Thursday, August 28, 2014

Corner of August

knitting progress
w our baby girls
This month feels like one to remember and savor and I am sorry to see it almost go.  We have been so utterly consumed with the everyday this Summer that I find myself at this computer quite a bit less, which is really good.  I am moving more and sitting less, and that is certainly good.  I am however starting to suffer the side-effects of less posting/writing here and regret that in some ways. Selfishly, I miss the record that I enjoy looking back on of my days.  So I am hoping to get a bit more regular with sharing here in the coming months.  Things are settling.

With school back in, routine has thankfully cleared its throat and made itself known.  Nothing is a bigger deal in this house right now than our young Roman riding the school bus.  Holy.  Moly.  It is the most fun this guy has.  We choose our school clothes at night and pile them on his green painted chair handed down from sister Juliana.  We set his Batman alarm clock to 6:40am which scores various points of effectiveness by the time the morning rolls around.  We pack his lunch in the Spiderman lunch tote each morning, after reviewing a menu which always includes peanut butter, chips and fruit but somehow we still have to verbally clear it with him before we are allowed to proceed. We swarsh around some orange juice and possibly nibble a granola bar or a waffle on our walk down the hill to wait for the most glorious moment of the day.  A yellow bus with a smiling driver lady.  I also sometimes have not so nice moments with cars who do not heed the bus's stop sign.  I mean, duh.  I pity the poor souls who try and fly through then come to a shrieking park right next to my Greek-Anger face while I yell then pause to kiss my son's face before safely escorting him across.  I can reduce them to never wanting to drive again. But. Really. It's a school bus.  We also have two boys in high school, two girls in middle school and one little squishy toddling squabbling pumpkin sweetie pants at home.  She has so much life and sweetness and noise and personality packed into such a tiny little purposeful body that I find myself just staring at her with a smile glued to my face that I cannot unstick.  It almost hurts I love her so much.  It is a very different feeling than I have for the drivers who do not stop for the school bus.  I cannot believe I just put those two things in the same paragraph.

YOU GUYS!  Craft South has been such a fun, fulfilling and amazing experience.  I am very pleased to report that with just one more month to go of our Summer series of pop-ups that I really think we have sent every single participant home happy and inspired.  We most recently hosted the knit sewing classes and my sweet, gorgeous friend Natalie Chanin joined us for the weekend w her darling girl.  We had a half of a second to snap a picture before she hit the road home for Florence.  Click over here to the Craft South blog see more photos of our weekend with her and all of the beautiful things that we made together.  I also LOVED teaching kiddos the hoola hoop weaving class and love it so much when my own kids join me.  Eleni and I were quite proud of our weavings.  I have some more research to do on those techniques to help the finished product lie flat once it is snipped off the hoop.  Anyhoo.  Too much fun.  I am also learning how much we can get accomplished in even the one day classes.... almost as much as a weekend because we tend to focus a bit more in a single day.  I have a couple spots open in the Embroidery one day class next month!  It comes with me, lunch, supplies, skills, stories and finishes with cocktails!

I have colossal news to share on the Craft South front which deserves its own post.... so I'll be back with that next.
xoxo enjoy these last August days
Anna Maria

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Last official day

...of summer.

All my studio days this summer have been sorta short, or otherwise highly interrupted.  Summer is a completely different kind of work-at-home work. 5 people are headed back to school tomorrow.  We only have a 7 week summer in our county, bc they've extended the fall, winter and spring breaks.  Overall I think it works better for their brains but I am never ready for summer to be over.  Well, that's not true.  I do crave schedule right around now.  But I sorta hate to see them go.  I love hainvg this bunch of people around me so much, in spite of the occasional bouts with chaos and noise levels one cannot write a sewing pattern through. 

Anyway, this is today.  One layer at a time we are making a 4x6' family painting.  No rules except not to intentionally make a sibling angry.  We decided I should take the day off and do something we've never done together and this is what everyone settled on.  So that layer is almost dry, time to round them back up and head out for the next. 

