fledge capable of flying, from Middle English flegge, from Old English -flycge; akin to Old High German flucki capable of flying,
Old English flEogan to fly -- more at FLY
intransitive verb, of a young bird : to acquire the feathers necessary for flight or independent activity

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Of Summers Past

Well, fall has fallen. And I feel like I am falling off. Lately, I don't feel like I've been doing anything right. I'm working on a simple, simple, simple blouse design that is proving so hard. Three pieces...c'mon...go together the way I want...Nope. I went to a free yoga class. Do you know what I found out? I don't even breathe right. Breathing? Really? You're telling me I don't know how to breathe? Like I said, I can't do anything right.

So, let me go back to summer, when the kids and I stumbled onto Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is already the most beautiful of California cities. Now, cover that town in confetti, cascarones, flamenco dancers and street taco vendors? Santa Barbara gets it right!

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Do you like Swafing?"

"I don't know, I've never swaffed before"

(My apologies to the fans of the famous Kippling postcard.)

Hello All!

How was your summer? Mine was comprised of rather boring stretches of tedium punctuated with stressful bouts of activity. For reasons of compromised space and compromised finances…and really compromises in general, I didn’t seem to get done the many things I had intended for the summer.

But I did/do have some work! Some months ago, the one sewist in the world whose work I admire the very most (but doesn’t much like attention, so I won’t mention her by name) called me and told me about a firm she has been working with for a couple of years. This firm works closely with Farbenmix and, well, this firm is looking to expand outside of the German-speaking market and further into Europe. Would I like to help?

Um, help? How? You realize, I am in Californa. So, ideally situated to expand into France and Italy and Spain and so forth I am/je suis/io sono/soy not so much, ne c’est pas/non/no? Whatever: If this is a partner firm of Farbenmix, and if you, awesome sewist/dear-friend-who-shall-not-be-named, work for these guys, that’s good enough for me. Count me in. What do you want me to do?

For a few months, I’ve just done some translations of German blog posts into English. Really no sweat off my keyboard. I haven’t even sent this company an invoice and I hadn’t really told anyone—until now—that I’ll be getting a paycheck from these guys once in awhile.

That is because I really want to stand behind what I am called to represent, especially when it comes to something near and dear to my heart like sewing.

Swafing is a mid-sized firm in the greatest tradition of European mid-sized firms, which are still the backbone of European industry. These are the kinds of companies with, maybe, 150 employees, max, that are handed down through the generations and, therefore, are not hyperactively and shortsightedly focused on “shareholder value” and “quarterly returns”. These firms like to consider things in terms of longevity and sustainability. Something that can be passed on to to the next generation. Swafing is located in Nordhorn, Germany, a small town near the Dutch border. In its heyday, Nordhorn was an important industrial center for the textile industry. Mills, manufacturers, distributors, and other suppliers and service providers in the textile and apparel industry value chain all called Norhorn home.  Swafing Sr. would go to these different firms and purchase up what they had laying around to sell to the home sewing market. And then the 1990s came. Outsourcing. China. “Nuff said. Nordhorn as an industrial center for the textile industry? Very much less so. (North Carolina, you can sing this song, too, am I right?). Swafing Jr. was facing very tough times, tough times indeed.

At just about the right time, this rather manly company got quite the estrogen injection, in form of very enthusiastic sewists, who love them some fabulous fabric. And fabulous fabric of the sort they were unable to find. High-quality cotton knits and high thread-count percales printed with whimsy and wonder and fun. Sumptuous fashion fabrics that were on trend. Pretty, but nonetheless utilitarian fabrics for things like handbags and ski jackets. Worsted wools in a broad pallet of colors. Yarn-dyed striped interlocks in most every color and most every width. Digital prints. French terry. Confidence in Textiles/Oeko-Tex and respected organic standards. You know what we want. You know how hard it is to find it.

