A Few Things That Are Awesome

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In case you were wondering, of course we coordinated our outfits so we'd match. (Not really.)

On my list of things that are awesome, the opportunity to hang out with people I’ve met through this blog, Twitter, Flickr and all the other social media and web platforms that I’m part of is way up on the list. I’ve met Rachel, Kim, Melissa, Caroline, Susan and a whole slew of other folks thanks to the internet, and I’m pretty grateful for that. How did sewing dorks meet other sewing dorks before the internet?

A couple weeks ago, Josh & I drove up to Seattle for the day to meet up with Antoinette, who was in the Pacific Northwest for work. (Read all about her fun weekend meeting up with bloggy friends over here.) We had a lovely dinner at our favorite Seattle restaurant (which is both vegetarian and vegan friendly, by the way) and had a fantastic time chatting like old pals. Of course, being the dorks that we are, we forgot to take pictures until we dropped Antoinette off at her hotel.

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Really, this may be the worst photo that's been taken of me this year. No lipstick, crazy hair, weird posture... Ugh.

Also, awesome is my authentic Yummy Goods Unicorn You=Awesome T-shirt. I’ve been waiting for what seems like forever for Melissa to start offering these online–who doesn’t need a little Unicorn love in their life? I screwed up and ordered a size too big, but I love it nevertheless. The best part is watching people read the shirt and then kind of grin. Unicorn makes people happy. What made me happiest, though, was the sweet way Melissa packaged my order. Continue reading »

This & That: Catching Up

It’s amazing how quickly time goes by… This poor blog has been horribly neglected, and it kind of stinks, because we had so many folks we loved hearing from via Sewer-Sewist. I can’t promise that Josh and I will blog here every week–because, frankly, we don’t always have anything to say about sewing, crafting, printmaking or the other creative stuff you come here for–but we’ll make more of an effort when there’s something we’d like to share.

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Fremont Bridge

This spring, along with my friend Bryan, I took a wonderful digital photography class through PNCA’s continuing education program. (Shameless self-promotion alert: I’m still teaching there–check out all their wonderful, high-quality courses for the community over here.) I loved, loved, loved it–I did photography a million years ago back when I was in high school and it was one of my favorite things. (Okay, it wasn’t really a million years ago, but it was the early- to mid-nineties, before google and all that other snazzy stuff.) It’s remarkable how much I’d forgotten, but I have to say, I much prefer the digital darkroom to the “real” one I learned when I was a kid. Of course, now I’m jonesing for a fancy-schmancy DSLR. (Hey, Nikon! I’d be happy to “review” the D5000! And while we’re at it… Hey, Beats by Dre/some other headphone company! I’d also love to “review” some noise-reducing earbuds! [I obviously screwed up and never hopped on the blogger free stuff gravy train of the mid-2000s. Damn integrity...])

Some of my favorites that I took during the class are over here, if you care to peruse them…

mom1 This & That: Catching Up

This photo of my mom is one of my favorites I've ever taken. She looks pretty hot in that hat, right?

Continue reading »

Best of ’09: Blazers Letterpress Project

I’ve spent a lot of time dwelling of how awful 2009 was for us–which is probably not all that healthy, but it was bad at an epic level. However, in my continuing effort to be more positive, I thought I’d take the chance to write about my favorite project of the last year. Amazingly, it wasn’t sewing or screenprinting, it was one of my first letterpress projects. I realized I’d never really shared this project with “the World,” though all my Portland buddies have seen the results in person.

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I was never able to print this type, but it was for the back of the Brandon Roy card--the header read, "The Reason." Because, when it comes down to it, B-Roy is the reason that many, many people came back to the Trail Blazers, after the team had some very dark days.

What I really loved about this project, is that I got to experiment with photopolymer and the results of using different ink and paper combinations. My original goal was to print an entire team set of basketball cards, complete with back descriptions. However, between limited access to printing facilities and my workload increasing, I didn’t make my goal. However, I was very happy with the prints I did make. The red were printed in open editions, but I limited the silver to a small run of 12 each. The cards are around 3×4, printed on acid free paper, with round corners. The silver ink is actually made with silver–so the metallic quality has a lot of depth, and I suspect that it may be oil-based–given how long it took to dry and how difficult the clean-up was. The variations in the red are due to mixing the red at different times (I have to hand-blend the rubber ink), I also learned that if consistency is important, you need to mix all your ink at once. I ended up only writing a few descriptions, again, because I ran out of time with the letterpress studio and hand-setting all that type is extremely cumbersome.

So, with all that said, here are the results (please keep in mind that these are based off of the 2008-09 team, not the current team)

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4303940389 337cbd5587 Best of 09: Blazers Letterpress Project Continue reading »

Viola’s Quilt

Sometimes you make things, and you get so invested in its creation that it’s a part of you–and when it’s intended as a gift letting go of it is a bit sad–and that’s certainly true for this latest project. This holiday season, between the two of us, we only made a single gift–a quilt for Josh’s grandmother, Viola. Life’s just been too hectic to possibly do the uber-sewing dash toward to holidays like we’ve done the last few years. (Everyone else got gifts of books and shoes–both of which we think are very handy.) But, the one thing that we did make (and really, the vast majority of this work was Josh’s–Sarah did all the binding, but the piecing and quilting was 95% Josh), turned out pretty special.

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Saoirse's Helping

If you’ve seen the Denyse Schmidt Quilts book, you know that it’s not an ordinary quilting book. There are not strict rules, no precisely-matching corners, it’s all organic and free-flowing–akin to the quilt’s from Gee’s Bend. The designs and style have really captivated Josh and he’s actually done all of the piecing for a crazy (and huge) version of The Big Zig (progress on that has pretty much been thwarted by both our having to move across town–ugh–and the fact that the thing’s so big that it’s practically impossible for a mere mortal to quilt). Josh decided that the Hop, Skip & a Jump quilt from the book would be perfect for Viola.

hopskipjump Violas Quilt

This photo is the version in the book--it's hard not to straight-up copy the fabulous red and white color scheme...

Continue reading »

Holy moly! I made a quilt!

3677489644 ac0182e344 Holy moly! I made a quilt!

Yep. Me, Sarah, made a quilt. For years and years I’ve been adimently anti-quilting. I’ve had garment sewers’ snobbery, I guess. I just couldn’t imagine having the patience for all that cutting. And then the sewing all those little squares together. And then the actual quilting part–I couldn’t get my head around any of that. Well, on my trip to Pittsburgh for Quilt Market for work, Laurie–founder of the Fabric Shop Network–got me a wonderful quilt kit from Quilt Company (if you’re ever in western Pennsylvania, it’s definitely a shop worth visiting). Determined to not let my coworker, Mandi, finish her quilt from a similar, also awesome kit, before me, I got cracking on it and sewed the top up in no time. The reason it was so simple? Uh, because the Quilt Company had kindly cut everything in advance. How nifty! Seriously, I probably would never have made a quitl if that fussy, frustrating cutting wasn’t already taken care of for me.

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I have to admit, it’s almost embarrassing to tell y’all how much stress the backing and the binding were for me. I was convinced that I would end up frustrated with the busy fabric I originally selected for the backing. I became obsessed with trying to line up the pattern vertically and horizontally and I could tell it was all going to end in tears, so I quit while I was ahead and headed back to Bolt for more assistance.  They helped me pick out another, less complicated fabric for the backing–a very pretty Vicki Payne (whom I met at Quilt Market and was totally RAD–she told me I was “fashionable”) 60″ cotton canvas sateen that coordinated perfectly with my quilt top. For whatever reason, this fabric behaved itself and I even managed to quitl it (nothing elaborate, just stitched in the ditch) fairly easily–especially considering that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.

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The binding was kind of another story, though. I used the fabric that I had originally intended for my backing and it looked pretty cool. However, I just couldn’t get my head around attaching the binding, mitering the corners and all that stuff. This was further compounded by the fact that most quilt books tell you to hand sew the binding on–because of my tendonitis, I simply can’t do much hand stitching. Not to mention, I kind of hate to hand sew. I mean, I sew buttons on with the sewing machine… I was convinced that the ‘Quilt Mafia’ was going to come after me for not hand sewing my binding. It was dumb and irrational, but I was panicking.

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(Uh, I guess a real quilter would have ironed their quilt before photographing it. Oops.)

Anyway, as you can see, after all that angsting, I was able to get my binding sewn own. This is really thanks to my wonderful pal Susan, who has an incredible book that describes an easy one-step binding that worked well. (I didn’t execute it that well, but that has a lot more to do with my tiredness than the actual method.)

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I’m pretty proud of my quilt–flaws and all. I’ve actually started another quilt, believe it or not. It’s a simple design from the beautiful book Material Obsession (worth checking out just for the stunning photography) for my mom as a retirement present. While I don’t think quilting is something I’ll take up on a regular basis, it is a satisfying diversion from my usual garment and accesories sewing projects. Josh, on the other hand, has been bitten by the quilting bug. He went out an bought Denyse Schmidt’s gorgeous quilting book (another book that non-quilters would probably enjoy having on their shelves because of the inspiring designs and Denyse’s unique aesthetic). In fact, he’s currently in the midst of a massive quilting project himself–The Big Zig. It’s wild and awesome.  In the meantime, he’s become very attached to the one I made…

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~Sarah

Letterpress Workshop – Final Day

Today was the last day of our letterpress workshop–and it sure was fun getting to spend four full days together doign letterpress. Josh really enjoyed learning a new skill and I liked getting focused back on something I really am enthusiastic about, but have been too busy to make time for lately. (The big downside of letterpress is that it’s not something you can just go do at the drop of a hat. You have to travel to the press, plan out your work, etc… Not like sewing and screenprinting, which you can can anywhere, anytime.) I didn’t get to print today (long story), although I did get some more type set, and a linoleum block carved up. Josh, however, did the bulk of his printing using a process that enables simple two-color registration called “skeleton printing.” I can’t explaint this very well, but basically you slide type in and out of your press bed so that you get perfect registration. It’s extremely simple, yet not something I would have been able to figure out in a million years on my own. Josh’s postcard project was a two-color print with cascading letters based on the Negro League All-Star game in 1935. It turned out absolutely beautifully.

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Josh's locked up type for his baseball project.

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Josh operating the press.

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Locked up type from Josh's project.

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The first color on Josh's postcards--check out the names, they're awesome.

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Both colors printed on fawn-colored paper.

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And another--you can really see how the type cascades across the paper.

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Detail of this beautiful type called Prisma.

Josh should probably write about this some more, but he radically changed the nature of his project over the four days. He started out trying to create a linoleum cut print about the demise of the economy of Dayton, Ohio, but he found that it was making him stressed out and frustrated. He then switched to this baseball-themed project and it really took off. I think that really speaks to the importance of thinking about how the subject will make you feel while your working on your creation, doesn’t it?

~Sarah

I’m Still Sewing, I Swear!

I haven’t written a whole lot about sewing projects I’ve been doing lately. I’m not sure why, probably because some stuff just isn’t that interesting to write about. However, one project that I’ve made recently that I’m just loving is the Buttercup Bag, a swell free pattern from craft blogger Made by Rae. The reason I found this pattern is that when Rachel was in town a couple of months ago, she and I went to Bolt. While I didn’t really “need” anything, I couldn’t resist two sewing-inspired fat quarters–one in a scissor print, the other in a measuring tape design (I think they’re Moda fabrics, but don’t quote me on that!). The thing is, I really didn’t have a clue what to do with a couple of fat quarters, so some googling led me to the Buttecup Bag pattern.  I whipped mine up in literally no time at all. Check it out.

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This is a really useful little bag for me–I keep my wallet, phone (the rad G1) and lipstick in it and then just chuck it into whatever random bag I’m carrying that day (I have a lot of them–as has been well-documented here). It’s also pretty handy if I am carrying one of my bigger messenger-style bags and just want to grab this little bag to run in and get a coffee or whatever. I’m sure this will be the first pattern I will think of if more fat quarters wind up in my possession.

A couple of quick notes on this bag:

  • I omitted the tab on the top section–it just seemed like it would be a bit much for such a busy design.
  • I elongated the shoulder strapped a bit, so it would be  a bit easier to tote around–I probably added about three inches, which is what I’d do if I made it again.
  • I enlarged the entire bag just a smidge, probably by a half inch total. I just needed a tiny bit more room for my stuff and knew that the design as is wouldn’t fit both my wallet and my rather brick-like phone.
  • Like I do for all of my smaller, less structured bags (pretty much anything of the size of Amy Butler’s Frenchie Bag and smaller), I used fusible fleece for the interfacing. I find this adds a bit more body–and less stiffness–than normal interfacing. Works like a charm.

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I finished it off with a cool little button that my friend Michelle gave me. Can you see the detail in this picture? Yeah, it’s an “I heart sewing” button. And I certainly do.

(This button’s made by Cathy, by the way.)

~Sarah

A Year O’ Screenprinted T-Shirts

I’m a bit late in posting these pictures, since I had to go to Pittsburgh for Quilt Market (check out photos of the cool stuff I saw over on Project 95‘s Facebook page and detailed write-ups about new releases that I’m posting on FabTalk; True Up is also continuing their great coverage of Market–thanks to East Coast Stringer Mary Beth, so make sure to check out that awesomeness as well), I had a bit of a delay in downloading these photos of a special project Josh and I worked on together.

Susan‘s sweet little girl, Pearl, turned one about two weeks ago, and since she’s just about the coolest kiddo ever, we had to make her something special. She’s growing like a little wild weed, so we thought that a year of unique hand screenprinted T-shirts would be just the ticket. Josh and I each designed two. Check them out below.

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This T-shirt is Pearl's size right now, and my original design. Since it fits currently, I anticipate that it'll have maybe a month of use before she's bursting out of it. It's the Steel Bridge, which is my favorite bridge in Portland. I designed the artwork and screened it in a metallic pewter color. I'm planning on turning this design into a letterpress piece as well.

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This is one of the shirts Josh made. It's a monkey/gorilla stencil from the Stencil 101 book, and Josh made it glow-in-the-dark. To work with glowin-in-the-dark screenprinting inks, you have to first put on a base of opaque white--we learned that the hard way. Once the white is dry, you overprint the white with the glow-in-the-dark ink. Everything's better when it glows, right?

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This is my other contribution. If I timed it correctly, it should fit Pearl right around fall--the start of the next Portland Trail Blazers season. It's the phenomenal Brandon Roy, guard for the Portland Trail Blazers, All-Star, All-NBA 2nd Team Member and all-around fabulous player and person. Pearl has a Brandon Roy jersey that she wears on game days--which coordinates with her Trail Blazers socks. I'm thinking that at the rate she's growing, her jersey may not fit her all season, but the T-shirt can hopefully fill in the wardrobe gaps next season. I neglected to take a picture, but the back of the shirt has an appliqued Blazers logo on it. I owe Pearl a pair of Trail Blazers pants to go with it, but I want to wait until fall to make them, so I can get a better idea of the sizing. This is my original design, and actually part of my letterpress project. It's neat seeing the image in two different mediums.

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Josh's second contribution was the biggest hit of all of the T-shirts--"I brake for hummus." Pearl's favorite food is hummus, so Josh made the largest T-shirt a snazzy gold printed shirt proclaiming her loyalty to garbanzos, tahini and garlic. 'Nuff said.

Happy first birthday, Pearl! Can’t wait to make you four more next year!

~Sarah

Cheer Up, Blazers Fans!

The loss tonight in Game Four had me in tears. I bet it did a lot of you, too. But, this should cheer you up a little bit.

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Yes, Josh really made this flag.

Yes, it’s completely reversible.

Yes, he cut and appliqued the felt pinwheel.

Yes, he sewed the whole thing together.

And, yes, he hand screenprinted the “Don’t Tread On Me.”

Oh, and yes, that’s Josh holding it up and he’s about 6’2″, so it’s really, really big.

And then he informed me it was a gift for me.

Because my husband is just that awesome.

~Sarah

Josh per a tres!

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Red, black & white banners flying on the stage outside the Rose Garden Arena before the Trail Blazers' first playoff game in several years. These semi-transparent banners are really beautiful rustling in the breeze with the cityscape in the background.

I’m hoping that “Josh per a tres!” actually does mean “Josh for three!” in Catalan, because that’s what the online translator said, and those things are never wrong–right?

I thought I’d share Josh’s latest screen printing project–an impromptu one, at that. (Although, let’s all agree that normal people don’t plan and execute a three-color screen print on an “impromptu” basis–Josh is weird.)

It’s been well documented that Josh has officially jumped on the Portland Trail Blazers bandwagon in a big way. (Although, really, he’s been on the bandwagon for about three years, but he’s reached the terminal stage of BlazerMania–emotional investment.) He has also sucked it up and finally become, like the rest of us here in Portland, a big Rudy Fernandez fan. Portland hearts Rudy, an flashy player from Spain–and people are wearing the T-shirts around to prove it. (Seriously, the now-defunct G.I. Joe’s sold them. First they were just women’s shirts, but then they started stocking men’s and you’d see a lot of very old male Blazers fans wearing them too.) I think the final straw was last Wednesday, at the Trail Blazers’ last regular season game, and Josh’s return to going to games after nearly a month of dealing with a nightmarish situation with regard to the horrendous customer service by the Trail Blazers season ticket staff and dealing with the thugish occupants of section 322 in the Rose Garden over the course of 41 games (and really, I’m pretty sure that I’m not quite ready to drop my complaint after the service folks’ pathetic reaction to our concerns). What was so special about Rudy’s performance that night? Well, he made six freaking three-point shots! Six! Which meant that he also broke the rookie record for most threes in a season. (You can check out some highlights of Rudy hitting threes this season here and if you’re feeling really wild and crazy, check out this phenomenal bit of play from Rodolfo.)

So, a bit more about Josh’s inspiration. Rudy makes a really unique and energizing hand gesture when he makes a three, and fans have started imitating him when he scores. It’s joyous, and it gets everyone fired up.

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Rudy’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch, and Josh decided that Rudy deserved his own tribute T-shirt, since I’ve made a couple in support of one of my favorites. But Josh, of course, couldn’t settle for making (or–the horror–actually buying) a normal Rudy T-shirt. Nope. He had to create something totally unique and abstract in honor of both Rudy and the Trail Blazers’ first appearance in the NBA playoffs in some time. 
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Portland, Oregon - Where the NBA Playoffs are finally happening again!

Josh got the idea to create a screenprint based upon the logo from the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain–you know, as a shout-out to that awesome city and country. (We went to Spain in 1998 and spent quite a bit of time in Barcelona, it’s one of the most wonderful places we’ve been–and we’d love to go back sometime.) Do you remember that logo

This is Josh’s re-interpretation:

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A last-minute three-color screenprint? What a maniac!

Josh elongated the “face” to better resemble Rudy, and added Rudy’s signature “3″ hand gesture. The results are pretty nifty, if I do say so myself. 

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The Trail Blazers put up this awesome banners of all the players all over the Rose Garden Arena outdoor concourse. They're really swell-looking. Here, Josh demonstrates Rudy's "3" sign under one of the Rudy banners.

Now, Josh would be the first to admit (actually, he did admit it to me yesterday), that he got all nervous about the playoff game on Saturday night (with good reason, apparently) and had to do something, hence the complexity of the three-color screenprint. He also printed me one. 

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Josh tried to get me to take my picture under a certain players banner, but I thought that would be 1) a mixed basketball metaphor and 2) too Fan Girl.

Sadly, the Blazers lost their first playoff game, and I was–frankly–devastated. I never imagined that they’d lose, let alone get blown out. But, I’ve got to believe they’ll come back with a vengeance. So, I’m asking y’all a favor: If you currently have no NBA loyalties, or if your team’s not in the playoffs (I’m speaking to you, Phoenix Suns fans–I rooted for y’all’s team for a long while during the Jail Blazers Era and have even read :07 or Less.), please consider sending some positive playoff energy our way. It would mean a hell of a lot. For inspiration, here’s a video we shot at the Playoff Rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Thursday. 


Trail Blazers Pioneer Square Playoff Rally – April 16, 2009

15,000 of us showed up to cheer on the team just for making the playoffs! Look how excited everyone is! We need this here in Portland! So, please, send some positive vibes here to the Pacific Northwest.

~Sarah

P.S. You can check out my Flickr set for our pics from Saturday’s game.

Off the Bench

It has certainly been awhile since I posted to the site—sorry about that. It happens…

Sarah brought home a really intriguing book called Fabricate that had an awesome notebook computer sleeve pattern in it. I spent a great deal of time thinking of making one, because it involved felt, which I love, combined with the opportunity for silly embellishment, which I also love. When Sarah brought home her little notebook from work, I like the cheetah, and sprang into action. Well, not really that fast since Sarah didn’t pick up my felt when she went out to the fabric store without me. (Ahem.)

When I was able to get out there, I found this really cool red, black and white felt made from recycled plastic bottles, much like the hoody I have been wearing lately (made by Sarah). The idea to make a Trail Blazers-looking bag was a no-brainer with Sarah completely wrapped up in the latest playoff push and I love of sports uniforms. My favorite Blazers jersey is the red alternative one that I have seen twice in person (both Christmas Day games, one against the former Seattle Sonics–normally they only wear them for special away games). 

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Following the laminating technique described in Fabricate (you used Stitch Witchery/Wonder Under to fuse the layers), I created the front and back pieces and started on the appliques. To get the three different color stripe pattern, I dug deep into the scrap pile and found a piece of white satin, grey coat liner and a piece of black jersey off an old t-shirt I never wear.

(Maybe the theme should be “sustainability?” But let’s get back to the topic at a hand.)  

I stiched on the three stripes and began working on the back. I hadn’t originally planned for a number, but I got some burnt stuff from the iron and adhesive on the felt that needed to be covered. Besides being a big Brandon Roy fan, Sarah likes the shape of the number 7 (hand-setting type will make you think about these things a lot), so the number to choose was an easy one. (Plus, who want to cuts out 44 or 88 from felt?).

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The appliques were added and it was now time to stitch the six layers of felt together, the bottom panel went okay. However, the sides just weren’t going to fit through our sewing machine (oh, for an adjustable presser foot). The solution I came up with was adding eyelets and lacing the sides together. This gave the bag and almost shoe-like look, so for the closure I decided to fashion an “S” in a similar style to the inside 7 on Brandon Roy’s kicks, which I was really happy with.

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The "S" on the laptop sleeve clasp was inspired by the "7" on Brandon Roy's shoes.

This project was actually incredibly easy except for the all of the add-ons that took it from an afternoon of working to a weekend of sewing, cutting, cursing my luck and, finally, completion. All in all a hell of a lot of fun. 

Does this mean that I have to join Sarah’s Posse?

~Josh

More Buttony Goodness

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Some of the original projects from "Button it Up." I got to pick a necklace to wear during the event--I sort of felt like Angelina Jolie borrowing fancy jewelry for the People's Choice Awards.

No, it hasn’t gotten to be all buttons, all the time here, but Josh and I have both been sick with various bugs–again–so we still haven’t had much of a chance to do much in the way of projects or photograph a few (now) oldies for Sewer-Sewist. I’ve also not had a chance to take pictures of my progress on my colossal project for my letterpress class through PNCA’s Continuing Education program, but I’m going to go to some printing tomorrow, so hopefully, I’ll have an update for you soon! (Hint: My big project is looking like it’s going to be bad-ass.) Anyway… I just had to share some of the pictures from last night’s awesome event in support of Susan Beal’s new book, Button it Up. (Yeah, I’ve mentioned it once or twice.)

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Three of my button hairclip creations. I love these. They also reminded me that I need to accessorize more often.

Susan’s event was at the Best Bookstore in the World (aka Powell’s Books here in Portland) and was loads of fun. Not only did we get to hear all about buttons and check out the original projects from the book, Susan brought along the supplies for a really marvelous little project–hairclips embellished with buttons. It was so fun getting together with folks and working on this simple project. I honestly think I could have made button clips all night–if I’d had my way, they probably would have had to kick me out of Powell’s, clutching the tube of Dazzle Tack in one hand, vintage buttons in the other.

