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Category Archives: Business

Rocky Mtn Trip & HP 1003: The Perfect Traveling Jacket

My new uniform! Enough room for multiple layers and sweaters but style enough for just a cami underneath. Easy to slide into and out of, those huge sleeves make perfect sense. And the pockets, Oh My Gosh, made keeping keys and necessaries so easy.

The New Uniform

Seriously, I wore this jacket last week almost constantly on a driving trip to the Rockies. That is 4 days in the truck and 3 days in Estes Park, going with the flow from hot weather to snow.

We rented a tiny cabin

Miner's Cabin

with a fantastic view


and explored the local surrounds after making breakfast, packing lunches and cleaning the cabin


while David Lee showed his Hello Wood Products Montessori materials and furniture to a wonderful group of teachers attending the Montessori in the Mountains conference put on by the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies.

It’s the time of year when elk come down from the high mountain to graze the lower meadows


and they wandered everywhere through the grounds of the site of the conference, the fabulous YMCA of the Rockies.

Gaely GoLightly kept vigilant watch for smaller things she could understand, like squirrels and and chipmunks.  She’s 14 now and her eyesight is poor enough that she doesn’t wander far from my side.  She’s a much more prudent dog than she was as a wild Westie youngster when nothing could stop her


We dined out only one night and mostly ate in the cabin which had a tiny kitchen. We were able to keep costs down and avoid the rich foods served in restaurants. These sales trips can be plenty fattening if we have to eat out all the time.

Dave had originally planned to pack up quickly and return to Tennessee ASAP to get back to work but Jane, a very wise woman who owns Montessori Services convinced me to plead for a quick trip through the National Park.


You can see the trip photos here on my Flikr set  I must apologize (even tho some will tell me not to apologize, this I already know) in advance for the darkness of the photos. It was difficult to use a point and shoot camera, even with amazing telephoto lens, to shoot across such light and dark and deep landscape. The colors were amazing, changing constantly with the snow storm and then clear mountain light in the afternoon.

I wish we had more time to spend in Rocky Mountain National Park. Maybe some day I can go back and hike and camp and do all the things that I wish to do.

I am reading A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella L. Bird. You can read it online here or download an audio version here I highly recommend getting to know her life and work.

What a delightful time this has been and is continuing to be, thanks to the book. More access to it is available at LibriVox

I was scheduled to join Dave on this weekend’s travel to South Carolina Montessori Alliance conference in Columbia tonight and Saturday, but I reneged on my driver’s responsibilities in order to stay home and process the jalapenos and bell peppers which are bending their bushes to the ground. The Santa Ana pole bean plants are still producing as are some of the heirloom tomato plants and okra. The fall plantings of sugar snaps and sweet peas are coming in and the cole crops are being enjoyed by caterpillars that I mercilessly pick off and smash under my toe. For the first time in my gardening life I used Sevin, sprayed before our trip, to protect the plants from aphids and those caterpillars while I was gone. I really don’t know if I’ll do that again. While it helped the Brassicas to thrive (except for one row that was being munched when I got home and I can’t explain why) I am afraid I’ve done more damage than good. My wasps are gone and aphids have invaded the okra. Oh dear, I do hope I didn’t upset the balance of nature there! Ah, well the okra is over 12′ tall now and slowing down it’s production of pods in the cooling Fall temps.

One beet has been pulled by me (yay!) and a number of carrots have been pulled by what I suspect are voles tunneling under the row! That’s a funny thing to see: the carrot tops slowly disappearing into the ground. Yeah, I’m easily amused. 🙂

By Wednesday I’ll be on the road again, this time to Sarasota, Florida’s beautiful beaches and perhaps a dinner with the Hot Pattern crew if we can match up our schedules. Sadly, Patch won’t be with us this trip but it’s fun to see the pictures of him and Gaely enjoying the Beach from our Nov 8, 2009 trip.  Click this link, to see my fav shot of Patch on the Beach, looking so happy after such a long life at the end of a short chain.  Ah, that was a grand trip, too!

Isn’t it great to be able to sew and have a wardrobe that will work in all these different climates? What a luxury, I couldn’t have matched it back when I worked in a corporate environment and had to travel.

After Sarasota, Florida, we will be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. From the warm beach to the cold beach. Ahhhhhh! I will have my new jacket with me for sure


100_1186 Dog & Jacket

I clearly wasn’t ready for this last shot, LOL!


Ahhh, I Wish They Could All Be Like Nancy Nord

Quote from Loss of Faith in Regulators
from Conversations with Consumers by Nancy Nord

The message I heard over and over was that the requirements we are imposing, along with the growing list of other federal and state regulatory requirements they [furniture makers at High Point, NC] are facing, is becoming an overwhelming burden that is pushing a once-proud American industry off-shore. Several manufacturers that I visited described to me in detail the safety and quality control procedures they have in place–procedures that are working well–and were very critical of our insistence that they change what is working. They were especially angry that changes are being required when there is no demonstrable evidence that enhanced safety will result but there is demonstrable evidence of the significant costs that will be incurred. One furniture company CEO made the point that, in business, costs must be measured against the benefits that will come from additional expenditures. He rightly asked why this principle did not apply to government.

I have not ranted and raved here. I have quietly closed my business of commercial sewing for the classroom after getting absolutely no where with my congresspersons. We have worked hard and waited a long long time for some common sense to take over but we just couldn’t hold out any longer, especially when faced with having to test every button every color, every thread every color, fabric was not exempted even though the manufacturers testified that there is no lead in the dyes these days.

