Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sunday Soiree

If you happen to be in Los Angeles on Sunday - come on over to French General for our (grand) opening and an afternoon of celebrating our new book, Handmade Soirees, published by Chroinicle Books this past month.
Come for a glass of Lillet and try your hand at Petanque - JZ is setting up a court in the alley behind the shop - to make us all feel we are in the South of France for the afternoon. Sunday, November 1st, from 11-4.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Convent Nighties

One of my favorite things to find in France are the old linen and hemp convent night shirts. Sewn throughout the 18th, 19th and early 20th century, these fine linen nighties are sewn with an impeccable hand. All of the stitches are tiny and all of the details are precise - the scalloped edge along the necklines, the elegant monogram either in the center or over the heart, the simple cotton tie that gathers the sleeves - nothing was left untouched by the needle and thread. Usually I find these gowns at a flea market, in a heap on the ground, covered with years of age and neglect. I usually scoop them all up, because I know underneath the grime is a simple dress waiting to shine again. Many times the dresses will have a small repair where the fabric has been hand-stitched back together, over and over again - I am sure that once you were given a gown, you were expected to take care of it forever - not just for a year or two until it wore out. These gowns, usually sewn by and for the nuns in a convent, are cool to the touch and feel like silk - the result of years of well worn linen.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Long Lost Glass Shells

My favorite American Indian bead dealer called me the other day and told me he had found a box of old Japanese glass pearls in the shape of a scallop shell - with a small loop attached at the top. Years ago, he had sent me a small bag of the same glass shells and (almost) every time I have talked to him since, I ask if he has anymore of the glass shells. None, nada, nothing, zippo - is always the answer. And then, out of nowhere - this box turns up with hundreds of these same glass shells. I wanted to call him and say "These are the shells I have been asking you about for years - where did you find them??" But every time I ask him where he found something he says "G-d dammit Kaari - you know I can't tell you that" - and I laugh - because, as always, I don't really care exactly where he found them - I just want to know the story of how, after all these many years, a box of one of my very favorite beads (ever!) just turns up. Who cleaned out their basement or their warehouse and how did this box of shells end up with me again? In fact when he called to say he had found shells - I don't think he even knew they were the same one's I had been waiting for all these years.
So - it got me thinking - what else is still out there? How many boxes of old glass pearls are hidden in the basement of the Providence buildings? I think it's time I take a trip back east and explore my old stomping grounds - the old bead warehouses that have been overlooked for years. The boxes and boxes of glass cabachons, beads and charms that were manufactured in the twenties, thirties and forties - gross after gross after gross - packed away protected from dust and dampness. I wonder if it's all still there? I wonder if I got to Providence, rented a car and drove out to the treasure troves - would it all still be there - or has someone beat me to it?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Master Quilters

Lately I have been meeting some master quilters who are using the new Rouenneries fabric line to design some beautiful quilts and projects.
Desperate Journey, designed and sewn by Keiko Clark, was one of the first quilts I saw using our collection - and I was blown away by the details and spirit of the piece. Keiko is a Japanese quilter who has been teaching quilt making for the past seven years - you can take a class with her at the Prairie Queens Quilt Shop in San Jose, California.

Anne Sutton, of Bunny Hill Designs, designed Le Jardin, a block of the month applique quilt - using nothing but the Rouenneries line. It is a wonderful quilt filled with whimsy and charm. Anne told me that she had never designed a whole quilt using just one collection - but she found everything she needed in Rouenneries - which made me think that there was probably a good balance of lights and darks as well as small and larger prints.

I met Lynette Anderson, from Australia, in Houston - and fell in love with her work - I loved her design sense and small attention to details.

As a newcomer to the quilting business, I feel really lucky to have some of the master quilters designing with our fabric - thank you to everyone who has welcomed us into the quilt world!

An Old Friend.....

Last week was my birthday - and I was sick - such a bummer to be sick on your birthday! Walking into the shop on my birthday I was greeted with a box from the post office. An old friend that Molly and I had met years ago in New York had sent me a collection of hand-made clay plates stamped with the French General name. We had carried these plates in our New York shop for years - and always loved them. Rae Dunn, a wonderful master of clay - had sent me the leftover plates from almost ten years ago. Sometimes you just need a little shout out from someone who is thinking about you to make it all feel better. Thanks Rae!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

American Pride

It's a rainy day in Los Angeles, I just returned from the Houston Quilt Show, we were open yesterday (a rarity around here) and today I spent the day with two wonderful sisters, Rinne and Lucy. who shot the shop for Selvedge Magazine.
So - finally - it's time to pick a winner of our textiles - Rural Jardin - from Moda. Drumroll's so hard to pick just one...there were so many good ideas of sewing projects! So out of all the wonderful ideas, and here are just a few...

Austin - summer hat
Cathy - kimono
Richelle - little boy bermudas
Holly - fabric canopy
K. Cotton - mailman style shoulder bag
Wanda - British bunting
Jamie - cushions for a deck at her lake house
Lulie Stout - umbrella cover
Lisa - drawstring bag for the beach
Mrs. Darnell - Christmas banner
Cynthia - vintage patchwork skirt for her daughter
Crystal Burns - laundry basket cover
Rose Brier Studio - beach chair covers favorite has to be Lynda G's idea of a wedding quilt for her son, using the red, white and blue in a nine patch pattern, as a gentle reminder of his army connection. There were so many great ideas of household textiles and quilts - but Lynda's tugged at my heart - because I think of how lucky I am to be doing what I want to do everyday while young kids are out fighting for this country. It is something I think about often, and although I am torn over the cause, I and am grateful for the men and woman oversees. Lynda send me your address and I will send out a box of Rural Jardin - merci!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Rural Jardin

Just received the samples from our new line, Rural Jardin, with Moda. Filled with shades of woad, chanvre and rouge this collection has some of the prettiest stripes and checks - many reproduced from 19th century French textiles. We named it Rural Jardin because many of the floral prints reminded me of the old French gardens I see throughout the South of France - the vines and fantasy flowers.
I've got all sorts of yardage in the shop now - so if you just can't wait till Spring 2010, pop by on a Monday and you can see the full line. I am getting ready to head to Houston for the Quilt Market this week where Moda will be showing all of their new Spring fabric collections. Most people go to market to sell their designs or show their product - I go just to see old and new friends - and for the Moda party! Moda puts on a grand soiree during market where they invite all of their designers and buyers - a good time is had by all. To celebrate our new collection, I'll send out a box or two of fabric samples - let me know what kind of striped summer project you might be sewing - and hopefully you'll get a head start! Merci!