Thursday, May 28, 2015
A million years ago (2010) I first wrote a review on Natalie Chanin's then new book, Studio Style, and today I have the pleasure again of digging into her latest work, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, to share my insights. What has me feeling like the luckiest girl though, is that the process of this sharing involved having a custom garment made and photographed on moi. Oh the work. It is so hard. I suffer.
I said then, a million years ago, and I say now, that my friend Natalie does not design clothing, she also builds it. He process of creating the imagery on her organic cottons is like nothing else, and it remains like nothing else, despite her so selflessly and so inspirationally teaching her process to the world. What comes out of her heart, and her studio is a stand alone collection of art, in the sea of disposable, anonymous sameness rampant in the fashion world. All of her 3 prior books string together the complete story of her unique process of embellishment and construction, down to every last detail. What is particularly special is how her books offer such a sense of place, that absorbing the skills taught within them is that much more crystallized. And you finish the reading having experienced her process as much as you have read about it.
If I could succinctly characterize this new book, it is that it graciously gives that extra mile of instruction that I would assume was never possible to do in a book. Instructing garment sewing from a book is tricky. But Natalie does it in a way that investigates the basics (and also every combination of altering those basics) with just the right amount of detail and technique to make it informative, but also with just the right attitude and encouragement to make it approachable. And just like her first three books, it is a stand alone compendium on style while being a reverent guide to the handmade.
When it came time to choose a garment to have made, I just pointed to the amazing princess seamed long sleeve tee on page 51 made from indigo-dyed cotton and said THAT. I feel beautiful in it. But I also feel so very comfortable. Thousands of stitches made by a pair of talented, hardworking hands simply feels different than anything else you will ever wear.
This post was meant to be published a full week ago, and in my hurried, frantic schedule of getting the doors to Craft South open, I failed to complete it on schedule. I texted Natalie to apologize, and her reply was such a comfort: "Nothing is ever late in our world".
Thank you, Natalie. Thank you for your patience with your own process (and with me). You remain an inspiration, a friend, and a source of hope in the way that our world works. This book is the icing on the cake for your fans, and I am personally grateful that you took the time to make it.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
I should write. Without any prior plan to do so, I slipped out of bed when I heard Jeff clanking around and making coffee this morning, much earlier than usual. I was hoping that the remnants of subconscious thought would finally set to text and screen what has been swirling around up there for a few months. I have actually lied partially awake in bed very many early mornings and felt sure I have struck just exactly the order of how a piece of prose could go. I rise, drink coffee, plan and start the day and the opportunity simply dissolves. Just disappears and gets buried in all of the things that a day becomes, good or bad, neither. This scenario has repeated countless times.
Today is different. Today is our eldest Juliana's birthday. 23. I was saying to Jeff last night that it doesn't seem any more or less than 23 years, it rather seems a whole other lifetime. A different time and place and group of characters all together. But I look back harder and see myself in that girl, swept from maidenhood to motherhood in just a few seconds. And I see him. Upright and filled with all the love necessary to carry us to here, without a map. And her. Beautiful and amazing to me now, then, and every single moment in between. As of the 22nd Nicolas is now 17 and as of the 20th Eleni is now 11. They are each growing into themselves which feels astounding to witness if you let yourself think about it. And what, Jeff and I wondered in the dark last night, is it that divides these other lifetimes ago that we sense. How does it happen without warning that a group of events or memories suddenly feel like another time and place? How does it partition itself from now? The cities. The houses. The arrival of children. The schools. How soon will it be before we look back on this time and label it another life?
2014 humbled me. I seldom feel an obligation to write here or anywhere, but just let things be what they are, never seeing any sense in forcing it. If most of my journaling these days comes more moment by moment on Instagram, then that is just how it is right now. No doubt it will eventually change again. I suppose that for me writing feels a luxury with all that is on my plate, and one I miss and haven't indulged myself in for a while. If I do have one regret it is not doing my year in review post for 2014. But it really felt like more of an incapability than a resistance. The whole year was filled with growth in my work and in my family, so many good things, but the last few months of it almost emotionally paralyzed me. In the span of one month, my oldest, dearest friend lost her husband suddenly and unexpectedly. My gorgeous, perfect dog Leo was hit and killed instantly by a car in front of our house. Isabela and I were in a car accident just ten days later. Completely my fault, I still don't know how I didn't see him coming. I do know that right as I was pulling out of our driveway, I was saying the words "I can't believe our Leo is gone, I miss him so much". Crash. If this blog has ever been a place to report my goings on, it stopped right there for a bit. I could not.
