Revolution for the Holidays

Just to give you a taste of all the post-holiday festivities I'm enjoying as I write this: La Guardia airport, Gate B3 awaiting news of our flight which has just been indefinitely cancelled due to snow in Wisconsin. Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport has stopped accepting any incoming flights. It is just about as good as it gets here.

But I wanted to tell you about a really excellent movie I saw last night. Movies are pretty much the best possible thing you can do around after Christmas when you're full of leftovers and sick of talking to your family. In a small break from family togetherness, I actually went to see this movie with my friend Jacob in New York City. It was an animated feature, called Persepolis. Gosh it was good.

The film was a movie adaptation of a successful comic strip of the same name, named one of the Best Comics by Time Magazine in 2003. It is written by an Iranian woman named Marjane Satrapi, about her own experience growing up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran. A captivating heroine, she is brave and idealistic as a young girl, the only child of committed Marxists and a descendant of one of Iran's last emperors. Her personal history is uniquely intertwined with the movements in her country, and the strip follows her discovery of Iran's volatile political climate and cultural transformation. I will also confess that the main character's interest in punk rock and heavy metal were a definite bonus.

© 2007 Sony Pictures Classics.

Visually, the animation and original illustrations are very simple. Black and white characters in a sometimes dreamlike, abstract setting. Satrapi explains this choice, "I think this helped everybody to relate to it, whether in China, Israel, Chile, or Korea, it's a universal story. Persepolis has dreamlike moments, the drawings help us to maintain cohesion and consistency." The movie translates the intense political spirit of its author and the intensity of her childhood reality, while maintaining decidedly humanist emotion and even humor. This hybridity is rare in films of this nature, and undoubtedly the animation is largely responsible.

I admit that I don't know enough about Iranian history and politics as I should. After four years in a liberal arts college, where I studied international politics even, I can't say I know very much about the country, whose importance in the current global arena grows daily. The film never once punished me for my ignorance on its basic premise, but only encouraged me to learn more. In my opinion, this quality of teaching an audience without the aid of pretense is too rare in intellectual and art films. This film, with the exception of some drug and sex references, would be easily understood by almost any audience. (It does employ subtitles from the original French, so I suppose you do need to be able to read.)

Too, the film does not come across as defeatist or angry or depressing. In large part the film celebrates Iran as it once was and hopes to be again. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and lawyer, Shrini Ehadi described the Islamic Revolution and its aftermath as an "accident of history." And Persepolis certainly holds high this hope for the future.

The author's ability to produce her comic and this film is wholly conditional on her current residence in France. Reading some of the publicity for the film, I found this quote from Marjane when asked if she misses Iran:

Of course. It's my homeland and always will be. If I were a man, I'd say France is my wife, but Iran is my first love and will always linger with me. Obviously, I can't forget all those years when I'd wake up with a view of an 18,700-foot high, snowcovered mountain that dominated Tehran and my life… It's hard to think that I'll never be able to see it anymore. I miss it. Then again, I have the life I wanted. I live in Paris, which is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with the man I love, doing the job I like - plus, I get paid to do what I like to do. Out of respect for those who have stayed there, who share my ideas but cannot express them, I'd find it inappropriate and distasteful to be complaining. If I had given in to despair, everything would have been lost. So up until the last moment, I'll hold my head high and keep laughing because they won't get the best of me. As long as you're alive you can protest and shout, yet laughter is the most subversive weapon of all.

You have to see this movie.


Talk of the Nation

The fabulous Neal Conan brought us this story yesterday on a little radio show called Talk of the Nation regarding the status of sweatshops. Particularly of interest is the segment at the end of the program regarding the pending legislation in Congress called the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act. If passed, the act would hold companies responsible for respecting local labor laws in the countries in which they do business, as well as require companies to uphold Internationally Recognized Workers' Rights Standards. Listen to the story or read it on the interweb, either way this piece opens up the conversation in a pretty useful way.


Oh the Places You'll Go

Psyche. I'm not about to read you Dr. Seuss because you're graduating and I want you to realize all your damn potential. I mean, be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea, you're off to Great Places, today is your day....Are you inspired? Sort of? Good enough.

The "real" reason I'm talking about places is because a great thing happened this weekend. I had an awesome evening in a new place (that I went to). And it was awesome because I had no idea it would be so freaking fantastic until I was being there and realizing it. And as a self-proclaimed shut in, homebody, I will tell you that I am highly scrutinizing of places and a hard sell on leaving the house. But for once in a long time, I was so gosh darn pleasantly surprised.

