Mason Jar Memories

mason jar memories 2

When I’m traveling, I like to stick little things that remind me of the trip in my pocket. A shell from the beach. A dried leaf from the forest. A candy wrapper in a fruit flavor I’ve never heard of. I used to stick these sorts of things in with my photo albums, but nowadays I make digital scrapbooks so I don’t really have a home for the little physical remembrances. Enter the Mason Jar Memory Jar, an idea inspired by a project from Martha Stewart. Mason jars can hold a surprisingly large collection of little bits and bobs, and when packed in, like this jar from my time in East Africa, it becomes like a game of I Spy. I have beads from a necklace a Maasai woman made for me and animal teeth I scrounged from the dust in the savannah. As I look through the jar, I …

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Natural Dying and Weaving Silk in Luang Prabang, Laos

weaving silk scarf in Laos

Laos is a country with a rich textile heritage. With almost 50 main ethnicities and over 150 ethnic groups, there are many different traditional styles of weaving and methods of textile production. Ock Pop Tok is an organization based in Luang Prabang, Laos, that is working to empower women through their traditional skills and to preserve and promote Laotian textiles. I had the immense pleasure of taking their day-long workshop on dying silk using natural traditional dyes and learning how to weave. While Ock Pop Tok trains women across Laos in their traditional weaving techniques and buys textiles from all around the country to sell in their store in Luang Prabang, they also hire a group of local women to weave at their weaving center in Luang Prabang. So, before I got started on my own project, I got to watch professional weavers in action. I was mesmerized. I could …

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Silk Weaving in Siem Reap, Cambodia

weaving silk in cambodia

Although Siem Reap, Cambodia, is almost exclusively known for Angkor Wat temples, there is certainly plenty else worth exploring. Since I’m a textile junky, we toured a silk factory outside Siem Reap. The factory was built as a part of project aimed at “providing professional skills for communities with limited educational opportunities” as well as reviving Khmer cultural heritage. The women who work there make a good living wage and they don’t have to move away from their home towns to a city for a paying job, so the positions are sought after. The factory has a training program that every woman must go through for 6 months wherein they learn the entire silk making process, from worm to weaving. After completing their training, they can decide which job they prefer to be hired for. Silk worms only eat mulberry leaves so next to the factory there is a big …

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Fabric Shopping in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

fabric store ubud batik

We only had a few days in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, (our other time in Indonesia was spent sitting on a beach in the middle of nowhere on Lombok) but of course I had to buy some Indonesian fabric. We got dropped off in the heart of Ubud at the palace and ambled our way down Kajeng road (on the way to Threads of Life, more on that below) and one of the first stores I noticed was a little sarong store and sarongs = fabric! There was a beautiful assortment of different sarongs in a variety of quality of fabrics printed to look like batik, some real batiks, and some ikat. Since everything is sold as sarongs, it means that the fabric comes as ~2 yards. I talked to a driver that we had about traditional clothing in Bali and he told me that both men and women wear sarongs, although they are tied differently …

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Fabric Shopping in Chiang Mai: My Haul

thai ikat mudmee fabric

Hopefully you enjoyed reading about my experience fabric shopping in Chiang Mai. I’m sure what you really care about is my spoils, so here they are! I started my Chiang Mai fabric shopping with something shiny and pink (not a big surprise to anyone, I’m sure). It was stacked outside the store with many other bolts of eye-catching fabric, much like the stores I used to frequent on my trips to the L.A. fashion district (I’m a sucker for shiny no matter where in the world I am, I guess). It’s synthetic, but decent quality, albeit a bit scratchy on the wrong side, so whatever it becomes will need to be lined/underlined. The other synthetic fabric that I bought (yes, it was labeled “Thai silk”. no, it is not actually silk. trust me) had a lustrous gold and silver peacock design woven into a border print. Like the pink fabric …

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Fabric Shopping in Chiang Mai: The Experience

mudmee thai cottons

I can’t actually describe my fabric shopping trip in Chiang Mai without first raving about my new friend Gaye of Notionally Better. She drove into Chiang Mai from nearby Lampang to spend the day taking me shopping. I guess it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that two sewists could instantly become friends, because sewing people are great people, but, after only one day of hanging out, I adore this woman! I had a brilliantly fun day fabric shopping and much of it was due to Gaye’s wit, friendliness, energy, and enthusiasm! So many thanks to Gaye for taking the day to play with me! All of the fabric stores that we went to were around the Warorot market, a daytime market that is centered around two multi-story buildings but extends out into the streets and lanes nearby. All of the fabric shops that we went to were on …

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The Fantastical Metal Beasts of Ricardo Breceda

ricardo breceda serpent dragon head

In the desert, near a small town, nestled up next to vast tracts of a state park, there are creatures. Giant metal creatures spattered across the desert land. Some are extinct. Some are fantastical. Some are exotic. All are awe inspiring. These sculptures are the product of Ricardo Breceda. He started sculpting with a large metal dinosaur, inspired by his daughter’s dinosaur obsession after watching Jurassic Park III. He has since made an amazing collection of metal creatures ranging from everyday animals to fantastical beasts. The largest collection of his creations is on Galleta Meadows Estate in Borrego Springs, a southern California desert town next to Anza Borrego State Park. I had a grand time driving around Anza Borrego, pulling off the road to the left and right to chase down glimpses of these impressive sculptures. Breceda’s ability to communicate life and movement in his sculptures on such a large …

Living Old Mission Santa Barbara

embroidered vestements

A couple of weekends ago I went down to Santa Barbara. I had an inspiring tour through an inspiring place with two very inspiring women. My mom, Adam’s mom, and I toured the museum and gardens of the Santa Barbara Mission. It was built in 1786 but is still a site of education, reflection, and worship. It’s a Franciscan mission. Although I am not religious, and certainly not Catholic, I have always like Saint Francis of Asissi for being the patron saint of animals and the environment.

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Our Trip to Los Barriles over Thanksgiving

Los Barriles beach kiteboarders

Adam and I spent our Thanksgiving this year in Los Barriles, South Baja, Mexico. We hosted Thanksgiving dinner for our families last year. This year, we decided that our priorities for the holiday were low stress and time together. So we escaped to Mexico!

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

fern

Last week I was sent to the east coast to visit collaborators for work.  I decided I would fly out a day early so that I could visit friends in New York. While there, I spent hours wandering through the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens with a friend. The Japanese garden was lovely and tranquil. I enjoyed watching the turtles and koi in the murky green water. I was taken by this bright red flower. So bold, so bright, so cheery. I believe it was from the onion/garlic family, which I found surprising as I think of those blossoms as being puff balls, not striking individual petals like this one. Inside of the building hosting the different world climates, there was an atrium that had flower sculptures hanging from each of the roof windows. I loved this one, not just because it was bright pink, but because of how bold it was …

A Trip to Alaska

alaska byron glacier

I spent last week in Alaska on family vacation. My brother has lived in Anchorage for 7 years and this is the first time I’ve been up here to visit. I’m sorry that it has taken me so long because it’s absolutely beautiful, even though the weather has been pretty darn crummy. We went for a float down the Kenai river to go fishing (my brother’s most favorite activity in the entire world). Unfortunately, it was very cold and raining so, instead of camping and continuing the float for a second day, we had to cut it to a single day. The banks of the Kenai river were lined with dead fish. The salmon come up the streams to spawn and after spawning, they die. We stopped by my brother’s work to drop off some of the gear he borrowed for our float trip and ended up playing on the …