I learned something very poignant recently. Studies have shown that the brain can not actually feel the emotions of anxiety and gratitude at the same time. They are opposites. So much so, that psychologists suggest writing down all the things you are grateful for each day as a way to get your brain on the healthier side. I found myself feeling anxious last year quite a bit. Of course with the loss and sadness, but even really good things that required so much of me, wore me out emotionally. I am grateful that my friend has family and friends to surround and love her and her gorgeous twins in these deep days of loss. I am grateful that my boy Leo did not suffer, and that a perfect stranger risked traffic and darkness and helped me in the middle of the road to carry him home, as Jeff and most of the children were gone. I am grateful we still have Cash puppy. I am grateful that the man driving the car who hit me was kind, not angry, mostly concerned about me, and that Isabela and I did not suffer too much banging up. I am grateful we had the means to fix our car.
On the first day of this new year our house and trees were swarmed with a mumuration of starlings. The sound was overwhelming from the upstairs studio as it is just right under the roof. They were stunning. A chorus. A dance. The yard and trees were blackened by their presence. Here and gone in seconds. I think we are that way. From one tree to the next. The same tribe flying high and low, straight and organized and then not. But moving and together, always.
Wishing you a grateful 2015! Look forward to sharing it here with you.
Monday, November 10, 2014
In classic form, the time of year that has me going in several different directions, mentally and physically, is also the time of year that I almost bonk into where I am headed due to being entirely distracted -transfixed- by the gorgeous thing that happens to Tennessee between October and November. It is that transition that seems to represent the humanness of nature. It burns and burns all summer, full force, exhausts itself, reflects softly on what it has managed, before settling in for a nap....finally being okay with letting things lie a little dull for the sake of a rest. I could benefit by taking such a suggestion.
We enjoyed such a good time at Quilt Market last month, never less work than the time before though we continually assure ourselves that THIS time we have it down to a science, and the set-up will go SO much faster. No, not really. But it doesn't matter. Most of what I enjoy about the whole production is getting the opportunity to speak with shop owners one on one and in the Schoolhouse groups about what I was thinking when I dreamed up this or that. The chance to clarify my efforts as a designer, and to help them with ideas about how best to use and present my fabrics once they have them in their shops is very gratifying. It might simply be those lovely nodding heads as I talk that feels a bit more gratifying that the typing noise that I hear now....
It is no secret that I have been over here on the blog less, a lot like the rest of the world and the rest of the world's blogs, maybe. I am able to get out so many small bits of my day to day words and images on Instagram that my sharing bucket gets filled up in smaller doses, rather than this more comprehensive dose. And I will admit that the addition of building Craft South, literally and figuratively, over these past months (and more to come) has placed some limits on my time compared to early in this year. The Spring had us planning it all, the Summer had us doing the pop-up version month after month, and now we are almost to where we will be launching the online Craft South shop in just a few weeks. We hope for the actual physical shop to be open late March or early April. In addition to choosing all the inventory and ordering there is so much planning going on behind the scenes that involves all of the workshops/events we will host, space design, branding and packaging goodies, product development and so forth. In general I have about 8 massive lists. I think what I am loving so much about this process, despite the load of work, is that a whole lot of it is completely outside of myself and my own brand, and that it is requiring something new of me. I am acting as a curator of other goods, and it is very gratifying as a lover of so many types of crafting and making. I love it. But yes, it is yet another job title.
So. That's the short story. In other news I have new fabrics. A new free quilt pattern. I am getting deep into work on my 2015 fall fabric designs for. I am knitting cables. I am trying to decode Mary Anna's babbles on a daily basis and wishing I had the amount of clarity in understanding them as she seems to have in her delivery. I am waiting everyday at the bus stop for Roman, and inhaling the smile he has for me as though it were oxygen. I am cutting Nicolas's very long hair today at his request. I have caught Joseph who just turned 15 telling Mary Anna how much he loves her when he thinks no one is listening. I am floored by the amazingness of this coloring book self-published by my Juliana. I laugh every time someone thinks that my 13yr old Isabela is my college graduate daughter. I am thankful that Eleni loves taking care of Mary Anna in the afternoons as much as both Mary Anna and I love her wanting to. And there were some rocks being thrown at my studio window over and over again the other day when the kids were playing out in the setting sun. As I looked down to shout at them to stop I found my boyishly charming husband standing there instead with a giant grin on his face. I cranked the window to say something sweet, but as soon as I could hear him singing "In Your Eyes" it was so ridiculously goofy that I just shook my head at him and rolled my eyes. Returning to my chair with a small jump I my heart and entirely smitten that he is willing to be that stupid for me still.
And so much more. xoxo Hoping you are well, Anna
Monday, September 08, 2014
A book review of How to Catch a Frog: and other stories of family, love, dysfunction, survival and DIY by Heather Ross
I need to disclaim that Heather Ross is a dear friend of mine, and that is a fact I only wish had not been true while I was reading this book, so as to maintain- even just for her sake- as objective an opinion as I could of this truly illustrative memoir of her less than typical upbringing. But I will get back to that. A good review removes oneself, so here we go then.