Where did I go? The BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN of course! How's that for Dr. Seuss? Now to explain. This is a house, as in a place where people live in Fishtown, that "emerging" neighborhood northeast of Northern Liberties, but south of the great NORTHEAST here in Philadelphia. Now, I know how lots of people like to tip up their cute little noses at the houses in our city that have the gumption to profess that their houses have personas worthy of naming. But stop being a jerk for like one whole minute. It might be just long enough to hear what I have to say about this amazing house/wonderland that deserves every syllable of its fantastical title:

The house itself was just an excellently renovated warehouse space, of which there are countless over there in Fishtown. But this one had such style. Remnants of its former industrial existence accessorized its modern d.i.y. aesthetic. This included a dangling heavy chain with little purpose beyond simply hanging there and looking tough. The second floor was like a loft, semi-visible from the first floor and from which an awesome and loving dog kept watch over the rager of a birthday party below. Most impressive, however, of all these features was the 15 foot hole in the floor, safely gated off, but useful for seeing all the bands that were performing in the Basement.

Yes those people you see are an entire floor below where you'd be standing if you had made it to the party and been hanging out with me. You would have had an unbelievably fun time hearing my housemates' band Pony Pants play, this awesome band I'd never heard of before called Slingshot Dakota, and the worth-all-their-hype Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim. If you were really on schedule, you would've been there early to hear the Deathset. It was a birthday party for this boy named Ryan:

He seemed to be having a really nice time. And half way through the show, someone showed up with tons of free food, including a huge holiday cake. By the end of the night we were all covered in frosting. Our hands were stained holly berry Christmas RED.

It's okay by me if life needs to remind me of its stature and prowess by impressing me this much with an evening of such well executed debauchery. If all nights were guaranteed as fun as this, I would need more reasons to stay home. And so next time you hear about a show at the Big Rock Candy Mountain in Philadelphia, grab your little u-lock and throw on a fancy scarf and prepare yourself to be wowed. I love seeing houses like this one.


Take someone on an Adventure.

Much fun as it is to scour the earth for that perfect present at your local bicycle shop or craft bonanza, sometimes what you're looking for isn't on that table. Really surprising gifts don't fit on shelves or dangle from elaborate handcrafted hooks. They are train tickets to places unknown or blindfolded drives to other cities for favorite bands to play or film festivals or great food.

Adventures make incredible presents. I had the fortunate experience in 2007 to be the recipient of a surprise party, which is certainly one kind of adventure that transformed my birthday from pretty good to downright memorable.

My delightful friend Emily had the inspired idea to give her sister, Lauren, an adventure that belongs in this category of extraordinary gifts for Christmas. She bought a nice bottle of wine, got Lauren in the car and then set off for New York City.

They were headed for a delectable vegan feast prepared by a chef in Williamsburg. Even for Emily the details were a bit fuzzy before they arrived, but she discovered through the internet this place in Brooklyn where a vegan chef prepares a four course vegan dinner for a prix fixe every Saturday evening. 4CourseVegan.com Emily had to reserve in advance their spots at the large communal table on their night to dine. This was an experience she'd heard about second hand, but never had herself so investing all this planning and secret was a leap of faith for sure. But both ladies returned to Philadelphia on the following day, aglow with the meal from the night before. (in a good way!) They reported awkward but charming interaction with the other diners of the evening and amazing food.

The thoughtfulness and suspense of Emily's surprise was even infectious, i dare say. Both vegans and both food-lovers, this was a chance for the two of them to share an evening and an indulgence; the gift of time and the gift of a special occassion.

It struck me as such a genius gift that I wanted to share it with all of you. So rack your brains and see if that special person on your list wouldn't love to DO something for Christmas. Now that you think of it, they probably would.


This Just In

Last minute news flash for those of you lovely people living in and around the illustrious city of Baltimore, MD: Fabric Horse is coming to you.

For one day only, Fabric Horse good(ie)s will be lovingly touted by our dear friends Jami & Jake of Built in Pittsburgh alongside their outstanding assortment of hats to Squidfire's Second Annual Holiday Art Mart. So, you should go say howdy and get out of the house! Look for these two not only charming but goodlooking vendors, one most definitely wearing some kind of lace. They make the most wonderful hats and cycling friendly clothing that is both highly functional and amazingly beautiful. Jami and Jake have been working at R.E.Load for the holiday season, but call Pittsburgh their home the other 11 months out of the year. We have been so happy to have them for even this brief little sliver of time.

And they were gracious enough to take some belts and spats on the road with them! Here is Jami wearing some of her Fabric Horse garb, just so you can spot her in a crowd:

And this is Jake, wearing some glasses he fashioned for himself in between optometrist appointments which is so unbelievably resourcefulthatitblowsmymind! and so keep an eye out for this strapping gent as well:

Truly they are little beacons of warm happy freespirited flavor and you should go down there and bask in their glow. And buy one of their hats! Or a utility belt! You will immediately look hotter than you already do.


Bust Craftacular

To all of you folks in New York City, I will be hanging out at the mega craft fair, the Bust Craftacular, a huge holiday craft fair at the Metropolitan Pavilion, located at 125 W 18th St in Manhattan. I won't be there representing Fabric Horse, unfortunately, but I will be selling some handmade herbed caramels that I've been working on lately in my spare time. So if you are all set on fancy belts and spats, but you're short on morsels to satisfy your sweet tooth, then come on over and say hi.