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I love the clip on the right--Michelle snagged those buttons out of the pile and said, "These so look like you." And she was right. I wore this clip around today.

It was also lovely getting to catch up with some cool folks from around our area–and it reminded me how fortunate we are to live in a community that really fosters such creativity. In addition to Susan, I got to chat with the undeniable Queen of Craftiness Diane, Knitter Extraordinaire Lee (who also took the crown for “Best Dressed”–check it out), Baking Phenom Caitlin and my fellow member of the Blazers Craft Posse (yeah, we definitely need T-shirts), Michelle. (Y’all know about my love of assigning random nicknames to people, right?)

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Three different sets of fingers digging into a rainbow of buttons.

Oh, and Caitlin and I “styled” this part of the display.

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It's sort of hard to believe all these beautiful pieces are made with something as simple as buttons. It kind of blows my mind, even though I've seen a number of the items before.

I totally think that we knocked it out of the park–we could totally get jobs doing window displays at Anthropologie based on our skills here.

It was loads of fun, and reminded me of the importance of taking a bit of time to do something simple, like make a little hairclip for yourself. I felt a nice bit of creative revitalization, and I think everyone else did as well.

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Don't you just want to plunge your fingers into all those buttons and play with them?

You can check out all of my pictures from the event over on this Flickr photoset.

Also, there’s still an opportunity to come do some buttony crafting with Susan and pick up a signed copy of her book. The Best Fabric Shop Ever (aka Bolt in Portland’s awesome Concordia neighbor, right on Alberta Street) is hosting a book event where you can also make a bit of buttony goodness to take home next weekend. As a double-bonus, everyone who buys the book at the event at Bolt will get their own sampler bag of vintage buttons to take home–so you can get started with your own button projects right away. Get the details here and here. As a triple-bonus, Bolt is a unique independent sewing shop, so if you haven’t been there before, you’re in for a real treat.

~Sarah

Letterpress Class, Part 3: I Printed Something!

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Locked up type.

I’m a little late on posting this, but blame this stupid cold that’s now making me very hoarse–ugh. Thursday was my third letterpress class through PNCA’s Continuing Education program, and the first one in which I was able to do some printing. We use cylinder/drum-style letterpress printers (named “Tony” and “Ruth,” in case you were wondering), that are probably a bit different that a lot of the presses that you see around in specialty stores, which seem to been primarily platen presses. Here’s an example of this type of press.

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This isn't one of the presses we use, but it's a similar--and a Vandercook, like both of PNCA's presses.

Locking up the type is definitely the most time-consuming part of the printing process. You have to make sure that your type is completely tight and immovable prior to inking the press and starting printing. You create tension using “furniture” and fill in any of the tiny gaps that emerge using “coppers and brasses”–tiny, thin pieces of metal that slide in between the type. It’s an inexact science, really…

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I thought this was good to go--but I was wrong...

Once we thought we had my type all locked up, I mixed the ink using color formulas from a Pantone deck. (The ink is rubber-based, which has a very interesting texture–completely the opposite of the screen printing inks I’m used to working with.) I chose a lovely crimson. (Big shock, I know, choosing a rich red color. I love me some nice red.) Finally, I got to ink up the press and was ready to go.

Or so I thought.

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"One of these things is not like the other. One of these things is not quite the same."

You see, that cool-looking “7″ that was causing me all kinds of problems last week struck again. It seems that the surface of much of the 7 had worn down, so it was no longer “type high.” Basically, it was being inked by the rollers and was, therefore, not printing. Awesome. With the help of our T.A., I had to de-lockup my type and then remove the 7. We kept adding pieces of paper under the 7, until it finally was type high. It took five or six pieces.

Very lame, I know.

That 7 should could with a warning label: “May cause disorientation, frustration or, in very rare cases, temporary insanity, in newbie printers.”

But all that frustration was worth it, as I learned a lot playing around with printing, running the translucent sheets through the printer multiple times, printing on both the fronts and backs, and then reversing the sheets, to create mirror images of my print–which was my favorite effect.

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I liked this effect so much that nearly half of my 20 prints were a variation on this style.

Next week our “proposals” for our “big project” are due, which is a bit nerve-wracking. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do, but I’m not sure if it’s the appropriate scale (too big? too small?) or of the details like paper and edition size. (Not sure where to begin with even making those decisions.) Since I don’t have an art background, these types of thought processes feel rather daunting to me.

Anyone who wants to chime in with tips on how to work through those things, please feel free! I can probably use all the help I can get…

~Sarah

Humor me, please…

Please tell you that y’all aren’t sick of my crazy Trail Blazers-inspired crafty projects. Please? Even if you’re lying, just humor me for a moment.

Last week Susan and I went to the Trail Blazers vs. Memphis Grizzlies game and, prior to the game, went to their first-ever “TweetUp,” which basically involved us getting in to watch the team’s shoot-around (you can’t normally get into the Rose Garden that early), and some chitchat with some Blazers staff and a group photo. The highlight was, obviously, the shoot-around. It’s been well-documented here that there’s a horrifying lack of Channing Frye gear in the officially-sanctioned “Fan Shop,” and that–as a result–I’ve had to resort to making my own. (It’s also been well-documented that Channing’s my favorite player not named Brandon Roy–although I pretty much like the entire team at this point.) What I haven’t mentioned before is that Josh, Susan and I all have a joke that when this whole pro basketball thing is over, that Channing would be a great mayor, because of his obvious love for the City of Roses. (Yes, we know that you probably need more skills than just “enthusiasm” to be mayor, but it’s a joke, okay? Although Kevin Johnson recently became mayor of Sacramento, so it’s not a completely crazy suggestion.)

So I did some research on vintage campaign signs (yes, I always take these things way too seriously) and came up with a design and screen printed us up some shirts. (An aside: Learning to create my own screen prints has opened up a whole new world for me. If I come up with something crazy I want on a shirt, I don’t have to order it from Cafe Press or whatever. I can just fire up the computer, create a design a screen print it in our kitchen. It’s incredible.)

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Here's the design of the front. This typeface is, brilliantly, called something like "Politician." It's super-cheesy and kind of awesome (not dissimilar from Channing himself?).

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And the "campaign slogan" on the back. This is really funny. Trust me.

(In case you were wondering–you can achieve that perfect, basketball colored rust tone by mixing equal parts pure red ink and gold opaque ink. It’s actually quickly become my favorite mixed ink, since it looks so nice on black.)

The “campaign slogan” was inspired by Channing’s blog, in which last spring and summer he spent an amazing amount of space chronicling the various nuances of Portland’s weirdness. (And, really, there are a lot of things that make this city truly weird–and I’m a native. I can’t imagine how strange Portland must seem to newcomers, even newcomers who know how awesome Portland is.)

We were pretty thrilled with the results, and I got a high five from some random dude on the Rose Garden concourse who informed me in a very earnest manner that, “People just don’t understand how awesome Channing is and how much he means to Portland!” He may have been hyperventilating just a bit, too.

Check out the shirts “in action.”

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We were a little surprised that the other TweetUppers didn't even give us crazy looks over our shirts. I mean, I would probably look at us like we're slightly whacked out, but I guess Blazers tweeters are an understanding lot. Either that or they thought that we'd inadvertently wandered into their gathering and were doing their best to ignore us. (The actual game was another story, though. At one point, I thought Susan & I were going to have to throw down with some serious Channing haters in the row in front of us. Seriously, who the hell goes to a basketball game so angry? That's plain crazy.)

You see, we’re just doing our part in keepin’ Portland weird.

~Sarah

Note: If you’re so inclined, you can check out my photos from the shoot-around here.


1957 Redlegs Jersey – Or, the Reason I Learned To Sew

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Frank Robinson - The Reds should have never traded him.

One of the reasons I got into this whole sewing thing is that I wanted to make my own baseball jersey. I have been obsessed with having an “authentic” looking flannel for sometime, but I am not the type to spend $250+ on an article of clothing, no matter how cool that I might find it. On our trip to Washougal, I found a lovely piece of white wool flannel (cream might be a more accurate description) and had in my mind a multitude of potential uses. However, that piece of fabric sat in the box of potential projects for a long time, mostly because I wanted to make something “perfect” or truly “authentic” looking.

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Sketch of 1957 Reds uniforms - one of the images used as inspiration for this project.

I spent the better part of a year looking for a pattern, but too no avail. Sarah and I went round and round about how it was such a simple construction that I didn’t really need a pattern, but for some reason I held onto this five dollar piece of wool like I would never find another. Inspired by a cold winter, and a need to get back into sewing, I decided to go for it. Sarah and I made a pattern by using Swedish tracing paper and an old jersey that I had (let’s be clear, this in no way was a $250+ piece of clothing, it is a jersey made out of sweatshirt material, it was cheap and huge and I have never worn it). Basically, the “pattern” is a simple shirt with a wide, curved facing that goes all the way down the front and around the neckline.

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Stitching on the number 20.

The next step was to find a jersey to replicate, and of course I wanted to do my Cincinnati Reds and I thought there was no more appropriate players’ jersey to wear than Frank Robinson. Robinson was one of the original bad-asses in C-town and in one of the worst trades in baseball history was traded to the Baltimore Orioles because the Reds said he was an “old” thirty. The very next year, he hit for the Triple Crown with the Baltimore Orioles and continued his Hall of Fame career. Robinson eventually became the first African-American manager and later managed the inaugural season of the Washington Nationals, where his old school hard-assness was refreshing as a baseball fan to see.

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Trimming the stabilizer behind the numbers.

I choose the 1957 uniform after looking through the baseball Hall of Fame’s Dressed to the Nines exhibit. I liked two things about this — that it’s vest and that I would be able to cut out the logo from felt by hand and have it look good/authentic. This is one of the seasons that the Reds were known as the “Redlegs,” so as not to appear that they were the Communist team. Put all of these together, along with the irony, and coolness came together in a perfect storm.

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The dog: "Dad, can you please make me a jersey, too?"

Making the jersey was pretty quick and painless, especially without sleeves. I decided to bind the sleeve holes with shinny cotton bias strips (Oh yeah new skill, making bias strips!). While it is hard to tell if the sleeves were actually bound in the original, I really like the look in my version. I made the logo and the numbers out of a wool-rayon blend felt. I have used acrylic felt on other things and frankly the wool-rayon blend, while a little more expensive, looks and feels so much better (the 100% wool felt is too rich for my blood). To get the size of the numbers and positioning correct I used the Liebe Apparel web site, which has a fantastic guide on numbering and lettering sports jerseys.

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Jersey back - I used specific porportions and and placement of the numbers, for an authentic look.

All in all, this was a fun project, and for less than $20 I had my throwback jersey and accomplished something that I had set out to do in the beginning. I was lucky to find the a nice piece of flannel in flat folds table, so most of my money was spent on felt. Sarah and I had so much fun figuring this out that we are going to do a Video Threads episode on DIY baseball jerseys (of course I will make the road gray jersey). And  down the road, I think I will also try designing a vintage-looking hockey jersey as well.

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Mixed sports metaphor happening here...

~Josh

Buffet of Goodness (AKA The Mysterious Case of the Cursed Hoodie)

I have a terrible, sinking feeling that my latest screen printing project may be cursed. Which is truly unfortunate.

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This cool hoodie can't be cursed... Can it?

Before you continue reading this post, I do want to make an important point: I’m not a Fan Girl. And I’m certainly not a Channing Frye Fan Girl. If I were going to be a Fan Girl of any of the Trail Blazers players, it would have to be Martell Webster. Yes, I know Rudy Fernandez is the flavor of the month, but, for me–if I were to become a Fan Girl in a parallel universe–it would have to be Martell. (Now you may click through to the rest of the post, and settle in for a lengthy post.)

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Snowpocalypse ’08!!!

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Our plants are really not prepared for this type of thing.

Portland’s was under siege–by snow–for the better part of two weeks. We, like everyone else in Stumptown, didn’t adapt too well to our forced solitary confinement. But, it did give us a chance to take a few fun snow pictures–including those of the projects we (read: Sarah) made for people for Christmas. While we showed y’all these in our first Video Threads episode, we thought you’d want to see a few pictures–plus, you just gotta check out all the snow.

First up in our snow fashion shoot, the Amy Butler Downtown Purse. Ah, yes… Getting a little tired of making this one, but it’s always so well-received and doesn’t take a lot of effort… This is in one of the newish Denyse Schmidt cotton canvas fabric from FreeSpirit.

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This will be the last one of these bags for awhile. As cute as it is, there are only so many one person can make...

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The button on this was leftover from the last knitting project Sarah did before tendinitis ended her knitting for once and for all.

Next, the “I’ll have one of everything…” bag from Anna Maria Horner’s new book, “Seams to Me.” This is made in various quilting weight cottons in peach, green and pink tones.

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It's kind of a pain in the butt to find that many fabrics that coordinate. How on Earth do quilters do it?

The handles are braided using 12 strips of different town fabrics, which creates a really fun and funky sort of look. It really keeps this back from looking too “quilty.” If that makes sense. (Probably not, huh?)

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These rag rug looking braided handles are so awesome! They really make the bag look unique.

And another one from Anna Maria’s book, this one the “Cup Half Full” apron. This is pretty darn cute in two fabrics from Heather Bailey, and an orange checked print for the bias border.

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Everyone needs a fancy hostess apron to wear in a snowstorm, right?

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This color combo is really bright and fun--almost Christmas-y, but not quite.

Sarah’s mom, who usually scores in the homemade gift department was the lucky recipient of a violet iPod Nano, and most everyone else got silly gifts/books… Despite the snowfall, this Christmas was far less stressful than last because we weren’t under the gun to get things made. Production sewing can be nerve-racking.

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Our view for days and days and days...

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Our poor house started to look like it was going to get buried under all the white stuff.

Thankfully, the Snowpocalypse is over and we were able to successfully leave our house in our own vehicle for the first time in a VERY long time yesterday. (We had to borrow Sarah’s mom’s SUV to go to the Christmas Day Blazers game–which was, uh, “rad.”)

In completely unrelated news, we’ve added a Facebook/Blog Networks widget to our sidebar. If you’re on Facebook, you can join our network by following the sidebar link and see who else is reading Sewer-Sewist. It’s kind of cool, actually.

Happy holidays, everyone!

~Josh & Sarah

Just a Little Crazy

Actually, technically speaking, it’s actually a mania.

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Rip City, Baby!

I promise that it’s not turning into all Blazers, all the time here, but I did have to share my latest (and certainly not last) crafty Blazers project. For the ill-fated Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Clippers game, I made fabric bracelets (I was later informed that they’re actually referred to as “cuffs” in most circles) for Susan and I to wear to the game. I also wanted to say thank you to Susan for the most bad-ass, awesome gift I’ve received in a very long time.

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1990 NBA Finals Trail Blazers Button!!!!

Inspired by this project in Seams to Me, I created my own design for a fabric bracelet out of some rather tacky Trail Blazers fabric I found at The Despot last year (they appear to be out of this stuff now, sadly). The one in the pictures is mine, which I don’t like as much as the one I made for Susan. (Hers has smaller ruffles and used shirting interfacing rather than fusible fleece–mine was the prototype.) Rather than buttons, I used my snazzy crop-a-dile to place some funky red, white and black eyelets and used a thin checked ribbon as a closure.

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This is actually really pretty ribbon--almost too pretty for a silly project like this. I had to make an emergency ribbon run over to Bolt for this...

And, course, I had to use metallic thread. (Seriously, I’ll make any excuse to use metallic thread–that stuff rocks, but there’s only one brand that doesn’t snap, Sulky.)

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Sadly, I didn't get any "action shots" of this thing...

This was actually a very quick little project–two of them took me less than an hour (not counting the run out to Bolt for ribbon and the chatting with the gals who work there). It’s actually something I probably wouldn’t have made normally, but now I keep seeing other bits of fabric and thinking, “I should make another cuff out of that.” or if I see some snazzy buttons or ribbon, “That would look sweet on a one of those fun cuffs from Anna Maria’s book.” So, to me the moral of the story is that I need to start paying attention to the projects that I’ve dismissed in some of my sewing books–even if I don’t make that exact item, they certainly provide inspiration–and that’s something I really need more of these days, it seems. (When I saw the version in Seams to Me, I thought that it was cute, but not that I’d ever make something like it.) Wouldn’t it be pretty to embroider some natural-colored linen and make a cuff only 3 inches wide (mine are four-plus inches) for a pretty summer accessory?

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I wonder what the (crazy) dudes who sit near us thought of us and our crafted up accessories? Hmmm...

I also have created a snazzy new Blazers screen print in honor of poor Channing Frye, who’s now out of the ten man rotation, and am planning my next Trail Blazers crafty project inspired by the awesomeness that was Brandon Roy’s amazing game on Thursday night (seriously, that was the best basketball game I’ve ever attended). I haven’t taken any pictures yet, but–rest assured–I’ll be sure to share them with you once I do…

~Sarah

Bingo, Bango, Bongo!

That post title doesn’t really mean anything, but it’s a quote from the great Bill Schonely, the best play-by-play announcer of all time. When someone would do something really awesome, The Schonz would randomly shout, “Bingo, Bango, Bongo!” There were other things, too. Like, “Rip City!” or “Ocean to Ocean…” or “Lickety Brindle up the Middle.” I listened to him call Portland Trail Blazers games on the radio my whole life, and no on will ever be as awesome as The Schonz. Seriously, Josh and I saw him walking down the street last year and I literally started hyperventilating. He’s that rad of dude.

Anyway, this post is about a T-shirt I screen printed and embroidered, but you’re going to have to humor me a bit while I digress…

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I'm not a crazed fan! Really. I'm not. I swear.

It’s been well established that I’m a crazy fan of Portland Trail Blazers basketball. And keep in mind, Trail Blazers fans are a special breed of crazy in general, so that’s saying something. This season, we are actually season ticket holders. We have seats waaaaaay up in section 322 to each and every game this year. This is going to sound cheesy, but this is actually a life-long dream of mine. When I was a kid it was nearly impossible to get tickets. When Josh and I moved back to Portland, no one was going to the games, because of the whole Jail Blazers thing, and we were able to score all kinds of free or deeply discounted tickets (great seats, too). So we went a lot. (An aside: for the longest time, I thought that if I was at the game, the Trail Blazers couldn’t lose–it wasn’t until Portland played the stupid Clippers that season that I attended a Blazers’ loss.) That year, 2006-07, was Brandon Roy‘s Rookie season–he eventually become Rookie of the Year, Ime Udoka made the team (he’s a Portlander) and Nate McMillan was coaching. The vibe was changing, and fans kind of knew that it was Zach Randolph‘s last season before he was traded. Portlanders knew the team was changing–and something good was going to happen. Then Portland won the #1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.

It was amazing.

Blazermania was back.

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Pimp My Ride

Errr… Well, “Pimp my skateboard,” at least.

Do you remember this skateboard? We’ve used it as a prop few times in photos here off and on.

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This is the best "Before" shot we've got--we're always forgetting the befores.

As you can see, it’s pretty darn boring.The stuff on the back that looks like “wood” is actually a big decal printed to look like wood. So, armed with the contact paper stencil technique from Lena Corwin’s Printing by Hand, I created a new look for my crappy skateboard.

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Cutting out the stencil. (That's our dining room table, by the way--it doesn't see many meals, obviously.)

First, I sanded off the sticker. Which was vinyl. Which made Sarah really annoyed, since I forgot to wear a mask. Wear a mask if you sand off a vinyl sticker, folks!

Then, instead of taking the path of least resistance and making a normal stencil, I made a reverse stencil of a wolf from an image that I manipulated in Illustrator. I spray glued the image to a large sheet of contact paper and cut out all the little, tiny pieces that made up the wolf.

Next, I stuck the pieces on the sanded board.

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Sticking the pieces of contact paper on the board.

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The wolf silhouette on the back of the board.

We have a large supply of wood stain products in our garage–not of our own doing, they came with the house. So, after some spot testing, I selected the fancy-sounding “Red Wood” color and started staining over the stencil. I applied four coats of stain. I also learned that Sarah knows a lot more about wood finishing than I do. For example, she showed me how to rub the stain in rather than just brushing it on so that you won’t get streaks. However, this was after I had already been a bit “aggressive” with the paint brush, so some of the small stencil pieces got stain underneath them. But, I was able fix this after I peeled off the contact paper by scraping the stain off with an Xacto knife. The staining component of this project took four days, because I let it dry thoroughly in between each coat.

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Following the first coat of stain, I was starting to wonder what I'd gotten myself into...

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Scraping off the excess stain from my overly-enthusiastic staining. I first tried this with the Dremel tool, which didn't work at all. The Xacto allowed me to use a much lighter touch.

After fixing the spots where the stain ran, I started the polyurethane process. two days and four coats of semi-gloss (which was also found in our garage) later, the damn thing was finished.

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After the fourth coat of polyurethane.

I reattached the trucks and wheels, and the skateboard was looking good.

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It's hard to take pictures when there's so much shellack--can't avoid the glare when using the flash.

The pathetic thing? I don’t have the heart to ride it now, because it looks so nice and took so long (10 days!). I’m going to have to get over that, I know.

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Done!

~Josh

Dayton Triangles Redux Hoodie

What do you get when you combine screen printing, applique, sewing, refashioning, vintage sports uniforms and a little bit of crazy?

Me.


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With autumn bringing cool weather, I needed a new hoodie to wear (by the way, sometime we’ll have to ask Sarah to write about her hoodie addiction). For inspiration, I wanted it to look like the old Dayton Triangles jerseys from the 1920s, because I am from Dayton and I like stripes and appliqués. And I really like any excuse to screen print just about anything.


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Why the Dayton Triangles? Well, my dad remembers them playing at the park near his house when he was growing up in Dayton, Ohio in the 1950s.

I started out with a plain gray hoodie and used tape to create the stripes I wanted. I then used a blank screen to spread the ink.  (Which made one hell of a mess.) After drying, I was left with even stripes on both sleeves.


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I really can’t believe this actually worked.


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To make the bottom half of the hoodie navy–after briefly considering screen printing the whole bottom–I wisely bought a navy crew neck sweatshirt and cut it underneath the armholes, I then cut the gray sweatshirt two inches under the armholes to give it more length, (one and a half inches with the seam allowance).

On the chest, I made a simple triangle out of wool felt and stitched it onto the a larger white piece of felt and then sewed it onto the front of the “jersey.”


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This was really a quick and easy project, except for the long drying time of the sleeves.  With the cold weather coming, it looks like I am going to get back on the sewing machine and out of the garage (where we screen print).


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~Josh

A Little Late to the Whole Apron Thing

But I guess better late than never. Did y’all know aprons are now cool? And have been for quite some time now? I should have known. I mean, I read both Amy Karol’s blog and CraftSanity, both of whom often write about their love of aprons and seem pretty darn cool. So I shoulda known… Anyway, I discovered “the whole apron thing” last week when I realized that I’d managed to get half of our dinner all over myself while I was cooking (Josh usually cooks dinner, but since I have a bit more time on my hands these days, I have been cooking more). Anyway, I picked up an apron design from local Barbara Brunson, whose company is Vanilla House Designs over in Hillsboro, Ore. Barbara designs some of the most fun aprons I’ve seen, with lots of creative touches, many of which are retro-inspired. I chose her Friday Night Apron, which is a halter style and combined it with three different complimentary fabrics in greens and pinks.


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(Yes, that’s the dog’s toy salmon standing in for actual food on the grill.)

Oh yeah, and my new favorite embellishment is rickrack (yes, I’m late to the rickrack party, too) and it plays a prominent role in my apron.


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Oh, and now I know that I would have been well-served to read Stacy’s comprehensive review of of this pattern before I started preemptively fiddling with it for fit on the halter. It would have been a perfect fit on me unaltered, but I tinkered and paid the price, it’s a bit too big.

