the World Famous Crochet Museum November 17, 2006

Cathy of California tipped me off to the new World Famous Crochet Museum, curated by Shari Elf, on Highway 62 in Joshua Tree. I’ve always wanted to go out to the national park, and never had a chance yet in the year and a half we’ve been living in LA, so now we’re definitely planning a trip… maybe for my birthday in January? I can’t wait to see all the crochet-ness in person.

world-famous crochet museum

It’s open on weekends during the winter from 12-5, along with the Art Queen Gallery and an adjoining biodiesel station. Besides the museum’s own website, you can also check out Ann Magnuson’s review of their opening party, and a flickr slide show of photos by Mark Pritchard. Thanks to Cathy for spreading the gospel of vintage craft!

ReForm School grand opening party this Saturday night! November 16, 2006

Last month my friend Alexis and I stopped by ReForm School in Silver Lake for the first time, and within minutes I spotted the Jill Bliss address book I’d been coveting. I also fell in love with a bright, beautiful papier mache bowl from Wola Nani, a collective of women artists in South Africa living with AIDS. I held steady at just two purchases, but it was tough. The owners, Billie and Tootie, have a great eye for all kinds of amazing, stylish handmade and recycled pieces, with an emphasis on the home — but there are also plenty of t-shirts, kids’ stuff, books, stationery, and accessories in the mix.

So hands down, it’s my favorite store in Los Angeles, and I’m so looking forward to their grand opening party this Saturday night! There will be door prizes, ukelele music from Uni, their fabulous Art-O-Mat dispensing art pieces, and 20% off everything in the store. Plus artist Lisa Congdon, who sells her striking quilted pillows in the shop, will be in attendance (and look for a solo show of her work there in February, too).

Reform School GRAND opening

Hope to see you there — Andrew and I will be going on the early side, after dinner at my favorite restaurant in the neighborhood, the Kitchen.

p.s. I’ve also heard a rumor that ReForm School is going to start hosting MacGyver-style craft nights in the near future… stay tuned.

Bird Call encore November 15, 2006

I got to stop by Susie Ghahremani‘s opening at Giant Robot on Saturday night, which was amazing. Her beautiful paintings were gorgeously arranged on every available wall space (150 is a lot of pieces!), and people were snapping them up at a dizzying speed. I looked at everything and saw that my absolute favorite piece was still unclaimed, so I got in the line of hopefuls waiting to buy her work. I kept my fingers crossed the entire time, watching everyone ahead of me choose what they wanted, and hoping that nobody else fell in love with the one I’d spotted… and sure enough, ten or fifteen minutes later, M4 was mine!

my painting from Bird Call!

Here it is, my red record player! I am so thrilled.

I got to chat with Susie for a second and congratulate her on her show — which is just stunning. It’s up through December 6, if you’re in the city and have time to go. The collection of her work is lovely, and it’s framed with hand-painted birds and flourishes all around the installation. I’m definitely going back to see everything again in a more relaxed setting than the bustle of opening night!

update: Here is a super cute picture of Susie at the show, hanging out with her little birds. Bonus: my teeny little record player painting is off to the right with its red dot.

If you go:
Giant Robot
2062 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
310-445-9276

Own It Love It, Felt Club edition November 14, 2006

It’s no surprise that I love cool handmade stuff, I’m sure, but I haven’t had a chance to spotlight most of my adored pieces over here yet. So I’m doing a new little series: Own It Love It, featuring some of my most-prized crafty things, new and old.

I went to Felt Club on Sunday and discovered some new instant favorites! Yesterday Nicole and I went downtown to shop for fabric and jewelry supplies and I got her to snap a pic of me wearing everything in front of the mothership, Michael Levine.

Own It Love It, November Felt Club edition

First up is my new Queen Puff Puff headband — just the thing to keep my long thick hair out of my face in style. Now that I have bangs for the first time since 1995, I can’t tell you how much I love having this cute little vintagesque piece to make them behave! QPP makes these bands in tons of great fabrics, and some of them are reversible, too.

I also got this charming little scissors necklace from Charcoal Designs, which I adore. The little scissors even “cut” so you can wear it closely-fitting or as a more open style. It’s so cute with everything, I want to wear it every day. Love it.

