Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Angels Do Exist

In my quest to find the perfect source for everything related to sewing, I stumbled upon Marx's Tailoring Supply. If my memory serves me correctly Marx's Tailoring Supply was located at One Figueroa, or was it One Wilshire, in downtown Los Angeles. It doesn't really matter, but I remember the building name and address inlaid on the door step marking a grander time for the neighborhood. You won't find the showroom there now. Mrs. Marx was using a walker over 25 years ago, when I stumbled upon her showroom.

My father drove me there. Together, we listened to Mrs. Marx' life story as she pulled out felt, under collars, hymo, basting thread, silk thread on wooden spools, dressmaker quality rayon seam binding, and all these wonderful tailoring supplies that I had yet to find anywhere else.

One of my most precious procurements that day was a sterling silver thimble. Mrs. Marx pulled from her case the one that fit perfectly. The thimble was lost in the mid 1980's. I can remember where we lived and the car I was driving at the time. I remember tearing them apart in my quest to find this perfect thimble.

I was thinking about that thimble recently, and when I opened my sewing drawer, there it was. Now, I know I lost this thimble sometime during the mid 1980's. I cannot explain how it has now re-appeared some 20 years later. Its not as polished as I remember, but this magic thimble fits and works like the original. Guess it means I'm gearing up for some serious hand sewing!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Santa Barbara Jesusita Fire Day 5

The fire fighters received the natural reprieve they required to gain control over the Jesusita Fire. The winds have abated and the moist air of a marine layer moved in today. So have the politicians.

In the beginning of the week, press conferences were conducted by our local Fire Chief and Mayor. Now, an ensemble of beaurocrats all the way up to our Federal Congressperson stand en masse for this International photo opportunity huffing and puffing as if they were on the Jesusita Fire's front line about the funds, technological and personnel resources committed, and their final authorization to bring in the big guns, one of the two DC10's, designed to drop as much as 12,000 gallons of fire retardant at a time. It arrived yesterday. "The conditions have been met to use it effectively." Translated, "We moved as fast as we could, but the system is clogged by budgetary constraints and now, it is the politically correct time since natural conditions have changed so whatever we now do is nearly guaranteed to coincide with success."

There are going to be those now who huff and puff as if they are on the line fighting this fire that not enough was done, soon enough. In my humble opinion, and those who know me will vouch for the fact that I have no problem voicing it as of late, fighting this fire is a classic example of "man vs. nature." Something we have been doing since modern civilization began.

The Chumash Indians of this area moved to the beach when wild fires staked their claim of the hills. Then, the Chumash did not overpopulate, overdevelop or attempt to take control over their environment as we Modern civilites do.
It does not matter how much or how soon resources are committed, a wildfire cannot be stopped until nature cooperates. All that can be done is to contain it within its natural environment. That our firefighters did miraculously well.

You might say, at current count 75 homes were lost....... Yes. Peoples' lives are gravely affected by this loss. I feel very deeply for them and do not intend to belittle that loss. The lost structures were within relatively sparsely populated areas, and far more homes in these mountain foothill and canyon communities were saved by pre-planning, fire fighters' heroic efforts and luck, than were lost.

If you understand the population distribution and geography of Santa Barbara you will understand why I am expressing relief about the loss of 75 structures. Santa Barbara is roughly 3-4 miles wide and 12 miles long. It is bordered on the North and South by mountains and Ocean. Population density greatly increases as you move down from the canyon areas, into the foothills and down to the beach. Every panned shot of Santa Barbara illustrates, as does the satellite map prepared by Google for this event.

The Jesusita Fire engulfed the entire face of the mountains above Santa Barbara. As dramatic as the footage of burning hills may be, it is nothing compared to what might have been. At anytime, the wind could have shifted from onshore to offshore to force the flames down any one or more of the many canyons that were all at one time burning. That would have changed this technological man vs. nature fight, where aerial assaults of water and fire retardant drops can be conducted with limited damage. (The fire retardant may be more damaging than we know, but I'll leave that question to be answered when its not our savior.) Into hand to hand, house to house combat through densely populated exploding homes and businesses.

In a wildfire fight confined to its natural environment fire fighters bulldoze and cut fire breaks through chaparral that will reseed. Chaparral actually enjoys the pruning and fertilization the slash and burn provides. In a City, the fire fighters would have been mowing down homes on City streets. Talk about the political fall out of plowing down the wrong contributors' home!

