Month: February 2019


I’m back, just to say hello and to thank all you lovely people who have questioned my whereabouts, or asked friends if I’m “all right”!

I am all right, but I wasn’t for a good part of 2017; I jumped down my hidey-hole and, except for occasional forays on Instagram (mhoutz4) and Facebook, I laid low.

I have continued  problems with my foot…not life-threatening, but life-changing. I had a complete rupture of the tibialis anterior tendon, resulting in drop-foot and considerable pain. It’s not “fixable”, so I have to find ways to live with it. I wear a brace a good part of the time. The psychological fall-out was way worse than the physical part…a good part of my identity is wrapped up in how I move and walk, how I present myself, what clothes I wear…none of this will be a surprise to you who have followed me over the years! At any rate, it hit me like a bomb and it took many months to come to terms with it. But I have succeeded in facing it and am determined to “take my body back” and live as I have done for many years! YAY!

I have not been sewing since early last year; not only was I distracted, but I haven’t been able to keep up my years-long 4 miles a day walk, and my body has reacted badly to that…i.e. I can’t wear a lot of my lovely clothes! SO…I am starting to walk again, gradually, and am determined to recreate what I can of the best parts of who I “used to be”. I am in the process of cleaning out my studio, getting rid of a lot of excess “stuff”, and whether I will sew again will be addressed in the future.

Other than that, Dave, Teddy, Micmac and I are all fine..

and wish you all a happy and healthy 2018.

I DO miss having a place to share what new things, books,meals, etc. I am enjoying…
so maybe I will blog occasionally. I’m not making that decision right now.

One thing I would love to share is a new makeup I’ve discovered (this is my opinion, only) It’s LookFabulousForever, started 5 years ago by a lovely 65-year-old woman who despaired of finding makeup items suited to an aging face. The makeup itself is fabulous (I’ve ordered 3 times) but the very best part for me is a series of wonderful videos showing just how to apply the products and what tricks can be used to look better as you age. Most of the videos are done by Tricia Cusden, the founder, who is a beautiful woman.  So part of my determination I wrote of above includes looking the very best I can!

Here’s a picture of me on a “road trip” with my dear friend Shams in October as we drove up to Ashland, Oregon, to attend a Design Outside the Lines workshop, put on by Diane Ericson and featuring Kathryn Brenne, a wonderful pattern designer for Vogue Patterns, a teacher of couture sewing skills and a leader of workshops in her own right. What a great time we had! Check out Shams post about it if you’re interested.

Best wishes to all of you…thanks for caring! Till we meet again!



Kent’s Medway Towns are hoping to become a city – with Chatham at its heart

Rochester Castle. Image: Clem Rutter/Wikimedia Commons.

The thing you need to know about Medway is: it’s not really a city.

Actually, part of it was, once upon a time. Rochester was a cathedral city for nearly eight centuries, with an official charter and everything. But in 2002, news emerged that city status had lapsed four years earlier when, it had merged with four other neighbouring towns to form the Medway unitary authority – and its city status winked out of existence. “Rochester loses city status by mistake,” read a typical headline. And despite several bids to national government to create the City of Medway, a collection of towns it remains. Rochester is the only city in Britain ever to lose the right to call itself a city.

Official city status is pretty silly of course – I mean, St Asaph? Really? – but there’s another way in which Medway isn’t a city. It’s formed of five separate towns – from west to east, Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham and Rainham – lined up along the rivers of industrial north Kent, blending into each other so seamlessly that outsiders can move from one to the next without even noticing. Although Rochester and Chatham are bigger, better known and more historic than their neighbours, neither really qualifies for the title as the conurbation’s centre.

And so, there is no city of Medway: there are merely the Medway towns, a roughly city-sized blob of over 275,000 people, many of whom don’t think they live in a single place at all.

Productivity in the cities of the London commuter belt. Note that Medway is listed as “Chatham”: this is relevant. Image: Centre for Cities. 

The other thing to know about Medway is that, for somewhere so close to London, it’s not doing so well. As with a lot of places in the Thames estuary, its economy was historically industrial – the Royal Naval dockyards at Chatham once employed over 10,000 people.

But that industry is long gone. And for a city, of sorts, in the London commuter belt, the area has relatively low wages and productivity.

Wages in the cities of the London commuter belt. Medway is listed as “Chatham”. Image: Centre for Cities. 

The decline of the industry has left a lot of land up for redevelopment, too – first at Chatham Dockyard, and now at Rochester Riverside, too, a vast new development immediately behind the newly re-sited station.

So, it has surprisingly cheap housing, too. And it’s just 34 minutes on a high speed train from central London.

