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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sewing, clothes, kids and love.

I started this post in December, 2008. I just never really had the nerve to say what I need to say out loud. I've been waiting for the powers that be to say something like, "Um, Nancy, we made a mistake. No, not going to happen. Thanks for playing."

This is an announcement and I'm not terribly comfortable announcing it. Oh, it's good news, for sure. It's just that, well, I suffer from a bit of underconfidence. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, if you don't do anything, you don't do anything embarrassing. On the other hand, if you don't do anything, you don't
do anything. Which is a bad thing.

The six people who actually read this blog know what I am about to announce anyway, so it's not much of an announcement. But announce I will. Here goes:

I was asked to write a book. Title:
Sewing Clothes Kids Love. A book about sewing, clothes, kids and love.

And I said yes.

And I wrote it.

There. I said it.

Now, just forget I said that until it's published.

And then buy the book.

All right, all right, let's back up a bit. Yes, I have written the manuscript for a book about sewing for children. To be published with Creative Publishing International. Now, let me make this very clear: I might be the hands for this book, but YOU--and you and you and you over there and you hiding over there...YOU are the
heart of this book. This might be my baby, but Sabine Pollehn is the mother (not the best metaphor; I'll have something better for the book). This book will be comprised of inspiration, ideas, patterns and the joy of creating clothing for your very special little someone as started by Sabine Pollehn. There are plenty of also-rans (yours truly included) and I love them all. But Sabine was the genesis of this kind of creating children's clothing.

And then I want to also somehow capture the story of how much the creative talents of
Nic and Maiga and Jeanette and Claudia and Diba and Sanna and Chris and and and and*...have organically and spontaneously added new spice to this stew of ideas (still not a great metaphor: I've saved any good writing for the book). Farbenmix and studioTANTRUM/Fledge really is the old Stone Soup story: Everybody adding a little bit to nourish the creative endeavors of thousands. I truly hope this book documents the phenomenon.

But then there will also be a lot of real value in this book. I get it: The economy. Luxury and non-essential purchases are being dropped faster than Jennifer when Brad saw Angelina walk on set. So there will be a
lot of bang for the buck. Lots of projects and sewing patterns. And goodies at that! No duds. No napkins, I promise. The value of the patterns will very likely well, well exceed the cover price. I've been reading reader reviews on Amazon for sewing and crafting books. I'm paying attention. Pretty pictures is one thing, but something to really sink our sergers into is what a lot of you want. But the book will be beautiful. How do I know? Well, for one thing, I am contractually obligated to produce beauty. It's right there in the wording of the contract. Seriously: I put my name on the dotted line to create "beauty". So far, I've pursued beauty, but now I'm contractually obligated to capture it. Have I? I think I have. Very likely in more, but in three particular instances, for sure, I'm confident that there is something beautiful. What has been beautiful is the support and contributions and enthusiasm of many people. That's for sure. I've tried to weave together a tapestry of talent.

I'm not very comfortable with self-promotion. Either you like what I do or you don't. And I'm good with that. Mostly. But, really, between you and me, what I truly want is for you and everybody to do something creative and expressive and do it with love. If I can facilitate that in some way, then I want to do it. I hope that is what happens with this book. I envision this to be a book for beginners, absolutely, but I am not leaving the more advanced sewists with nothing to do. Wait until you see what we have for you. There are many lovely, lovely absolute beginner books and I think they have done an excellent job of introducing sewing to the many, many people for whom the craft of sewing has skipped a generation. My planned book is for those of you bitten by the bug and wanting to see how far you can go with your rotary cutter. Several design will be brand-spanking new. Several will be existing designs revisited and revised. This book will be an opportunity to really go in to detail of using these types of patterns and the different techniques we like to use to construct the garments.

And yes, there is every intention to publish it auf Deutsch. I think it needs to go Dutch, as well. Japanese? Oh, yeah! One step at a time. That's part of the reason we decided to do this project with this publisher, because they are very internationally present.