I'll be sitting in my friend Sue's booth. Her company is called Giant Dwarf, and she makes hats and hats and hats and gloves and pin cushions and buttons and bonnets. I am a particularly avid fan of the glovettes, which are double knit recycled polyester on the outside, lined with fleece and fingerless and excellent for wearing while sewing in a cold place.

Mostly I'm going to just see the madness that is a holiday craft fair in New York and to hang out with Sue, but Amy Sedaris will also be there and her table is a mere stone's throw from ours, and let's just say I'm a little psyched about that too.

Pictures of the craftacular may follow.


Recycling Fibers

In a hunt for slender but windproof, waterproof winter gloves the other day, I glanced at the Patagucci website just to see their offerings, knowing full well they were probably too rich for my blood. Though I was correct in my assumption, I also ran across something unexpected: the pair of gloves I was viewing was made from 100% Recycled Polyester. Now, I know Patagonia lays some heavy claims to being environmentally friendly and ecologically oriented, I couldn't believe that a luxury retailer like Patagonia would actually find it possible to do this. This made me realize that I don't really know much about actually recycling fibers and fabric. Recycling until now has always to me, meant using found fabrics in sewing. But the gloves I was viewing are not cut out of any vintage polyester garment, they are post-consumer polyester fibers reformed into new recycled, even moisture-wicking material.

I suppose it never occurred to me that this could happen because fabric doesn't exactly melt down, the way I think of recycling bottles and cans and that sort of thing. But then I looked around a little, and there are lots of organizations (that don't even tout themselves as particularly green) who make a business of recycling fibers in one way or another.

Martex Fiber Corporation, for instance, is a company that imports and exports industrial textile wastes, and then sells products for use in spinning yarn and papermaking and several other things that I don't completely understand. They also have sales offices right here in our fair Philadelphia. This strikes me as interesting because I always sort of assumed that transnational corporations like this would work their darndest to make recycling and environmental conservation economically inviable. But they aren't. In fact, it is the substance of their business. And I've never heard of them, which makes me feel out of the "loop".

Related to all of these considerations, this article by the organization Waste Watch in the UK had lots of interesting facts about the fiber recycling industry. I feel like I want to copy and paste the entire thing into this post. But just take my word for it and follow the link, if you have any interest in this subject. We feel proud for our recycling of car seatbelts, which would otherwise end up in landfills. And since Fluff waste is the bulk of post-consumer automotive waste in those landfills, I'm glad we can reduce that even if in a very small way. And these other, larger companies, are undoubtedly helping us in ways we didn't even quite appreciate.

Maybe you already knew all of this. Or maybe, like me, you assumed fabric recycling only extended to the reuse of vintage or discarded fabrics in artistic business endeavors like ours. It is a comfort to know that our collective environmental imagination extends far beyond what I already know and understand. Maybe we aren't as doomed as I thought.

And if you have any additional advice on great winter gloves out there somewhere, I'd love to hear it. Recycled, if possible.


Electric Boogaloo

Last week, the FH studio welcomed a new member to the fleet of industrial machines already stationed at 310 N. 11th St. R.E.Load already uses six Consew walking foot machines, as well as two Singer zig zag machines. We use zig zag for executing the custom applique on messenger bags, and the Consew machines are for stitching all those layers of tough cordura and vinyl together into the bag itself. These machines are unlike home machines in that they are incredibly powerful, which takes some getting used to, to say the least. When home stitchers first start using the industrial machines it is a great challenge to stitch a straight line let alone more difficult curved maneuvers or thick spots. Walking foots are great for pulling fabric in, but their force has to be corralled and harnessed so that this doesn't result in crazy bumps in stitch lines or worse, a lost finger. Once we've tamed these wild beasts, its actually difficult to use the domesticated home machines we all learned on. The power and speed they supply are necessary in our construction of the bags, but R.E.Load stitchers will tell you, in all applications, once you go industrial, you never go back.

The most recent Fabric Horse acquisition is also a Consew walking foot machine, but uses an electric Servo motor, instead of the standard clutch motor. The standard clutch motor shares more than linguistic qualities with cars. They feel like driving a big rig, forward pedal for gas and heel pressure for brake; they really should require a license.

The new machine's motor is still engaged using a pedal, but the speed is mostly controlled by a dial on the motor itself. I can't say I can explain the mechanical differences between the two, but this difference is crucial for several reasons. Primarily, the electric motor uses 40% less energy than its clutch counterpart, which is the number one reason we decided to try out the new setup. Equally beneficial is the fact that the electric machine is much much quieter than our other machines. Our other industrial machines sound more like automobiles than appliances, which was a concern to our landlords when we moved into our space on 11th Street. Even between stitches, the clutch motor machines emit a most certainly audible whir that makes for quite the obnoxious white noise, take my word.

