Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Arrival: Our New Arrivals Section is Finally Here!

We're ready to shine some light on our New Arrivals section! It's been a long time coming, and now it's much easier for you to keep abreast of the new products we're adding weekly. With twelve rotating slots, as new products come in the older ones will be bumped out. Not only are we showing new products, but new categories as well. And as a token of our appreciation for all our blog followers, you can use the coupon code "BLOGFOL" now through Sunday to receive 10% OFF any purchase from our New Arrivals Section! Just a few of our New Arrivals that certainly deserve a mention here:

In conjunction with the recent film release, Dr. Seuss' Lorax fabric collection from Robert Kauffman is perfectly in tune with the film's message in a 100% Organic woven cotton. With a number of coordinating prints, the Lorax can easily become an eco-friendly part of your own or a child's environment!

In addition to great new fabrics, we've now got a dedicated section for purse hardware, findings, and accessories. Anyone with a fondness for bag making knows how difficult it can be to find the perfect materials to realize your designs! We proudly unveil a diverse array of handles, straps, buckles, hooks, feet, frames, and more, for all your hand-bag or purse making needs!

We've also just added twelve colors of a brand new polyester shantung, which is a staple spring bridal fabric with two usable sides, each with their own unique texture and allure. If you're planning a spring wedding or event and need a low-cost, yet eye catching alternative to silk shantung, either for dress-making or event decor, the polyester shantung is a great option with its timeless charm! Great for prom, formal attire, bridesmaids', or Easter dresses also!
So don't forget to check out our New Arrivals section periodically; it's a simple way to learn about the latest additions to this relatively new website that we are constantly expanding! Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring has Sprung! Celebrate with Luxurious Cotton Shirting from Michael Levine and!

Spring is a great time of year to take advantage of our great shirting selection, most of them being of super fine quality from Italy's finest luxury textile manufacturers. The regular price is unbeatable at $5 to $7 per yard, so with our additional 20% off during this week's Shirting Sale, this is definitely a CAN'T MISS opportunity. I know you're probably thinking, "At such a low price, how luxurious can it be?" But trust me, this is one of THE deals of our store!
Taking a hint from current menswear-inspired trends, high-quality shirting is now a very affordable luxury!
Gingham at the Gap:

Chambray at Anthropolgie:

Our Shirtings are a lightweight, finely woven material with a high thread count, and they are 100% cotton or close to it (a few have a tiny bit of spandex in them for added comfort and mobility). They are so beautiful and soft, the quality really is asstounding. I often refer customers in our store to the shirting section, because the prices are better than a lot of the quilting cottons, and the fabric is of such high quality. To check out our entire shirting selection, click here. And to persuade you to take advantage of this great sale, I figured I'd show you a handfull of my favorite spring home sewing patterns (all of them available in our store - with an everyday low price of 20% OFF MSRP!). This dress pattern by McCalls (#6350) is great. The body of our shirting fabrics would really lend itself well to the pleating and draping of this design. And imagine it in this vibrant bubblegum stripe! You could also do a tailored shirt or bodysuit for a very classic look, hence the material's namesake. Here, Burda Patterns 2561 & 7353:

I love this acid lime green with orange:Or try one of our double-face gauzes; it's like having a contrast lining without the work of lining the garment; double-face gauze is two-ply, having two usable faces. Imagine a rolled up sleeve!For younger girls, I like the idea of a romper. You'd want to line the shorts or bottom part of this style if using shirting, but the results would be so unique! It'd be just the perfect dose of a bold plaid in this short jumpsuit from Simplicity (#2222): Lastly, I touch on the spring Easter holiday and the kiddies who love that special reason to dress up. With this adorable pattern from McCall's (#6304), Easter fashion is a walk in the park! Just check out some of our gingham shirting! So how about it? We've got so many choices in this beautiful, soft, high-end fabric, and now's the perfect time of year to get comfortable in it! Shop our entire selection of shirting here, now 20% OFF for a limited time only. Sale ends Wednesday March 28th at midnight, EST.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

All yarn 20% OFF in store only - this Saturday March 24th at MichaelLevine's downtown Los Angeles!