We’ve been ignored, and now The Stitchery is out of business.

Our wood working company uses far fewer components than the sewn products line and so it has had all its components tested for lead and phthalates in compliance with the CPSIA. But my sewn products just don’t make enough profit to have each component, in each color, and each size, to warrant the expensive potential fines and public blacklisting than can be a result of anyone, ever, in any part of the world, or for any reason, making a complaint to the CPSC, our federal regulators.

So, after many years of being a democrat and many years of believing the in ultimate responsiveness of our government, I am defeated and my beloved Stitchery is For Sale.

So I know I’m not voting for any Democrats this year but I’ll be darned if I can find too many Republicans that I feel I can trust. Yikes!



Coming up for air to say that I am moving “The Stitchery” and selling the old house that has been the location for the past 6 years.

Everything is in wild disarray!

See you soon, I do hope, but if not soon enough for you, please don’t worry. I am just buried in fabric, notions, threads, yarns and tools and am digging my way out 🙂

sewing hugs to all!

Mary Beth

LaFred Patterns

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Fred Bloebaum’s patterns can now be found at .  At the moment the patterns are available at a slight discount.

Like so many people I know these days, Fred is wagging an intense war against cancer with the help and support of a large circle of friends, family and medical practitioners and has closed her businesses.  It must feel good to her to have this pressure off her plate.  I met her once at a sewing conference and found her to be intensely devoted to helping her customers.  She’s a sweet lady and I am glad she was/is a part of my sewing life.

I have made up the Iris skirt and love the angled pockets and drape of the slight A-line.  I didn’t review it anywhere but it was a staple of my skirt wardrobe done in linen and linen/rayon mix.

Iris Skirt

I also have made only one iteration of the Helena Dress and still wear it.  Made in a stretchy, drapey matte jersey, it fit well through all my weight fluctuations. My PR review is HERE and I point you to it since it details all the adjustments I made to fit the pattern to my shape after incorporating the fitting information from the 4 other reviews.

There are lots of reviews of LaFred patterns at PR.  Just go to the advanced search function and point to LaFred to see them all.

Hmmmm, I know I have the Athena Blouse pattern, I wonder if I ever got around to ordering the Athena II?  I don’t see it at so maybe it’s too late!  I will have to check the file cabinet…far too many patterns…far too little time.

There are a few other LaFred patterns in my totally huge stash that deserve exploration: the Daphne Pant, the Europa Blouse, the Maia Jacket.  Her instructions are really good and each pattern has an interesting sewing challenge.  Just a few style changes can bring the basic shapes up to date.

Do you have any favorites?

Much Less Employed

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I’m not Completely Unemployed but am much less employed until the fallout from the CPSIA settles.

We just don’t want to invest the amount of money needed to replace all our button stock with lead-free buttons. And it is not clear if we must retest each button even if we do replace all of them. We certainly don’t sell enough of the products that require buttons to warrant the capital outlay especially at this time.

At the moment I would have to order special manufacturing runs of a dozen gross (that’s 12 x 144) in each size and color. We were using 8 different buttons.

13,824 buttons…at the peak demand I was hand sewing about 650 buttons a year.

[Why hand sewing? Because the kinds of machines I’d need to do the buttons the way they have to be done would cost well over $28,000.]

So at the peak rate of usage I would have enough buttons to see me through another 21 years of manufacturing. Gee, I just turned 59 yesterday so that means I would be well equipped to sew button panels like a mad woman until I turn 80.

Uh, I’m not as dumb as I look. Promise! Meaning: I won’t be ordering new buttons.

I am hoping that smaller lots of lead-free buttons will become available some time in the future.

There are other sewn products that I can continue to make because the components are lead free. Buttons remain the difficult ones. But all the sewn products orders have fallen way off this year, maybe because we stopped advertising them and taking them to shows when I got sick.

Hey, I don’t mind! I have finally had the time to organize The Stitchery and I love having the extra floor space since I’ve put away some of the commercial machines and stock.

I have time to cook, sew, write and keep the house in a half way decent manner.

So now that I have time to enjoy life a bit I’ll share a super Favorite Thing: Wild Passion Flower!

Passion Flower

Mystery Man: Fluff Chance

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I don’t claim to understand the economics of the fashion industry and its retailers. I tend to par down the fashion shows to one or two designers for closer scrutiny.

Oh, I keep trying to educate myself and part of that education is to read, read, read. I read books and blogs, and steer clear of fashion magazines for the most part, angered by the amount of much fluff. I’m not a consumer, I am a home sewer with a passion for fashion but not a lot of expertise on the industry.

I want pithy business: how do they survive and create? That’s my inquiry.

One of the blogs I’ve been reading with increasing intrigue is The Emperor’s Old Clothes. Who is this man? Something in the writing style made me think of this writer as a man but I really could find no real proof for that assumption. So I read on.

Fluff with Text even smaller

He’s shutting down his business after many years with obvious angst and some bitterness, yet with an almost lyrical acceptance, a sign of a lovely gentle soul. But his writing style had the bite of a vampire. Who is this Fluff Chance, the writer with the wit to tell it like he sees it?

Well, mystery solved by Eric Wilson’s article in the fashion section of the New York Times this morning: How Do You Like Me Now?

Meet Mr Eric Gaskins, mystery man.


Do yourself a favor: read the NY Times article and then bookmark The Emperor’s Old Clothes and savor its thoughtful articles. There’s much to be learned in it.

Hand/Eye Magazine

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Here’s a new-to-me great thing:

Hand/Eye Magazine