Category Archives: New Orleans

The Lane Cotton Mill

Cotton fabrics from my closed storefront shop are now stored in a former mill that manufactured cotton fabric in the 1800s on Tchoupitoulas Street. The mill first opened in 1852 and operated until 1950 – today it has been reconfigured (adaptive re-use) into storage units. The history of Lane Cotton Mill is fascinating to me. But what I really found most interesting is this photograph of Lane Mill workers taken in the late 1800s, early 1900s.

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Lewis Hines, “Group of workers in Lane Cotton Mill, New Orleans,” The Historic New Orleans Collection

What’s the first thing you notice? The boy speaking to his buddy behind him. “Stop poking me.” Or the one directly behind him with that lock of hair and impish grin? The one beside him, on the right, standing proud, hat in hand? Every person had/has a story.

What I also notice is the worn-out knees of those pants, the youth who were expected to help support the family at 10-12 years of age. Child labor was a necessary thing at that time. Perhaps those are sisters, brothers, in the background.

Our house on Laurel Street here in New Orleans is located about three blocks from this mill complex. Built originally as a “double shotgun” with two apartments, each side of the house had a living room, middle bedroom and a kitchen in the back, with no indoor plumbing (more history about shotgun houses here). I don’t know if our house was built originally by manufacturers for their workers or not – probably not – but it was converted years ago into a “single” with three small bedrooms and 2 baths.

The evidence of streetcar rails can be found in certain spots along Laurel St, so the location was convenient for workers to travel to and from their jobs. Or walk to Lane Cotton Mills.

In my imagination, people were packed into these little houses. Living rooms doubled as bedrooms. High ceilings (ours is 11-12′) and numerous windows allowed for air flow and the closeness of these houses allowed for little privacy. Noise travels. Young women probably worked until they married and had children, usually very young. Here’s a pic of some of those young women, with their tin lunch buckets.lane+cotton+mill

I now work out of that same cotton mill, only now I’m set up in the wide hall and I cut fabric for my online shop while imagining those voices and noises from the past as those loud machines processed cotton from upriver and made it into cloth. During the Civil War the mill was commandeered by Union forces to stop the manufacture of Confederate uniforms, to destroy morale. This photo shows those oil-stained floors (where I set up to cut fabric) and some of the machinery that wove cotton cloth, now replaced with metal storage units.

img_4538Are those boys and girls longing to have their stories told? I think they are.
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The photographs here are from the archives of Store-All, the current owners of these fabulous brick buildings.

 

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Letterhead from Lane Cotton Mills. The large building at the left of this photo is currently occupied by Rouse’s supermarket. The remainder of the complex has been adapted for storage. Cotton fabrics and all that we materialistic people hold onto.

P.S.: Just listened to archived interview of Charles Neville prior to his death. He grew up on Valence St., with no electricity and an outdoor toilet – when they moved to the Calliope Projects he said that was a ‘step up’. He said his mom, Amelia Landry Neville, had worked at Lane Cotton Mills where my fabrics are currently at home – right at the end of Valence St! This is the only person whose name I’ve heard who has worked there – I wonder if she is in the photo above. Charles Neville passed away on Thursday, April 26, 2018 at 79 years old. Click here for an archived interview: https://www.wwno.org/post/music-inside-out-remembering-charles-neville

Moving: New Venues & Adventures!

After 4 delightful years at the little shotgun house on Magazine Street, Uptown Needle & CraftWorks is MOVING!

Our last day of business at 4610 Magazine will be October 6. We are moving in a couple ways — temporarily to an online shop, as well as to new venues for workshops. You will hear more about this exciting news in weeks to come as we transition to this new phase.

We will be offering workshops and our products in Covington and at the Backroom on Bourbon (part of Jezebel’s ). We will also continue to offer workshops at 4610 Magazine with the new tenant, Home Malone, where owner Kristen Malone represents over 80 artists and features fabulous products made in the Deep South. Kristen plans to open her 2nd location in January 2019.