I hope summer is treating you well.  I miss sharing here more with you.....I am easily found daily on Instagram if you miss me too.  I am far from giving up on blogging, though.  It just ebbs and flows like everything else in a lived life.

kisses, xoxoAnna

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

collage tee
Well they are floating around out there in all their stretchy, playful glory so it is high time I share some words and thoughts on my first interlock knit collection!

Here's the official statement: "As the name might imply, Anna Maria Knits is an essential grouping of color and form that perfectly suits the style and function afforded by the versatile jersey cloth.  Each of the designs was derived from various collections, but all re-imagined as a group to offer a little something for everyone, ranging from sweet to sophisticated.  Some of the simplest and most stylish fashion forms are created from jersey knit, and Anna Maria Knits provides a diverse group of designs well suited for casual tees, charming dresses, inventive skirts, and more.  Each of the three colorways inspires multiple mix and match opportunities and gives the modern sewist confident choices to easily translate her favorite looks into home sewn projects. "

Because the collection of imagery is pulled from at least three artwork sources (Dowry, True Colors & Pretty Potent) we named this group Anna Maria Knits. Keep it simple, you know.  I have seen it pop up in various locations and referred to as Pretty Potent Knits.... not really sure why, but perhaps because that is my most recent quilting cotton collection... either way, same awesome fabric!! There are 5 prints, in 3 colorways for a total of 15 pieces.  The three colorways (listed from the above photos in order) are Carnival, Campground, and Boardwalk.

When choosing the specific knit that I wanted to print my artwork on, I had several to choose from.  My goal in selecting one was that it retain color well, be soft, have ample body, be opaque, that it be easy to sew with, and that the weight make it just as suitable for tees as it is for dresses and skirts.  This meant that I picked over some others that were more sheer and more stretchy.... both of these things make knits more challenging to sew with and to wear.  I love all sorts of knits, but I felt strongly about letting my first group being something that someone who is approaching knit sewing for the first time can feel confident about.  In other words if you have sewn with nothing but woven, this is the perfect type of knit for you to make that first step.  This particular knit is 100% cotton.  It is 58/60" wide.

Just like a woven, this knit stretches more on the width of fabric (selvage to selvage) than it does on the length.  So in general you would want to pay close attention to aligning your grainline arrows on patterns with the grain of the fabric if you want it to perform correctly as it stretches around your body.  You may hear the word "percentage" thrown around when talking about how much a knit stretches.... and that means what is the percentage further you can stretch the fabric beyond flat and unstretched.  This stretch amount is tested and determined to be based on the most you would actually want the material to stretch on your body, and obviously in the case of printed knit it should not be so much stretch that you are warping the designs a great deal.  My analysis of this fabric is that it has about a 25% stretch.  In other words 10" of width can easily stretch to about 12.5" before warping or over stretching.  The retention (bouncing back into shape) is also very good with this fabric.

I want you to close your eyes (well not really since you need to read) and tell yourself that you can sew with knit on your regular ole sewing machine.  Because it is true.  Especially with this knit fabric.  I recommend cutting just as you always would, with either a rotary or sheers or some combination.  I recommend using a ballpoint needle or a "stretch" needle in a size suitable for medium weight materials.  Regular ole seams can be sewn with regular ole straight stitches.   I have hemmed and top-stitched using a simple straight stitch, a zig-zag, and a straight stitch using a twin needle.  Of the three methods I like the twin needle the best, the straight stitch second, and the zigzag comes in last place.  There are loads of helpful tutorials out there on using  a twin needle on your machine.  I think you will feel smart and liberated once you try it!  Another amazing perk of sewing with knits is no need to finish any edges!  Believe me, I love a good serger (especially this one) but (stop reading Janome friends) you really do not need one to sew these knits.  For the super stretchy, slinky type knits?  I would probably say a good serger is worth the investment if you are serious about your sewing.  Like me. I am not smiling at all because I am so serious about my sewing.