Our new little lady is SILENT when not actually stitching, which is remarkable by our account. We are still getting used to the particulars, but this new, lower energy machine is exciting for us and if all goes well, we may see more of these motors in our shop in coming months. If you'd like more info about the science here, I can only direct you here.

Thanks to our local machine shop, Keystone for putting us in touch with this savvy little gal. Fun Fact: the technology in these little motors is also used to make robots!



So, we thought it might be swell to try out some less outrageous color combos for those of us who identify as square. But then the nuance and sophistication of a straightforward monochrome totally floored us. Apparently, boring is the new interesting.


Safe and Sound

News in the world of bicycle security: Kryptonite, as in that little company to whom you trust your beloved set of wheels, has recently reached a whole new level of awesome. They have started making BIKE RACKS. BIKE RACKS that make it easy to lock up your frame and even a wheel if need be. I kid you not.

I, as you, know all too well the frustration of finding bike parking so unevenly distributed throughout the city where I live. One block can be littered with signposts, already full with other bikes, while others can hardly offer a parking meter. Too often available parking comes in the way of shadowed corners, too thin metal fences or worse, verifiable racks that have been loosened from their foundations--traps for absent minded riders who make the mistake of locking to these unfortunate bear traps.

So this company is actually providing a service to the community. Can you even imagine? The only price for their generosity is the not so subtle logo printed in bright yellow at the bottom of each rack. A small price to pay for something so useful and good.

So to those lucky kids in Portland (OR), Austin (TX), Palos Heights (IL)and Blue Island (IL), I would like to extend a hearty congratulations. I am most certainly jealous. According to Kryptonite's blog, 75 racks will eventually be installed across the country, though details about these added locations is yet to be announced. You can read more about this right over here. Philadelphia, I have a jealous feeling, is not to be among the chosen, but probably it won't hurt to cross my hopeful fingers anyway. It would be pretty awesome to see one of those beauties outside our studio someday...


Junkyard Bilenkathon

I wanted to give you all plenty of time to gear yourselves up, so to speak, to race in the Second Annual Bilenky Cycle Works Urban Cyclocross Race. Who knows how much Thanksgiving you're going to eat and you may want to bounce up and down on some curbs, but I think that two and a half weeks is enough time to get your asses in shape to be worthy competitors.

The rabblerousing starts at noon, but for all you churchgoers and partypigs, race isn't til three. So no need to hustle your hump, but you will be rewarded for arriving on time with beers and BBQ, which personally turns my cranks a little faster. And to accompany all this festivity, the West Philadelphia Orchestra is rumored to have been secured to play Balkan Party, a.k.a. Gypsy music. I know, I know, you are squirming in your saddles already.

If you can gather from this lovely poster, designed by our own pal Emily, there will be junk to navigate as the entire race takes place in the junkyard near Bilenky's shop.

And if you don't yet know about Bilenky Cycle Works, you need to get your head out of the sand (dude, this is philly! That's not sand!) and figure it out. They build some pretty sexy frames right here in Philadelphia and they are quite the little outfit. R.E.Load boss man Roland, can be seen posing with his custom Bilenky travel track bike on the Kryponite website, here.

But back to the bones:

WHO: YOU, of course!
WHAT: 2nd Annual Bilenky CycloCross Urban Cyclocross Race
WHERE: 5319 North 2nd Street, Philly, PA
WHEN: 12 O'Clock Noon
HOW: $5 to race
WHY: There's even going to be some live tunes!
Sponsored by Quality Bicycle Products

And hey, if you are a scaredy chicken like me and you don't have a suitable bike, then we can just hang out. If that doesn't sell you then maybe you need to see some photos from last year.


Plain and Simple.

I mean who doesn't?

Lock Holsters

Are fun for boys. . .

. . . and for girls.
But did you know all the webbing Fabric Horse uses for these things (and for the utility belts, 59rs, seatbelt bags, basically whenever possible) are ripped from old cars in junk yards?

Yep, just so you know, by supporting FH you are also supporting the reuse and recycle of materials along with the reduction in waste. We also use scraps saved from the trash cans of RELoad Bags, and really, you would be surprised where else we get fabric from.


Hotly Knifed.

Wow. I had sort of forgotten what it's like to get such a crush on a famous person. And by famous, I mean that when I was much, much younger I was totally in love with Leo. By famous, I also mean some great food blogger(s) that I happened to discover while listening to the radio, who are famous in a smaller way. Which just makes them seem more famous, because I'm crushing on them because they are so brutally awesome and not just because I'm a pre-tween who secretly loved Titanic. Um, let me explain.