Swafing was the kind of company that knew how to find or make whatever kind of material was wanted, if they only knew which fabrics were wanted. These are dudes, remember: No matter how hard they may try, sometimes they don’t get it. Am I right? And so Sabine Pollehn of Farbenmix came with a wish list. And that wish list fulfilled many, many wishes of many, many home sewists. Many, many, many. And so, many more fabrics were made and innovative new designers discovered and many, many, many pretty things were sewn up all around the land. And then Swafing hired some highly enthused gals having both excellent sewing and business-y skills to handle things like creative direction and online marketing. And Swafing made a name for itself.

And they lived happily every after…not yet. Mr. Swafing is not content to sit on his laurels. He also understands how fickle we sewists can be and wants to continue to grow and meet new demands.

And this is about where I was called and started translating blog posts. Whatever.

This company, Swafing, recently invited me to attend their semiannual “Hausmesse”. What looks like might be translated into “house mess” is really something different. (“House mess,” come to think of it, has no German translation. Probably because it doesn’t exist. Very tidy country.) Translated by a pro like myself, I used the term “in-house exhibition” in the blog posts for “Hausemesse.” But translating words doesn’t necessarily convey the meaning. For example, zum Beispiel, if you’re invited for coffee in the U.S., you’ll likely just meet a friend at (please-anyplace-but-)Starbucks and drink lattes from paper cups. In Germany, on the other hand, if you are invited for coffee, please consider bringing flowers (from a florist), please calculate at least two hours around a beautiful table resplendent with different homemade cakes and pastries, fine china, napkins folded prettily, special forks, linen table cloths and so on, and please wear your Sunday best, but sensible shoes, because “having coffee” invariably concludes with a lengthy walk (Spaziergang) no matter what the weather. Coffee vs. Kaffee. Same thing, completely different.

And the “Hausmesse” might translate to “in-house exhibition” or “open house” or “warehouse sale” or some such. But a lot gets lost in translation. Below, I’ve tried to let a few of the hundreds of people who attended explain why they drove hundreds of miles (excuse me, “kilometers”) to some ho-dunk (excuse me, “quaint”) town in the countryside. And also to explain in a small way, why I am now proud to call myself a member of the Swafing team.

But please remember: no one can pay me enough to promote something I don’t believe in. Or at least nothing under the buy-my-own-island-and-my-own-flying-horse-that-speaks-fluent-French price point. So, if I show you something made with Swafing fabric, it is because I really stand behind it. I really do like this fabric and the company behind it. If I start Instagramming pix of Jean-Pierre flying among tall palm trees, you are welcome to call my judgement into question. Until then, when I say the fabric is off the hook? Seriously, it is. This is that marvelous European fabric woven by elves on magic golden looms in an enchanted forest or some such. Seriously.

A Fabric Paradise on the Dutch-German Border

“So, what brought you to Nordhorn today?”

That was my question to attendees at the recent Swafing In-House Exhibition. Nordhorn has its charms—don’t get me wrong. There are, for example canals surrounding the central shopping district. But, let’s face it, Venice Nordhorn is not. 

“Oh, everybody goes to the Hausmesse!”

Everybody? To an in-house exhibition of a mid-sized, family-run fabric distributor? People drive hundreds of kilometers to mill about a collection of rather non-descript industrial buildings near the German-Dutch border? As I press against the racks to allow yet another smiling customer and her full cart is push past, I will have agree with Sabine Pollehn of Farbenmix. But why?

“It’s Swa-fing,” explained to me in slow, deliberate syllables. Like the three-year old, who as discovered that “why” is the one of the Five W’s that just can have no end, I bite again. “Why Swafing?”

Anke Müller, the creative force behind Cherry Picking, gives us our first German lesson for fab fabric fans. Everybody: "ISH LEE-beh SHTAW-feh!" "I love fabrics!"

“Und warum sind Sie heute in Nordhorn?”

So meine Frage an so mancher Besucher des diesjährigen Swafing Hausmesse.  Nordhorn hat gewiss seine Reize—mich also bitte nicht falsch verstehen. Die hübsche Innenstadt ist umringt von Kannelen, die mit Booten befahrbar sind. Aber wir machen uns doch nichts hier vor: Venedig ist Nordhorn wohl nicht.

