Friday, April 27, 2012

I'm a leavin' on a jet plane

Actually the title of this post should be 'I left on a jet plane'. Yesterday I flew from Chicago to Heathrow airport in London. There I had a full vegetarian English breakfast. I also bought a friend and I our favorite Boots hair cream for curly hair. I may have also bought some Cadbury caramel chocolate bars. I must admit that I planned my layover for London because I knew that Heathrow has a full vegetarian English breakfast and for those of you have ever had the Cadbury caramel chocolate bar you know I do not need to say anything.

I then had a flight to Doha, Qatar where I am visiting my friend Barry. I landed in the evening and we had dinner and then I crawled into bed where I slept until noon. I ran and got a latte and an almond croissant, which were delicious, because Barry does not believe in coffee or breakfast. That is simply sacrilege. We went to dinner at a delicious Moroccan restaurant at the souk. We then picked up some of his colleagues to go to a place they called simply 'the green door'. This place is a treasure trove of some antiques, some tchotckhes and rugs owned by a gentleman named Gassan who is originally from Lebanon. Mon Dieu, the rugs. We spent hours sorting through rugs and Barry found a beautiful Persian rug. I also found a lovely little Kurdish rug. I never got a chance to buy one when I was in Iraq and I was laughing that I came to Qatar to buy an Iraqi rug. The photo below was not taken in the best light and the rug is actually a bit more orange. I love the geometric pattern.

While this blog may occasionally be hijacked to tell you what I am up to, today's post is relevant to Meandering Design. The shop we were at also had many items from India, including Sarongs. I found an orange sarong with elephants on it and because Barry and I were both buying carpets the shop owner gave it to me as a gift. Except I needed more because, really, how could you resist an orange fabric with elephants. When I saw it I knew immediately that it would make a fabulous skirt. So, I got a couple of orange one's and a couple of green sarongs that also had elephants on them. Plus everyone knows that elephant's with their trunk up are lucky (I say that a bit tongue in cheek especially after I read this article).

When I get home these will be made into skirts, I am leaning towards something gathered and with good twirlability (a word I just completely made up).  I am looking to open up the shop in June so keep an eye out if you like the fabric. Sorry they are a bit wrinkly, but I could not resist posting the photos.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fry fry a hen

When I was a little girl I loved the book Caddie Woodlawn. It was like a spunkier version of Little House on the Prairie. Anyways, Caddie had to recite the phrase "if at first you do not succeed, try try again" in front of the school. Her brother changed it to "if at first you do not fricassee, fry fry a hen". Which, considering my brain is a sieve, the fact that I remember that phrase to this day is a small miracle. I found myself saying 'fry fry a hen' today because I failed. It wasn't an epic failure, but still... I bought a 1970's paisley dress. It was paisley from head to toe (floor length). Sadly, I did not take a before picture, but here is a snapshot of the fabric-

I started doing what I normally do, which is to cut the thing up! I cut it into a top and bottom, and moved the zipper on the skirt, but the zipper was giving me problems. Then I made the top into a little bolero jacket. It is kind of cute, but it is just not making me happy. You know who I think will enjoy it though are my friends two girls. It will be a great addition to their dress up box. Plus it kind of reminds me of two other girls who would play dress up in vintage clothes.

*I have to point out that normally my friend Wendy is the one who posts mildly humiliating photos of me and so it is nice to turn the tables. XOXO!!

Saturday, April 21, 2012


In my family there are only two topics of conversation around the dinner table- cats and antiques. It is the only thing that we are allowed to talk about because any conversation regarding politics or religion will be sure to start a fight. We all love to go antique shopping and find little treasures.

My mother and I have a habit of picking up ugly, rather forlorn, looking bits and bobs because they were handmade and really, who could leave such a lovingly embroidered tea towel with kittens behind. Over the years we have rescued these items, much as one would rescue a stray cat (another thing my family does in spades).

The same mentality has carried over into my thrift store shopping. Sometimes something delightfully ugly will catch my eye and I will look it over and realize it was handmade. Then I snatch it up and cradle it lovingly, that is after I wash it. Years ago I found a pink skirt (I have to point out that I do not wear pink) that someone had obviously made out of a sheet and they attached a bit of pink lace and fake pink flowers to it. It made such a spectacle of itself that I could not resist. Yes, I wear it every summer with pride.

Yesterday's find was not quite as atrocious, but it is right on the edge of ugly with its plaid, furbelows and lace. I was drawn to it at first because I adore plaid and then I saw the lace and I went to put it back, until I realized it was handmade. Then it had to come home with me. I plan to flounce about in it with joy. That is, after I wash it.

Here Mrs. Palmer kindly models the skirt. Actually, it is a bit short for her, but more in keeping with her sense of style.

Those ruffles and lace. Swoon.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It's All Mine!

Back in November I mentioned that I was setting up a sole proprietorship. I filed the paperwork through a company and then I heard nothing. I called and was told that I should receive the paperwork and then more nothing. I called again and found out that the City had lost my paperwork and they had to refile everything. I am grateful that I went through a company and they had to deal with the city because I have a feeling I would have been a screaming puddle on the floor bewailing the futility of it all.

