International Quilt Festival 2016

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Grab a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, whatever suits your fancy, and come along with me for a tour of Houston’s International Quilt Festival 2016!

George R. Brown Convention Center

George R. Brown Convention Center

True to our usual M.O., my sister, Nannette, and I stayed at the adjoining Hilton Hotel Wednesday to Saturday to fulfill all our shopping and quilting fixes.  Wednesday night was Preview Night from 5:00 – 10:00 p.m.  Nannette admired the crazy quilts

img_6132and I paid a visit to the Texas Quilt Museum Booth.

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Beautiful booths everywhere,

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including one of my annual favorites, Edie and Luc Roelens booth, Trims on Wheels.  Here’s a sample of what you will find there:

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I enjoyed my favorites, such as Miss Rose Sister Violet, Diane Springer, Material Girl, Adorn-It, Mica’s Room and Hanah Silk.  Throughout the show this year, I purchased trims, dyes, fabric, embroidery, awesome scissors, and purse parts and patterns.  Nannette snagged the best purchase of all:  an actual wall hanging from the quilt gallery to hang in her horse arena!

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The artwork is entitled, “Home!”  by Cathy Wiggins from North Carolina.  Cathy achieved the look of a finely tooled Western saddle by quilting leather and applying dyes.  She used real conchos on the saddle and studs on the hat brim, then left the raw edges of the hide.  Everyone was interested in how Cathy “quilts” leather!  Her exhibit consisted of many fine pieces, all true works of art, introducing her own new and special techniques.

While we mostly shopped that first evening, the next day was back to the show, and a class for me.  Hanah Silk Flowers was taught by Faye Labanaris.

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We created roses, pansies, and posies from bias cut silk ribbons and velvets.🙂

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In addition to registered classes, you are treated to a schedule of demonstrations provided by Craftsy.  We enjoyed learning from Annie of byAnnie.com who taught us about purses, hardware, zippers, and patterns.

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And now on to the show!  We’ll start in the Winners’ Circle with the most prestigious overall award, the $12,500 winner of Best of Show.  img_6153

This year’s honor goes to Cynthia England of Dickinson, Texas.  Reflections of Capetown took a year to make and contains 8,400 pieces.  Cynthia was teaching quilting in South Africa when a side trip to a fishing village afforded her this scene of boats and reflections.  Her inspiration was the photograph she took, which she transformed into a masterpiece quilt of hand applique and machine quilting.

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Cynthia holding her inspirational photograph.

Cynthia holding her inspirational photograph.

Silk Road Sampler by Melissa Sobotka was another all-time

favorite of mine.  This quilt depicts a spice bazaar established in 1597, evoking smells and tastes through the imagination.  The bottom is bordered by tassels.

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Bouquet Royale by Margaret Solomon Gunn from Gorham, Maine, won the Baby Lock World of Beauty $7,500 award.

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Mikyung Jang from South Korea, portrayed one of the most beautiful old castles in Korea through intricately machine quilting and hand dyeing.

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Another winner was Unknown Man, fused applique, by Marina Landi and Maria Lucia Azara from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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The $7,500 Founders’ Award this year went to Sally Magee from Texas for Baltimore in Bloom, a design by Sue Garman.  This quilt took Sally 3,000 hours to applique and 1,000 hours to hand quilt!

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I don’t pretend to know how  the quilts are judged but each one is amazing.  The quilts that follow are simply ones that made me go, “Wow!”  Royal Palm Hawaiian by Laverne Matthews is a huge quilt with stunning colors.  Her design source was folded paper cut designs.  It was hand appliqued and quilted.

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Another quilt that caught my eye with its striking colors is Chambord Fantasy by Jacqueline Manley from Reno, Nevada.  While traveling in France, she photographed the architecture of Chateau Chambord France with its quirky towers for her inspiration.

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What’s this???  While meandering through the quilts, in one corner of the building, I came upon a sign… though I’m not sure what takes place there, I did see one lone man sitting in the corner…🙂

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Now here’s a quilt!  “Crocodylus Smylus” by Susan Carlson of Harpswell, Maine, is 22′ x 6′ and weighs 30 pounds, taking two years to complete.

Crocodylus Smylus

Crocodylus Smylus

Close-up of

Close-up of “Stevie”

“Stevie” is nicknamed for naturalist Steve Irwin and is a life-size replica of a real saltwater crocodile.  If you would like to see a time-lapse video of this quilting creation, go to susancarlson.com.

Susan and her Stevie

Susan and her Stevie

“Stevie” was part of her eleven quilt nature exhibit, including:

Kaldi Moondance (Ugandan stork)

Kaldi Moondance
(Ugandan stork)

And…

Tickled Pink

Tickled Pink

Hmm, seeing a pink rhinoceros reminded us that we’d better call it a day and check out the Pappasito’s drink menu for a large scrumptious sangria!  Paired with nachos and quesadillas, it was the end to a perfectly quilty day.

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Night view from the Hilton

Night view from the Hilton

Friday brought us back to reality as it was our last full day.  Yikes!  On with the Tour de Quilts. Moving faster now…   African Sunflower by Peggy DeLaVergne:

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Autumn Leaves by Nancy Ryan reminded me of the fall I long for in Indiana…

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Head 7 by Diane Siebels was a depiction of the merging of human beings with the constant influx of data:

Head 7

Head 7

Head 7 Close-up

Head 7 Close-up

Pseudo Lunar Topography by Meggan Czapiga:

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It Takes a Village by Susan Bleiweiss:

It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village

Suburban Nest by Sara Sharp in Austin, Texas.  The inspiration for this quilt was when the artist noticed that sparrows had built a nest in a commercial sign on the Nest building.🙂  The 3-D effect of the nest is adorable in person.

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Beauty in the Darkness – Artist Kim Boroway:

Beauty in the Darkness

Beauty in the Darkness

Nannette and I broke for lunch upstairs where ladies just share large round tables.

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There we met Debbie Wick of Elmira, New York, the artist for the following luscious quilts in the Primitive/Folk Art Style.  Maggie Grace’s Garden (design by Di Ford-Hall) took two years to complete, and is hand pieced, appliqued, and quilted.

Maggie Grace's Garden

Maggie Grace’s Garden

Another amazing quilt by Debbie is Cottage Garden by Blackbird Designs.  Hand appliqued!

Cottage Garden

Cottage Garden

In the same traditional category is Folk Art Flowers by Paula Wexler.  Hand appliqued and hand quilted.  Using many different fabrics, her challenge was limiting it to just four colors.

Folk Art Flowers

Folk Art Flowers

The artists are Unknown for the following beauties.

Flower Garden Star

Flower Garden Star

A Path Through the Flower Garden

A Path Through the Flower Garden

An especially colorful and delightfully kaleidoscopic type quilt is the Millefiori.  The term millefiori is a combination of the Italian words “mille” (thousand) and “fiori” (flowers).  Enjoy!

My Butterfly Garden by Dawn Monk of Seaford, East Sussex, United Kingdom.  It took fourteen months and is hand-pieced with 150 different fabrics.

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Dawn Monk explaining her quilt.

Dawn Monk explaining her quilt.

La Passacaglia:  Sometimes More Is More, hand-pieced by Mary Althaus.

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An award-winning Texas’ Guilds Traditional Quilt is Sunshine by Judy Wolff from Lincoln, Texas.  This quilt has 80,402 pieces!  Wish you could see it in person.

