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Friday, September 16, 2011

Beards with Long Goats

Did I tell you how much I love the smell of Dove soap? Oh crap it is not Dove it is Dial.  Isn't it the same damn soap anyway?!  I should just carve a hole into my bar of soap and where it around my neck. I LOVE IT! Well I bought it for my jacket that I am still making.  You have to smear some Dove or other cheap ass soap on the seam before you iron it.  I think because the soap has a waxy texture it fuses the fabric really nicely. Being the nob that I am I tried it.  Works awesome.  Doesn't my jacket look amazing! This photo was taken about 2 or 3 weeks ago.  It doesn't even look like this now.  Just looking at these old photos makes me feel so accomplished.  Right now the jacket looks pretty much like it could be in the storefront of Chanel in Beverly Hills.  It is so bomb I really can't stand it. 

Me hand sewing the seam over the seam with carefully trimmed layers. I actually had to wait to go further until I ordered this corner miter iron wood gazapiz thing.  This jacket is flawless.  I actually wait and think about things.  So not Lara.

These two babies are what I waited for to go further to turn this mutha out.  NO I am not going to tell you step by step process - really you don't even want to know.  Just the knowing of it all will make me levitate when I wear this jacket.  The thing that sucks is that I haven't even started on the skirt.  The skirt will be way easier but STILLLLLLLLLLL. HMMMMHUH.  Goats will grow long gruffy beards before I finish this thing.

I will show you an update photo of the jacket soon.  You can chew on this image for a while.  NO, I am not going to take a photo for you now, it is dark now and you know how I hate flash photography. Why do I have a mesquito bite all of a sudden? 

This is the coolest thing that happened to me yesterday.  I was standing in Buckeye Valley in front of Pat Rovey's front door.  I had finally been invited to somebody's home in Buckeye.  I was really happy while I was driving to her house. She is such a sweet lady.  She has been a farm girl all her life.  Her parents built their 80 acre property originally in Phoenix when 19th Avenue was a dirt road.  She told me how she used to watch the gypsies in wagons come and go when the original Rovey farm was located on Bethany Home. I initially met Pat when I was presenting the Park and Ride Project to the Buckeye Chamber of Commerce.

 On my way out there I was imagining a solid built farm house. I was not disappointed when I found the 2 very tall palm trees that she had said to look for.  The charming yellow house with gray trim was partially hidden with trees so full and tall, like they had been there forever.  I wanted to wander around but I knew we had business to discuss. Too top secret to say right now.  As I walked by her flower cushioned bench outside the open screened window I could hear the ladies inside saying "Oh there she is now!".

Pat had military green rubber boots sitting outside her front door.  I loved that too.

This post is for Glenn, who called tonight and made me want to post. Thanks Glenn with 2 "n's"! 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Walking with Jeffrey

Jeffrey PUSHES me to explore new sights on Vashon Island.  It is like Va as in Valley Girl and then Shawn. Jeffrey is always in the lead and I follow.  If it were up to him we would walk all day.  We were in Vashon Island last week.  It was a nice break from the dust filled brown skies and extreme heat here in Goodyear, Arizona, my hometown.

This is an expert from my travel journal when Jeffrey and I went to Europe in 1994.  This was my introduction to taking walks with Jeffrey.

We remember walking 20km (12 miles+/-) back to the hostel more than Ronchamp - The walk I will never forget, we walked through countryside, countless country homes and barking dogs.  We started our walk at 7:30(pm) and made it back at 11:30(pm) - we were sore for days. Then the next day we were off to Paris for Yes - more walking. - Lara Serbin *yes me* 1994

You better be loving these photos because I carried my lug camera for about 7 miles up steep terrain, drift wood, pebble strewn beaches and sewer manhole covers that were made in India. You could throw your chutney down there.

This just wreaks of "I have the most ripped wood shop you ever saw." My sentiments exaclty.
Here on this narrow quiet rode, I guess you need something that stands out.  
We are at our best when we are walking on a new road not knowing what to expect next.

This is my favorite one. Why you ask?  These folks most likely use the peanut butter thing at the grocery store that chews all the little peanuts together and then it comes gooping out into the clear plastic container.  These people don't buy pre-made peanut butter. You can't buy this.  They preserve their own stawberry jams too I bet. I love what the green is doing for the red and what the red is doing for the green.

This is right beside the mailbox. I mean what the HALO! This is so amazing I can't stand it!  STOP IT NOW! IT'S TOO GOOD FOR THIS BLOG. 

