San Francisco is a magical place

Growing up in Northern Nevada, San Francisco was always my “big city”  – where we would road trip to for art, food, culture and shopping. It’s always has a special place in my heart, but this last weekend’s trip to the bay with my mom really pushed its awesomeness level off the charts for me.

It started early Friday morning with a trip to the deYoung museum to see the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit. I’m glad the deYoung seems interested in showcasing the work of fashion designers – last year’s Balenciaga exhibit was pretty incredible, but Gaultier really turns it up to 11. It’s so cool to see the garments up close; I think I’d appreciate fashion design more if I got to always examine the construction in person rather than on TV or in full body runway stills. Not only does Gaultier have some smart and interesting views on gender and style (he’s fairly miffed that women seem to be able to have our cake and eat it too; i.e., we get to wear dresses or pants while poor men only get to wear boring suits – an excellent point), but he’s a masterful creator of complex and beautiful garments. Here’s a couple iphone snaps of my favorites (click to enlarge):


On the left is the first sweater dress I’ve ever seen that I’ve really liked. Seriously, it kind of makes me want to get more serious about knitting… On the right is a pleated dress with rows of pearl buttons sewn just on the inside of the fold of each pleat. Beautiful! (The full houndstooth bodysuit in the background, though? Very cool, but I can’t imagine a model ever actually wearing that on the runway… well, maybe one did – it was by far not the strangest thing in the exhibit.) The show only runs through this weekend, but if you happen to be conveniently located in the bay area, I highly recommend you check it out!

After a delicious lunch at Magnolia, a fantastic brewpub in the Haight, we headed over to the Legion of Honor for the special exhibition on surrealists Man Ray and Lee Miller. Surrealism is my favorite art movement by far (huge Magritte fan), so it was nice to learn more about these two artists and their take on and contributions to the movement.

Having gorged on the city’s art and fashion offerings, we decided to pop into a funny little discount fabric store in the Richmond called Fabrix that I’d stumbled upon the last time I visited the city. After browsing for longer than we had fed the meter for (oops), I was having my fabric cut when I noticed that the girl standing next to me looked familiar… it was none other than Cindy of the brilliant Cation Designs! Yes, I actually ran into a sewing blogger in a fabric store. What further proof do you need that SF is magical? This was my first internet-life-meets-real-life encounter, and I’m so glad it was with Cindy. She writes one of my favorite blogs and creates such amazing garments, not to mention has an awesome cat. After the initial is-this-really-happening exclamations, we managed to snap some phone pictures, of course (Cindy’s picture is better – posting procrastinator that I am she beat me to the punch):

She’s wearing her not-a-Renfrew, and I’m wearing my Simplicity 2219, which is obviously completed but yet to be blogged. Hey, I was busy meeting awesome people in awesome fabric stores, so sue me. Cindy, it was super cool to meet you, and hopefully we can meet up again sometime closer to one of the cities we actually live in!

Still aflutter from my chance encounter, I dashed across the street to Satin Moon, a beautiful fine fabric shop, where sadly I found no additional sewing bloggers lurking in the stacks, but I did fondle some lovely Liberty lawns:

Ultimately, though, I couldn’t bring myself to pay $50 a yard for fabric, no matter how nice it is. I’ve been ruined by 99 cent mystery fabric, I guess.

Luckily, the next day, driving through Berkeley to Oakland, we literally stumbled on a delightful place called Discount Fabrics. Clearly the SF magic extends across the bay, since we weren’t even looking for another fabric store, let alone a huge discount fabric warehouse. (More magic: at this store I ran into a former student who I hadn’t seen over a year. Seriously.) FInally, finishing out the astounding weekend, we went for tastings and a tour of the St. George Distillery in Alameda, and then met some good friends for delicious pizza and cocktails at Boot and Shoe Service in Oakland.

Coolest. Weekend. Ever.

So, right, the spoils. Here’s what I came home with to feed the ravenous Stash Monster:

On the top right, my two finds from Fabrix in SF: a lovely soft turquoise print cotton poplin and a heavyweight brown geometric print lycra knit. The poplin I think will be an Alma blouse with tie belt (must place that pattern order soon!), and the knit is for some kind of practical work dress. Along the bottom, my haul from Discount Fabrics in Berkeley: gray polka dot ITY knit, a really nice gray cotton twill (my mom got more of this to make a Minoru, but since I already have one I just got a yard for a pencil skirt), and two stretch denims of different weights to …gasp! make pants. Yes, I’m going to attempt a couple pants patterns this fall. Finally, on the top left, two remnant pieces of Marimekko cotton from the Crate and Barrel outlet in Berkeley (for bags or something? I don’t know, they’re just pretty and were only 50 cents).

So that was my magical weekend in San Francisco. I can only hope that I managed to bring some of the magic home with me, and I can use it to successfully blog the four(!) projects that I have finished in the last month as well as, you know, sew some more stuff before work and autumn hit me like a ton of bricks in just a couple weeks. If you’ve got some time left in your summer vacation, might I humbly suggest a trip to the city in the fog? (Which, may I add, was delightfully warm and sunny for much of the weekend. Need I say more?)

  1. Myra said:

    Nice! And I love your dress! And I really love the print fabric! Especially since I made a maxi out of it a few weeks ago! Can’t wait to see you post on this one!

  2. You look adorable- beautifully framed by expensive fabric!

  3. Hi Aleah I just read on Cation Designs blog about your SF encounter, yes magical. Glad you had such a fantastic weekend in the bay area. Discount Fabrics – sometimes I find incredible bargains, sometimes come away empty but it is a great resource. What, no visit to Stone Mountain fabrics??? you have to come back. . . .
    nice selections and I look forward to seeing what you make, Beth

  4. The city really is magical, isn’t it? Especially when the weather behaves…

    Oh, Satin Moon, why must you be so expensive? And I hope to visit the Gaultier exhibit this weekend before it closes — wish me luck!

  5. Amy said:

    Glad you had a great trip up to the Bay Area. It’s a magical place, right? And, how fun that you ran into Cation Designs! And, the same garments caught my eye at the Gaultier exhibit as well. What fun!

  6. We had to postpone our trip to the city but I’m going to be sure and hit up some of these places when we finally get there! Great finds.

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