“Ach! Jeder fährt zur Hausmesse!”

Jeder? Zu der Hausmesse eines Mittelstandsunternehmens, das Stoffe vertreibt? Es fahren Leute Hunderte von Kilometern zu einer Kleinstadt an der deutschen-holländischen Grenze, um um einigen unscheinbaren gewerblichen Bauten aus der Nachkriegszeit herumzulaufen und Stoffe kaufen, die sie ja sonst bequem und gemütlich online bestellen könnten? Während ich schon wieder gegen die Regale mich drucken müssen, um eine lächelnde Kundin mit vollem Wagen vorbeifahren zu dürfen, muß ich es wohl glauben. Aber warum?

“Weil es Swa-fing ist,” für mich extra in langsamen Sylben ausgesprochen. Und wie die freche dreijährige, die soeben herausgefunden hat, das die frage “Warum” immer wieder und immer wieder zur Frage gestellt werden kann, frage ich auch wieder, “Warum?”

Anne Petry, artist and creative tour-de-force behind Hebbedinge makes new friends. Literally, makes new friends. Get it?

And this is where the conversation gets interesting.

“I am a passionate wool felter,” explained Silke Freitag of Müritz. “I run a successful yarn shop for knitting and crochet, but my customers keep coming in asking for fabric. Swafing fabric. I think it is important, in business, to go new ways and try new things. So I’m learning to sew!”

“I think it is important to always try new things. That is the wonderful thing about making things with your hands. You are always going in new directions,” Ms. Freitag explains.

Put that way, I have to agree with this mother of five grown children, who might just been seen about Müritz going new directions on a groovy old GDR-issued bicycle, which Ms. Freitag has colorfully yarn-bombed.

Shop owner Silke Freitag of Müritz's Wollfaden.

Und nun wird das Gespräch interessant.

“Ich bin Filzerin,” erkläre Silke Freitag aus Müritz, “Und habe einen Wollladen für Stricken und Häkeln. Aber meine Kunden fragten nach Stoffen, auch Swafing-Stoffen.  Wenn man ein Geschäft hat, finde ich es wichtige, auch neue Wege zu gehen. Deswegen lerne ich nähen!”

“Ich finde es wichtig, immer neue Sachen auszuprobieren. Das ist das schöne an Handarbeit. Du mußt immer neue Richtungen gehen,” drucke Frau Freit aus.

Und so ausgedruckt muß ich ja der Mutter fünf erwachsener Kinder recht geben, welche man wohl um Müritz herum eventuell ihre neue Wege fahren sehen könnte--und zwar auf einem absolut fetzigen DDR-Fahrad, das Frau Freitag bunt “yarn-bombed” hatte.

Anne Svea, shopowner and DIY guru. Even better in real life!

“Sewing is like breathing,” explains Jette, communications director and all-around girl-Friday for Farbenmix. “It is just like that. Sewing is like breathing to me. Whatever else is going on around me, I need my creative time. Just to breath.” And good fabric is like fresh, clean air, then, Jetta? “Exactly! Swafing gives me the fabric to breath creatively!”

“Das Nähen ist wie Atem,” sagt Jette, Kommunikationdirektorin und Mädchen Frau-für-Alles bei Farbenmix. “Genauso ist es. Nähen ist wie Atem. Egal was um mich herum abgeht, brauche ich mein Nähen. Einfach Atem zu können.” Und gute Stoffe sind dann wie frische Luft, liebe Jette? Stoff als metaphorischer Sauerstoff? “Genau! Swafing gibt mir den Stoff, um kreativ Atem zu können.”

“Swafing is just good,” explain a group of three ladies near the workshop tent. Hm, I think, judging from your accent, you three have come quite a distance. “Yes, we drove from Switzerland.” That’s a good 600 kilometes, at least! “Yes, but Swafing has the kinds of fabrics we want for children’s apparel.”

