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?

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1949 American Fabrics Magazine

I had a meeting over at PNCA, where I’m teaching a few classes this spring, and Josh showed me the library while I was there. He’d recently discovered the most amazing collection of a vintage magazine, American Fabrics. I actually don’t know much about this publication, or even whether it’s directed at the trade or consumers. But it’s fascinating, nonetheless.

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Up on a high shelf, there's something pretty awesome hidden in some inauspicious cardboard magazine holders.

Anyway, the magazine is an extremely cool snapshot of textile–and cultural–trends. I spent a bit of time thumbing through an issue from fall of 1949 (I snagged this one, because I love post-war fashion–the hats were just wonderful during that time). Check it out my mediocre cell phone shots of some of the highlights.

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Be There – Denyse Schmidt Lecture in PDX

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Image courtesy of Denyse Schmidt Quilts

This Friday, July 17, Portland folks have the chance to attend a very exciting talk from a really fascinating person–quilt artist, fabric designer and entrepreneur Denyse Schmidt. She’s a really interesting person–I’d highly recommend that you read this article that appeared in American Craft Magazine awhile back for a bit of insight on Denyse’ and her work.

PNCA’s Continuing Education program has organized and is sponsoring this talk as a part of their Summer of Making program–and Denyse is also teaching a (very full) weekend-long class (that I wish I could take). My pal Susan is taking the class, and I bet she’s going to blog about it a bit–so make sure to check out West Coast Crafty next week for a bit more about that experience.

The talk–generously provided free-of-charge by PNCA-CE–is being hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Craft here in Portland, starting at 5:30. It’s bound to be pretty crowded, but it’s really a can’- miss if you’re interested in fabric, quilting, textiles or craft.

If you read this site, and you go, please let us know–we’ll make sure to say “hey.” And, if you go–consider thanking the folks at PNCA for providing this high-quality free public programming as a supplement to their Summer of Making classes, I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

Be there.

Letterpress Project Preview

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As I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t get a chance to finish up my project during our letterpress seminar last week. But I did go back on Monday and work on the fronts a bit. This it half of my postcard project. I haven’t printed any of the other side yet. I think I mentioned this before, but this project is inspired by a couple of my favorite Portland-y things–the Steel Bridge and the Loretta Lynn-Jack White song, Portland, Oregon.

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Photo (c)2006 by Andrew Hall,

I created the letterpress using three different techniques, which always makes me happy. Not because it’s more complicated (it’s really not), but because I love the vastly different results you can get in letterpress, depending on your approach. For the back, I used type–obviously. For the front, I carved a 4″x6″ linoleum block in sort of a freeform oblong shape and printed it in an ultra transparent gray with a good measure of reflex blue mixed in.

Here’s what the lino block looks like set up in the press bed:

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(Thrilling, huh?) And this is how it looks printed on the paper:

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Then, using a photopolymer plate and artwork I’d created of the Steel Bridge, I printed over it in a darker, bluer gray.

The idea with using the lighter gray first was that it created that hazy, monotone look the Willamette River (pronounced Wil-am-it) gets sometimes, when you can’t tell the difference between the water and sky. It’s quite beautiful, and something that I’ve really only seen here. I wish I had a photo of that effect… I love the functional beauty of the Steel Bridge, and how trains pass under it all the time without anyone really noticing. It’s a real workhorse of a structure.

Anyway, I’m printing the other half of my cards with another version from the song,

Well I lost my heart.
It didn’t take no time.
But that ain’t all.
I lost my mind in Oregon.

More on the artwork for that soon…


Steel Bridge photo via Portland Bridges.

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?


Day Three of Letterpress – Now Our Feet Really Hurt

Lots of fun printing today in day three of four-day letterpress workshop. Josh had a few minor “issues” to deal with–his type wasn’t as cooperative as he had hoped. I hopped onto one of the printing presses first thing (nerds that we are, we went an hour early) and printed up the text for half of my postcards. I also worked on some photopolymer and did some lino-cutting. A busy, full day. One of the highlights was just watching all of the folks who’d never letterpress printed print their work for the first time–everyone was just so happy! Tomorrow, I’ll make sure to photograph the other students’ work–folks are extremely talented, for sure.

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Inked rollers...

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Inked rollers & locked up type.

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Hot pink ink. (Not ours.)