This memoir of Heather's is shared from the perspective of a woman who has survived childhood- not a “normal” one if there is such a thing- but one where she and her sister manage to understand where they belong and what belongs to them for mere fleeting moments of their upbringing only to have the rules change on them again and again. In a broad stroke, Heather's style and her choice of vignettes keep you keenly interested on what happens next, have you watery-eyed both through laughter and through heartbreak, and have you as enthralled with the highly descriptive details of how she physically managed to survive her extreme, element-exposed childhood in rural Vermont as you are with her intensely lyrical and charming descriptions of the characters that populate this book- the characters that populate(d) her life.
The timeline of the memoir is one that jumps around a bit, but not in a really deliberate or highly methodical way that becomes overly scheduled so that you are expecting the four pages of present tense right after you've read the four pages of past tense. The hopping around is organic- much like how you would remember something about your own life, which would generate the more recent or much older circumstances that would naturally be called to mind. In other words, it is crafted just like a story that you are listening to as if you were sitting next to her.... where the conversation takes turns as necessary to paint a full portrait of a person and their path to here.
There are almost no instances in the book where Heather takes the opportunity to describe her struggles of upbringing in a way that asks you to pity her. She seemed to so quickly take what was not good in her life and make it something else, and admits readily when what she made instead was a good decision or perhaps one a bit misguided. It is the latter that truly reveals to her story-telling genius. Any family, even a less than exciting one, has it's share of stories and circumstances that makes them a book of sorts. It is specifically what Heather chooses to share about some family members and not share about others that gives rise to two figures who, in my mind, are heroines of her girlhood. Her Aunt Jane, despite her shortcomings and delusions, became one of those within this paragraph and perhaps within Heather's life:
I ran into the bathroom and sat on the side of the tub, trying to hold back tears, my stomach and my chest pounding and aching. Jane opened the door and quietly sat next to me, her hand on my back. At first she said what she always said, trying to get me to smile, but I was past the point of needing just a cheerful chin-up. What I needed, at that moment, was for someone, just once, to tell me that I was right, that even though I was a child, I was right, that this thing that felt so unfair was, indeed, unfair, that what was happening to me- the mother who was barely holding on, drinking more and more, dragging me along on her poorly planned adventures- wasn't O.K. And Jane, for the first and only time in my life did that. She pulled me up onto her lap and held me as tightly as she could and told me that she loved me, and then over and over again, her voice cracking, she said just one thing. "I know," she said. "I know, I know, I know"
I see the other, somewhat less described, heroine in her life- or maybe protectress is a better job description- as her twin sister, Christie. The very fact that she is a little less described I think exemplifies who sisters are, in fact. There is no need to go to a lot of trouble when describing them, because you yourself know them so very well, and everyone else should too, because they know you. Or in this case, because Heather is telling of herself, she is also telling you about Christie. One instance, much more comical than Jane's rise to heroism, where Christie shows herself as a truly motivated protector is this (and to preface, Heather's twin had just received a few oil paintings rolled into a tube and mailed that are of Heather who earned some extra money in Mexico sitting as a nude life model):
Upon opening them, she drove straight to the bank without even taking a minute to put on her shoes and deposited money into my account. I returned to California in the spring certain that it was possible to make a living as an artist but not having any idea how.
I can honestly say, even from the perspective of someone who has heard a few of these stories- and even some of the back-back-stories to these from my friend Heather personally, that I was sad when it was over. It is such an entertaining, and ultimately honest read. You will be overwhelmed with the fulfillment of watching a talented, seasoned artist allowing herself an honest look back at her life- which I know was a very hard thing to do. She has inspired me to jot a bit more down as memories soar over my head unannounced. Not in sad ways, not in ideal ways, just in ways and with words that reflect exactly what I can remember. I think she might inspire you to do the same. There are so many more vignettes, including saving a couple of lives, meeting her husband after a string of people who would not do this lady (or any lady) any service as a husband, having her daughter, sprinkled with related DIY that concrete this book as something that will stay with you for a long time. I ended so entirely glad that she is my friend and so happy for her that she managed not only to get through her life until this point, but that she got through the very, very good writing of it as well. We are lucky for that.
I love the book so much that I bought 3 dozen copies! But those are for the book signing that I am hosting for her at Craft South next week. If you are in the area, stop over and visit with Heather and get your book signed!
Thursday, September 04, 2014
Well, we did it.
We have found the permanent, real, live, physical, perfect location for Craft South. I still can't believe it on so many levels. What started over 18 months ago as an itch to move my online shop fulfillment, and therefore employees, to a space outside of my home, has developed into a venture, that in my hope of hopes, is literally and metaphysically building a brick and mortar wall around everything that I have been doing my whole adult life. My name and that of my husband's is now signed on a lease for a building that is still in the process of being built in Nashville's most bustling neighborhood, 12th South. We hope to move in towards the end of the year, and be open for business sometime early in 2015. More about the project here.