And especially now that I’ve fallen hard for Gocco myself, I just had to get this hand-printed Craft or Die t-shirt from Darling Designs. The detail pic is actually of the matching denim tote bag I picked out too — both of them are beautifully done. Plus I got to fill up my new bag with all my fabric and beads purchases yesterday, instead of having to lug around a bunch of ugly plastic ones from store to store.

I’m so, so bummed that I’ll miss next month’s fabulous Felt Club XL (I’m flying to New York the very same day, unfortunately)… so I had to get my holiday shopping started early this year! Of course I’m not posting any pics of the presents I got in case certain people are reading this… but you can be sure I found some great stuff. Mark Dec. 9 on your calendar, and get there early for the killer crafty gift bags. Hooray for Felt Club — I’ll see you in 2007!

It’s etsy time! November 13, 2006

After a weekend of back-end updates and migration, etsy is back in its brand-new v2 incarnation! The site has been overhauled and reorganized in a million different ways — I won’t try to cover all the changes, but here’s a thread with some info and a comparison chart if you’re interested.

I love etsy, but unless I’m looking for one specific thing, I get so overwhelmed browsing the thousands and thousands of things for sale… so if you feel like taking a spin around the new site, how about trying the sampler option on the home page? It automatically pulls up 100 random sellers and shows you a page of handy little thumbnails to look through, and you can just click on any that look intriguing. If nothing grabs you, just refresh to try again.

And if you’re already thinking holiday gifts, may I suggest the Indie Craft Documentary etsy shop? Faythe Levine has gathered cool handmade donations from artists and crafters coast to coast to help finance her Indie Craft Documentary project.

Indie Craft Documentary t-shirt

There are a few dozen lovely things to choose from, with more added all the time — like the ICD t-shirt, a grab bag from Art Star Gallery, crocheted circle pillow covers from Adorn, and (shameless crossover alert, sorry) one of my susanstars a-line skirt kits. All the money goes directly to the film project, so don’t forget, you’re shopping for a very good cause! (And if you’d like to donate something you made, e-mail Faythe at indiecraftdocumentary@gmail.com.)

Faythe and her partner-in-film Micaela O’Herlihy will be criss-crossing the country going to craft fairs and events for the next few months — you can keep up with them on their blog, and if you’re interested in hearing more about the project, I recently got to interview Faythe about it, too.

Bird Call this weekend in LA November 10, 2006

This Saturday night is Susie Ghahremani’s Bird Call opening at Giant Robot — I can’t wait!

Susie Ghahremani's show at Giant Robot!

I love her work, and there will be a lot to see — she’s showing a series of 150 paintings, from “mini to not-so-mini” in scope. Click the link above for a gorgeous sneak peek. The show will be up through December 6 if you can’t make the opening itself, too.

Then on Sunday, there’s the amazing once-a-month eastside crafty marathon: the Rose Bowl flea market in Pasadena (go early!), Felt Club at the Echo from 11-4, and finally, a LA Church of Craft meeting at a brand-new location:

Where: Sugarbutterbex in Highland Park
5110 York Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90042
When: Sunday, November 12
2:00 until 5:00 pm or so

Nancy Pelosi is crafty! November 8, 2006

Congratulations to Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives! I couldn’t be more thrilled that a woman will be leading the majority party in the House for the first time, starting in January.

This LA Times article from 2003 is a fascinating look at her life, from her childhood in Baltimore to her successful political career in California, and even reveals her creative side:

Nancy Pelosi juggled two roles — mom and rabid Democrat — during her first 15 or so years in San Francisco. If forced to pick between the two, however, there is little doubt which she would have chosen. As her four daughters and a son grew older, she would say she wished she could take them out in the rain, shrink them and start over.

She was the doting mother who carpooled in her red Jeep Wagoneer, drove on class field trips to the Old Mint, brought cupcakes to school and hand-stitched her children’s Halloween costumes, including an elaborate angel outfit with a pink dress and silver wings that her youngest daughter, 32-year-old Alexandra, still has.

I love that she sewed Halloween costumes for her five children and made cupcakes for their classes, all while volunteering and working in politics. I’d like to see a picture of that angel costume, but in the meantime, here’s a cupcake in honor of her latest win — congratulations!