Sunshine

Sunshine

In the category of Art-Naturescapes:

Sunkissed by Theresa Olson from Port Saint Lucia, Florida.

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The Innovative Applique division offered:

Moonflower by Molly Hamilton Mcnally of Tehachapi, California.  Her inspiration was “the humble daisy.”

Moonflower

Moonflower

Tulip Fields by Anna Faustino of Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania.  The black outline was cut freehand.  The vibrant colors were inserted between the batting and the cut black, then fused into place.  Her inspiration was Hollands’ tulips.  Love this quilt!

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Birds Fly… by Barbara Lies, Wheaton, Illinois.  The openwork bars are a hand and machine applique process developed by the artist.

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In the American Tradition category is El Camino Serenade by Denise Nelms of Irvine, California.

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“Sarah’s Revival in Blue” by Gail Smith from Barrington, Illinois, is hand appliqued from a Sue Garman design.  Huge quilt that is stunning!

Sarah's Revival in Blue

Sarah’s Revival in Blue

Quilts de Legende category offers “Illusion d’Optique” by Anne-Marie Sierra of Paris, France.  Another large masterpiece!

Illlusion d'Optique

Illlusion d’Optique

The Innovative Pieced category included “Quahadi” by Marla Kay Yeager of Ava, Missouri.  This quilt was five years in the making.

Quahadi

Quahadi

One of my favorite sections is the Art Whimsical Category.  Of course, I was first attracted to the Golden Retriever…

Obsession by Tonya Littman of Denton, Texas, even bordered the bottom with miniature tennis balls!

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Grace Sim quilted an original design inspired by coloring books and Swarovski crystals called iColor Longhorn.

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iColor Longhorn close-up

iColor Longhorn close-up

A really cute and colorful quilt was designed by Cindy Cooksey of Irvine, California.  It’s called “The Innkeeper Wore Black” and it was inspired by a visit to a bed and breakfast.  It was a colorful B & B, with bold patterns on everything except the talkative innkeeper, who wore black.

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In the Patterns category:

“On the Same Page” by book lover, Linda Anderson of La Mesa, California.  Based on a photograph of a family member.  This is a huge quilt that is amazing in person.

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On the Same Page close-up

On the Same Page
close-up

Another in the Patterns category is “Tiles” by Cathie Hoover.  Her inspiration came from sidewalk tiles in Barcelona.

Tiles

Tiles

The next category is termed Hands All Around 2016 sponsored by Quilters Newsletter Magazine.

“Nature 1” by Bella Kaplan from Israel is based on the agricultural area where she lives.

Nature 1

Nature 1

A large quilt, “Portrait Noir” by Trish Morris-Plise from Nevada City, California, is a self-portrait.  The names of people who are important in her life, as well as events and places, are quilted into this quilt.

Portrait Noir

Portrait Noir

The Art Pictoral category offers quilts that are amazingly life-like.  Here are some examples.

“The Big Dry” by Camilla Watson of New Zealand.  “The Big Dry” in Australia lasted from 1937 to 1947.  Rivers ceased to flow and dust storms raged.  Many property owners were forced to leave with whatever items they could carry.  This quilt was based on a photograph taken by the artist’s father.

The Big Dry

The Big Dry

“Lazy Afternoon” by Hiroko and Masanobu Miyama of Tokyo, Japan.

Lazy Afternoon

Lazy Afternoon

“Cat Tails” by Pat Durbin, Arcata, California is clever.  Love this!  A cat tail among cat tails…

Cat Tails

Cat Tails

“Ay-Cock-A-Doodle-Doo” by Deborah Bradley of Kingwood, Texas.  The artist’s dear friend had lost her father but still had all of his ties.  So the artist used the ties to create a memory quilt honoring her friend’s father, Byron Wolverton Aycock.

Ay-Cock-A-Doodle-Doo

Ay-Cock-A-Doodle-Doo

“The Venetian” by Jan Soules, Elk Grove, California, was inspired by the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

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“Wheat Field” by Melissa Burdon of New Zealand.

Wheat Field

Wheat Field

Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting and Traditional Applique category included:

“The A-E-I-O Ewes” by Janet Stone of Overland Park, Kansas, a beautiful and clever quilt.  The title came to her while lying awake in bed.🙂  The fabrics are hand-dyed by her friend, Gilbert Muniz.

The A-E-I-O Ewes

The A-E-I-O Ewes

“Fruits of Labor” by Liza Harrison of Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

The Fruits of Labor

The Fruits of Labor

“Fantasy Flower” by Keiko Ike, Kochi, Kochi, Japan.

Fantasy Flower

Fantasy Flower

“Z is for Zinnia, C is for Cosmos” by Kathie Kerler, Portland, Oregon.

Z is for Zinnia, C is for Cosmos

Z is for Zinnia, C is for Cosmos

Maybe it’s appropriate we end here with the z’s…  Say good-bye to our beautiful second home lobby

Hilton lobby

Hilton lobby

Say good-bye to our favorite relaxing spot by the water wall…

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And although you can’t see it here, parallel to the water wall is a mega Starbucks!  You served us well, Starbucks–we’ll see you next year!

And now I deposit all my treasures on the cutting table, waiting for me to sift through, organize, and get busy!

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Adventures in China

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Adventures in China

Last month, Rick and I explored China via Viking Cruises.  In preparation, months ahead we secured our Chinese visas, studied our China travel book, and added two apps onto our phones.  One app (Google Translate) translates Chinese writing into English as you hold your camera to it, and also translates verbally.  Currency Calculator app displays the currency exchange from yuan to dollars and vice versa (as well as many other currencies around the world.)

China was the furthest we had ever traveled and the most culturally diverse.  What an educational experience!  We met wonderful people, laughed a lot, learned a lot, formed new friendships, and saw sights we had only viewed through books and screens.

Our guide, Ray, was Chinese.

Ray, our guide

Ray, our guide

Ray is married and has a sixteen year old daughter.  He was fun, knowledgeable, responsible, and made our life easy, sharing his own candid insights along the way.  I never heard him duck a question, and there were plenty from our lively group!

The accommodations in each city were fantastic.  Here is an example of our hotel in Beijing, a city of 22 million people.  I guess one of my surprises about China was how modern, commercial, and beautiful the cities are.

The Kerry Hotel - Beijing

The Kerry Hotel – Beijing

While unpacking, I turned on the TV and what do you know?  China’s version of America’s Got Talent!

Chinese TV

Our first group outing in Beijing was Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  Tiananmen Square is 100 acres and the world’s largest public square, including Mao Zedong’s mausoleum, which you see behind Rick.  We visited on Rick’s birthday.🙂

Birthday Boy in Tiananmen Square

Birthday Boy in Tiananmen Square

As we continued into the Forbidden City, we noted a large portrait of Mao Zedong, which looks like a very large photograph but is actually a painting.

Entrance to Forbidden City

Entrance to Forbidden City

Close-up of Mao Zedong painting.

Close-up of Mao Zedong painting.

Chairman Mao died in 1976 but his portrait is prominent across China, especially offering nostalgia to the elderly Chinese who often revere the communist leader and what they feel were secure values.

Entrance to Forbidden City

Entrance to Forbidden City

The Forbidden City was a great work-out, covering 720,000 square acres, and it seemed we covered most of it!  This was the home of 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties from 1406 to 1911.