Somebody forgot to close it before it rained again.  I cannot believe you just said that!  Why do you want to see the rain drops! Ok fine. I will be back in a minute.  Only for you would I ever do this.  We are so close.

I guess you are right. It is cool to see the raindrops on the mail window thing.  It was amazing to see raindrops just sitting on things.  Rain drops don't sit in Goodyear. 

I didn't notice the old glove until I was back home working in my land of Photoshop.  I crop each one of these photos you see.  This is really a great example. I took this photo so fast.  I think these same people might of made the LOST sign coming up.


Random sign along the rode.  It is so twisting and densly wooded that they need these bright red maps along the way.  Jeffrey of course had his GPS Iphone working for us.  We were standing on the knee cap of this man shaped island.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bound Button Holes Before Bed

Ok I mastered the bound button last weekend.  I know you have been wondering when or if I would get to this part of my couture jacket and skirt I have been making.  The quilting is done so I decided to do the button holes before doing anything more.  Even though it was tempting to just experiment with the jacket front that was quilted I forced myself to try my first bound button hole on a sample piece of tweed and silk.

If you have been following this blog you remember the jacket of last summer that I made.  Look at this button hole!  It is sad and lumpy.  I really hate it!  I hate it because you can see blackness when the coat is buttoned. BLASTED THING.  I have been wanting to try this bound button for a long time. 

Couture Sewing Techniques, Claire B. Shaeffer

Like roasting a chicken, I followed directions to the T. I mean to the tip of the T I followed it.  You still awake? Go get your jammies on because this is going to take a while. You might even dream about this later.  Trying to find your college class but never making it.  You have a test for an Algebra class but you never found where the classroom is. 

First, I ironed interfacing to the silk lining. This is the first one and kind of puckered later.  For the final button holes I stretched all the bias out of the silk by spraying it with water and then ironed it quick so it wouldn't ruin the shee shee silk.  Oh and you have to do this silk piece on the bias! Bias is setting the fabric at a 45 degree angle.

Notice the placement for the edge to edge button hole is basted by hand with the white thread.  I cut the silk with the interfacing the size of a business card.  

Then I had to copy the same spacing onto my silk piece.  It gets better.  You and your whole family could climb into a snuggy and read this together before bed.

Then I traced 1/8" offset from the center horizontal line.  It's a good thing I am an architect.

Then I hand basted on top of my traced pencil line.  At this point pencil is the safest thing to use.  After all this work if marker got on the silk *which it did a tiny green dot* it really sucks.

Machine sew the rectangle.  For all my sewer friends I suggest going really slow with needle down. CONTROL.

Now cut the button hole with a sharp exacto blade.  Amateurs beware, it takes a steady hand.

Pull the whole thing inside out and sew up the middle by hand.

This is my first one ever.  The bound side is a little crooked, but the next three that I performed on the final jacket are much better.  I must say that even someone like myself who has been handy with the exacto since birth, it was impossible to get my button holes exactly the same.  For the most part they look the same.

When I completed this I started humming Gypsy Kings like I used to do in architecture studio.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hugo Montenegro Rocks

This week just gets better and better.  I think it was Tuesday that I had somebody drive up the hill to buy a Sam Harvey bag.  I have never met this woman either.  It was a referral from one of my wonderful repeat clients.  I didn't think she was coming so I just continued working on my overcrowded thumb tack of a desk in the middle of the freeway of my house.  Yes, folks you guessed it.  She showed.  As she waited on my round dining table I brought out all my boxes of bags.  The one I am showing is the one she picked.  This bag is not even on the website.  It was an experiment bag. 

Miss Pen Pen likes to knock those candle sticks over.  OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH PEN!

Oh by the way, I made that black top I am wearing too. Shabam!  See that framed thing on the right.  Right before I gave her the amount due I showed her the framed thing that I glued all the pieces that goes into a Sam Harvey bag.  She was impressed.  You really want me to go dig that photo out of th archives don't you... Ok, for you I will do it.  Be right back.

Funny how bandana fabric inside goes with my Hugo Montenegro on a continuous loop I have going right now.  The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.  Are you feeling it yet?  It felt so great to see her so happy with one of my bags.  She said she loved the strap length.  It is true that most handbags worth anything to talk about these days have really short straps.

Makes me want to make some more bags.   

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Channel Terry Gross

Terry Gross, photo credit Will Ryan

Have any of you ever listened to Terry Gross on Fresh Air?  I have been listening to her for the last decade religiously.  She is part of my daily ritual. Now that I have my Ipad, I listen to her whenever I want.  I am addicted.  My favorite interviews to date have been Martin Short, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and the latest Jimmy Fallon.