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Oh well, after all, it is an apron. It doesn’t need to fit perfectly.

This pattern, and all Vanilla House designs, use length and width measurements for the square pieces—the only pattern pieces that are included are those that are shaped (think the Amy Butler In Stitches book)—and I made a slight oops! when I did my cutting for the apron skirt and, as a result, it’s rather narrow. (Lesson learned: Don’t cut out fabric you have to measure when you’re overly tired.)

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But again, it’s an apron, it doesn’t need to be perfect.

Since I’m also obsessed with top-stitching everything, I also top-stitched the entire thing, which I think makes it look more finished and makes the entire apron a bit more stable. I think it will help it hold up longer too (I’ve noticed garments I’ve made that aren’t top-stitched seem to take a beating in the wash at the seams. While this isn’t a precise science, I figure something like an apron that gets washed a lot is well-served having all the reinforcement it can get.)

One final note about this project. I had stuck the pattern sheet that has all the yardages on it in my bag, and somehow misplaced it. In a total panic, I emailed Barbara, the designer, asking her if she could send me the yardages. In a moment self-deprecating humor, I also told her that I was sure that by emailing her and asking for this information, that I was guaranteeing that I’d find my copy somewhere stupidly obvious. She sweetly immediate sent the information I needed to me, with this hilarious note (which I imagine she won’t mind me repeating):

Please find the attach pdf for the back cover of P141 Friday Night Apron. And as soon as you open the pdf, your other cover will magically appear!

And you know what? I opened the PDF, and she was right!

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~Sarah

Wear a Dress Week & Another Amy Butler Lotus Dress

I certainly love the Amy Butler Lotus dress. So much, in fact, that I’d planned on wearing this version in celebration of International Wear a Dress Day/Week.

Except, when I got dressed this morning, I decided that I really wanted needed to wear these shoes.

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Which don’t really go with my pink dress. At all. If I didn’t happen to have a meeting today and therefore be required to present an illusion of professionalism, I would have just worn the aqua shoes and pink dress and said “to hell with it.”

So, I pulled out my black stretch twill version (and I’ve got to reiterate my point in my earlier post about this dress–this one works so much better in a stretch woven, since it’s meant to be quite fitted) of the Amy Butler Lotus Tunic/Dress, because I know you can wear aqua shoes with a plain black dress. And it gave me an excuse to show it off to you guys.

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I also know that a denim jacket (my fave–I watched it at the Sundance Catalog Shop forever until it went on clearance) goes with everything–including both aqua shoes and a plain black dress. So I think I did okay in my celebration of International Wear a Dress Day/Week… Right?

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(My apologies to Antoinette for not wearing the dress I said I was going to wear.)

~Sarah

Run With It

You may have noticed that Josh hasn’t been doing much sewing lately. While that can be partially attributed to his new obsession–screen printing–it’s also because he’s been running again. Which means that he’s been losing a far amount of weight (his goal is to run in the Shamorock run in March) and he doesn’t want to sew new clothes, for fear that they won’t fit in a few months. However, has has continued making the occasional hat. In particular, he made a special hat to run in. Most of the hats he owns were too hot, but he still needed something to 1) keep the sun out of his face and 2) control his hair while he runs. Using the techniques from the awesomely-useful-even-though-we-don’t-know-Japanese book “Idea Hat Recipe,” he created custom running cap, that’s a 100% original design, which is part bicycle hat, part retro baseball cap, using very lightweight quilting cotton and some funky top-stitching.


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Obviously, his running buddy approves of this stylish head-wear.

~S & J

Crafts We Can Believe In

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We hope you’ll humor us for a moment while we diverge ever-so-slightly from our regularly scheduled programming…

From the “Crafters for Obama” badge that’s been on our site since Julie Ree created “Crafters for Obama” back in January, you’ve probably noticed that we’re supporters of Senator Barack Obama’s campaign for the Presidency. We believe that his leadership can help our country move in the right direction. We’ve been personally affected by many of the tough issues that are facing our nation, and many of our friends and family have also been directing impacted by the poor economy, lack of accessible and affordable health insurance, the expense of a higher education, among other issues. We’re also fairly typical Gen Xers, we think, having never really been thrilled about the dialog and personalities in American politics, and generally feeling like politicians at all levels don’t speak to the issues that matter to us. We both went to college in Washington, D.C., and grew to loath many of the politicians on both sides of the aisle–since politics is so very “in your face” all the time (Joe Lieberman cut us in line at the supermarket once, so some of those loathings are more personal than others). We were both very excited by Senator Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004, and were thrilled when he became a viable candidate after his win in the Iowa caucuses in January.

This weekend, Sarah decided to take that enthusiasm for the candidate into our crafty/sewing/screen printing world, and made some old school pennants to hang in the window of her home office and support our candidate. (Everyone–and in our neighborhood we sort of mean everyone–has a yard sign, no one has craftastic handmade pennants.)

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Sarah made these creating a pennant template, using our flag making book as a resource, pinking the edges so they wouldn’t unravel/look snazzy, and then screen printing the Obama campaign logo on each one in white. The screen was created using the stenciling technique from Printing by Hand, but utilizing Tyvek instead of mylar. The way the logo is designed, it was a relatively simple one to cut. The tough decision was, however, how to attach the pennants together. Twine just seem a bit lazy, bias tape seamed bulky, but rick-rack, that was just right. Sarah stitched the pennants onto the rick-rack a couple of times so that they’re nice and secure and the pennants hang flat.

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They’re now hanging in the large window of Sarah’s office. They look pretty sharp.


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(Once the campaign season’s done, Sarah’s wanting to make some Portland Trail Blazers pennants to replace these. With the retro logo, of course.)

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We know we’re not the only crafters out there who have been making all sorts of items celebrate the historic campaign by Senator Obama–whether they’re knitted, sewn, printed, embroidered or some crazy plastic canvas. In fact, pretty much every day we see something new and fabulous on Flickr or one of the blogs we read. We thought it would be nice to have a central place to feature some folks’s work, so Sarah’s set up a quasi-photoblog over here, called “The Obama Craft Project,” where she’ll be featuring some fabulous Obama inspired crafts. Stop by and check it out. If you know of anything that we should feature, send us an email at sewersewist@gmail.com or pop it into the Flickr pool.

The Obama Craft Project is obviously focused on our support of this particular candidate that we believe in, and we know that not everyone who reads Sewer-Sewist agrees with us. However, that’s one of the beautiful things about our country on a macro level, and sewing and creating “stuff” on a smaller scale — it takes a diverse chorus to create a vibrant country and community.

“It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to where we are today, but we have just begun. Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today.”

–Barack Obama

~S & J

Bagged, baby!

At long last, the bag I made for our friends from Amy Butler’s new book “Little Stitches for Little Ones” arrived in northern New Mexico and I can now share the photos…

This one is dubbed the “Modern Nappy Bag” and is really something — its absolutely enormous! And it certainly doesn’t look like your run-of-the-mill diaper bag.

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I used fabric from Amy Butler’s newish line of home decorator weight cotton sateen, August Fields. Some woodgrain fabric of the same weight from Joel Dewberry’s Ginseng line looked like it was made to match, so I lined the whole thing and made the many, many pockets with that…

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I had a lot of fun making this bag, and hope the recipients enjoy it and are able to get some use out of it. What I like about it is that even if it’s a no-go as a diaper bag, it would be great as a tote bag for shopping at the farmers market or for a day trip where you need to pack a few things. It just doesn’t look “diaper-y.”

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I also made the accompanying changing pad in a an organic terry cloth that was the same light blue color that was in the woodgrain fabric, and back it with the woodgrain. It’s meant to be quilted in a grid style, but I quickly last my patience with that. I am just sooooo not a quilter In fact, while I respect quilting as an art form, it is one of those things I just don’t have the temperament for at all. I did manage to do some horizontal quilting before I got frustrated, so it looks pretty decent. Needless to say, I can’t imagine I’ll be doing anything remotely quilting related anytime soon.

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Funnily enough, this is the first baby gift I’ve ever made. Because I really don’t presume to know what folks want or need, I usually rely on that handy-dandy Target registry for these types of things. And, honestly, there hasn’t been anyone that I’ve been good enough friends with to merit making a baby gift. I hope that doesn’t make me a terrible person…

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Which reminds me of an incident from earlier this year. One of my former coworkers was planning a baby shower for another coworker. And the first coworker asked me to “make up one of those nice bags” for this person to put all the other gifts into. She was referring, to the Amy Butler High Street Messenger Bag, of which I’ve made several. I was flabbergasted. Not only was I shocked because of the time and expense a bag like that would take (people really don’t understand how expensive fabric is and how much effort and energy it takes to make something quality–I’ve accepted that), but I was doubly surprised because I wasn’t particularly close to the potential recipient. You have to be pretty high up on the list to get a handmade gift–particularly an elaborate one like a bag that’s, face it, pretty physically tiring to make with all the layers of fabric and whatnot. The friend that I made this bag and changing pad for (actually, the bag is for the friend’s wife, but whatever) was just about my only work friend that I had when I was working at The Job From Hell several years ago. (Seriously, it was bad. You try going to school board meetings that last until 11:00 p.m. and tell me it’s not hell.) And I also know that my friend really appreciates things that are made by real people. So it’s really a two-fold criteria for these things with me: 1.) I gotta like you a lot. 2.) You gotta appreciate stuff that’s handmade.

I’m wondering if I’m the only one who is like this? Are the rest of y’all nicer than me about the handmade gifting thing?

~Sarah

Edited: I forgot to mention that a friend of mine stopped by the house right after I finished this up and mentioned that the bag was big enough and the right shape to use “Paris Hilton Style.” By which she meant that you could carry a small dog around in it. Hilarious! (And very true.)

Inked

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I’ve cooled down a bit on my complicated garment sewing lately, partly because I don’t really have anywhere to wear dress, etc, and partly because we’re stuck in that weird time of year when I know it’s not going to be warm much longer, but don’t want to actually admit that I need fall clothes. But I did recently have the opportunity to wear a dress in good weather — since my hairstylist recently had a lovely wedding on the rooftop of the Ecotrust building in Portland’s Pearl District. It was motivation to get the Amy Butler “Lotus” dress that I’d started awhile back good and finished finished. It was a good thing I wore my “inked” dress, since I think I’m the only person in Portland without a tattoo (well, Josh doesn’t have one either, but my mom has two so the law of averages, their are a lot of tattoos in this city), I felt like I fit in a bit better…

Like I said in my first post about this dress, this is actually the second Lotus dress I’ve made, the first was actually out of a black stretch twill, which is — is you can believe it– the first basic black dress I’ve owned in my entire life (I’m just not a basic black sort of girl). I still haven’t gotten around to taking pictures of that one. However, this second dress is from a pink soft non-stretchy chino fabric from Italy (I think) that I got at Bolt. Comparing the two, as much as I like this dress, I actually think that it’s better suited for stretch woven, simply because the bodice needs to be very well fitted (I spent a lot of time on the fitting of this one) and the stretch is a bit more forgiving in that effort. But, regardless, I’m very happy with the result of this dress. I think it’s fun and I love the interesting neckline and vibrant pink fabric.

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(Ooh, kinda crummy posture in this picture — remind me not to take photos for this blog after drinking marionberry martinis…)

My favorite aspect of this dress is the neckline, which is an interesting take on the traditional “sweetheart” neckline.

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(Nice farmer tan, eh?)

I screwed up a little bit in the sewing, which I am not sure was in the instructions or not (I’m terrible when it comes to reading sewing instructions — I just charge ahead, I blame Burda World of Fashion). Since I was making the sleeveless version of the Lotus dress, I should have removed the seam allowance (1/2 inch) before binding the sleeves, so my sleeves are a bit wonky, which you can see in the photo above. I may still fix that if it annoys me enough..

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(Oh, geez, and look how wrinkled I am in this picture…)

So, since I’ve made this dress twice, I can say it’s pretty sweet, it’s interesting neckline, the Sublime Stitching embroidery, the slight A-line, it’s a pretty complete package dress-wise. Turns out, my black dress would have been more appropriate, since in the hip ‘n’ trendy Pearl District everyone wears black to weddings. (When did that trend start??? Someone please explain this phenomenon to me! It was in the afternoon!)

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(Don’t we look adorable in our handmade clothes?)

~Sarah

Pillow Fight

Not really.

But, we were hiding from the miserable heat this weekend (real heat, it was 100+ this weekend) in our air conditioned house and were very very bored. Josh hasn’t sewn a whole lot in quite awhile, because he’s been preoccupied with printing on fabric, wood and anything else that will hold still (so far, the dog’s managed to avoid any customization). Since we’ve been sitting around watching the Olympics as well as season 5 of The Wire on DVD, we noticed that our couch isn’t exactly that cushioned. Nor does it look that cool and/or interesting. In fact, it may very well be the most boring thing in our house.

On a related (not really) note, it seems that each summer we become obsessed with some variety of bird of prey. This summer, it’s been the osprey (seahawks) that migrate up to these parts — particularly around the Columbia River, to which we live pretty darn close. In fact, we even saw an osprey right outside our office window one afternoon. We saw them nesting along the river when we drove up the Columbia River Gorge to Hood River. We’ve also seen them over by the Ikea near the airport.

Which leads us back to the topic at hand.

Armed with some very cheap red cotton fabric from Ikea, some even cheaper pillow forms from that same establishment and a dream (ha!), we came up with a pretty bad-ass concept: The Osprey Pillow. What better way to commemorate summer with some sewing, screenprinting and a comfy place to nap and/or watch t.v.?

Fortunately, we have the most awesome book of silhouettes ever, Neubauwelt. And in it was The Osprey. Josh traced it out onto freezer paper and cut it out into a stencil. This was the first time that Josh had screenprinted using a non-photo emulsion technique (yes, we’re aware that normal people usually stencil first, then maybe some drawing fluid and then start with the photo emulsion –but Josh usually does things backwards, so it makes sense). We will be reviewing the new book, Printing by Hand by Lena Corwin soon, but we used her stencil-making techniques to create this stencil. Also, Josh got a bunch of helpful encouragement in trying out the stencil method of screenprinting from Rachel when we got together when she and her husband were here in Portland (and via Twitter).

Sarah cut out the red fabric into four 21″ x 21″ squares (after checking the Ikea website for the dimensions of their pillow covers, which were 20 3/8″ x 20 3/8″ — no sewing math necessary here!).

The first print turned out so great that we decided to print on both sides of the pillows. We used a Jacquard brand screenprinting ink that is a very lovely gold color. This was first time we’d used this brand of ink, and it is far superior to the Speedball stuff that we normally use. (We got it at Art Media, and it was slightly more expensive than we usually pay. However, because you are supposed to thin it with water, it’s probably worth the price.) The stencil method definitely yields a different result than the photo emulsion technique, but results in a really blocky, dramatic print.

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Then, on Sunday afternoon, Josh sewed three sides together and then got the brilliant idea to use an invisible zipper so that we could easily launder the pillow covers. (We have dog, and sometimes she, uh, “submits” the pillows and then drags them around the house.) So, since Josh has never really had the occasion to install an invisible zipper, Josh had to call in the “big guns” (Sarah) to assist with the zippers. Which would have been a whole hell of a lot easier to do before the three other sides were sewn up. But, oh well. That’s life.

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Fun, fun, fun and what an easy project. And the couch looks a whole lot more interesting now.

And, the new pillows probably help delay Josh making some sort of crazy attempt to screenprint the actual couch…

~S&J

Behind the Times

Whew! I’m still trying to catch up blog-wise since our computer crash (we lost 100+ photos through that whole mess). So, we’re a bit behind the times with posting some completed projects.

My mom’s birthday has come and gone once again, and once again, I made her a new bag (the woman used to just have one bag and carry it until it died, so I’ve taken it upon myself to ensure that she has an appropriate wardrobe of bags for various occasions). Last year, it was the Amy Butler High Street Messenger Bag. This year, it’s another Amy Butler pattern – the Downtown Purse (I’ve made a few of these, they’re the perfect gift to show off some special fabric; check them out here and here.)

Check it out…

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This one was made using some great mid-weight cotton sateen from Joel Dewberry’s Ginseng line (the same line Josh used for his “Shoeberries“), and I lined with some quilting weight cotton from Anna Maria Horner (I think… Eeg, I usually save the selvage so that I can remember this stuff). Check it out – the lining looks like those wicker chairs everyone in the eighties had.

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Please tell me you know what I’m talking about…

Once again, I narrowed the front flap just slightly so that I could attach the straps into the lining rather that on the exterior (it looks so much nicer, in my opinion). This time, I used an oversized orange wood button to create the closure and shortened the flap by about an inch to create the space the button needed. I kind of think the button’s the best part of the bag.

Josh also screen printed my mom some custom logo’d pillow cases and a T-shirt; unfortunately, the photos were eaten by the monster than killed our computer… We’ll try to arrange an on-site photo shoot so that we can show those off, too.

Oh, and she didn’t seem to notice that itty, bitty imperfection

~Sarah

Blocked

We got the book Lotta Prints by Lotta Jansdotter (who also wrote the very-popular Simple Sewing book) when it first came out. As you know, Josh has gotten really interested in printmaking, especially screen printing, so this book had perfect timing as an impulse buy. We’re not going to bother to review the book, since both Average Jane Crafter (aka Rachel) and Diane (of CraftyPod fame) wrote great reviews already, but we thought we’d share the first results from a project in the book.

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This was Sarah’s first attempt in, oh, seventeen years or so, at printing using a linoleum block. (Lino block printing was big at 91 Grade School in Hubbard, Oregon, for whatever reason.) Needless to say, we need a bit of practice with the technique. It seemed easier as an eight-year-old. Or maybe we’re not as hard on ourselves when we’re in the third grade. This is an original design that was decided influenced by Lotta’s characteristic shapes and forms.

The carving part was actually the most fun part of the process. There’s a certain element of danger involved in using sharp tools to carve up a little block. In true crafty-geek fashion, Sarah sat in the garage/screenprinting studio and worked on this while Josh printed up some stuff. The neighbors probably think we’re loony when we do this sort of thing (we open the garage door to the street for better light/ventilation).

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Speaking of tools, we were able to score a great quality, very inexpensive ($7 or so) set of carving tools at Kinokuniya Bookstore, which is inside Uwajimaya in Beaverton. Kinokuniya is a Japanese bookstore that sells all sorts of intriguing stuff including animae pens, Japanese craft books, magazines from Japanese (including craft and sewing selections) and other odds and ends. Check it out if there’s one near you.

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~S&J

Fashion Forward

 Fashion Forward

I finished Josh’s shirt (Burda 7767) late last night (By the way, does anyone else love staying up really, really late and sewing after the world is asleep?) and am 110% thrilled with the result. It’s so incredibly fashionable-looking that it could be mistaken for something from the “Rail” section of Nordstrom. And I’m not really one to speak lightly of Nordstrom, but it does have that trendy, funky style that you see in the “young men’s” section there…

 Fashion Forward

Burda seems to model their patterns’ fit on Josh, so once again, I didn’t have to make and fitting adjustments. (Burda men’s shirts/tops/jackets are larger in the shoulders, but fitted through the waist, and just a smidge longer—well actually about an inch and a half—than all the other pattern companies’ men’s patterns.) And the pintucks are really flattering and fun when combined with the flowered fabric (from the wonderful Heather Ross line for Free Spirit, “Lightning Bugs”).

 Fashion Forward

Now I did, of course, have a bit of an adventure with the pintucks. I have a bit of a habit of not reading sewing pattern instructions very thoroughly. I blame it on my favorite patterns, Burda World of Fashion and HotPatterns, both of whom assume that you have either a fairly high level of skill/knowledge and/or a good sewing reference book. So, I’ve sort of cut the apron strings with sewing instructions. Maybe a bit too much. I skimmed through the pattern instructions, making note that the pintucks should be folded over 3/8ths of an inch. Right, 3/8ths. So, I did all of the tucks on the left shirt front and looked at it. “Hmmm,” I said. “Looks kind of small.” I held it up and showed Josh, “Sweetie, does this look a bit small?” To which he replied, “Uh, yeah.”

So I examined my work and figured I must have accidentally doubled the number of tucks or something. I couldn’t figure it out so just settled on taking the seam ripper to all the tucks. The next day, I still couldn’t figure out what I did wrong (the number of tucks were all accounted for). That’s what I decided to refer to the instructions. I read through them a couple of times, searching for the clue that would solve this problem. Then I noticed it,

Fold the pleats over 3/16th.

Oh. That’s sort of a bit different than 3/8ths. Oops.

That problem solved, the rest of the shirt came together smoothly.

Yesterday, when I had to run over to Bolt to get some more white thread I found the absolute perfect buttons (at 10 cents a pop from the bulk button jar). They were actually precisely what I was looking for. That unusual gold/yellow color happened to be the color of the head on the pin that I’d used to pin the collar shut when I hung the shirt up one evening, and it worked just fabulously with the other colors in the fabric. (You can see the photo with the pin in it over on this post from yesterday.)

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I played around with the directionality of the stripes (which are not straight stripes, they’re rather wavy-gravy, which makes them much more interesting). The collar has a horizontal band of flowers on it. The yoke is also horizontal, as are the cuffs. These touches are what really make this shirt seem special.

 Fashion Forward

 Fashion Forward

Josh always is rolling up his sleeves or pushing them up or generally fiddling with them, so I doubt that I beautiful work on the cuffs and sleeve band will see the light of day much.

 Fashion Forward

But, he was thrilled with the shirt and even wore it to have our Sunday coffee at Jim & Patty’s (locals: these are the folks who founded Coffee People—yes, they’re back!).

 Fashion Forward

Josh is so happy with this shirt, and I so enjoyed making it (there’s something deeply satisfying in making something nice for someone you love who really appreciates handmade stuff), that I’m already planning another one. The vision for this one: a nice lightweight white cotton, with the banded collar, no pintucks and an, errrrr, embroidered monkey from the “Monkey Love” embroidery pattern from Sublime Stitching (it’ll be awesome, trust me).

~Sarah

Tutorial: Adirondack Chair Redux

As promised, here’s the step-by-step for making over your very own crummy plastic Adirondack chairs into something fun and unique. We had some of the classic “computer monitor beige” chairs that were leftover from our past lives in Santa Fe where you just get used to everything being brown. Somehow, all brown stuff just doesn’t fly now that we’re back in Portland, so red and blue polka dot chairs seem much more appropriate. We’re really enjoying our new and improved chairs. Hope you have fun with this!

1. Locate some old plastic Adirondack chairs, and clean them well (you don’t what to immortalize old cobwebs). We’d suggestion first looking in your garage (everyone seems to have some of these sitting around). If you don’t have any, check garage sales, dumpsters and/or sales at Target. They’re cheap. And comfy. And pretty damn ugly.

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2. Get yourself two cans of contrasting colors of Krylon Fusion for Plastics spraypaint; this will makeover one chair. You must use this type of paint. Anything else, you’ll have a huge mess on your hands. It takes one can of each color, per chair, more or less. For some reason, neither Lowe’s or Home Depot carries this brand; we found it at Fred Meyer, and hardware stores seem to have it too. They have a ton of colors, including some new, intriguing-looking metallics. Avoid the new textured spray paint for this project—the stickers would likely grab onto the texture and destroy all your hard work.

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3. Get some weird foam stickers. We got our in the “foam” section at Michaels. They have all sorts of shapes and sizes—stars, letters, monkeys, you name it. You could use regular stickers, too, but these will make your life easier in the long run. So go with the foam ones, assuming that the foam section of the craft store doesn’t scare you too much. (Consider yourself warned.)

4. Move your chairs to a well-ventilated area, and lay out a drop cloth. Or do as we did and use the yard and just mow the lawn afterward. We’d suggest following the safety precautions on the can of Fusion. Don’t breath this stuff, okay!