A cupcake for Nancy Pelosi!

Craft the Vote November 7, 2006

Today is finally election day in the U.S., and I’m on pins and needles wondering about the results tonight, especially on Measures 43 and 44 in Oregon — I got to vote by mail last week. If you haven’t made it out to the polls (or stopped by the ballot drop box, for my fellow Oregonians), please make time to go vote today! Cake + Pie posted a very handy guide to finding your polling place, and registering for next time, in case you’ve moved recently, too.

Last weekend I went up to San Francisco to see the Gee’s Bend quilts at the DeYoung Museum, which was just amazing. I’m so grateful I had the chance to see them — the exhibit closes Dec. 31, so if you have time in the next two months, I wholeheartedly recommend visiting!

Quilts of Gee's Bend at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco

I wandered around looking at all the quilts and marveling at all that intricate hand-stitching and color piecing. Super inspiring. My favorites were the bright, bold colors and patterns, but one intricate Housetop Log Cabin variation, quilted by Irene Williams in 1975 with “VOTE” fabric, caught my eye as a gorgeous example of craftivism:

Irene Williams' Vote quilt

In a thoughtful Boston Globe article about the touring quilt show, Cate McQuaid discussed this piece:

This isn’t the first time Gee’s Bend has garnered national attention; identified as one of the most impoverished communities in America during the Depression, it got both federal funds and media attention.

In the 1960s, Gee’s Benders were in the news again, when, after some of them protested for voting rights with Martin Luther King Jr., ferry service to the community was cut off. In 1975, Irene Williams made a quilt striped with red, white, and blue banners reading ”Vote” to mark the struggle.

Here’s an insert from the upper right-hand corner:

insert from Irene Williams' Vote quilt

The night my friends Meredith, Nicole, and I went to the show, the museum also hosted an event with the San Francisco Quilters’ Guild and we got to meet several of the members and see their beautiful work. They were so warm and encouraging to us as beginning quilters, and offered lots of helpful advice… a really lovely bonus after seeing all the gorgeous work.

I also got to meet up with the wonderful Natalie from CRAFT with my friend Jo at my favorite bead store, Beyond Beads, and stop by the fabulous Stitch Lounge for the first time. As always, I just love San Francisco and I can’t wait to make it back to the Bay Area — I’m hoping to come up for my birthday in January and visit the Museum of Craft and Folk Art.

ETA: Just saw this piece on Your Daily Awesome about the Polling Place Photo Project, a very cool way to “document democracy.” Take a look and bring your camera along with you to vote today.

November 2006: Fall Into Crafting! November 3, 2006

As the nights get longer and the days get colder, a whole new round of crafty books are popping up — just in time for you to start thinking about all the cool holiday gifts you might want to concoct… or the cozy scarves you want to piece together… or the trash you’re ready to turn into treasure. Here are five of the best new books around, covering everything from stitching and wire-wrapping to repurposing secondhand debris into all kinds of stylishness.

Craft books for my November West Coast Crafty column!

I had a chance to ask all the writers about the process of creating such cool books, and their favorite projects — thanks so much to Melissa Rannels, Melissa Alvarado, Hope Meng, Jenny Hart, Tsia Carson, Amy Butler, and Lindsay Cain.

Sew Subversive, by Melissa Rannels, Melissa Alvarado, and Hope Meng
Sew Subversive, by Melissa Rannels, Melissa Alvarado, and Hope Meng

This sewing book from the owners of San Francisco’s Stitch Lounge is perfect for the DIY fashionista-in-training, covering everything from which side of the fabric faces out (the party side, naturally — the business side hides all your boring seams and hems) to how to set up your sewing space and troubleshoot your stubborn tension issues. The emphasis here is on restyling your boring or too-big clothes into something super-personalized and cool, with plenty of advice and fun suggestions along the way, and lots of illustrations and photos to keep it easy.