If Terry interviewed me it would go something like this...

With us today is my guest Lara Serbin founder of Sam Harvey a fashion line of hand sewn design products and co-founder of Serbin Studio an architectural firm.  Lara Serbin, welcome to the show.

Thank you Terry.  I cannot believe I am sitting here with you.  I love the sound of your voice.  You have been my companion through countless design projects for the last decade. Thank you for being so committed to your craft.  I have noticed that you always pin point someone's deepest secrets when you interview them.  They cannot hide from you.  You go for the jugular.

"Crisp chuckle."  It has taken years to perfect it.  I don't notice it anymore.  It just happens naturally that my guests want to reveal themselves to me.

They feel comfortable with you. It shows.

Tell us about Sam Harvey.  What is it exactly?

It started out as Hanukah presents for my family a couple years back.  I had lost my way with Serbin Studio and it seemed that it was going to stop all together.  I literally brought my sewing machine into the archtectural studio one day and just started sewing to get my mind off of the dead silence of the phones not ringing.

Why the name Sam Harvey?

Sam Harvey is an androgynous name.  Jeffrey and I don't have to limit ourselves in terms of design.  Sam Harris Parke was my Baptist great grandfather who was a sheriff in a county in North Carolina.  Harvey Nep was my Jewish grandfather from Los Angeles who was a food buyer for a discount chain store and then a sales manager for the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.  In the 1960's Harvey opened a full scale dinner house called King Neptune on Mission Bay.

You must have been very brave to start something so new in such a depressed time.

Jeffrey and I needed to get our minds off of architecture for a while. We knew we were missing something with Serbin Studio.  A missing ingredient or something.  

Maybe a corned beef sandwhich?

Hah! Nice put away shot!  It felt good to make up something to keep us busy at that time.  We were working on designing patterns for these quilted bags kind of like Vera Bradley bags but cooler and better engineered.  Except when it came time to cut each piece and assemble we started to understand how labor intensive it was to produce a bag that won't rip apart when you start loading it and carrying it.

I read through some of your blog posts and it seems that you enjoyed making them and picking out fabrics.  You even designed your own metal hardware I noticed.

I can't say there was a time when anything we produced for Sam Harvey was profitable.  The whole chapter was one of exploration.  I felt like I had started as a junior in a new high school and had to make friends.  

You marketed to local spas in Arizona.  You and Jeff even went to ISPA in Texas at one point. 

I felt like we needed to commit to something in order to make Sam Harvey work.  I realized that Sam Harvey bags were not fetching the price that they deserved.  There was one spa in Paradise Valley in particular that I had a very unfortunate meeting. The spa director, a young woman didn't even make eye contact with me when I spoke to her.  Some spa directors forgot that I had even scheduled meetings with them.

From the looks of your postings it doesn't look like you are sewing bags anymore.  Seems like you have been doing more watercolors and designing for Serbin Studio.

Once I know we are going down a dead end, I can quickly change course.   I wasn't about to start a production overseas to bring the cost of the bags down.  I definitely didn't want to start a life of showing my bags at craft shows for a living.  After being an architect for so long, I have to say that I missed my professional status of saying that I was an architect.  I missed dressing like an architect.  I missed my white starched dress shirts, khaki pants and black mary janes.  I was used to being treated with respect and being paid for what I am worth.

From the looks of things, Serbin Studio is headed towards great things.

Thanks Terry.  Just talking with your has been amazing.  I have a new appreciation for being an architect.  I want Serbin Studio to succeed above all else.  I learned valuable lessons from trying to make it in the retail business. Who knows, maybe Sam Harvey can tie into Serbin Studio someday.  Fashion and architecture.  For now bag production has stopped.

Looks like you still love to sew.

That will never stop.  I have to have a personal sewing project I can loose myself in.  As long I spend about an hour a day sewing, I am a happy architect!

It's  been great having you on the show.  I look forward to hearing more about your designs whether in the fashion or architecture world.

Thanks for interviewing such amazing people in the past Terry. You will continue to inspire and amaze me.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Tonight I took Eva and Lily my girls to PF Changs for dinner. This is a typical Monday evening for us after dance class.  As we are going through the circular glass door thing that spins around 360 *which I have no clue why you would need this in Arizona with all the hurricane activity* which I dread because Lily always makes it spin like 3-4 times.  Eva and I will be in the lobby and Lily will keep going round and round slowly while her greasy fingers are mashed up against the freshly windexed curved glass. Well this time the round door just haulted stop with lily wedged somewhere in the middle.  She was ready for Willie Wonka to suck her up to the blue berry gobstopper machine or what in the hell I don't know.  I felt myself loosing my cool.  I looked behind me in the reception and my eye stopped on this attractive young couple. Mind you I am pretty dead sure that the woman was about 3 months pregnant.  I said to them, "This is what you have to look forward to!" They looked at each other and giggled. Then I laughed in my big hardy har har way *which might I add it quite contagious*. 

