.  We ate from large earthenware bowls his friends have made, each one different.

And for every meal there was something that had been pickled.  I LOVE PICKLED ANYTHING!  So I was in heaven.  These are pickled (very) young ginger shoots.  Oh....

One of our lovely classmates, Melissa from Pennsylvania is setting the table for dinner.  There were 7 of us in the class those two weeks.  A perfect number for the space and allowed for time to really get to know everyone.

The farmhouse has four floors.  The second floor is a workroom.  Here you see Bryan's collection of new and vintage hantans.  OK, I guess it's time to tell you what a hantan is.  Here's what Wikipedia has to say about them.  
Hanten (袢纏; also半纏,半天, or袢天), a short winter coat, is an item of traditional Japanese clothing. ... The shape of the hanten bears a resemblance to the haori and is worn by both men and women. The facing and lining are padded with thick layer of wadded cotton for warmth. The collar is usually made of black sateen.

All of that is true but also true is that they are traditionally worn by workers.  They are not always padded, our's were not.  And our collars were not made of black sateen.  Our's were made entirely by hand, no machine stitching.  I made two.  My first was of denim for my husband and my second was a lighter fabric for myself.

Our main workroom; here with Michelle.  This class was hard work.  It encompassed learning about hantan and other traditional Japanese garments, designing the ones we would make, learning the ancient Japanese textile traditions of painting, stenciling and indigo dyeing and applying each to our own garments.  We generally worked from 9-9 each day with breaks for meals, bathing in the wooden  hot tub, cocktail hour and generally squeezing in fun whenever we could.

I know that several in the class could tell you the Japanese names of each technique and so much more than I can.  This, for me, was a time to absorb the beauty and let many details fall away.  I didn't even take notes, and that's something for me.  It was really a dream state for me.  Something I crave as I get older.  Less about how to and more about just experiencing things visually and emotionally.

And you can see why.  Everywhere my eyes rested gave me a sense of inner peace and joy.  This was the hallway outside our sleeping room.

And this was our view!

Here's Bryan is stirring the indigo dye pot.  Mesmerizing.

In addition to everything else he did for us and in the house, Hiro could also create one of a kind garments.  Every one wowed me.

It was an exceptionally cold spring so we each got a "turtle" to sleep with.  They are large metal canteen-like things that are covered in Bryan's handmade felted sweater scraps.  Those things were lifesavers!

Cloth just out of the indigo dye pot oxidizing in the air, ready for another dip.

Here is my second jacket, just finished with the design work and ready to start sewing.

The expert hands of Kieko, a master kimono maker.  She came in several days to teach us the traditional way of sewing our jackets.  

One of the hard things for me was learning how to read a Japanese yardstick!  No numbers, using metric...oy...

Here Keiko is using a kote, a heated tool that marks several layers of fabric at once.

And there were animals, how good can it get?!  Here is White Boots, son of Julie (who was never around long enough to take many pics).  They were very good mousers...I'll leave it at that.

Morning walks with a chance to get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.  Something that is not all that common.  

Gardens and laundry along our walk.

Our chopstick holders.

Keiko and me upon completion.  Whew!

The last day in Tokyo we stumbled on Vivienne Westwood's shop.  Cool door handles.

There will be other posts about Japan.  We visited Kyoto and Tokyo with LOTS of fabric and clothes shopping.  More soon!  I'm off to Shakerag Workshops.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

My Responses Are Not Being Published

Hi Friends,

I just realized that my replies to your comments have not been published in the last month or so!  My apologies if you have commented and I have not responded.

I've been on several chat boards, looked on the Blogger Q and A's, spent the last two days trying things but nothing works.

I'm also not being signed in automatically when I open my blog like I've always been and I get a "Whoops something happened" alert after clicking "Sign In".  It signs me in after I delete that window tho...

If any of you have had this trouble with Blogger and resolved it can you let me know?

Thanks so much,


PS, that sweet owl is another Ann Wood pattern.  My first but not my last owl!

Friday, March 8, 2019

LA Fabric and Clothing Sale

I was in LA for a few days.  I went down just to catch the closing sale of Claudia Grau, a designer I've followed for many years.
She had a store on Melrose in the 80's, then moved to Crossroads of the World on Sunset for many years.
She is an amazing designer, always working on new ideas from eco printed cashmeres to one of a kind fabulous textile clothing.
Her email said there would be fabric (!) and trims for sale, too.  I had to go.  And I wasn't sorry.  I arrived on a rainy Wednesday morning and was greeted warmly by Claudia.  I spent two hours in her studio/shop finding the most amazing collection of fabrics, trims and buttons.
I'm writing this post to say that if you are anywhere in the LA area over the next month you should stop by and see what she is offering.  Prices are incredible and the selection is so interesting!

