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Our next fabric collection, Vintage 74, is finalized, and I’ll be putting in our order at the end of the week! It used to be that I would design a collection, place the order, and then introduce it shortly before it was due to arrive, with fingers crossed that it was well-received. That required me to guess at what would be the best-sellers (so I could order more), and also which ones would be slower, as well as selling the fabric after the fact. Over the years I’ve honed my skill at predicting, but I still lack a crystal ball, so inevitably I’d miscalculate on something.

 

After a few years of feeling frustrated that I was spending more time on sales than on design, we decided to change our model and pre-sell the fabrics to our wholesale customers, and then place our order based on those sales. Total game-changer. Now I know what my customers want, so I can make sure to order enough, and I can avoid the pitfalls that come with the occasional quirky print that worms its way into my heart… but fails to appeal to many others. It does take a little bit of the excitement out of the big reveals that used to happen at industry shows like Quilt Market, but it just means that the reveals happen online, as they do for most customers anyway.

 

Now I’m getting really excited for our upcoming collection, Vintage 74! This group started out as a loose collection of gouache paintings, but once I had them grouped and colored, they reminded me so much of my grandmother’s Michigan farmhouse where I would sometimes spend summers as a kid. I don’t have many photos of the inside, but it was surrounded by fields and meadows, with a flower garden in back. I remember kitchen valences made from a cottage-style floral (in my memory it was just like our Orchard print), and the windowsills were decorated with her colored glass collection in shades of rose and amber. There were wooden bowls full of sugared fruit, and little carved chicadees – endlessly fascinating to a kid. I was 10 or 11 when she sold the farmhouse and moved to town, but that house is still so vivid in my memory.

This collection should be landing in May, and I’m already making plans for summer sewing. The palette and prints really lend themselves to bright, summery designs, with a bit of a retro feel. As always, the fabrics are GOTS-certified organic, and will be printed on our premium poplin, and possibly on lawn as well (I hope so!).

The strike-offs are here! Today I received the second (and in this case, final) set of samples (also known as strike-offs) for our upcoming Vintage 74 collection. We thought we’d do a little video thing so you can see the fabrics firsthand. They should be available in May!

https://youtu.be/YhQSLyCXrlk

Happy Valentine’s Week! I’ve been trying to think of some nice things I could make for my little Valentines here, and I took some time to get crafty this week. I came up with 3 projects, and I thought I’d share them with you!

 

My Quilty Valentine

A few years ago, I made fabric valentines for Dave and Anabelle, and I wanted to do something similar this year. I decided to make a patchwork valentine, and it came out imperfect, but pretty cute!

I started by piecing the “cover” using spare scraps. Then I did a little embroidered message on the inside panel, using a water soluble pen to mark guidelines. (I realized the running stitch border was better added after quilting, so I removed it before I quilted the layers.)

Finally, I used the “sandwich method to join the layers, and I did a running stitch border around the message. Et voila!

Be My Valentine Cookies

My daughter is not yet interested in the joys of patchwork, but she is extremely interested in cookies. I found this recipe online, and whipped up some frankly delicious sugar cookies. They are likely to be a bigger hit with the younger set than the mini quilt (though I’m hoping the quilt lasts longer).

Romantic Rose Salt Scrub

This one’s a valentine just for me. My skin always gets drier in the winter, and it’s in need of some deep moisture, so I made a rose-scented salt scrub for exfoliation and moisturizing. It’s a super easy recipe, and makes my skin so soft. Rose essential oil and dried rose petals give it a fancy touch for Valentines day.

In a small bowl combine the following:

-1 1/2 cup coarse salt (I use about 1/2 cup coarse grey sea salt combined with 1 cup coarse white kosher salt, but you can experiment with different kinds)

-1/2 cup dried rose petals (I get these from the local Persian market, but you can usually find them at co-ops or the Whole Foods bulk section, or you can grow your own.

In a separate small bowl, pour about 1/3 cup oil. You can use a wide variety of oils, but this time I used a combination of almond oil and vitimin E oil. I sometimes use avocado oil, or sesame, and even olive oil will work well. You can also gently heat coconut oil and use that, but be aware it will alter the scent of your scrub (coconutty!). Add about 10 drops of rose essential oil to the bowl of oil, and then add the oil to the salt mixture and stir until well blended. Spoon into a mason jar or other pretty container. Your skin will thank you!