So, in addition to sewing my bones off most of the time, I am what you might call Food Obsessed. Carrie once said of me, "If I had a nickel for every time Mary talked about food, I'd be a very rich lady." To which my boyfriend John replied, "If I had a nickel for every time Mary talked about food, I'd could retire." Hardy har har. But I'd like to say that yes. I love to read about food and talk about food and cook the food and eat the food and photograph the food and do it all over again. I love food and I'll love it til the day I die.

I also love expensive beer. And more recently, I love making this beer. In my house. And so if I'm not talking about food, Carrie could be collecting nickels about how much I talk about homebrew.

I'm not about to force feed you any of my favorite websites because I know that not everyone can get as psyched about this stuff as I can, but so the moral of this whole stupid story is that I've got a big freaking crush on a new blog I discovered that happens to be about food and beer and is written by two pretty good lookin boys from California. It is called Hot Knives, Hearty Recipes for Heady Homies. They write recipes and food stories and talk about beer and suggest musical pairings for cooking and eating their recipes and even if you hate food and you're straight edge and maybe you're kind of a jerk, I think you might friend crush on them too. Because seriously. I want to hang out and make brunch with them and listen to the Velvet Underground. My little heart is aflutter.

Now I have to say a pie-slice sized portion of my immediate swoon can be chalked up to the fact that they write exclusively on vegetarian and vegan cooking. In the About section of their website, they write:

We live in Los Angeles. We don’t cook with meat. And we like sharpening our knives about as much as we like: bicycling, performing harsh noise music, gardening, slugging whiskey, and muckraking. We believe in cheap groceries, cooking with high alcohol content beer and free leisure. We hate weak sauces.

I don't know how you all feel about this issue, but I happen to be a vegetarian who routinely wades through meat-obsessed food writing to be occasionally rewarded with veg-friendly side dishes and entrees that can be more or less easily adapted to soy meats and stuffs. And so their meat-free slant is pretty huge. There are of course other veggie food blogs out there in the internet, but few have prompted my regular readership or even sustained interest. Until now. Just look at the hip layout of their website. That alone might get you art geeks geeking out too.

Woah baby, is all I can say. This crush is probably the closest I'll ever come to internet dating. And they seem to like to slip in some food puns. It's really win win win.

Yes I Would Like to Draw Your Attention to Wal-Mart.

For the first time ever, Wal-Mart is doing something that may actually effect us in a positive way. And seriously, I'm as shocked as you are, but it is the truth.

As many of us may know, health care in this little land of ours is on the rocks and statistically speaking, most of us don't have the insurance we deserve. Up until now, huge employers like Wal-Mart (no, I refuse to link you to their page because all you need to know about this super-chain can be found within the confines of this blog. And you obviously already know what they are, so forgive me this biased reporting...) have set industry standards for employee health care benefits. And this has caused health insurance costs to individuals and small businesses to go up, as more insurance carriers cater to the needs of these humongous corporations, adversely affecting costs and benefits and general quality of health care. Companies like Wal-Mart have demanded the insurance industry cut benefits across the board, to decrease overall cost to them as the employer and to raise premiums paid by employees.

According to a Monday New York Times article, Wal-Mart has garnered enough negative publicity related to this specific bad business practice to persuade them to change their tune. The article outlines why specifically this corporation has found it in their best interest to support employee health care and why this shift will have infinite effects on business practices and insurance coverage in this country. I, for one, am as surprised as anyone to find myself celebrating Walmart's strides in becoming an upstanding American employer. But we should take it where we can get it, and in the current business climate, such an ally in fighting for workers' rights has to be celebrated. Doesn't mean I'm going to shop there. Just means I'm glad they aren't the absolute most evil-doers after all. Read the article, you might just agree.


What is the What?

I have to admit that I am not someone who always has a book in her hand. It isn't necessarily easy for me to find a book that I want to dig my nose in and to be quite frank, I just dont have any damn time to consistently devote. Having said that, I would like to introduce you all to What is the What by Dave Eggers.

This book has captivated my interest in so many ways. My heart bends back and forth each time I open the pages. Its an autobiography of a man named Valentino Achak Deng, written by Eggers. Achak was about 6 or 7 years old when he involuntarily became one of the thousands and thousands of lost boys from Sudan. He watched as his village was burned, his family and friends beaten and killed, eaten by lions, forced to become slaves, and collapse from starvaton. He walked in a group of hundreds of other boys around his age thousands of miles thru a war torn country suffering from a seemingly unstoppable genocide, dodging all those out to kill them. They walked thru Sudan into Ethiopia to a refugee camp until they were forced from there and into Kenya. He spent a total of about 15 years in the refugee camps and now currently resides in the United States only to live another life of turmoil and distress.