I think more than any other fabric that I have designed I highly recommend pre-washing these goods before cutting and sewing as well as considering shrinkage when you are determining yardage requirements.  After washing on a cold, normal cycle with normal detergent then drying on a low temperature drying cycle one yard of fabric shrinks a bit more than two inches on the length and right around two exact inches on the width.  I did the same wash test with another piece but let it drip dry instead and there was really no difference at all.  Now I feel pretty certain (though I didn't test it) that if you were to throw the knit in a high temp dry cycle that it might shrink even more.  However that shrinkage might sort of "wear out" as the garment gets through a day in the life.  All naturally based fabric, woven and knit, kinda does that anyway.  One more thought about the washing:  some of the prints that take a bit more ink to achieve the coloration might feel slightly less soft to the touch right off of the bolt.  However I found that everything feels equally soft and comfy after a pre-washing.  Knowledge people.  I am giving you soft and comfy knowledge.

Okay.  Who's excited?  A run down of your inspiration images up there:  The first 3 photos are showing off me and two of my sweeties in the 3 size options of the Lemon Drop Dress & Tunic pattern that I design specifically for these very knits (or any others that you fancy).  This pattern has loads of options and includes dress or tunic sizes for 18mos-4toddler, 5/6-11/12girls, and ladies XS-XL.  So far I have made myself precisely 3 shirts and two dresses, 3 dress for Mary Anna, a dress for Eleni, and a dress and top for Bela.  It is a simple fun sew, and I will be back next to tell you all about that + a very fun knitty/sewy giveaway that we are doing once we get the patterns listed in the shop.

The very last photo is a super simple version of the sleeveless Lemon Drop Tunic where I skipped the neckband but free-motion appliqued favorite raw edge fabric elements.  It was worth quickly throwing together in my smoldering attic yesterday to then put on my sweaty self before heading to lunch and has given me about a zillion more ideas of how to play with all this pretty, pretty stuff.

Enjoy! xoxoAM

Friday, July 11, 2014


I seem to have inadvertently assigned only monthly check-ins to myself here on the blog this toasty warm season.  One moment I wonder how that happened, and then the next moment a month has passed and I have my answer.  It has been a very, very full summer already.  We are not major vacationers around here, typically opting instead to take short trips of the spontaneous variety.  But these past weeks we have managed to find ourselves in various pockets of the country and surprised every time we stop to realize how smoothly it went.  Thank you Summer, that was really nice of you.  We went to the Catskills to stay with my friend Heather & family for a dew days, and I cannot explain just exactly how much I loved physically being in that place.  Just that part of the country, seeing the different forestation and rock colorations, feeling different breezes, getting bit by different bugs, let alone the splendid company of my sweet and entertaining friend, her adorable and clever husband and their storybook-cute kiddo, Miss Bea.  Her and Roman had a bit of a thing.  It was all too adorable for words.  Heather and I did glamourous things like move and organize food into her new pantry that was delivered the first day we were there.  I reminded her throughout the rest of the trip that she will forever thank me for establishing a dried fruit and nut shelf. The womenfolk among us took off to Vermont for Heather's Mother/daughter Weekend sewing event at the Blueberry Hill Inn, leaving the boys to themselves, sliced cheese, organic bacon, the lake, some canoes, life jackets for the toddlers, beer for the daddys and guitars for all.  As it turns out, that was all way more than that group needed for fun.  As for us, we packed the car full of craft supplies which was just exactly what was required for our fun + loads of lovely women and their daughters, cool nights, s'mores, beer and ponds and lakes.  Too, too much fun, and I hope to do it again next summer.  Vermont is absolutely beautiful.  Driving all the way to upstate NY, then to Vermont, back to NY and finally home to Nashville was quite the trek. I personally spent 42 hours driving a car over 7 days time. However I really didn't know until I was in the midst of the long hours on the sunny road followed by several hours in severe storms driven with white knuckles and extra open eyeballs followed by numerous full double rainbows that I was so in need of this blank space.  A resting spot out there.  One after another.  Nothingness, really, if we are speaking relative to my normal days.  It was equally unanticipated and necessary.  Since then we have also found ourselves to East Tennessee for time with my Dad, my brother, sister and all the cousins.  We took ten of those cousins up the side of one of the Smokey Mountains for a 5 mile hike.  We relied only on my brother's memory of Rainbows Falls having hiked it 20 years ago with Juliana on his back.  He muttered something about kinda rocky then leveling out.  We looked for the leveling out the WHOLE entire way up, and the smarter among us didn't bother looking on the way back.   On the way to post-hike milkshakes, burgers and fries, Jeff and I talked about how you must name mountain peaks things like Rainbow Falls because no one would climb it if you named it Not Really Worth It Especially If You Have Ten Children With You Falls.  I also learned from Roman that the word shortcut describes something that you should never do because you could get cut.  Short. Cut.  In the case of traveling across rockier, branchier bits of path he was absolutely right so I chose not to argue. I only pointed out that it was all too easy for him to say from his lofty position of piggy-on-my-back all the way down the mountain.  Phew.