The effect on air quality of burning chaparral and poison oak, although unhealthy, is nothing compared to the environmental fallout and health effects of the ash from a City full of burnt carpet, cars and god knows what went into the construction and is stored within the structures of a more than 200 year old City.

If fire fighters had not been successful in keeping the Jesusita Fire at bay, our one and only artery in and out of the City, Highway 101, would quickly become clogged and as recently happened in Australia when a fire ran through too quickly for evacuees to outrun, deadly. The rest of us would run for the beach. Some would drown as the crowds pushed them from the sand into the water.

That is what our firefighters prevented from happening by keeping the Jesusita Fire within the confines of its natural habitat. It was with confidence that they would do just that that we peacefully vacated our homes, and did our best to stay out of their way.

Yes. More than 30,000 of us are temporarily inconvenienced by the evacuation. In doing so, we had to make decisions about what was most important. There is something grounding and cathartic about doing just that. My husband, our dog and my life, everything else, I could let everything go and start from scratch. I might even find it a relief, a chance to rebuild and redefine myself. I love change.

My husband is much different than me. He is very attached to his pattern and a life of collecting photographs, artifacts, books and artwork. He would be greatly wounded by loss of any of these, let alone all. Among his "stuff" are fin designs and prototypes. He also has 1,000's of 35 mm slides and super 8 movie footage, along with log books and survey data documenting years of expeditions photo-documenting the life as it developed beneath the oil platforms of the Santa Barbara Channel, and the California Channel Islands.

His Channel Islands Collection includes images taken from within the seal rookeries, where he was given access by the National Parks Service before passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. These things are his creations and life. They are unique. They are irreplaceable. Their loss would have taken from my husband a part of his life that he cherishes. It would have also represented a great loss to humanity.

Just 2 weeks ago, we had written the Director of New York Museum of Modern Art to ask if they were interested in housing his photographic collection. We decided to start there since my husband's design, the Tan Delta Force Fin is already part of the permanent collections of their Department of Architecture and Design. Instead of waiting for a response, I think I will take this time, while local business in the store is slowed down due to the fire to expand the field of institutions to which we make this offer.

That is my resolution from the Jesusita Fire. I am going to find a safe home for my husband's Offshore Oil Platform and Channel Islands Collection of photographs. Maybe then next time we are asked to evacuate, and the fires will return, I will be able to bother to think about what is most important to me. Maybe that is not a such a good thing.

Its time now to get back to work. The mandatory evacuation order for our neighborhood has been lifted. We are free to return to our home, and I have a bride whose wedding dress I need to get made. Our fabric choices therefor are the subject of our next and much more germane to MsFineFabrics blog post.

I am thankful to my special friends, Ichak and Nurit Adizes, who made this adventure all too pleasant by offering us accommodations that rival the best spas in the World. But, even if I had to lay my head down on the floor of Fine Fabrics this entire week, as we did the first night of our evacuation, or in the back of our Volvo station wagon as many others did, I am thankful I am among the fortunate few that had the opportunity to be a refugee in the paradise called Santa Barbara.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Santa Barbara Jesusita Fire Day 4

The only thing more important to Santa Barbara politics than real estate is water. Property development is limited by water supply. The two issues work together to maintain a quaint, but elegant ambiance and a limited housing supply. High demand is fueled by almost perfect weather - 72 degrees and dry mean temperature, with Pacific Ocean and Channel Island views from almost every vantage point. Good old Keynsian economics work to keep Santa Barbara's pricing so high that only luck, legacy or privilege allows one to stay within the community.

The "almost" in our otherwise perfect weather includes the hot, dry winds, that periodically whip through the canyons. They raise temperatures and fuel fires, necessary to clear the chapparel that covers the mountains and wilderness areas that surround the City. In Los Angeles these winds are called "Santa Anas", the reason for which I could never figure out, but Santa Barbara is ever fearful of becoming a bedroom community of its Southern megopolis, so we call them "Sundowners".

Sundowners bring a hot, high pressure weather condition during the day. Grab your Summer clothes on the way out the door when that police bull horn announces that its time for your street to vacate. The winds funnel through the canyons and sweep through the City during the late afternoon and early evening. The winds fan fires, and the fires fuel the winds, and each intensify the other. And, that is what is working against the fire fighters in containing the Santa Barbara Jesusita Fire.

Its my theory that when enough ash meets with the moisture in the atmosphere over the Ocean, Mother nature will send in the rain drop troops that will finally quelch the fire. Not sure if a meteorologist would agree.

