guest blogging

Most designers collect something. Old type specimen catalogs, vintage typewriter ribbon tins, french soap packaging, etc. I recently read Collections of Nothing, by William Davies King, a book about King's own odd collections (cereal boxes, water bottle labels, skeleton keys.. just to name a few). I loved King's book, but it was a memoir about collecting, what we collect and why... and what I really wanted was to spend some time with his actual collections.

This week I'll be guest blogging at Black*Eiffel. I've decided to share several of my own "collections of nothing"..  one or two a day through Saturday. I hope you'll join us.


tess + adam

Tess and her lovely antique wedding dress have been showing up on a few of my favorite blogs lately. Tess lives in Seattle and asked me a few months ago to help design her wedding invitation (she was married a few weeks ago to a lucky young man named Adam).

To get a feel for what Tess was planning on doing for her wedding, my friend Beth (Tess' mother) came over to share some inspiration. The palette was cream and linen, with mossy greens and a touch of pale pink. Tess is a mycologist (lover of mushrooms and other fungi) so she wanted to incorporate mushrooms and other natural elements like moss and wood into the theme as well.

I first thought about incorporating faux bois into the invite, maybe with a nod to mushroom prints (which I adore). But I kept going back to that dress. Tess' dress is an antique gown she bought years and years ago at a vintage clothing store in New York. I love everything about it, especially the patterns in the lace.

I decided to use the overlapping circles from the front of her dress as the motif for the invitation. I love the symbolism of linked circles for a wedding invitation, linking a couple together, two families together. We letterpressed the invitations on Crane's thick Lettra paper in two colors, with gray for the type and a slight cream for the lace design. (Letterpress printing by Bjorn Press, who did a lovely job)

The inserts for the invitation also used designs I pulled from the lace on Tess' dress. The top card (below) uses the pattern from the lace at the neckline of the dress. The bottom card has a simple dotted circle, gathering in family and friends for the wedding.

The thank you cards (shown below) have a leaf design pulled from the lace on the back of the dress. The small cards (which were attached to favor boxes) have a simple scalloped design inspired by the dress' hem.

You can see more details of Tess' dress here, and details of Tess and Adam's beautiful wedding (with terrariums, ferns and a mushroom cake) here. (photos of Tess taken by photographer Rachel Thurston and used with her permission)

Congratulations Tess and Adam! Now go live a happy life!


this week's library book

We're getting back into our normal routine here, after my little jaunt to the east coast. And part of that normal routine is a trip to our neighborhood library. I've realized lately that though we read books constantly in this house, my children are not that familiar with what I consider classic fairy tales. (I don't know how this happened, except that the fairy tales are kept in their own section at our library, and apparently I don't venture over to that section very often.) So we've been concentrating on the classics this week: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Bears, etc.

We recently discovered this lovely version of Cinderella, illustrated by the wildly talented Kinoku Y. Craft. Bee thinks this Cinderella is the prettiest princess she has ever laid eyes on. I might have to agree.

Cinderella is so sweet and kind, the kind of girl who stops to help a sick bluebird she finds in the forest (and gets to meet the prince in the process). Later she happily helps her mean step sisters get ready for the ball, even though they won't let her come along.

In this version, it is the bluebird Cinderella helps that transforms into the fairy godmother. As a reward for her kindness, the fairy transforms her rags into a beautiful gown and turns a pumpkin into a fancy carriage.

At the end of the book, when the prince finds Cinderella, he says "How I knew that day in the woods that you were indeed special, but I should have fully recognized that heart whether clothed in rags or regalia." So the nice girl gets the prince.. my kind of story.

Has anyone seen the other fairy tales K. Y. Craft has illustrated, like this version of Sleeping Beauty?


one perfect day

One day in New York City without kids, stroller, husband, or busy agenda. What to do?

8:30 AM: Enjoy freshly made waffles and breakfast at the home of my good friends and their two sweet boys.

9:30 AM: Catch a ride to the subway station in Brooklyn. See a disoriented man fall onto the subway tracks, and be helped out by several kind New Yorkers, luckily before a train approaches (never in my 10 years in NYC did I ever see someone actually fall!)

