Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jewelry 101

The basics in jewelry making are happening this Saturday at French General! Come learn how to work with the correct jewelry tools, the best glue for glass cabochons, the secrets of opening and closing a jump ring - did you hear the click? - and looping headpins. All materials are provided in the class fee, as well as a table of inspirational materials to make your project unique. Each Saturday, throughout the month of December, we are offering up simple craft workshops to learn the elementary skills....beading, collage and textiles are all explored on the craft tables at French General. Sign up for a class at frenchgeneral.com - bring a friend and your glasses!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Quilting Memories

How to choose just one? Every memory was special and conjured up images of younger years or family members that were quilting long before we were born. After much reading, the quilt used to wrap the dog was a memory we couldn't get out of our heads. Later, when talking to a friend about this idea of wrapping someone or something with a special quilt, she mentioned that she had wrapped her mother in a quilt before she buried her. I love this- the idea of covering a loved one in a quilt - to use something we have spent countless hours creating, to comfort someone else.
So many comments were about quilts made by their grandmothers that were thread worn, but still loved; a quilt made for a friend that was sick but needed to feel secure, a quilt given as a gift to a child leaving home - all of these quilting memories sounded special - how quilts have been a comforting presence from birth to death. Thank you for sharing - it's been a great look into how the quilt has played a part of our daily lives.
Jillayne please send me your address and choice of kit. Merci!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Thanksgiving Kit Giveaway

The quilt has a tradition of long centuries of slow but certain progress. Its story is replete with incidents of love and daring, sordid pilferings and generous sacrifices. It has figured in many a thrilling episode. The same type of handiwork that has sheltered the simple peasant from wintery blasts has adorned the great halls of doughty warriors and noble kings. Humble maids, austere nuns, grand dames, and stately queens; all have shared in the fascination of the quilter's art and have contributed to its advancement. Cottage, convent, and castle; all have been enriched, at one time or another, by the splendors of patchwork and the pleasures of its making.
Quilts: Their Story and How to Make Them - Marie D. Webster

I love this description - knowing that quilts fit into all of our lives - whether for necessity, comfort, or just pure pleasure. I remember going to bed underneath the quilt my grandmother made for her home - a down-filled, hand-tied quilt. I loved sleeping under that old, heavy quilt - even though I grew up in Southern California and the nights were never below 60 degrees. The quilt made me feel as if I was safe and protected every night.
I am amazed at some of the beautiful quilts being designed with our line of fabric from Moda - each is as unique and beautiful as the next. To thank you for welcoming us into this world of fabric and quilts, leave us your favorite quilt memory and Sofia will chose a name to receive one of our new quilt kits. The winner gets to choose their favorite: Maison de Garance or Reine des Abeilles .
Bonne Chance!

Photo: Victory Garden Quilt, by The Pine Needle, made with our Rouenneries fabric collection.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Small Details

Some of my favorite small details from the Ingres Museum in Montauban, France. Housed in a seventeenth century palace, the Musee Ingres is filled with a collection of artworks and artifacts related to Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres 1780-1867. The museum served as a temporary hiding place for the Mona Lisa during World War ll. Kick, Molly and I spent a rainy day at the museum this past summer and felt as if we were living in the past - it has an enormous basement chamber, three flights underground, that dates back to the 15th century. Only in France.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bobbin Lace

When you take groups of women to France who all collect the same thing - old trim, buttons, textiles and paper - you have to have a strategy for looking for your own stash. Logic tells me that I want to be the first one in the brocante, quickly survey the layout and then head straight to the armoire where there are piles of old textiles. But I've learned to take the slow approach. Now, I am usually the last one in and I head in the opposite direction of where everyone else has gathered. This lace sample book is a perfect example. When we all walked into our favorite antique shop in Montauban this past summer, everyone immediately spread out and started looking for gold. I hung back a bit, talked to the old owner, Guy, and told him about our escapades at the hat factory. He then pointed to a box on the floor in front of his desk and said "There's something in there you might like." That was my clue. I dug through the box full of old papers, scraps of tickets, maps and eventually pulled out this amazing sample book. Set up like a paper accordion, the pages all pull out - 25 in total - to reveal a bit of handmade bobbin lace. Each page has a selection of four inch lace samples tacked down - mostly in white, but a handful in black - for the mourning period. I tucked the book under my arm and thanked my lucky stars for finding the needle in the haystack.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Saturday at the Shop

We're trying something new! Between now and the holiday's French General will be open on Saturdays from 11-4 for a little extra shop time. We'll also be offering Saturday workshops from 1-4 featuring some of our holiday kits. This Saturday we will be teaching our Petite Coeur Kit - a velvet heart stuffed with lambswool or lavender and then embellished with jewelry and charms. We first taught this kit at the Creative Connection in Minneapolis and it was a big hit. I love how each heart turned out unique - everyone added their own twist by adding in ribbon, buttons and notions. We'll also pull out the button maker - where you can make a handful of buttons using your own photographs - turning this little heart into an heirloom cushion filled with your family memories.
There are still a couple of spots left for our Saturday classes - if you are interested, please sign up at frenchgeneral.com

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vide Greniers, Brocantes and Patrick Bru