Melissa, Melissa and Hope say: Our book is really a manifestation of what we’ve done with our business, Stitch Lounge: we teach curious creatives how to make their own fashion using some basic sewing techniques. When writing the book, we drew from actual experiences we had while learning, or that we’ve observed in our students. For instance, we see a lot of students get stuck when trying to remember how to load the bobbin into the sewing machine; we include a well-illustrated section in our book on the right way to do that. We also framed the lessons around real-life experiences like getting to work and having a button pop off! We work through the whole scenario from locking the bathroom stall to using a safety pin as a spacer to make sure you can get the button closed again. The language not only tells a story that readers can relate to, but it teaches the reader a useful skill as well.

Projects from Sew Subversive
photo by Matthew Carden

Their favorite project: Not to sound too much like our moms, but we love all the projects for different reasons! For simplicity/ease, we love the leg warmer and tie wrist cuff projects. At Stitch Lounge, we have seen many potential new DIYers/seamsters completely intimidated by all the knobs and buttons and fancy sewing terms involved in traditional sewing. These two projects are ultra-easy yet ultra-fashionable ways of getting your feet wet in the vast world of clothing/accessory construction. For creativity, we love the pillowcase dress. We heart vintage prints and fabrics, and this project is a great way to incorporate a vintage look for less. Finally, for reuse, we love the sweater scarf project. It’s a great way to reinvent those old sweaters sitting unworn in the back of your closet!

My favorite project: I love the Cut It Out! shirt with asymmetrical stylized topstitched leaves–a nice update to a plain old t-shirt incorporating plenty of cool negative space.

Craftivity, by Tsia Carson
Craftivity, by Tsia Carson

Tsia Carson, founding editor of Supernaturale.com, has gathered an array of 40 projects from contributors of all stripes. When I say array, I certainly mean it: they range from hand-knitting a hammock to creating graffiti using woodland moss as a medium, with plenty of other intriguing alt-housewares, accessories, and gifts along the way. The book is also unsurprisingly gorgeous in look and feel, reflecting Tsia’s background as a designer and maker extraordinaire.

Tsia says: There was so much madness in putting together this book because of all the contributors involved — some quite far flung. And I guess I am so proud that the book is so close to the original vision of a large multi-craft look at alt-DIY — rather than a single craft book. My favorite memories are that we had a series of craft-ons where many of these projects were tested and made for the book. The NY chapter of the Church of Craft came out in full effect along with many of the book contributors. We spent warm early fall days last year in the backyard eating and hanging out and making stuff. There are some nice photos in the back of the book of this.

Projects from Craftivity
Her favorite project: Gosh, there are so many projects I love in this book. It is so hard to choose! There are a few I am feeling currently because of the cooler fall weather. One of my favorites is the moth embroidered sweater by Jennifer Kabat. In this project you take a beloved sweater eaten by pesky moths and embroider the holes with a buttonhole stitch in a contrasting thread, thereby stablizing the hole and making a beautiful pattern across the sweater. But then I love Scott Bodenner’s Chandy which is on the cover, Lana Le’s Pom Pom rug and Jenny Hart’s embroidered screen door… There are also many “showcases” through out the book which just show some genius project that you might not want to do yourself. These are all jaw-droppers, and two of my favorites are Jesse Alexander’s ocean marbelized paper and Madelon Galland’s upholstered tree stumps… but I could go on and on and on.

My favorite project: I especially like Annette Kesterson’s sleek Button Cuff, which she aptly describes as “simple and wholesome but also elegant.”

Sublime Stitching, by Jenny Hart
Sublime Stitching, by Jenny Hart

Sublime Stitcher Jenny Hart has put together hundreds of new embroidery patterns in this charming book, and extra-nice touches like a lie-flat spiral binding and neat little inside-cover pockets for your patterns are the icing on the cupcake. Jenny demystifies the techniques and stitches of embroidery with humor and energy, while the inspiring photographs of her work give you all kinds of ideas for getting started — stitching guitars on ties? Well, why not?

Jenny says: This book was basically an answer to the demand for more, more, MORE! People wanted more patterns. And since the Stitch-It Kit has been such a huge success, we decided to make this a companion book to that- expanding the instructions, doing all new projects and of course, new patterns! There are over 90, so I hope that will hold people for a while. I had to figure out how many designs I’d have to create a day to meet the deadline (three a day).