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Hot pink draw down. (Not ours--but a fabulous color!)

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Green ink--this is a gorgeous transparent green that another student mixed. It's lovely seeing something so vibrant also be translucent.

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Green ink draw down.

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Back of my type project.

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This is an ink-stained table in the print studio.


Photos from Letterpress Workshop

We had a lot of fun in the first day of our letterpress workshop today. For me, It was interesting being one of the more experienced students, since I was definitely the least experienced in my letterpress class in the spring. In fact, I’m probably the most experienced student in the workshop. I realized that I actually know a lot about letterpress, even though I don’t feel completely confident with the medium. Josh has such a unique creative eye, and because of that, it’s such a treat watching him learn something completely new. I think he totally understood why I had said my brain hurts after several hours in the letterpress studio–it really taxes you mentally (and when you’re actually printing it taxes you physically as well). One of the things I didn’t do enough of when I was in class before was photograph the actual type, so I made sure to do it this time. Here are some of my favorite type “Glamor Shots.”

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Josh's intro type-setting project. The stag is actually an impala--like would be used in an old Chevy ad.

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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.


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

Garden Dreams

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Some of last year's bounty. Those beans were so, so, so good--an heirloom mix of bush beans that were almost leggy enough to be pole beans. Very sweet and crisp.

We’ve still been sick around here. Between the two of us, there hasn’t been a single healthy day in all of March. Pretty crummy, huh? We’ve been keeping thoughts of warmer weather and less sickness alive in our hearts, though, by dreaming about this year’s vegetable garden.

We plant an organic vegetable garden every year. In fact, we have gardened together since 2001, when we had a plot in one of the original Victory Gardens in the middle of Rock Creek Park in the Glover Park neighborhood of Washington, DC. That year, we had put our names on a waiting list for a garden plot in the community garden near us, knowing that it usually took several years to get a plot. However, right at the beginning of the season, someone was unable to care for their plot anymore (there were a number of people who’d had their plots since they were originally developed in the 1940s), and the garden coordinator went down the waiting list, and we were the first people who answered the phone. And that’s how we wound up with a primo piece of D.C. real estate–a large garden plot right across the street from our apartment building, for the very small price of $40 a year. Our plot was pretty overgrown, and we didn’t have garden tools per se, so we spent a lot of time on manual labor churning up the soil and preparing it for planting. We walked all over the city in search of vegetable plants and seeds and, not having access to a car, carried some pretty wacky things on the subway and bus. That summer was incredibly hot, and our garden flourished. Quickly, vegetables started producing. Soon, we were feasting on fresh lettuce, peas and all sorts of other goodies. And just as quickly, wildlife began having our way with our bounty. Oh yes, Rock Creek Park is home to a lot of urban wildlife–coyotes (we would hear them howl from our apartment), turtle, foxes, rabbits and deer. Those damn deer. They would crawl under our fence, leap over it and just push through it. No matter what we did, the deer would get in and eat our vegetables. Despite that trauma, it was one of the best summers ever–and we spent hours every night outside in our garden. We’d often take our dinner out to our garden and sit in lawn chairs, enjoying the opportunity to have a piece of the country right in the middle of the city. Friends would stop by our plot and say hi. We made friends with the older folks who’d gardened there for decades, many of whom were also seed savers who shared seeds and knowledge with us. It was a special place. After 9/11, the garden was one of the first places we visited, and when we left D.C. later that year, the garden was the last place we said good-bye to.

We’ve pretty much gardened together ever since.

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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.


Another Reason to Love Buttons

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What’s this? Two posts in one day? Be still my beating heart! (Although the first was definitely “unplanned posting,” so I’m not sure if that really counts.)

In case my review of Susan‘s new book didn’t give you enough reason to love buttons, here’s another–this really charming necklace that the aforementioned Susan dropped off at the house last night. But, before I get into the awesomeness that is this necklace, I have got to say that this is one of the reasons Susan is such a gem–she’s always finding or making things for other people–and they’re always things that are just “perfect.” For example, shortly after we met Susan and her lovely family, she gave us this awesome cocktail trail with a New Mexico motif on it. She’d purchased it before she met us, and said something along the lines of, “When I bought it, I didn’t know whose it was supposed to be, but then when I met you guys, I knew who the tray’s owners were.” She’s also the queen scavenger of vintage Trail Blazers paraphernalia as well–and I have definitely reaped the benefits of that. You can check out a couple of her finds that she’s passed on to me here and here. Or better yet, you can admire her own handiwork right here. My point is, that’s just the sort of exceptionally thoughtful person Susan is, and I really, really appreciate it. So, I’m reciprocating in my own way, by encouraging you to check out her book.When she gave me the necklace, she had no idea I would post it here, she just said that when she was making it that it looked like me. (Which is totally does–it has an almost Marimekko element to it that I love, love, love.) It even perfectly matches my favorite pair of spectacles.

