Sunday, November 23, 2014

Seems like yesterday, but it was long ago.....

In 1977 I was looking for a new job -- something creative with flexible hours. I was only one year into my long love affair with tennis, and wanted to be on the courts as often as possible. A friend of a friend owned a store in Walnut Square that featured hand-crafted  clothing and needed someone to sew for her. Sounded flexible enough for me. I borrowed a sewing machine and got started. Who imagined that I would be retiring from owning that clothing store 37 years later?

The original By Hand was located on Walnut Street, two doors down from the original Peet’s Coffee. Susan, Elaine, Marianne and I took turns staffing the store for the day. The store was rustic, cozy and relaxed. I’d set my sewing machine on the main counter  (which is now near our dressing rooms in the present store), zip down to Peet’s for a 25-cent refill, and sew blouses in the down time between customers.

Doing piecework for Susan and Elaine quickly evolved into me buying fabric and producing my own blouses. Adding soutache (a very thin ornamental braid) or ledges to yokes and collars of blouses and men’s shirts was a design detail that took a lots of time, but made each garment special. In the early 80’s Elaine, Susan and I teamed up to produce the BIDZ line of raw silk clothing. Eventually they decided to focus on the store, moved By Hand around the corner to Vine Street, and I continued designing under my Paula Z label.

During the Paula Z years I had a workshop in Emeryville where I did design work and garment cutting on a 20-foot long worktable, but my sewing machine was in the loft at By Hand on Vine St. Those years were a blur of trips back and forth between Berkeley and E’ville. I’d work on a design pattern and cut a sample in my workshop, go to By Hand to sew the sample and have the staff try it on. Then it was back to Emeryville to tweak the pattern, grade it (make patterns for different sizes) and eventually cut a run of 40 or 50 blouses. I’d stack five to ten layers of fabric, lay the patterns on top and cut them by hand or with my little circular saw. I’d take the collars, cuffs and facings home to iron on interfacing in the evening, then return them to the workshop to bundle in with the blouses that I would take to my seamstress. Once finished, the blouses needed pressing and buttonholes needed trimming before I could bring them to By Hand and put them on the racks.

Finding good fabric was always a challenge. I attended fabric trade shows and took three or four trips a year to LA in my search for unique, appealing fabric. I was always on the hunt for solid-colored sueded rayon for long-sleeved tailored blouses, textured tweeds for relaxed jackets, and fun prints for camp shirts and casual blouses. By the mid-nineties Susan and Elaine were buying more and more ready-to-wear clothes for the store, and I was having a harder time finding fabric that I liked to produce my line. When they decided to move to a larger storefront on Solano Avenue in 1995, I felt the timing was right to retire from my design business and try something new.

In 1996 studied for and earned a personal training certification and began training clients in their homes. I also established a website that reviewed exercise videos. Working out to videos, writing reviews and playing tennis kept me busy, but I kept my association with By Hand though, visiting weekly to hem pants and skirts, as I’d been doing through all the Paula Z years. I’m sure I’ve done thousands and thousands of hems over the years. Before I knew it, I began working on the sales floor one day a week for the holiday season. I was back at By Hand, this time as part of the staff.

Now, 37 years later, as co-owner of a Berkeley institution, I’m ready to say good bye to a relationship that has served me well through the years. 

Thanks to Susan and Elaine who gave me my start so long ago.

Thanks to all my fans from the Paula Z years, many who’ve come in to say they remember (and sometimes still have) one of my creations. 

Thanks to the By Hand staff, past and present who do a fantastic job of making By Hand a welcoming place to shop and an enjoyable place to work.

Thanks to my partner Romy who always has my back. 

Paula Z

Monday, November 17, 2014

Small Business Saturday 2014

It's that time again!  As part of their commitment to supporting small businesses,  American Express is giving registered Cardmembers a special offer when they shop at small businesses on Small Business Saturday, November 29th.

Enroll your eligible American Express® Card and you can get a $10 statement credit from American Express®  after you spend $10+ in a single, in-store transaction at any qualifying merchant on Small Business Saturday, November 29th.  You can take advantage of this offer up to 3x. 
Card registration required. 

Be sure to read the fine print and then register your card. 

Looking for more ways to support small businesses?  Keep it local this holiday season.  Buy Local Berkeley and Plaid Friday are two homegrown resources.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Long Good-Bye

Advertisement from the Berkeley Barb

By Hand started from humble beginnings, a collective of sewers operating out of C J.s Garage at Dwight and Telegraph.  In 1974, Susan Powning and Elaine Emery took over By Hand and moved the shop to Walnut Square.  They celebrated by commissioning the now familiar Magritte-inspired print by Berkeley artist David Lance Goines.  When Paula and Romy became owners in 2010, they moved the shop to its fourth and largest storefront, directly across the street from our third location.  This past April, By Hand celebrated its 40th anniversary.  Today, it is with sadness that we must tell you the 41st year will be our last.   