And before all of this amazingly fun continental traipsing about over the past two weeks, we held our first Craft-South series.  We, the studio bunch of us, are all still on floaty happiness mode around here as it was everything that I hoped it would be and so much more.  My One Day Patchwork Primer ladies were eager and stellar.  My Kids Patchwork girls were out of this world interested and talented.  And the weekend lot of ladies along with the incomparable Amy Butler joining and sharing was so incredibly enjoyable I forgot that I was working.  Really, really so great, and here we are just about set to start the July Craft-South block next week.  Please come by our temporary studio in Berry Hill if you'll be in the area next week!  We have a pop-up shop of crafty-sew-y love open to all from Wed-Sat 10-4pm.  Meanwhile the classes will be teaching all kinds of tips and tricks to garment sewing with Liesl Gibson & myself.  (And we are making really good progress on the permanent nashville location!)

Oh, why did you let me go on like that!?   So much more I would love to chat on about, but there are loads of rummage-sale orders to get out, and we are getting all of my new rayons, voiles, flannels & knits loaded into the shop for next week.

More soon pals.  Hope you've had your feet up a bit.  Smooch. Anna Maria

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A soft silky summer

Our baby girl is one.  That happened on Saturday.  She dug her chubby little fingers through a strawberry lemon cupcake baked by Eleni and Isabela until finally she stuck some of the gooeyness into her little rosebud mouth and smiled a yummy grin.  Also a little chuckle as she knew everyone of us had been sitting there waiting for her to do it, and had been restraining ourselves from picking up a big chunk and plunking it onto her tongue.  But I insisted we all wait and watch.  Let her do it herself.  And she did.  Because she is One.

She is strong, delightful, sweet, ambitious, friendly, affectionate, smart.  This morning when I heard her big girl squawks from the crib -- noticed they were finished being the talking herself into being awake sort, and had become the when is someone going to retrieve me? sort -- I walked in to find her standing with a giant smile against the white railing pointing over to a picture of my mother and me on her shelf.  "Yes, Nani" I said as I always do when she points to it.  And her smile deepens and a breathy chuckle made of s and t sounds sneaks out of the slobbery grin marked with 5 tiny teeth.  We settled into the rocker and she grabbed my shirt for morning milk.  As I obliged I instinctively traced the nail of my right forefinger from the crown of her head to her left temple in one gentle line to part her soft, silky flax over to one side.  The morning light through her pink curtains made her thickening hair gleam like white gold.  I soaked in the tenderness of a single fleeting moment- soft, silky summer, rocking, intense eyebrows concentrating on her work- knowing it will get swallowed up by breakfast cereal and running with the rest of them all too soon.