Pop out of the subway at Canal and Broadway, start walking North. The weather just happens to be perfect, bright and sunny, but not too hot. I have to remind myself that NYC is only like this about one week out of the year.

10:00 AM: First stop: the MUJI store. I've been a fan of MUJI ever since I spent a semester abroad in London. Purchases: City in a Bag (drawstring bag full of NYC blocks, like little cabs and skyscrapers), colored pencil set, a perfect canvas tote bag, pencil sharpener.

10:45 AM: Walk up to Pearl River, a huge Chinese import store. Purchases: a small coin purse for Bee, a tin rocket for C, some pretty packages of rice candy.

11:15 AM: Continue up Broadway, almost walking right into the actor Aaron Eckhart, who I see near the corner of Spring Street. (Act nonchalant, because that's what New Yorkers do.) Stop in at Dean + Deluca to grab a raisin scone from Sarabeth's, just because I can.

11:30 AM: Walk up Sullivan Street so I can wave at Liesl, who's teaching a class at Purl Patchwork this morning. Peek through the window and see Liesl sitting at the sewing machine, right in the middle of explaining something to a big group of students. Decide against interrupting her.

Cross Houston and head towards the West Village, my favorite neighborhood in the whole city, to meet some of my oldest and dearest friends for brunch.

12:00 PM: Brunch at Tartine. We don't mind waiting for our table since there's lots to talk about and catch up on. Plus it's one of the prettiest blocks around.

1:30 PM: My friend Renee talks me into walking up to the Gagosian Gallery to see the Picasso exhibit, which closes this weekend. We wander up through the Chelsea Market, grabbing an applesauce donut from Amy's Bread (I used to live around the corner from their Hell's Kitchen location). The Picasso exhibit is worth the detour, a huge wonderful collection of paintings and etchings from his later years.

We walk over to the E train and take it north, to the 53rd Street and 5th avenue location so we can walk across the street to the MOMA.

3:00 PM: I haven't been to the MOMA since it's redesign, so I love walking through from floor to floor. Some of the paintings hanging there seem like old friends, and I'm so happy to see them once again. There's an interesting exhibit upstairs called Tangled Alphabets (on display through June 15th) featuring the works of Leon Ferrari and Mira Schendel. I love all the hand drawn type. Purchases: two small windup metal bugs for Bee and C from the museum gift shop.

5:15 PM: Walk down 5th Avenue to visit the Kinokuniya Japanese import store near Bryant Park. Wave to my old office as we walk by the Martha Stewart offices on 43rd Street. Purchases: new Japanese sewing book I haven't seen before, some beautifully packaged pastel crayons.

6:00 PM: Wander through Bryant Park (the most beautiful day!) admire the newly refinished NY Public Library and then hop on the F train to my old neighborhood in Brooklyn, Carroll Gardens. Meet up with my friend Sara who is getting a pedicure before we meet up with friends for dinner. Soon I am getting one too.

7:00 PM: Walk through my old neighborhood to the restaurant Alma, which has the most beautiful view of the city. By the time we sit down to eat (lucky us, we get the table with the best view) the sun is setting over the city, dinner is served, and I'm surrounded by my old friends.

10:00 PM: Drive back to Fort Green where I'm staying that evening by way of First Place, our old steet. Wave at my old apartment, where JR and I dated, were newlyweds, and formed our little family.

12:00 AM: Rest tired (but pretty!) feet. Fall into a sound sleep.

Things I wish I could have fit into my day: a stroll through Central Park, a visit to the paper stores down on 18th Street, some fabric shopping in the garment district, a walk down the Brooklyn promenade, and a cupcake from Magnolia Bakery. But there are only so many hours in a day.

Note: I've put together a little Google Map of my day, with addresses and phone numbers for the stores and restaurants. You can easily swap out the Met for the MOMA, and then get to see some of Central Park as well.


i'm back

Such a whirlwind trip. I flew into New York Tuesday night, immediately drove up to a photo shoot upstate, spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday shooting and drove back into the city Friday night. I had Saturday to run around the city as quickly as I could and then flew home Sunday morning.