So why a book? Well, first off, the book came to me; I didn't go to it. In a world of go-getters, I suppose there must also be come-to-them-ers. And much of the time, I would count myself in the second category. And since the editor and publisher passed my test, which is basically recognizing that this style of handmade clothing design for children--despite our amateur ways, marketing naïvité and dogged independence--is a good thing. Some people just "get" it. If you get it, I don't need to explain it. If you don't get it, I can't explain it. Well, I'm going to have to be able to explain it. But I will to pry those pearls of wisdom from my oyster-shelled thought process ("oyster-shelled thought process"? I'm glad my editor is a good one. I need it.).

Thing is, I know I could do this. Well, I could do this with a lot of help from Sabine and a few others. As has been the case all along.

My manuscript is off. The patterns have been designed and drafted. The photographs have been taken. The editors are going over it with a fine-toothed comb this very instant. I did the very best I could. I put a lot of thought into it, Sabine put in a ton of beautiful work and I really hope we did a good job for you.

Am I missing anything? Is there something you'd like in a book?

Better metaphors: check.

and and and and and and and and and and ...

Guck’ mal da: Bereits im Dezember ’08 habe ich mit dieser Posting angefangen. Seitdem habe ich’s mir nicht zugetraut, diese Bekanntmachung, ähm, bekannt zu machen. Ich habe darauf gewartet, von den höheren Mächten zu hören, “Also, ‘schuldigung. Unser Fehler, Nancy. Wird nichts. Aufwiedersehen.”

So sehr angenehm sitze ich mit dieser Ankündigung nicht. Es ist gute Nachricht, auf jeden Fall. Aber nicht ohne große Verantwortung—euch gegenüber.

Die sechs Menschen, die dieser Blog in Wirklichkeit lesen wissen bereits, insofern ist dies nicht die grösste Ankündigung. Aber bekannt geben werde ich. Also:

Ich würde gebeten ein Buch zu schreiben.

Und ich sagte ja.

Und ich schrieb das Manuskript.

Das war’s. Nun vergiß dies bitte…bis eben das Buch erscheint und dann dieses dann kaufen.

Okay, okay, fahren wir doch ein Stückchen zurück. Das Buch wird “Sewing Clothes Kids Love” heissen und wird 1. Sewing, 2. Clothes, 3. Kids und 4. Love beinhalten. Dies wird durch Rockford Publishing, Creative Publishing International veröffentlicht.

Nun möchte ich in einer Sache ganz klar sein: Ja, ich habe das Manuskript geschrieben; ich bin die Hände, aber das Herz dieses Buches liegt bei DIR und dir und dir und dir darüben und auch dir dahinten in deiner stillen Ecke. Das Buch ist mein Baby, aber Sabine Pollehn sei die Mutter (nicht die verständlichste Metapher; das gute Schreiben hebe ich alles für das Buch auf). Das Buch wird u.a. Inspiration, Ideen, Schnittmuster (ja, Schnittmuster) und die Freude ans Nähen für die kleinen lieben in Deiner Welt nach dem Phänomen Sabine Pollehn/Farbenmix darstellen.

Dennoch habe ich versuch die Story hinter diesem Phänomen darzustellen, in wieweit die Talente von Nic und Maiga und Jeanette und Claudia und Diba und Sanna und Chris und und und und und und*… organisch und spontan neue Gewürze in die Farbenmix Suppe gebracht haben.

Und es kommen die Schnittmuster. Es werden sowohl bekannte Schnitte neu besucht und revidiert also auch ganz neue vorgestellt. Für beide Jungs und Mädls (wobei Mächen sind zwangsweise überrepresentiert, aber Jungs sind auf keinem Fall vergessen). Uns war wichtig, daß das Buch vom guten Wert ist. Alleine die Schnittmuster werden den Buchpreis seinem Geld wert sein. Einiges mehr, sogar. Ich habe auf Amazon die Bewertungen von Nähbüchern gelesen: Schöne Bilder sind nett, aber vielen wollen auch feste Mahlzeiten, etwas für die Nähmaschinen zum richtig Anbeissen  haben. Wir haben eine breite Palette an Projekten: Sowohl Anfänger als auch für Erfahrere. Aber schön wird das Buch auch. Wie weiß ich das? Weil im Vertrag stand in der Tat das Wort “beauty”. Ich habe bisher versucht Schönheit nachzugehen, aber ich bin jetzt vertraglich gebunden auch Schönheit zu produzieren. Ich habe schöne Designbespiele, schöne Models, ein professionelles Editing Team … insofern ist ein schönes Buch möglich. Ich habe bereits Schönheit in der Unterstützung und im Enthausiasmus der Beteiligten erfahren. Ich hoffe, diese Schönheit wird im Buch übertragen.