For now though, the sunlit mornings and the dark nights and that rocker are ours.
I don't know how to wish for more, still trying to grasp all that is before me.
Blessing counted.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Pretty Close
By Land
By Sea
By Air

I am so pleased to share a close look at my new collection of quilting Cotton, Pretty Potent. Here is the write-up that I've offered to describe my inspiration for the collection in short:  

I've always considered sitting in front of a plant with a pencil and paper the best drawing class one can take. Looking to nature for inspiration and instruction on beauty is an old and welcome practice in all forms of making art. Using the natural world for healing is perhaps even an older practice. In my Pretty Potent collection, I drew inspiration specifically from plants and flowers that are often used for healing. While they possess properties to heal our physical bodies, the very beauty of the plants themselves seems intended to be a balm for the soul. Potent and pretty. The duality enchanted me

That is most of the story. There is always a bit more to it. Sometimes I feel compelled to share that extra bit, and this is one of those times.  As misplaced as the back story might actually seem in the realm of cotton fabric (for heaven's sake), I have always felt that there aren't any real rules to any of this so no imminent breaking of them I suppose either. Roughly a year ago I had a newborn baby who needed milk and precious undivided attention around the clock. I had the sting of shock with every move that I made having just lost my mother only weeks earlier, and in many ways was suffering from post-traumatic stress as the recurring images of the very intimate details of losing her slowly over several days by her side, as blessed as I was to be there, appeared in my eyes in my sleep and with every possible trigger of memory in my days.  I had contracted MRSA from the hospital where I delivered Mary Anna that was unbelievably painful and required a great amount of care to prevent giving it to the baby as the main infection site was right in my underarm very near where her sweet head rested as she nursed.  I had torn a ligament in my left knee by slipping down my father's stairs the night before the 40-day memorial for my mother, rendering me limp and unable to go on long walks that I desperately needed for my recovery of body and soul, without intense amounts of pain.  I had a vascular anamoly that would not stop bleeding for more than a month that finally required plastic surgery to remove from my sternum. And I was behind on work. Which was a pittance in comparison to all of the above, however it was work for which I so wanted to be joyful and healthy and glad.  It was designing my fabric collection. I was in need of healing.  In so many ways.  Specifically never in my life had I been in more need of physical healing, let alone the rest. I was bankrupt of the typically deep well of inspiration that I have for making art. I settled then, very mechanically at first, on allowing my work, my drawing, my coloring, and my inspiration to derive itself from subject matter that was very specifically about healing. But also beauty. Desperate for both.  My colorway names are derived from a prayer for travelers, as the tiniest additional plea from me.  And yes it is attached to something that certainly does not require such an outpouring of emotion or even thought, only being fabric.  But you see, there was no other possible way for me to do it if I could not create all of it at once, just like this and convince myself (a lie perhaps) that doing so in this exact way would certainly help.  I was so in need of help.  I prayed continually for it.  I asked my dear mother in prayer for it in a quiet room where I got no response other than a sweet baby making little slurpy nursing noises, and I would then have to force a response in my head, holding so closely to the imagined sound of my mother's voice, fearing if I didn't I would lose it forever.  I needed even this work for hire to be a process, a story, a prayer, and even a recovery.  And so it was.  A little.  And a joy now to feel how much I have indeed in every physical sense healed since then, across the months since the first drawing to now finally the sewing.  I will continue a little now, as though I have not indulged enough, and share each of the prints closely.

Echinacea is commonly used to heal a common cold and boost the immune system.

Chammomile is commonly used to heal inflammations of the skin and bacteria on the skin.

Eucalyptus is commonly used to heal wounds, ulcers and burns.

Mary Thistle was used in the first century to protect the liver and treat cancer.

Primrose is thought to have benefits for many different ailments including autoimmune diseases.

Aloe Vera is most commonly used to heal burns, but has uses for numerous ailments.

Banner Days is a design inspired by the Mexican folk art, papel picado which is used to decorate family celebrations like baptisms, weddings and even funerals.