Today I am ecstatic to announce that Meandering Design is officially mine. I received the certificate that says it is mine. I am so thankful because I have been 'acting as if' it was all set and I owned the name. Now I do own Meandering Design. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

White Space

This is a post about good design. I am going to preface it with saying that now I have taught as a substitute, I think teachers are the most amazing people on the face of this planet. Oh my goodness it is hard work.  Day in and day out they are engaging and molding the minds of the future and at the same time class room sizes get larger and test scores dictate whether they keep their jobs. I have to say I love being a sub because I get to waltz in for the day and leave when the kids go home. Even when the day is done teachers are still working. They are grading papers and creating lesson plans. It is much longer then an eight hour day. I think anyone who wants to critique teachers and our education system needs to spend a day teaching. Just a day to see what it is like.

As I said though, this is a post about design. These days kids from all ends of the spectrum, from borderline autistic to behavioral disorders, are in the same classroom. It is very challenging and I have been lucky because every time I have taught I have had an aide in the classroom. Most schools, and most teachers, don't have that luxury.

Every classroom I have walked into has been a cacophony of design. There is stuff on the floor, wrapping up the walls and onto the ceiling. There is only a small square of whiteboard available to use for teaching. There are large post it notes of information stuck all over the walls. There are peeling bits of grammar rules that are so high up I don't know how anyone can see them. Tables are covered in books, paper and games. There are school supplies laying everywhere. Each classroom I walk into I straighten up. I can't help myself because the clutter starts to get to me.

The reason I mention this is because good design involves white space. A place for the eye to rest. There needs to be symmetry, which we are inherently drawn to. Colors are typically chosen to complement each other and to support the emotion that the space is trying to evoke. It is easy to recognize bad design because it unsettles us and makes us feel a bit... off. Good design makes us want to stay awhile, maybe curl up on the couch and read a book. Unfortunately, the classrooms today do not do that. They are a hodgepodge mix of colors, images, words, symbols and stuff.

We are a nation of stuff. We now have storage units for our storage units. We need to take a lesson from Coco Chanel who said, "Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off". I think we need to apply the same thought to our accessories as to our home, and by extension our classrooms. We need to create space for learning and a space for kids to rest their eyes and maybe day dream a little.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


First imagine a 1950's horror movie and a woman with perfectly coiffed hair and daring red lipstick is holding her hands up in an attempt to protect herself from the horror advancing on her. That is the reaction I get when I mention that I am making skirts out of vintage polyester. I have quite a few polyester dresses from the late 1950's and early 1960's and they are fabulous. They do breath and at the same time they are stylish and ridiculously comfortable.

I think the polyester most people object to is from the 70's with a tighter weave and a propensity to smell horrid. I attended a traditional dance party in Dohuk, Iraq and one of the attendees was kind enough to lend me a Kurdish dress. It included a pair of pants that were relatively puffy and then gathered at the ankle, a long tunic and an over dress with long sleeves that are then tied around the back. The sleeves were reminiscent of Elizabethan dress. The whole outfit was very colorful and the whole thing was made out of polyester. By the end of the evening after dancing the dabka all night, I was uncomfortably warm and glistening!

I found some bright and beautiful polyester and I am making it into simple a-line skirts. A style that matches the period the fabric is from. Before you shrink into the corner shrieking  I can say with certainty that they will be comfortable, stylish and no one will know you are wearing polyester.

Really, who could object to this fabric?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Encapsulating memories

My grandfather passed away in February and it has been a rough time for my family. My grandmother set about cleaning out the closet almost immediately. I think it was a form of catharsis for her. I asked for Poppy's shirts so I can make a quilt out of them. A Poppy shirt is easily recognizeable because it is always plaid and always in mild colors, typically blue, some grey, tan, olive green and a few burgundy. At one point in his life it became the only thing that we could get him, because really, what do you give the man who has a whole Morton building full of stuff?

Going through the shirts and cutting them into neat piles of fabric reminded me of his ethics. My grandparents did not throw anything away, and part of that is a bit of a hoarder mentality, but also a keen sense of reusing things, fixing things and making do. My mom told me yesterday that currently the furnace is 'jury rigged'. Yesterday I had a flat tire and I ended up at the Gomez service station at the corner of Division and Damen and the gentleman took my tire, figured out where the leak was coming from, patched me up and sent me on my way. He reminded me a lot of my grandfather.

From the wear of his shirts I could tell which were his favorites. Some of them had minuscule holes at the seams where the thread ran through. Yet, the shirt was washed, cleaned and ironed and hung back for another wear. The bolder burgundy shirt that someone must have bought him for Christmas was still stiff as if it was worn once for the gift giver and then hung back up in the closet. The shirts he liked and wore often were as soft and fine as any Liberty Tana Lawn. Those were the shirts that made me pause and hold them for a moment more. I could almost smell the scent of sunshine and oil, a very unique Poppy smell.

For now the shirts are currently sitting in piles as I contemplate what quilting pattern would best serve them. I know when this quilt is done that it will be a functional quilt, not one of beauty, but someone will run their hands over the top of it and pause on that one very worn piece of fabric and remember the man who once wore that shirt.

Friday, April 6, 2012

If you build it...

I have set things in motion and they are coming to fruition. I am blessed and amazed to have some talented women, and gentlemen, working with me to get Meandering Design up and running. I almost have a logo and it is a thing of beauty and encapsulates what I am trying to do. I had a photo shoot with Amy Boyle for Crave magazine and she did some miraculous things with light. Including making me look fabulous.

Ironically everything, including the logo and headshot, revolve around the wall I stenciled in the living room. The design will show up on my business cards and website. For the photo shoot we used that wall as the back drop.

I also have been sewing. My plan is to get everything up and ready for a June first launch. Thank you everyone for all of your support and for helping me make decisions! I cannot wait to share the photos and logo with you.