I want to say a word about restrooms…

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Once inside the Forbidden City, we were offered our first public restroom stop.  We had all heard about “squatters” and had been told that most public restrooms did offer a few “Western” toilets.  There were a few younger ladies in our group who opted to try a “squatter” but the rest of us stood in the “Western” line.🙂  When it was my turn for the “Western,” suddenly a Chinese lady who appeared to be in charge of the restroom held a “squatter” door open, motioned, and shouted at me in Chinese.  I could only surmise that she had said, “Get in here, you chicken woman!”  So, not to appear intimidated, I chose to experience a squatter on my first day in China and get it over with.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.  I will describe it for you.  It had a privacy door, as did all the toilets, thank goodness.  On the floor was something that resembled a shower pan and on the wall in front of me was a handle bar to hold when rising up.  I was wearing a dress, so I gave it my best shot.  I have bad knees.  It did not go well.  Messy and embarrassed, had we not all been pressed for time, I would have dug in my purse for pencil and paper and scribbled an Out of Order sign for future occupants.  The rest of the trip, I managed to snag a Western stall.

According to Ray, the Chinese regard Western toilets as unclean, because one person after another is sitting on that same space.  When asked what was in his home, he replied, “A Western toilet.”

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Inside the Forbidden City

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Corner Roof Detail

Corner Roof Detail

Ceiling Detail

Ceiling Detail

One issue we had to adjust to was jet lag due to a 12 hour time difference.  We were exhausted and yet in the evening we were entertained at the Red Theatre by a production of  The Legend of Kung Fu.

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Our second day presented the main reason we traveled to China–The Great Wall.  Chinese mythology claims that evil spirits can only travel in a straight line, hence the winding, undulating engineering feat.

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Once stretching for more than 6200 miles, the early 16th century Great Wall represented power and isolation.  Some sections today are in disrepair, but we were determined to conquer The Fourth Tower.  I had envisioned a very, very long meandering path.  And it was very, very long.  But not casually strolling flat…  We walked and then climbed, walked and climbed, to stone towers which would have housed a garrison of at least 100 soldiers.

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

This picture portrays how steep the incline at various points.  Note the tourists hanging onto the rail both ascending and descending.  And the steps are varying sizes.

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Our experienced guide insisted we arrive at the wall in the early morning hours when the temperature was cool and the people were few.  Wise move.  After an hour, we reached our goal:

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Feeling elated and  victorious, we started back down, but I stopped to purchase a souvenir from this fascinating artist.

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Right before my eyes, he used a small stylus tool to chisel the Great Wall of China into a block of granite!  I will always cherish this treasure.

Back on the bus, we had time for a short nap before stopping at a jade factory.  I did not realize that jade can present as colors other than green, including lavender and black.  Of course, we could shop, and I now have jade earrings.🙂

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Our last stop was the Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs.  Thirteen emperors were buried in mausoleums in this valley. Here are just of few of the many huge but intricate sculptures.

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That evening we were treated to a classic Chinese dish–Peking Duck carved tableside by our honorable chef at a famous Beijing restaurant.img_5077

One of the best outings was the day we enjoyed a rickshaw ride through Old Beijing.  Our caravan of rickshaws traveled on narrow alleyways through a quaint hutong neighborhood to a typical Chinese household.

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There a lady and her niece described life in their tight-knit community.  The younger girl demonstrated her talent for painting scenes inside tiny glass bottles which were available for purchase.  Commerce is alive and well, even in Old Beijing.🙂

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Gentle neighborhood folk cherish their pets as we do.

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We continued through the Bell and Drum Square where a renowned hacky sack expert wowed us with his skills.

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And then we learned the art of tea service…  And yes, we purchased a tin of tea.

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The next morning we flew to Xian, China, and checked into another fabulous hotel.

The Hilton Xi'an

The Hilton Xi’an

One of the world’s richest and biggest cities during the Tang Dynasty, Xian was once the capital of China.  Today it is most famous for the ancient Terra Cotta Warriors discovered in 1976 when a farmer was digging a well.  The emperor of the Tang Dynasty had thousands of warriors sculpted to accompany him and protect him in the afterlife.  A visit to this archaeological find allowed us to use elevated walkways to view more than 8,000 life-sized warriors, chariots, and horses.  Imagine a structure like an airplane hangar, only football fields long.  The excavation site is displayed in all stages–completed sculptures,

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those in varying states of repair,

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and even ditches where we viewed scattered remains yet to be meticulously pieced together.

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The Terra Cotta Warriors site was one of the most fascinating displays I have ever seen in my entire life.

Later in the afternoon, we had time to take a walk around our hotel area, and since my friends and I play Mah Jongg, I was delighted to find groups playing this game of tiles that originated in China during the Qing Dynasty.

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And then, another amazing find…Starbucks with translations on the menu!🙂

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In the evening we attended the Tang Dynasty dinner and show.

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On the drive back, we glimpsed the brightly lit city wall,

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and a beautiful community center.

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The next day we flew to Chongqing, China’s most important inland city.  We boarded our ship for the Viking Cruise on the Yangtze River.  As we sailed away, the city sights were breathtaking.

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Our first excursion from the ship was to Shibaozhai, China, where we visited a twelve story pagoda and climbed an interior spiral staircase to the revered temple.  First we crossed a swinging bridge.

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The Shibaozhai Temple

The Shibaozhai Temple

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View from the top

View from the top

That night as we sailed again, we traveled under a stunning bridge that changed color.

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The following day offered the Lesser Three Gorges Excursion.  We boarded a small sampan boat that cruised us into the most beautiful canyon with dramatic steep sides draped in lush greenery.

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We could see the hanging coffins of the Ba people.  Yes, they buried people on the mountainside.

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Honestly, I believe that was my favorite part of the whole trip.  So very beautiful and relaxing.  Or maybe it was just because it was one of the few times I remember seeing sunshine.  Think I was having sunshine deprivation.

Back on the ship, we could watch painting demonstrations,

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or even take Mah Jongg classes.

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The next excursion was to the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric power station in the world.

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And that night we entered a series of locks.

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The massive doors closed behind us.img_5532

Luckily, I am not claustrophobic.  Several other boats were in the locks with us at the same time.

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Since I am a retired teacher, I loved our next excursion to an elementary school in Jingzhou, China.  Viking sponsors the school and the children loved performing for us.  Their giggles and friendships proved that children are the same the world over.  They could just as well have been my former fourth grade students.

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One of the most appealing aspects of the five days on the ship was the traffic on the river.  I was not expecting to see other boats and ships all day and night long.  Nice surprise.  Small boats to container ships–I love them all!  Some nights I would wake up, go out on our little balcony, and watch the ships go by.🙂

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Before we disembarked, we were invited to visit the ship’s bridge.  Right up my alley, er… river.

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In Wuhan, China, we visited the Hubei Museum and listened to the lovely chimes and bells performance.

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We flew on to Shanghai, China, where our last hotel was even more spectacular.

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The Westin Bund, Shanghai

Night view from our room.

Night view from our room.

The hotel was located by the famous Bund district, the city’s elegant riverfront promenade.

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Shanghai is the largest city in China, 25 million people, a modern metropolis and center of finance.  Here are some building views across the river, including the second tallest building in the world, and the building Tom Cruise swung from in “Mission Impossible.”