 

So, I had planned out this blog post for early December when we got our Modern Love collection in, but between Covid concerns, the holidays and an extremely pokey resident sewist (ahem, that would be me), we only just pulled off the photoshoot, and I do love to show the fabrics on people. (Thankfully, Mindy is a faster sewist than I am or it would be July before I got it done!) But I do want to put the collection up here before we’re completely sold out. It’s been really popular! So popular that I’m hoping to do a whole new colorway… more on that soon. For now, here’s some Modern Love (in Blue) eye candy.

The Heidi Top Pattern by Anna Allan in our Cool Cats print

This collection had started out as a group of stylized florals and geometrics, but it lacked a spark, so I polled my 10-year-old daughter and her best friend on what fabrics they wanted to see. On their advice (fabrics with Foxes, deer and cats), I added the Twilit forest and Cool Cats, plus the small scale print that became the Woodland Floral prints, and suddenly they all worked together really nicely.

The Matcha Top by Sew Liberated in our Woodland Floral Dawn print

The fabrics are all poplin, and as always, the fabric is 100% GOTS-certified organic. However, unlike most of our collections in the past, this one is printed digitally. That makes very little difference to the fabric quality, but it is even more eco-friendly than screen printing, as there is less water usage and less waste.

The Mississippi Avenue Dress by Sew House Seven in our Modern Meadow print

Although all of the samples shown here are clothing, the fabrics are perfect for quilting too, as well as lots of home decor projects and other crafts. The pokey sewist is going to work on a patchwork project next! 😉

Our Lila Lounge Pants (pdf pattern coming soon!) in the Liliana print

January is winding down already – how are you all? Usually, this month is a slow ramp up to the rest of the year for me, but this January has gone by like a shot. Admittedly, it’s been an eventful month (riots, inauguration, crazy politics, covid and new business), but also, I’m trying really hard to keep up with the (ambitious) new habits that I resolved to start this year, and they take some time. I’m not usually a big resolution girl, but this year I desperately needed a fresh start, and as I get older I’ve really noticed how the small things, good and bad, start to add up over time.

 

So, what are these new practices that are keeping me on my toes? First, I’ve started a new morning routine. One good way to develop a habit is to tie it into a habit that is already in place, so in addition to my morning coffee (existing habit), we each have a half lemon juiced into water (I like mine cold, Dave takes his hot). While the supposed health benefits of lemon water are varied, ultimately, I think it’s just a good way to get hydrated early, and have the added benefit of a tasty dose of vitimin C. Then I spend 1/2 hour writing in my journal. This is a habit I first started at the age of 8, and I’ve been at it off-and-on ever since. (Now I’m trying to get Anabelle to join me before school, and some days she does, but it’s spotty.) I can absolutely attest to the benefits of this one. From working through problems and freeing up my mental space, to just solidifying memories of the events in my life, I find this to be one of the most helpful practices I’ve developed. I have days where it feels like a waste of time, and I find myself documenting my breakfast foods, but overall it’s a great way to focus the mind and stimulate creative thinking.

 

 

I’m also trying to walk, or move my body, for an hour every day. Before the pandemic I would go to my gym, but it’s been 9 months since I’ve been there and I’ve been very inconsistent about exercise. Walking has always been my favorite form of exercise: it’s convenient, enjoyable and you can think while you do it. But lately there have been a flurry of articles about all the other benefits, from being surprisingly affective at warding off chronic illness, to benefits to the brain. I’ve always suspected that there was something about the left-right brain coordination that happens when you walk, because I’m usually able to work through problems and find creative solutions when I go for a walk. Plus, it feels really good to get out in nature, whether its an urban sidewalk lined with a strip of grass, or one of the designated open spaces I’m lucky to live near. Here’s a glimpse of my walk from today, a little rainy, but still beautiful:

 

 