Ich hoffe sehr. Herbst soll’s soweit sein.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Can it get any better?

What could possibly be more fun than big guys against the little guys? At sunset? On the beach?

Even the Eastern Orthodox priest wasn't going to let his cassock stand in the way of a few good jukes.

And what should you do when there are no cake forks? Don't ask. Don't ask these guys, anyway. You don't want to know.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

How he saw it.

This Memorial Day, among other things, I picked up our favorite sweets at the Japanese supermarket with my German husband. Go figure. Some fifty-five years ago, my dad was in a mine sweeper  detonating mines laid by German U-boats along the eastern seaboard and in the Mediterranean, and in the Pacific theater, those mines laid by Japanese ships around different Pacific islands. To think of the friends I have in Japan and Germany and to think of the effort and sacrifice it took--and takes--for friendship, prosperity and peace between people to take root, grow and blossom.

My dad is my dad. And alone in that regard a bit larger than life to me. Still, in very objective ways, he is very remarkable. He has a mind like a trap. An engineer to his very core, his technical background began already in toddlerhood, when he would unrig the cultivators by hammering on the tail nuts with any tools that the hired help may have left laying about, to later earning several U.S. patents in his name, including one thingamajig that is used in every diesel engine made today. He remembers names, dates, days of the week and little details that would be erased from my personal RAM. He is 88 years old and a World War II veteran. Until recently, all my dad would give me when asked about World War II were a few lines of the Irving Berlin song, 

"We joined the navy to see the sea.  And what did we see? 
We saw the sea
We saw the Atlantic and the Pacific 
But the Pacific isn't terrific 
And the Atlantic isn't what it's cracked up to be." 

I think some wounds never really heal, so I never press. I think some memories are painful to remember still.
On this Memorial Day, however, I asked him if he remembered the day the United States entered the war. Please note, my dad "learned to cuss when he was three years old, hitching rides atop the log wagon that was working to clear timber around the farm house. That old man could cuss for thirty minutes straight without repeating himself. He would hang the reigns next to him. He wouldn't use the reigns, but would drive the mule team for that log wagon just by yelling and cussing." So, I've had to clean up the account a bit. Just a bit.

"I was visiting my Uncle Howard in Prarie, Missouri. He trapped muskrats. We were down at the creek setting traps. It was November 7th and he was down in the creek and he had caught three muskrats. When we got back to the house, Aunt Janie said the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor. And my comment was, "The dirty sons-of-bitches." It was about 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon and I made my mind up then and there to join the Navy and work on aircraft engines (to hell with the Army: The Navy was more mechanical, technical). I went to the Kennet (Missouri) post office and joined the Navy for the duration of the war.

"And so they gave me orders to report to Kennet on the 30th of December, 1941. And so they sent us to Saint Louis. I hadn't been to Saint Louis before. They put us up in a hotel (this was my first time staying in a hotel). I went through a medical exam on the 30th at the courthouse in Saint Louis. The next morning, they put us on a train to Chicago (my first time in a Pullman car, you know, with the bunks). At 1:00, on January 1, 1942, I stepped off that train and onto Great Lakes Naval Training. I spent 17 days getting shots and indoctrination into the Navy. For the first nine days, I didn't have a pea coat. They didn't have a pea coat big enough for me. I damn near froze to death standing in front of Building Five, the mess.

"They had us sleeping in hammocks, I suppose to get us used to sleeping in them. There were 120 of us in a bay. The hammocks were strung between iron posts. One guy would fall out and he'd take another five with him. We didn't get a whole lot of sleep.

"After 17 days of getting (immunization) shots, they put me on a train  back to Chicago for training. Instead of aircraft engines, I got diesel engines. I was an Apprentice Seaman for eight weeks. I was involved in two 'incidents' at the diesel engine school.