Although there are many places to dig for treasures in France, one of the best places to dig is Patrick Bru's backyard in Septfond. Patrick used to own a huge warehouse on the main road - filled with French antiques - but two years ago he packed it all up and moved it over to his grandmother's maison where he now lives with his whole family.
It took me a while to track Patrick down, after arriving in France one summer to find the warehouse totally emptied. I started at the local bar in Caussade - where I had seen him a few times. The woman behind the counter was suspicious of this American woman looking for Patrick Bru - but she said she would pass my name and number on to him next time she saw him. Weeks later, Patrick finally called and told me he had been in the hospital for emergency appendectomy - he apologized for the late reply....I think.
You see, Patrick and I speak two different languages - totally. He speaks French and no English and I speak English and very bad French - almost none really. So we communicate through lots of hand signals, universal words and general French chatter - which doesn't really get the deal moving very quickly. We do both love the old bits of French history - the unused stock - the piles of school books, the old boutis and the well used breakfast bowls. This past summer I knew enough to go looking for Patrick on our first swing through town. Sure enough, I spotted him right where I thought he might be - at the new local bar in Septfond - sitting at the outside cafe table having a cigarette and a glass of beer.
I rolled down the window and shouted "Patrick Bru - c'est moi" He kinda looked at me like - "What??" But eventually recognized the girl from California who travels with her mom and sister - and a whole lot of friends - and waved back. I quickly told him we would see him later and he responded with a thumbs up signal. We visited Patrick two - no three times last summer, and every time I found an armful of treasures. He now invites over other friends who are dealers and makes up a small brocante in his backyard for us - a pop up market for the afternoon.
Of course there are the vide greniers and the brocantes to dig through in France, but when you find an old house filled with a family history and the backyard barns stuffed with collections - you keep returning year after year. Patrick Bru is one of those rare French dealers who stumbles upon the daily bits of rural life and then passes it on for a steal. Au revoir Patrick Bru!

Monday, November 08, 2010

French General Quilts

We've finally taken the plunge and designed a couple of quilts - with a little help from our friends! I remember attending Quilt Market a couple of years ago and being so intimidated by all the master quilters. I still am - only now, I talk with some of them on a regular basis and somehow they have coached me into thinking "yes we can".
Our Maison de Garance quilt is a small 46 x 46 applique quilt with a beautiful old house on the front, designed by JZ and Keiko Clark, sewn by Penny Tucker and quilted by Debbie Thorton. This is one of those quilts that you not only want to make, but want to keep.
Reine des Abeilles is a larger quilt, 75 x 82, with a charming hexagon pattern and a wide border print, designed and sewn by Keiko Clark and quilted by Debbie Thorton. I think this quilt would look perfect on an old farm bed or hung on the wall - it's got a great balance of light and dark and lots of red, of course.
It's been a long time coming for us to try out the waters with kits and patterns, but I think I am finally beginning to understand what goes into the pattern making business....a lot!! We've made up 50 of each of these kits- hoping they are loved by the quilting community. Each kit is complete with the fabric and pattern. The Maison quilt comes with a full size template for the house applique and the Reine quilt comes with a plastic hexagon template. Both kits are packaged in a fabric carry-all with two custom labels. I hope you enjoy our first two quilts - and if you make one of the kits, I would love to hear your feedback. Please e-mail me your comments and ideas at notions@frenchgeneral.com. Merci!

Quilts may be ordered on our website: www.frenchgeneral.com

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Old Hat Factory

There is an old hat factory in Septfond - a small town near the chateau we rent for our Chateau Getaway. I try to explain this hat factory to people and I can never get it quite right. I want to tell them how it's an abandoned factory - how one day, the workday bell rang and everyone put down exactly what they were working on and walked out. A cigarette, a half finished crown, the iron - everything is left - exactly where it was left 50 years ago. There are rooms and rooms filled with old horsehair braid, crinolin, buckram, unfinished straw hat blanks and yards and yards of old silk labels for berets. The owner, Guy, doesn't really think too much of his old warehouse - although pick up the wrong hat to buy and he will quickly replace it with another - regailing you with the time Maurice Chevalier came in and was personally fitted with that particular hat. Lately I find myself crossing my fingers and hoping that the old hat factory remains untouched until we return next summer. Not that I am worried about the stock being depleted - but more so about the character of the rooms being disturbed - I don't want anything to be cleaned up or tidied - I want time to stand still at this small secret stash in France.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Holiday Stocking

My friend, Katy, at the The Grey Colt in Hudson, Ohio sent me an invitation to participate in their annual stocking competition. Normally, I don't think I have any time for such extra fun - but now that I find myself sewing ALL THE TIME - I decided to throw my hat into the ring!
I started with a simple stocking pattern and cut out two pieces from an old hemp sheet.I gathered up all sorts of old red scraps and sewed them down to each of the two pieces - on opposite sides. I didn't bother turning under the seams - I just sewed a simple patchwork with raw seams. Each piece fit together like a jigsaw - I tore at the pieces that were too big and fit them into the right space - just like a puzzle pieces.Eventually, I had two pieces with patchwork sewn on opposite sides. I sewed them together - inside out, leaving a 1/4" seam for good measure.I used an old curtain 1" top scrap with a ring sewn on to reinforce the top of the stocking and add in a hanging ring.
I don't think I'll win a prize for this old stocking - but everything used was recycled and it took me about an hour to create.
If you'd like to create your own scrap stocking - look for our stocking kit on the website soon.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Dia de los Muertos

Honoring those who have passed - especially my friend
Carol Parks 11/30/49 - 10/21/10 - she will be missed by the creative community she loved.