Do you want to know how to spend one perfect day in New York City? Stay tuned.



Tomorrow I fly back to New York for the first time since we moved away over one year ago. I'll be in town for almost a week, but the majority of that will be spent out in the country working on a photo shoot with some of my very favorite people. I've got Saturday to run around the city and have already made arrangements to meet friends for both lunch and dinner before I fly out Sunday morning. Much too fast, but I can only be away from my little family for so long. I will be back to my regular program here next Monday.

These photos are from a series I took for my friend Emily of her father's plane, someday I will show you the whole series (but right now I've got some packing to do!).


a productive Friday night

Strawberry jam is practically a religion in my family. Both sets of my grandparents used to make their own varieties, picking the fruit fresh from their gardens. My Grandma Hellewell makes a delicious kind she calls "Heavenly Hash"; strawberry jam mixed with raspberries and blackberries, or whatever kind of berries you happen to have growing in your backyard.

As a child I knew no other way to have waffles than smothered in homemade strawberry jam and topped with a big dollop of whipped cream. I still prefer them this way. But until last year I had never made the jam myself. I always counted on grabbing a few jars out of the freezer when I was home visiting from college, or my grandmother would save a jar of Heavenly Hash so I could smuggle it in my luggage on trips back to New York.

Forget about salsa gardens, or cutting flower gardens.. someday I want a jam garden. But for now, I'll just buy strawberries at the store like everybody else (what I wouldn't give for a nice U Pick strawberry farm nearby). So when you've used up your last jar of jam and strawberries go on sale? Well then it's time to buy a few flats and make some jam.

You've got to chop your berries up, that's the first step. So we borrowed my parents old food grinder which does a terrific job of getting the berries to the perfect consistency, finer than a chop, but not too fine.. you still want little pieces of fruit. The grinder was my grandfather's. I have memories of him using it to chop onions Thanksgiving morning as he made his famous stuffing with LOTS of onions.

When my grandfather passed away the grinder ended up with his only daughter, my mom. I think I might have to arm wrestle my two sisters for it someday. The patent stamp on the back says 1899... 110 years old and it still works beautifully.

We prefer MCP pectin, according to my mom. You just follow the directions right on the package. We like to heat the jam just a touch while you're trying to dissolve the sugar, stirring constantly (JR is an excellent stirrer). I think a little chart helps too, if you're making more than one batch at a time. Six batches later, we have a nice stash for the winter. And plenty of extras to share with friends as well. Looks like we can start making waffles again.

I almost forgot to mention that at our wedding, I had the brilliant idea to give homemade strawberry jam as favors to all 180 of our guests. JR and my dad made batch after batch after batch of jam for about 3 days straight so each guest could take a jar home. (Did I say thank you, Dad? I appreciate it now a bit more, after having made a few batches!)


tomorrow on Martha

Just a reminder that the lovely Heather Ross will be a guest on the Martha Stewart show tomorrow! Doesn't she look beautiful? And see Martha holding a copy of Weekend Sewing.. I'm pretty sure that's as famous as my legs will ever get!

Note: The episode aired on Tuesday, May 19th.. You can watch the video clip here. Just click "Watch Video." My favorite part is when Heather says "The cover is Brooke Hellewell, she had the best legs on the shoot so we made her climb the tree." (Just for the record, Heather has very nice legs, so that's a bunch of hogwash.) And then Martha says "Oh, I know Brooke!"


seven years

"Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh everyday, ah, now that's a real treat." Joanne Newman

Happy Anniversary JR.

photograph by Kent Miles


color story #8

My little sister has outfitted my nephew's nursery with a vintage circus theme. (Circus? I know what you're thinking.. it could be crazy. But think vintage strong men billboards with beautiful type, not scary clowns and dancing elephants.)

I can't say I've ever used this combination of red/yellow/blue in any of my previous sewing, but the more I look at it, the more I am starting to love it. And some of these patterns might need to appear in Bee's summer wardrobe. I better get sewing!