And then a round of smart phones are lit up to show off some sewing creations, but also to show off some adorable Swiss grandchildren.

Super fangirl showing off her "Spooky" shirt sewn from Cherry Picking's recent collection.

“Swafing ist einfach gut,” erläutet eine Gruppe von drei Damen, die in der Nähe vom Workshopzelt standen. Hm, denke ich, anhand ihre Dialekten, sind diese drei sehr weit gereist. “Ja, wir sind aus der Schweiz gekommen.” Das sind sicherlich mindestens 600 Kilomerter! “Ja, aber Swafing hat die Stoffe, die wir für Kinderklamotten brauchen.”

Und dann werden ja die Smartphones herausgeholt und stolz sowohl Selbstgenähtes als auch bildhübsche, schweizerische Enkelkinder gezeigt.

“So, why Swafing?” I ask a couple dressed proudly in beautiful Alpine garb. They had driven up from Austria.

“Swafing has good service, good quality. No complaints whatsoever! Not from me nor my customers,” explained this Alpine shop owner. “I have a rather large shop. I need to stock a little bit of everything. And my customers are very price and quality conscious. They want a good deal. I can count on Swafing fabrics selling well, to help ease the inventory risk with the slower moving items. It’s a very good working relationship.”

“Jö. Und warum Swafing?” frage ich ein Paar wunderschön in voller Alpentracht angezogen. Sie sind extra aus Österreich gefahren.

“Swafing hat guten Service, gute Qualität. Keine Beschwerden. Weder von mir noch meinen Kundinnen,” sage die Ladenbesitzerin mit Shop in den Alpen, “Ich habe ein ziemlich grosses Geschäft. Ich muß ein bißl von allem anbieten können. Auch Spitze und so weiter. Meine Kunden achten sehr auf den Preis und die Qualität. Ich kann mich daruaf verlassen, daß die Swafing-Stoffe gut verkauft werden und somit das Risiko mit den Langsamläufern zu decken. Es ist eine gute Beziehung.”

“We’re just starting out,” explained a young couple in the coffee tent, “We’re in the process of setting up a Web site and online shop.”

It began for this couple, as it has for so many shop owners, with the young mother’s passion for sewing. I probably needn’t explain in too much detail to this audience how quickly and completely sewing can take hold of your imagination…and soon after your living quarters and perhaps your career.

“So,” explained the couple, “We’re going to open our own online shop. And Swafing is the fabric people want by name.”

“Wir fangen jetzt erst an,” erzähle ein junges Paar im Kaffeezelt. “Wir sind dabei ein Onlineshop zu bauen.”

Es fing für dieses Päarchen an, wie wir  es ja kennen, mit der Leidenschaft der jungen Mutter für das Nähen für ihre Kinder. Ich muß wahrscheinlich Leser dieses Blogs nicht in besonders vielen Worten erzählen, wie schnell das Nähen deine Fantasie…und wenig später den ganzen Wohnraum und gar die Kariere übernehmen kann.

“Also,” sage das Paar, “Wir machen das eigene Onlineshop auf. Und Swafing-Stoffe werden per Namen von Leuten gefagt.”

“The Hausmesse is like a class reunion,” explains Anke Müller the creative force behind the Cherry Picking line of exclusive designer fabrics, “You see your customers, who have become like friends, year after year at the Hausmesse. Swafing is just like that.” As I pet Mr. Swafing’s two dogs sniffing curiously around my feet in the office, watch customer’s children create a makeshift slide out of the ramp at the warehouse dock and have a sweet little girl crawl up on my lap in the workshop tent as if I were some familiar auntie, I have to admit that there is a certain something “just like that” about Swafing. It is a business, but it is the business of creative expression. So maybe that is why Swafing is something different.