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Second tallest building in the world.

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We struck out on our own for an evening river tour, but first we grabbed a bite at McDonald’s with a touch menu.🙂

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Shanghai’s after dark skyline.

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We strolled the winding paths and narrow lanes of Old Shanghai, shopped, then stopped for lunch at a delicious dim sum restaurant.

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After lunch we stopped at a silk carpet and embroidery workshop to witness an ancient craft.  The carpets seen hanging in the background were created by the loom process the young lady is crafting in the foreground.

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Although the following works of art look like paintings, they are actually fine silken threads embroidered onto silk fabric.

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In the evening we marveled at a breathtaking show by the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe.

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A perfect way to bring our thirteen day tour to a close.  We jetted the 15 hour trip home filled with fabulous memories!

Business is Booming!

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Business is Booming!

How happy I am to announce that Business is Booming!  A HUGE shout-out to the Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange, Texas, who will now be displaying and selling my bags!  I am supremely honored to be a part of their fabulous organization.  Julie, the Museum Director, shares my love of lush fabric and we had a marvelous time deciding which of my bags would complement upcoming museum exhibits.  The museum is comprised of several galleries showcasing masterpiece quilts.  Leaders in the international quilt community display and lecture in the historic buildings from 1890.  Exhibits from all over the world change every three months.  For gardeners and garden lovers, Grandmother’s Flower Garden is adjacent to the museum which is a period garden that would be typical of Central Texas flower gardens around 1890.  A 13 x 85 foot mural, depicting 15 traditional 19th century quilts, adorns the outdoor garden wall of the museum.  Not to mention, there is a wonderful quilt shop right next door to the museum.  What more could you want?  If you need more information, just visit texasquiltmuseum.org.

And now let me show you the latest bags from It’s Sew Anny Designs.  Sapphire & Diamonds

You just can’t beat a lovely clutch.  Based on an Ali Foster design, I paired a royal blue crushed velvet with a lime green suede to create “Sapphire and Diamonds.”  The interior is Dupioni silk from SoHo Fabrics.  Adorned with a faux mother of pearl and rhinestone broach, she’s ready to party!  Yes, she was difficult to part with, but she’s already been adopted.🙂

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Velvet Gold was fashioned from an olive/golden velvety fabric I discovered at the Round Top Antique Festival.  Complementing the floral paisley is a velvet green bow formed from Mood Fabric that I purchased in L.A.  (More about that trip later…)  The handles had been in my stash for a time, waiting for just the right bag.  The pattern was from Charlie’s Aunt called “The Brief Encounter” bag.  It was the first time I’d used this pattern and I know it won’t be the last.  Love it!

You see two views of the bag called “Inside Out” which is completely reversible.  I even added a pocket on each side.  One handle simply loops through the other for easy access, and you have a lightweight functional bag that offers two colors and designs for a versatile accessory. Fabrics from Cowgirls and Lace, Dripping Springs.

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Welcome Fall with Autumn Gold!  She’s a marriage of golden hues from Michael Levine (Los Angeles) and Cowgirls and Lace.  The Chemisette Handbag is a pattern from Craftapple Designs and is a delight to sew!  I had the perfect flower to enhance autumn tones so I simply added a broach pin to the back and the bag was complete.  The perfect size for those daytime jaunts.

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“Chocolate Luxe” is a plush bag made from a watercolor chocolate velvet from Mood Fabrics.  Dripping beads, a jeweled emblem, and a lush faux fur collar all combine to make this one of my all-time favorites.  This is my personal design, “The Jenny Bag.”

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An Amy Barickman pattern, the Rachel Bag, is one that uniquely opens from a zipper in the back.

I chose to call her “Lucy Goes to Town” and a close-up of the zipper pull reveals a little lady with her purse and heels on just ready to Go To Town.🙂

I created another version called “Chasing Sunny” with a red suede handle and a zipper pull that adds a bit of bling with a rhinestone key.  The red faux crocodile fabric was discovered at Fabric Decor in Houston.  I used a golden faux leather to design the flower with a center button from Tender Buttons on New York’s Upper East Side.  This is why you must purchase items you fall in love with when you travel.  #l) You’ll eventually use them and/or fondly recall the happy memory of said travels, and,  #2) If you don’t bring them home, you may be longingly recalling the “one that got away.”  Some things just bring you joy.🙂

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Oh, my, oh my…  I should have kept this bag.  The fabric is another version of that silky velvet, only this time it is a teal blue from High Fashion Fabrics in Houston.  The band is a velvet suede-like fabric from Michael Levine, L.A.  The leather flower was also purchased at Michael Levine.  I happened to have the perfect shade of blue beads in my stash.  Happy Day!

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A while back I discovered this magnificent fabric just rolled up on a table at High Fashion like someone forgot it.  No one claimed it and I happily  snapped it up.  I have enjoyed making two purses from the textured medallion embroidery.  This one is named “Tribal Fibers” and I enhanced it with a fringed leather key fob.  The handles looked appropriately rustic to me so I fashioned loops to accommodate them.  The faux ostrich is another Michael Levine purchase from our L.A. trip.

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This time the medallion fabric was paired with a faux embossed leather from Cowgirls and Lace in Dripping Springs.  The leather handles were from Shirley in Switzerland purchased on the internet.  Adorning the bag with a little lady swinging from repurposed jewelry gave it a whole different vibe.  I named it “Maddie Medallion.”  Both bags were created from a pattern by ithinksew.com.img_4744

“Vintage Autumn” is such a sweet bag.  I feel like the handles have a vintage vibe, as well as the jeweled flower.  I believe the beautifully textured fabric was from Britex in San Francisco.  Beadwork is from Interior Fabrics in Houston.  And the pattern is another Ali Foster, called the Lucy Tote.

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I chose to name this bag “Royal Velvet.”  It is a mini Jenny bag, fashioned from a rich velvety fabric from Mood in L.A.  The Greek coin button was found at International Quilt Festival, as well as the handles from Studio Mio.  The tassel trim is from Interior Fabrics.  An ensemble from many “in search of fabric” trips.🙂

So, as you see, I’ve been mega busy.  But, another very happy aspect to my growing business is Cheryl.  Cheryl is a friend who has joined in my venture and is not new to the sewing world.  She is a former entrepreneur in the custom dress shop field.  You should have seen us last week as she cut and pressed and I designed and sewed.  We are an awesome team!

Cheryl is a lady of many talents.  She will live here and pet sit for us while we are in China.  China? you say.  Yes, I need silk.  Just joking–it was on our bucket list to stand on the Great Wall.  But will I cast glances in hope of fabric for sale?  You betcha!

Until the next adventure tales,

Love, Anny

 

 

 

 

 

Mediterranean Memories

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Two weeks before the senseless tragedy in Nice, France, we were enjoying the Promenade for three days before our ship set sail for a Mediterranean cruise.  You may recognize these locations from our hotel window as the same ones you viewed on your TV news:

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I still think about all the wonderful people we met there, some whose names I do not know, and pray that they are all survivors.  Nannette, Bill, Rick, and I purchased paintings from an artist in Old Town, met lovely souls in restaurants, wineries, and our hotel.  I also took time to search out Toto, a fabric store near our hotel, at 14-16 Rue Malaussena.  Brightly colored fabric I can use next season.  Large store and lovely people.