Many of you know that my magical husband/partner Robert has been living with “metastatic carcinoma of unknown origin” for over a year and a half.  Even though he has cancer in his bones, he felt wonderful for over a year now – riding his bike 10 miles a few times each week, planting a garden, teaching and working in the shop.
Fast forward to July of this year and weeks of physical distress for R. Thanks to the wonderful doctors at Touro Infirmary, the origin of those cancer outliers was finally identified. Robert has a port (he calls it his USB) and will begin chemo this week with a mixture of chemicals that will attack those renegade cells with the fury of a bad storm.  He has documented his journey thus far on his blog here.
We are very excited about this transition, and I am pleased to have the freedom to focus on my husband and our life together. I will keep in touch through my blog and through email newsletters about workshops- and perhaps a “reunion” soon.
When we opened our shop in 2014 the #1 focus was never on selling fabric, yarn or handmades. It was on building community through community engagement. You have created a wonderful community that today totals over 3500 strong! We thank you for sharing your love, support and creativity with us. We will miss you all more than you know.
See you soon at a workshop near you, or through your orders online! If you have not checked out our online shop, please do!
Peace be to all, and please keep us in your prayers.
Emma & Robert

 

AND WHAT’S A MOVE WITHOUT A SALE?
Up to 50% OFF* 
ENTIRE STOCK!

  

* ALL Fabrics & Pre-cuts 40-50% off regular prices. PLEASE NOTE:
Our website cannot offer the 40% fabric discount through the regular purchase platform; however, you may certainly browse through our fabrics here, make note of what you would like, call 504-302-9434 to pay by credit card. We will be happy to mail your order for our flat rate of $9.99.
* Handmades, Bags, Clothing 30% off
* Notions, thread, patterns, trims & kits 40% off
* Scrap Paks 50% off

* Sale now through October 6 only!

 
We are selling some of our furniture/fixtures and class supplies as well, so if you’re in the neighborhood – stop in! You’ll find some funky stuff! We will be at this location through October 6, then packing for the move.

 

Five things to know if you want to learn to sew …

UggjqRsn3MRl-1See this dress? Does it look easy to sew/make?

Every day in the shop a few people walk in and ask about sewing lessons. We get phone calls every day asking the same. I always like to get to know them, what their goals are, whether or not they have a sewing machine and we talk about their experience with mother, grandmother or aunts who may have sewn. Most students enjoy the conversation and can’t wait to dive into sewing. They realize that learning to sew is a process that takes time.

About once or twice a month someone walks in and asks to learn to sew because they have one thing they want to make. And they want to make it by next week. And all they have is a photo on their cell phone.  This ambitious project is usually (but not always) something made from lycra and lace and very stretchy. Definitely not something a beginner will tackle in their first lesson.

When I tell these ambitious potential students about the learning curve involved in sewing, that they must learn how a sewing machine operates, how to thread it, and how to sew a straight line before they make their first item – a simple project like a pillow or tote bag – some decide they do not have the patience for all that. Some become intrigued and decide to undertake a series of classes regardless of the time it takes to learn. Sewing is not for everyone.

Five Things You Need to Know if You Want to Learn to Sew:
1. Take sewing classes. Sewing may or may not be something you enjoy. Start simple, and if you enjoy the process think about buying a machine.
2. Do not rush to buy a machine. I know several people who decided they were going to learn to sew and bought a machine that just sits in their closet. They did not enjoy sewing as much as they had hoped. Before you purchase a sewing machine, ask your friends that sew what type machine they use. Test out different brands of machines when you take lessons. Choose a machine that you are comfortable using. Never order a machine online unless you are familiar with the brand name and model and have some experience with that type machine. You may luck out and find one for sale on Craigslist or an estate sale. The more you know about how a machine operates and how to use it the more qualified you are to purchase your machine.
3. Gather the proper and necessary tools and have a box or tote to store them all in. Basic supplies can be purchased at reasonable prices. What do you need? Good shears in two or three sizes; thread in various colors; seam ripper; measuring tape; seam gauge or small ruler; iron and ironing board; straight pins; disappearing or erasable fabric marking pen/pencils; safety pins; sewing clips; thimble; hand-sewing needles; pincushion. There are many other supplies to consider later on.
4. Learn to do basic hand-sewing. Sewing on buttons, hemming a skirt, mending a pair of pants – all this will build your hand-sewing skills. All machine sewing involves hand-sewing in the finish work. YouTube has wonderful tutorials in just about any area of sewing.
5. Go easy on yourself. Take your time in learning to read and understand a pattern. Choose patterns for beginners or purchase a beginner sewing book that includes patterns.

