Purim Season Again

laura lee burch costumes
Emili is "working it" for the camera, she's been my most expressive model.

I wanted to write a blog post about the new costumes I’ve been making, but it’s Purim season and everybody has once again asked me at the last moment for costumes and I haven’t had time to photograph any of them yet.  I’m not sewing the costumes these days because I don’t have a studio space with which to work; I’m needle felting costume accessories because 1) I love to needle felt and 2)needle felting doesn’t take up very much room. I took most of the photos of my costumes and my girls were usually the models. Emili and Elli did most of the modeling because they liked it, Lili was such a diva about modeling for me that she usually only shows up in the early costume photos. So in the spirit of Purim, let’s reminisce over the last five years at my store and the costumes adventures and fun that my girls  and I have had….

laura lee burch
The ever-popular mermaid costumes

We made several types of religious children’s costumes for the Institute of Notre Dame in Jerusalem; Emili was appropriately somber and pious looking for the photo shoot where she modeled the monk costume and then…

costumes for children
(A) The Monk

…she started to dance and I couldn’t stop laughing!

laura burch sews costumes for children
(B) Full of "the spirit"

We had a hard time getting that “Renaissance seriousness” back into her expressions during that photo shoot.

angel costume for children
Happy Angel


Emili the fairy


Halloween and Purim
Pipi Longstocking


purim costumes
The Fish


muskateer costume
Musketeer costume


purim costumes
Beautiful clown


costumes for kids

Many times we recruited the girls’ friends to help model for certain events…

pirates and elves
Elli and Stephan at the Fashion Show


laura lee burch costumes
The girls hurrying to the Costume Fashion Show


friends and costumes
Friends and costumes


purim costumes
My models for the Fashion Show


costumes for kids
Mysterious Vampire

Really Scary Stuff

Oh no!

Halloween is a time for costumes, parties and scary stuff, but what is scary to you? My kids think these things are scary:

  • the dark
  • monsters
  • dead people
  • getting lost
  • a bad dream
  • entering a black hole
  • quick sand
  • a head that turns all the way around
  • scary movies
  • hearing spooky noises in the house

but I think these things are scary:

  • my computer crashes
  • driving in India
  • having to use a public restroom in India
  • hot dogs
  • showing up at the airport and realizing my passport has expired
  • war
  • extreme anything, i.e. amusement park rides, political or religious views, sports
  • driving while the gas tank reads empty
  • trying to get out of the parking lot after a big concert
  • my daughters wants to date or learn to drive

What frightens you?

Note: I made this Frankenstein costumes for my store last year. The Frank hat is made from felt, the jacket is wool.

Inspired by Beauty and Elegance

tutu on a rainy day

Writers and artists talk about creative blocks, a loss of inspiration and a lack of ideas from which to create. I usually have so many ideas that I never have time to explore all of them, but I always look for inspiration. One theme that I’ve seen appear repeatedly over the years in my work is ballet, I’m inspired by the beauty, elegance, colors, music, costumes and backdrops of this dance. Here is one of the videos about sewing ballet costumes that I love! Recreating a tutu\’s splendor

Elli's ballet recital

I’ve never taken a ballet lesson in my life, but my mother did make me take tap dancing lessons when I was a kid because I was so clumsy! I hated taking those tap dancing lessons and they didn’t work because I’m still really clumsy! My girls, on the other hand have loved ballet; Lili started wearing a pink tutu at two and half years old and refused to take it off for about three years.

first ballet class

Due to my girls’ love of ballet, I was inspired to make  tutus and ballerina costumes in my store. I knew that many little girls shared a love for this beautiful form of expression; tutus, ballet outfits, ballerina dolls, ballet bags and pretty ballerina crowns were some of the most popular items that I made and sold in my store. I researched how to sew a “real” tutu because I wanted to make a tutu that stood up and bounced when danced in. A “real ballerina tutu” uses several layers of tulle; not all of the tulle is the same, the bottom layers are stiff, the top layers are light and fluffy. The gathered layers of tulle are sewn to the waist band in different directions  (some layers are sewn upside down) to give the tutu a lift.

classic tutu

Mothers swooned over the the ballerina costumes and tutus hanging in the store and their the little girls pleaded to try them on. Outfitted in the finest pink tutus, the little girls flitted across the floor on tippy-toe to the mirror, where they started to twirl around in circles.  I always loved to watch this happen, when a child transformed into the character of the costume they were wearing; I think it’s one of the magical moments of childhood! To add to the wonderment, I created a little bag that looked just like the ballerina outfits. The instructions and pattern for this bag can be found in my book: Sew Magical for Kids.

Ballet Bag
The ballet bag looks just like the ballerina outfit!

To be continued…

Writing Craft Books

Sew Magical for Kids by Laura Lee Burch

My second craft book, Sew Magical for Kids just came out; it’s the second in a set of two sewing craft books full of my favorite projects that I’ve designed for children. The first book, Sew Magical for Baby introduced projects for babies, and both books contain sewing patterns and illustrated instructions.

Sew Magical for Baby

The process of writing two craft books was a real learning experience for me, I found creating a craft book a bonanza of creative projects in and of itself:  designing products, making patterns, shooting products, illustrating instructions, designing book layouts, styling products and designing and painting sets. I made many of the props, the clothes the models wore and used things from my antique stash so the photos would have the look that I wanted. I had my own ideas about how everything should go, but the publishers made most of the design decisions like which photos to use, which projects to cut and the book titles.  If anyone else out there in blogland has experience with publishers and writing craft books, I’d love to hear about it.