Since we were on a wine cruise, our group enjoyed an excursion to the Chateau de Cremat, about 30 minutes from Nice.  Coco Chanel visited the estate many times in the 1920’s, a guest of a prominent  American socialite hosting lavish parties for the jet set.  As a result of their friendship, he gifted the logo of the two interlocking C’s which is seen throughout the estate, and now belongs exclusively to Chanel.  

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After our three days in Nice, we were transported to Monte Carlo.  Yes, we visited the lavish Casino, and all I could think of was, “Daniel Craig stood on this very balcony.”🙂  Eye candy everywhere, luxurious yachts, stunning surroundings, and home of the Grand Prix.

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We boarded our Oceania ship, the Riviera, and woke the next morning docked in France.  A private guide (who was absolutely amazing) met us and we drove to Arles.  Arles is in Provence, where Van Gogh stayed for a few years prolifically painting.  Gauguin joined him, and the two got along famously at first, painting by day and frequenting the bars and brothels at night.  Until an evening a few months later, when the two were having drinks at the cafe, and Van Gogh threw his glass of absinthe (a 68% alcohol liqueur banned in most countries now) at Gauguin.  As Gauguin walked away, Vincent chased him brandishing a razor and Gauguin left town.  You guessed it–this was the night Van Gogh later cut off his own ear and delivered it to Rachel at the brothel, saying, “Treasure this precious object.”

Van Gogh's "Cafe la Nuit"

Van Gogh’s “Cafe la Nuit”

The Cafe, in the Forum Square, is one of many stops on the Van Gogh trail, where they’ve placed reproductions of his canvases at the very sights where he painted.  A highlight of my trip, standing on that spot and feeling those artistic vibrations.🙂

Arles is also home to Roman ruins (which we also saw in Spain.)  Seen here, a Roman classical theatre, which is still used for productions today.

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The Roman Arena, or Amphitheatre, held gladiators fighting wild animals, and today they still hold “bullgames” here.  I was happy to know that only twice a year is the bull allowed to be killed, but that’s twice too many for me…

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We enjoyed lunch at a typical French cafe, then proceeded to Aix-en-Provence to visit Paul Cezanne’s studio.

Exterior Cezanne's Studio

Entrance to Cezanne’s Studio

Much the way he left it, preserved as it was when he died.

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What an honor to be strolling around in his actual studio.  I wish I had a better photograph of his Wall of Windows.

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And the letter he wrote to Monet, apologizing for leaving Paris so quickly, and thanking him for his support.

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The following day, our ship arrived in Corsica, France, birthplace of Napoleon.  IMG_3657

A very beautiful island, apparently a filming location for The Longest Day.

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In the afternoon we attended a wine seminar aboard the ship.  This was a Schramsberg Wine sponsored tour.🙂  Mmm, yes, sparkling wine is their specialty…  My favorite!  The ship sailed at night and every day we awoke in a different location.  So it was on to Sardinia…

We experienced a segway tour the following day in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy.  Segwaying is a great way to sightsee.  Smoothly sailing along, while your tour guide offers history through a headset.

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Then it was back to the ship for another wine seminar.  Oh, yeah!

More wine the following day, as we docked in the port of Palma de Mallorca.

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And traveled to two wineries.  The first was Bodegas Ribas, established in 1711, where we met the owner, who led our tour and tastings.  Later we indulged in a special alfresco wine-paired lunch in the beautiful hacienda courtyard.

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Traveling on to the Mesquida Mora Winery, we met Barbara Mesquida, a fourth generation winemaker.  After eight years of partnering with her brother, she struck out on her own to establish this winery where she is 100% committed to “natural” wine without added sulfites.  You know, in addition to being organic, this process greatly helps to eliminate headaches and hangovers. Just sayin’…

Presenting Barbara with a Schramsberg wine.

Presenting Barbara with a Schramsberg wine.

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Our next excursion was a tour of Ibiza, Spain, beginning with the salt flats in Las Salinas, and then on to the enchanting town of San Jose.

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14th Century Parish Church

14th Century Parish Church

San Antonio was next, which featured a yacht-laden harbor, many boutiques, and a beautiful palm-lined promenade.

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Arriving in San Miguel, we savored a delightful lunch of paella at Jardin del Mar.

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We strolled through Santa Eulalia, a picturesque cultural center and resort area.

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You wouldn’t believe the Las Boas Building, apartments by Architect Jean Nouvel.  They have arranged rainbow-inspired colored balconies of flowers.

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And finally, leaving Ibiza was almost as scenic as arriving.

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Our last full day in Spain was spent in Valencia where we explored the restored Central Market.  The market is bathed in natural light from glass domes and colorful window panels.

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Constructed in 1238, St. Mary’s Cathedral or Valenica Cathedral, is awe inspiring.  One of those “you have to see it to believe it.”

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But the piece de resistance:

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Most Christian historians the world over declare that all evidence points to this Valencian chalice as the most likely candidate for being the authentic cup used at the Last Supper–it has been defended as the true Holy Grail!

What a way to complete our journey!  And back to the ship, it was a wine-paired farewell dinner.  You’re probably wondering how I even remember these details with so much wine.  I take notes.🙂  My all-time favorite trip, and we are looking forward to the next Schramsberg Cruise!

Safe Summer Travels to All!

Anny

 

Purses Have Feelings Too…

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When my sister and I were little girls on a road trip vacation from Indiana to Texas, we would bring toys in the car, of course.  One of our favorites was the game Cootie.  With Cootie, the object was to be the first to build a bug-like object using a variety of plastic body parts.  Unfortunately, while traveling through Arkansas, one of the body parts landed out the car window.  Now it only made sense to us that if a body part was laying out on the ground in a far away state, we would have to deliberately throw out another body part to keep that one company.  Everything has feelings…

All that being said is to introduce you to a few bags that were created last year and didn’t make it into the blog.  We wouldn’t want a bag to have its feelings hurt, would we?  So before I go off to a therapy session, here are the omitted bags.🙂

I actually made two bags from a Charlie’s Aunt pattern called the High Tea Clutch Bag.  The first one I call “She Wore Blue Velvet.”  The velvet, inside and out, is from Mood Fabrics.  Then I added a beaded ribbon.

She Wore Blue Velvet

She Wore Blue Velvet

The other is titled “Hidden Butterfly.”  That’s because I randomly sewed two little metal butterflies to the front, along with an upcycled jewelry piece.  I believe the fabric was from Britex Fabrics in San Francisco and has lovely textured suede flowers on ivory linen.

Hidden Butterfly

Hidden Butterfly

Next is a bag that was sold before it was even placed on the shelf–“Confetti Candy.”  I’m showing both front and back to display a variety of fabrics and trims.  On the front side I used a suede-like tangerine fabric from Mood.  Added to the front was a pocket of Kaffe Fassett floral with colorful popcorn fringe and a sparkling pink broach from Trims on Wheels.   The reverse side featured a magenta upholstery weight fabric from High Fashion, with a ribbon embellishment from Renaissance Ribbons.  Surrounding the bag is multicolor confetti loop fringe from Cowgirls and Lace.  The pattern is one of my favorites from Cindy Taylor Oates.

Confetti Candy

Confetti Candy

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“Venetian Dream” is created from my original pattern, The Jenny Bag.  The fabric, from Michael Levine in L.A., is embellished with a heavily beaded trim and an elegant tassel.