CLASS6Sewing is mostly a solitary process, but it doesn’t have to be. To really enjoy sewing, find a sewing community where you can learn tips and tricks of long-time sewists and quilters. Sewists love to gather and share projects and ideas. Sew social!

Call our shop if you’re ready!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Grows

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Lemons still on our tree

The best thing about New Orleans is that everything grows. The worst thing about New Orleans is that everything grows. Given time, a tiny cat’s claw vine will take over anything in it’s way. It will even invade an attic if there is a crack in a window. It will grow underneath siding and emerge through a hundred-year-old wooden shutter, clinging to rusty hinges and reaching towards the sunlight.

Every year Robert makes preserved (salted) lemons. He squeezes the lemons, cuts them up, adds Kosher salt and seals this up in jars. After about ten days or so, the lemon juice becomes syrupy and the lemons become soft enough to mash. The juice has a distinctive rich lemony taste that adds deep flavor to anything – guacamole, soup, salads. We have several citrus trees in our yard. Our semi-tropical climate is conducive to thousands of plant species. Many we don’t want. Many we do.  Our grapefruit tree has its first 3 fruits that we are waiting to pick, as soon as the green disappears.

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Grapefruit, almost ready

There is an old storage shed in our backyard made from the original slabs of bargeboard in the walls of our house. Beside the shed grow invasive elephant ears and Mexican petunias. We dig them up month after month and they keep coming back. On the walls of this shed, the cat’s claw vine creeps up. At one time it covered the roof but we hired someone to pull it all down and dispose of it. But it comes back. Always. In dry climates I hear that the plant is propagated because it is drought tolerant and has pretty yellow flowers. Well, yes, it does. But it grows maybe a half-foot per day here in NOLA.

So how do we co-exist with things that grow and are valued elsewhere, but are hated here in our own back yard? I think of the cat’s claw vine like I do my husband’s cancer cells.

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Cat’s claw vine trying to take over our backyard shed

We tolerate them, but we try to live as if they are not there. We try to do what we can to eliminate them, and we hope what we do is good for us and for the “good” plants (and “good” cells). All we can do is try to keep these things under control so they do not smother out the good things in life.

We enjoy our fruits, and keep planting good things – like more orange trees, more herbs and veggies – the “good stuff”. Maybe the good stuff will outgrow the bad. We can only do what we can. We can only hope.

That’s what this Christmas season brings to me. Hope. Hope in the future. Hope in good health, good energy, good friends and

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Cat’s claw vine growing through our neighbor’s historic shutters. There’s no apparent origin – unless the vine is growing under the siding.

good fruits.

 

A New Year Begins

Like many women of a certain age, I’ve had a few past lives. When we lived in Memphis I organized a non-profit literacy program focusing on creative writing. It was called WriteMemphis. We had 27 volunteers working with inner-city teen girls in several Memphis locations. These young writers created awesome poetry and prose about their lives in Memphis – from the strong women in their lives to gunshots through the front door to becoming teen mothers. When I left Memphis in 2014 I gave the program to Literacy Mid-South, which was a natural fit for the life-changing work they do.

Fast forward to where I am today. New Orleans. New business. New home. New life.

I miss writing. I really do. Even though I love the work I do every day in our shop I miss the creative energy of word to page. I have resolved to make more time for writing in 2017. And in celebration of that promise to myself, I want to share exciting news! One of my essays is included in a new anthology (slated for March publication) edited by my friend Susan Cushman,  A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We are Meant to Be.