5. Select your color that you want to have as the dots (or whatever shape you’re using). So if you want a red chair with blue dots, select your blue paint.

6. Spray your chair with the base color. You don’t need to be thorough, but you do need to make sure that you’ve got good coverage of the area that you want dots on. When you’re done, it should look like the photos below.

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2620498834 98e630edef Tutorial: Adirondack Chair Redux

See how we just focused on getting a good coat on the places we planned on having dots? The nature of this paint means that you don’t have to worry about having even coats at this point.

7. Let dry. The can suggests waiting an hour before adding a second coat, and that’s what we did, which turned out fine.

Now the fun begins…

8. Take your “foamies” (we were not aware they had a name until we googled “foam stickers” to write this tutorial), and stick them randomly all over the parts of the chair that you’ve painted. Stick them on firmly. We had a few that weren’t stuck on solidly, and we got slightly funky results. A nice random scatter works well. We used around 20 medium-sized stickers for each chair, but it really depends on your preferences and the look you want. Your chairs should now look like this:

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9. Take your contrasting can of spray paint and completely coat your chair, stickers and all. Give it a nice thick, even coat so that there’s none of the previous color or original plastic showing.

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2620499886 84162df220 Tutorial: Adirondack Chair Redux

10. Let dry. Wait at least an hour. It dries to touch really quickly, but takes some time to set.

Now even more fun…

11. Start peeling. This is why the foam stickers work so well. Because they’re very thick, it’s easy to grab them and pull them off the chair. They should lift right off. It there’s any foam left behind after you peel off the stickers, don’t worry—it rubs right off with your fingers.

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12. Voila! Let these set for a week before you use them. The Krylon Fusion needs to cure. The colors will also deepen. After a week, you can clean them like any other plastic, if they get dirty. (We suggest a garden hose.)

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Enjoy! There are more pictures over at this Flickr photo set, too. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section!

~Sarah & Josh

Extreme Makeover: Plastic Adirondack Chair Edition

Now that it’s (finally) sunny here in Portland, we’ve been furiously spiffing up our backyard so that we can enjoy hanging out outside. Our old crappy “computer monitor beige” plastic Adirondack chairs (that were our living room chairs when we spent a year living in a converted Santa Fe blacksmith shop—but that’s a story for another time) have been resurrected. These look so awesome with super funky blue and red periwinkle polka dots that we’re thinking this revamp may deserve a tutorial. (It’s pretty simple, really…)

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What do you think?

~S & J

Party On

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This weekend I went to a party for an old friend of mine (like, we went to preschool together, old friend) in celebration her graduation from medical school. I actually got to see a bunch of people that I hadn’t seen in ages—including a friend of my who (thanks to Facebook) I recently found out lives down the street from me, a gal that I thought I didn’t like but who actually seems pretty cool (funny how we get so much less judgmental as we, er, “mature”), my favorite high school teacher (English) and the German teacher I was terrified of (he’d yell horrible things at us in German and whacked our desks with a yardstick—I wish I were exaggerating). I have to admit, there’s something very weird about drinking beer in front of your teachers—even if they haven’t been your teachers since 1995, and even if it’s high-quality microbrew. Just sayin’.

Like any relatively normal person would be, I was a bit stressed out about seeing everyone (it’s been awhile, people are busy with lives, reside all over the place, plus the smallish town I grew up in is a long 30 miles from Portland) and of course I wanted to make sure I wore something that seemed marginally cool, without looking like I was trying too hard. None of us went to our high school reunion that was a couple years ago, so this almost felt like a very mini reunion-esque function. I’m sure you understand the need to appropriately wardrobe myself.

Josh is still screen printing like a madman, and is constantly on the lookout for clearance T-shirts (yes, we could make T-shirts, but that’s about the most boring sewing project ever) to continue the printing adventure. He designed and printed me an OFFICIAL “Moon Family Band All-Star Show” T-shirt that has quickly become just about my favorite thing I own. (The Moon Family Band is, sadly, not a real band. But it should be.) He did some cool (and I’m not certain intentional) blending of inks, so there’s a snazzy iridescent effect as well.

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I combined this one-of-a-kind T-shirt with my first creation from The Alabama Stitch Book, which is a fairly new book that’s seeking to revitalize the hand stitching traditions of the southern U.S. (This book is going to get it’s separate entry—I promise.)

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I didn’t use the traditional hand stitched reverse appliqué method that the author prescribes, but I think I made a pretty nice approximation of the technique using the trusty Kenmore. (Again, I promise that I’ll cover my modified reverse appliqué technique in a near future post.) The purple knit fabric is a remnant that came for free in an order from Fabric Mart (the same order where I got the freebie wool for my mom’s jacket). the black knit backing is recycled from the sleeves of one of Josh’s T-shirts that he got when he used to work for a performing arts organization. I used some slightly-too-shiny (it’s probably meant for dance costumes) fold-over elastic for the waistband. Oh, and the pattern and leaf stencil are both from the book. I think the outfit achieved the balance I was looking for. I call it “Crafty Cool.”

Now, I didn’t tell Josh that I made the skirt so that I’d have something to wear to this shindig that went with the T-shirt he’d made me—’cause I had to wear the Moon Family Band T-shirt, just had to. He probably thinks I’m completely certifiable now. Wait ’til I tell him that this was our class song—yes, they played it as our recessional at graduation—and we had no clue whatsoever what it was really all about. Then he’s going to really wonder what he got himself into all those years ago. But, the shirt was a great conversation starter.

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The polka dot Vans really pull it all together, don’t they? Plus, Vans are the “Sewist’s Shoes,” if you recall.

I ended up having a great time at the get together and stayed out until an unheard-of 11:30 p.m.! (We’re wild here at Casa de Sewer-Sewist.) The oh-so-late night did result in my being way too tired and missing both Diane’s CRAFT release get-together and the Rose Cup Races, though. Too bad, both were going to be a lot of fun.

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~Sarah

It’s Gotta Be the Shoes

It has taken me ten days, but I think I am finally able to discuss the shoes. The combination of frustration, old shoe funk and the massive loss of brain cells from working with Shoe Goo had rendered me unable to rationally explain why and how I made these things and their deeper meaning (not really, they don’t have one).

I had been thumbing through the most recent issue of Craft Magazine a while back and noticed that there was an article on making shoes using an old pair of Chucks. Honestly, I thought this was pretty sweet, but wanted to go a step further, you know making my own toe instead of the rubber one and sewing the shoe into the sole instead of only gluing it (I would later regret the latter, greatly). I don’t have any old Chucks around that fit (this again is another incredibly whiny story about how sweet Chucks used to be and how I have worn the same size for many many years until buying my last pair which fit like clown shoes, errr) so instead I grabbed my lawn mowing shoes and went at them with a box cutter.

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Making the pattern for the shoe was fairly easy, I skipped the gusset that the original shoe had and made one long piece that wrapped around the foot and another piece which was the toe and tongue piece. Off to a good start. I decided to make the shoes “super sweet” so I choose the left overs from Sarah’s lovely polka dot bag. I have worn shoes most of my life (and for a good portion of my adult life) so I am a fairly good judge of what fabric would make a sturdy shoe and obviously the cotton/linen blend of the Echino fabric was not going to cut it. As with every other project I start from scratch I grabbed some fusible fleece and some buckram (as US Weekly might say, “Shoes, they’re just like hats) and fused all three together to make a good solid shoe. As you can see I put three vertical stitches at the back of the shoe to force the buckram to curve and giving it shape and I added an extra layer of fleece on the heel for more padding. I used the same combination to make the tongue/toe piece with additional padding on the tongue bit. At this point things are going really well and amazingly quickly.

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The next step was to line the shoes, again I used the leftover bag material and cut the shoe piece slightly longer that the pattern piece. I simply edge stitched the right sides together (leaving the bottom unsewn) and pulled it over the shoe. I used spray glue to hold the lining fabric down, this would be the first instance of trouble. I really should have used the Shoe Goo at this point instead of the spray adhesive. While the Elmer’s sticks, the inside of your shoe takes a serious beating that only a probably toxic glue can handle.

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On the tongue I did roughly the same maneuver, except I only sewed the half way down the tongue rights sides together and then I stitched on the outside for the rest of the tongue/toe piece. I found that this was the way that my other shoes were constructed and the laces other part of the shoe hides any rough edges.

So, I have my shoe pieces finished and waiting to be inserted into the soles. You can see I used some old Puma soles that were originally white but had turned that color of brown only dirt, grass and grime can turn rubber. This would stand and I attacked with spray paint. Unfortunately, I went to Freddy’s (Fred Meyer, ya’ll) by myself to pick out the spray paint and grabbed what I thought was a really close match to the Cherry color of the fabric. (Let’s be honest if this would have worked it would have been sweet). I went out to the backyard, sprayed those soles down and realized that I had gotten a maroon color instead of anything close to red so it was back to Freddy’s and another can of spray paint in black (labeled, I probably would have bought navy if I was just looking at caps). The soles sat for a day and half and looked alright.

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This is where I really start to get into trouble, the soles are off limits and I am wanting to finish. My mind starts to wander and it hits me, I am going to make a sole out of (one guess……) that’s right buckram and then I can just glue it right into the soles. I cut out the shape using the shoe insert and start going to town. I get the sides sewed on and I put the toe/tongue in and realize that I have made elf shoes. Because, as I now know you must shape for your toesies. I immediately lop off the toe part from the tongue and make a larger newer toe out of the lining fabric but with nothing to stabilize it. Failure, now have a pair of really ugly slipper with know shape. My next move is some stretchable pleather from the Despot (yes I drove across town for 1/8 of a yard of fabric). I rip of the second toe and try this. Now I have really ugly vinyl slippers.

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Sarah suggests that we make a straight piece to provide a bumper and the space for the toe piece to go over the toes. This is bloody brilliant I think, and I try again. Slightly cooler slippers, but I think it will work. The soles have dried to a point where they are usable. I start jamming and trimming my complete “shoe” into the sole. Awful. It dawns on me (really it should have long ago) that I should just directly glue the shoes into the sole. Who needs the buckram footbed? Out comes the seam ripper and off come the shoes (and a large part of my thumb). I reattach the original toe piece to the tongue (the applique leopards are there to hide this) and start gluing.

It gets ugly, because the glue and the paint are having a chemical reaction that is stripping the paint from the soles and turning the glue black and maroon, plus I neglected to bandage my thumb (if it falls off I have a culprit), which burns. After lots of needless pinning (the goo sets up fast) the shoe actually takes shape and looks like shoes!

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I added some eyelets and laced these bad boys up. While the aren’t the prettiest things they are unique. Unfortunately, I should have used a nicer pair of shoes to start because these weren’t that comfortable to begin with, so ripping out the inserts and reapplying them hasn’t done anything to improve that situation.

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I am working on a second pair with a canvas liner to give it more strength and shape and hope to have something even prettier and more comfortable.

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This was actually an incredibly fun project. It really doesn’t take that much time if you do it correctly, and you gotta love recycling old stuff to make nicer stuff.

Bagged

My fabulous Amy Butler Sophia Bag—the one that made my fingers bleed—has gotten kinda of dirty. Between taking it on the MAX, leaving it sitting on the floor of my cubicle at work and accidentally kicking it and the general wet grossness of the weather here, it’s looking pretty funky. Now, I’m faced with a bit of a problem: how to clean it up. You see, it’s interfaced with buckram, which can’t be immersed in water because the structure (starch) will dissolve. So, I may have to (break with my hard and fast policy) and get it—gasp—dry cleaned. (I hear there’s an eco-cleaner near our house, at least.) Anyway, because I didn’t want to deal with deciding to go to the dry cleaners just yet, so I made a new bag for myself. (I know normal people would not understand how completely, utterly logical this is—but I know y’all get it.)

I’ve mentioned before what a tremendous fan I am of the designs of Etsoku Furuya, produced by Echino. I really like a lot of the unusual Japanese textiles, and Bolt carries a lot of goodies, most of which I can resist—but not Echino. I’ve made the High Street Messenger Bag out of her wolf fabric already and it’s just some of the most dynamic, vibrant prints I’ve ever seen. (There’s something wonderfully dangerous about having such a bad-ass fabric store within walking distance of our house. We’re very lucky.) I picked up the cherry-colored version of Furuya’s interpretation of the leopard print and found some cheapo complementary fabric for the lining. (Echino is, as we Oregonians say, “spendy,” so saving on the lining helps.)

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Ever since I made Josh’s step-mother one of the Amy Butler Downtown Purses, I’ve been meaning to whip one up for myself. It’s a great size and when I say “whip one up,” I really mean it. It takes no time to make this back—just a bit of wrestling at the end when attaching the straps.

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I’m rather proud of the way the pattern placement ended up. I’m not as precise about that as I could (should) be, but this time I went to some fairly significant effort on the location of the leopards on this bag, and I think it paid off.

The pattern placement on the back turned out pretty well, too.

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The bag’s a little wide for someone as short as me (I know that sounds weird—but if you’re short, you know what I mean). But the fabric’s what is really shown off here anyway.

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I used buckram again for the interfacing to give this bag shape. I really like the structured shape that it creates. However, I just used what we had around the house, and Josh uses a much heavier weight buckram for his hat brims that I do for bags, so I had to do some more intense-than-usual wrangling with the finished bag. This included having to give up on the suggested attachment method (top-stitched to the outside) and going to attaching to the inside and hiding it in the lining. That’s a weird description, I know, but you can probably figure out from the pictures what I did. If I’d been thinking ahead, then I would have narrowed the flap just a smidge in order to account for the strap residing inside rather than outside the bag. I have a feeling I’m the only person this bothers, though.

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I also added a pocket to the inside of the bag. This was really easy—I just cut off the top of two additional pieces of lining fabrics, sewed them together, added the size of pockets (I made four, but wish I’d made three—the two on the ends aren’t that usable) I wanted and basted it to the lining. Much better than the original pocket-less version. What was Amy thinking? She usually goes overboard on details like that… (My attempts at photographing the interior of the bag were not too successful, as you can see.)

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(Sidebar for a short lecture: That envelope in my bag? That’s my ballot. Filled out and ready to go. Oregonians: don’t forget to vote by May 20. Postmarks don’t count. It’s got to actually arrive by the 20th. So make sure that your ballot in the hands of your county elections office by Tuesday. End of lecture.)

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Notice the blouse I’m wearing in these pictures? That’s the Project Runway/Simplicity blouse I made a couple of months ago. I haven’t worn it much because the elastic in the sleeves annoyed me beyond belief and basically looked 100% dorky. So, recently I got around to ripping the elastic out and all is well in the world again. I wear this a lot with jeans and this ancient black jersey pencil skirt that I believe will be with me for the rest of my life. An added bonus is that it coordinates quite well with my new bag.

So, I’ve got to tell you that while this latest project from me isn’t too thrilling, Josh is working on some really unusual stuff. I don’t want to say much more. But, I’m always amazing at his willingness to think of some of the craziest things to craft—ever.

Just wait. You’ll see.

~Sarah 

Slacker

This may come as a shock to everyone, but I actually finished something for once.

It’s been ages, and it’s not for lack of trying. I have had this pinstriped denim that I got at Bolt quite awhile ago (this fall, maybe?), but had grown way too attached to, and thus was reluctant to cut. It’s the same fabric that I used for the elbow patches of my “Not Knitted Sweater.” So, sort of on a whim, I decided to just go for it and make another pair of the Hot Patterns Jeanious Jeans, this time with the intention of not having them rip apart on the first wearing.

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So I wore these to work all day on Monday (which explains why I’m so rumbled in all these pictures) and nothing dramatic happened.

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To be completely honest, I was sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop on these. I figured that it would be inevitable that something would go wrong. I’d had another interesting zipper adventure with these, this time because I reused (Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! and all that) the zipper from my ill-fated first pair of Jeanious Jeans and accidentally yanked the zipper pull right off the zipper and had to have Josh bust oust out the pliers to make the zipper work again. (Of course, this was immediately after I’d had a painless fly construction and was talking all kinds of smack to Josh about why I couldn’t figure out why people thought fly zipper closures were so difficult. I kinda deserved this.) So, making a long story longer, I sort of assumed that the zipper would break. Of course, this didn’t stop me from wearing these jeans. It also didn’t stop me from being completely neurotic all day long, slightly obsessively checking to make sure that there wasn’t a huge gaping hole in the butt of my pants all day, or that I hadn’t had a terminal zipper malfunction.

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Anyway, the zipper held (it was one of those great metal YKK zippers that are actually meant for jeans) and I think these are pretty nice.

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Honestly, I’m more of a skirts and dresses for work gal, and a jeans-jeans person on the weekend. But, I really need more pants for work in the yucky weather during the winter. Sometimes the wet weather really doesn’t allow for the flippy girly-girl stuff I love to wear.

I will certainly make these again, as it’s a really nice, well-drafted pattern and a flattering style that works well for me and doesn’t make my legs look too short (I have this issue with pants–they seem to accentuate my annoyingly short legs sometimes). Next time, I’ll take in the front mid-section above the hip as well as the waist a bit, in order to get the fit that I like.

I think these would be fabulous in a linen, and I have some navy linen that my mom got me last summer that may be just right for the job. I had a pair of linen jeans in college that I practically lived in during miserable D.C. summers, so I’d love to recreate those.

But the real story here is the shoes that I’m wearing in these pictures.

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(I just love these and wanted an excuse to show them off. They have a painted bow on them–how awesome is that?!)

~Sarah

P.S. Some housekeeping and other notes…

A couple of people have tagged us for “7 Random Things” and a “Make My Day Award.” Thank you! How thoughtful! And we promise we’ll pass it along ASAP–things have been wild around here lately, and we’ve just not been as dutiful in our blogging duties as we could/should be…

Also, if you’re a total technology geek (I am!), I’ve discovered a great web browser and I’m spreading the word. It’s Flock, and it’s based on Firefox, but has RSS feeds (to manage all the blogs you read), Flickr (to manage all your photos and those of your contacts), YouTube (self-explanatory), web email and Facebook (which I’ve recently begun to love) all integrated as one into the sidebar. Hard to explain, but it’s great if you have lots of blogs you read and sites like Facebook and Flickr that you visit often to just have them sitting right there while you’re doing your thing online. Anyway, just thought that some of you may be interested if you hadn’t heard about it. (Is this a product endorsement? Should I be getting a kickback of some kind? Hmmmm….)

Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome “The Velvet Overcoat!”

2439325661 0c2917b469 Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome The Velvet Overcoat!

This is it, the first jacket that I have successfully made, well not made, as in made on my own, because this was truly a Sewer-Sewist co-production. I did most of the framing and Sarah did most of the finishing, to borrow from the construction vernacular. As you may have read Sarah has had some sewing mojo issues lately, which have somehow worked their way down the line to myself (or maybe it is the weather, I am officially rejecting and denouncing this crappy rainy spring). I had no confidence in my ability to set in the sleeves and needed some help with this, which was frustrating because it sometimes feels like I am going backwards instead of forwards. But, let’s return to that and start from the beginning.

2440150052 e5a376d83b Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome The Velvet Overcoat!

This is one of the few times that I started out with the pattern, Burda 7780 “Coat,” first instead of my usual way of getting inspired by a fabric and trying to make it work with something (like the velvet jeans from last year). I am sucker for both mid length coats and welt pockets (which I would come to regret) and this had both. Like most Burda Men’s patterns that I have made I was happy to find something that had a little more “style” than the other companies’ jackets. Men’s patterns aren’t hide to find, but finding something interesting often is, plus the Burda’s shoulders always seem to fit me well. We pretty much followed the directions this time, opting to skip the lining and instead do “French Seaming” to give it a nice tailored look on the inside, not doing the top stitching on the front of the jacket because it doesn’t look great with the fabric, leaving out the shoulder pads and making a bias cut, two-pat undercollar (which is sweet, thanks Sarah!).

2439325155 497234d32d Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome The Velvet Overcoat!

As you may know I love me some velvet and this smokey blue velveteen at Bolt just cried out to be made into this jacket. It has a little stretch to it and a really nice drape. The color is subtle enough I didn’t think it would look too ridiculous to wear around (at least I don’t, hopefully I am not wrong). Speaking of velvet, did you know that you can buy Elvis shoes but finding a Velvet Elvis is nearly impossible. I remember when I was a kid that driving down Cnl. Glenn Highway in Dayton there would occasionally be dudes (and dudes they were) selling giant Elvis and assorted velvets on the side of the road (probably from their vans, but I can’t be certain). Now I am not going to lie here and pretend I thought they were cool at the time, I really thought they were tacky, which is pretty rich coming from a 13 year old with fluorescent Chuck Taylors and striped socks pulled up over my calves.

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At the time Velvet Elvi seemed liked something that would be hanging in one of my weird great aunts’ houses, but damn since the Elvis estate has become fanatical in holding onto his image rights we have lost a great part of our campy heritage.

My father is really into neon, pink flamingos and being cool (which some how he pulls off, I have never had this gift), but he has been on this quest for a Velvet Elvis for a long time (probably since the time they haven’t been around). Back when I was in college I spent most of a summer in Turkey trying to learn the language (um didn’t take) and hanging out with my weird friend on the Black Sea. On one of my last days there, I was in Istanbul wandering around the covered bazaar when I spotted the most wonderful Velvet Elvis hanging about one of the stalls. Let me tell you it was magnificent, if it were a fresco in the Hagia Sofia it would have been restored and show off to the world. What did I do in my infinite wisdom? I walked on by looking to find something more authentic to bring back. I gotta say I was quite the dumbass and it’s something my Dad hasn’t forgotten. I have seen them for sale on the internet occasionally, but you gotta buy one of these in person to get the full effect.

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The coat, yeah that, what we were talking about, turned out really well. It is incredibly comfortable and walks the fine line between being interesting and being stupid. I used some leftover fabric to make the pockets (er, well Sarah and I made the pockets together would be more accurate. I fretted over making them for a month before I decided to just ask her how to do it) and the paisley pattern peaking out of the welts gives it a nice vintage look. I also found coin buttons at Bolt that were originally chained. Sarah and I both decided that it would look to Sgt. Peppery to use them attached together, so I cut off the chains and used them as normal buttons. The coat has a great fit and I will probably end up making a rain coat or something similar out of a lighter weight fabric for the summer. All in all a very fun project and it was great to be working with the Sewist again on a project from beginning to end.

2440150414 5090b9b4b7 Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome The Velvet Overcoat!

~Josh

Big Printin’

Sarah made me a lovely Burda raglan sleeve knit T-shirt (8827) for the Christmas Day Blazers vs. Super Sonics game, where the crowd was encouraged to wear red. I didn’t have anything red to wear, so she whipped this one up for me (it literally took her like an hour). Let me say that while it is really comfortable, how often does someone need a plain bright red shirt? If you are me, not often. I must admit that I love t-shirts with things printed on them. I am not much for the logo wear, that acts has expensive advertising for a product (unless that product is a baseball team). Sarah and I have spent some time talking about doing some printing on fabric and even bought some fabric paint and a lotus root to do some abstract printing. However, the lotus root did not dry very well in this climate and rotted away—kind of gross actually.

After much deliberation, we decided to go for it and buy a screen printing starter kit. Now there are a lot of different ways to do screen printing and a lot of ideas of how to do it on the cheap, but we decided to go for the basic Speedball Fabric Printing Kit. If you decide to give this a try (and already I am going to spill the beans and say that it is great fun) a little comparison shopping is a must. The same kit varied in price by 20 bucks (with Michael’s Craft being at the high end). We ended up buying ours at a local independent art supply store, though with even more searching on the internet we probably could have saved a little more money. While the kit isn’t the greatest value in the world in a per ounce basis of the chemicals and ink, it was the cheapest way to get started with out knowing if we were going to like it or do it again. The biggest advantage with buying the kit is the INSTRUCTIONS. I should say that I am terrible at following directions (unless the Sewist tells me something to do), the few time in our lives that we have bought Ikea furniture, Sarah has to interpret things and we have to build the things together (the first time this happened, we were a bit frustrated with each other, but after many years we have settled into a nice routine on these matters). Even my dumb ass was able to print properly the first time around.