I just wanted to send a quick blog out to our followers about a great sale we have going on this weekend. In our store, located in the heart of the Los Angeles Garment District, we will be having a 20% off sale on ALL of our yarns (excluding already marked down items).

If you love to knit, or have been thinking about taking up a new hobby, this is the weekend for you. We carry so many great yarns.  We have an amazing range of yarns for the beginner knitter as well as the advanced. We also carry all price points. We have Sashay by Red Heart, Cascade, Crystal Palace, Trendsetter, Gedifra, Noro, and Tahki Stacy just to name a few.


A few years ago, when we opened our Yarn department, I was encouraged to learn how to knit by the owners of the store.  I was skeptical to say the least. I have 3 young kids and thought there was no way I could make anything that I would wear on the first try. I have to say I was so wrong. While we have yarns for the more experienced knitter, we have so many amazing yarns that with one or two balls you can make an amazing verigated or nubby  scarf. Many of the yarns even have free downloadable patterns now. My first one was this multi colored brown chenille scarf. I still get compliments on it today. So warm and soft. No itch at all!  After that I did this super fun and bright, thick & thin, multi color one. Also love it. So not something you could buy at Target!

While it is hard for me to find the time to make many scarfs, I do love yarn and the idea of making something that is one of a kind. If you have any desire to learn to knit or if you already knit and want to get started on a great holiday gift for your significant other, your little one, or a friend, come down this weekend and pick up some of our amzing yarns at a great price. I promise our selection will not disappoint!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Art of Indonesian Batik graces Michael Levine's and!

This week we highlight one of South-east Asia's most notorious textile arts, a method known as 'Batik', which uses a wax resist technique to create multi-layered print designs on various types of cloth; most commonly silk or cotton. I have been lucky to work first-hand with various batikers and visit batik factories in Bali, Indonesia, and gain an understanding of the detailed precision required to create these magnificently patterned textiles. I'm even more lucky that I get to write another blog entry about a place and textile art that I deeply love. Cheers to sharing some of my knowledge with you in celebration of our National Quilting Day Sale - where you'll find all of our Quilting Cottons (including the newly added Batik section) 20% OFF!
You can take advantage of these savings both online and in our downtown Los Angeles store on Quilting Day, this Monday, March 19, and for an additional two days on our website only, at
Now for a little story about Batik...
Humble Beginnings:

The word 'Batik' is thought to have come from the Javanese amba ('to write') and titik ('dot' or 'point'). The art form predates written Javanese records, and is thought by some to be a native tradition. Commonly, a mixture of beeswax and paraffin are used to create the resist area of a design. The beeswax holds the design to the cloth, and the paraffin has a tendency to crack, which is a stylization characteristic of batik. Here is an example of the spiderweb effect created by the cracked wax:
This is a sneak peek at one of our new swimwear fabrics, available soon, in a print made to look like batik.  Although it is not a real batik, it illustrates very well the crackled look that is characteristic of many batiks.

There are two main batik-making techniques:
The first, original type and method of batik, is called batik tulis, or written batik, and entails drawing a design freehand onto the cloth. It is a very time consuming method and was originally done mostly by women. Batik tulis is made using a wooden or bamboo handled tool with a tiny metal reservoir, and out of it the wax seeps, through a very tiny spout. This needle-like pen is called a canting (pronounced "chonting"), and looks like this:
Today, the batik tulis method is still used for designs of a freehand nature. Here is a picture from my last trip to Bali, where we visited a batiker replicating this floral sarong. You can see how the untreated cloth is stretched above the template and then the outline is "traced" in wax onto the blank sheet:

Here, after the wax has been applied and dries, dyes are painted on the cloth, into the wax-segregated areas of the motif:

After the dye has been placed, the cloth is then placed in the sun. One batiker told me (and I'm sure this depends on the types of dye used) that the brightness of the sun dictates the intensity of the finished color. Interesting, right?

