In America…

Having an international relationship (even when the expat half is as firmly ensconced as I am) makes weddings a bit tricky. We’re lucky that we didn’t have to take immigration laws into account, but even so, we needed to have wedding celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic to include as many people as possible. So a few days after the wedding, we flew over to Pennsylvania, spent a few days at my parents’ house in Perry County, then had our celebration dinner in Lancaster, taking the train down to Philly to catch up with my Man of Honour, then the Acela train up to NYC for a week of a proper honeymoon before flying back home to London.

So to start, I decided that I wanted to give my Granny a nice memento of her gown, since she had given it all to me, and I ended up with some medium-sized scraps of the really nice silk satin after finishing my gown. So before I left I made up four sachets filled with lavender buds I’d grown on deck, and during the flight I embroidered a silk square for each of these with the initials of her four grandchildren and their spouses, plus the year they were married. It just worked out nicely that my cousin Charlie was the last of us to wed, having their wedding two weeks after ours!

I then finished up the sachet construction at my parents’ house and presented these to Granny before the Lancaster reception dinner.

There was also a nice surprise of a massive box of vintage haberdashery she’d found in a charity shop. I only picked a few things out of it, but I just couldn’t resist some of this glorious packaging!

Then my mom insisted on driving me out to this Amish fabric shop she knows in Perry County – it was only a little ways past my old high school, but I was just blown away by the prices!! I went NUTS in the zippers – tons of really long invisible zips for 75 cents or a dollar (when I’d pay at least £3-4 each for these in London), buttons for as low as 2 cents each (when’s the last time you saw anything for 2 cents??), tons of ricrac and trims, embroidery floss for 30 cents, and (of course!!) they had the bobbins for my hand crank vintage Singer. For 15 cents each!

They also had a mind-boggling array of quilting cottons and fleeces, but the other fabrics either felt synthetic, or were things I could easily buy in London (like shirtings) so I just stuck to the haberdashery.

They haven’t got a website (err, obviously), but since it’s separate from the house, there’s a phone there if you need directions. It’d definitely be worth the trek from Carlisle or Harrisburg, especially if you need preserving and cooking supplies, too!

Wise Dry Goods
5683 Shermans Valley Road
Loysville, PA 17047

Mon, Tue, Fri 9-5
Wed, Thur 9-8
Sat 9-3
Closed Sundays

Then it was time to pull my gown from my carryon and press it all over again, attempt to replicate G’s makeup skillz, and celebrate all over again, this time with a fantastic organic, local, and seasonal meal at John J Jeffries in Lancaster (part of the Lancaster Arts Hotel). We didn’t really want to do a “wedding re-enactment” so we kept it as a more informal celebratory dinner, letting the people and conversation and photos from Bletchley do the work. But we couldn’t say no to another cake cutting, and WOW, what a cake! My mom found House Of Clarendon, and the quality of the cake and the huge range of flavours (we could have lemon & lavender again!) plus a sugar sculpted flower worthy of an art gallery really, really impressed us. But most of all it was just so great to see old friends and family I hadn’t seen in years! Afterwards a few of us moved out to the hotel bar for last rounds, and let me tell you, I’ve never had better service at a bar in my life – I should wear a wedding gown out more often!

One of my friends from Penn State, Sharon, came wearing a dress she’d sewn herself, too! I’m so proud of her! She only started sewing a year or so ago, but she made Simplicity 2549 for the reception and I just love the colours and that leaf-print fabric! The whole look is just so flattering, and very Mad Men, too.

Sharon knows how to butter me up, too, because she and her husband brought me a bunch of different quilting cottons from her favourite local stores:

The John Deere fabric (ha!) is from Verna’s Fabrics in Mifflinburg, PA and the rest are from the Japanese speciality fabric store, The Beckoning Cat in Lewisburg, PA. I’ve used one of these already, but more on that after a weekend photoshoot!

Then after a disappointing trip round the outlet stores, we caught the train down to Philly, where we got to stay in a suite at the Four Seasons(!!) compliments of my Man of Honour. We had complimentary champagne and chocolates in a bubble bath, slummed it at a dive diner, found bargains on South Street (including a smokin hot satin, red evening gown still with the Macy’s tags on at a consignment shop for $30!), cheeseteaks at Geno’s, had one of the best meals of our lives at Morimoto and also managed to squeeze in drinks with Karen! Sadly, a trip to Jomar just wasn’t on the cards, so she made up for it by bringing me a lovely, swirly knit in nice autumnal colours and a Pattern Review shopping bag, too!

Then we took the Acela to NYC (this was hyped up and we were pretty excited to try it, but really it was just a bog-standard train you’d get anywhere in Europe. Nothing that special, really, but it was worth it for the convenience factor!), where we stayed in the Lower East Side.

Some NYC highlights:

The Daily Show – I have been watching The Daily Show for nearly 15 years. Not only do I remember when Craiggers was the host, but I remember when the studio audience was a new thing. We tried to get tickets the whole way through college to no avail, and since we knew we’d be coming over for the honeymoon, we’d been stalking the DailyShowtix twitter feed like hawks, but nothing for our week ever came up, or it’d be all gone in two minutes.