“Hausmesse ist wie Klassentreff,” sage Anke Müller, die Designerin hinter Cherry Picking, “Du siehst deine Kunden, die wie Freunde geworden sind, Jahr für Jahr, auf der Hausmesse. Swafing ist einfach so.” Währen ich die zwei Hunden von Geschäftführer Hans-Gerd Swafing am Kopf streichele während sie neugierig um meine Füsse herumschnüffeln, beobachte wie die Kinder der Besucher aus der einst Lagerrampe den eigentlichen Rütschenzweck entdeckt haben, oder während so ein süsses Töchterchen eines Kundens auf meinem Schoss will, als wäre ich ja eine bekannte alte Tante, muß ich auch zugeben, das es ein gewisses “einfach so” bei Swafing gibt. Gewiss: Swafing ist ein Business. Aber dies ist das Geschäft des kreativen Könnens. Vielleicht ist deswegen Swafing etwas anderes und “einfach so.”

“Swafing is just ‘Stoffhimmel’ ,” explains another smiling customer, pushing past with her cart and who doesn’t have time for my silly questions when beautiful exclusive designer fabrics are just waiting to be snatched up.

Fabric paradise, indeed!

“Swafing ist Stoffhimmel,” sage eine weitere, mit Wagen vorbeifahrende Kundin, die für meine doofe Fragestellungen keine Zeit hat, denn da drüben die schönen Designerstoffen greifbar liegen.

Fabric paradise, aber ja!

SWAFING Web site

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Ginger Lime Ice Pops and Black Velvet Apricots, because you need to know

Black velvet apricots. Ever heard of 'em? Me neither. I needed apricot-apricots. Well, actually, peaches, but the peaches were still rock hard, as were the apricots. But these "black velvet" apricots things were ripe, so let's take a bunch of those, Mr. Farmer's Market Man.



Oh. Em. Gee! These are delicious. "Black velvet" apricots is what some marketing genius decided to call the baby of a plum and an apricot when they got busy. Plumicot. Aprilum? Anyway, very yummy. And with blueberries in a pecan-oatmeal crumble? Don't get me started!


Black Velvet by Alannah Myles on Grooveshark

Now, doesn't that song sound like a long, lazy hot afternoon?

If you are in the throes of such a hot, lazy summer day, may I offer you a ginger lime ice pop?




Here's my (Sorta) How-To

Boil enough water.
Add enough sugar or honey.
Remove water+sugar-and/or-honey from heat.
Shave enough fresh ginger knob* into the hot water and let cool.
Squeeze enough limes.
Strain ginger from water.
Stir lime juice into cooled water. Taste and adjust as you like.
Decorate popsicle sticks (very important: do not skip this step!) and place into holder.
Pour mixture into popsicle form and freeze.

*The root thing, not the cheeky jerk from that pub in Bristol!

Pour remaining mixture in glass over ice, add fresh mint, raspberries...and...and...let's see what do we have?...Tequilla! (Na-na-na-na-nah-na-neh-naaah!) Drink mixture and dance like Pee Wee Herman (also very important).


Tequilla by Gipsy Kings on Grooveshark

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Craftmageddon or a party for a 13 year-old

So, yeah, that sweet little girl you met on this blog, well, the traitor went and grew up into a teenager. Thirteen years old. Each time now when someone asks how old my children are and I say my daughter is thirteen, I, without fail, get a two-note chuckle followed by, "Just wait," in response. Wait? Wait for what?

I can only imagine. Anna was born with a special dose of attitude I call Annatude. Two priceless examples: The girl is, oh, six or so and I reprimand her for leaving the water running in the kitchen. Her response, hands on hips (which has since become a family joke), "Where's your proofidence?!" Proofidence. Right. The second example is when the girl was about eight, I think. I presented some pretty bare boned facts about her needing to come along while I ran some errands. "Not in my world. And right now, I'm in my world."

Living with that world in my world takes a special kind of patience and humor, I think. The girl has had the eye-roll and the scoff down pat for some time now. Her older bother and I have toyed with the idea of an phone app to interpret most of these scoffs: Heavy sigh = "I don't want to eat dinner, I'm Skyping with Ellie", tongue click + short grunt = "my brother is an idiot", growl = "my mother will never understand me, never!", low-pitched grunt = "my dad is so embarrassing." Needless to say, Anna did not find this amusing. Not in her world.

