The Cloth House, London

When I travel – especially to big cities, I’m always on the lookout for unique sewing or fabric related shops (like Purl Soho in New York.) I was SO glad when a few of the ladies at the Fat Quarterly Retreat recommended The Cloth House because it fit the bill perfectly.
There are two Cloth House shops on Berwick street (at numbers 47 and 98). Because of time I only visited 47, before it closed. I’m wishing I could have seen number 98 as well. (No. 47 had more of the cottons, linens, and trims, where as I think No. 98 specializes more in the in garment fabrics.) They are located only a short walk east of Liberty of London.
The Cloth House is FULL of treasures. Not only are there a wide variety and number of bolts of fabrics, but there are also beautiful displays of vintage notions, trims, spools, ribbons, etc. or haberdashery as they say in the UK. (A much more fun word than notions, if you ask me.) I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. The displays were inspiring and tasteful.

Vintage linen hemp and pattern wallpaper 
  Those jars!

I was good and only bought a couple of 1/4 metres of cotton. I wanted to get something unique that would be difficult for me to buy at home so I chose a printed cotton and a hand-stamped cotton, both from India.

Highly recommend a visit to the Cloth House if you’re in London. The staff was helpful, but not pestering. They were perfectly happy to let me browse and very gracious when I asked if I could take photos.

Quilt at the beach

A few weeks ago, we went on a crazy, almost spur-of-the-moment road trip to the beach. My sister-in-law invited us to come stay with them at a beach house in southern California during part of their spring break. At first I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. We had a lot going on and our kids would miss a couple days of school since it wasn’t our spring break yet. Fortunately we threw caution to the wind and did it anyway. And it turned out to be the very best kind of idea.
We went from this the week before…
…to this.
Not too shabby.
Since we were going to be in a nice change of scenery, I decided to finally photograph this project somewhere besides my backyard. (Although, I wouldn’t mind if this was my new backyard.) I started this quilt exactly a year ago. I wanted to play with fabrics and create a kind of ombre look using different shades of fabric. I love each of the fabrics that I used.
Then I decided I wanted to quilt it myself using an echo quilting in the white space. And it took. For. Evah.  I would work on it for a little bit and then get sick of it and put it away for a while. And then pull it out again for a few more rounds, and then put it away again. Finally I finished it during Season 3 of Downton Abby. Whew. 

And now it is finally ready to share.  I was originally going to write a pattern for this one. Still deciding if that will happen or if it will just be a nice experiment in fabrics, color, and a lot of straight line quilting. Also still trying to come up with a name for it. Ideas? Thoughts? Suggestions?

And nowI will leave you with some dreamy, summery shots to get you through these last winter days (if it’s still like that where you are.)

Breaks are good things – I didn’t realize how much I needed one until we went away. It was so nice to just sit and visit with siblings (my sister and her husband drove a couple of hours to come visit for the day and another brother-in-law and his wife were able to visit another day. I love my family!) I loved just sitting, doing a little hand-sewing, watching the cousins play together, listening to the waves, and eating fresh fish tacos.

And now we’re back in the middle of school plays, registering for next year, birthdays, and the busy-ness of regular life. Next time I get an invite to the beach, I definitely won’t drag my feet before I get there. That’s for sure.

