Monday, May 05, 2014

The Colors of Oaxaca

Back in November, a woman named Mary Stanley walked into French General and told me she and a couple of her good friends took groups of woman to Oaxaca every winter...I immediately said "I'll come with you" and signed up on the spot.  I don't think Mary thought I was serious...but later that evening, I was having dinner with Amy Butler and Edith Minne from Renaissance Ribbons and I mentioned I was going to Oaxaca and they should come with me...they both signed up on the spot as well.  There was just something about Mary...something about the idea of the color of Oaxaca in winter..and something about escaping to Mexico.....that had me under a spell.  I called Mom and Molly and mentioned the trip to them, and they signed up it turned out to be a group of 12 women that all went to Mexico in the middle of February for an adventure like no other!

From the moment we arrived, I was smitten with the color, culture, food and people...I knew I was in a land that was going to open my eyes and inspire my senses.  On our first walk into town to go to the market I saw more color than I had seen in a lifetime in Los Angeles!

Luckily, both of my traveling companions were up for anything - so we roamed the markets, and the street vendors...looking for treasures.

I was unprepared for the amount of weaving the Oaxacan's do...I had no idea it was such a thriving business and filled with such history.

Beautiful rugs hanging everywhere...

Mexican tiles on every floor...

The lovely woman who sold their food and crafts in the market every morning...this sweet lady was selling Mexican chocolate...I bought a handful and then asked if I could take her picture...she was so gracious.

Another beautiful woman in the market at Teotitlan del Valle...we asked her about her braids and she took them down to show us how she wove them with colorful silk ribbon every morning.

And...more Mexican tiles....

Inside the church in Teotitlan...

We stopped in the beautiful church in Teotitlan and were amazed by the wax flowers...we had no idea that later that afternoon we would be visiting the family who made these flowers for all of the churches.

Our visit to the Reynoldo Sosa family, who are reviving silk weaving,  turned out to be a highlight of our trip to Teotitlan.

The looms in the backyard...these are just two, of probably 15 looms that are set up and in progress of making full sized rugs.

We ate lunch at the traditional Zapotec restaurant, Tlamanalli, run by two sisters, who serve up some of the best Chicken Mole I have ever had.

Not to mention the Mezcal...

More tiles....

I loved the handmade clay strainer.

After lunch we visited Mariano Sosa Martinez and his wife at their family home.  Upstairs, outside on the patio, Mariano showed us how he cultivates the cochineal bug on nopal (cactus) and then dries them to make a deep berry pigment.

Here are some of Mariano's naturally dyed wool skeins, I brought most of these home to start my own rug.....

and the wool that was cleaned and waiting to be dyed.

On our way home, we stopped off to visit one of the great masters of Oaxaca, Viviana Alavez, who makes wax flowers for the churches and celebrations in her home town of Teotitlan.

Viviana works with her two daughter-in-laws...they sit together laughing and talking as they carefully make hundreds of wax flowers in their backyard.

I purchased a set of beautiful beeswax pillars that were cut from one large cathedral candle.

Viviana's son was weaving while we visited...nothing like a handsome weaver using vegetable dyed wool to inspire your rug weaving!

Of course, I couldn't leave Mexico without filling up my suitcase with handfuls of beautiful textiles...

The antique huipils, the traditional garment worn by the indigenous women, were some of my very favorite...and the reds and pinks were to die for!

But of course, the natural brown cotton was spectacular too!

I treasure our time spent in Oaxaca and cannot wait to return!  If you are interested in joining Mary Stanley and Syd McCutcheon on one of their textile tours, please write to me at and I will send you their information.


Sunday, April 06, 2014

Le Bouquet Francais

We are excited to announce the arrival of our Spring Quilting Collection from Moda!
Le Bouquet Francais arrived this week at French General and in all good quilting stores!  Filled with shades of blue, yellow, grey and dusty red...this line was inspired by the gardens in Southern France.  We have a great selection of Bouquet at the shop, as well as  a few of our 
still in stock.
Hope your springtime quilting is as colorful as can be!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Indigo Workshop in New York!

We're taking our Indigo Workshop on the road and heading to New York City in April!  We will be offering a one day workshop at the South Street Seaport Museum on Sunday, April 27th from 10-4pm. Join us to learn how to build an Indigo vat, the ancient Japanese craft of Shibori, and dyeing textiles all shades of blue.  This is a special French General workshop taught by Kaari and Molly Meng - we hope you can join us!
Sign up here if you would like to join us for this day of creativity in New York!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Charm Pack Cherry!