Anyway, back to this necklace–which is definitely one of the the coolest things ever. Sure, it’s made from buttons, which rocks. But, not only is it made from buttons, Susan made the freaking buttons herself! Which might be a little crazy, but is also awesome. You can learn how to make your own buttons just like this over on Susan’s post on CraftStylish, and then get the instructions for making the necklace, plus two other styles, on this post. It looks like loads of fun–plus, how long has it been since you’ve played with shrinky-dink?

So, as you’ve probably noticed, I’m going to continue my little one-woman campaign to encourage you to buy Button it Up (it would make me super-happy if you’d consider buying it from your local, independent bookshop, too).  I can’t help it–I’m a “public relations professional,” promotion’s ingrained in me, I guess. (Although, if I can be introspective and random for a moment, I rarely ever promote myself–I’ve been trying to more lately, but it’s really hard.) I know economy’s crap–trust me, I know–but it’s a relatively inexpensive book, with great bang for the buck, since it includes some 80 projects. And, as I mentioned in the original review, the vast majority of the projects can be created with things you have on hand–since I know we sewers and sewists love to hold onto our favorite buttons!

And, since I’ve got a captive audience here, a reminder that Susan’s also got a couple of events coming up here in Portland in support of Button it Up. You can get the details here. There will be lots of crafty fun–you can be sure of it!


Letterpress Class, Part 4: The One Where I Admit to My Classmates That I’m a Bit of a Nut

It was inevitable… You know, when you’ve sort of let people believe you’re a relatively normal person, but you know that time is coming when you’re going to have to say or do something that will give people a glimpse into the fact that you’re a bit weird? You’ve all had that experience, right? Right?

I’ve mentioned in my previous posts about my totally amazing letterpress class through PNCA Continuing Education that part of the class is coming up with a large project, for which we have to write a proposal. I didn’t really this about this when I started the class, because I was just all gung-ho about learning how to use a letterpress, set type, etc. I somehow blocked it out of my mind that this is a college class, not a DIY workshop type situation, so it’s got to have some academic rigor. I really hadn’t thought about it. I mean, there’s nothing I really need, nothing that I’ve been dying to make, no deep, meaningful personal writings that need to be handset in Grimaldi. Nothing.

So I thought about it for a couple of weeks, and starting thinking about creating a project that could be a bit ironic, or funny. Because, you know, in my world if you’re not laughing, there’s a serious problem. (Lately, I have been having a problem where people thing I’m serious when I’m making an outlandish joke, which is kind of weird. Hopefully I’m not getting too old for humor and irony. That would suck. Big time.) One of the funnier things in my world is this super-tacky stack of basketball trading cards that we having sitting on out bookshelf. Josh picked them up at Freddy’s a couple of years ago, and they’re hilarious. Here’s one of my “favorites,” it’s Steve Nash.

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You see, these cards appeal little to me. Sure, there are some good ones that have holograms on them (I think holograms are incredibly funny–which I’m sure has something to do with my being a kid in the ’80s). There are a few good pictures. But, honestly, they’re boring. The photos are uninteresting, the text on the back is very small and impossible to read. The stats aren’t that interesting, since I can google current ones more easily. The narrative on the back is painful. Here’s some from the Nash card,

After winning back-to-back MVP awards Nash was once again poised to win his third in 2006-07 but was slightly edged out by friend and former teammate Dirk Nowitzki. The Canadian point guard is known most for his undeniable speed and flashy passing skills.