My working process for the books went something like this:

  • I chose one of the many ideas floating around in my head and I sketched it out…
  • I made a rough pattern for the prototype. Once the prototype was the way I wanted it (many times it took 2 or 3 or 4 prototypes till I got it right) …
  • I made a final pattern (with several sizes if it applied) and then…
  • I made the final sample. At this point I looked at the fabrics and materials I already had or I went out and looked for the right materials and bought according to how many items I wanted to make.
  • I shot the finished piece so I could use the photos in my blog and promotional pieces…
  • I shot the step-by-step process of making the project and I used these photos as guides for the illustrations…
  • I wrote what I was doing as I made a project
  • I matched up the written directions with the illustrations and sent them to the editor for corrections. 

    making ducklings

I think my book writing experience has been different than the norm, at least in the beginning. Because of the reputation of my store ( in Tel Aviv), I was asked by a publisher if I wanted to write a craft book and this means that I didn’t go through the whole process of writing a proposal and submitting it to publishing companies. Yah! To the publisher, I proposed my favorite things I’ve designed and the things that people liked (bought) the most from my store. Writing a book like this takes an inordinate amount of time and that’s not including the editing process. I’ve spent many hours going over the instructions with the editor Shoshana, but these were enjoyable hours since Shoshana is such a patient and fun chick! I don’t think Shoshana could sew on a button in the beginning of this project, but I think she can now single handily sew a custom tailored wedding dress from the sewing information she’s gleaned from our conversations over the last year!

bedroom set for Sew Magical for Baby

I wanted the projects in my book to be very unique and to be something that people could really use. Because there are so many craft books out there, unique and useful projects are very important. One of my favorite aspects of my books are the detailed, step- by-step illustrations that accompany the written instructions. I don’t usually read instructions, I  look at the photos or illustrations when I make something and I know that most other arty people do the same. I know that Japanese craft books are super popular these days, partly because of the detailed illustrations that accompany the text. The illustrations or photos are so clear that mostly anyone can follow the steps without having to read them; I think my books have the same clear, step-by step visual instructions.

Stick horse and western backdrop

After the products were designed and sewn, it was time to photograph them. I had wanted to do the photography, but the publishers wanted otherwise. So, for the first book, I made the sets for the photos by creating a space in my store that looked like a baby’s room. I placed the products in the room and the photographer shot them in natural light. The effect was very soft and elegant and I am very pleased with the outcome.

Puppy hat photographed by Laura Burch

Photography for Sew Magical for Kids was different, we used a photographer’s studio and backdrops. I painted several backdrops to use with a variety of of the products, modeled by my two youngest girls and several friends from school.

I'm painting the dragon backdrop for the princess and knight items

I thought the backdrops added a lot to the photos. I didn’t want the book photos to look like pack shots.

The princess and my dragon backdrop at the photo shoot

My girls helped me to paint the backdrops because the deadline of the book fell during my absolute busiest time, preparing (designing and sewing costumes) for Purim.

Elli helps paint backdrops

I was looking for my books in American book and craft stores over the summer and I couldn’t  find them:o I assumed that they would be distributed to the bookstores that do business with the publisher, but I think I have a lot of  marketing to do; I’ll keep you updated on this phase of writing craft books.  So now I have two beautiful craft books that I’m very proud of and now I’m looking into publishing them internationally.

Maxi in the snake t-shirt

My store 2005-2010

Marie Antoinette costume in my store window

I permanently closed my store a month and a half ago, the day that we flew to America for the summer. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was something that needed to be done. Everyone asks why I closed; there are many reasons for this decision. My all encompassing answer is: it’s time for me to start a new chapter. My store had become a destination spot for Purim costumes (here in Israel), my customers came from all over Israel to find the next great costume for their children. Some of my customers had collected every costume design that I had made and came back each year to find a new ones.

my design studio

Purim was “my big season”, like the Christmas season is in other places. I always carried a big selection of costumes throughout the year, but the rest of the year I also made things for children like, bear blankets, quilts, bear bibs, toys, puppets and dolls (you can see samples of these things in my website: press portfolio in the menu). People told me that they came to my store when they wanted to buy something special. The handmade things that I made brought back memories for many people;  I spent a lot of time listening to the stories of things that other peoples’ grandparents and parents had made for them when they were young. We ended our visits all warm and fuzzy. Every day I picked up the girls from school (just down the street from the store) and they would come back with me, do their homework and end up playing with the toys, costumes and props in the store. I would finish my day and the girls and I would all walk home together. The hardest part of closing the store was packing everything up. It wasn’t the five years worth of fabrics, sewing machines, and “stuff” that I had collected, but things that the girls left behind. There were little notes taped everywhere for me to find that said “mama I love you!”.  I found so many ” art projects” that they had made while I was working. There were height charts of the girls and their friends from years of past costumes and clothes that I had made for them and I found little, hidden scribble drawings  in out of the way places of hearts and flowers and stick figures of the girls and I.

my sewing room

 I learned a lot of things from my store like:

  • how to speak Hebrew (albite not very well)
  • the ins and outs of running a business
  • how to deal with employees and customers (not easy)
  • location is everything
  • have a good relationship with quality suppliers
  • a lot more about fabrics, sewing and pattern making
  • how to set up and do photo shoots and most importantly
  • I learned the importance of loyal customers: to those people who came to visit me to “just see what’s new” over and over again, who brought their friends to see the store, who gave me lots of ideas and most importantly to those people who praised my work, who gave me inspiration and really appreciated the work that I do…THANK YOU!

    My store front

 So if you know my work and you’re wondering what I’m doing, keep checking this site for updates. If you want to buy something I’ve made, look in my website and press shop in the menu. Currently I’m trying to re-adjust to being back in Israel, prepare for the new school year, trying to unpack and organize soooooooooo many boxes and trying to get back into the swing of art.