"The first one was when the chief told me to hold my thumb over the crank of the engine. They had a McCormick engine started on a gasoline cycle and switched it over to diesel. Now these engines were like the old Model T engines with the crank...If you held your thumb over the end while turning, you could break an arm. So I flat out refused. The chief told me to leave and he stepped up to the engine. The next time I saw him, his arm was in a cast and I heard that he broke that arm turning that crank right after I walked out..." 

I'm not entirely sure why I write this all down here, on this blog. His history is my ancestry, but, in a way, also world history, so maybe I just want to put it down. I have some other stories of his to share, which I will save for another day. 

I hope you don't mind. I'll have some crafting and sewing things ready to share in a couple of days, but right now, this is what is on my mind.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Let's remember

Memorial Day was originally known as "Decorating Day," so named as war widows of the American Civil War would decorate the graves of their fallen soldier husbands.

I have been requiring my family to watch the 1952 documentary series "Victory at Sea" with me. Although the 26 episodes are a bit heavy on the violins of the NBC Orchestra, this documentary series was comprised of footage from all participants in World War II and is, I imagine, historically very accurate, as this series was put together only a few years after the final German surrender in May, 1945, and the survivors involved in these horrible events were very much alive. If I can look beyond the black-and-white nostalgia and listen beyond those screeching violins and whining piccolos, I only see very young men and massive, massive destruction. 

Today, I have the feeling that most Americans see Memorial Day as a day of hotdogs and clearance sales. However, in 2000, a resolution was passed to observe a Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 pm on Memorial Day. Just a moment. One little moment. 3:00 pm. Can you remember?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mothers' Day!

Moms, you have the power to shape the future. Each hug, each scolding, each nasty glance, each smile of praise, each hand held, each tickle, each kind word, each snide remark will have an effect on tomorrow. Collectively, there is no power greater on this Earth. Wield it wisely.

Love to you.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thanks, guys.

Thank you for your congratulations for Jack. He appreciates it. Me too.

Today, I don't have much. Just some love and peace for you. How's that?

Sunday, May 3, 2009


...when the cut-off is 1 minute, 50 seconds for swimming 100 meters. 1:50:00

One second and 41 one-hundredths.

That is what separated my boy from being in the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Junior Lifeguard program this summer.

One second and forty-one one-hundredths.

He trained for weeks, swam the one hundred meters and did not make it under the one-minute-fifty-second-NO-EXCEPTIONS time limit.

So...That's that. That was it. 

The kid is panting, totally out of breath. But he does have enough breath to tell me how much he hates swimming. He's hating swimming. He's hating Junior Lifeguards. He doesn't say so, but he's probably hating me, too. Did I have to humiliate him like this? When his best buddy struts away from the pool with a time of 1:36? Can't we just go home, he pleads, right now? He doesn't even want to change clothes. He just wants to go. Now. And never hear about Junior Lifeguards again (which, living near the coast in California, is like trying to ignore the sunshine. When you are 10 years old, just ignoring all the kids in their blue uniforms is about as easy as overlooking the ocean. Think "Bay Watch" for kids. Junior Lifeguards is the thing. The thing almost every water rat within a 30 mile radius wants to be a part of.).

One second and 41 one-hundredths.

Look, babe, your buddy is a head taller than you. You're the second shortest kid in your grade. Height matters a lot in swimming. It's no big deal. You're probably, technically, a better swimmer... You're just anthropometrically disatvantaged. It's probably a form of discrimination. (I'm not making things better, I can tell...But I've done my research...research...research...research...I do that...)

I'm letting my son catch his breath when I happen to overhear the words "second chance".

"Second chance"? Did I hear "second chance"?

I've learned that when life gives you a second chance, you take it. Even if there is a chance, even the likelihood of failing again or failing worse, you take that chance, you just do. 

Easier said than done, of course: I'm just the mom, not the kid who's not going to be strutting about all summer sandy, sunburned and smiling in the coveted blue sweatshirt and who wants to go home, now.

No way, Jack says. No second chance. Can we just please go home? Now? He just does not want tooooo.

All right, Jack, it's okay. No worries: I'm not going to make you do anything you don't want to. Let's just catch your breath for one minute and we'll go.