This is a true story, and Valentino is my age. These civil wars have been happening since the 80's and for me to imagine a life such as his is mind blowing. About a year ago I traveled to Africa to visit my good friend Yune from college who has been doing Peace Corps for the past 2 years in Cameroon. It was an experience I will never forget. Because of my trip, not only is Valentino's story heart breaking, but I can also envision many of his descriptions of villages, the buildings, and food. Granted Cameroon and Sudan are completely different countries however I cannot help but to compare the images in my head to his discriptons of what happened. This may be a bit ignorant, yes, but I think Americans are generally ignorant to what is going on outside their bubble. Shit! I know I am. I highly recommend this book to everyone. The more people who are educated in what is going on will create a larger support for serious change and peace in Sudan. That war was stared over dispute in land between the Dinka and the Muslims and unfortunately oil was a huge part in that. George Bush senior had a hand in pointing all that out too.
Thanks George.

PS: My friend Gwen is traveling to Cairo on Tuesday for a month. Gwen and her friends are clowns who are going to Egypt to spend time with the Sudanese and Muslim children in the refugee camps. This will be the 3rd year she has gone. I wish her all the best in her travels.


An Historic Preservation

Last evening I had the pleasure of accompanying some friends to see a show of photographs by Jeff Stockbridge held at the Center for Emerging Visual Artists. Although I'd previously seen Jeff's work via the interweb, this was my first time seeing the pictures on a large scale, in person. And what a treat.

The show displayed a series of photographs documenting the now vacant Divine Lorraine hotel on North Broad Street in Philadelphia. To those who know it, mere mention of the structure's holy descriptor congers images of the graceful, elaborate facade, looming over Phiadelphia's central street ten stories in the air. The edifice has acquired such mythic status simply by enduring at its unlikely address--neighbored by blocks of ruined storefronts, dollar stores and fast food restaurants.

The personality that inhabits the Divine Lorraine stems mostly from its roots as a luxurious residential hotel, and this character carries the baggage of the building's mysterious passage through harder times, title transfers and eventual abandonment. Seeing it today, it is difficult to understand the period that lies between the hotel's heyday and present time and too, the city that watched it happen. For me, Jeff's photographs fill in some of the infinite gaps in the building's historical recollection. He captures rooms and hallways throughout the hotel as they are now, many of them cluttered with trash; mattresses lie naked and chairs stand strewn. While all has been seemingly stripped of its grandeur, Jeff's lens sheds brilliant light and color across the remaining triumphant architecture amidst melancholy scenes. And the resulting prints carry in them all the vibrance and texture of the hotel's charismatic life itself.

Jeff's Artist Statement explains his method, "Highlighting certain areas of a photograph in sharp focus and obscuring the rest, Stockbridge utilizes this method to recreate the act of seeing." Indeed, seeing the photos up close, the many areas of focus and blur in each piece are captivating and aid in further emphasizing the conflicting content therein.

I could write and write about these pictures. And I'd encourage you to see more of the work at Jeff's website. There you can find more Lorraine photos, as well as his photos of other abandoned buildings in Philadelphia, also of interest. The work alludes to an obsession with the cast off, forgotten urban spaces, which I find rather contagious. This same preoccupation with abandoned objects and places drives my own work as a scavenger and remaker of things. It is a tenet of FH, to be sure. Jeff's commitment and talent for documenting these places is important work and I am just so continuously impressed.



I hope that you all voted yesterday, I would have blogged about it to remind you but I was too busy Actually Doing It, that is to say, being voter number 22 at my local poll. Smaller offices, sure, but still important. So, after the fact, I am happy to lay on a hefty guilt trip to those who stayed away, and to extend a hearty congratulations to those who cast their ballots.

Two little bits: the most recent issue of UrbanVelo, a young publication out of Pittsburgh about urban cycling, came out last Thursday. You should keep an eyeball peeled for it at your local awesome bike shop or check out the internet version here. There is an excellent piece on the inside about winterizing your cycling routine, which though a bit of an overview ,is a really nice checklist of an article about some timely preparations we can make for the coming freeze.

And secondly but not least, there is a noteworthy article in the NY Times called "In Portland, Cultivating a Culture of Two Wheels." It outlines the the viability of cycling as a community based economic enterprise, as evidenced by the lovely American city, Portland, Oregon. And there is this fancy video too. As a Philadelphian, who has only glimpsed the fine streets of that overcast Western mecca and whose local experience of bike related economy seems somewhat stifled by aggressive motorists and elusive bike lanes, this article is a beacon of hopeful light. I have to say, my visit to the fair Canadian city of Montreal is by far my closest approximation of heaven and Philly, bless you, is just so far from being that. I was frankly amazed that an American city could earn the distinction of being a Culture of Two Wheels. So, way to go PDX. I mean, I knew you sort of ruled, but now I've seen the proof.


A Tisket A Tasket

Sometimes my favorite days to wear my half belt are also days when I need to go to the post office, I need to buy coffee for us at work, or I need to carry home a 5 gallon stainless steel pot for my beermaking habit. And let's be honest, as crucial as FH belts may be, you can only fit so much into that velcro pouch. So while I keep my wallet, my keys, my phone and my ipod in my belt, these are the days I make sure to wheel out my cruiser, with its ever functional Basket.