(The lack of commas is straight from the card, by the way.) Not only is that possibly the most uninteresting two statements about Steve Nash I’ve ever heard, it belies nothing of who Steve Nash is, and why on Earth I should care about Steve Nash. The most interesting part is that he’s good friends with Dirk! And everyone knows that. (I could also split hairs and argue that Steve Nash is not actually particularly fast, but he’s so crafty and agile that he finds space where others do not, which leads to the illusion of speed, but that’s for another day and another blog, I think.) As a writer, that bothers me. It’s just straight-up lazy. Continue reading »

‘Cause That’s What Friends Are For…

I have what could be termed, an “eclectic” group of friends. It’s actually sort of an interesting phenomena, because–unlike most people, who seem to lots of friends in common with one another–my friends are sort of grouped into various categories of my life. Crafty friends, Blazers fans friends, politics friends, friends I’ve worked with, friends who knew me when I was a kid. Not very many of them reach across these random delineations–and, actually, not many of them know each other. This is probably a result of my having so many different interests that are not particularly related. (Although, I never thought of it before, but I wonder if this is actually more normal than I assume–maybe pop culture, a a la Friends has made me assume that most people have large groups of friends that all hang out together? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.) Anyway, despite this, two of my friends–Susan and Bryan–seem to reach across these categorizations, since I have loads in common with both of them. Funnily enough, they’re both people whom I’ve only known a relatively short while. And they both, obviously, know me pretty well–since they’ve recently bestowed upon me some totally awesome crafty gifts.

Bryan recently mentioned to me that when he was helping to downsize his 96-year old grandma into a smaller living situation, he came into possession of her “sewing kit.” Yes, this was the term he used. So, when he asked me if I wanted it, I assumed he meant some thread, needles, maybe a spare button or two. That sort of thing. You know, sewing kit stuff. So imagine my surprise when Bryan showed up at our house with this tin of goodies.

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This tin is pretty strange--it seems to be a mixed metaphor, season-wise.

Yes, what looks like an ancient can of “Gay Nineties Cookies” (and please fill me in, if you know what on Earth those are), was actually a treasure trove of vintage buttons and sewing notions.

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We dumped everything out on the floor of my home office.

We had quite a good time sorting through everything…

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Poor Bryan--he's allergic to dogs and Saoirse just loves him.

Here are a few of the highlights… Continue reading »

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...


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.)

Continue reading »

In search of…

Some awesome running pants. Yes, you heard me… Running pants. Yep, I’ve finally sucked it up and acknowledged that Josh has really gotten super healthy and fit through running and I should really follow suit. It’s got a lot of pluses, the biggest of when being that it’s 100% free. (We’ve had gym memberships before and they really get expensive.) Even pricey shoes are relatively cheap for us because we live in the city that’s headquarters to both Nike and Adidas, and both companies have amazing outlet stores and warehouse sales (Adidas’ sale is my favorite because nothing’s over $30, and gets cheaper with each day). In addition to our Portland neighborhood’s ill-kept sidewalks, we also have access to a running track that the school district left intact when they knocked down the middle school down the way from us and a cinder trail at the park about five blocks away from our house. There’s really no excuse.

My plan: I’ve been following the Couch to 5K (C25K) running program, which is really amazing. It’s a nice, gradual program that works you up to running a 5K or a half-hour continuously. I actually started running the first time in college, and ended up with a badly sprained ankle–not from running, but from falling down the steps of our apartment building while trying to catch a bus, which is reason #127 that I hate buses–and quit at the end of my senior year because I couldn’t, well, walk. But, at that time, I just ran and didn’t follow a program. I think you can get away with that when you’re 21, but not when you’re 31. (By the way, if you’re interested, I’ve been posting my weekly playlists and updates on Josh’s and my personal blog, Moon Family Band.)

Now, you may be asking, “But, Sarah, if you have access to cheap shoes what not just buy some cheap running pants while you’re at it?” Well, I have a good answer for that.

I’m short.

So I always by cropped exercise pants. Josh has helpfully suggested that I just hem full length pants to the proper length, but they never fit right because the knee area is all the way at mid-calf. Which annoys the crap out of me. And my devotion to boot-cut pants only escalates this problem. The picture below illustrates the type of exercise pants I usually buy.

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I swear, this is the only picture I have of my wearing exercise clothes. This photo was taken in the Portland Trail Blazers team weight room. We did a workout with their Strength & Conditioning Coach, Bobby Medina. He's a cool dude. And I wish that he was my personal trainer.

Unfortunately, it’s gotten a bit chilly (I’m a weather wimp) and I can’t wear the capri length pants to run in anymore.

