Friday, March 30, 2012

End of an Era

I've talked previously about my inability to focus solely one "craft" and the way that I get so excited about new classes where I might try something out. I don't think it's necessarily a negative thing, but the downside of it is that I wind up with materials and supplies that aren't getting used.

For two decades before I called myself a quilter, I was a weaver and spinner. A few years ago I finally sold my loom, but mounds of yarn remained. It took my neighbor Pam, who wanted to check my weaving yarn stash, to help me get brave enough and organized enough to finally sell it and a couple weekends ago we had a killer yarn sale. We sorted wool from cotton from silk and priced things at less than half the going retail rate. Pam told her weaving guild about the sale, I mentioned it at our quilt guild meeting, and Paul posted signs around the neighborhood. The weather was unseasonably lovely for a March morning, and we sat out in the driveway surrounded by tables of yarn sorted by color.

Though we were quite amused by a few of the people who read the "yarn sale" signs as "yard sale," and stopped dead in their tracks when the saw the tables full of wool, mohair, cotton, and silk, the best part was how happy people were with their purchases. Any textile aficionado can relate to the thrill of getting a steal-of-a-deal on new materials, and I loved when people told me what they planned to make, or the way something would combine perfectly with their stash at home.

Despite having sold pounds and pounds of yarn, I was left with quite a bit at the end of the morning. I put an ad on Craigslist that night—$100 takes all. By the time I got home from dinner at 10 pm I had a taker, and she arrived the next day to pick it all up and take it home to her daughters, who were just learning to weave and knit. She sent me an email that evening, letting me know that one daughter was knitting, the other finger-knitting, and they were all dreaming of what they'd do with the rest. It was so hard to admit that it was time to let the yarn go and so it was especially lovely to know that what sat on my studio shelves for years was inspiring others to create.

How about you? Have you ever admitted it was the "end of an era" and divested yourself of supplies? Did you miss them? Or was it a good thing?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

To some, sewing is "just" housework (but not to Natalie Chanin)

In a Dec. 14 essay in the New York Times food section, writer Jennifer Steinhauer bemoaned people who buy store-bought goods and pass them off as homemade at bake sales and potlucks. She acknowledged that there are many reasons why someone might do this, including the fact that some people think cooking is boring. And it was that paragraph that struck a chord with me. She says:

"I do not have anything against people who do not bake. The culinary arts, for those with no interest in them, are nothing more than housework. While some of us hammer out life's frustrations with a whisk to batter or sharp knife to shallots, others prefer to take a toothbrush to the sink. Or they ride a bike or something."

That second sentence is the one the got to me, on many levels. First, of course, is that it's easy to replace "the culinary arts" with "the textile arts" and the fact that people who have no interest in sewing think it "is nothing more than housework." The idea that a person can take pleasure and exert creativity while stitching isn't on the radar for these folks, and that gets back to my observation that when you tell someone at a party that you're a quilter, they assume you're a boring old woman and quickly find someone else to talk with.

Of course the other problem I have with all of this is that sewing and cooking and housework are all traditionally "women's work," not valued or worthy of consideration in the greater world of commerce and industry. So silly.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with Natalie Chanin. This film about her and her work appeared earlier this week on Etsy's blog and is such a fine example of women who understand the pleasure and power of sewing. And the way Chanin provides people with a satisfying and creative way to make a living is an example of industry and commerce at its best. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Moda designers and a giveaway

On the right-hand side of this page you can see a number of the places I'm privileged to write for. But one that's missing (and I'd better do something about that) is Moda Fabrics. For the past year-and-a-half I've worked with Lissa Alexander, Moda's Director of Marketing and one of the most talented people around. She's the big-picture thinker for Moda's advertising campaigns, Market booths, etc., etc., and a quilter extraordinaire, to boot. I've worked with Lissa to write designer profiles and copy for their Market catalogs, and I continue to write for Moda's blog The Cutting Table.

I've had the opportunity to chat with some very visual, interesting, and fun designers while doing this work. One of them is Lucie Summers, whose new line for Moda is Summersville. Before I knew she'd be designing for Moda and met her at Market, I'd admired Etsy shop, where she sells screen-printed fabrics of her own design and lovely bone china mugs (which I'd been not-so-secretly coveting). A high point of October Market (that's her picture at the top of the blog post) then, was meeting Lucie and getting my hands on one of those lovelies. I drank my tea from that mug yesterday as I wrote this piece about her, hoping to channel some Lucie spirit into the profile. Such a funny, friendly gal!

The other person I wanted to mention is Jenn Ski. Jenn lives on the East Coast and and is a fanatic about mid-century design. She is also a fanatic thrift-shopper (as is there some connection between rummage and talent?) Jenn is featuring a giveaway on her blog of fabrics from her Moda line, Ten Little Things. She's accepting entries until Monday, March 19, so get on it!

And remember to check out The Cutting Table periodically. In addition to profiles, there's lots of good information about fabrics, notions, finding time to sew, and even software and app recommendations. Well worth a visit!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Alebrijes from Oaxaca

Martin Melchor & Melinda Ortega wrap toucan carving
I learned so much on my trip to Oaxaca, and was given so much to think about. Specifically, I was faced with the realities of trying to make a real living when your sole occupation is crafts, and what happens when those crafts become difficult to sell.

Epafanio Fuentes carving with machete
My (new) friend Mike, an anthropologist who has done extensive research (indeed, written a book) about alebrijes took me to meet Saúl Arágon and his family and translated my interviews for me. It's a complex issue and you can read a bit about it in today's Etsy post. Suffice it to say, I came home with many, many alebrijes.

Saúl Aragón talking about some of his family's carvings
More photos of Oaxaca can be found a couple of posts back.
Anna & Alma painting at the Aragón home

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Going head-to-head over buttons

Shell buttons
If you've arrived here from my Etsy post on button competitions, you might enjoy seeing a few more photos that I took when I visited button collectors Kareen and Barb. I love people who are obsessive and these two women are definitely all about buttons. The walls of every room in Kareen's home were decorated with framed trays of buttons she'd entered in competitions, as well as trays still "under construction."
Moonglow buttons

Sorting buttons: note pill bottles for storage
Carefully categorized buttons
A tray of sewing-related buttons
Buttons are mounted with plastic-covered copper wire
Framed tray of jet buttons
The great thing about collections is that by tweaking what one collects just a bit, there is always something new to search for. These women had tremendous knowledge about the buttons they loved. Thanks for sharing your buttons and know-how, Barb and Kareen.