Paris in pictures

Alright, another travelogue post. Pictures from Paris. The last time I went to Paris was 19 years ago while I was living in London as a student. And I totally loved it. As excited as I was to go back again, I was slightly worried that I had romanticized it in my adolescent mind and that it wouldn’t be quite as wonderful as I remembered it. Well I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Paris really is all that and a bag of chips. I loved it just as much as an adult and it was that much better being with my Italian lover (aka: my husband.)
I loved the big icons of Paris: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, even the classic French Onion soup and escargots (snails – I didn’t try them.)
But the small details of Paris are equally charming and wonderful: book sellers along the Seine, historical monuments, grabbing sorbet on the go, etc.  Above left are ‘love-locks’ on one of the bridges where couples put a lock on the bridge and throw the key into the Seine as a symbol of their undying love.
We only had a day and a half in Paris, but is was enough to see almost everything we’d hoped to see. We’d seen weather reports that our day 2 would be cold and windy, so we saved the museums for that day and tried to cover as much territory outside that we could on day 1. It was a spectacularly gorgeous fall day and we walked from Ile de la Cite (the oldest part of Paris where Notre Dame is located), through the Latin Quarter, up the Seine past the Louvre, through the Tuileries gardens to Place de la Concorde (above with the obelisk), rode the bus up the Champs Elysees, climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, walked down to the Trocedero, across the bridge and under the Eiffel Tower, ate some food, and took a night boat ride on the Seine. I was so pooped I almost fell asleep multiple times on the boat (not super-romantic.)
It was such beautiful weather that I really wished we could have just sat in chairs around the fountains at the Tuileries and soaked in the sun and people-watched, but there was not a minute to spare.
Notre Dame cathedral (top) and Sainte Chappelle (bottom).  Notre Dame is impressive – especially it’s size considering how and when it was built 800+ years ago, but I’m especially particular to Sainte Chappelle known for it’s incredible stained glass walls. I was equally charmed by the tile floors.
Day 2 we hit the Museums starting with the Musee d’Orsay, dedicated to art from the 19th century and housed in a beautiful old Beaux-Arts train station. (It’s the building on the left in the picture above, across the river from the Louvre.) This one is my favorite – particularly the Impressionists and most specifically, the Van Gogh’s.  I’ve always loved his vibrant, primary colors and realized those are the colors that I’m most drawn to when creating for myself. So me and Vincent must be kindred spirits.  Good old Whistler’s Mother and her shades of gray would fit right into current popular color palettes.

From there we went to the Orangerie to see Monet’s massive Water-lily murals (no pics) and then to Les Invalides (RIP Napoleon) and the Rodin gardens. Those gardens were wonderful – I had never been there before. Another place I could have just sat and soaked up the Parisien ambiance had there been more time.

Our last stop of the whole trip was the Louvre - the grand-daddy of art museums.  My husband was such a trooper. Art museums are not his ‘thing’, but he was so supportive of me going to all of them. I was a Humanities major in college and loved studying art history and literature and all that fun stuff. But I will admit, even I had my fill of art and culture by the end of the day. I did find some nice quilty-inspiration in the parquet floor of the Louvre though…
I loved just taking in the ambiance of that city. We stayed on Rue Cler (between Les Invalides and the Eiffel Tower) in a not fancy, but totally great little hotel – Grand Hotel Leveque. The location was so central and I loved all the cafes and vendors along Rue Cler – a pedestrian-only street. I studied French and was quasi-fluent years ago, and very rusty now, but by the end of our trip I was feeling more comfortable and confident. I even ordered and transacted everything in French (neanderthal version, I’m sure) at a bakery one morning and was quite pleased with myself. 
So there you go. Paris in a nutshell.
When I got home I was excited to see these Paris fat quarters had arrived from Poppy Seed Fabrics while I was gone. I hadn’t done much shopping (other than an museum gift shop here or there) in Paris, so now I can make my own little memorable souvenirs of a happy trip.  
Post edit: And of course I found out about quilt shops in Paris after I came home. Here is the info thanks to reader Mariana Nortje: Le Rouvray, 6 Ru des Grandes Degres, off the Quai de la Tournelle. On the left Bank, 5th Arr. The road is almost exactly opposite the bridge, the Pont de l”Archeche that connects the Ille de la Citie to the left bank where the Museum for the Deportation of the Jews and it is also very close to where Boulevard Saint Germaine run into the Quai de la Tournelle. There is also one in the 11th Arr., La Boutique du Patchwork, 37 Rue Saint Ambroise.
If you’re looking for other travel tips and insights to Paris, or just more pretty pictures of France, visit Stephmodo for lots of suggestions and eye-candy. 