Mine is just a standard shallow steel deal, made by Wald, with the addition of a small red & white plastic lifesaver that reads "RMS Queen Mary" a present from the boyfriend's boss Curtis secured by a zip tie to the front. It'll fit one paper grocery bag or two FH boxes perfectly, and for large loads, I use a couple of old tubes to tie stuff to it. It serves me well, but if I had a million dollars I would obviously get this:

A handmade basket from A.N.T. Bikes, this beauty runs 275 dollars and made custom to fit on the shop's handbuilt frames. Unfortunately for me, you have to buy the cow here. Which is to say you have to buy these baskets along with one of the shop's custom bicycles, not a la carte to go on say, an old ladies Schwinn. But I can respect that. A.N.T. is a frame and parts builder in Holliston, Massachusetts. The ANT stands for Alternative Needs Transportation, as well it should. The owner, Mike, seems like a pretty cool guy. Judging from his links, which include Cool Organizations, Food and Politics, and Alternative Energy alongside several more bike obvious things, I'd say it looks like he runs a neat little shop. See the entire Baskets and Racks section for many more equally deluxe setups. Their bikes are real pretty too.


Twenty Seven

Last night Carrie and I both went to see our friend, Annette Monnier's show "Twenty Seven" at the Padlock Gallery. It ruled.

Annette, formerly of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, describes herself as an "artist, curator, art blogger/wrtier, and something of an under-paid pre-fash consultant." Which is pretty accurate, I'd say. She also plays in a noisy great band called Paper Napkin with R.E.Loaders Gerik & Mayu, and she is witty and saucy and fun.

The show consisted of primarily drawings, in the broadest sense of the word, with plenty of good old-fashioned coloring in. Often depicting scenes, the works are crowded images with dozens of people doing whatever it is they do inside the frames of her large pages. My absolute favorite part about Annette's drawings is the careful attention she gives to she strands on each little person's head. You can almost be there it's so true.

I really liked "Dial 481" and "Really Full Subway Car", but the true show stealer was probably the gigantic hand drawn black and white American Flag, entitled "Spiderman." Hanging across an entire wall of the small room, the stars and stripes could be glimpsed through the windows from the street.

I realize I'm predisposed to like Annette's work because I know her as a person, but I also really love the fact that she was born and raised in Ohio. And for this, the black flag--a reconciliation of Annette's feelings both of and against this country--I found to be a really honest, tactile manifestation of the emotion of politics.

And there were even Party Favors: tiny sets of drawings and text configured into a small book:

At the end of all this merrymaking, we discovered that Nerds poured into a High Life, a happy couple do not make. See: That Guy at the art opening.

So happy birthday, Annette. And well done.


Hang on to Your Ego

A friend of mine, bike snob, mechanic, old-timer wannabe, sent me this link. It will take you to a little article called "Tips for Happy Riding" and I happen to think it's pretty cool, pretty funny and a sassy reference for checking our bike egos now and again. The author of the article is Grant Petersen, former head of Bridgestone USA and founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works, an all around good-guy shop out in California that specializes in made-to-order, everyman bicycles. The article is perhaps geared more toward the distance rider than the city commuter, but even city riders could benefit from a once over.

Photo courtesy of www.pushbuttonfor.org

Grant writes:
Our mission is to make things that wouldn't be made if we weren't here, to offer an alternative to racing-centric bikes and parts, and to espouse a different approach to riding. And to resurrect and keep healthy many of the better ideas, designs, and styles of bicycles, clothing, and accessories that we personally like to use or wear.
Which we here at Fabric Horse can definitely get behind! Rivendell makes and sells some pretty awesome, highly useful stuff. If you haven't seen their website, it is definitely worth the visit. They use a historically comprehensive philosophy in the design of their bicycles, which in turn carries over to the products they recommend. Their love of cycling comes across in every detail of their business model, which is really admirable and something we too strive for when making all of our crazy stuff. Even if you don't agree with everything he says, Grant has a dedication to all things bike that is as infectious as pedaling itself. So go read it already! Go!


Pre Holiday Consciousness!

I Took The Handmade Pledge! BuyHandmade.org

I know it's only October. Pre-Halloween even...but I saw this website recently and figured that the holidays are really just around the corner. I'm not trying to push any sort of excessive craft consumerism down your throat, but I'd venture to guess that you are probably going to buy at least one little something for some lovely person in the next couple of months. Statistically, it seems pretty likely in light of all those scorpios and capricorns in your life on top of all the holidays in the next eight weeks. I'm just saying that you seem like a nice enough person, which means you probably have a friend that will probably get you something totally awesome and if you don't reciprocate you'll look like a pretty big jerk.