And so we sit, breathing in the chlorine. We watch the drippy kids and excited parents pass by. We see the girl to our left get a time of 1:30. The girl to our right is burying her head in her dad's shoulder, salty tears mixing with the pool water on her cheeks. Junior Lifeguards is not for every kid. Not for the kid, for example, who swims 100 meters in 1:51:41.

Jack is breathing easier and I gather up the bags and shoes and tell Anna to come along. Then I hear Jack say,

"I'll try again."

Huh? Where did that come from?

Really, I don't care: He's willing to try again. I'm so proud I could burst! I try to keep my excitement down. I don't care if it takes him until the sun sets to swim those four laps. To me--and I hope he realizes this--he's already won. He's going to swallow his pride and give it a second shot. He's never swam faster on the second timing. He knows that. But he's going to try. That's all anybody can ask.

A lifeguard escorts Jack to his lane and Jack jumps in. "Ready son? ... Go!" And Jack swims.

This time, the lane is at the end of the pool and the lifeguard walks along side and barks out a few coaching tips.

"Feet together! Watch the black line, son!"

First lap, Jack is really strong. 

Second lap, not great, but not bad either.

Third lap, darnit, Jack is swerving and makes a bad turn. He looks exhausted.

Fourth lap Jack looks strong again, he really does. But the lifeguard has stopped walking along side and just looks at his stopwatch. This lifeguard is north of fifty years old. He's got skin that is brown and hard with thirty years of smiling everyday creasing his eyes and mouth. Still, he has a look of resignation as he looks at his stopwatch.

Not going to happen, I know now. Junior Lifeguards is just not going to happen. Not this year. And, after this experience, I can't be sure he'll want to try next year. But I'm still so proud of my boy, I could jump up and down.

The lifeguard gets down on one knee at the end of the lane to show Jack his 100 meter time on the stopwatch. To save the kid some of the embarrassment, the lifeguard doesn't say the time out loud. The lifeguard is a good guy. Thank you, Mr. Lifeguard Man, for being such an understanding guy. The lifeguard turns his attention to the clipboard and marks down the time. I barely take note when the lifeguard hands me the paper. I don't care. I just don't care. I'm watching Jack pull himself from the water and I just want to give the kid a hug. Or a high five or a pat on the back (he's older now and I haven't quite got the knack of understanding the amount of public mothering he can really stand). But my kid is a winner. A winner. He gave it his all and that's more than I should even expect of him. He needs to understand that.

As Jack is pulling himself from the water, the lifeguard points me to the cash registers.


Come along, Jack, we're going home now. Jack starts walking himself toward the cash registers.

The cash registers?

The cash registers are there to pay for the camp this summer. To pay for the camp for the kids who made it through.

Wait a minute.

Paper... paper, paper, what does the paper say?

Wait just a darn minute.

Wait just three-fifths of a second, to be more exact!


He did it.

He. Did. It.


One minute forty-nine seconds and 40 one-hundredths. We'll take it!

Just icing. Gravy to me. But I'm so happy for him.

I look and Jack is beaming. In his swim cap and blue goggles, he looks like a slimy, but very happy space alien. The kid is stoked. No need to ask, babe, in addition to the standard uniform, I'll get you the coveted navy blue Los Angeles County Fire Department Junior Lifeguard hoodie.

And the Los Angeles County Fire Department Junior Lifeguard rash guard.

And the beanie.

And the sun hat.

Congratulations, son. I'm so very proud of you.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Just a coincidence? Exactly at the moment of the debut of Eva's new embroidery design series, my girl is cast in the Second Grade play as the frog who wants to fly. The frog lives at the bottom of a tropical rain forest and has never seen the sky.

I happen to have a lot of sympathy for this character, the frog. She sings this song that goes something like:

"Just once I want to see the sky.
Way above the trees.

Just once I want to get up high.
Way beyond the leaves.

I've tired leaping like a lizard.
Stoppin' all this hoppin'

But I'm a hundred feet too short..."

Know that feeling?

Well, frog finally gets her wish with the help of her friend, the toucan ("two can!").

Know that feeling? Having a friend to help you achieve your dreams? I'm lucky enough to say, yes, two can.


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