Little Quilter hits the Big Apple

My husband has had a lot of travel recently for his job.  Last week he had business in New York.  With the kids back in school and Grandma available to stay with them, I decided to tag along this time.  It was short- only a couple of days – but a nice getaway after a busy summer.
New York feels familiar. I used to visit my sister there and I made a trip with my husband a couple of years ago. I’ve compiled a list of places for sew-y inspiration in New York, if you’re interested.  I hit a few of those old favorites again, but also visited some new places.  One of which was The City Quilter which I’ll review in a separate post.
I had one day all by myself, and I made the most of it.  (I have no trouble keeping myself entertained.)  I hit the Fashion District, briefly, in hopes of stalking Tim Gunn.  No luck. It would have been nice to get a good Tim Gunn pep talk and hug. (Speaking of which, with the end of summer and the Olympics, I haven’t had time to start watching this season of Project Runway.  Now that things have settled down a little bit, I’m hoping to start catching up.)
One of my favorite areas of New York is Soho.  Lots of personality and good shopping like Pearl River Mart and the Jonathan Adler store. One of my favorite spots there is Purl Soho. Such an gorgeous store with lots of inspiration and eye candy. While there I splurged on my first bit of Liberty lawn.  
I also visited a new-to-me-quilt-shop on the upper east side, Pins and Needles Fabric Boutique.  I’d featured them in a previous post, but had never been to the shop in person. It was great!  It’s in a little upstairs space above a cafe, but the space is maximized fabulously. Lots of natural light at both ends and while fabric space is slightly limited, the bolts available are so well chosen. Lots of Liberty, Leciens, Kokka’s (some of which I purchased) and both quilting and garment weight fabrics available. So great to have something like this available in this part of the city. 
There was a little girls’ garment sewing class going on while I visited and I was getting the biggest kick out of it: a) because I have girls those ages and I know what it’s like to get them to focus and b) because I remember doing the same thing to my own sewing teacher when I was 12. :)
During the time my husband wasn’t working, we visited some sites and areas of the city we’d never been before. The first night after we arrived we visited the relatively recent development called the Highline. (Many thanks to Anne for suggesting in on the Facebook page!)  It’s basically a reclaimed elevated train line on the west side of the city that has been transformed into a long, elevated boardwalk/park.  It was so awesome! I loved the resourceful repurposing of something that could have been an eyesore and turning it into something attractive and useful. Lots of plants and flowers, as well as cafes, galleries, and gorgeous views of the Hudson.  My favorite was the water feature that kids were splashing in (bottom left.) Instead of water spraying upward, it stayed close to the ground, but was enough to cool off with on a hot, humid evening.

Another first: we took the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, first stop of hundreds of thousands of people emigrating to America..  My husband has Italian great-grandparents who emigrated to America in the early 20th century. We’re not sure which ones came through Ellis Island, but it motivated us to learn more about their stories. We also visited the 9/11 memorial (right) and witnessed the construction of the new World Trade Center development. The memorial was even more moving than I expected it to be. It’s a powerful and appropriate tribute to the many lives that were lost and affected that day. 

Speaking of Italians, I spent the last hours before catching our flight exploring Little Italy with my own Italian Stallion and consuming fabulous pizza. We ate at Pomodoro’s on Spring and Mulberry.  I think it’s my favorite pizza on the planet.  I wish I could find a way to conveniently duplicate it.  I have to confess, I think my most favorite part about trips to NYC is the food. Oh the food.

While we’re on the subject of NYC, have you heard about Quilters Take Manhattan? (Not to be confused with The Muppets Take Manhattan – there are no muppet babies or chicken harems involved in this event.)

QTM logo

Quilters Take Manhattan is an event to support The Quilt Alliance, a non profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of American quilts, including documenting quiltmakers and their stories. This event features guests such as Denyse Schmidt, Mark Lipinski and Jennifer Chiaverini. You can find out more about attending and purchasing tickets here. If you’re like me, and you can’t be there in person, there is a “Home Ticket” option where you’ll get access to video footage as well as gifts, samples and other swag from sponsors and eligibility to win door prizes or buy signed copies of Denyse Schmidt’s latest book. Very cool. Check it out.