I love working on the projects and combining the designs in such a way that is meant to inspire the reader. They are free to use the patterns just as they are, but I designed them really to be a starting point for their own creativity. I had fun stitching up the bag in the front of the book, with the Scottie dogs. I combined a cross-stitch with a hidden stitch along the top edge in black and white, which is so simple, but not usually done. I hope the reader will notice details like that and see the possibilities.

Shhh... Baby Blanket from Sublime Stitching
Her favorite project: I think my favorite is the baby blanket that says “Shhhh.” The patterns in this book are a little more traditional offerings, but I like that even in that realm you can do something very sweet and unexpected. I’ve never seen a baby blanket that reads “Shhhh” and it seemed like the perfect message to put in embroidery on the edge of the blanket, right under their little nose.

My favorite project: I just adore the pillowcases and sheet set that Jenny embellished with a mix of colorful hanging lanterns — that’s first on my list!

In Stitches, by Amy Butler
In Stitches, by Amy Butler

Amy Butler, renowned fabric and pattern designer, has created a new collection of “simple and stylish sewing projects” for the home in this beautiful spiral-bound hardback, including both everyday necessities like a CD holder and desktop organizer created out of coordinating fabrics and little luxuries like a comfortable-chic kimono. Paper patterns for many of the projects are tucked into a neat folder at the front of the book. Her Midwest Modern aesthetic flourishes throughout, and the results are equally inviting and inspiring.

Amy says:The feel of the book is very consistent with how I approach my sewing patterns and when it came to finalizing the content, it was natural for me to organize the projects by lifestyle, living spaces and personal style. It took me seven months to produce In Stitches with the help of some very talented seamstresses in my community. We had an elaborate writing/testing/editing process to get down to the final 25-plus projects. Some of the projects were doozies to test like the Decorative Patchwork Throw, just the measuring, and re-measuring to make sure all of my increments were correct took a great deal of extra time, but well worth the effort! It usually takes me 3-4 months to complete one pattern so to work through 25 projects so quickly sort of revolutionized my pattern development process. I learned so much, it was incredibly rewarding to turn in the final manuscript! I’m so proud of all the work everyone did to contribute to the end results.

One of my favorite qualities of the book is the range of projects, from simple to a bit more complex. The idea to have ” something for everyone ” at every level of sewing was important to me, and the ” voice” or instruction approach had to be easy to follow. I’ve had a lot of nice comments from folks who have purchased In Stitches but don’t sew yet! I can’t think of a better compliment.

Wide-Leg Lounge Pants from In Stitches
Her favorite project: I love my Wide Leg Lounge Pants project because the pants are very simple to make, easy to customize and they transition easily from the couch to a dinner party! I have very long legs (I’m 6 feet tall) so being able to make my lounge pants as long as I need to is an extra bonus. The shape of the legs is dramatic and they make me feel quite elegant when I wear them. I also think they make the perfect gift! They make up beautifully in quilting fabrics or flannel.

My favorite project: I think the Big Dot Pillow is just the thing for my living room!

Get Your Sparkle On, by Lindsay Cain
Get Your Sparkle On, by Lindsay Cain

This stylicious jewelry-making primer from the owner of the Femmegems boutiques offers 25 shiny designs for bohemians, party girls, brides, beach babes and rock stars alike. The common thread here is an easy and accessible, but high-fashion, feel, and the book is filled with light-hearted extras like “Great Moments in Bling” and a list of “Rock Songs” (like “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” and “Ruby Tuesday”) — call up your girlfriends up and plan a ladies’ night in to string your beads with one hand while pouring the next round of margaritas with the other.

Lindsay says: The book was really driven by the lack of a book like it in its category. No one had broken the mold of a conventional how-to jewelry manual and given it a spirited fashion slant. We included editor interviews, peeks inside real women’s jewelry boxes, flea market makeovers, etc. in order to do this and break up the monotony of the expected project-project-project lay out. The “gemstyles” (Park Avenue, Rock Star, Bohemian…) as an organizational approach to the book is what I think makes it such a fun read too, even for someone with no intention of making jewelry! The pop-quiz and timeline are both very humorous – I’ve gotten a lot of positive response to both of them.