Here is an example of some exquisite silk batik tulis that I bought in Bali, made here into a beautiful wedding gown:
 The secondary method, batik cap (pronounced "chop"), or stamped batik using copper blocks, was developed much later, in the 20th century, when production facilities faced a need to mass produce the detailed designs that would take ages to turn out using the traditional canting. Due to the labor intensive nature of this technique, batik cap was mostly done by men. Batik cap has a repetitive nature to the print. The batiks that we have just added at have all been made in this stamped manner. Here is an example; one of our many new additions:

This material started out as a plain white or natural colored cloth. First, the light floral pattern you see within the design was stamped in wax. Next, the cloth was tie dyed, if you will, a pale, mottled blue/purple. The color was processed, rinsed, and then the wax removed, either by washing in hot water or by ironing between sheets of newspaper. Next, the cloth was stamped with wax again, this time in the volcano and house pattern. Then, dyed again in the same colors/manner as before, but this time salt is thrown at the cloth, creating the "fizzy" texture within the color. The dye is processed, rinsed, and then the wax removed again. This is what you call a double-process batik. The more processes it goes through, the more expensive the finished material will be. Some batiks have as many as three or four processes, or "layers," to the design.

This is what the cap, or batik stamp, looks like, made from sculpted copper. These stamps are masterpieces in themselves, and a new one (often custom made) will come with a high price tag of at least a couple hundred dollars. That is why batik stamps are often passed down and around, and it isn't uncommon to find them for sale second hand. The craftsmen who create these stamps have a career entirely in itself. The stamps are dipped in a reservoir of hot wax kept over low heat, and applied to the cloth in a block printing method, at just the right temperature:

Other than the two methods by which it is produced, batik can be further sub-categorized by the style and design motif itself. To keep this from becoming a full on dissertation, I'll show you just one; my favorite, unmistakable pattern is Parang Rusak, or 'broken knife'. This style of batik pattern was originally reserved for royalty, for in historic times, ordinances were passed in the ruling centers of Java dedicating certain batik patterns as 'only wearable by members of certain status or relation to the sultan.' The differences in rank between members of the sultans' families and high officials could be easily determined by the batik pattern one wore. Commoners were expressly forbidden to wear these designs:
I thoroughly enjoy seeing such a traditional pattern and textile show up in modern fashion. Here are two images of Parang Rusak batik popping up in the western fashion scene:
Here, Jessica Alba arrives at a charity event in a very familiar print:

Another common use for batik in the United States is for quilting. Many quilters enjoy mixing in a few batik quarters here and there, or some will even do a full quilt entirely of batik, featuring some sort of rainbow spectrum gradation. Just google images for 'batik quilt' and you'll turn up dozens of examples/ideas. Our selection of cotton batiks would be perfect for quilting, as we have shades of pink, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, purple, and black:
Given the age and history of the art form, batik has certainly become the traditional cloth of the Indonesian people. It is worn for temple and ceremony events, used in most hotels and tourist attractions, placed in the home, and often salvaged and sewn up into patchwork blankets. And now, flight attendant uniforms on most of Southeast Asia's major airlines feature a "batik" looking printed cloth to replicate the traditional textiles of the region. What makes batik so desirable and interesting is its beauty, and the fact that it's made by hand under very traditional methods, without the need for industrial machinery or equipment. The techniques of old are still very much alive, and you can see from my photographs that the words 'primitive' and 'modern' are interchangeable when it comes to batik factories! The batiks we are selling online have all been made by hand by the artisans of Bali, Indonesia and imported by Hoffman of California. It is most pleasing to me that through the sale of these batiks, we are supporting and advocating the awareness of such a rich, creative culture and traditional textile art. I love batik and I hope that your experience with these textiles will open one door that leads to another, and that you may continue exploring and discovering beautiful batik textiles.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Natural Selection: Michael Levine & unveil a new collection of natural fiber home decor textiles, and this weekend our entire Home Decor Section is ON SALE!