Sadly, the only petite, boot-cut running pants that I can find are at Title 9 for $55! And I’m way too much of a cheapo to pony up that kind of money for something that simple. Since Rose City Textiles carries a huge variety of wicking athletic knits, I’m going to take the plunge and make a couple pairs of perfect running pants to get me through the winter.

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The pricey petitified running pants from Title 9.

I’m thinking that I can start with this Burda World of Fashion pattern from November 2007, petitify it, switch the waistband and add a little pocket for an iPod pretty easily and tinker with the rest of the design a smidge to basically replicate the shape of the T9 pants.

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The legs of these seem pretty similar to the Title 9 version, just a little added ease in the hips and thighs and a waistband modification would probably do it.

Several people over on Pattern Review have sewn these up and they’ve all turned out well, which is comforting as well. Hopefully, I can “wrap up” (hehehe) our holiday sewing soon so that I can get cracking on these.

(Speaking of holidays, when I was over on the Burda site, I discovered all of these clever, free Christmas projects on the site. I especially thought these heart ornaments made using templates from cookie cutters were very sweet. You should also check out Diane’s Holiday Zine. I saw one over at a friend’s house this week and had to order it–loads of fun! The button and yarn wreath project is absolutely priceless.)

I also may screen print on the outer leg, similar to the way Melissa has for the pants she sells in her shop in Massachusetts. But, I’ll have to experiment with the way wicking fabric takes screen printing inks.

I’ll keep y’all posted on my progress!


Interview: Chika Mori, Co-Author of Zakka Sewing

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Zakka Sewing is a new book–it came out last month–that is the first zakka book aimed at English-speaking crafters. As you know, we love our collection of Japanese craft books, and it turns out that they’ve become something of a phenomenon. The co-authors of Zakka Sewing, Therese Laskey and Chika Mori, recognized this trend and have brought anauthentic Japanese craft book experience–the worked with zakka makers in Japan to develop the projects–to the American audience. If you’re interested in Japanese crafting, but are intimidated by, or don’t have access to, the books from Japan, Zakka Sewing is a great introduction. In fact, despite our now-formidable collection of zakka books, we learned a lot about what constitutes zakka, the materials used and the themes that emerge in Japanese crafts.

Chika Mori, one of the co-authors, was kind enough to answer a few questions about  their new book, and zakka in general. You can learn more about Chika on her web site, Chikagraphy, and at her zakka blog, Zakka Place, which has loads more information about zakka projects .

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Zakka Sewing Co-Author Chika Mori

Sewer-Sewist: We’d love to know a bit more about you than what the book jacket tells us. We know you’re both creative types, and would love to hear about sewing and crafting in your lives.

Chika Mori: My parents tell me I started drawing when I was 2 or 3 years old. Sewing and crafting came much later, when I was 10. No one taught me how to sew. It came to me rather naturally.

I was brought up in a very creative environment. My great grandmother, my grandmother, and my mom, were always making something, such as purses, bags, and kimonos. Sometimes they re-used old scrap kimono fabrics and made patchwork comforter covers and pillows. Most of the time they created for themselves, but occasionally they gave away their creations as small gifts to close friends. I remember one day when my mother made me a tiny doll with some left over yarn. I loved the doll so much that I showed it to my classmates the next day – and I ended up asking my mom to make at least 30 more dolls for my friends. I wanted to make some too, but I was 6 years old and too clumsy for that.

My love of drawing and my sewing skills started to come together after I became a 4th grader. Drawing some funny-looking characters and making simple dolls or sewing appliqued handkerchiefs became my favorite hobby, and it has since become my profession.

SS: Why Zakka? What drew you to this topic, especially with so many existing books from Japan that are becoming more and more accessible, even in this country?

CM: There is a lot of literature out there, but how much of that is tailored to the non-Japanese audience?

There is a growing appreciation towards zakka so we thought there was an opportunity to create a book that just might hit the spot.

In this modern society, we have access to all kinds of products. It’s easy to to surround yourself with “things”, but do they make us feel good?

I believe more and more people started to look for substance in things. There is more to a product than just its form or function. A product can carry an idea or a meaning or a philosophy. Nowadays people think whether or not the product is made of recycled materials, or if it’s made by hand, or if it matches your lifestyle.