The image that I choose to print was a baseball player (surprise, surprise I know). The Library of Congress is a great resource for old images (among many other things) and I found this great baseball card in the American Memory Collection. I have Adobe Creative Suite on this computer because I use InDesign a lot for work and with that have Photoshop and Illustrator for work. After much tinkering with the image I was able to come up with a monotone black and white line drawing (later I found the live trace function in Illustrator which made this go really quickly, yeah I don’t know much about these programs).

We set up our printing station in the garage on an old table.

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Something everyone should know about this is it isn’t a tidy process (oh my god, if we had white carpet and I tried this on the imaginary white carpet you would be reading my obituary this week) and you need a sink to wash all of the inks and chemicals and either a table that you can destroy (or “customize) or at least something you can cover the table with.

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The first print we did was the baseball print and, amazingly enough, it worked.

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A couple of days later we printed AU Eagles t-shirts to celebrate the old alma mater’s first round lost in the NCAA tournament. (These shirts are hilarious. We’ll make sure to post pictures of them, but Sarah’s been sick and doesn’t want her picture taken with a big red nose.) We did these shirts later in the evening and I didn’t bother to wash the screen out well enough. Big mistake. You always have to clean the screen promptly, I have had nothing but trouble since.

This has turned into a great new part of the sewing hobby. Even the Sewist has gotten behind making prints. She wants to screenprint herself a “SuperTrout” T-shirt to wear to a Blazers game as part of her penance for saying really mean things about Travis Outlaw early this year (this is a long story that would only be entertaining to Blazers fans, so I won’t torture you with that).

~Josh

Not Knitted

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I used to knit a lot. I taught myself when I was still in college and really, really enjoyed it for a long time. However, about this time last year, I started having pain in my right index finger and wound up with tendinitis. Really, really painful tendinitis. This was shortly after I started my current job and I had a mouse set up that I wasn’t used to. In fact, I hadn’t used an actually computer mouse (I’ve used laptops with touch pads for a long time) in ages, and it seems that they don’t really agree with me. So, in a short period of time I managed to damage my hand pretty severely. Anyway, it doesn’t hurt anymore but one of the long-term issues is that I really cannot knit at all. I’m sort of okay with it, unless I into yarn shops, like I did recently for the Craft 06 Release Party that Diane and Susan hosted at Twisted here in Portland. I think it’s not so much the missing knitting, but being reminded that there’s something that I can’t do. That really pisses me off.

Anyway, what my most recent jaunt into a yarn shop also reminded me of is that my mom (who does this sort of thing quite often—she’s cool that way) had recently bought me some very cool mohair and wool black sweater knit fabric from Bolt. In fact, she snagged me the last to yards on the roll It’s from Italy, which makes it even cooler, of course.

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Since I subscribe to Burda World of Fashion, I try to look there first for patterns, I the Spring-Summer Burda Plus Special Edition had a fairly snazzy pattern for a hoodie design especially for sweater knits.

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However, as I started sewing it, I needed to make some modifications on the fly. I couldn’t figure out the weird darts in the cut on hood. They made the hood really pointy, like a gnome. Not one of my favorite looks. So, I hacked that off, cut a new neckline and added a collar like the one that my Forever Fur jacket has.

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I also realized that I had to eliminate the darts from the sweater, because the loose nature of this fabric meant that those types of details weren’t possible. So I eliminated those and added waist shaping to the sides instead. (I didn’t add enough, actually—I’ll get to what I did after I realized that in a minute. But hindsight being 20/20 and all that. Are you getting the picture that I sort of put this thing together on the fly?)

I also had to add some professorial-looking elbow patches to protect the fabric. But, since I couldn’t decide on where I wanted to put the patches before I sewed up the arms, I decided that it wouldn’t be “that hard” to sew them on once everything was attached. (No surprise, it was really hard.) Anyway, I used some charcoal colored red and white pinstriped denim that I also got at Bolt. (Basically, I love all of the fabric at Bolt, in case you haven’t noticed.)

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The other challenge that I had with this fabric was sewing the buttonhole. The loose nature of the knit of this fabric, and its fuzziness, meant that I made several attempts at creating the buttonhole—all of which resulted in the fuzz getting tangled in my machine’s feed dogs and no buttonhole. Eventually, I came up with what I think is a fairly ingenuous method. I wrapped the edge of the sweater where I wanted the buttonhole with some cheapo Ikea black cotton and used my automatic buttonholer. Then I had a buttonhole, no problem. I actually developed a number of tricks for working with this sort of fabric (there wasn’t much good info online about dealing with super-loose sweater knits) during this process, so I’m contemplating actually writing all of it down into a compilation post of tips and even maybe a tutorial (Scary, me writing a tutorial!).

Anyway, once I finished this thing up I wore it to work one day and found it to be uncomfortably huge—especially in the waist. (I have this problem a lot with Burda, actually, especially the Plus edition of the magazine. I usually sew their 44 and take in the waist and back a bit and get a perfect fit.) When I looked back at the pattern photo, I realized that I was styled to be sort of billowy (frumpy)—not an ideal look for me.

So, after thinking on it, I converted it to a wrap sweater to get the fitted (sort of) look I prefer. I moved the button over and added some ties inside the sweater. Overall I’m pretty happy with the look.

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This not-knitted-but-sewn sweater really makes me feel like I’ve pulled a fast one on my stupid tendinitis. Sorta kicked its butt.

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(I am such a dork. I only hope some of y’all find my pathetic attempt at karate kicking the camera as absurdly humorous as I do.)

~Sarah

Things to Make & Do


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After finishing my baseball caps I started working on another “idea hat” for Sarah.

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This was much easier after going through the fit problems of the earlier models (it involved only sizing the main panel which wraps around the head). Taking inspiration (those are the pictures at the top of this post) from my winter head wear, my very nice wool Borsalino Fedora (thanks babe!), I interfaced this model with fusible fleece (which really is the gift that keeps on giving) and underlined it with lining fabric. The result is a really nice quilted look from the inside and some nice double needle top stitching (that isn’t as random as I had hoped for, unfortunately).

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I am always struck by the number of stitches that make up a really great commercial hat, and have decided to embrace this idea of a not perfectly flat fabric but one with character from the threads. This is a good revelation for me. I used another piece of wool fabric, this being suiting, from Pendleton and cut it at different angles to make the plaid look random, which again doesn’t look as random as I desired, but I can live with that.

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They Call Me “Crop-a-dile Dundee”

My other silly project this week has been adding eyelets to my sneakers using Sarah’s recently acquired Crop-a-Dile (which is not only a manly shade of pink, but also on sale at Costco right now with a ton of eyelets for $29). (The Crop-a-Dile is a gadget that looks like massive hole punch that easily inserts eyelets, snaps, brads, grommets, etc.)

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I think it was worth the ten minutes to add some additional flair to some admittedly boring kicks. Why don’t sneakers come with eyelets anymore? We all know they make everything look sweeter. I have a feeling there will be a lot of shoe customization around these parts for the next couple of days.

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~josh

Spring Training

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As you may know, I love baseball and I especially love old school baseball uniforms and hats (oh yeah and jackets and sweaters and stir-ups, oh my). While I am happy for spring training to have started, I do feel a little distant from my favorite game. Another bad year for my Reds is definitely on the books, and goddamn, I am sick of steroids. With my newfound love of the Blazers, I don’t need baseball to signal the new year. After working diligently to make Sarah’s idea hats realties I decided to tackle making myself a baseball cap.

Using the basic set of skills acquired from the Idea Hat Recipe book and the remains of an old hat that I ripped apart for pattern pieces, I set out to make myself a hat in the style of the early 20th century baseball. My first attempt was a lovely red wool number that unfortunately looked more like a bicycle cap than a baseball cap, with its bill pointing straight down. There was a really great look to the cap, unfortunately, trying to fix the hat and make the bill more symmetrical, I totally cheesed it up and had to ditch it. This sucked for a number of reasons, it had a great look to it and had already been to its first Blazer game, you know one of those “the path to hell is paved with good intentions” kind of deal. (Note: Sarah is still pissed at me for wrecking this one—it looked really good.)

This first example is what I am now calling “The City” hat (the “P” on the front for, you guessed it, Portland). Instead of doing the mathematics (err, liberal arts major that I was) I decided to guess and added an inch of length to the pattern pieces left over from the dearly departed hat from the last paragraph. Since I was guessing the hat turned out to be an enormous size. To get it to fit I added an elastic band which gave “The City” a cool look with a “baggy” style cap with a really 19th century bill. It took me a couple of days, but I really have grown to love the damn thing.

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Being that I really wanted to make an authentic cap I sat down at the kitchen table Saturday with the French curve, a piece of scrap paper and my thinking cap, in the guise of my previous hat. I took the circumference of my head, divided it by six (the number of panels) and added a seam allowance. I used the French curve to make the triangular shaped panels. After sewing the body of the hat together I tried it on and walked dorkily around the house with a nicely fitted unfinished hat. All baseball hats have vents, in the last hats I used the eyelet function on the sewing machine to make them in, with this hat we used Sarah’s lovely new “Crop-a-Dile” to add metal eyelets, which were sweet. I added the bill and used satin ribbon to make the band. After all the math, sizing and thinking, it was still too big, which meant a piece of elastic sewn into the back two panels to pull it tight. I wore this around Sunday and have decided to re-make the headband out of cotton, satin feels nice for a while but is too weak and just basically doesn’t work.

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I probably should mention that the wool I used for these hats was from the scrap bin at the Pendleton outlet in Washougal (we rushed up there one Sunday afternoon to get there before they closed—how dorky is that?), which totaled $4 for two hats that are wearable and two that are now in the trash pile. To make the bill, instead of using cardboard or plastic like modern hats, I used a piece of buckram and fusible fleece which makes a bill that is shape-able and works really well for the short brimmed style. If I were to make a more modern (like say the 1940s) hat, I would use a harder material because it allows for the hat to pull tighter on your head. I will probably be making a lot of hats for the next couple of days, (indeed there is a half finished “Idea Hat” for Sarah sitting on the table).

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Sarah and I went down to Civic Stadium (actual name PGE Park—Sarah calls it Civic Stadium because that’s what it was called when she was growing up here in Oregon) to take some pictures.

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We missed the big college baseball games from the weekend, but take a look at the Oregon State Beavers’ new uniforms. A nice retro style, with the contrasting colored facing which the Sewist has informed me is going to be really cool this year (she actually follows these trends). I just want the socks!

I am trying to decide what to do with a beautiful piece of cream-colored wool flannel, either an old style baseball jersey or a hat like the Babe’s.

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Any ideas?

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~Josh

Putting on our idea hats…

You may remember that we’ve mentioned a few times that we really like hats. You may also have noticed that we’re slightly obsessed with looking for weird, quirky things to make together. Our latest project really scored on both accounts.

Recently, we have taken to going to Uwajimaya and the Japanese language bookstore contained within, Kinokuniya. It is a fantastic place where you can not only get cool books (albeit in Japanese) and then get us all sorts of tofu and interesting sauces to put on said tofu. Plus, we were able to find some great embroidery books for Sarah’s mom, who is quite the stitcher. Taking inspiration from the Geek Sewing blog we used to enjoy (it’s no longer in existence, but Geek Sewing contributes over on the forums at Tamyu’s site) we thought, “What the hell? Let’s give this Japanese sewing thing a try.” Sarah found a couple of really great books on retro clothing (we’ll write about those soon, we promise) and we both were over the moon with excitement for this fantastically titled book: Idea Hat Recipe!

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So, we’re pretty sure that “Idea Hat” is a Japanese translation of the term “thinking cap.” It was written by a Paris-based Japanese hatmaker called Sept Bleus. There’s sort of a duel concept thing going on in this book. First, all of the hats resemble desserts. Second, the book comes with a bunch of different elements (printed on pattern paper like Burda World of Fashion) that are combined in “recipes” that you piece together to make different hat styles. So, there’s sort of a foodie kind of theme going on. The one we created was “Marcaron The Russe.”

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Our first couple attempts were sort of like a bad fairy tale, one was enormous and the next was way too small. These are the problems you run into without directions that you can understand. If it were in German, between the two of us, we could figure it out. But Japanese—the only thing we understood were the numbers. But when they’re not related to anything, numbers aren’t that useful. We could have salvaged the first attempt, but Josh decided foolishly to cut eyeholes into it so he could look like a character from Fat Albert (Dumb Donald to be exact). Instead of looking cartoony, which would have made this needless destruction at least funny, Josh instead looked like a bank robber (a stupid, poorly wardrobed one at that).

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For the first successful hat we used the leftover fabric from Sarah’s fabulous retro dress. Instead of adding seam allowances (we assumed that the Idea Hats needed seams added—they didn’t) we used the exact pattern pieces and just a tiny seam allowance. Josh added a covered button to the top to finish it off. This one’s just a smidge too big, but with enough blow drying, Sarah’s hair can puff up enough to make it work.

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The second hat (it was quite a weekend) was made to match Sarah’s funky German soccer (fußball) jacket. We decided to use black medium weight denim and added an elastic headband to keep it tight and a really awesome metallic thread that matches the German flag on her jacket. Jawohl!

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Coming soon… report on Josh’s hat adventure for himself and our first attempt at printing on fabric!

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~Josh & Sarah

Sewing is an attitude.

It’s pretty bad when I’ve written about a project when it’s in progress, but totally forget to show y’all the finished garment—oops! I guess my foray into (Simplicity’s) Project Runway (patterns) wasn’t that memorable. Anyway, I think the photos were, though.

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So, I think this sign is hilarious. I keep replacing the “Safety is an Attitude” statement on the sign with “Sewing is an Attitude: Think Before You Sew” in my head every time I look at these pictures. Advice I could certainly use sometimes.

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I actually kind of like this top, although I think it’s because of the fabric and not because of the design at all. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that Simplicity just repacked this knit Built by Wendy Top into a woven pattern and called it a day.

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Having made both, the fitting weirdness in both—such as extremely broad shoulders makes me think I’m probably pretty correct. I always make shoulders a bit smaller and go down a size or two in Simplicity (since they make patterns with such an insane amount of ease), but this is a bit ridiculous.

I did follow a tip that was in the latest issue of Threads for this pattern: I cut the sleeves on the bias and I’m so glad I did. These would have been waaaaay too puffy if I hadn’t. Now they’re nice and drapey. I keep toying with the idea that I’ll remove the elastic and just have a normal sleeve, since I sort of forgot that I don’t like sleeves with elastic casings. We’ll see if I get up the motivation.

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Anyway, I’m just not really a Simplicity gal anymore, I don’t think. (Aside from my favorite Built by Wendy dress and the occasional retro style, of course.) This Burda pattern is looking much more like what I wanted, but with a decidedly more fitted, grown up look.

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(Ahhhh! That doesn’t mean I’m actually a grown up, does it? The horror!)

~Sarah

Oregon Camouflage

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Burda, Burda, Burda. Such nice looking in the pattern books, and so damn difficult to actually finish. This sweatshirt is my first attempt at sewing in a little while. I have been so frustrated trying to finish (or to be more accurate “move forward”) on my Burda jacket I have been having a hard time getting motivated to start something new.

While at Bolt a couple of weeks back, I saw this lovely Italian (and I mean Italian in that italics way denoting some sort of exaggerated coolness, like Italian Sports Car) microfiber fleece a very nice charcoal color. Anyway, this fabric is incredibly soft and is double sided with a sueded looking front and a fuzzy back. I had bought this Burda 7981 “Sporty Ensemble” (yes, that’s the name Burda gave this particular pattern) sometime back at one of the $2.49 pattern sales and I love the quarter zipped shirt in most forms, including sweaters and sweatshirts.

As far as constructing this little beauty it came together rather well and with only one major surprise. Here’s the picture from Burda’s web site. Maybe you’ll figure out what’s weird about this pattern faster than I did.

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The fit is really nice and euro snug (basically slim fit) and it has a structured look missing from a lot of men’s sportswear patterns out there.

The one problem we had was with the zipper, and I am going to let Sarah have a go at explaining what happened, because she had to bail me out on this point.

So if you take a close look at that picture, you can see that there’s something odd about the design. What Burda’s done is add an “interesting design element” to this sweatshirt pattern. That design element? Everything’s backward! Yes, the seams are on the OUTSIDE of the garment. So are the zippers. It would have been helpful if either Josh or I had noticed this “interesting design element” from the outset. We didn’t. So, as you can imagine the zipper instructions were quite perplexing for newbie sewer Josh. I parachuted into this project, never having done a quarter zip top before, and following Burda’s detailed instruction on this zip, thinking that I was somehow making a facing, so of like you do for an invisible zipper. I wasn’t. When all was said and done, the zipper was indeed on the outside of the shirt. I went on a minor rant about this, and referred to my trusty Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (which I should have done in the first place—Doh!) and figured out how to do it correctly. I performed some fairly significant surgery on the zipper and managed to reattach it the right way. It’s amazing it looks all presentable. After this nightmare scenario I was ready to blast Burda for having backward instructions for a zipper. I hate to blast them for creating an idiotic look, because they’re the only ones who do anything even marginally interesting in terms of men’s patterns. So, I’ll just say that I don’t get the inside-out look.~S

I was looking online for a pattern photo to use for this post and happened to take a closer look at the picture on Burda’s site. So it turns out that the whole entire pattern, as is quite evident from the picture we’ve included, is supposed to be inside out. This is not particularly apparent in the pattern instructions.

This color should make me blend right into the Oregon winter (or rainy season if you prefer). The sun can’t come quick enough!

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Despite the stress of making this thing, now that I know what’s going on with this pattern, I can see myself making a bunch of these. I really like this type of sweater/sweatshirt things, and I could adjust the collar to being a bit less large for a sweater knit-type thing.

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Thanks to my lovely wife for taking some bad-ass (in a good way) pictures of me in front of a bright orange Dumpster. It sort of brighten up the greyness of the last many days here.

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~Josh

Swell Dressed

When Josh, my mom and I went on our little adventure to beautiful Washougal, Washington last month, I picked up some lovely dusty blue wool from the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store up there. For a whoppin’ $1.99 a yard. Pendleton makes some incredibly soft wools, almost silky, and if you can tolerate wool, you don’t even have to line garments made with their fabric, as they don’t seem to use all the irritating chemicals in their wools that most manufacturers seem to love.

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I had it in my mind that I’d make a funky short, princess-seamed trench coat with black buttons and maybe some black piping in the seams. However, when I was organizing my pattern collection one evening (this is huge entertainment for me, by the way), I noticed that at the last Fabric Depot Simplicity sale I had purchased this vintage reissue pattern.

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I’m not even really sure why I bought this pattern. I probably thought that the expressions on the faces of the models were funny. And since it was $2.49, not a huge investment to just chuck in the “collection.” I think vintage patterns are cool, I just am not big into retro styles, since they’re not really good for me (or so I think for whatever reason). I think I was drawn to the interesting vertical seaming and curved darts (I’d never made anything with this sort of dart) of the dress.

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Anyway, it’s a fantastic style. And while it definitely has a vintage feel to it, it still works. I don’t look like a flashback or like I’m wearing a costume. The wool has a lovely drape to it and is ever-so-swingy. Just enough movement to make the dress fun.

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(An aside, the blue wool sure looks lovely with my new crocheted lace tights from my new favorite—and Portland-based!—online store, Sock Dreams. If—like me—you’re obsessed with tights or other leg and footwear and are annoyed—like me—that you can’t find anything fun, check them out. The proprietress even has a socks/tights/legwear blog where she shows off some pretty snazzy legwear and a seemingly infinite number of awesome shoes. I’m not affiliated with them, just a happy customer. There’s been a lively discussion about tights vs. nylons on Pattern Review lately, too, if you care to weigh in on this issue…)

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The banded collar is a style I never, ever wear—because it’s not generally very flattering on me. I have a theory that these types of collars make me look shorter. (I have a lot of theories about a lot of things making me look shorter, because I refuse to come to terms with the fact that I’m a short person—I just know I was meant to be tall.) However, because the dress has a slightly plunging V-neck that’s accentuated by three covered buttons, the collar is balanced out and looks quite lovely.

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Despite how well this dress turned out, it was not without a major hiccup. The sleeves on this pattern were drafted completely incorrectly. Firstly, they were perfectly symmetrical. Which I know is not right. Every item I’ve ever sewn has had a definite front and back to the sleeve. This didn’t. Second, there was zero—possibly even negative—ease in the sleeve. None. Nada. Zero. Ziltch. I forged ahead and set in the sleeve, with a feeling of dread looming over me that it wouldn’t work out. When I set in the sleeve and tried the dress on I couldn’t move my arm. At all. My arm fit into the sleeve, it was just completely immobilized. And it wasn’t that annoying feeling where the sleeve twists when you put it on backwards because you’re not paying attention to the notches. It was a weird suffocating feeling. So, back to the drawing board. After a moment of anger, frustration, panic and a chai latte, I devised a simple, reasonable solution: I loved the fit of the sleeves in the Hot Patterns Princess Blouse, and just used the short sleeves off of that blouse and it worked perfectly. (In hindsight, I wish I’d taken pictures of the wacky sleeve to document the before and after, since it’s sort of interesting and I think that I actually understand sleeve construction much better after this experience.)

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Like I said, I put three covered buttons on the neckline, which looks pretty swell (60s lingo inserted as a shout out to the dress’ era). It’s actually a tremendous pain in the butt to cover the little half inch buttons with wool fabric–fyi…

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Anyway, the thing I really loved the most about this dress is the curved French darts. I’m going to look through my sewing reference books and do some googling to see if there’s a reasonably simple way to cover your normal darts to these. I usually avoid patterns with regular darts because I’ve got my alterations to princess seems down pat, but I just love the flattering look of this style of dart. Seems like there must be some technique someone’s figured out, right? Anyone have any thoughts?

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~Sarah the Sewist

P.S. Since I posted this, I had a few people ask about the location of this “photo shoot.” It’s over near the Portland International Airport, at the new Cascade Station development, where the Ikea is. The field I’m standing in is a favorite spot for Great Blue Heron and there were at least three hanging out there when Josh was taking my picture. It’s very cool to see these beautiful birds that very affected by toxins in their environment and have really made a comeback in a big way. They’re also the official bird of Portland.

 

Mamma Mia!

Or, sometimes sewing projects just don’t work out for a reason…

If you remember, this fall I participated in the Great Trench Coat Sew-Along on Pattern Review, and I mentioned that I had e-mailed the pattern company, Indygo Junction, and let them know that there were a few (minor) issues with the pattern that I had used. I just thought that was being helpful, letting them know that there were some issues, thinking that they’d want this information for future editions of the pattern. They were super-receptive to my input and even sent me a free pattern—the Retro Raglan Jacket—for my trouble. I was pretty impressed.

Anyway, a little while after that, Josh placed an order from Fabric Mart for a specific weight of wool for a yet-to-be-started project. Because we were first time customers (we’re able to get almost anything we could ever want fabric-wise within a half-hour of our Portland home), they sent us an additional, free box of yardage. In it was a real gem—some beautiful gray wool.

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After letting the fabric and pattern “cure” for awhile, I decided that they’d go nicely together. I had even tried on similar, but not identical, styles at Nordy’s on my lunch break a few times. So, I was feeling like it would be a good pairing.

It wasn’t. Well, I’m lying. The fabric and pattern matched perfectly. The piece that didn’t work was me. The style was all wrong for my small-shouldered self. It was absolutely huge, despite my going down a size after measuring the pattern pieces (a note to anyone making Indygo Junction patterns: they’re sized very generously). When I was done, I literally looked like I was being eaten by my jacket. Whatever that looks like. It looked so bad on me, I wouldn’t even let Josh take a picture of me in it for the blog.