And then, like magic, James refreshed the tickets page on our unreliable hotel internet, and OMG THERE’S FOUR TICKETS FOR TODAY! So we were able to fulfil a huge ambition of mine to watch a filming, and James was very very proud (and relieved!) that it all worked out (it was the 29 September show, with a German woman guest talking about foreign aid corruption).

The High Line – This newly-opened, elevated park on a former freight railway line was another must-see for us, and it was spectacular. From a design and architecture and art and space use as well as gardening point of view, it’s a triumph. Everything about it just made us awed and happy. LOVED IT.

Central Park – Having never really been to New York much before, I wasn’t quite ready for how big it is! Or to avoid the awful food carts. Hrm. But the turtle pond especially just stole our hearts. And we always love a good wander and explore.

(Yes, I got great mileage out of my silver tweed jacket! This is after wearing it pretty much nonstop all summer, too.)

But then there was also the utterly fantastic Tenement Museum (we’ve GOT to go back and see the rest of their tours!), warm, crusty blueberry bagels at H&H, eating outside at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park on a warm evening, incredible and inspiring Mexican food not once but twice at Dos Caminos and La Esquina, eye-opening Himalayan food, the cheese cave at Artisanal, and my first-ever knish, eaten at Yonah Schimmel’s. And on top of all that, there was an amazing 15-course Chinese banquet for my cousin’s wedding at the Golden Unicorn, too!

One night as we were wandering around the Apple Store glass cube (24 free wifi? yes please), I saw this coat in the window of the Armani 5th Ave store and was blown away by how identical it is to the Burda 09/2010 #118 coat I was already planning on making this winter!!

So now it makes me feel even more smug to know I had the taste to pick a designer coat out of the pattern pile (I don’t care about the haters – the September Burda was one of their best issues in YEARS. Even that basic turtleneck is stylish in person – Karen had hers on when we met in Philly!).

When we were killing time waiting for our Tenement Museum guided tour, we had a wander round the area and stumbled upon Zipperstop. I hesitate to call it a store, since it’s really just a warehouse with a counter, but they did have two huge boxes by the door with a sign saying “12 for $5”! So I grabbed the following – all metal teeth with cool pulls, and most are separating, too!! I would expect to pay somewhere around that price (or more) in pounds for just ONE of those zippers. OMG.

But this was only the beginning of my sewing shopping, because I also got to meet up with Nancy K and Lindsay T for a guided tour of the best garment district stores (if you don’t have your own guides, Lindsay’s NYC Fabric Store Guide is essential as hardly any of the stores are marked from the street!).

Nancy and I started at Global Leathers, where I blew my entire budget on: navy blue leather for a jacket (4 hides), grey leather for a skirt (2 hides), burgundy leather for a gift handbag (2 hides), green pearlised leather for a handbag (2 hides), and an offcut from their remnants bin that’s copper on the leather side, and black sude on the reverse that I’ll be turning into an obi belt. But I was really restrained here – I really could’ve bought much, much more than I could carry!

Then she took me to Elliott Berman Fabrics, where the super helpful Emilie picked out the best fabric for the short jacket version of the Burda coat above – a fantastic charcoal wool. After lunch with Lindsay, we headed to Botani, which was the biggest speciality haberdashery store I’d ever seen! The rooms just kept going back and back and they stocked pretty much any bit of hardware you could imagine. Really.

I got all the requisite hardware and buttons to make myself a trenchcoat:

There are hardly any prices marked and with the quantity of stuff in the store, your best best is to grab one of the roaming staff and just go down through your list together. The girls were all super helpful, explaining why very similar-looking buckles were either $1 or $3 each (one was made in Italy, the other China), and sorting through very similar looking buttons to find the ones that matched best!

Plus some handbag rings, cool zipper pulls, and cheap enormous snaps (I got 5):

Then Nancy and I moved on to Mood, where I got some nice stretch denim, but the big win was finding some super high quality trenchcoating (the store clerk even went and got a cup of water to pour on it to prove it was waterproof!). This trenchcoat fabric isn’t laminated or rubberised or anything – it’s just so tightly woven that water just runs off. I also found a great lining fabric to go with it, too.

Individual photos of all my fabrics can be found in my fabric stash gallery, with the newest additions at the bottom!

But that wasn’t the last we saw of Mood, because James insisted on going back the next day (after a bit of lunch at the Houndstooth pub round the corner!) to get coated linen to recreate a beloved jacket that was stolen from a pub on the same night he met me all those years ago. I was largely unimpressed with Daytona Trimming but we did find a good zipper for his jacket there.

So the result of all my buying (brought over in my mom’s suitcase) plus my NYC spree looks like this (there’s another layer of rolled fabric at the bottom of the IKEA bag that’s hidden):

Yeah, I’m going to be busy for a while…

Then two days after we got home, our moorings held the first annual Moorings Arts Garden, where my gown was on display amongst all the other artwork produced by my lovely boat-dwelling neighbours:

And then I was home for another two mere days before flying off to Dublin for a very stressful (but ultimately successful) work trip to Dublin, a fantastic side effect of which was that I finally got to meet tg33 and have a good goss over dinner (scientific-background sewers reprazent!).

So now I’m back home and in a proper routine again and working a full 5 days a week for the first time in 18 months, fitting in sewing time in stolen ten minute segments like the rest of the sewing world! After months and months of couture sewing, what I really needed was a quick knit top! So no points for guessing the subject of the next photoshoot…

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