A Second Blooming includes work by fabulous writers – Mary Karr, Anne Lamott, Beth Ann Fennelly, and my friends Ellen Prewitt, Susan Marquez and Nancy-Kay Wessman – twenty-one in all! I am in awe of these fabulous women and I am honored to be among them. Readings and signings are scheduled in Memphis TN,  Jackson MS and soon in my home city of New Orleans.  I’m so excited I’ll let the world know when that will be! Here’s the catalog page from Mercer Press:asb-mup-catalog-page

Calling All New Orleans Creatives!

TO LAUGH, LEARN, CONNECT, AND BE EMPOWERED

Over a 12-week period this fall a group of creatives met each Tuesday evening for a couple of hours at Uptown Needle & CraftWorks to discuss and act on Julia Cameron’s book, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again.  The volume follows the basic formula presented in Cameron’s ever-popular bestselling, The Artist’s Way:  A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.  Through a set of exercises including morning pages, artist’s dates, memoir writing, and weekly readings the participants embarked on an exploration of their creative selves that in some cases had lain dormant for years.

At the end of the 12-week period in late November, those present wanted to continue the process and also invite others in New Orleans’ rich creative community to join.  Here were some of the group takeaways from the fall experience:

  • We liked the reflective practices such as morning pages, memoir writing, artist’s dates – and the opportunity and freedom to share (or not share) them in a group.
  • We liked the camaraderie of spirit in going through the process, making friends with other creatives, finding common interests, and acting as an incubator for ideas often bubbling in our heads for a while.
  • While we enjoyed following the pattern and content in Cameron’s book, we wanted a bit more flexibility in going forward and to place a greater emphasis on creative actions.
  • We also envisioned a process where folks could pick and choose those sessions they wished to attend and not feel the need to commit for a 12-week, 12-month or any other set timeframe. Rather, we envisioned participation to be guided based on interest in a particular planned creative area.
  • We wanted input from other creatives who might offer their insights, experience, and passions in the next phase.
  • Some of the creative processes suggested for the spring include making and exploring masks, encaustics, fiber arts, sculpting, headdresses, or anything else in which a group might like to participate.

Mark Your Calendar – Tuesday December 27th, 5:30 – 8:30 pm
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To launch our 2017 creative actions:

  • On Tuesday December 27th we will meet at Uptown Needle & CraftWorks from 5:30 – 8:30 pm for a brainstorming session on our next phase.  The get-together will be an opportunity to gather in an informal setting, visit, snack, drink, and most importantly consider the wants and needs for creatives that can be accommodated at the Uptown CraftWorks venue.
  • On the 27th we will also explore and create bullet journals as our first session activity (7:00pm-8:30pm).  This tracking/scheduling process is formally defined on the Bullet Journal website or more informally on Buzzfeed where we learn that Bullet Journals are good for:
  • People who have a million little to-do lists floating around
  • People who like pen and paper to-do lists
  • People who are into goal-setting and habit tracking
  • People who like stationery, journaling, scrapbooking, beautiful pens, etc.
  • People who really love planners
  • People who want to really love planners, or who want to be more organized
  • People who would really like to keep a journal/diary but are having trouble sticking with the habit

We had a discussion of bullet journals in the fall and wanted a return opportunity when we kicked things off this spring. We invite you to join us on Dec. 27th to visit, drink a glass of wine, meet with other creatives, and share your ideas on where this collective experience might go.  Though not required, consider joining us for the bullet journal exercise as well, or just come to visit and share your ideas.

We’ve created an Eventbrite private meetup for the gathering above. If you can’t make it to this event, please email us  (info at uptowncraftworks.com) if you’d like to know about future meetups.

Makers that we dream, plan, and collaborate with are doing some amazing things in New Orleans. Others with latent creative genes are ready to dip their toes in gently swirling creative waters. It is by supporting each other that we unite the head, the heart, and the hands.

In the New Year, let’s be a force for good.