Many of you have been with us from the beginning.  You have fond memories of the soutache embellished blouses, patchwork dresses, and cowboy shirts worn in decades past.  Tucked away in your closets are the yoked pants, the sueded rayon pieces, the tencel shirts, the colorful print blouses, and the beloved rayon culottes.   You come in with stories about your favorite pieces.  Not just articles of clothing but memories of milestones, celebrations, and events.

Deeply rooted in the community, By Hand is proud to be part of your life.  Throughout the years we've dressed you for your children's bat mitzvahs, college graduations, and wedding days.  In our small way, we were there to comfort during cancer treatments and laying parents to rest.  We've helped with outfits for interviews, to speak in front of the U.N., and to celebrate retirements much deserved.  We've counseled men on the perfect shirt to get them from 49 to...gasp...50 and what to wear on a nervous first date.  We must admit, we've wrapped up many a secret gift while some of you were in the dressing room.  With us you've shared stories of romance, how growing old is not for the faint of heart, and the trials and tribulations of raising children.

But all good things must come to an end.  To nip any rumors in the bud, it is not our landlord, our lease, or the economy.  Simply, Paula would like to retire, and Romy would like to try something new.  

After all this time, we wanted to have a long good-bye.  Please don't fret.  We are not closed yet.  Did you hear us?  We repeat, we are not closed yet.  Our lease is up in March and we plan to be here until the end.   We have a fabulous fall season planned for you.  Both new lines and old favorites are scheduled to arrive in the shop.  We'll still be here to help freshen up your wardrobe for fall and to see you through the holiday season.  

Again, we are not closed yet.   Come on in.  Shop.  Reminisce. 

Thank you for your support throughout the years. 

-From all of us at By Hand

For more thoughts from Paula, click here.

For more thoughts from Romy, click here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

20% Off All Merchandise This Weekend

Fall 3-Day Sale


FridaySaturday, & Sunday
 Oct 24th, 25th, & 26th
 20% Off All Merchandise
 3 Days Only!

Sorry, no price adjustments

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Blue-Haired Shopkeeper

My relationship with By Hand began right out of college, when I was hired by Susan and Elaine.  During my first week, Susan pulled me aside.  She pointed out some of our regulars and said simply, “Take a lesson.”  I am not sure what prompted this statement.  Perhaps it was my fearful delivery of, “Let me know if you need anything,” while secretly hoping everyone would say they were okay.  Or maybe it was the same three “grown up” outfits I wore, dutifully rotated each week. 

Following Susan's advice, I paid attention and I learned.  I talked with health workers, film makers, artists, and attorneys.  I talked with people in finance, research, and education.  At By Hand, diversity and talent abound.  You're a smart bunch...confident, warm, and comfortable with yourselves.  At By Hand, I learned to be this way too.  I learned to express my opinions with confidence, to laugh at myself, and to advocate for my needs.  My signature nose wrinkle is familiar to many of you.  I am still a work in progress, but you have helped lay the foundation for the person I am and will become.   I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to help me grow from college student to the woman I am today.

For almost two decades, By Hand has been part of my life.   My journey with By Hand has been similar to many of you who first came to the shop fresh out of college, newly minted adults.  I've progressed from English major to small business owner.  Shopgirl to shopkeeper.  Along the way my hair has changed from black to blue to red to purple to black to blue again.  For many of you, I will always be the blue haired shopkeeper.

I am honored to be part of By Hand.  I hope under my and Paula's stewardship we have done right by the shop, our staff, and by all of you.  By Hand, my staff, and all of you have certainly done right by me.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

Farewell to Loco Lindo Sale

Saturday 10/4  - Sunday 10/12
All Loco Lindo Clothing 20% Off

We are sad to announce that after 22 years of producing vintage influenced apparel, Loco Lindo is closing up shop.  This is your chance to stock up on Loco Lindo dresses, pants, skirts, and tops. 

Sorry, no price adjustments

Friday, September 12, 2014

Closed Sunday, Sept 14th. Gone Strolling'

By Hand will be closed Solano Stroll Sunday.  
The By Hand staff will  be out and about on the avenue 
eating garlic fries, listening to music, and shopping the booths. 
Happy Strolling!