Getting Into Spring Mode: A Visit to Filoli Gardens

I love to travel near and far to explore beautiful places. Every now and then, however, I am surprised to discover new gems right in my back yard. This happened last week, when a friend took me to one of her favorite places: Filoli Gardens in Woodside. I lived around here nearly half my life, yet did not even know about this place. Once there, I couldn’t believe I had never visited before.

Filoli Gardens

Filoli was the country estate of a wealthy San Francisco gold-mine owner. He purchased the land shortly after the big 1906 earthquake, when many rich people chose to leave the city. The construction of his mansion began in 1915, but the development of its gardens took a few more decades. A subsequent owner continued expanding the gardens, bringing them to what they are today. That second owner donated the estate to the public in the 1970’s. Consequently, it is now open for all to enjoy. Telling by the crowds, it seems that a lot of people do, indeed, enjoy it.

When I visited last week, the gardens were full of tulips in all colors and shapes, giving it the feel of a spring wonderland:

Percy, the vain resident peacock, was an added bonus:

Peacock at Filoli Gardens

The combined effect of colorful gardens, grand house and peacock was truly breathtaking. Admittedly, seeing these meticulous gardens made me feel somewhat self-conscious about my own garden. I had to remind myself that this site is maintained by a large paid team of gardeners together with hundreds of volunteers, whereas I try to fight the weeds all on my own…

My friend and I spent a lovely morning in Filoli. We marveled at the various gardens (in addition to the tulips there are also a camillia garden, a rose garden and a fruit-tree garden). We enjoyed the beautiful weather, had lunch at the cafe, and checked out the gift shop.

Me at Filoli Gardens

All that fresh air, combined with the lively blossoms, put me in spring mode. Energized, I wanted to run right back to my sewing room. Hence, the resulting greeting cards are probably  just the beginning of my spring sewing:

ANYTexture purple tulips card, fabric greeting card ANYTexture pink flower card, fabric greeting card

If you’d like to see the estate and enjoy its flowers, too, you can start planning your visit here.

Year of the Weed: Spring in My Garden

I’m not sure how it got here so fast, but March is upon us already. Spring will officially start this weekend, with the move of the clock. It was a great relief, after four long years of drought, to finally have a rainy winter in California. Not just any rainy winter, mind you, but a record-breaking one at that! Our water reservoirs are now full and overflowing, and our snow-caps are at record deep. We sure needed the water, but many of us were no longer used to the long stretches of dreary, wet weather. Recently, however, the days of rain have started to be interrupted by longer and longer intervals of sunshine, and hints of spring are all about us.

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The Joy of Shopping at Farmers’ Markets: Sewing Market Totes

You can get pretty much anything your heart desires in the area where I live. This is courtesy of big ships from China and planes carrying goods from all over the world. But the shopping itself is … well, something you usually want to just get done with as quickly as possible. Big chain stores are loaded with merchandise. The huge spaces, cold neon lights and linoleum/neutral-carpeted floors, however, make you want to grab your necessities and run out. Not to mention that horrid music… Even the upscale, beautiful stores are somewhat too clean, too arranged, too sterile. They make you feel like you’re in yet another pharmacy. The liveliness that is present in some shopping options in other parts of the world is simply not there.

The closest exception to this are the farmer’s’ markets that continuously  grow in popularity. I am lucky to live in a town that has a large, year-round farmers’ market. It operates one morning each weekend. Shopping there is not cheap by any means. With $12 bread loaves and pricey vegetables, it can probably out-price even Whole Foods. Yet, I try to go whenever I can. Every time I do I find the place crowded with people. In fact, the crowds are part of the attraction. I enjoy looking at the flow of people, and am happy whenever I bump into someone I know. This happens almost every time.

The outdoors shopping is a pleasant change, especially in spring and summer. I find that the natural light enhances the beauty of the fruit, vegetables and flowers. True, the pharmacy-like culture is evident here, too, with everything being a little too-neatly arranged and too-nicely piled. Yet, the overall experience is still enjoyable.

Colorful vegetables at the farmers' market

Most of all, I like buying farmers’-market heirloom tomatoes, sold every summer. I like their strange shapes and many imperfections, and especially enjoy their amazing flavors, somehow enhanced by the market experience:

Vegetables at the farmers' market

Despite relying on imported goods for nearly every other aspect of my life, I love the idea of buying my food locally. I delight in the many organic options, grown within a radius of 80 miles from where I live. And when berries are in season, I make sure to load on a week-long supply, which my kids devour eagerly:

Bright fruits at the farmers' market

A couple of weeks ago my farmers’ market visit yielded a bonus: it made me realize that I haven’t sewn any totes for a while. And so, as part of preparing for my next crafts fair, I spent the last couple of weeks sewing Market Totes, which I greatly enjoyed:

Fabric for new Market Totes

Working on my new Market Totes

Sewing new Market Totes

I hope these will make someone’s market shopping even more joyous!

ANY Texture: My Finished new Market Totes

A Little Late but DONE! The Sunflower Purse is Finished!

Despite all my good intentions, I was unable to finish my mother-in-law’s purse before the school year ended. Some of the distractions I should have anticipated: Election Day fell right on that last week of school. Reading through the election materials and filling out the forms took some time. Helping with my daughter’s eighth-grade middle-school graduation likewise required attention. There were a couple of primary-school rituals I just HAD to attend. Finally, I also had to shop for, and drive to, three different end-of-year parties.