Venetian Dream

Venetian Dream

I wanted to try my hand at using new purse hardware, which is what attracted me to a purse kit and pattern by Penny Sturges and Darci Wright found at Quilt Festival last fall.  It turned out well, and I learned to install a twist lock closure.  The pattern is Mini Messenger, and I named the bag “Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth

Elizabeth

Last year, after viewing gypsy bags on Pinterest, I was inspired to design a romantic creation.  “Gypsy Rose” is fashioned from the magenta fabric used on Confetti Candy, a coordinating pink faux ostrich, and a leather flower from Michael Levine.  It features a multicolor loop fringe from Cowgirls and Lace, a pocket of antique cut velvet, and a strap of vintage moss green velvet and leopard.  I still have not parted with this purse.

Gypsy Rose

Gypsy Rose

One of the most popular patterns I use is the Rachel Bag from Bag Boutique by Amy Barickman.   I wish I could remember where I purchased the zebra–perhaps Interior Fabrics in Houston.  The purse is accessed through a zipper down the backside and carried by a simple black bamboo handle.  The back features an organdy ribbon attaching a rhinestone heart-shaped key, hence the name “Wild at Heart.”  To create the front embellishment, I layered two buttons and looped over a silky black tassel.

Wild at Heart

Wild at Heart

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By the Sea is a fun bag I created from scraps of thick tropical themed fabric from a local Galveston upholsterer, distressed denim from Indygo Junction, faux ostrich from Michael Levine, and a plush vintage velvet ribbon from Los Angeles Antiques.  I sewed small beads on the eyes of the seahorses, and the crab and fish on the back.  The pattern is from Kati Cupcake Pattern Company and has twelve pockets. Such a challenge it was, using grommets with heavy thick fabric.  The problem is, the grommets are added at the very end, so you’re basically cutting large holes in your finished bag, and hoping that the grommets install properly.  And it’s actually hard to cut with your fingers crossed!🙂

By The Sea

By The Sea

Cowgirl Chic was fashioned from faux cowhide and leather from Cowgirls and Lace.  The lush fringe was from Interior Fabrics in Houston.  Not sure I can part with this bag, either.

Cowgirl Chic

Cowgirl Chic

The last two bags really are for me.  They will accompany me on a Mediterranean Cruise this summer.  I needed a hands-free, cross-body bag for shore excursions.  Not large–just large enough for essentials.  The perfect pattern for this is the Chattisham Clutch Bag from Charlie’s Aunt.  Bright red faux crocodile is from Fabric Decor in Houston.  I did not embellish it, as the fabric speaks for itself.  The zebra bag’s flap is sewn from a vintage crushed velvet found on Etsy, and the ruby bauble is upcycled jewelry.

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Tomorrow my granddaughter, Madison, arrives.  She just earned her driver’s license, so when we’re not beaching, shopping, or creating, I’m sure she will be happy to chauffeur us anywhere we travel. And until next time, happy summer travels to you!

Love, Anny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SNEAK PREVIEW

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Next Saturday, June 4, is Galveston’s Artwalk.  Needless to say, I’ve been feverishly sewing to build an inventory for the show at Tina’s which I have titled “Color Burst.”   Here is a sneak peek at my spring/summer collection using colorful laminates and vegan leathers.

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JAZZED!

MONET'S PALLETTE

MONET’S PALLETTE

FLOWER POWER

FLOWER POWER

ROSE CLIFF MANOR

ROSE CLIFF MANOR

TICKLE ME PINK!

TICKLE ME PINK!

COLOR BURST

COLOR BURST!

SKETCHBOOK SPRING

SKETCHBOOK SPRING

GALLERY IN RED

GALLERY IN RED

VINTAGE KEY WEST

VINTAGE KEY WEST

SEA GODDESS

SEA GODDESS

WHAT A CROC!

WHAT A CROC!

And there you have it!  Please come visit me at Tina’s on the Strand.  This is the same day that our loft is on the Loft Tour across the street.  Very convenient!  Rick will handle the tour while I’m doing the show.  Then on Sunday we’re both going to collapse and relax!

Love,

Anny

 

 

Crocodelic!

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Crocodelic!

A few months ago I discovered a slick new fabric–faux crocodile!  While perusing a fabric store on the west side of Houston, I stopped in my tracks.  The fabric was beautiful–bright, shiny, textured and in three colors!  I asked if I could purchase a small amount of each, but no such luck.  It was expensive and a one yard minimum.  I sadly declined.  But…the fabric haunted me.  I knew I had to have it, and not only did I pay the price, but shipping too!  It cut my sewing budget, but ideas for summer bags were dancing in my head and I was thrilled the day the three long rolls arrived!  Red, blue and green!

Perfect for summer bags.  It’s not exactly easy to work with (well I guess easier than a real crocodile) but the results are definitely worthwhile.  Not being flexible, it is a fabric that I prefer to use on straight, flat pieces like the band of a bag.  I started by making a couple of Jenny Bags (my personal design) and here they are:

 

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Balmy Breeze

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Gracie’s Garden

I paired it with heavy linens from Mood  and High Fashion Fabrics, which resulted in lightweight but very durable bags.  Happy with the outcome, I ventured trying it on a small bag, and here is the bag my friend named “Crocodelic!”

 

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Crocodelic!

The blue faux croc coordinated with a watercolor stripe fabric from Mood to make a “Charlie’s Aunt” pattern.  Her designs always go together so well.

Next I used the green crocodile for a purse designed by Ali Foster which I named Wild Child!

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Wild Child

I used a lushly textured, magenta cut velvet to coordinate with the green crocodile.

Getting braver, I decided to try another small bag, (again by Charlie’s Aunt) but with a large bow that was supposed to be sewn then turned right side out.  Yeah, that didn’t happen.  Way too stiff.  So my only recourse was to cut the pieces, and while gathering and sewing together, I had to turn all the edges inward and make an edged seam.

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Don’t think I’ll be doing that again, but it turned out so cute!  As a matter of fact, a sweet lady tourist bought Wild Child and the small one, so they now reside in Chicago!  I love knowing where my bags live.

June 4th is another show at Tina’s on the Strand as the Featured Artist.  Soon I’ll be able to offer you a sneak peak at the fruits of my labor…  But for now, back to work!

Anny

PURSES, PURSES, PURSES!

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PURSES, PURSES, PURSES!

As you may know, we moved twice last year and that put a dent in my sewing (and blogging.)  Drat!  But Tina’s on the Strand invited me to be the Featured Artist for Artwalk last fall and I was determined to keep my commitment so I managed to sew a dozen fall purses which never made it into the blog.  I dearly love the plushness of fall fabric, velvets, vegan leather, faux fur, and tapestry combined with fringe, full tassels, and dazzling embellishments like lush flowers and beautiful beading.  So for those of you who follow this blog for sewing inspiration, I now present to you:

A Gallery of My Fall Collection:

 

BEADS OF A FEATHER

Beads of a Feather

Beads of a Feather

A pattern I love from Ali Foster, this tapestry bag was embellished with dripping beads and feathers.  The handle is from Studio Mio and SO easy to apply.