House prices in Medway (listed, again, as “Chatham”). Image: Centre for Cities. 

Now the unitary borough has come up with a plan intended to address both those problems, and attract both businesses and people to the area. “We want Chatham to be the city centre of Medway,” says Alan Jarrett, the conservative council leader.

The problem, he explains, is that “Medway not a place as we would know it: it’s just an administrative area”. Turning Chatham into the central business district – with all the commercial space, retail and night life that implies – should turn it into, well, a city, and boost the economy to boot. “We’re not doing this for egotistical reasons: it’s about how we take the area forward.”

The case for making Chatham, rather than the tourist centre of Rochester, the centre of Medway is two-fold. Firstly, it’s the most central of the five towns: two lie east, two to the west.

On the map: the Medway towns. Image: Google.

Secondly, there’s ample space for development and regeneration, and the council owns a significant chunk of land. That makes it easier for the borough to make the interventions required to create its dream city centre: improving the station, building more housing, that sort of thing.

It’s already taking active steps to make this a reality: improving public and cycling facilities, to make the town centre more welcoming; regenerating one public space, Military Square, with new trees and benches, and creating a new one at St John’s Square from scratch. Just this week, the council announced plans to take over the lease of the Pentagon Centre, a shopping centre, to generate income and “mitigate against the kinds of development that would not enhance the area”.

All this, lofty statements from the council say, will “contribute towards turning Chatham into Medway’s leading waterfront university city centre by 2035”. Lofty goals indeed. Jarrett’s explanation is more comprehensible: “We’re trying to create more of a shopping and leisure offer, and stop everything closing at 5.30”.

The council’s “active approach” to development has even seen it set up its own housing company. “If we flog it off, developers would make a big pile of profit. Why shouldn’t we be the developer ourselves?”

The merger of five distinct towns into a single unitary authority has helped bring money and attention to the area, the council leader argues: Rochester or Gillingham would not have attracted the government investment that Medway has. Creating a coherent city centre with Chatham at its heart will, he hopes, take things to the next level.

“We’ve twice applied for city status, and twice failed. The feedback we got was that we don’t have a coherent city status. Chelmsford” – the county town of Essex, officially named a city in 2012, the last time Medway’s bid failed – “is much smaller, but does have that coherent city status”. The obvious conclusion is, “We’ll never be a city until we’ve got a coherent city centre – so let’s build one.”

Does it really matter, I ask? After all, as noted official city status is a bit silly, isn’t it?

Jarrett frowns for a second, then replies, with admirable honesty: “It may not. But it will enhance civic pride I think. It’s just a feeling I’ve got.” Perhaps, one day, Medway will be a city at last.

Jonn Elledge is editor of CityMetric and the assistant editor of the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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new neutrals

goodbye grey, bonjour beige! say hello to a new colour palette consisting of soft, neutral shades and warm, subtle contrasts.

gradually over the past few years, cool greys have been edged out for a warmer greige, and we’re now seeing an even cosier, yellower tone emerge as the base canvas for the best scandinavian brand’s new catalogues and inspirations shots. i’m not quite on board with dulux’s more magnolia-esque spiced honey – the brand’s colour of the year for 2019 – but norwegian paint brand jotun lady are leading the way for me when it comes to creating soft, timeless decor schemes with a warm, calm atmosphere. the brand have identified three distinct palettes for the coming year – calm, raw and refined – and each one has beautiful elements which are definitely inspiring me just now.

12078 Comfort Grey

12075 Soothing Beige

the calm palette is a natural starting point for light and airy surroundings, layering neutral shades in perfect balance to create a relaxed and inviting environment. these shades are matte in finish, offering a creamy backdrop with dusky peach or muted pink used to add texture.

most of the shades have a golden undertone, but one that is slightly subdued – unlike the bolder spiced honey i’ve yet to develop affection for. it’s a gentle stepping stone on from the greige of last season, but provides a lovely foil to the earthy golden greens we’re also seeing coming through in the new season collections, which figure significantly in jotun lady’s more sophisticated refined colour palette.

12083 Devine

12086 Rustic Pink

12078 Comfort Grey

1622 Reflektion

there also seems to be an emerging love affair with darker woods coming through – with a nod to mid-century design – which perfectly suits the terracotta and earthy green hues of the raw colour palette. colours from nature are always welcome indoors, and with the trend for living with plants showing no signs of abating, and a fondness for 70s-style macramé on the rise, it makes sense that other seventies influences should also start creeping in to contemporary décor trends. i for one am always torn between dark or light wood accents in my home, although having kitted out my home almost exclusively with blond wood accents i won’t be switching over any time soon.. and i’m not capable of living with a mix of wood tones, no matter how harmonious!