Last Wednesday I added one more activity to my daily routine: I committed to a 100-day sketch challenge. I’ve been wanting to make drawing and painting a more regular thing, rather than just breaking out the paints when I’m working on a new collection, but so far I haven’t prioritized it. I needed to find a way to make time for it, and give it the importance that would allow me to do it when I have so many other pressing tasks to take care of. Wednesday, the day of the presidential inauguration, I decided that I would document this important chapter in time: a new administration, and hopefully, the waning days of the pandemic. I’ve stuck with it for 7 days now, and my subject matter has ranged from dramatic – the capitol on inauguration day, and a portrait of the amazing Amanda Gorman – to the mundane: the Japanese soda that my daughter gets as part of our Friday tradition (a blog post for another day), a cookbook, a houseplant. I’ve started out being quite tight and detailed, but that’s going to have to change because it just takes too much time, and I want to find a softer, more personal style. I think it will be a visual diary of sorts, the daily things that have significance, punctuated by the events going on in the country and the world. We’ll see. 7 down, 93 to go… Here are a few of the first drawings:

 

 

I know that doing all these things at once is kind of the classic set-up for resolution failure, but it has also felt really good to do a bit of a lifestyle overhaul, and take action on some of the opportunities for healthier habits. Now that life is a little more curtailed thanks to the pandemic, it seems like a good time to put a daily routine into place. From my own experience, it’s much easier to stick with a habit if it feels good, and right now, being healthier and having a bit of structure to my days is feeling great.

As I was waking up this morning I was thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. – it’s his day, after all – and just how timely his words and his messages are right now. I wanted to do something to honor him, and ended up working on a portrait. This is something I have no business doing – portraits are not my thing – and it doesn’t really look like him, but I really enjoyed spending some of my morning poring over his powerful face. It turns out portraits are much harder than they look. Who knew! (Now I do…).

 

When I was a kid, the teachers at my school would play a record of Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech on this day, and I remember loving to listen to his voice, and how powerful his message was then. But I also remember feeling that this terrible civil rights injustice had been solved. That it was history. Here we are, 40 years later, and his message is more important and more necessary than ever. Racism, and all the systemic injustices that spring from it, have definitely not been solved, and I’m shocked by how far we still have to go. But I do believe that the conversations that have been happening over the past years, and especially over the past 8 months since the killing of George Floyd, are moving us in the right direction. I’m sorry it has taken this long. Tonight Dave and Anabelle and I will listen so some of his speeches, reflect on his messages and wish him a happy 92nd birthday.

Reset, 2021

01/14

Hello, friends,

 

I started writing a new year’s post 10 days ago, full of light messages about fresh starts and blank pages. 2020 was a hard year and a wild ride for most of us, and although I found some solid silver linings to cling to, I was ready to wallow in the notion of a new beginning. Then I got distracted from my writing for a couple days, and by the time I returned, our congress was under siege, and I had a healthy reminder that our issues don’t just go away because our calendar has a new date.

 

Still, I feel hopeful. There are vaccines in production, important and overdue conversations about civil rights are happening, and we now have a government that believes in the threat of climate change and has vowed to address it. There’s a long way to go, but I believe we’re on the right path.

 

For me, 2020 started out looking one way: I went into the year feeling a little lost and burned out, and had planned to take a step back to reconsider the path forward. But then, along with the horrors of Covid 19, came a new reality and a new perspective. I got busy (really busy – thank you, customers!), which prompted me to get my creative cap back on and design new fabric. And for safety’s sake, I went back to being a 1-woman show, which reminded me how much I enjoy all the aspects of running this business. And then, being forcibly homebound has given me a much needed chance to rest and recharge. It feels almost wrong to credit such a terrible event with personal restoration, but I really needed this time to be with my people (while missing all my other people terribly), skip the errands and engagements, and stay home playing board games and working puzzles. If I were a different person I would grant myself those times without being forced to slow down, but apparently I don’t operate that way. It was definitely one of the silver linings I mentioned.

 

So now, as we start this new year, I’m feeling inspired and energized, and somehow more centered. I got to reconnect with some of the habits and projects that fuel my creativity, and I’m excited to share more of that here, a little more of the why (and also how) behind the fabric. Here’s wishing you a happy, creative, joyful and healthy 2021!