FRINGE BENEFITS

Fringe Benefits

Fringe Benefits

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Fringe Benefits is a Cindy Taylor Oates design, created from tapestry fabric,  accented with faux fur adjustable straps, trimmed with tassels from Interior Fabrics and 12 inch chainette fringe from Mood.

MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN

Midnight in the Garden

Midnight in the Garden

Honestly, I don’t remember where I purchased this gorgeous textured, embroidered fabric but I’d like to find it again.  The pattern was a modified version of an Abbey Lane pattern called Lucille.  I added the gold braided piping, then attached a plush flower and dotted leather handles.  Almost all my handles are from Studio Mio.

AUTUMN GARDEN

Autumn Garden

Autumn Garden

This sweet bag was a combination of patterns from books and YouTube.  I experimented with the round dotted brown handles which paired so well with the autumn floral linen fabric called Ballad Bouquet.

CASABLANCA

Casablanca

Casablanca

Linen floral and a zebra print fashioned into a Cindy Taylor Oates bag, embellished with golden loop fringe and ruby red beading.

KEYS TO PARIS

Keys to Paris

Keys to Paris

This is one of my all time favorite bags and sold very quickly.  The pattern is actually from the quilting world, called Pasadena, from “A Quilter’s Dream.”  Normally sewn with cotton fabrics, I instead substituted a vintage crushed flock velvet from Etsy with alternating copper and silver fabric that had a soft texture.  I added a purchased bamboo handle, plus a large flower and sparkly keys from Miss Rose Sister Violet.

COWGIRL CHIC

Cowgirl Chic

Cowgirl Chic

A fun messenger style bag, Cowgirl Chic sports faux leather fabrics from Cowgirls and Lace in Dripping Springs, Texas.  The lady who purchased this bag said it reminded her of her mother’s real cowhide purse many years ago.

TINSELTOWN

Tinseltown

Tinseltown

I named this bag Tinseltown because it is glamorous!  It shimmers with a velvet textured silver fabric, complemented by black velvet (my fall favorite) and an amazing tassel trim from Cowgirls and Lace.

GIDDY-UP!

Giddy-Up!

Giddy-Up!

Giddy-Up! is similar to Fringe Benefits but fashioned from faux leather, fringe and tassels.  The exterior features a faux leather boot which I designed and appliqued to the pocket.

SAFARI SPLENDOR

Safari Splendor

Safari Splendor

This is a huge purse with twelve, yes twelve pockets–six exterior, six interior.  The exterior is created from an embroidered faux leather, paired with a sturdy textured leopard print.  The tie is a dark chocolate velvet with a fine gold etched thread throughout.  The pattern is, again, from the quilting world, and is called My Favorite Bag from Kati Cupcake Pattern Company.  Not an easy bag to make because instead of making it from soft cotton fabrics, I chose to use sturdier fall fabrics.  And that’s a pain when grommets are involved…

MOROCCAN DREAM

Moroccan Dream

Moroccan Dream

Such a joy to construct.  This is another pattern from Abbey Lane.  I modified it by using a vintage French ribbon down the middle instead of gathered fabric.  I happened to have the perfect size ribbon from an antique shop in Los Angeles so I was able to apply it here, along with a sturdy, yet softly textured black velour, fancy tassels, and a braided handle made from a drapery tie-back.🙂

LOTUS BLOSSOM

Lotus Blossom

Lotus Blossom

Lotus blossom is an Amy Barickman pattern called the Rachel Bag.  The back side is a heavily textured black fabric with a zipper down the middle for accessing the purse.  A unique silhouette makes for a very charming bag.🙂

Knowing I would be featured in the fall Artwalk show was the impetus for creating twelve purses beginning mid-summer.  This was actually a wonderful opportunity to sew up a storm in that newly styled loft sewing room.  I’m still enjoying my brightly lit sewing room with the brilliant colors, brick walls, and fabulous views!

 

MANHATTAN HOLIDAY

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MANHATTAN HOLIDAY

If I had won the lottery, I would have purchased a penthouse apartment in New York City, but alas, it seems I’ll only be visiting.🙂  So between Christmas and New Years, Rick and I traveled to NYC with Jennifer, Madison and Grayson.  We usually stay at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, but since we didn’t want to get involved in the ball drop hoopla, we chose the Park Lane Hotel on Central Park South.  We will definitely be staying there on future trips.

 

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Park Lane Dining Room overlooking Central Park

Park Lane Dining Room overlooking Central Park

Our first evening included the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.  Spectacular is a great description!  Not only was the show fabulous beyond our expectations, but we serendipitously met a few Rockettes at the side door afterward who graciously posed for pictures with Grayson.

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Speaking of Serendipity, after the show we were craving the Frozen Hot Chocolate offered in giant sizes at the popular restaurant.  Since the wait was seriously long, we put our name on the list and ventured out to Dylan’s Candy Bar, where Ralph Lauren’s daughter, Dylan, has established the most luscious two story candy shop right in the heart of the Upper East Side.

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Laden with candy bags, we checked our wait list at Serendipity to find we still had time to ride the Roosevelt Tram (a few blocks away) over the East River and back.

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The view from the tram is amazing!

Finally, our table was ready at Serendipity and we indulged in the Frozen Hot Chocolates!

Serendipity

Serendipity!

Frozen Hot Chocolates

Frozen Hot Chocolates

Since the following day was Jennifer’s birthday, she and I enjoyed a morning of shopping.  LaDuree was our first stop where we chose a variety of macaroons to share with everyone later.

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Nearby we visited the Ralph Lauren Flagship store.

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And more fashion at Tiffany…

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Of course their tree would be adorned with little blue boxes!

While we shopped, Grayson and Grandpa climbed the rocks in Central Park.

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We all met up again in the afternoon for the Holiday Lights & Movie Sites tour.  We met our guide in the lobby of the The Shops at Columbus Circle.

Lobby of the Shops at Columbus Circle.

Lobby of the The Shops at Columbus Circle.

After a quick run to Starbucks, we boarded a very plush comfortable bus that had two screens where the guide played movie clips for the movie sights.  After the clips, we passed by the sights and the guide would provide interesting tidbits about the filming.  Some of the scenes were connected to the holidays, like Home Alone, Elf, and Miracle on 34th Street.  Others, just to name a few, were An Affair to Remember and Sleepless in Seattle as we passed the Empire State Building, and Ghostbusters as we passed the New York Public Library.  For the Holiday Lights part of the tour, the bus stopped at least four times, allowing us to depart and see the fabulous window displays at the Department Stores up close and personal. This year Bloomingdale’s theme was Holidays through the Senses.  As you viewed the windows, the scent of peppermint and cinnamon filled the air (scent),  Christmas carols were playing (hearing), greenery edged the frames you could feel (touch), peppermint was available to taste, and of course, the sight of the displays was pure eye candy!

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On the other side of Bloomie’s, there were Star Wars themed displays.

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Now Barneys had a fascinating window featuring an ice carver sculpting penguins and polar bears!  The poor guy carving was wearing an insulated suit as the temperature was four degrees Fahrenheit.  The sculptors worked six hour shifts for forty-five days straight!

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Lord & Taylor featured “A Few of Our Favorite Things.”  Here is a Sweet Shop display:

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Of course, no Holiday Lights tour would be complete without the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and Angels.  Seventy-eight feet tall and weighing in at ten tons, this year’s beauty comes from Gardiner, New York.  The tree had been in the Asendorf family for four generations but was beginning to outgrow the property, taking over the whole yard.  So the family submitted it online, Rockefeller Center’s head gardener showed up, and voilà, the tree was chosen!