I was pretty pissed off. This jacket had (unnecessarily) been a pain in the butt to make. I had stupidly tried to add a snazzy hot pink lining to the jacket that I ended up taking out because it screwed up the way the jacket hung—it was no longer “swingy” with the lining (the pattern calls for it to be unlined). So what should have been a quick, simple project really ended up being a stressful nightmare, because I removed the entire jacket lining that I’d sewn in. Not fun. Not fun at all.

I had the jacket, that was really lovely and well made (if I do say so myself), hanging in the kitchen (isn’t that where you’re supposed to keep your sewing projects?) staring at me for a couple of weeks while I thought about how to make this too big, wrong style jacket work for me. (I’m stubborn, in case no one’s noticed.) After this went on for awhile Josh must have gotten sick of me dissecting all of the possibilities that would make this wearable. He said to me in the car one weekend afternoon, “Why don’t you give that jacket to your mom? Everything that makes this not work for you, would make it look great on her.”

Well, he was right.

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She looks pretty fabulous, doesn’t she?

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My mom is built completely differently than I, and she can really pull off clothes with strong design elements, like big, face-framing collars and swingy, A-line shapes. On me, I’ve figured out that they, well, look like crap. I’m just too small-boned for that look, which is really disappointing, actually. (Incidentally, I went back to Nordy’s, and now realize that the styles that I tried on that looked good on me were much more fitted and had much less dramatic details—you live and learn, I guess.)

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She has worn here new jacket to work a couple of times this week (keeping in mind that this is a four-day week, and it’s only Thursday) and, according to her, everyone has complimented her on her beautiful jacket, telling her how well suited it is for her. She’s pretty proud of how sharp it looks, and really enjoys telling folks that her daughter made it. Paired with her High Street Messenger Bag that I made her this summer, she’s got a lot of bragging rights, I’d say.

She also really likes the remnants of my well-intended, yet ill-fated, hot pink details…

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Here’s one more picture of my mom in her new jacket, just because she’s got her smart-ass teacher look on her face in this one (hi, Mom!).

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Oh, and I sent this pattern home with her too…

~Sarah

I’ve stopped whining…

Because my Sophia Bag looks so awesome!

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Even though it resulted in a serious pin graveyard and some bleeding fingers…

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It was totally worth it.

I covered a lot of my changes in my first entry about this bag. You remember, the post where I whined a lot. But here’s the quick recap: I added some handbag feet. I chose the black plastic ones—simply because black worked with my color scheme. They don’t have the satisfying click of the metal ones, but they look the way I wanted. I’m surprised Amy didn’t include these in the original pattern, because this bag really benefits from them.

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(Please excuse the imperfect stitching… There were a lot of layers involved in the bottom of this thing!)

I also omitted the piping from the bottom. Not that I didn’t give it the ol’ college try, but it just wasn’t working for me. Actually, I don’t think it was necessary design-wise, anyway. The bag has such a a strong shape that really stands on its own. (Both figuratively and literally!)

I also changed the pocket configuration in the inside of the bag. The pattern just has two large pockets on each side, which really didn’t suit my purposes. I left one size as is with the two pockets—those are perfect for my wallet and the assorted lipsticks that I must carry with me at all times.

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I then divided the other pocket panel into four so that I could accommodate the other stuff that I lug around—namely, my snazzy new red CrackBerry BlackBerry.

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Just a few more pictures of this bag (can you tell that I’m infatuated?)…

The two side panels have “tattoos” centered on them, which looks pretty funky fresh.

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I used 3/32 inch piping and did a bit of top stitching with red metallic thread.

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All-in-all, I’m really happy with the way this turned out. The contrast between the classy design and the funky fabric really works for me and suits my style. I did take Liz‘s advice that she left in this post awhile back to look for this light-weight meshy grid stuff in the craft section for the bottom of the bag. Well, I’m not sure if I found the exact stuff at the Fabric Depot, but whatever it was that I ended up using—it worked. Thanks, Liz!

I also have to pat myself on the back with this one. Not only did I let go of my obsessive need for everything to look perfect (that just wasn’t happening), I employed hand stitching relatively successfully. The directions called for you to slip stitch the lining into the bag and I actually did it without trying to come up with some hair-brained, half-baked plan to avoid the hand stitching and use the machine. You have no idea what a huge step this is for me. When I learned how to sew, my mom taught me. She’s really good at hand sewing, really fast at it (she’s a fierce embroiderer—which I hate) and she generally did that step in the sewing process for me. So, I never really developed my hand stitching skills. Anyway, I did a very passable job of stitching in over 40 inches worth of lining! Do I get a sewing merit badge for this accomplishment?

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~Sarah

Sew Together: How We Got Started

So, we sew together, right? We thought we’d let you know how this whole thing got started. This is the first in (hopefully, no promises) in ways you and your sweetie (or best bud/mom/brother/unrequited crush) can get started working on sewing projects together.

When we first started this little adventure Josh really wanted to make something sporty and retro. A pair of shorts seemed to be a great way to make something he would wear and also something that he could actually make (with lots and lots of assistance from the Sewist). Oh, yeah, and Josh also expressed a keen interest in appliqué.

Sarah, not knowing anything about sewing men’s clothing, guessed that a pair of shorts would be a good one to teach Josh on—not too much of a pain in the ass, and some room for creativity. Josh remembered trying to make a pair of shorts once when he was in high school that he totally gave up on had his Mom finish. (They were really really cool. He called them his “Tribe Called Quest Shorts” because they looked similar to an album cover. Imagine his surprise when the student teacher came in one day sporting the same fabric in shirt form, terribly imagined humiliation). Why not complete a project given up on years ago—how much could you screw up shorts? The answer is “not much” unless you sew the leg hole shut (another story for another time).

When the Sewer played soccer in high school, the fashion was to have BIG shorts, ridiculously large and puffy, they are still the look and feel that he is accustomed. For this project we combined the look of 1940s-50s cotton soccer shorts (after a lot of image searching on Google) with the leg numbering that became the fashion in the 1970s. We could have gone with a more traditional “throwback” jersey idea and made it look perfectly period appropriate, but we wanted to have some fun. Plus, Josh is not wearing shorts this short.

Our first task was to take a pair of shorts that the Sewer liked to wear and lay them out and measure them for length and leg width. Here is where we can make fun of Josh, because he didn’t want to use a pattern and didn’t believe in them at this point (novice indeed). (You can imagine how much this infuriated Sarah—he wanted to learn to sew, but was vehemently opposed to a sewing pattern?!) It wasn’t a big deal for this task, but would cause him headaches later in his sewing maturation. To make the crotch curve correctly, we used a pair of pajama pants from one of the Sewist’s patterns. This is where a French Curve or a pair of MEN’S pajama bottoms would work perfectly. We had to use the curve backwards to get the shorts to fit right. (This resulted in more of Sarah’s ire over Josh’s refusal to use a PATTERN.) Sarah also helped Josh make the shorts kind of A-lined, so that they’d be more flared and billowy.

We used a white cotton pique for the fabric, because it was stretchy, somewhat sporty and all cotton to give it that old school look. The Sewer felt particularly redeemed by his choice when the Sewist-in-law exclaimed how sporty and retro looking it was (no prompting either). For the construction of the shorts, it was a good choice because it was easy to work with for the sewing virgin, which wouldn’t have been true if we had used a more modern looking polyester.

I (Josh) would like to say that getting started scared the crap out of me. As you have heard me mention, I am cheap and I lived in fear of screwing up my $9 worth of fabric (ah, the good old days).

(Note from Sarah: Josh was also terrified of being impaled by the sewing machine. It was pretty hilarious and helped offset the irritation bred by Josh’s refusal to use a sewing pattern.)

To add some extra flair to the shorts, we added green piping down the outside of each leg and felt appliques. We used a simple elastic waistband and a double folded hem on the bottom of the legs, two things that would become important in other projects.

2194283776 9275531c46 m Sew Together: How We Got Started

Believe it or not, sewing on the appliques was one of the most important lessons that the Sewer learned from this project. He really had to take his time a concentrate on the stitches in front of him and also he had to manipulate the fabric to do the curves of the letters and numbers, which is great start for when the sewing gets more complicated.

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When the shorts were finished we had accomplished a project that Josh would actually wear (and feel awesome in), which is also a great way to start off a sewing career.

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Here is a rundown of the supplies we used:

1 yard of cotton pique $9.00
1 elastic waistband $1.00
piping $3.00
thread $4.00
felt $0.80

total cost: $17.90 with thread and piping left over for other projects. “Authentic” soccer shorts cost $40 dollars or more. The total cost for this project is less than $18 and a lot of fun!

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Josh would also like to take this opportunity to show off. No, not his pasty legs, but the snazzy new shoes he’s sporting in this shot. Yeah, they’ve got neon signs on them.

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Doggy Fashion

2167207133 bdaafda153 Doggy Fashion

As you may know, it rains a lot here in Portland. The dog really needs a walk regardless of the weather. Last month, as a another storm was barreling down on us here (incidentally, we have just been hit with another one, with two more on the way) I decided to use some of the the leftover fabric from Sarah’s raincoat to make the dog her own protection from the elements. To get the basic shape I traced out on of her “ready to wear” jackets on a piece of paper (after folding in half) and added a some seam allowance. One of the nice things about fitting dog clothing is that if it stays on and doesn’t slide off, I reckon it pretty much fits.

The construction was fairly simple, I cut out the basic and shapes and belly straps (it also attaches on the front). I sewed the raincoat fabric inside out to a lining made out of cotton (cotton from a two dollar twin sheet from Ikea that I bought long ago as a potential bag lining). The Sewist helped me insert the straps between the lining and the outer-shell and I used iron on velcro (which the Sewist just informed me is known as “hook and loop tape” in the sewing world). To finish it off we made a giant button hole to fit her harness through and some pink top stitching to add some flash.

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As you can tell she looks damn cute in it and matches her mother’s weather wear. Next time I will make it a longer to cover her derrier a little more. All in all, a fun little project for my best gal.

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Punk Poodle Coat

I absolutely love my Burda World of Fashion subscription, and generally go through the routine of getting really excited about seven or so things in the magazine, then get promptly overwhelmed and let it sit and “cure” for awhile so I can get my head around what I want to make. Eventually I make some stuff… But usually not the month it comes out.

When December’s issue came, there were a ton of patterns that I just loved. The one I didn’t really notice was that one that’s not even on the web site—the faux fur jacket that they show in three different wardrobe configurations.

2153973136 e0f486536c Punk Poodle Coat

 

Josh noticed it—pointing out that it would be a fun one to make. We’d recently been to Fabric Depot and went through the side door where the faux fur is, so I think the fake stuff was on his mind.Anyway, my mom and I went over there a couple of days later and I helped her pick out some fabric for a couple of sewing projects she’s starting. She offered to get me the fake fur so I could make my coat. It was quite the decision—it came down to the choice between a blue and brown argyle and a psychedelic charcoal and magenta “poodle” fur. The scales were tipped in the favor of the poodle fur when I placed an emergency call to Josh, and he reminded me that a couple of years back when we still lived in New Mexico, I had my eye on a poodle fur jacket at REI (of all places—because nothing does with a kayak like a purple faux poodle fur jacket) for a long time, but couple never bring myself to spend the $100+ bucks on it.

This fabric is backed with a very heavy sweatshirt-type charcoal fleece, which means that combined with the very long fake fur, the stuff is pretty toasty.

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Which also means that it was a huge pain in the butt to sew. No, it was a colossal pain. Horrible really. Gathering a sleeve with heavy fake fur is not fun any way you shake it. It was also impossible to create the front welt pockets that were called for in the pattern—the fibers were just too dense, and it was going to end in tears, so I moved the pockets to the side seams. (Which I may have done anyway, just because for a coat, that’s where I prefer my pockets in coats.) The worst part was the collar, however. I had to sew through so many layers and the fibers kept getting tangled up in the sewing machine. Not fun. And while I used my Fabric Savvy book for reference, and trimmed the fur back at the seams, etc, at the collar I couldn’t or else the whole thing would look like crap. Anyway, I actually scared both Josh and my mom at the language I used when yelling at the sewing machine and my fabric when I was attaching the collar. I usually don’t let myself get too frustrated when I’m sewing, but this just annoyed me beyond belief. I think it was because the caption to the pattern read:

Sew me quick! It’s really easy to make this cuddly jacket!

Not so quick, I tell you.

Anyway, I made it through the collar attachment process, only having ripped (and I literally mean ripped, you can’t pick out stitched from this dense of fake fur) it out three times or so. I decided that the lining really wasn’t worth it necessary, omitted the pointless drawstring in the collar and called it a day.

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What can I say? I wear this thing every day. I love, love, love it. It’s super warm, just the right weight and just looks super cool. I hate to brag, but I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on it from random people (young guy who works at the coffee shop, ticket taker at the Blazer game, and sales woman at Nordstrom who wanted to know where I got the fabric). It’s a nice ego booster for me. I feel like a fashionista (which I’m not—I’m not really sure what a fashionista is, but I don’t think I meet the criteria).

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You can sort of see some of the details in the picture above that make this pattern so great—it’s got interesting gathered, almost puffed sleeves, which really make the coat look a bit funkier (since it’s so understated…). The collar is harder to see in detail, but it’s really nice—kind of large and square that can be worn up or down. You can also change the look by using or not using the top coat hook, which changes the way the collar lays (it stands up more when it’s closed; open it lays flat almost like a shawl).

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This is definitely my favorite project of 2007, and really gets me in touch with my inner fashionista.

Hard to give away…

from sarah the sewist

As we’ve mentioned a time or two, we’re continuing to work on holiday gifts for everyone, and we’re finally starting to feel like we’re making some progress. I just finished the gift for Josh’s stepmother. It’s the Amy Butler Downtown Purse. This pattern came in the mail yesterday—thank you Lisa Lam over at the wonderful site U-Handblog. I had won her monthly bag contest awhile back (for the Amy Butler Messanger Bag I made for my mom’s birthday), and had my heart set on the Amy Butler Downtown Purse pattern as my prize… Unfortunately, this particular pattern was out of stock, so I had to wait. This pattern arrive was pretty fortuitous!

I am particularly happy that we didn’t need to run out the “storm of the century that didn’t actually happen” (the weather folks here in PDX had everyone on high alert this weekend, claiming snow and wind) to get supplies for this one either (sort of my MO—get started, realize I don’t’ have a critical piece for my project, have to run to the sewing shop, etc, etc).

A couple of weeks ago we bought a yard or so of some absolutely beautiful cotton from Windham Fabrics “American Coverlet Collection.” You can read about the design concept for this line here, and visit the American Coverlet Museum’s site to learn about their work preserving coverlets. What an exciting effort they’re undertaking trying to preserve this unique American art form! Anyway, as you can see, this is gorgeous stuff.
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Of course, me being me, I did make some changes. I’m continuing my infatuation with fusible fleece. The stuff just has so many uses… Since we didn’t have a lot of Timtex, I backed the sides of this bag with two layers of fusible fleece, which created a pretty thick, very sturdy structure for Downtown Purse. I also used the fusible fleece for interfacing the strap, which I think makes it a bit more comfortable to carry—I had done this when I made my friend her Frenchy Bag, and she seemed to like that particular feature.

2080804251 4da531d78f m Hard to give away...Also, I truly hate the removable false bottom that a lot of bags have. After making a zillion of the Amy Butler High Street Messenger Bags and never finding the stupid quilters template that you’re supposed to use to make the false bottom, I now avoid that phase of bag making as much as possible. My latest creative brainstorm was to use two layers of Timtex to make up the bottom of the bag. (I know, I’m living on the edge… two layers of Timtex—the stuff is a tremendous pain in the butt to sew as a single layer, let along two.) It worked out just fine and seems to have created the needed stability at the bottom of the bag.

I really got a bit obsessive about matching the patterns on this one… Like, I think pretty much everything matches up. Which is weird, because I usually try to be kind of serene about that sort of thing. I mean, there only so much you can do to make sure your fabric pattern lines up, right?

2080804461 c5b1aeb983 m Hard to give away...Can you tell that I really, really don’t want to give this one away? I really am proud of this one. I think I’ll make a very similar one for myself sometime soon.

 Hard to give away...

 Hard to give away...

Rip City Raglan

from sarah the sewist

People who know me, usually know at least this one thing about me—I am a tried and true, dyed-in-the-wool, unwavering Portland Trail Blazers basketball fan. It’s a bit embarrassing, because I think that I’m a fairly interesting person with a variety of things that I do and am interested in, but I have actually had someone (my boss, which makes it even worse) introduce me to someone else like this, “I’d like to introduce you to Sarah. She’s a huge Trail Blazers fan.” No, this didn’t make sense in the context of the conversation. So anyway, I’ve always been a Blazers fan, always will be.

Anyway, Blazers season started this month, and we’ve gone to three games so far. I have some pretty cute Blazers T-shirts, but I’ve noticed one tremendous problem: the terraced style of the seats combined with the seats’ odd, woven upholstery has a tendency to grab onto whatever you’re wearing and pull it upward, my jeans will then of course, slide downward. Not a pretty sight for those unfortunate folks who are seated behind me. Since I have a tendency to leap out of my seat (poor Josh, he’s such a good sport about my Blazermania [that's what it's called here]), this is a situation that desperately needed addressing.

 Rip City RaglanJosh found this fabric to the left at Fabric Depot on Friday (we desperately needed some Stitch Witchery and braved the post-Thanksgiving crowds) and snagged a couple of yards for me (fabric and the Trail Blazers—in my world that’s perfection, true perfection). A few weeks ago, when we were at Portland’s new IKEA store, I picked up some vibrant red cotton to use to make muslins of some Butterick dress patterns I’d purchased recently.

The two had to meet. It was fate.

I whipped up (pretty much literally, this pattern takes basically zero effort) another Built by Wendy/Simplicity 3835 dress/tunic—this time in the shorter mini-dress/tunic length to wear over jeans. But long enough to sufficiently cover my butt when I leap out of my seat. I didn’t make the collar with this one, instead opting for the elasticized neckline in the alternate view (although I kept the back darts for shaping). I also eliminated the zipper, since I don’t used the zips much in two other versions that I’ve made of this dress—the modified neckline is large enough to just pull over my head.

However, I wasn’t done…

 Rip City Raglan I cut out one of the Trail Blazers emblems out of the fabric, backed it with some fusible fleece, and stitched it around with a narrow zig-zag in black. This went onto the bottom left hand of the tunic, like the tags on the players’ jerseys. (Yes, I know I’m a lunatic…please don’t hold it against me!)

 Rip City RaglanFinally, my last bit of embellishment was the addition of small number 7s in black (Blazer colors are red and black) on each arm. Why the 7s? Well, 7 is a very important number for the Trail Blazers. They won their first and only championship in 1977 (a couple of months before I was born—my mom has a complicated theory about how this influenced my becoming a Blazer fan). In 2007, they only had a 5% chance of hitting the #1 pick in the NBA Draft Lottery, and they won, resulting in the drafting of Greg Oden (center from Ohio State—Josh, being an Ohioan, was thrilled, as was I). 2007 was also the year that Brandon Roy won Rookie of the Year, which was pretty exciting. Oh, and 7 is also the number that Brandon wears, and he’s probably my favorite player at the moment. Plus that whole lucky number seven thing. (When I made this yesterday for that evening’s game, the Blazers were on a five-game losing streak, so a little luck is probably not the worst thing.)

So, after making this yesterday, I wore it to the game against the Kings. It was an awesome game—and the Blazers broke their losing streak (although it was pretty exciting, and was really close). The length of the shirt did the trick, too.

So, I guess this shirt’s record is 1-0.

2061634194 11776d88a3 Rip City Raglan

(In case you don’t recognize the location in this picture, that’s me at the Rose Garden before the game.)

Unzipped

from sarah the sewist

Sometimes things go wrong and you just want to give up. Generally, in sewing, given that it’s not really a life and death sort of thing, that’s the path I choose. In fact, I have been known to give my husband a pep talk or two about how it’s okay to just stop a project that is just not working. He is yet to take my advice, but he hasn’t been sewing that long.

When I got my August issue of Burda World of Fashion, I was excited about the nice-looking pair of jeans in this issue. Unlike a lot of BWOF stuff, there was no weirdness to these jeans (not that there’s anything wrong with weirdness)—they were just a normal pair of pants. Around that same time my mom (who taught me everything I know about sewing) bought me three yards of amazing charcoal and black herringbone corduroy. (I have a long-time love of all fabrics that are textural like this—herringbone, houndstooth and plain old tweed all make me very happy.) This fabric and the Burda WOF pattern were destined to be together.

These pants came together very well, which I have come to expect out of the Burda magazine patterns. (I actually think that their World of fashion patterns have better drafting than their envelope patterns—although that could also be because I get the chance to “get to know” the pattern better in the magazine because of the tracing and seam allowance addition.) They looked great. I especially liked the way that the pockets turned out. I even recreated the waistband, since this was one of their “plus” patterns and the waistband was waaaaay larger than I needed, and made it wider and contoured. I thought I was pretty awesome. Oh, and I did all of this in the span of a single evening.

 UnzippedThen I got strep throat. (Yes, strep throat at 30—fun stuff.) So I didn’t hem them for about two weeks after they were basically done.

Last weekend I pulled them off of their resting place on top of our Gumdrop Ottomen in our living room and hemmed them up. I tried them on and they fit great. Really great. They were slimmer fit than I had expected, but I’ve noticed that’s a trend with BWOF, so it wasn’t that surprising. But I did think that the zipper seemed a bit sticky. Not thinking anything of it, I wore the jeans around the house. Then I heard it…pop, pop, pop. Oh, yes, I had managed to install a defective zipper in my pants. The teeth, it turns out were completely warped, bent like they’d been stepped on and twisted. While only two or three coils actually popped completely out of the zipper, most of the other were not long for this world. So, I did what any sane person would do… I screamed a lot of stuff that would not be appropriate to repeat in this blog. Then I ripped the whole stupid zipper out, not thinking, of course that I had no idea how on Earth to re-install a zipper.

Anyway, I won’t go into the details of my drama with trying to put the new zipper in the pants, but let’s just say it took pretty much an entire week to figure out. And—the horror!—it involved me hand sewing. Which is pretty scaring. I got the stupid thing in the jeans and functional, but it’s really not that pretty, to be honest.

But, the jeans do look pretty good…

 Unzipped
 UnzippedAnyway, this is a great pattern, and I’ll probably use it again. I’m pretty proud of myself for not being a quitter with this one, although it was my instinct. I did learn two things through this whole mess, though:

  1. Always check your zipper coils before you use the zipper.
  2. Through my searching for a solution to this problem, I discovered that there are professionals (tailors) who will fixed broken zippers for you. Next time (I really hope there’s not a next time), I’ll go that route.

Call of the Wild Hat

1868211738 fcc6a8158d Call of the Wild HatWe’ve mentioned before that we’re trying to make most—if not all—of our Christmas gifts for family and friends this year. We’ve coined it the “Great Making Everyone’s Christmas Gifts Odyssey.” It’s just so much less expensive and seems more thoughtful. Plus, it’s a great excuse for Josh to get more practice sewing and build his skills on items that you don’t have to fit.

Josh’s grandfather is a pretty cool dude. He’s really hip (probably a better dresser than either of us on any given day), his hair always looks perfect and he’s funny as all hell. Recently, Josh’s mom got his grandfather a Kawasaki Mule, which a tractor-like thing that he has been using to drive up into the his above his house in Appalachia. It’s been great for him because he can’t get around as well as he used to (he had a pick-up truck land on top of him once). Anyway, we decided that he really needed some appropriate accessories to go along with the Mule.

Josh picked up some tough-looking snowboarding goggles at Costco that he thought would be helpful when his grandpa is out in the hills on the Mule, because it doesn’t have a windshield. But, really, you can’t wear goggles like that without some head-wear to balance out the whole look.