Tassel Earrings from Get Your Sparkle On
Her favorite project: I love the Tassel Earrings project because it takes a decorative household item which is playful and beautiful but transforms so easily into a feisty pair of earrings. It could be great for an over-the-top New Year’s event, or preppy-chic with the simplest outfit and loafers. Either way they are sure to get noticed.

My favorite project: I was instantly drawn to the Chain, Chain, Chain Earrings — they’re a cascading mix of faceted beads in smooth, pretty colors.

Day of the Dead in the City of Angels November 1, 2006

I celebrate Day of the Dead every year, but today was really amazing — I spent most of the day on Olvera Street here in Los Angeles, looking at beautiful shrines and colorful Dia de los Muertos trinkets of all kinds, and took lots of pictures. I put them all in a flickr set here, but one of my favorites is this one…

sugar skull flags!

I came home so excited to make my own altar after seeing so many incredible things, and choosing a few new pieces to add to my own mementos. I built my altar on my work table in what seemed like no time at all, and dedicated it mostly to my dad this year. I added my two favorite pictures of him from way long ago:

the main part of the shrine

This is just a little peek at my shrine — the whole thing is about three times as big — but I really love that center part of the altar. I have more pictures of everything here if you’d like to see them!

I’ve just started writing for the Adorn magazine blog too, and my first post (earlier this week) was also on how to make your own Day of the Dead shrines — with links to craft projects to make, traditional food and drink recipes, folk art, photos, and all kinds of inspiring ideas. I’d love to hear what you think!

And last, in the spirit of recognizing the sweetness of life mingled with the sadness of losing someone you treasure, I made up a new Mexican-style hot chocolate with a spicy heat that has been my treat of choice this week. If you’d like to try it, here’s the basic recipe:

1-1/2 cups of milk or soymilk
3 heaping spoonfuls of sweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghiradelli)
a generous shake of chipotle powder
a generous shake of cinnamon

Warm the milk in a pan and stir the cocoa powder into it until it’s dissolved nicely. As the cocoa heats, lightly sprinkle chipotle and cinnamon into it and keep stirring, tasting it as you go to so it’s just spicy enough for you (I like it strong but I know everyone doesn’t!). Take it off the heat when it’s steaming and pour it into your favorite cup.

You can also mix it half-and-half with black coffee to make a delicious mocha-cafe con leche drink with a spiky, spicy heat underneath.

p.s. I’ll be posting my usual first-of-the-month getcrafty column tomorrow instead of today — a review of five amazing new craft books! Stay tuned.

happy halloween LA-style October 31, 2006

This is my first Halloween in Southern California, and I have to admit that it was kind of strange to carve our pumpkin in 80-degree weather this weekend. Andrew handed the design and execution over to me (he did all the scraping out) and instead of a spooky face, I thought — I love so many things about Los Angeles, why not celebrate a couple of those?

So I carved my pumpkin to spotlight my favorite place here, the Observatory up in Griffith Park, and the trail that we take to hike up there from our house. And of course I had to add the Hollywood sign for good measure.

my Los Angeles pumpkin for 2006

I wish I had a picture of my all-time favorite pumpkin, from 2001 or 2002 — my friend Camela and I carved Mt. Hood and the Willamette River. I loved that one! Maybe next year I’ll try to re-create it.

Thanks to Jessica and Jeff for growing such a beautiful pumpkin right here in Los Feliz, and having us over to carve it in their garden, too…

the craft of acting October 30, 2006

I read a really intriguing article in the L.A. Times last week about Derek Luke and how he prepared for his new movie, the anti-apartheid drama “Catch a Fire.” He describes all the intricate work he did to play the role of “real-life South African hero Patrick Chamusso, who, after being arrested and tortured for a crime he didn’t commit, became a rebel fighter in the early 1980s.”

From the interview:

Several of Luke’s most emotionally powerful scenes are opposite Tim Robbins, who plays the coolly efficient torturer Nic Vos.

The two purposely didn’t rehearse. “I don’t like rehearsals,” said Luke. “I like to have the needle and the thread, but I don’t like to start knitting until I get on the set. We had a couple of run-throughs and we talked about it, but we never performed it.”

I have to say, I just love that he compared his exhaustive preparation to become and then inhabit his character to crafting — even if he did mix up his sewing-knitting genres a little bit!