Thursday, August 14, 2014

Downtown Digging in Los Angeles


For the past thirty five (!) years, I have been digging for gold in downtown Los Angeles.  Whether I am looking for old beads, feathers or buckles I am surprised to learn there are still some wonderful old vendors that have shops filled with vintage and new treasures.  I have gotten to know some of these dealers over the years and have come to rely on many of them when I need a new batch of inspiration for designing jewelry, fabric and ribbon.  
For those of us not going back to school this September, I thought we should go on a little tour of downtown Los Angeles!  I've designed a day of exploring some of my very favorite vendors who sell some of the most beautiful supplies for sewing and crafting.  We will explore my favorite source for Liberty fabrics, an old millinery shop where you can still find hand-curled feathers, and of course, drop in to some of my regular bead and button suppliers.  The tour includes a petite breakfast at French General in the morning, and afterwards we will drive the 15 minutes to downtown LA and start our walking tour.  Lunch at the Ace Hotel and then back to the district for more shopping...be sure to wear your digging clothes and I'll bring the hand wipes!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Home from France

Every summer, Mogull, Molly, Mom and I travel to France to spend four weeks in a beautifully rural area just north of Toulouse.  We rent a 17th century chateau and fill it up with friends from near and far to craft, eat amazing food prepared by the fabulous chef Charlotte and visit local flea markets and farmer's markets.  Every summer I am amazed at how we always see something new, learn something different and uncover a bit about France that was hidden for years.
Here is a peek into what we learned this past summer...

Sitting in the Cafe de la Halle in St. Antonin is the best place for a morning check in!

Mr. Garcia still has some treasures hidden in his garage!

Sometimes you get lucky and stay in a grand house with a laundry room the size of a small house!

You never know what you will find in a 50 lb. box of old linen....

There are still hats to be found in Septfonds!

Sometimes it's just better to buy the whole box of cafe curtain rings!

There are way too many beautiful baskets at the flea markets in France....

It's always good to be in France with friends....

Saltwaters are the best traveling shoes!

Farewell dinners are good, but the women that come on our Chateau Getaway are the best!

Beautifully laundered linen looks better in an old armoire....

Stitching in a cafe in Montpezat, drinking a grand creme, makes the day fly by!

Learning to weave on a handmade tapestry loom is addicting!

 Woad dyeing ever year, for the past six years, doesn't get old!

Early morning walks through the sunflower fields is the best way to start a day!

Finding cornichons at the market and learning how to pickle them with our Chef Charlotte is pretty cool!

Drinking wine and eating local cheese with our sommelier, Laurent and his beautiful assistant, Flora is the best dinner of the week!

Beautiful scraps look even better when framed in old hoops!

Buying old linen skeins at the Cahors market was worth every euro!

The sunflowers do pop once it gets hot enough!

Designing an embroidery map of the area we visit was a natural, finishing it...priceless!

Finding a box of old spools at the vide grenier, in the pouring rain, was my best find ever!

Artichokes do flower!

Antique toiles can still be found in France...for a pretty penny!

Having my mom, Kick and daughter, Sofia on our Chateau Getaway trips makes it all worth while!



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 too...so 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 notions@frenchgeneral.com and I will send you their information.

Adios!