7628 Treasure

7629 Antique Green

golden peach, terracotta and olive green i can certainly see creeping into my home this season though, which will pair beautifully with the scandifornian  (scandi minimalism meets west coast boho) vibes i currently have going on in my home.

12085 Rural

0394 Varmgrå

ferm living have also released their new ss19 catalogue embracing this new approach to softer, more earthy decorating neutrals. sharp angles give way to softer, curvaceous forms with a colour palette rich in copper and russet, darker woods and metallic gold. the look feels far more refined and grown-up in comparison to previous collections from the brand, and represents a growing shift towards luxurious design without pretension, and a softer, gently cocooning, decor vibe. i’ve heard many people muse that the uncertain political climate is leading people to seek greater comfort in their personal surrounds, and i can certainly see why creating a private sanctuary in your home is so appealing just now!

you can definitely feel the retro, seventies vibe of the collection in the eclectic selection of kitsch decorative objects, curved furniture and rounded silhouettes. i’m definitely drawn to the bulbous shape of the new rico sofa collection, and these organic curves are echoed throughout the new season collections, from the planters and decorative vases to the arum lighting series – with leaf-shaped lampshades – and the sculptural, shell-shaped, decorative pieces.

what do you think of this new trend towards warmer neutral hues; a welcome respite from grey, or are you holding tight to your fifty shades?

all imagery © respective brands 

The post new neutrals appeared first on fabric of my life | UK interior design, lifestyle & travel blog.

worth considering

i’m always excited to see swedish furniture retailer ikea launch new collections that tap right into the heart of current living trends.

i continue to be excited by the plethora of biophilic elements bringing nature into our homes, and with the forthcoming tänkvärd collection – featuring materials such as rattan, cotton, linen, jute, and seagrass – ikea delve straight into the zeitgeist for a more sustainable, and nomadic, way of living. much like the cult success of the stockholm 2017 collection (and that rattan cabinet!) i think ikea are onto another winner here!

being strategic and purposeful about your purchases – whether for the home or otherwise – is a key ingredient to a sustainable living ethos, and now more than ever it’s important to consider the materials and styles you opt for. all the furniture pieces in the tänkvärd collection are made of rattan, and are light and easy to move around the home to be used in a number of different ways. working with natural fibres, not least rattan, also means that no two products in the collection are exactly the same; the material has a life of its own, which in turn creates unique expressions, championing individuality over conformity.

all items in tänkvärd have been designed with sustainability and flexibility in mind. these are products that you can mix however you like, and bring with you to the beach or the park if you want to. – mats nilsson, creative leader

i also adore the effortless, casually styled imagery that accompanies the collection, reminding me of the evocative look books from perennial slow fashion favourites toast, evoking the warm languid atmosphere of a spanish or tuscan villa. the whole vibe immediately promotes a sense of calm and wellbeing, don’t you think, and encourages you to slow down and get back in touch, with yourself, and with nature.

the textiles especially have been styled to present a wonderfully tactile quality; i mean, don’t you just want to jump headfirst into that beautifully disarrayed bed and while away an afternoon in the dappled sunshine with a good book in hand? i read somewhere (although sadly can’t remember where!) that indigo blue was ‘out’ for 2019, but i couldn’t agree less. blue is always in in my book, and happily ikea agrees, with this vibrant yet peaceful shade strewn across the tänkvärd collection. it’s a hue that lifts the soul i feel, instantly transporting me to the coast, beside the calm, still waters of a vast and limitless ocean. it’s a colour that speaks to me of hope and positivity, and i think we can agree that we can all use a little bit of that in our lives just now.

“we’ve explored lots of different techniques”, says designer akanksha deo, who drew on her experience working with artisans in india when designing the textiles. “by integrating the beauty of handicraft into a mass production process, each product gets added character. we’ve tried to create textiles that are tactile, honest, and accepting – so you’ll want to keep them with you for years.”

what do you think about this new limited edition collection – will you be clamouring to get your hands on any of the key pieces when they launch?

tänkvärd will be released in selected uk stores in april 2019.

 all photography © ikea 

The post worth considering appeared first on fabric of my life | UK interior design, lifestyle & travel blog.

Digital Printing on Polyester Fabric

One hundred blocks – all of them the result of Pat and Jane’s most splendid adventure. Part 2. Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson – the driving force and creative minds behind The Splendid Sampler. Published in April 2017, The Splendid Sampler brought quilters from around the world together to stitch and share. It was so much fun, another hundred blocks were requested. Each sampler has had a glorious mix of blocks, both pieced and appliquéd. Including these blocks from The […]

This Student Project Grant Winner Reveals Her Capsule Collection

This Project Runway Star Reveals Her Grant-Winning Capsule Collection | Spoonflower Blog

What do you get when you combine the creativity of a Rhode Island School of Design apparel design student, the Spoonflower Student Project Grant and a nod to a childhood filled with dress up and doll clothes? A whimsical capsule collection from Zoe Grinfeld, one of the Fall 2018 Student Project Grant recipients, of course!