Family Unit is inspired by the group of us that are commonly used to heal ME.

thank you, xoxoAM

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A pretty piece of cake

After sewing for my own little girls for more than 22 years it somehow has not gotten any less fun. I take so much pleasure in it. Somewhere around 8 years ago it got an extra jolt of fun added when I launched my first line of fabrics. With the myriad of projects I keep in mind for my collections, I still look at the arrival of new bolts to the studio with the wonder of which will be the first to get made into a dress for one of my girls. It is still the project filter through which I view all my fabric. Now plans are one thing, and actually sewing through those plans another. We know this. Even my girls tease me with "hey remember that dress you were going to make me".  So much so that one of them had to go get a fashion degree to make her own.  Ahem.  But having a very simple and quick pattern at the ready is one thing that really helps me follow through. My new free pattern created for and with my friends at Janome is the simple pattern that has run though my machines and onto baby Mary Anna's chubby little figure at least 6 or 7 times now. Yes, it is that simple. The Piece-a-Cake baby dress is now ready for you to watch, download, print, cut, sew, and enjoy.  It is a perfect little layer peeking out from underneath handknits or fluffing about over leggings or bloomers.  Visit my collaboration page at Janome for all of the links, and a little more from me about the pattern.
And yes that red & white colorway of my Banner Days print from Pretty Potent was snipped off the bolt and made into that dress practically before we had everything else out of boxes and onto the bolt shelves.  There is the whole quilting cotton collection for Pretty Potent which is now in our shop as well as delivered to all points around the globe!  I love these fabrics so much and will be back next to share my inspirations for the collection and some up close looks!
xo, Anna

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Pride and Other Risks of Expression

photo by mario zanaria
sketch and photo by juliana horner
photo by mario zanaria
photo by mario zanaria
sketch and photo by juliana horner
photo by mario zanaria
photo by mario zanaria
photo by mario zanria
sketch and photo by juliana horner
photo by Thomas Iannaccone for WWD
photo by mario zanaria
photo by me of Juliana's piece in Pratt Look Book

You might remember something about me leaving my daughter in New York roughly four years ago.  Watching her, from a long distance vantage point, grow into an independent and immensely original artist has been something that I think I may utterly fail at describing. It is complex and beautiful and rewarding and humbling.  Attending the graduating fashion show last week held all of the excitement that we anticipated.  The phone calls, texts, emails, visits that we have had with her in recent months graced us with news of success and recognition by her peers and the faculty at Pratt.  Being asked to be in the show alone is an honor that not every graduating senior gets.  Which on the one hand feels unfair.  On the other hand feels just like the fashion world.  Might as well know that as soon as possible, I suppose.  But imagine our huge pride at watching her collection close the show.  The finale.  The last looks on everyone's mind.  Looks that have landed at WWD and among others (in fact I just noticed the looks of Jeff's and my face are right over the models left shoulders in the WWD slideshow, snort).  If you want to see the entire show, it's right over here (her stuff begins around 57:30).
With the imagery of her collection still fresh in my mind, the single greatest joy for me is to have seen her and her work in the context of her peers and find it to be so completely unaffected by her environment or the work of others.  Watching the models float across the runway in her inventive, watercolor-y yet intensely engineered pieces still has me feeling as though I am swimming through her sketchbook.  The seemingly effortless translation of concept to final piece was fluid and graceful and utterly deceptive in hiding the hours and hours (and hours) each of the pieces took.  She sent her hands and heart down the walk.  It was a risk.  A huge risk to insist on your work being entirely from within and nothing else.  
Her collection is titled Containment and here are a few of her own words:
"As humans we have a natural tendency to contain things.  It gives us a sense of control, whether that control is real or not.  I wanted to play with this idea in the garments, both containing the body and elements within the fabrications themselves."
My only regret from the event is that she was backstage during her parade of work and could not see or feel how the energy in the room changed entirely as her pieces poured into the crowd of onlookers.  I have of course relentlessly described this to her ever since.
Congratulations to my beautiful, amazing girl.  My own greatest risk.
This is just the beginning.