For a long time I have been highly attracted to raw and unbleached, nearly unaltered natural fibers like linen and silk, in earthy palettes of warm, neutral tones – they seem to relax people. Whether it’s the serene nature of these materials, or the influence of Asian aesthetic 's simplicity, I find natural textiles to be one of the earth’s 'natural wonders'. The fact that natural fibers are gifts of mother nature and need very little alteration from mankind - to be the sumptuous yet very basic indulgence that they are - is sublime. When I visited South-east Asia, I discovered a look that was very much rooted in the natural, uncluttered approach that we westerners call Zen.  The trend in Asian decor, I noticed, was to mix the natural with a contemporary, modern, and refined minimalism, much like this:

This style is popular in newer, Southeast Asian construction.So, as a fan of and advocate for natural fibers, you can imagine my blissful excitement when the owner delivered to us a forklift load of new tussah silk and linen home d├ęcor textiles to put online! If this realm is new to you, I'm here to help you justify the shift into an environment that's more free from synthetics! As I passionately write and edit this post, I'm very excited to share some extra good news with you... these new textile treasures we're about to shine light on - as well as our entire Home Decor Section - are ON SALE, discounted 20% OFF, THIS WEEKEND ONLY! So have a look and stock up, because this bargain won't last long, and surely can't be beat!

By now you're probably questioning "How to mix this raw, exquisite texture into my space?"
Let me tell you, have no fear. Whether it's a little or a lot, an earthly reminder of our outdoor world is always a welcome presence. Shizen, or Naturalness, is one of seven underlying principles of Zen, and really is the pith of this article; appreciating the unpolished stone, the untreated wood, and of course the raw fiber of a plant or insect, woven into immaculate textiles.  You may find yourself surprised at the understated yet complex beauty of this new collection!

So to apply this principle aesthetically is really not hard. Take this grand architecture and these warm and inviting natural wood tones, and accent them with long and wide, uncut panels of full-length, floor to ceiling curtains! How glorious are these tapestries? I have to say they are almost taking center stage, aside from the mountain views:

Our new linen and silk blend 'Damascus' is a perfect candiadte for this starring role:

Damascus - linen and silk blend in a natural, earthy texture, embellished with appliqued rope, wooden beads, and brass adornments in a Moroccan-style motif. Shop all of our natural or silk home decor textiles by clicking.

Another idea is to make the cloth into a sumptuous bedspread or duvet cover. A great thing about natural fibers, linen particularly, is that it is breathable, so you won’t be waking up clammy. A silk or linen duvet can be used empty in the summer or filled in the winter, and will always keep that organic look – even if your comforter is filled with micro-fiber!

Here’s the idea:

And the top pick for creating this look:

"Dubai" - 100% Silk in Natural with vertical, beaded rope stripes (also available in Dark Natural)

The third use of these amazing textiles can be a combination of the first and second; I found a few photos online of perfectly executed bed prosceniums using the "floor to ceiling" curtain idea:

You could use any of our new Armani Linens to recreate these fine, solid linen drapery looks. They will also be on sale through Sunday March 11th! Add an amazing natural feel, luxurious drape, and privacy, of course, with our array of 14 modern, muted colors.  You're sure to find one of these Italian designer linens to suit your space and style!

If an embroidered or embellished linen is more your thing, like the example shown below, we've got a number of these also!

This one, called Isis, is just beautiful and would easily add a lot of class to an earthy bedroom suite:

And now finally, although there are still so many more options and ideas to explore, I've saved my favorite for last. This is the appeal of a motley array of high contrast, color and texture combinations, all orbiting around the natural, light quality of this room. Take this Northern-European spin on Shabby:

A bright, white space becomes a homey, lived-in space. As Regina here at the office says, "Can I move in?!?" I love this photo and style, showing a collection of cultural treasures. You can see that they each have their own story to tell. Some of our new natural home dec textiles could easily step right into this scene without skipping a beat! You have to use your imagination on this one, since they're not in the picture yet - but centered around this grande, wood-slab coffee table, and tossed in with the primitive woven textiles and artifacts, you can see what I'm getting at. Nature incorporated! The rich quality of Joyous, in either Chocolate or Tan, adds an interesting, dimensional texture and really emphasizes the organic. Imagine a throw pillow or 'flower wall' in this mix!

So now that I've given you a few ideas to play around with, exercise your own imagination within the space you've got. I can guarantee there's at least a little room in every house - pun intended - for some natural selections to reveal their understated beauty! Be sure to check out our Home Decor Textiles 20% Off Sale, this weekend only, where you will find many more styles and a much greater selection than what we've only just touched on here! Enjoy!