Please forward to your creative friends that you think may have an interest.
Thank you,
Merry Merry and Happy New Year!
Emma & Robert Connolly and the Team

March is National Craft Month

What? Only March?
Those of us who are “makers” know that every day is craft day (or we wish it were so). A friend, Lisa Craig, re-introduced me to the fine art of hand embroidery. Long forgotten stitches reappeared across the screen of my brain: chain stitch, French knot, lazy daisy and even the fun feather stitch. Yes, I did have to google these to remember how to do them.
I’ve been wanting to make some pattern weights for a while now and I found a sweet pattern for tetrahedron weights made from cotton fabric and filled with rice at Sachiko Aldous’ blog, Tea Rose Home.  I tried a few from her instructions; however, these were not weighty enough for me. So off to the Big Box I went to look for weights. First I looked at fishing weights, but those are made of lead and I felt they were unsafe. Also a little pricey. Especially compared to rice. Next I looked at old fashioned Daisy BBs. Brought back memories of my brothers shooting squirrels with these, but I digress. Also cost more than rice, but the best alternative for weight, I believe. I purchased two heavy packs of steel BBs, got some strange looks from folks in the checkout line. I imagine they were wondering what this mammau was going to do with 12,000 BBs. (Okay, so I’m a little compulsive.) I’m happy say it was not necessary to use the retorts that quickly came to mind – and believe me, I had several imaginary stories ready.
DSC00623But back to the real story here. I cut my little triangles out of  wool felt because I wanted to try my hand at simple embroidery on these. My French knots look decent, but my chain stitching needs practice, after all it has been over 40 years since I’ve embroidered. In celebration of National Craft Month I made the entire set of 6 with only hand sewing.
They are filled with steel BBs and are weighty enough that the pull of scissors cutting on fabric will not easily move them from placement on a pattern.  And who will know they are filled with .177 caliber steel airgun pellets. I think they turned out beautifully, don’t you? photo 3No more pinning patterns for moi! And I have enough BBs to make more sets for my sewing friends! Wanna try your hand at a few? All begins with 3.5″ triangles, fold each end up to the center, press and stitch. And use 100% wool felt. There’s nothing better. So celebrate! Make something, and send me a pic!

HEART TO HEART

Have you ever experienced someone crossing your path and you knew at once it was divine intervention? A few weeks ago, a woman was walking past our shop on Magazine Street and she made a sudden decision to go inside and look around. That woman was Claire Koch. She saw the beautiful fabrics, and she told me the touching story of her daughter’s experience with ‘heart pillows’. Within that conversation we developed an idea, and within minutes we had a plan. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, February 20-22, we will have a “Heart-a-Thon” and sew as many heart pillows as we can. More details below. But first, Claire’s story – so appropriate for this Valentine’s Day: “My daughter was born 6 weeks early during a hurricane evacuation.  But that was not the shocking news for me.  It came when the doctors told me something was very wrong with her heart and she would need surgery.  My baby had her heart “fixed” at four months of age.  It was not lost on me that I lived in a country where the best health care in the world was provided to my precious baby.  I made a deal with my God: if he made sure my baby recovered I promised to one day help other children. That was the beginning of my 16-year journey to this point.  Once my daughter began to grow up and become more independent, I started to look for organizations I could join to help other heart children.  I had a difficult job finding the right organization that I felt used the funds completely for the kids, and one where I could be a volunteer for as well.  Until I read about HeartGift in the newspaper. HeartGift in a non-profit organization dedicated to providing lifesaving heart surgery to children from developing countries where access to specialized medical care is either scarce or nonexistent.  Participating pediatric physicians donate 100% of their time and talents and HeartGift assumes all other financial obligations for the child and mother. The only thing the families are responsible for is seeing their children grow and flourish. HeartGift has five chapters in Texas and one here.  We could not achieve our success without our partnership with Children’s Hospital here in New Orleans. I have been with HeartGift since 2011 and have seen 20 children through the surgery and recovery process.  I have been at the airport welcoming a weak and frail child, only to watch that same child return to the airport 5 weeks later to run past angered TSA agents.  But it is the courage of the mothers that gets to me each and every time.  These mothers leave their villages and countries for the first time and make long trips to New Orleans to seek help from complete strangers in a foreign land.  They hand over their child to us.  It is amazing to see the hope and trust in their eyes.  While I have spent many hours in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) I have noticed every year we see a few heart shaped pillows arrive for the patients.  In the past, a local Boy Scout troop made twenty or so pillows for the kids each year.These pillows do not just brighten up the room but proved to be more effective to use than a regular pillow to press against a child’s chest post-surgery when a child starts to cough.  Coughing is normal post surgery, but can be extremely painful.  The nurses use a pillow to press into the child’s rib cage to help cushion the child’s ribs as they cough. I happened to meet Emma when I was walking down Magazine Street.  I am so excited she has offered to do a “Heart-a-Thon” to produce needed pillows for all the children in the Heart Center of Children’s Hospital. Currently, there are 22 beds in the ICU.  Many of them are filled with little babies who do not need the pillows, but the kids who are two and up, as well as teens, could sure use some of your loving handiwork! The pillows will be a valued dearly by the children recovering from heart surgery, their families and the staff of the Heart Center at Children’s Hospital.” DSC00331Come join our “Heart-a-Thon! Uptown Needle & CraftWorks will donate fabrics.  Clair has already purchased fiberfil. Now we need you – to cut out hearts, sew, stuff, and hand stitch – for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour of your time on either of the days above. We will have sewing machines set up, fabrics and scissors at the ready. Experienced sewists needed to come and assist! You will be glad you did.  February 20-22, Friday and Saturday 10-5pm, Sunday noon-5pm. Below are a few pictures of some of the kids HeartGift hosted last year. You may get in touch with Claire Koch at Claire@ClaireKoch.netLearn more at HeartGift.org. kids 