In the meantime, the fire fighters continue doing a helluva job at keeping the wall of flame from dropping down out of the upper canyon areas where winds are gusting, and population is sparse. I read a report in the Independent, our local weekly newspaper that a finger and spot of flame did make its way down into the San Roque neighborhood where we live, but that fire fighters heroically fought it out and back. Kudos again!

Due to limited water supply, the City has closed Los Banos, the pool at the harbor and shower which we were depending upon using during our stay at the offices of Force Fin and Fine Fabrics. So we've moved to a room in the guest house of a friend and client's Montecito estate. Their son is off at school, and another Refugee from the Eastern flank of the San Jesusita Fire is staying in his room. While we were there Painted Cave was added to the mandatory evacuation list, so our hostess called and invited this new group refugee friends who live there to join.
I'm sure we'll see them there tonight.

The community is rallying together to find homes for the other half that has been displaced.
Dos Pueblos High School where the American Red Cross had set up a shelter is full, and a secondary location has been set up at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I'm hearing that the hotels are full, but if that is your choice, check your insurance policy. Many provide for payment of your costs associated with displacement due to mandatory evacuation.

Our commercial property that houses Fine Fabrics and Force Fin are on the beach side of the 101 Freeway, and not at this time threatened by evacuation warning. Other than our real dog, Bonita, following us around, and the few of our most precious belongings we were able to fit in the car cluttering Force Fin's warehouse and Fine Fabric's sewing studio, business is as usual.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Santa Barbara Jesusita Fire Day 3

Winds are not cooperating with fire fighters, and now the entire hillside above the City of Santa Barbara is covered in smoke, ash and fire. A friend with a vantage point view across the City called us at work yesterday to say that things were heating up in San Roque Canyon, which is above our home. He wasn't kidding. The hillside less than 1/4 mile behind my home was ablaze, with winds blowing hard in an easterly direction.

The high winds that are damning those high on San Roque and Mission Canyons are so far our personal savior, but if they should shift to the South, then our home could be in trouble. Our neighbors were already packed up. They had received their reverse 911 calls, advising that our neighborhood had been placed under "mandatory evacuation". That is what it says. Its time to go. So, with winds blowing, and the hillside behind our house literally exploding ..... boom.... boom.... boom... as electrical transformers and contents of homes are consumed..... We loaded the car so full of photographs, paintings, books and sculptures that it dragged as we pulled out of the driveway.

At the last minute, we threw into our swim bags some clothes, and here my nearly completed SWAP was perfect and some toiletries. We made our way to our Santa Barbara Fabric Store to spend the night.
We are optimistic that our home will remain upwind; that it is stable in its condition on the flat lands of the San Roque neighborhood and it will survive.

I feel very deeply for my fellow Jesusista Fire refugees who are not and will not be as fortunate, but my husband and I are determined to stay productive and enjoy our temporary Santa Barbara refugee status. I plan to devote the rest of my Jesusita Fire blog entries as a blueprint for how to best enjoy our temporary displacement.

First is determining where to stay.

1. A number of hotels offer discount rates for fire evacuees. If you are lucky enough to be among the first wave of reservations, the Bacara has rooms for as little as $150 - $200 per night for e
2. Family and friends - slumber parties are the mood of the day.
3. American Red Cross has food and cots at Dos Pueblos High School.
4. Alternative properties. Santa Barbara is a real estate town, so many evacuees own more than one property. If not rented, then this is a good choice for those who need to feel personal security when displaced. Office couches serve under this category.
5. Homeless shelter - I hear some of the rooms have an Ocean view.
6. Find a bush or a spot on the beach not yet taken by the homeless.

We opted for 4 - On the floor of the studio loft above Fine Fabrics.

Second is determining where to stow the things in your car.

Third is determining where to bathe.

We swim with the Santa Barbara Swim Club Masters at Los Banos, in the Harbor every morning. Since they remodeled the locker rooms, the showers are actually nicer than those in our home. Swim bags were an indispensable save. Punch card admission to the pool is available for a nominal fee to Santa Barbara residents.

Fourth is determining where to eat.

We celebrated our first night out by sharing a King Crab at the Santa Barbara Shell Company at the end of Stearns Wharf. Then picked up a bottle of cognac at the still open after dinner Crown Liquors on Milpas and toasted to a nip before bed.