The pop-up style of how we have been running Craft South this summer, has brought to us some of the kindest, most talented, funniest, most diverse and interesting group of women & kids from all around the world who have had such a devoted enthusiasm for their craft of choice. Garments. Patchwork. Embroidery. Machine skills. Hand skills. What they all seem to have had in common more than anything is the desire to share and the desire to learn. Two things that I myself possess and work on every single day. In other words, I have somehow managed to bring kindred spirits to my home and create a place and a frame of mind where we are all bettering ourselves in a way that makes sense to us. That is me up there introducing the most recent group of weekend workshoppers to our shop in progress. I am a pretty lucky lady. Even luckier that I have been able to connect these ladies with amazing designers & friends like Amy Butler, Liesl Gibson, Natalie Chanin and, in just a couple of weeks, Heather Ross. I am thrilled that we will have a place to continue connecting crafters with those that inspire them and keep an open door policy with our neighbors who want to share, shop and learn.
If you have ever read my about page, you might have noticed a note buried in there about how I got started in my career. I got started with my mom. We had a shop called The Handmaiden in Knoxville that formalized the trade that I had developed in college of earning extra money making and selling dresses to local shops. We decided to have our own shop and make lots more dresses right there in front of everyone. We also sold the wares and designs of about 40 different local artists, so I got to know independent designers (in the days before Etsy) and their hopes and struggles at the tender age of 23. Mom had just retired from nursing. Juliana was 3. Jeff was still in school. We set up sewing shop at the back of the space, I designed the clothes, we both sewed them, and we barely made enough money to cover rent some months but I have barely ever had more fun as I did those three years with my mother. Playing store, talking to customers, figuring out how to be a mother, wife and business owner all at once, but all with the help and care of my devoted mother. My biggest fan, my most earnest supporter. My partner. The running of the business and all of the challenges we faced soon overwhelmed my ability to devote myself to designing. When the designing suffered, I chose to rather run the clothing line out of my home for a few more years wholesaling around the Southeast. My mother had this unbelievable knack for being able to chalk up the entire experience as one where we learned a lot and that it was a total and complete success, simply because it headed me where I was going. She was so proud of me and continued to support every move I made in business and life until her last moments. We had prayerfully dedicated our shop to the Virgin Mary, as she is referred to in some scripture as the handmaiden, and my mother was always so thrilled that we happen to sign the lease for that (incredibly overpriced) building on August 15th. It is on this day that the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the Virgin, and all those named Mary, which my mother was, and therefore celebrate August 15th as their "nameday". I likely would have forgotten that signing date had it not been for my mother so continually bringing it up over the years, and what a blessing it was to our experience. That was her. Always a good reason for everything. There was a glimmer on every bit of life if you looked hard enough, even those that I might have labeled as failures. She saw glimmers.
This new life I have- the one where she is not here, I am still figuring it out. When good things happen these days, particularly the ones that I don't expect.... the glimmer feels like her. It feels like she is arranging things for me. True or not, it is a comfort. And this new place. This (incredibly overpriced) building - I have been working continually to be the tenant there since February. It was a long and complicated and imperfect process that was filled with doubt, frustrations and high hopes and a huge investment of time beyond my everyday responsibilities. The process took so much longer than anticipated. We were set to sign in mid July. Things got sticky with negotiations and it moved to early August. Then we were set to sign on August 11th. The lawyers were out of town so the date moved to August 15th. And that is the day that this venture started. On mom's nameday. Again. This time, 19 years later, it was our little Mary Anna's nameday too, and we celebrated her.
Just the day before we signed the lease I taught the kid's hoola hoop weaving class and a very sweet woman brought her daughter to take my class. Before class got started I had a nice chat with the mom about craft, Nashville, parenting, school and how the city is growing. Later that night once settled in with my laptop, husband and a movie I got an email from that mom. She said it was not until after she had been in class with me and her daughter that she realized that I am the same lady that had a shop in Knoxville where she used to spend some time between classes while at UT. She said she remembers that I owned it with my mom who was such a sweet lady with whom she enjoyed speaking. I simply replied that hearing that gave me a lot of joy and what a small world.
We are beginning this adventure with a million little glimmers. Some of them hard work, some of them prayers, some of them art, some of them stitches and some of them are you. Thank you so much for any bit of help, encouragement, purchases, notes or thoughts you have lent to my process as a designer over the years. They have all brought me to a place- a physical one that I will gladly walk into and I hope to see you there.
with thanks, xoxoxoAnnaMaria
ps. keep an eye on the Craft South instagram feed for updates as we have them and the Craft South blog.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
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
Thursday, August 07, 2014
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.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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.
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
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.
Friday, May 23, 2014
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