 

It took forever, but I finally got Anabelle to sit down with me and make some fabric face masks last week. She’s been a little sewing-resistant, but the lure of picking her own fabric, and the increasing sense of boredom with sheltering-in-place, eventually won out. It’s a really easy project for beginning sewists, and it’s quick, so there’s that immediate reward thing. She picked the Spots fabric for herself (pale pink with metallic gold dots), I chose There Be Dragons, and we used the Arrows print for Dave, who loves that red-orange color.

We used a combination of online tutorials, but eventually landed on a customized version of this one, with modified sizing. Although these are pretty good, I think I’m going to tinker a bit this week and try to improve, and maybe work on one using our knits, which are really soft and dense. I think they will make great masks, once I perfect a pattern.

Now that we’ve sewn some for ourselves, I’m getting ready to sew more to share. It’s a great project project if you have a machine, some fabric scraps and a little time to spare!

One of the first things I bought after moving to San Francisco many years ago was a tiny little potted olive tree that I saw sitting outside the Smith and Hawkins on Fillmore Avenue. It was just a twig with a little flounce of long, dusty green leaves, and I thought it would look nice in the window of my new apartment. It wasn’t until years (and several pot upgrades) later that I realized it could actually grow olives. I’m not sure why that hadn’t occurred to me – I guess I thought it was just ornamental, and olive trees do take a long time to fruit, especially if grown in apartment-dweller quarters.

A few years ago, ensconced in a giant new pot and set in a sunny part of the garden, olives appeared. Just a few the first year, then more, until this year it was covered, and I decided I really needed to harvest them and try, for real this time, to make cured olives.

If you’ve ever tried an un-brined olive, you know that they taste absolutely terrible. It was really hard to imagine the olives going from deeply bitter to anything resembling what comes in a jar. I did a little research online, and found that really, all you need is time – and salt. Following the advice of a few different online recipes (like this one: https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-brine-cure-olives-1327766), I prepared to treat my olives as if they were being lulled by the soft waves of the salty ocean while they hung off a pier in their brining bag. But instead, they just spent a month on the lower shelf of our kitchen island, submerged in saltwater.

First, I rinsed the olives and removed the leaves and stems. Then I cut a small slit lengthwise down each side, put them in a ceramic bowl and covered them with cool water. I used a small plate to keep them submerged, and left them on the shelf for three days.

After the initial water soak (which turned the water a deep, purplish-brown as the color and the bitterness, caused by a substance called Oleuropein, leeched out), you soak the olives in a saltwater solution for one month, changing the water solution weekly.

Drain and rinse the water-bathed olives in a colander, and return them to the bowl. To make the brine solution, dissolve 3 tablespoons of salt in 4 cups of water, and pour over the olives. Make sure the olives are submerged, and leave for 1 week. Repeat 3 more times, mixing a new saltwater solution each week. I did a little taste-test each week, and it was amazing how much more delicious they got over time.

Finally, after 1 month of leeching and brining, I enlisted my 9-year-old’s help and we did a last rinse and poured the olives into a wide-mouth jar (according to the Spruce recipe, this jar does not have to be sterilized). We mixed a solution of 1 1/2 Tablespoons salt to 2 cups water, added 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, and poured the solution over the olives in the jar. Voila – delicious homemade olives! I have to admit, I found the red wine vinegar to be a bit strong, so after a couple of days I poured the solution off and added straight salt water instead. I’m not sure if this will affect the preservation of the olives, but they’re so good they won’t last long.

There were a few olives left on the tree, so now we’re going to try a salt/oil curing technique on those. I’ll let you know how they turn out!


I’ve found myself with a little extra time to cook lately, not to mention a need for some dinner-time variety now that we’re no longer going to restaurants, and I’ve been using it to explore some of the gorgeous cookbooks I like to hoard- I mean, “collect”. I’ve been on a Middle-eastern food kick lately, sparked in part by the discovery of a fabulous Persian market nearby, and in part by my newest cookbook acquisition: Zaitoun by Yasmin Khan. Last night I put on some oud music and got started on a few of the recipes. Dinner was a delicious tabouli salad with fresh parsley, lemons and mint from the garden, homemade pita and flatbreads with za’atar, hummus, fresh feta and olives. Delish.

You can order her book here, and if you want to try the flatbread recipe, I saw it online here. It was very easy and rewarding, though it’s really helpful to have a pizza stone. I’m thinking of trying the eggplant kofta tonight…