Out with the Old, in with the New Year

On the last few days of the year I am vacationing with my husband. We are snow skiing and it is so beautiful that I wonder why I can't live here all the time. I wear a helmet when I ski and this year I made helmet bags for us. They're adorable, colorful fleece and I sewed straps on so they could be easily carried or hung up in the closet. The ones the stores sell are plain and expensive. A hip young snowboarder asked me where I got it and she was so impressed when I told her I made it! It was a simple and rewarding project and I urge you to try it, if not for yourself, for a friend.

I'm looking forward to a new year. This one has been tough for lots of reasons. Yes, I make resolutions. Of course they aren't your typical ones like make the bed (I already do), run a marathon (never), or give up wine (why would I do that?!) My resolutions are always broad enough that I feel I have no problem keeping them. I always say I will be nicer to my husband - and I think I am! I always say I will be a better person and I make the effort. I always say I will help someone less fortunate than me and I manage to do it. I always say I will see my parents as much as possible and I've been fortunate to do it. But this year will be different!

First, I will sew more. I love reading about it, talking about it and thinking about it. I need to carve out the time to do more of it myself. Next, I will visit my sister in Memphis and help her get to the next level. Talent needs direction and I'm up for the challenge. Third, I will work with my local ASG and start a neighborhood group. I've thought about it for a long time but that's all. Now that we have a local LA chapter (and I love the president!) it's time to do something.
Fourth, I will continue to see my parents more :). Finally, I will go to Alaska. I've wanted to for a long time. I wonder if writing it down will make it come true....... And maybe just one more thing - a double black diamond run down the slopes!

Peace, health, happiness and love to you and yours in 2009.

A Yard of Fabric, a Spool of Thread...

Recession. It's an ugly word. The news stations have recession logos they paste at the bottom of the screen when they run their doom and gloom stories on the economy. Everyday, it's the economic update, more casualties, more downturn, no relief in sight. Geez, you know its happening, you know it's bad, but somewhere on this huge earth there is good news. There are companies making it and consumers spending their hard earned money. My other job is retail. I've been at the same high end store for 11 years. I may as well say it, Williams Sonoma. OOHHHH, I can hear you, "that place is expensive", "you must be in a world of hurt", "your sales must be in the dumps". Let me start by saying I am not any sort of spokesperson for Williams Sonoma. I am on the lowest rung of the employees of this great company. I work in the trenches. I greet the people who walk in, offer samples, sell them what they need, thank them graciously, and on occasion work behind the scenes unloading the daily truck. I have a degree in film, not economics. But here is my take. There isn't a recession. There's a slowdown. There's a scare.

People want to spend their money. They want to give gifts and have parties, they want to cook up a storm. They are shopping. They're buying $100 knives and peppermint bark. They want Christmas towels and gingerbread bundt. They are hunting out that perfect gadget for their favorite cook. Granted, they are worried, and pensive, but they are shopping. Thoughtfully shopping. Is it so bad that people are planning purchases, thinking about what Grandma would really like instead of just picking up some stuff? Could the benefit of all this be that for the first time in a long time people are thinking before they spend? Do you remember how many gifts you got for Christmas? I don't, but I remember that they were well thought out. Gifts any kid would love (at least in 1974). Now it seems more about quantity. We are inundated by the bargains. Is there a bargain at the dollar store? What can you possibly buy for a dollar that isn't disposable or that someone would want? But we are wowed by that one dollar price. Forget that you'll have to buy another and another and another. It's a mindset.

Besides shopping smart, shop at home, in your neighborhood. We recently received an email from our favorite fabric store here in Santa Monica. The store has been there for years and years. Russell the wickedly creative owner has been at the helm and he is feeling the pinch. He doesn't drive a Jag, he is always there dispensing sewing advice, teaching cool classes, working on that dream. But there's this recession thing. And he sent an email saying help. Help my store. You are my most devoted shoppers and you're not shopping. He's not asking for people to come in and buy $2000 machines, (although that would help!) he is asking his loyal customers to buy a yard of fabric, a spool of thread, a pack of buttons.

Wow. I know this audience. You are a lot like me. Shelves of fabric, racks of thread, bins of buttons. What the heck, what's one more teeny little project looking at you? A yard of fabric makes a pillow, a handbag, some napkins. We always need thread. Bobbin thread for embroidery, that hot new color you have no use for (yet) but really want on your rack. Buttons to replace on that old navy jacket to make it hip and modern. But what you are really doing is saving your neighborhood, the roots of America. The only way to get out of a recession is for people to spend their money.