The Paradox of a New Place: Geographic Change Influences Creativity

Jennifer

My daughter Jennifer and her family have recently moved to New Orleans. When my daughters were small we traveled down to New Orleans from Jackson, MS, occasionally. We would stroll around Jackson Square and Jennifer always said she wanted to sell paintings like the other artists who hung their wares on the iron fence across from Cafe du Monde.  Her entire life she’s wanted to be with the tarot card readers, the fortune tellers and the street musicians.

Jennifer and her husband have yearned for years to move to the Crescent City. Now they live in the inner-city in an old second-floor walkup with a claw-foot bathtub and window air conditioning units just a stone’s throw from the Maple Street Bookstore. He’s a chef. She’s always been an artist. But somehow since the move her work has gotten better, and she’s moved toward a more independent lifestyle.  They have four children, so life has always been a little chaotic and I’ve wondered how she manages to find time to paint and write while caring for a pre-schooler and an infant.  I know. You just do it. Now she’s part of a New Orleans Art Collective and is selling her artwork in the French Quarter. And working on illustrations for her first children’s book.
   
When my husband and I moved to Memphis four years ago (and yes, time has moved too fast), I took a self-imposed sabbatical of sorts to get to know my new hometown.  I visited Elmwood, the Memphis Botanic Garden, The Brooks, Civil Rights Museum, Stax, Soulsville, and dozens of other sites, and of course the riverfront.  I’ve watched many sunsets from Mud Island.  And I cannot count our visits to Shelby Farms, probably dozens and dozens. Each one of these visits has inspired me in many ways. I began to paint for the first time in my life. I’ve written more, created more, in this new place.

What struck me most about Memphis is its diversity.  I read letters to the editor in the newspaper from residents who complain about Memphis, then the next day there are letters of praise.  It’s never consistent one way or the other, and there seems to be no consensus. The feeling residents have about their hometown of Memphis is a deeply personal thing.

What I’ve noticed about geographic moves is that generally, if a person is relatively content, then they are content everywhere.  If they are unhappy, they’ll be unhappy where ever they go. If the person is hostile and lives in fear, then they will be hostile and fearful everywhere. We must have passion about what we do in life, and I believe it is within that that we find meaning. If we have no meaning in our lives we will not have much happiness and contentment. There is no person, place, job or thing that will give us permanent joy. Find meaning, and you’ll find your joy.  Life is like that.

Jennifer’s book, Hot Moon, is now published, and available on Amazon.com.