There is a philosophy behind the word “zakka”. We enjoy living our life each and everyday comfortably and happily. Zakka are everyday items that support this way of living. Zakka has magical powers to enrich your daily life – powers that go beyond what can be achieved by form or function. Simple household goods such as placemats and potholders can make you smile if they strike your chord. They give you a good feeling. I believe this is the essence of what is appealing to people.

I have come to a point in life where I appreciate the little things in life that make me happy. Zakka is one of the things I see that has plenty of little happiness that can be identified by many. I wanted to share my feelings with our readers through Zakka Sewing.

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In Japan, zakka makers create cozies for everything; this one is for a digital camera.

Zakka doesn’t have to be handmade. There are plenty of mass produced zakka. However, we are focusing here on the handmade kind. You can be very creative and original with zakka, and I think the fact that you can create your own feel-good item is exciting for people in this country and around the world.

SS: We are big fans of Japanese sewing/craft books and magazines, but always have a hard time putting our thumbs on what exactly it is that is so unique and intriguing about the Japanese style of crafting. What are your thoughts on why Japanese crafts are gaining in popularity with Americans?

CM: The simple and delicate aesthetics of Japanese crafts may be very unique to Americans. Clean lines and simple shapes, interesting mixture of materials, colors and patterns – all of these elements are carefully put together with attention to fine details and yet never overdone. Some Japanese artists incorporate foreign styles/cultures, especially French, to their creation. This blend of styles can also make Japanese zakka more interesting and unexpected.

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The Pear Purse. Fruit is a common zakka motif.

SS: Talk to us about the process of finding and working with the Zakka makers. What was involved in the process of collaborating with them to create projects aimed at a primarily American audience?

CM: In most cases I found the artists through Japanese publications and on the internet. Therese started a private blog for us in preparation for Zakka Sewing and we would post photos of handmade zakka and exchange thoughts.

We wanted to feature a broad range of projects from traditional Japanese feel to modern style, and from simple to complex. It was a challenge as I recall, but this was the key process to make this book appeal to a broader audience and I am very happy with our selections.

Not a single artist spoke or wrote English, so I had to do some heavy translating. It was quite a task to put their methods of creation in writing and then translate. Then I drew all the illustrations (combination of hand drawing and computer coloring). It was an interesting practice though, since it gave me an opportunity to examine the item from a different perspective and that taught me a lot.

Most of the projects in the book are each artists’ standard items. Sometimes Therese and I asked the artists to rearrange their projects for the American audience. An exception to this maybe the Bunko-bon Book Cover, because the book cover is originally designed to fit a standard “bunko-bon (Japanese paperback book)”. As we wanted the project to be original and authentic, we didn’t ask the artist to resize it. However, we did include instructions on adjusting the book cover’s size in case you don’t read bunko-bon, of course.

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Book cover—in Japan most books are the same size. The version in Zakka Sewing is easily adjustable for variations in book sizes.

Aside from working with the Zakka makers in Japan, what other research did you do that made its way into the book? For example, despite having quite a few Japanese sewing and crafts books in our personal library, we hadn’t realized what a prominent role linen plays in Zakka.

CM: As a crafts person myself, I have an extensive zakka library, new and old, plus I check most recent zakka trends via Japanese magazines and on the internet. I also go to hand craft events in Japan such as Design Festa in Tokyo and Tezukuri-ichi (handmade market) in Kyoto. There are also local boutiques that carry many handmade zakka, so I go and check them out as well. My craft friends who live in Japan are also my great resources. It’s really not research. It’s more like an obsession! I’m always looking and it’s what I do as part of my life.

European linen, especially natural French linen has been popular among Japanese crafters for the last several years, for its natural texture, color, and durability.

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Merci Apron. This project involved several popular zakka trends: embroidery, linen and foreign words.

SS: Do you have any tips for Sewer-Sewist readers who check out Zakka Sewing and find themselves wanting to learn more about Zakka and Japanese sewing and crafting?

CM: If you are a beginner sewer and don’t use a sewing machine, Tartlet Pincushion is the project to get you started. It’s a simple project that allows you to be playful and experimental. You can make it your own by using different kinds of fabrics (I suggest thick material) or using decorative beads/buttons, small or large. It will be a wonderful Christmas stocking stuffer if you have friends or family members who love sewing.

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Tartlet Pincushion. A simple project, even if you’ve never sewn before.

In general though, I believe it doesn’t really matter if you are a beginner or advanced.