Lily and Eva were well behaved but then they kind of lost it while I was waiting to pay.  Lily was laying down in the booth and sticking her feet up the sides of the upholstery. Then I swear Eva did this world federation body slam on Lil and then the couple next to our booth stopped eating and stared at us.  I am proud to say that they have some Nep in them after all.  You could never take Erik and I out to dinner or anywhere for that matter when we were that age. We were a mess.

Lil and Eva

For those that care *and I know you secretly do* my quilting on my skirt and jacket are slowly but steadily getting finished.  Just the sleeve of the jacket took the entire weekend. Just quilting that is.

Special thank you to Christine Jonson for sending some free knit fabrics my way.  Christine is on the cover of last months Threads magazine.  She designs her own patterns for garments. She mainly focuses on knit fabrics which she sells on her online boutique. She is truly a creative genius.  Her patterns are very straight forward. It took many trial and error but I have my favorite patterns from her website like for simple tops, skirts which I just repeat over and over with different knits.

The most amazing part of sewing a Jonson pattern is that the end result is something you can keep in your closet forever. The most well sewn quality garment you will every have. I love mixing and matching my pieces.  I like her patterns too because I can sew a top in about 3 hours.  SHAM WOW. I know.

Latest trip to Garlands in Oak Creek Canyon, AZ.  This was not our cabin but I like this one.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Mademoiselle's team of house models in Moscow for the second Chanel show in Russia, 1967.  I am the one on the right. YOU KNOW IT!

This is me hand tying the knots at the end of each machine permanent stitch.  Tiger's legs.  Her tail is unusually long. She likes to sit on my fabric as soon as I sit down.

This is what I am doing. A quilted lining.  I am quilting each piece of my skirt and jacket before I even sew everything together.  In this case my lining is the pink silk and the black tweed is my shell fabric.  Get it? Kind of? 

The permanent quilting is on the left. The right side is what I have left to do.  Each time I stitch over the neon orange basting with my machine for a permanent stitch it takes about 10 minutes. This is becuase I am not back stitching with my machine. I leave long tails and I knot each end by hand.

The neon hand basting is along the sides of the pink stripes.  I thought I would just follow the pattern.  The basting is only temporary.  I use black thread on the tweed side and pink thread on the silk lining side so my final permanent stitching will not be noticed.

Sewing for 30 minutes was the best part of today.  The feeling of the silk and tweed coming together as one is quite awesome.  See my hand basting with the neon thread above. I sew with my sewing machine over the orange basting.  Once I am done quilting the silk to the tweed I will remove the neon thread.  That, my dear, is what you call couture sewing or CRAZY TOWN. 

This is just one piece of my jacket. I have a boat load more to go.  I will be done with this suit when we can live on Mars.

Couture Sewing Techniques, Claire B. Shaeffer
Chanel Collections and Creations, Daniele Bott

The 2 things I would need if I had to wander the desert for 40 years.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bound Button Holes

My latest project is another couture chanel skirt and jacket using this amazing tweed I picked up from MOOD Fabrics in LA.  No I am not showing the pattern.  It is so late now! I don't even know where it is now!  This project is going to be amazing.  Why?  I learned some tricks from Claire Shaeffer on how to make tailor knots and back stitches.  These small details is huge in my world of couture garment making.  For the last million years of my life I had been making knots and tying it like 10 times to get this huge knot ball to have at the end of my string.  Claire taught me to just go in the way I entered.  I am a sewing geek I know.  For this years birthday I asked Mom to buy Shaeffer's DVD with footage of how to do some of these crazy details in her book that I had to read 10 million times but still did them wrong.  This is how I get my kicks.  Like I said, this time this jacket and skirt will be amazing. Like laser beams and shit.

It is so 11pm now and I just scanned this for you.  This project should only take me about a year.  I am serious.  Now I know how to make a Tailor's Knot. I am super dangerous now.  I pretty much sew one seam per day.  The majority of my day is spent being an architect.  I manage to squeeze in about an hour a day of sewing. 

Claire, if you ever read this can you come over here and show me how to do a BOUND button hole.  Why didn't you show this on your video?  Baby steps. Second, you are a sewing GODDESS!