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The tour concluded near the Empire State Building which was dressed in appropriate holiday colors.

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You know, one of my favorite things about New York City is the way I’m constantly surprised, in a good way.  (Not in the way that we accidentally ended up in a “special” graffiti-ridden part of Queens by subway.)  But after our tour, we entered the subway to return to our hotel and were met with an awesome five piece jazz band!

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That evening we strolled along Central Park West on our way to Jen’s birthday dinner at Tavern on the Green.

IMG_1720And here is the magical, twinkle-lit, Tavern on the Green:

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The following day, we  toured again, and this time it was the Nolita/NoHo Food & Culture Tour.  What a culinary extravaganza!  Our guide led us to at least seven or eight establishments where we were served just enough to make us look forward to the next stop.  Everything from appetizers to dessert and then some (wine.)  Anny (yes, Anny with a “y”) such a personable and knowledgeable guide, imparted history of the neighborhoods along the way.  If you’re in Manhattan, I highly recommend this three hour walking tour.

Tacombi, one of my favorites on the tour.

Tacombi, one of my favorites on the tour.

Anny had emphasized how special and transitory the graffiti art is in New York.  She recommended capturing by photo, since it’s often here today, gone tomorrow.

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After touring, we stopped at Rizzoli, a well-known Manhattan bookstore, to browse…

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After Rizzoli, we headed back uptown and spotted preparations for the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square.  Throughout our stay in NYC, we felt totally safe and secure.  The police were very, very visible, everywhere, everyday.

Just a few of New York's finest!

Just a few of New York’s finest!

Since we weren’t planning on attending the festivities in Times Square, we toasted champagne in our room at midnight as we watched the ball drop on TV, then rushed out the front door of the hotel to watch the magnificent midnight fireworks display over Central Park.  Wish I had a picture of that!  What was I thinking?  Hmm, champagne…

The following morning we started the New Year off right by subwaying downtown to catch the Statue Cruises boat to the Statue of Liberty!  She’s so beautiful!  Such an awesome, inspiring sight!

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Here is what it looks like inside, from the pedestal upward…

Structure inside the Statue of Liberty.

Structure inside the Statue of Liberty.

Throughout the museum, there were body parts casts to give a sense of her massive size that you could use as photo ops.

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Then it was on to fascinating Ellis Island.

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The Great Hall

The Great Hall

After watching the short movie about the history of Ellis Island, we were invited to join a tour led by a park ranger (Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are a National Park.)  This man missed his calling–should have been on Broadway.  He brought the immigration experience to life by dramatically asking  questions of each person in our group as though each one of us were immigrants trying to make it through the difficult inspection process.  We learned so much!  Each immigrant was subjected to a rapid fire series of twenty-nine questions by the inspectors.  And that buttonhook that was used to flip the eyelid to check for disease–it was not cleaned from person to person!  If a family member was rejected because of disease, who would return home with them?  Our experience with the park ranger was seriously thought provoking and interesting.  Never enough time at Ellis Island!

But as we departed, the skyline beckoned us back to the mainland.

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The next item on our agenda was to visit the massive 9/11 Museum.  On a previous trip, we saw the fountains, memorial wall, and the small starter museum.  This time we were able to enter the new museum and all its many sobering exhibits.  Here is a picture to give an idea of the size of the museum.

A beam from the World Trade Center.

A beam from the World Trade Center.

The museum is, of course, a sad experience.  Although it is not a place of solitude, it is a place of respect.  Visitors speaking in hushed tones are met with display after display of personal stories, both visually and auditorily, as recordings are played of loved ones’ calls from the Towers, and 911 calls.  Screens replay the news reports of the surrounding days.  As I write this, I heave a heavy sigh, not being able to impart the gravity of this collection of tragic memories.  The hopeful elements concern the survivors and their stories.  Now that we have seen the Memorial, and the Museum, our next visit to New York should include the new One World Observatory.  The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere gives a Top of the World type experience with 360 degree views.  The elevators reach the 102nd floor in less than 60 seconds and the building offers many dining rooms and cafes.

We ended the evening with a scrumptious dinner at the ever-pleasing Balthazar restaurant.  It has been described as a “blended atmosphere of NYC, Paris, and a local diner.”  After our meal, we stopped next door to gather some of the luscious pastries at the Balthazar Bakery for dessert later.🙂

The following day, we didn’t waste time, as it was the last day of our trip.  Of course, our final hours consisted of a little more shopping.  Our favorite was the MacKenzie-Childs store on 57th Street, within walking distance from our hotel.  Trust me, this store is a real life walk through her catalog!  Oh, the vignettes throughout the store!  Here are just a few:

Linens

Linens

Lighting

A Place for Gathering

A Place for Gathering

What?  More shopping?  Just a quick dash into the Shops at the Plaza, and meeting Grandpa for lunch in the Plaza Food Court below.

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After good-bye hugs, Jennifer and the girls were off to the airport since they were departing a few hours before us.  As for me, I said, “Grandpa, grab your Kindle.  We have one more stop to make, and it’s a short subway ride away.”

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Oh, yeah!  You didn’t think I’d miss it, did you?  As the elevator operator swung the lever on that ancient elevator door and allowed us to step into fabric Mecca, I suggested Grandpa sit up front in the “husband waiting” section, while I frantically explored all four floors and the new Mood Home next door.

A sampling pic: just one row, and there are many where that came from!

A sampling pic:  just one row of the many, many rows on every floor.

I offer a “Thank you, Mood!” and a wave good-bye!  Hauling my bulging Mood Fabric bag onto the subway, then onto the plane, I bid a fond farewell to my favorite city in the world.🙂

 

 

 

Hill Country Thanksgiving

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Our Hill Country Thanksgiving started with cooking and feasting on a scrumptious meal at our daughter’s home in Austin.  That is where we met George,  our newest sweet grand-dog!  He’s called a Goldendoodle.

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Black Friday did involve a bit of shopping in Fredericksburg, Texas.  Even though the weather was miserable, shoppers didn’t seem to care while they explored this historical quaint town.  Our first stop was Carol Hicks Bolton, a huge, fabulous store featuring Bella Notte linens and French antiques.  I scored a few French pharmacy items and financial documents from Paris, 1891.  Greeting you were scenes like these:

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Having worked up an appetite, we visited Vaudeville:

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Where you can dine downstairs…

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Then shop upstairs.🙂

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We returned to Austin by way of Johnson City to view the amazing Christmas lights!  Behold!

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The following day, I took time to visit one of my favorite fabric store, Cowgirls and Lace, in Dripping Springs.  On the way, I spotted a quilt shop I’d never noticed before, and I’m so glad I stopped!

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Colorful fabrics including many Kaffe Fassett, gifts, books, patterns, classes, and even refreshments!

But, alas, it was time to say good-bye to Austin and family.  Aww, sad to go, Georgie:

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One more stop for Granny and Gramps in beautiful San Antonio.  We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Hotel Contessa on the Riverwalk.  And capped off our trip with a riverboat tour of the holiday lights before returning to Galveston.

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Never a dull moment.  Time to pull out the costumes we wear to Galveston’s Dickens on the Strand.  More about that later… Happy Holidays!