Here's the info...

March 6th-30th
Wednesday-Saturday ONLY 
6671 Sunset Blvd. Suite 1517
Hollywood, CA 90028
A peak of the clothing for sale.

So many pieces!

The haul...

Textured knits, the red one over-dyed by Claudia

Beautiful trims.  Claudia said she has had the fabric on the right since she was a child!  We collectors start early.

Vintage Irish linen.  No, it wasn't $10 but worth every penny.

Thai silks.


Various smaller cuts.

Italian stretch with sequins (so gorgeous, the photo doesn't do it justice!)

And Claudia, such a sweet woman!

Go if you're in the area and tell her Gayle said hi!  And a big thanks to my husband, Joe, for schlepping wasn't light!

Monday, February 4, 2019

This and That

Its Sunday night, (the Super Bowl is playing and I'm trying to ignore it--I bet there's gonna be a LOT of blog posted tonight having to do with sewing).  It's 6 o'clock in the evening here on the Central Coast of California and it's still kinda light!  Yay!!!  Winter is on it's way out...slowly... but even so.

I've been cleaning out my work area, stash, old patterns, you name it, I'm getting it into someone else's hands.  Feels good.  And, I'm using my fabrics; some of them have been hanging around for a long time.  More on what I am making with them in a future post.

The idea of a hip purse has appealed to me for a long time.  I see them on the runway sometimes and think they would be really useful when visiting large cities.  I've been diddling around with a few ideas.  Most of them have not worked.  Some have possibility, one is getting close.  I'll show you in order of success, the LEAST successful one first.

Here is a purse I've posted before but wanted to show you because I love the shape of creel bags and thought it might adapt well to a hip purse.  It's made with hand painted canvas so it has plenty of body.

Here is a prototype of the creel bag I thought I could convert from an over-the-shoulder style.  This has serious fabric choice issues but then it was only supposed to be a muslin.  Its stretch denim, just not enough body.  But I like how it looks.

The bottom was sagging like two things I won't mention, so I stitched a few pin dice, it didn't help.  Then I inserted a thick interfacing in the bottom.  Now it sticks out like a clown bag.  But hey, I'm gonna wear it once just to see how it works.  Onward...

I think this one has possibilities.  It is a Marcy Tilton purse pattern that is on sale right now on Vogue Patterns!  It calls for leather or leather type fabric so it is a bit more detailed than I wanted so I just used the base pattern.
The fabric is a mix of two pieces by Miles Frode that are hand stenciled and painted plus a piece I bought from a delightful man outside the Met in New York several years ago.
I'm excited about testing this one on the mean streets of Carmel next week when I attend the first ever Carmel Design Outside The Lines.

The back; fabric by that really nice guy in New York.

This is my year to work on painted fabric.  I visited Holly Badgely's studio with my friend, Sharon, for three days.  Holly provided such a lovely space, her time and expertise, plus she mixed all of our paints!  
These are vintage monogrammed linen napkin that I picked up at an estate sale for nothing.  They had stains and holes but were meticulously starched and pressed!  Hope springs eternal.  
You can see the black patches, they add so much.

I painted them and then created a silk screen to funk it up a bit.  I love them, monograms, mended holes and all.

I overdyed another set of napkins and then stenciled them using Holly's stencils.  
I am really excited about this direction.  I love making utilitarian things.  These small homewares are right up my alley.

I know, this post is all over the place.  It's just that it's been so long since I posted.  Hang in there.

My handwork of choice for the last few years has been coasters, again, utilitarian.  They make wonderful gifts, and are so fun and portable to make.  I made these a few years ago and use them in my studio.

 I made these at an Oregon coast sewing retreat last week.  Glorious weather, great friends, food, beach walks...heaven.  

From our living room!

This was just one of the pieces of fiber art in the Portland airport.  It seems like I'm seeing more textile art, does it seem that way to you?

And I just have to end with my latest Ann Wood bird.  An owl, actually.  My first, not my last!  The next one's tummy needs to be fatter!  Get ready, there will be more birds in the future.  Just saying.