Monday, February 28, 2011

Botanical Charm Club Giveaway

We're starting a new club over at French General - The Botanical Charm Club - a monthly bracelet kit club that features all sorts of old glass flowers, leaves, stamens, fruit, butterflies and bees - all of the vintage botanical bits and pieces that make up a garden inspired charm bracelet.
Whenever I find myself knee deep in a basement digging out notions, I always seem to be drawn to the floral and fauna - the old glass ladybugs, the brass sunflowers and the wire embedded apples. If you love old glass flowers and charms and dream about far-away gardens, then you will love this new club.
After joining the Botanical Charm Club you will receive a bracelet kit every month - you can choose to join the Annual Club for six months or dig in and join the Perennial Club for a whole year. Since much of the material we use to make our jewelry kits is vintage, there may be a substitution here and there - but we hope you agree that having a unique kit makes it all the more special.
To kick off our new club, we're giving away a six month Annual Club membership to someone who needs more botanical charms in their life. Please leave us a comment about your favorite garden and Sofia will pick a lucky winner. Bonne Chance!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Woad Workshop

Last summer, I wrote about our woad days at the chateau. I dreamt about being able to bring Denise Lambert, the master dyer, over to the states and have her teach the magical workshop here in Los Angeles to friends and artists that couldn't fly to France to learn the craft. We talked about it over lunch one day at the chateau and Denise said "Find me a group of women who are interested in woad and I'll come".
I've been talking about woad for a couple of years now, and everyone always looks at me like "what are you talking about - indigo, vegetable dye, Rit?" So - I decided it's time to find a group of interested women who want to know about the ancient craft of woad dying.
To my surprise and delight, Denise has agreed to come and teach. We are planning a full day workshop where one will be able to come and learn from the one of the few master woad dyers in the world - the world!

Woad, Isatis tinctoria, was known throughout Europe as far back as the Egyptians, whom used it to dye the cloth wrappings used for the mummies. In the Middle-Age, it was used for its medicinal and healing properties, and according to the archives of the city of Marseille, it was the Moores that introduced Woad to the south of Europe. In the beginning of the 15th century, Woad was found in England as well as in the northern part of Europe, where it was mainly used for dyeing. European Woad is the legendary blue plant dye from Europe and was prized by Napoleon to dye the uniforms for his army. Woad is the eponymous French Blue – a rich, soft shade with a touch of grey.

For our workshop, we will be dying in an old, historic area of Los Angeles - Elysian Park - less than a mile away from French General. In an old field, surrounded by trees, we will be treated to a lecture on the history and technique of woad and then, for the remainder of the day, we will dye together. Bring your old white linen, cotton or silks - anything that has seen better days that you would like to dye a beautiful French blue color. You can also bring skeins of yarn or ribbon - anything of natural material - linen, cotton, silk or hemp.
This promises to be a very special day and you will be amazed as you see your whites change from acid yellow to bright green and finally, by the time you hang your piece on the laundry line, a rich, deep woad blue.
I have dyed with Denise many times, and I still get excited about the process - it's not every day that one has the opportunity to learn a medieval craft. Class size is limited. Visit us at for more information or sign up here for the workshop.
Woad It!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Design Inspiration

Lately I have been sorting through all of my swatches and document scraps of fabric - the old French pieces that I can't bear to use. Sitting in the archives (aka the garage), pulling them out of the old files, rearranging them and looking at them all day long somehow seems to inspire me and lead me in new design directions. I've also been collecting all sorts of images that fit in well with my scraps - images found in favorite magazines or pulled out of an old French swatch book - anything that awakens something inside of me and says "yes - that's it!" I'm learning that inspiration for my design comes from so many places - whether it's a frayed old piece of tapestry or the weave in an old hemp sheet. These pieces, looked at closely are giving me a whole new way of seeing - which will hopefully lead to a whole new project. Stay tuned...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Beaded Posey Workshop

Back by popular demand - Shea Fragoso and Debbie Murray are returning to French General! Come learn the centuries old French craft of beaded flowers and create a lovely little bouquet of sparkling posies. Saturday, March 19th from 6-9pm. All materials included - just bring your glasses! Sign up at

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pin Pillows

I've been obsessing over pin pillows, or what we now call pincushions, lately - what they were made of, what they were filled with and how they survived so much pinning! I found this cute little ball in Omaha and have found myself going back to it again and again - the colors, the craftsmanship, and the filling - a light, fine sand. Isn't it funny how one small, seemingly insignificant object can give you a wealth of inspiration.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Merci Merci Merci!

What a grand weekend we had here at French General! Workshops were filled to the brim in our little old shop - student's learning all sorts of techniques and creating the most beautiful of projects - and teacher's who traveled far and wide to be here - even braving snowstorms!
From the very beginning, I wanted The Art of Craft to be a creative learning experience for everyone involved - students, teachers and all of us here at FG. I loved sitting in on all of the classes and hearing other teachers teach - learning from them and a bit more about myself. I loved how my mom, Kick, was in the kitchen feeding all of us for three straight days - next time she'll craft more and serve less! I loved how my sister Molly came and was here from beginning to end and still managed to teach an inspiring class! I loved how JZ, Sofia and my dad showed up Sunday evening and helped us throw a soiree with Jo Packham! I loved how the girls, Dawn and Christine, worked the till till the end, and finally, I loved how the teachers and students gave and received so graciously. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

(photo courtesy of Charlotte)