Behold Burda 7996.

 Call of the Wild HatYes, indeedy. Who knew that you could make your own hats? (Well, probably most of you knew that, but we’d sure never thought about it before. Although, in fairness, Josh does have a mild hat obsession, so it was bound to happen sooner or later.)

So, we whipped up this one last night in the same faux shearling fabric that Sarah’s using to make Josh’s birthday coat.

 Call of the Wild HatIt was super easy to sew, and came together in about an hour. This was a really fun project and not hard to sew at all. The tip Burda provided about picking the hairs that are stuck down by the sticking out with a pin worked great and resulted in a fairly professional look (as professional as something like this can look). It was surprising how cooperative the faux shearling was, although we’ll be pulling fluff out of part of our sewing machine for quite awhile.

Needless to say, it’s the perfect gift for Josh’s grandpa.

 Call of the Wild Hat

Oh, and the dog tried it on for size. (It had been awhile since she’d made an appearance here. The dorky thing is, we’d put the hat on her, even if there wasn’t a camera or blog involved. That’s just the way it is in our house.)

1867456751 c199ff15eb Call of the Wild HatIt was sure nice to do a joint project again, too. They’re just so much more fun.

Velvet(een) Rabbit (nope), Elvis (no), PANTS!

from josh the sewer

 Velvet(een) Rabbit (nope), Elvis (no), PANTS!
Yes indeed, I have made some velveteen jeans. I am pretty damn excited about them (can you tell?), but will have to wait until the winter air blows through these here parts. As you can imagine they are a little bit on the warm side. A while back the Sewist and I were at Bolt buying something or other when under the main counter a shelf of 50% off pinstripe velveteen called to me. After spending a couple of days thinking about what kind of pants I wanted to make, we decided that jeans would be really cool. I choose this Kwik Sew 3504 pattern (really there aren’t a ton of choices, but I am taking a Burda break while I slog though the jacket).
 Velvet(een) Rabbit (nope), Elvis (no), PANTS!
Why velvet pants? When the Sewist and I were in graduate school in Ireland (yes sometimes it is important that you travel great distances to acquire knowledge that will be of little use to you in the future, oh, and I will avoid student loan whining, it is so passé) I used to walk by a shop everyday in the way to class that featured a Blue Velvet suit in the window. I was absolutely taken by these garments. There were two problems: the first was that I was a little bit broke at the time and the second was that there was nowhere that I would actually wear a velvet suit to. There were poshy bars that this suit would not have looked out of place in, but I would have. I was more of beer drinking good time guy (yes I was much thinner before I left for Dublin, still regretting too many beers).

I think I should step back and let you know more about the magnificence of the velvet suit. It rains a lot in Dublin and I know you have heard that all before. It rains in Portland, but nothing like it does on the Emerald Isle. When we were living in Dublin (1999-2000) they were in the midst of some serious economic expansion and to go hand in hand with that a housing shortage, especially for rentals. We took the first flat that we could find and afford, which was actually really nice in a brand new apartment block right near the Guinness Brewery (cool!), a really shitty part of town at the time (not cool!). Oh the things we saw, smelled and felt. Really kind of a depressing place to be. Plus, it turns out that the outside windows were installed backwards so they trapped moisture instead of letting it out; leading to a mushroom bloom under our “dresser” (cardboard, high quality). After walking along the River to get near downtown (before they banned commercial trucks) and cutting through the city building I passed Cuan Hanley’s Shop (thanks to the Sewist, for remembering this, I only recalled that he married the gal from Riverdance). This Blue Velvet suit was like some sort giant rhinestone on the gray wool that was Dublin (gotta love fabric metaphors). Seriously I loved thing, I still regret that I didn’t get it or even take a picture of it. It was just so cool to see something so incredibly bad assed and so (be prepared I am using this as word and not a prefix) ANTI to the smoggy rainyness.
 Velvet(een) Rabbit (nope), Elvis (no), PANTS!
As an aside, Dublin was really cool at the time featuring some great art, design, fashion and drunk soccer commentators; really we are missing something here in the US—a tumbler of whiskey should be a REQUIREMENT for all pre and post game tv shows. I am sure that some day the Sewist can put together a post how interesting the fashion was at this time. Since I am so far afield at the moment I have got to say that the Sewist was knitting some cool stuff at the time, third wave feminism and all (you weren’t alone Stitch n’ Bitch!) We have a really close friend, a photographer who at one time studied fashion in Manchester. She designed lingerie out of things like bicycle tire inner-tubes or the like (not sure exactly). She left fashion school, which is a shame because she was really far ahead of the curb; I believe that she would have dominated all of the recycled clothing fashion shows and competitions. Seriously, she too is bad-ass and a great photographer.

The idea of a velvet suit has stuck with me for quite some time; I remember that Samuel L. Jackson wore a maroon one to something or other (very impressed, but not enough to remember the occasion). Every morning, I drink out of my Elvis mug. Which features the King wearing some kick ass pinstriped pants, but also a really strange shirt and large belt, neither of which I would want to replicate. These pants are an homage to the velvet suit and my King mug. Could I see the King wearing these pants, hells yeah! Which again elevates them in my eyes, now I should mention that I believe the King would have to wear them while touring Alaska, Norway or Bemidji, Minnesota; and he would have to be alive (no conspiracy for me, anyone who mixed that much peanut butter with that many barbiturates is certainly dead).
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Since this is a sewing blog and not me being boring at a party, I should talk about the pants coming together. The velveteen was really messy; I am still finding pills of it around the house, lurking in corners away from the Hoover. Sewing across the grain was really difficult and required lots of ironing to make things like the pockets lay flat. The Sewist did a blind hem for me on the legs that I really like. Still haven’t made the carriers yet, the first two attempts have featured me failing; I have got one more attempt in me to get it right.
1819128958 9661f2db82 o Velvet(een) Rabbit (nope), Elvis (no), PANTS!
The Pattern was great, except the waist was a little a long and the back pockets were too big and placed a little too low. I did do my first major pattern alteration (aside from length)—I lowered the rise by about an inch and a half—these are pretty high waisted as is. I did view “B” the boot cut version. The Sewist found the matching fabric in the scrap bag from which I made the pockets. The technique in making the fly was really common sense and the final product looked nicer than any fly that I have done previously. With some rivets we could probably make a more than reasonable facsimile of a ready-to-wear pair of jeans. All in all a very nice pattern and with nice results.

 Velvet(een) Rabbit (nope), Elvis (no), PANTS! Velvet(een) Rabbit (nope), Elvis (no), PANTS!

Pretty in Plaid

3835 Pretty in Plaidfrom sarah the sewist

We’ve been pretty lazy with our blogging lately… I guess the annoying combination of our digital camera going a bit wonky and the shift key on the laptop not functioning has taken its toll. Nevertheless, sewing has continued. In addition to the Christmas sewing we’ve been doing, Josh and I both finished up some clothing projects.

Awhile back I got this Built by Wendy pattern at one of the Despot’s $2 Simplicity pattern sales. I thought that the top pattern would be a handy one to have, especially for cheapo summer tops and the like. However, after making a tunic (out of a hot-pink floral remnant—which kind of works, actually) out of the collared dress view, I decided this was a pretty fun, versatile dress pattern. If you remember, I had some back luck with a dress this summer, so I’ve been gun-shy with the dresses ever since.

Anyway, when I made my first version of this pattern, the neck was incredibly annoying—it came up very high on the neck in a tight crew neck. I hacked away at it until it was tolerable. Which was basically the entire neck band. I also didn’t like the gathering around the entire neckline; it created an odd puffiness in the front of the dress that was not that flattering.

I did cut the neckline on the bias and matching bias-cut panels to trim the bottom of the dress. I wanted to trim the sleeves this way, too, but I ran out of fabric. It looks pretty snazzy, nonetheless.

1720339107 184712f2ee o Pretty in Plaid
I made an amazing discovery at the fabric shop in my neighborhood—Maywood Woolies flannel. This stuff is pretty amazing. It really and truly looks like wool. It also drapes like wool. But you can wash and dry it. Unlike wool. It also doesn’t itch. Unlike wool. Basically it’s badass stuff. I am taking a weird delight when people compliment me on the dress in telling them that it’s not wool.

I think more of this will be on my shopping list… It also comes in herringbones, houndstooth and tweeds. All of my favorites. Those of you who’ve been reading for awhile know that it’s very bizarre that I made myself a green article of clothing. I’ve justified it by calling this “olive.”

I thought I was terribly creative using a plaid fabric for this dress. Until I sat down to write this blog post and noticed the envelope picture. Oh well.

1721188428 d697804113 o Pretty in PlaidNice fall color huh? And the leaves aren’t too bad either.

If it were raining on the moon…

from sarah the sewist

And I were an astronaut stuck in that lunar rainstorm, I’d have just the thing to wear.

1470425015 35aff9219a o If it were raining on the moon...
You may remember a few months ago that Josh and I scored a serious haul of fabric from Rose City Textiles that was rather eclectic. Basically, it was a bunch of random, slightly sporty stuff that was only a buck a yard. Among that was some lovely satin waterproof stuff of unknown fiber content—I can guarantee that there’s absolutely nothing natural. Anyway, I got about eight yards each of brown and blue. The brown is super-classy; the blue, not so much.

Anyway, it’s started raining like all get out here in PDX, and I only have one raincoat (living in Santa Fe for three years will do that) that I have had since college. It’s pretty ugly and has no hood, which kind of defeats the purpose of a raincoat in my book, since I’m a disaster with umbrellas (they always break on me). I keep it at work for rain emergencies, when I have to run across the street for coffee and the rain is just too torrential.

I bought a few of the Built by Wendy Patterns at the Fabric Depot when they were having one of their $2 Simplicity pattern sales. I’ve used all of them that I bought that day (someday I’ll tell y’all about my waaaaay too low rise BBW jeans debacle—use your imagination) except 3694, which is a hoodie/dress pattern. I figured this would a be a quick and easy raincoat—which it really was. Well, beyond the little incident Josh shared with the world today. How mortifying.

I just think the whole thing looks fairly ridiculous, though.

1470425153 00d4eb85c7 o If it were raining on the moon...
With the floppy, A-line sleeves, I could take flight (maybe that would come in handy on the moon?).

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Anyway, the jacket served my purposes, a new raincoat with an actual hood for under $5.

A few “design” notes: I top stitched the fronts of the raincoat, as well as the sleeves, where they attach to the body of the coat. I finished all of the seams with navy bias tape, which does go a long way in making the jacket look more professional, and less goofy. It’s a good thing, too, because this fabric ravels, ravels, ravels. I’m hoping that the finishing job helps to keep the whole thing from falling apart. I also used a parka-style separating zipper, which looks fairly snazzy, although it does add to the overall moon rainstorm effect.

1470424881 c9980115b7 o If it were raining on the moon...
(Random weirdness: in this last picture you can see peeking out from under my new lunar raincoat, I’m wearing my Brandon Roy rookie t-shirt. Woo-hoo! Trail Blazer training camp starts this week!)

Out of the Trenches

from sarah the sewist

My Indygo Junction Trench Topper that I was sewing as part of the Great Trench Coat Sew-a-long on Pattern Review is finished and I broke it in by wearing it to work today. I was a little uncomfortable with it just because it’s a lot louder than most of my wardrobe, but it worked with dark jeans, a white collared blouse and my black cowboy boots. Someone even told me that it gave off a “vintage cool vibe,” which sounds good to me. Not to mention, Josh and I went out to The Screen Door (yum!) for dinner this evening, and he claims that two diners noticed on my jacket. My style is generally not that noticeable, more cute than anything, so it’s kind of nice to have something distinct and eye-catching.

1445912928 47b1a74c5c o Out of the Trenches
I wrote about my progress here and here and it was really fun knowing that there were quite a few other folks working on a trench at the same time—although mine is more of an indoors jacket, rather than the outwear most of the others on Pattern Review are planning and sewing. It’s funny, I was planning on sewing this jacket, but it jumped to the top of the queue when the sew-a-long was announced. The super-cool Amy Butler print from Bolt in an unusual cinnamon color and the lovely pink Moda fabric from Fabric Depot for the contrasting bands were a fun combination.

I covered the issues that I had with this pattern in my last blog entry, but I do want to re-iterate that while I had some problems, they were completely fixable and Indygo Junction seemed very happy to get the feedback about the errors in the pattern drafting. The other thing I noticed with this pattern is that it’s already rather petite-ified. By that I mean that I didn’t shorten the sleeves, and only took in the shoulders a smidge—which was great for me. My fix to the belt issue worked, and I think it looks like it was supposed to be this way.

1445913294 e39d4c03c1 o Out of the Trenches

Anyway, since this jacket is unlined, and since the Sewer and I don’t have a serger (waaaah!), there was a lot of seam finishing on this jacket. Which was a colossal pain in the butt. Well worth it, but a pain, nonetheless.

1445050979 9414d022c6 o Out of the Trenches
I also faced the pink bands at the sleeves and bottom so that they’d have more of a structured look and flare out a bit more. Which I think turned out pretty nice, since the two fabrics were different weights. The contrasting bands actually, oddly, toned down the busy look of the main fabric, which is sort of interesting.
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I must have placed the three stupid button on this jacket at least three times. Each. It was really difficult to figure out the right spot for the buttons, and I still not completely satisfied with the way the buttons look on the jacket. I am really crappy at hand sewing and avoid doing so at all costs. Our sewing machine does a lot for us—including auto buttonholes and it’s really easy to use the machine to attach buttons. However, like I mentioned in a previous entry, the buttons I chose for this jacket were too big for the auto buttonholer, and it turns out, also are too big to sew on with the sewing machine. Which sucked. So I spent all of last evening sewing and re-sewing the buttons.

Basically, the buttons won.

 Out of the Trenches
I’m planning to make this trench again, especially since I’ve worked out all of the weirdness with the pattern, and since I have a decent stash of raincoat fabric on hand.

Another Burda WoF Skirt

from sarah the sewist

Between my Burda World of Fashion magazine subscription and my Sew What! Skirts book, I will never, ever have to purchase a skirt pattern again. This is a good thing, ’cause I’m cheap and skirt patterns always seem like a waste of money, since I’m probably not going to make a bunch of the same skirt. Pants, yes. Skirts, no.

1369490260 80d2a75a32 o Another Burda WoF Skirt
 Another Burda WoF SkirtThis is the most recent skirt I’ve made thanks to Burda WoF. This is from their current “Plus” Fashion magazine (see minor rant on their “plus”designation here). It’s sort of view “A” and sort of view “B” of style #406. I used the technical drawing for 406A as my inspiration, but the shorter length of 406B.

Wonderfully, Burda has enough sense to include—in all their magazines—a variety of styles for different body types, and I’m loving the fact that this skirt was already sized for those of us who are not exactly tall. (I’m 5’4″, but the fashion/sewing pattern industry has decided that I’m some sort of super-short freak, even though that’s just a smidge shorter than the national average of 5’5″. I often try on pants and they’re probably 7 inches too long.) Anyone, wonderfully, there was no petitizing of this pattern for me, which fabulous.

I made this in the lovely brown stretch cotton sateen I got a Bolt awhile back, the same stuff I used for my super-awesome pink Hot Patterns shirt. I probably could have made better use out of this fabric by making the Hot Patterns Razor Sharp Classix Nouveau pants that I had been planning, but it’s fantastically comfortable for a skirt, just doesn’t drape and flip like Burda intended for this style. Which is fine with me.

I added a little pizazz to this one by taking a cue from the technical drawing above and adding a lot of topstitching.

1375445925 4fabe0c2a3 o Another Burda WoF Skirt

I topstitched on either side of the panel seams with the twin needle, switching to a single needle when the panels split and the gores are inserted. (Does that make sense?) I also twin needled the seam when the yoke meets that panels and the hem. All together, it really creates a tailored, professional look. (The rich brown doesn’t hurt either.) Oh, and you’ll be relieved to know that after four and a half attempts (!!!) I finally conquered the invisible zipper that just wouldn’t cooperate.

1368589889 4c775ddf87 o Another Burda WoF Skirt

(I’m still not sure about the Built by Wendy blouse I’m wearing in this picture. I’ve made it twice, but it’s not been quite right either time.)

Cat-tastic!!!

We don’t have a cat. In fact, both of us are horribly allergic, and our dog thinks that cats are extremely suspect. So, no cats for us. However, we’ve got a lot of kitties in our extended family. Since we’re beginning to embark on our Great Making Everyone’s Christmas Gifts Odyssey, we decided that Josh’s dad’s cat, Lieutenant, really really needs a Kitty Tunnel from Amy Butler’s In Stitches book. (We’ll review the entire book soon—promise.) Not only that, Lieutenant needs, really needs, a funky-fresh, Miami Vice-style lime green flamingo print Kitty Tunnel lined with hot pink fluffy fur.

1348552165 70f3a7f845 o Cat tastic!!!
This is a super-basic “pattern” in the book. There actually aren’t any pieces included, you simply go off of some measurements Amy provides to draft a tunnel and drawstring that’s lined with faux fur. Basically, it’s like a tube that closes on the end—apparently cats like to have options in their Kitty Tunnels, sometimes they want to go all the way through the tunnel, other times, they want to snuggle up in a cave.

1348552513 a08505155c o Cat tastic!!!
The picture from the book really shows a nice Kitty Tunnel that seems to fit in with the decor in a tasteful way. Our finished product is not exactly what normal people would call “tasteful.” Josh’s dad will love it. Love it. Seriously, it sort of sucks that we have to wait a few months to send it, because the result is so bizarrely awesome, that we know it’ll be a hit. Even if you don’t go a little over the edge like we did, this is a quick-to-sew, simple, inexpensive project that will probably thrill the cat or cat-lover in your life.

1349443448 7a383dead5 o Cat tastic!!!
Our dog’s stuffed raccoon toy had to stand in for the cat in this photo shoot. Needless, to say, the dog was not impressed.

1349443612 e6eecbcdcb o Cat tastic!!!
(We swear, we don’t encourage our dog to get in the pictures. She’s camera ham. If we get out the camera, she’s there. It’s been that way since she was a puppy.)

The Vinyl Countdown

 The Vinyl Countdownfrom josh the sewer

Pictured here is the Sewist’s birthday gift. My Dad likes to say “Vinyl is Final” when explaining his choice of house siding; this phrase stuck with me as making this. Being somewhat limited in my sewing skills, my choice of projects are small. The Sewist loves bags so I decided to bust out the Amy Butler Messenger Bag pattern again. Instead of doing something that I could get through easily and quickly, I decided that she NEEDED a pink sparkly vinyl bag, to deal with the wet winters here in Oregonia. For the interior I went with the Echino Beehive in eggplant that I picked up from Bolt. The appliqué is reflective fabric, that kind you see on coats for high visibility. At the Mill End store they sell it in 12 x 18 sheets for $4. This is actually cool, at $25 a yard on the bolt it is much cheaper to buy the sheets to make tall and wide things.

The first part of the project was making the appliqué. I found a crow picture on the internet and blew it up in Photoshop. I printed it, cut it out of of paper, traced it onto the back of the reflective fabric and cut very carefully. I stitched the crow to the outside flap with silk and metallic thread that astonishingly matched perfectly. This part went really really well. I was feeling really good about the project at this point. Next was the vinyl (here the sound effect should sound like DUM, dum, dah; ominous like).

Wow, the sparkly vinyl is really cool and pretty, but my god it is hard to work with, especially if you have no idea what you are doing (see: me). I decided to make the strap first, though it is a middle step in the instructions. I like to get the little things out of the way first (and I am actually working on a separate post about this, because it is interesting how differently the Sewist and I look at directions). Following the pattern’s directions, I folded the two sides toward the middle, to deal with fabrics stubbornness, I glued like crazy and stacked books on top to hold it down. After a couple of hours, I folded, glued and stacked again. Now it was time for the sewing. I actually was able to get it stitched, terribly. The vinyl was incredibly sticky and it took me PULLING it though. I figured this was bad for the machine, so I called the Sewist at work and spoiled the surprise. I was drenched in sweat, the strap was really terribly screwed up and the sewing machine looked tired. The Sewist was not impressed with what I was doing to her machine so I called it day.

The next time out I sewed the exterior together, which was going great when the right sides were together. So the problems were back again as soon as the exterior of the vinyl touched any part of the machine. I was really close to quiting and going to Nordstrom’s and buying something, when it hit me that there has to be a way to do this (the Sewist mentioned a Teflon foot).  The Vinyl CountdownI googled “sewing vinyl” and on this site someone mentioned wax paper. Melting wax paper onto the exterior worked swimmingly. The other bit about working with the fabric is that is is impossible to iron the seems open, so I trimmed them short (but not too short). The last bit about the vinyl is it is really difficult to turn inside out.

The interior actually came together as expected.

For the strap I went with a different tactic, I cut a 3.25 inch wide slice of the exterior and 3.25 inch wide slice of the Enchino Beehive which I backed with fleece interfacing, like the straps from the Very Green Bag. I sewed everything right side together and turned inside out. I think with the strength of the vinyl one layer will be sufficient and the fleeced fabric should be pretty comfortable. Turning the strap right side out took some time and an incredibly sore finger, but the results are pretty nice, though a little puffy. I again stacked books on top of the strap to get it to lay flatter, which is working, though in need of another night at this point.

The changes to the original pattern include:

no tab, actually no clasp also, the flap is heavy enough to stay shut;
no flap pocket, neither the Sewist or I every use it on the bags that we have;
no top-stitching on the outside, not necessary, no desire to wax paper again;
strap, as I mentioned;
tool pocket has more usable slots, for things like cellphones or iPods
and no canvas backing, this things weighs a ton already and is plenty stable.

Lessons learned:

probably the last time for sticky vinyl, too too too hard to deal with for any length of time
and anytime I am dead tired after making a seam, I probably am doing something wrong.

 The Vinyl Countdown
The next bag I make (one that I might actually use myself), will probably be our first adventure in designing a pattern. The Amy Butler Pattern is really great, but I am finding more not to like every time and there are things like shape and size that I would do very differently.

The crow is in honor of our dog, who hates them. We have always joked that if she had her own company it would be called “30 or So Crows” for the number she would like to catch every day. Another sign of our complete dog dorkdom!

Happy Birthday Honey, enjoy!

Intern’s Ottoman

1333927038 535fe1ed57 o Interns Ottoman
The ottoman for the Best Intern Ever (we wrote about this project on Labor Day) is done. She said she wanted something black, gray and brown, and this Nigella slate imperial fans fit the bill perfectly. This is the fourth Amy Butler Gum Drop Pillow that we’ve made, so it came together in no time, and was truly a joint effort. We both cut and sewed this one, worked together in the stuffing.
1333926374 4db91caee4 o Interns Ottoman

Just like the others that we wrote about here and here, this looks great and took a lot of stuffing. Unlike the others, we used some smarts (thanks to commenter Christina). What Christina suggested was inspired by punching bag guts—take fabric scraps and stuff them in the center with the soft filling all around. Not only was it cheaper to stuff, it actually resulted in a way better loft than the two large ottomans we made for ourselves. It is much firmer and much more “sittable.” If that’s a word.

The stuffing technique:
1333925196 5a64e50016 o Interns OttomanBy the way, the Best Intern Ever loved her ottoman.

Very Green Bag

frenchy bags cover med Very Green Bagfrom sarah the sewist

(This is one of those projects that is so not my style. But I know the recipient will love it. The shape of this bag is fabulous, but the fabric… It’s just so green. I hate green. And the frogs. For some reason, I have no problem with banana seat bikes, garden gnomes or goldfish on my clothes and accessories, but frogs? Not my thing)

I saw this froggy fabric from Heather Ross’ new collection for Free Spirit and I new that I just had to make something for my friend (also) Sarah who loves all things green, and especially all things froggy. Enter the Amy Butler Frenchy Bag pattern. This is a very simple pattern really great for showing off interesting fabric combinations. I combined this with a green that appeared in both of the main fabrics. (In fact, I think this bag may encompass 90% of the naturally-occurring shades of green.)