So get out there and shop! If you have a job and are not one of those people with an enormous amount of credit card debt then go forth and spend. Away with the recession and in with thoughtful spending. Out with huge retailers whose products are low priced and lower quality and in with retailers who support products made in the US and support your community. Buy things you enjoy, that stimulate the American economy. Shop where people are friendly, helpful and attentive. If a sales clerk treats you like your money is no good, move on. It's time for retailers to be more gracious to the customer. It's time for the customer to be more thoughtful when they choose where to spend their money. Turn off the news and stimulate the economy yourself!

Quality Photo Fabric Paper- Use your own Photos for Fabric Projects

by Susie Tilton
We've come a long way baby! I remember as a kid going to the t-shirt shop on vacation and picking out a design and a t shirt and having that huge hot press come down. They'd carefully peel back the paper and there was my souvenir. I still have one of those t-shirts. It is 32 years old, mustard colored with an owl that is cracking and peeling with age.
It seemed only natural that eventually, someone would figure out how we could do this at home with a photo.

The iron on photo paper has been around for a number of years, unfortunately it hasn't improved much. Your home iron is hardly hot enough or heavy enough to make it stick, and the design is likely to crack or peel after washing. Plus, the decal doesn't absorb ink color well, so the design never really saturated.

A few years back at a sewing show, Lori and I met a very creative gal also named Lori. Lori 2 was an artist and a chemist. She had perfected the greatest craft item I have ever seen. Fabric that is backed in paper and runs through a printer like paper. Your image is printed on the fabric from your computer or ink jet copier, you peel away the paper and voila. Scrap booking for sewers! What makes this product truly unique is the absorption of ink jet colors. If the photo was clear on the computer, it will print clear on the fabric. And Lori 2 created loads of fabric choices. Cotton denim, cotton poplin, a number of silks and linens. There is a fabric for every project. I have made neckties, silk scarves, pocketbooks, pillows, vests....so many terrific projects.

But don't limit yourself to just photos. We uploaded some great vintage images for Christmas and Halloween. The Christmas ones would make cute door hangers, ornaments or seasonal throw pillows. You may not know that my first passion is cooking, so I took my favorite Halloween image and embellished an apron!

The most popular use for the fabric in my sewing room is the throw pillow. It makes a great gift. A baby photo with the birth announcement embroidered on it, a picture of buddies and a happy birthday banner, or just a photo of a beloved pet. Whatever you choose, make sure the photo is clear. I like a 5x7 for a 12 x 12 pillow. Print the picture first, then dig around your scrap bin for colors and patterns that coordinate well. I like to make a quilt type pieced border around the outside of the pillow, a bold solid or small print in the center as your mat and then applique the photo on with a good complementary thread color. Fringe and a one piece back and you have a great personal gift in no time.

Anyone who has visited the Hip Line Media booth at a sewing or craft show over the last 5 years has seen the family quilt. It's a large quilt done in the Looking Through a Window pattern (just like the DVD), and each block has a family photo whip stitched on. What I especially love is that many of these photos are from the 60's and we love taking all of our relatives on the road with us! Our ice breaker is usually asking someone to find the famous person on the quilt. No, it's not me, but I am working on that. It's Tom Hanks, even though he is in costume for the movie The Road to Perdition, you can't miss him (click on the quilt to see a larger photo - he's in the third row, fourth photo). So, it is truly a diverse piece of art/scrapbook/sample. What fun to make one for your own family and take it on the trip to Grandma's, the family reunion, or even off to college.

My other job is in retail, (yes, I'm sorry too), and every day I see these little handbags with the dogs on them. I guess when your kids are grown and gone, the dogs become the perfect replacement. There are many online retailers that will make a handbag with your dogs photo on it, but I know this audience, and with the photo fabric, you can make your own. Applique works well, the piecing like a quilt would work, I even experimented with laminating the fabric and making a "plastic" purse. It needed a little refining, those corners were sharp!

The most "out of the box" use I found for the fabric was school elections. My daughter was running for secretary and her all girls school had rules for what they could pass out. No stickers was the cardinal rule. So how do you get your name around without spending $50 on something ? (I did that for the first kid). I made a word document that said basically Vote for Christina about a hundred times. We printed it in blue and pink fun fonts and then cut them up into strips with a pinking shear. We also cut strips of her school uniforms which are pink, blue or yellow jumpers and put them all on a safety pin and the election button, for the kid with the terribly inventive mom, was born!

The possibilities are endless. We'd love to see what you've done! Show us your work, and Happy Sewing!