The RISD Junior and winner of Lifetime’s teen design competition, Project Runway: Threads put her design skills to the test to create three one-of-a kind looks featuring her own designs. Keep reading to see what the collection is all about.

The Spoonflower Student Project Grant supports the artistic pursuits of a select group of full-time undergraduate and graduate students worldwide. Recipients receive an award of up to $1,000 in Spoonflower credit to design their own digitally printed fabrics and wallpaper.

Zoe: Embracing the kitsch of playing with dolls, this capsule collection from my fall semester at Rhode Island School of Design functions as a wardrobe of dress up clothes for adults. I spent a lot of time in my early process playing dress up, experimenting with secondhand clothing and costume staples such as tutus and boas.

This Project Runway Star Reveals Her Grant-Winning Capsule Collection | Spoonflower Blog

During the early process of the project I became really interested in hair. I started playing with wigs. One of the first prototypes I made was the hair heels pictured below. I used the blonde fabric to create the mockup for my first look before making some design changes and ultimately deciding to remake the look using the blonde print with hair clips added.

This Project Runway Star Reveals Her Grant-Winning Capsule Collection | Spoonflower Blog

I created my custom Spoonflower prints by scanning wigs, hair clips, doll shoes, beads and rhinestones at 1600 dpi. I then used Adobe® Photoshop® to create the repeating prints. Since the concentration of my semester at school was knitwear, I chose to print the majority of my fabrics on Spoonflower’s Performance Piqué.

This Project Runway Star Reveals Her Grant-Winning Capsule Collection | Spoonflower Blog

While working on the project, I found some disposable cameras and decided to stage a photoshoot of some in progress work. I used some of my prints as a backdrop for the shoot.

This Project Runway Star Reveals Her Grant-Winning Capsule Collection | Spoonflower Blog

While I only had to fully realize 2-3 looks, the project prompt asked for us to design 6-8. Below is my full lineup of sketches for the collection. I used Photoshop to superimpose my Spoonflower prints onto my sketches.

This Project Runway Star Reveals Her Grant-Winning Capsule Collection | Spoonflower Blog

And these are the final photos of the three looks!

This Project Runway Star Reveals Her Grant-Winning Capsule Collection | Spoonflower Blog
This Project Runway Star Reveals Her Grant-Winning Capsule Collection | Spoonflower Blog
This Project Runway Star Reveals Her Grant-Winning Capsule Collection | Spoonflower Blog

About the Guest Blogger

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Spoonflower-ZoeGrinfeld-StudentProjectGrant-Headshot-768x1024.jpgZoe Ilana Grinfeld is a Junior at the Rhode Island School of Design studying Apparel Design. At 15, Zoe competed on and won Lifetime’s teen design competition, Project Runway: Threads. Since then, Zoe has shown several collections in New York City, Providence, and Hartford. Her designs have been featured in publications such as Seventeen Magazine and Hartford Magazine. To keep updated on Zoe’s work, follow @zoeigrinfeld on Instagram.

Polyester Fabric Printing


i ran out of time during our home stretch of packing up last month to finish writing down NY memories, but now it seems healthier to focus on the present than reminisce about the past. we arrived in san francisco in late december and the first week was pretty brutal emotionally. i was filled with overwhelming regret and sadness. but, surprisingly, those feelings lifted pretty quickly as we got settled into our rental house. we are staying in SF proper for at least 6 months, probably a little more, as we figure out where in the bay area we want to live long term.

it’s fun decorating a new house. i’m feeling a dramatic range of emotions lately and setting up our home relaxes me and makes me happy. we are living in the inner richmond, a neighborhood not too far from where i grew up, but one i hadn’t known well. it’s so quiet here compared to NY– but it’s still a very dense, busy, and diverse area. the commercial streets are filed with mostly “mom and pop” shops (some very odd ones– which i love) and great asian food. and we are two blocks from golden gate park. i have to see the hockney exhibit next week before it closes.

our friend brian w. ferry photographed our brooklyn house for remodelista before we moved, and he captured it so beautifully. i recently purchased two prints from brian and had them framed this week (shown in third photo down). the pair called out to me since one is a photograph of the beach in northern california and the other is pavement in brooklyn. they’re gorgeous– as is all of his work. thank you, brian!