Now that I have learned to quilt, I have fallen in love with precuts!  Precuts are exactly what they sound like - precut pieces of fabric all ready to be sewn together - no cutting involved!  For each of our fabric collections with Moda, we receive the charm pack precut which consists of 42 squares of 5" fabric - a piece of each - 
if you will!

In anticipation of our new Spring Moda collection, Le Bouquet Francais, we made up a simple and fun quilt for Fat Quarter Shop using their Charm Pack Cherry pattern.

Here's a fun video they shot with step by step instructions:

And here's the free pattern:

Pick up a Bouquet Francais charm pack from Fat Quarter Shop and start sewing - you will be done before you know it!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Give Me a W.... for Winners!

Thanks for playing along on the Moda Blog Hop....and letting me know what some of your favorite sewing gadgets are - my shopping list just tripled!
Here are the random winners...please send us a note to with your address and we will get some lovely new fabric off to you...Merci!

Debbie Rosa who loves Wonder clips...I am almost ready to bind my first quilt and want to try these!

Jacqueline Markins who loves the Purple too!

Quilter Laura who taught me that there is an Olfa pinking blade!

Createology who told me that her hands were her favorite that!

Be sure to keep following Moda's Spell it With Fabric Blog Hop!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The French General Rug Tour

You might have thought that I fell off the face of the earth...actually I just fell off of my blog for the past  couple of months!  I had forgotten my password to access this page and it took me a while to figure it all out!  I'm back - at least for a bit!  I have found that instagram is so much easier for me to fit into my if you haven't found us on instagram yet...look up will see a daily look into what we are up to and where we have been!
Meanwhile...I thought I'd write about an amazing journey I took a couple of weeks ago to the Navajo Nation.  I called the trip my Rug Tour because I was going in search of old Navajo Rugs - something I have been collecting for the past ten years.

Saturday, January 18th
JZ and I flew into Phoenix, rented a car and hit the road - we headed straight up to Prescott to visit Ogg's Hogan - one of the best collections of old American Indian artifacts and history.  Ogg's feels like a museum but everything is for sale.  I quickly found a couple of Navajo rugs that looked right up my alley...but decided to hold off since we were only on day one.

From Prescott, we headed north to Flagstaff and jumped on Highway 40 Eastbound to Winslow.  I had read about the world's largest Navajo Rug at La Posada Hotel and wanted to see it.  We arrived early evening and were given a choice of almost any room in the hotel - we looked at over six of them and finally settled on the Barry Goldwater Room - all of the rooms are named after people who have stayed at the hotel over the years.  

La Posada opened in 1930 and was one of the Fred Harvey Hotels along the Santa Fe Railroad.  Mary Colter was hired as the architect and designer and became one of America's most influential designers.  In building La Posada, she was inspired by the great haciendas of the Southwest.  The hotel, which over the years served as the offices for the Santa Fe Railway, has now been beautifully restored by a couple from California who purchased the hotel in 1997.

The Turquoise Room Restaurant at the hotel was our best meal of the week...we could have stayed a a few more days and never gotten tired of the food!

Sunday, January, 19th
After a quick breakfast of prickly pear bread pudding and coffee we got back on Highway 40 and headed towards the Petrified Forest.  The most interesting part of this detour was the small museum at the Petrified Forest Trading Post - filled with turquoise, old baskets and rugs...real beauties!

JZ getting his cowboy on....

After stretching our legs a bit, we drove north on Highway 191 towards Ganado.  We  headed straight to the Hubbell Trading Post, the oldest continuously operated trading post on the reservation, established in 1876.  This is the mecca - where it all began.  The post still operates as a general store - one can purchase groceries and sundries, as well as American Indian crafts.  There are two rooms filled with arts and crafts - one being the rug room.  The rug room is filled from floor to ceiling with old and new Navajo rugs...breathtaking!

The paintings on the wall are samples of weavings that the original owner, Lorenzo Hubbell commissioned so weavers would have patterns to follow.

Here's an old rug I almost purchased but decided the black was just a bit too strong for me, the asking price of $450 was a real deal!

After leaving the trading post we continued north to Chinle and ate a meal of chili and fry bread...and no wine!  There is no alcohol served or sold on the Navajo Nation.

Monday, January 20th
We were up at the crack of dawn (amazing what you can do without drinking wine!)  and walked over to Justin's Horse Ranch right at the entrance to Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Shay).  We saddled up our horses and started off on an all day tour of the canyon with Justin Tso - he is third generation of his family to be leading tours into the canyon on amazing way to see this area.  