I guess teenage girls are just somewhat difficult to please, am I right? So, for her birthday party, I want to give her what she wants, exactly what she wants. Overall, she wanted "A small group (check). Everything black and white (if that's what you want). Crafts (what kinds of crafts, dear? grunt + burst of breath through front teeth = "don't ask me--you're the craft expert. Not too complicated. And not stupid").

I'll admit, I did become a bit of a Pinterest victim, but the four little projects this "craft expert" choose worked well for girls this age, I think. There was a well-timed 50%-off coupon in my inbox, so I had some custom mugs made up at Zazzle with each of the girls' names and then "you + me = awesome" (see the "we" there in red? Get it?).

Before the party, I tested different paint pens, Sharpies and the like. I found that puffy (fabric) paint, believe it or not, worked about the best. It didn't scratch off and survived a few bouts of hand washing in hot soapy water.

Next, the girls painted some wooden picture frames with chalkboard paint (I know, I know, chalkboard paint is so Pinterest 2010. But when black-and-white is all you're given to work with...). Before painting the girls used stick-on letters to add their names or messages, which were then peeled off once the paint dried.

And lastly, I had the ladies make two different kinds of scrap memory books. The girls can add photos and things to these later. These memory books, I think, were the biggest hit with the gals.

We made these round kind that open up to display (How-To LINK). I pre-cut all the papers like this...

And then they made these little square squash book ones. These are so easy and fun to make (How-To LINK).

I own a random glass chandelier. Because I do. I take it out of the garage and hang it in the yard when things need to get fancy. I added these tissue tassels. I haven't seen tissue tassels on backyard chandelier on Pinterest yet. So there! I hope that makes up for the overuse of chalk.

I also fell victim to a Martha Stewart butterfly punch. Easy to do. Anna and I made these black and white butterfly garlands on fishing line and hung them from black paper parasols.

Do this: Make homemade fruit pops and serve them in tumblers. Use fancy straws in case you blog. Pour French lemonade over them: So fancy! (this mom poured French champagne over hers, hee-hee).

Oh, for all my whining, I love my baby girl. When she's happy, I'm happy. And she was happy with her birthday party. Happy, happy, giggly, giggly, sweet, sweet, hugs and kisses for me happy.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Copy cats

Oh! Hello there...

I have mused in the past about the cat/man divide and how I prefer to maintain this boundary. Again, it is nothing personal, it is just the chemical warfare that reeks havoc with my sinuses and eyes and lungs that is cats. But again, whatever I want or need is of no matter to cats. If our feline overlords decide that they like you, then like you they will and you will like it (say that like Colonel Klink)!

For some time, a black and white spotted cat and a grey and white tiger striped cat decided they liked us. Or at least our yard.

Shortly thereafter, one very early morning, before the sun came up, I stepped outside my front door and -- zoom! zoom! zoom! -- three tiny exact copy cats of these two big cats ran right over my feet!


Oh boy.


We have kittens. Strike that: As I just explained, we don't have kittens. Kittens have us.

Fortunately, the kittens also have Mama Cat watching them. She is doing a fine job, too. But kittens!?

Thank you, Internet, for giving me a few tips on the situation. We are offering them bits of food and we sit as close as we can, so that the cats will hopefully become socialized. I hope they will become trusting enough to let us touch them, so that at least we can get them spayed or neutered. Best case scenario, someone will be willing to take them in. For now, they seem pretty young still and they are probably best staying by Mama Cat. Dad Cat is actually not such a deadbeat and shows up once in awhile, too. I hope he's not just being a Tom Cat. I don't need more copy cats.

Anyway, here I'll let the kittens work their cuteness voodoo on you, too...

This one I call Braveheart, because she has the most courage.

This one we call Meow Zedong, because he's kind of a dictator, bossing his sisters about.

And this one. This one is so shy and stays back and lets her brother and sister do all the exploring. We just call her Grey One or PC2 (Pretty Cat, Too).


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