Then there were the unanticipated obstacles: my four-year-new washing machine chose to break down right at that time (of course!). This left me with piles of unwashed clothes, and required two different technician visits (one to diagnose the problem, the second to change the broken part). Once the technicians fixed my machine, I had two-weeks-worth of laundry to deal with all at once. As you can imagine, this took hours…

In the end, I had a lot less time for sewing than I expected. Still, I managed to at least start that green-and-yellow summer purse before school was out.

As Expected, the first few days of summer were busy. But today my husband’s company had a “Take Kids to Work Day,” which gave me just the break I needed to finish my own project. We will visit my mother in law latter in the summer. I hope she likes her new sunflower purse!

Eco-friendly sunflower purse

One Last Sewing Project Before Summer: Sunflower Handbag

In three days the school year will be over, and my sewing season will come to an end. I am looking forward to spending relaxing summer days with my children. We’ll enjoy lounging around in pajamas until mid-morning, eating breakfast late and not having to live by the clock. It will be nice not to rush and be rushed constantly.

I’ve lived through enough summers to know to expect the occasional squabbles, as well as the many “I’m bored” complaints. Overall, however, I feel like we could all use a break. Knowing my kids, I am quite sure that I will not be able to get even close to my sewing machine all summer long. I know I will not be able to work on even a small sewing project.

Therefore, I need to take full advantage of the three days I still have left. There is one last project I need to finish: a gift for my mother in law. A while back she asked for a summer purse, and I promised to make her one. I haven’t had time for this so far, and will therefore need to act fast. The next couple of days will be dedicated to this one last project of the year!

My mother in law LOVES sunflowers. In the summer, she goes to the farmers’ market every Saturday, and buys huge bouquets of sunflowers. She then places them in a prominent location, right at the entrance to her house. Whenever I see sunflowers, therefore, I think of her.

Sunflowers

And so, I decided to sew a sunflower handbag just for her! Miraculously, I found a fabric that had a sunflower print. I bought it for the lining of her bag, and selected the outside fabrics to match it:

Fabrics for sunflower Handbag

I will do my very best to finish this sunflower purse before the last bell of the school year rings!

The Scrap Project: A Cross-body Pouch

 After cutting my Spring Bag collection I was left with a pile of small-yet-gorgeous pieces of various pink and lime-green fabrics.

Beautiful pink scraps

My fingers were twitching to make use of them somehow. So I lay them all on the floor, and started arranging and rearranging them in different combinations. Once I found the composition I liked, I sewed several pieces together:

Pink scraps sewn together

I then inserted a pink zipper:

Adding a zipper

And another one:

Designing a spring slip

The piece on top, cut from the flap of bigger purse, reminded me of the arched doors and windows so typical to many old buildings in my native Israel, which I always loved.

I found a luxurious piece of matching magenta silk for the lining:

Silk lining for my spring slip

And cut it to size:

Cutting the lining for a spring slip

I sewed, ironed, pinned and turned. And there it was: a lively, spring-ready cross-body pouch! When the sling was ready, I added matching tassels to emphasize its oriental look and make it more interesting:

My finished spring cross-body pouch

I liked this cross-body pouch so much that I decided to make it my own. An early Mothers’ Day gift for myself. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it just happens to match many of my clothes 🙂

My eco-friendly spring pouch

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Pink Everywhere! Sewing My Spring Purses

A couple of weeks ago I cut the fabrics for my new handbag collection. These ready-to-sew spring purses were waiting in my studio while I was busy with other things. There were the routine life-related tasks, of course. In addition, there were a few previously-embarked-upon projects that I wanted to finish first. Yet, all those bright pinks and lime greens kept calling at me. Finally, when dark clouds gathered followed by drenching rain, I decided the time has come for some spirit-lifting sewing.

I spent the weekend sewing, turning, ironing, pinning and cutting.

The result–the first two out of seven spring purses!

Finished sustainable spring purses

The Scrap Project: Notebook Loops

One of the things that rekindled my artistic passion several months ago was my strong desire to give new life to beautiful-yet-no-longer-wanted pieces of fabric. I’ve been an ardent recycler for many years. I always make sure to sort all our household recyclables into the right bins. I also have a small compost pail on my kitchen counter, which I religiously empty into compost bins in the yard. Whenever I find a stray yogurt tub or banana peel in the garbage, I fish them out and put them where they belong. This little obsession served me well as a quilter, for in quilting even the smallest piece of cotton can often be used.

These days I try to make useful items out of rescued fabrics. After cutting large pieces for bags or notebook covers, however, I always find myself left with leftover scraps. From the very beginning I’ve been using the bigger pieces. I turned some into inside pockets for new purses:

Or outside pockets for totes:

But many of my scraps are too small for that. I haven’t had the heart to throw these away, and so I’ve been collecting them and storing them in a box.

A few weeks ago I went over this trove and sorted these pieces by approximate size.

I decided to challenge myself to find use even for smaller pieces, and to make that a habit going forward. After all, I started ANY Texture out of a strong desire to reduce waste. My goal is to save beautiful, unique textiles from going to the landfill.

So now, instead of cutting fresh straps to make loops for my fabric journal covers, I started making notebook loops out of scraps!

Take this piece, for example. It was a remnant left after cutting the lining for one of my still-under construction spring collection bags.

Instead of throwing it, I ironed it and sewed it into an elegant strap:

Then, I made a beautiful loop out of it. I even found the perfect journal cover to match it with:

It works great!