Justin took us deep into the heart of the Anasazi world...we visited weavers that had lived in the canyon for four generations.  

My trusty horse and his saddle blanket - we only had one minute of complete terror....but I didn't fall off!

That's me...getting my cowboy on!

By nightfall, we had driven north, through Kayenta to Monument Valley.  I had read about a hotel that had been recently built,  on the same land where we used to camp as kids.  The View Hotel looks directly out in to the Valley - and every single room has an amazing view.

Tuesday, January 21st
After enjoying a big breakfast of flapjacks and coffee, we drove down to the visitor's center where we met Duffy Holiday, a Navajo guide who, with his cousin, offers Jeep tours through Monument Valley.  Duffy took us deep into the canyon, past all of the historical formations - amazing to be so close in such a historical area.

I asked him if we could visit a weaver in the Valley...and sure enough, Duffy knew the the renowned weaver, Effie Yazzie, who has been weaving in the Valley since the day she was born.  Her mother, Susie Yazzie is well known throughout the weaving world also....she died last year at the 
ripe old age of 93!

Effie's hogan where she lives and weaves in the warmer months.

Of course, no trip to the Navajo Nation is complete without the oohing and ahhing over all of the beautiful silver and turquoise pieces in the trading posts....

This was a weaving we saw at the museum at Goulding's Trading Post...I had a hard time not taking it off the wall and packing it in my suitcase!

And a painted picture in their guestbook from 1941...."We followed our map across the country to find that where the least was shown, we found the most"

Wednesday, January 22nd
We woke at the crack of dawn...I was getting used to the lifestyle...and took a 2 1/2 mile hike through Monument Valley - out and around the mittens.

All of the native plants are used for something, soap, dye, tea...nothing goes to waste and they are prepared for anything.

JZ and I...thinking we are cowboys now!

The afternoon found us back on the road and we stopped by the Kayenta flea market where we ate tamales - the best I've ever had - and found a 90 year old wood crafter who carved weaving tools...needless to say I purchased a handful!

We stopped by the Teec Nos Pos Trading Post about an hour east on Highway 160.  This trading post had a rug room as well as a weaving supply room.  I filled the trunk of our car with hanks of naturally dyed wool for my next weaving project.

Since we were so close to Four Corners - that special spot in the US where four states touch each other...we thought we should give it a try.  I remember as kids, we were always told to lay down and have one limb in each state....JZ tried it but I somehow cut his head off....

Then, we saw an older couple simply sit and put a limb in each state...duh...why didn't I ever think of this??  So much easier and you get to see who is in all four states!  No more spread-eagle!

Finally, we made it to the spot I had dreamt about going...the Toadlena Trading Post a few miles off of Highway 491.  Years agao I had met a man in Santa Fe named Mark Winter, who told me he owned this post...and how he was trying to revive the craft of traditional weaving in the Toadlena/Two Grey Hills area.  This trading post is a gem - with an amazing textile museum attached to it.  My biggest find here - besides the amazing selection of antique rugs - was a huge bag of antique mohair skeins in shades of brown and natural...more weaving supplies!

Maximilian period saltillos seen at the Toadlena Trading Post Museum

By nightfall, we had made it to Gallup for a stay at one of my all time favorite road hotels...

The lobby...filled with Navajo rugs

Thursday, January 23rd
After another hearty breakfast of deep fried french toast (I kid you not!) and coffee, we knew it was time to start the road back to Phoenix...but decided there was time for one last trading that I had never been to before...

The Burnham's have been trading with the native people for five generations and have, hands down, the most beautiful selection of Navajo rugs and baskets that I have ever seen.  

Here's JZ and Sherry Burnham laying out some of the rugs that were meant to go to auction the next day, luckily we intercepted and brought them back to our house LA!


When we were finally able to pull ourselves away form Burnham's, we knew we had seen some of the best American Indian craft and were content to head back home.  We drove south to Phoenix and boarded the plane back to the real world.

I loved being in the Navajo Nation - I felt like I was a million miles away - even though I was practically in my own backyard.  If you have any interest or desire to see this amazing area of our country, go now, don't delay...the people, the landscape, the crafts and the history are something that everyone should experience at least once....although I will go back again and again!

Next trip to Oaxaca!  Trust me - I never travel this much - but somehow these amazing adventures keep coming my way and instead of thinking "Oh I'll do that next year..."
 I am doing it now!  More soon....