For breakfast after a short easy swim this morning, the air is getting a little thick with ash for physical exertion, we treated ourselves to a tourist size meal at Moby Dicks, also on Stearns Wharf.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Santa Barbara Jesusita Fire Day 2

Went to sleep last night to the chop-chop-chop of helicopters flying. A few pilots are issued night vision goggles to continue fighting fires throughout the night. Woke up at about 3:00 am to clear skies and silence. Thought that the fire was out, but this morning at sunrise you could see flames once again shooting up above the ridge at the top of Jesusita Trail.

So far the fire is not contained, but it has been kept within the wilderness border area of the Los Padres National Forest above Santa Barbara. No reports of structures lost. The City is quiet. Many schools are closed, including the one down the street from our home.

The Jesusita Fire is one for which fire fighters have trained well. Their training appears to have paid off. Kudos to their hard work.

To celebrate the fire fighters, I found 12 pages of images showing of firefighters in uniform.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Santa Barbara Jesusita Fire

Closed Fine Fabrics Santa Barbara Store early today. The Santa Barbara Jesusita Fire started in the canyon above our San Roque home. We're a few streets south of the evacuation line. We're sitting at the kitchen table. From here we have a view of the mountains, where smoke is billowing, helicopters are flying and dropping their buckets full of water and fire retardant. We're taking the time to get some work done that requires quiet concentration.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Suggested Attire for Parties

Event planners seem to be getting more and more creative about attire suggestions on invitations. And, I have to admit that a creative suggestion might tip the tables on my decision to attend the event. The invitations before me today suggest: "chic", "festive" and "dressy casual". What each of these mean in terms of what one wears is wide open to interpretation, and needs to be decided in conjunction with the time, place and purpose of the event.

The "dressy casual" event is a fundraiser for an orphanage and sister city to Santa Barbara invitation event for Kotor, Montenegro. It is for the early evening at a beach front estate home in Montecito, California. The question is which to emphasize, the "dressy" or the "casual"? So I'm taking a vote. What would you wear to such an event?

Fine Fabrics dressmaker Cindy whipped up a black and white dress from out-of-print Vogue Pattern 1010 using Marimeko inspired black & white cotton with lycra, brightened up with big round red buttons for the "dressy casual" event.

The "festive" event is a cocktail and dinner birthday party, at a mountainside estate home in Montecito, California. For this one, I keep thinking bright and ruffly, something that is flamenco inspired. I think this is because we are in Santa Barbara, and the big city event is our Old Spanish Days Fiesta, performance for which there is a world class flamenco competition. And, that makes flamenco inspired for a "festive" party corney this time of year. Most seem to interpret "festive" as made using bold and brightly colored fabrics. What would you wear to a "festive" cocktail and dinner party?

The "chic" event is already past. It was hosted by Wyland, at his Wyland Waikiki Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii. The suggested attire actually of "chic" added to our decision to fly over and attend. It was just too intriguing to see what people might consider as "chic" for a hotel poolside party in Honolulu. Pucci was the order of the evening. I had brought mine along, but opted to wear a chiffon tunic dripping with ribbon of varying colors and widths, over an Indian hand woven cross-dye dupioni long pencil skirt in mustard, with iridescent silk peeking out of its side front slit.

Friday, May 1, 2009

3-Dimensional Visualization

School teaches us to think linearly and to identify objects. School teaches us to visualize 2-dimensionally. My artist designer husband has taught me to see the world in what he would call its 4-dimensional glory. Design teaches us to see things in their (1) entirety, within their (2) environment, (3) function and (4) beauty from all perspectives.

Whether one drapes, draws and particularly when one works from a commercial pattern, there is a process of visualizing any fashion creation. When fledgling fashion designers embark on their first fashion sewing project, they visualize their creation floating around a body. Sewing patterns are linear interpretations of a 3-dimensional object. It is nearly impossible to visualize how the mound of folded tissue is going to become their drawn out, dreamed about creation. All have a blank stare when they unfold their first commercial fashion sewing pattern.

We start by separating the pattern pieces from one another, and identifying how they will go together on the body by pinning them into place on a dress form or mannequin.

For those who do not have access to a dress form, try tracing a body onto a large piece of card stock paper.

For this exercise, we used the cover of a binder full of artists' drawing stock. Cut the neck long, and fold it over a hanger. Then pin the pattern pieces into place.

Or, you can purchase from a visualization mannequin to which you can apply your flat pattern pieces.

These will not work for fitting, but they are great design tools for beginning or intermediate sewers.