The thing is, I actually love Christmas. I am a huge sappy dork about it all and anyway, I'm just trying to impart some pre-holiday spirit on you people by asking that you give some thought to this little pledge. With all these people reclaiming and recrafting and just plain old making some really great things, the holidays are a perfect time to introduce your squarer friends and family to handmade goods. One-of-a-kind gifts win you 100% more brownie points, I can assure you. The growing magnetic field surrounding the American Craft movement is pretty staggering and it would behoove you to add yourself to it. Even if you can't put your name down in internet writing, wander over to this website, check out some of the sponsors and learn a little something. The pledge serves as a cheerful reminder of all the myriad ways in which holiday consumption can manifest itself. So give it a little thought before the chaos really hits. Conspicuous consumption never felt so good.


Carrie Nominated for A City Paper Award!

Woot, Woot! We're not really sure how these things work, but Carrie has scored herself a place on the Philadelphia City Paper Ballot for Best Local Designer. And we are very proud of her! And so should you be! Follow this link to cast your precious vote. You have to scroll down a bit (to award #32, to be exact) and simply click the circle next to her name. On your way down there, you might stop over to vote for your favorite Bike Shop...(ahem, VIA), Beer Distributor or Florist. Follow your fancy!

**Update: Carrie totally won! Thanks to all of those who voted!


Hot Wax Canvas

We've been using waxed canvas for a while now, primarily to make the beloved little spats we debuted over a year ago. We soon realized what an awesome material it is and incorporated it into some of our utility belts. Most recently, we began using it for the 59-Fanny.

Waxed canvas, also called Tin Cloth, is one of the oldest materials in the world of baggage and outdoors equipment. It was developed intitially to help sailors keep moisture off the skin during time at sea. Linseed oil would be rubbed onto their clothing to help repel moisture. Today, the manufactured version of the stuff is just canvas that has been "impregnated" as the kids like to say, with a blend of wax. And as the canvas ages, the fibers' oiled coating only gets more water repellant, which is why it is still used in the manufacturing of camping packs, military equipment, messenger bags and even shoes.

So waxed canvas rules for several reasons. From a stitching perspective, this stuff folds and sews up really easily. We use a medium weight, which has proven really durable. And as soon as you touch the stuff, the texture and heaviness will make you positively swoon!

You'll want to make yourself some booties! It is luxurious like leather without the sometimes creepy associations of death and animals, less expensive, and classy!


Things We Are Proud Of

As one of our very first posts here on the FH blog, we’d like to give you a better idea of what this company actually looks like, every day, and why we feel pretty good about what we are doing here. Six months ago, we moved into a beautiful studio space that we share with R.E.Load at 310 N. 11th Street in Philadelphia.

Here we are most able to pool resources like space and equipment with a slightly larger, though still small company like R.E.Load, while maintaining separate goals and products and energy. Fabric Horse values cooperation and collaboration with local artists and local companies. Following this suit, we really thrive on the mutual inspiration that results from our proximity to other creative endeavors. Plus, we have a killer view of the city and get to work alongside our friends every single day.

In turn, the utility belts largely responsible for our growing recognition in the handmade and cycling communities are produced using some of the materials scrapped by our neighbors.

This makes us happy! Not only does it help offset the high labor costs of making our belts, it's also environmentally beneficial, as we can help R.E.Load cut down on some of the fabric waste that would otherwise head over to landfills.

And sewing stuff we like is fun!

And when a person decides to purchase a utility belt or a pair of spats or even a little lock holster, he or she invests in their community by supporting a local business that provides a positive work environment. If all the people who shopped at K-Mart adjusted their consumption toward quality, locally produced products, our fair city would be a better place. And we’d all live in tree houses and ride lightning bolts and wear sparkles!...

We are really excited about how Fabric Horse has grown over the past few months and wanted to bring you up to speed on some of these developments. So thanks for being FH fans! Seriously, you’re doing the right thing. Read us often! More to follow…


The Beginning of Fabric Horse

Hello! The Fabric Horse blog is now up. Aren't you excited?! This is going to be a place where I try to let ya'll know what FH actually is with the help of all the people involved. . .

Please let me introduce Mary Casper and Emily Glaubinger. I have had the pleasure of working with Mary for the past 10 months. She is the first paid Fabric Horse stitcher, well other than myself of course, but that doesn't count. Mary has been stitching for the last 4 months and was my intern prior. She also stitches full time for R.E.Load Bags. But really, Mary is and wants to be a writer. She is amazing, incredibly bright and intelligent and will excell at anything she puts her energy behind.

Oh gees, how do I describe Emily? Emily is one of my favorite people ever. She just recently moved to San Francisco for a job but needs to move back to Philly right now! When her and I are together the ideas and possibilities are endless. She carries more creativity in the pad of her baby finger than you will ever experience in your entire life. Emily is an incredible illustrator and artist and tends to be my muse whenever I can get her to sign on to Instant Messenger. If she's kicking it at the same spot as you her presence is undoubtedly known and you best not forget her.