The result? Well, pretty green.

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The Frenchy Bags (I made the larger, shoulder bag version) come together really quickly and easier, just like the other Amy Butler patterns I’ve used lately. However, like everything I sew, I had to tinker a bit.

First, I think this bag is supposed to have four pockets, not two. If it isn’t, then dividing the two large pockets into four is definitely an improvement—they sagged inside the liner until I sewed them in half. Now the pockets are perfect for a cell phone (my pal has, of course, a green phone that’ll look awfully snazzy with the bag), smaller wallet, compact, that sort of thing.

1309050467 d6c9509842 o Very Green Bag

I also omitted that magnetic snap for a few reasons: it isn’t really necessary, because this is a shoulder bag, so hopefully your arm will keep the bag closed as intended; the opening for this bag is actually on the small side, as it tapers where the two fabrics are joined; and, I didn’t have a magnetic snap, and really didn’t feel like searching one out.

The biggest modification that I made was that this bag calls for sew-in interfacing, like Pellon 40. Anyway, I really hate sew-in interfacing. It’s a pain, wastes thread and just annoys me for some reason. (I accidentally bought three yards of it a month or so ago and have been trying to use the stupid stuff up.) Anyway, knowing that my friend is a very busy teacher/dog walker/pet sitter, and that she’s always running from place to place and, therefore, this bag will probably really take a beating, I decided I wanted to make this thing a bit more durable that it was originally designed.

Searching through piles of fusible interfacing at Fabric Depot, I found something that looked promising: “Fusible Fleece.” Now, I have no idea what fusible fleece is, but the lady who cut it for me thought that it was probably something you use for quilting and other related crafts. Anyway, it felt squishy, not like stiff Timtex, and seemed like it would do a bit more to protect the contents of the bag from abuse. Needless to say, I think this decision was a good one. Excepting the pockets, I used the fusible fleece everywhere the sew-in interfacing was called for. The result was bag that had a lot of body. Which isn’t a very good description, but better than “slightly puffy.”

1309047737 9e6e458213 o Very Green Bag

Basically, by using the fusible fleece, I created a bag that has a really defined shape, but still is relaxed looking. What I’m most excited about, though, is the way the handles turned out. You can see in the picture that they have a padded look, and, as a result, feel extremely comfortable on the shoulder. Since this is a shoulder bag, that’s pretty important. I think that I’ll do this to bag handles from now on.

We agreed that quite a few people will likely be getting these bags for Christmas this year—it’s that simple to put together.

As always, the dog got in on the action:

1309933492 1c13ff34e2 o Very Green Bag

Stop, Drop & Stuff

1243869993 7ccbcb674f o Stop, Drop & Stuff
We’re both sick—nothing like a late summer cold to make you feel stupid. In order to alleviate the boredom, we decided to work together and make the GIANT, Amy Butler Gum Drop Pillows. The fabric is Joel Dewberry’s Manzanita Basket – Red Mix. Originally Josh wanted to use this fabric to make a shirt and then the Sewist thought of making a dress out of it (something like the Charmed Dress, but actually a dress and not half of one). Thankfully we didn’t because this fabric is a little, well, busy. This looks cool as pillow, and maybe could work as some Dr. Jack Ramsay 70s style pants (if you know who Dr. Jack is, you know what we mean), but not a shirt and certainly not a dress.

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The pattern was simple and easy, like the regular gum drop pillow that the Sewist made a couple of weeks ago. These, too bad we can’t curse to describe them, are BIG. The dog has decided that they are great to crash into and they are going to be great as ottomans (or perhaps a Weapon of Mass Destruction in a pillow fight).

Being sick, we looking for something uncomplicated and the sewing and construction was definitely that (well the Sewer did run out of bobbin thread, with 4 inches remaining to sew and screwed up rewinding it, which lead him to call the bobbin a favorite term from Deadwood, which almost killed—because of the coughing—the Sewist she laughed so hard).

However, finding enough stuffing was an adventure. As you well may know, the Fabric Despot is not the Sewer’s favorite place. After making sure that he was dehydrated and unlikely to have to urinate, and therefore use the porta-potty/men’s restroom, we headed out. We found a five pound box of Fiberfill and asked for more. After being told to go to customer service and then told to go to the wholesale desk, I exclaimed “(redacted) this” and we left. The Sewist was in need of new pillows so we went to Ikea and bought 4 for her plus two cheapos in case we needed extra. We took all of the old pillows and the two extras and cut them open and stuffed the drops. Still very short. That was Saturday night. Sunday we head downtown to Nordy’s Rack and bought two Calvin Klein King Sized pillows (only 12 dollars a piece, because if you tried to sleep on them your head would fall off, trust us—they’re insanely large for pillows). With the addition of these pillows and a little hand sewing they were done.

1244726578 cd15f3647a o Stop, Drop & Stuff
They turned out to be pretty pricey in the end (with fabric and stuffing probably 40-50 bucks a piece). No more big pillows until we can find a cheap source for lots of stuffing (my friend in the furniture biz will be hearing from me shortly). The absurd thing is, that however we crunch the numbers, it’s still (we think, our number crunching is not that reliable) cheaper to buy pillows from Ikea or some other cheap place than buying Fiberfill from the Despot or anywhere else we can think of.

Ubiquitous dog being cute with the sewing project picture.

1244726252 1c63958530 o Stop, Drop & StuffPS—If you know of a cheap, or even reasonably-priced, source for Fiberfill, please let us know! We need more pillows around here!

Love it

from sarah the sewist

I finished the Hot Patterns Plain & Simple Princess Shirt this evening. I can honestly say, I have never, ever been so happy with a blouse pattern. I can really see myself making this one over and over again. I had some issues that I talked about here. But, they were really my own screwy assumptions getting in my way, and once I sorted stuff out, it really made sense and came together. Other boo-boos that were really my own fault—in the battle with the collar, I spaced turning the raw edges of the collar under and into itself; I neglected to turn the shoulder facing under; and I made it a size too big. I’ve had a few mishaps lately with things being too small in the, er, boob area, and so I was a little neurotic with the sizing and went up instead of down, as I was in between sizes.

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Anyway, this is the three-quarter length sleeve version, and it’s in an absolutely beautiful stretch cotton sateen from Robert Kaufman’s “Vera” line that I got at Bolt here in Stumptown with this pattern in mind. I had second-guessed myself shortly afterward, thinking that maybe this pattern wasn’t special enough for such a wonderfully smooth, elegant, and uniquely sturdy fabric. I’m glad I didn’t just make another skirt or something, because the pattern and the fabric do pair very well together, creating a sort of fifties vibe.

1227766970 eec74cf13d o Love itI like the shape of the neckline created by the lapel-like collar—even though I sort of screwed it up. I know I said it in my earlier post about this project, but really, if you’re planning on making this shirt, please read the instructions thoroughly, check out something like Complete Guide to Sewing‘s (great book—I must review soon!) instructions for creating a lapel and read through and study the pictures on Off the Cuff. I’ve been sewing for a really long time, considering my age, and this part of the construction really proved to be challenging. It was really rewarding, though, and I felt like I learned something and added some skills to my sewing repertoire.

This shirt also made me realize that if I want to create a really nice shirt, that’s more of a dressy, wear-to-work style, princess seams are the way to go. It’s much easier for me to tweak for my fitting needs—which I haven’t done with this shirt, but I really need to take in the waist on literally everything I make—blouses, pants, skirts. It’s much easier to do with princess seams. And, while I didn’t need to do this with this blouse (because I purchased “Glamour Girl” range), it’s much easier to make an adjustment for my above-mentioned issues with fitting blouses. I also think, looking at these pictures, it’s just a better look for me, it’s more structured, and I think that looks nicer on my short self. I’m not a tall person, and I often think that a lot of professional looking clothes look funny on me, and I think the waists aren’t in the right spot, etc, and it’s much easier to precisely locate those critical points that make a difference in the overall structured appearance.

It’s funny, I was kind of stressed out that this pattern would be a disaster, since I’d had a recent fitting?/drafting?/design?/printing? issue with an independent company’s pattern (not that that there aren’t major problems with patterns from the Big 4), and I really didn’t want to have another frustrating end.

I plan to make more of these—who knows when, since one of the things I really love about sewing is trying new styles, techniques and fabrics, and Josh and I have quite a few projects queued up. (We need to write about that, too.)

One more picture just ’cause our dog’s looking so darn cute in this shot…

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Oh Shirt!

3422 Oh Shirt!
from josh the sewer

Last week was my week of shirts. My first project was this pictured short sleeve “chillin’ shirt” that I made using the Kwik Sew 3422, my first attempt at making a men’s shirt using a pattern, as opposed to an old cut-up shirt (which worked well enough). For the fabric I choose this Joel Dewberry “Sunburst Pattern.” I picked this up at Fabric Depot, while I was getting the sewist-in-law her cutting mat (which was deeply discounted). As an aside (which I think you can probably tell I use a lot of) this was the trip that deeply influenced my ongoing annoyance with the place. See, I drank a lot of ice tea that day and had to use the toilet very badly and to my dismay the men’s toilets were still the porta-potties out front. Now it is a fair point that there are more women there than men; and while the toilets are being renovated it is only fair that they get indoor accommodations. However, this little project has been going on for a long time and I am at a point in my life where porta-potties just don’t cut it. It was basically an uncomfortable and quick trip to the Depot.

Back to the shirt, I went with view B—the short sleeves and the collar and “stand in one.” The pattern was really well laid out and I could make sense of it myself until the collar. It came together really nicely and fits well. The seam allowances were only ¼ inch and everything else I have had made was 5/8 or ½ inch, it seemed somewhat tight—since I kept forgetting what the seam allowances were. When I do this shirt again, which I will, I am going to use the collar and stand from view A, I just think it will look better. Probably will add a bit for seam allowances, just to make for a more pleasant sewing experience. Also, I really liked that the shirt has a traditional shirt-tail in the back, and the way the placket is made. It gives the shirt a traditional, maybe even retro look.

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My major boo-boo was I took a chunk out of the front of the collar stand area while trying to trim some threads, I tried to cover it up with the buttonhole. Oh, yeah, and then I did the same thing somehow and had to “cover” that one up with a button. Not really sure how I managed to pull that off—twice.

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More shirts.

The other project was this week was that I took two of my ugly old dress shirts and made them into short sleeve shirts. This was easy, snip-snip, sew-sew. The first shirt was a cheap paisley number from Target. It never worked as long sleeve shirt and being out of clean shirts and not wanting to roll the sleeves, I did the surgery and the sewist hemmed it real quick like (she was working on the Princess Shirt and was sitting in front of the machine).

The second shirt is this incredibly ugly red washed silk shirt by Claiborne, for which I paid 4 dollars at Dillard’s in New Mexico. While living there, I went on this spree of buying close out clothing, trying not to spend more than 8 dollars for an article of clothing. Hell, the fact is that these shirts had buttons gave me a professional look in the City Different. It makes a great ugly beer-drinking shirt now.

A First

gumdrop cover med A Firstfrom sarah the sewist

Since Josh is working on a pretty complicated, involved project at the moment (more on that when he’s done), I decided to start (and finish) a simple project… You know, to create some balance in the sewer-sewist sewing world. During the Fabric Depot 30% off sale (which seems to have been running perpetually lately), I picked up the Amy Butler pattern for the Gum Drop Pillows. These things are basically HUGE octagonal puffs.

Oddly, this is the first home decorator item I’ve made in twenty-odd years of sewing. I’ve racked my brain and I don’t think that I’ve ever made a curtain, pillowcase, pot holder and certainly not a quilt. It just never occurred to me. I learned to sew clothes years ago, and that’s what I’ve stuck with. But, Josh and I have been complaining about our profound lack of “stuff” in our house, and I saw this pattern, and figured it’d be pretty simple and low commitment.

I used some lovely, typically fun Free Spirit 100% cotton poplin from Heather Ross’ “Lightning Bugs” collection. I sewed the smaller puff, with alternating yellow and brown panels, with white in the same fabric as the top panel. The instructions have you cut out what is half the pattern pieces, trace them and then flip the piece over and trace the other side. That was way too fussy for me, so I just cut out each side with my rotary cutter, flipping the piece over to make the whole panel.

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Then I just sewed the entire thing together. It was that easy. That part took literally less than an hour.

Then the real fun began…

Since I’m sort of cheap (both of us are, actually), I really didn’t want to spent $20+ on stuffing. We have quite a few old pillows laying around the house, so I simply de-stuffed a couple and used that filling to stuff the new puff. Our dog took quite the interest in this part of the process (maybe sewing can really be a family affair?) and decided to “help” by sitting right next to me, staring as I de-stuffed and re-stuffed. I think it blew her mind—it was just too much like her de-stuffing her toys. (She may have been thinking, “Mom’s really a DOG?!”) All-in-all, it took one and a half old king-sized pillows to stuff the puff. I’m not sure if that’s equivalent to the recommended 10-twelve ounce bags of filling called for in the pattern.

Finally, because I really couldn’t think of a way to strong-arm the puff (it’s really BIG) into the sewing machine to close the hole left for stuff, I was forced to hand sew. I hate hand sewing, and truly cannot remember the last time I hand sewed anything. Despite that it took me forever, the finished product turned out pretty great…

1045920496 4a2c8fb0b1 o A FirstExcept one little thing… Can you spot it?

1045068347 cd8fb57c5c o A FirstYeah, I forgot this was a directional fabric. For about five seconds I considered re-doing the entire thing. Then I realized that would be insane. So it is, how it is.

I actually really like this puff, and I think I’ll make the larger version soon, so we can have an ottomans. They’re that big.

Oh, and the dog loves it.

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Dude, Here’s My Pants

from josh the sewer
1034689578 59010edba0 o Dude, Heres My Pants
1033834057 9cc1aaf457 o Dude, Heres My PantsMy first attempt at making pants is Simplicity 3891. As you can see, I decided that all of the accouterments were kind of goofy, plus I already own a pair of Costco cargo pants and I really need pants with fewer pockets. I went with a blue canvas from Bolt and blue thread; if I had the skills it woulda been orange thread….

Anyway the fit is great, except I hemmed them a little higher than I like, which is completely my fault. I really need to accept the fact that I like ground draggers when it comes to these sorts of things. I also ripped off the back pocket flaps, which I deemed stupid after putting them on. With the thick canvas and interfacing I think it would have felt like sitting on two coasters. It’s sort of too bad because the top stitching looked good—top stitching around corners is a huge pain. Next time I plan to make some sweet top-stitching with the twin needle to add some flair.

The directions were fairly basic; the better (sewing) half walked me through it, until we got to the bit about putting one leg through the other to do the crotch—still baffled how we pulled that one off, to be honest.

Below you can see where I really screwed up. I trimmed the seams too damn close, which meant after a week of wearing, sunlight was getting through. This is an ongoing problem of mine (trimming seams too close, not holes in the backside of my pants), which necessitated re-sewing a knit shirt twice recently. I have never been great with scissors anyway and somehow I have become obsessive with making sure everything is tidy, even if it means trimming the seams closer and closer until they’re completely even. I am not a tidy person, which means I find a way to make tidy messy (follow the logic… I am losing myself).

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Next pair I am hoping to construct in tan rip-stop and orange top-stitching, and I think I am going to take the legs in a little under the knee, so they’re more straight, less of an A-line. This pair runs a little too close to Estonian Navy for my taste (of course I wear them all of the time, who cares—they are comfortable as hell). The girl thinks the look great though. I think she is just happy they don’t have so many unusable pockets. She’s also happy that they fit appropriately rather than being two sizes too large, like most of my other pants. I should also mention that I carry very little with me at all times, which makes cargo pants even stupider for me.

By the way, I never go barefoot. It’s weird I’m not wearing shoes in these photos.

Two Buck Skirt

1018427127 cdb029910b Two Buck Skirtfrom sarah the sewist

Saturday morning I finished (after having started Friday night) what I call my “Organic Yoga Skirt,” but what Josh calls “Two-Buck (Not Chuck) Skirt.” Which is, of course, way funnier than anything I could name an article of clothing.

The fabric is from our Sport Fabric Haul at Rose City Textiles, the smoky blue organic cotton knit that’s identical to my favorite JJill sweatshirt. It only took about a yard and a quarter to make this skirt—so I’m thinking I’m going to have a lot of smoky blue in my wardrobe. We have a lot of this stuff. I whipped up #126 from the July 2007 issue of Burda World of Fashion. Apparently, the German gal in the magazine was having the same problem with her skirt that I was, as her skirt is bunching in the same weird manner as mine. It looks great, though, and I think that the bunching has more to do with the way she and I are both standing than any design or sewing flaw. The wrinkles are not a design element.

1019441346 352f65f122 Two Buck SkirtThis being Burda World of Fashion, I had to trace the pattern off of the magazine insert. I read somewhere a great tip for doing tis using wax paper, and it really worked great. All of the intersecting lines and jumbled up pattern markings were much clearer when I taped normal kitchen wax paper to the pattern sheet and taped the whole thing to our living room window. If you need more width, you can fuse the paper together with an iron. In a weird way, tracing the pattern was kind of the most fun part of the whole project. That and using the twin needle. That was awesome.

Edited to add: I’ve had a couple questions about what the process is in tracing the pattern. Here are the steps:

  1. Supplies needed: Roll of wax paper, blue painter’s tape, sharpie.
  2. Take your Burda sheet and iron it like a normal pattern.
  3. Tape it to your window, so to create a natural light box for tracing. I have a really big living room window, so that makes it pretty easy.
  4. Fuse together enough lengths of wax paper to cover each of the pattern pieces you’re using from the magazine. (You can fuse the wax paper by putting your iron on the low setting and gently tapping it on the wax paper. A smart person would place a dish towel or something between the iron and the wax paper. I like to live on the edge, so I don’t.)
  5. Tape the wax paper to the Burda pattern sheet.
  6. Trace the lines of the pattern onto the wax paper using the sharpie. It would probably make your life easier if you used a sharpie in the same color as the pattern lines. I think I’ll do that next time.
  7. Don’t forget to trace dart lines, and other markings, too.
  8. Don’t forget to add your seam and hem allowances. Burda gives suggestions for both in their pattern “instructions.
  9. Untape everything from the wall and cut your pattern out.

This is a pretty simple, easy and cheap way to get your Burda patterns traced; I’m trying to be a disciplined sewist and do this for all my patterns. We’ll see how that goes.

BOOK REVIEW: Sew What! Skirts

51JQ6EGGQQL. SS500  BOOK REVIEW: Sew What! Skirtsfrom sarah the sewist

A few months back, I had tendonitis in my right index finger and basically couldn’t do a whole lot involving my hands—including sewing, knitting, opening doors, that sort of thing. Around that time, to compensate for the fact
that I was totally and completely bored, I went on a book-buying binge. One of those books has been some fun inspiration and helped me indulge my love of oh-too-cute cotton prints.

That book is Sew What! Skirts, which is, as the title indicates, a book of skirt styles that you can create using different techniques that result in a unique set of 16 skirt “patterns.” The authors utilize two basic formulas—one for a straight skirt, one for an A-line—and offer lots of different combinations for fastenings, waistlines and embellishments to make the styles even more unique. In the book, they’ve used really unusual fabric combinations, such as a satiny quilted fabric combine with a super-short Asian-print overlay. Or Barbie-pink silk with a reverse apron that’s in even pinker organza. Or maybe boucle is more your style? They’ve created a unique wrap skirt closed using snap tape, with the hem left raw.

I have made three skirts utilizing the book so far.

First, inspired by the “Asian Dream” skirt:

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This skirt utilized an aqua and brown fabric from Michael Miller called “Cute Diamonds.” To create this skirt, I used the top of a straight skirt to create a yoke. I inserted a back zipper and utilized a brown bias tape waistband. The rest of the skirt was created by making a large single pleat in both the front and back of the skirt and two small pleats on the sides. I thought the skirt was complete, and tried it on for Josh. He commented on how nice the bias tape waistband looks, and then said, “What don’t you trim the hem in the same stuff?” Josh was, of course, correct. The brown bias tape hem really takes the skirt from being pretty cute, to one that get complements each time I wear it.

The next was the one that actually fits me better than just about anything I own. (The Cute Diamonds skirt’s a little too big.)This fabric is one that I picked up from Bolt’s remnant basket (seriously, the best two square feet of fabric deals anywhere), and I’m not sure of the manufacturer.

957725465 ffdc1eb001 b BOOK REVIEW: Sew What! SkirtsThis is the most basic A-line with a bias tape waistband and a side zip. I used a blind hem to finish it off.

And, finally, my banana bike skirt:

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This was inspired by “Country Charm” with a little “Chinese Takeout” thrown in for good measure. This skirt, of course, has a story. We went to Fabric Depot during one of their many 30% off sales. Saw the Free Spirit/Heather Ross fabric from the “Lightning Bugs” collection that is not only pink, not only the softest cotton poplin ever, but has bikes on it that look just like the super-awesome banana seat bike I had as a kid (yes, it was pink). It had to be a skirt. Unfortunately, it’s also very see-through. So, I located some snazzy eyelet for an underlayer. Unfortunately, the eyelet was very ill-behaved, and caused me all kinds of problems when sewing. So, I ended up calling in reinforcements in the form of lace trim to disguise my funky-looking hemming and called it a day. I think my banana bike skirt’s awesome. I get a lot of comments on it, but it’s very pink, which seems to be a little off-putting to people who aren’t into color. Just an observation.

After sewing three skirts from Sew What! Skirts, I really do think it’s a fantastic book. It’s not going to challenge your sewing skills, unless you’re a fairly novice sewer-sewist, but the authors have done two things very, very well. First, they’ve really provided anyone, regardless of experience and skill level, with the basics to make a fun, useful skirt wardrobe. The possibilities really are endless with just the two basic styles. Second, and the thing I appreciate the most, is that the book encourages you to experience with fabric combinations, layering, embellishments and various closures and finishes. Sometimes, all you need is a little inspiration. Those two things alone make it worth the $16.95 price tag.

Bag Lady

from sarah the sewist

I’ve been on a mild bag-making spree, and Josh is proving to be a very valuable adviser in creating extremely cool messenger bags, one for me and one for my mom for her birthday.

First, my Will the Wolf Survive? messenger bag:

923389905 7d1c7a60dd m Bag LadyNow maybe the fabric designer wasn’t inspired by the Los Lobos song, but it’s been on Josh’s playlist (you know, the one in his head that he sings out loud since we’re the last Gen-Xers in America that don’t have an iPod) ever since I bought this fabric.This is one of the the most wonderful fabrics ever, designed by Japanese artist Etsuku Furuya, made by Enchino.

I have been carrying this bag every day since it was completed and got the ultimate compliment when Josh and I were grocery shopping the other night. Our cashier first asked me where I got my bag, and after I told her that I made it myself, she asked me if I’d considering making one for her. This was a wild experience, and I can’t get over it. I really don’t like the idea of someone else having “my bag,” though, so for now, it’s just something to inflate my ego about to sewing skills and funky aesthetic sensibilities.

The second, the This Thing is So Wildly Over-the-Top that My Mom’s Bound to Love It Bag:

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The fabric is from the new Amy Butler “Nigella” line, and it’s really my mom’s style… And really not mine.

There’s a special message for my mom hidden on the inside of the strap:


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It’s not any fancy-schmancy machine embroidery (and you know I didn’t do it by hand, due to my strict no hand-sewing policy), our little Kenmore’s monogramming feature didn’t do half bad.

Josh has a theory that pretty much everything can be improved if you add piping, and I think that my mom’s bag kind of proves his point. The piping really does put the bag in the realm of over-the-top that’s just right for our purposes.

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