As the original meaning of zakka implies, your creation can be any simple everyday item. What’s important is that you feel good when you make it and use it (or give it!).

SS: Thank you, Chika!


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?


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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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Oh so pretty…

It’s settled. One of us is going to have to learn Japanese. Because all of the goodies that we keep finding at Kinokuniya are getting a bit out of control. This time, and innocent trip to Uwajimaya has resulted in quite the find — The Pretty Bag Collection.

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I have such a weakness for bag-making, as you’ve probably noticed (it’s funny, too, because I have only been making bags for a year or so). And this book has some really awesome projects. It’s, like many of the Japanese sewing books, brokenn down into thematic sections, this time by fabric type: Silk Shantung, Jacquard and Lace & Check. This is, actually, far more fabric information than I’m normally able to figure out in most of the books I’ve picked up on one of stops at the Japanese book store.

Here are just a few of the highlights that I quickly scanned this afternoon.

This asymmetric bag would be great to show off a striking lining fabric. I would be fun to sew it in a simple exterior fabric and an absolutely wild interior.

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These two shaped bags are just damn pretty, hands down. And the round one, in particular, could be really fun — and is really screaming for contrasting panels. You could also do some interesting embellishment with beads or crochet (which I don’t know how to do, but like the idea of for whatever reason) on the ties at the top.

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I’ve nicknamed this pieced number “The Clever Bag” because I think its handle/closure is just so ingenious…

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But hands down, I have four definite favorites of the 24 projects in the Pretty Bag Collection. In fact, I’ve been looking at this book every time we go to Uwajimaya, because of these both of these. They’re garment-inspired bags! Seriously how awesome are these?

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They’re bags and they’re clothes. And you sew them. What’s not to love? It’s like the perfect storm of craftiness.


Field Trip: A Hood River Surprise

We really like the Columbia River Gorge town of Hood River. Not only is it beautiful, scenic and home to very cool action sports like kiteboarding and windsurfing, it’s also home to both Full Sail Brewing (Session seems to have become our “house beer” lately) and Tofurky (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it – the soy Italian sausage is really good!). You can’t beat that!

We, along with Sarah’s mom, went out there for lunch this week and after lunch walked around the town. In a window of a shop called Parts + Labour, we spotted this:

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That vine of flowers is constructed of pieces of sewing pattern tissue with measuring tapes, ribbon and pins holding the display together. Plus, some embroidery hoops thrown in for an added dash of stitchery. Here’s a close up of one of the flowers:

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It was a pretty fun idea and certainly drew us into the shop (which was a very interesting place, not only with clothes and accessories from small brands, but a number of one-of-a-kind handmade items – including clothing). Although, perhaps normal people are more excited about the merchandise than the sewing-related window display…

This would be fun to replicate with any of the zillions of tissue paper flowers tutorials out there, especially this elaborate tissue paper bouquet from (gulp) Martha Stewart (note how they say it takes “just an afternoon”). In fact, that would look just right on the desk in the new workroom/home office/sewing room we’re in the middle of organizing (that probably won’t happen, but we can dream, right?).

Finally, a use for those Simplicity patterns we bought just because they were on sale for 99 cents!

~Sarah & Josh

Crafting Across Cultures

(Or why we love Uwajimaya.)

Maybe it’s because we both lived in the international dorm in college, went to grad school oversees, did a fair amount of international traveling (before the dollar tanked and it was actually affordable to travel) and possibly even because Josh has a degree in International Studies, but we are both really interested in books, magazines and publications about sewing and “making stuff” from around the globe. (We also are both compulsive consumers of books and magazines on all sorts of subjects, so this feeds multiple interests at once…)

One of our favorite Portland grocery stores happens to be Uwajimaya, way over on the west side (it may technically be Beaverton, actually). Uwajimaya is an Asian supermarket with lots of wonderful foods are very wonderful prices. They have interesting vegetables, noodles of all kinds and more sauces than you can imagine. They also have a fascinating assortment of Hello Kitty merchandise, Japanese cookware, a Shiseido shop and all sorts of odds and ends. But the gem at Uwajimaya is the Kinokuniya Bookstore, which is a chain of bookstores in Japan that has a few branches in the U.S. as well. Whenever we do some grocery shopping at Uwajimaya, we always spend a fair amount of time poking around the bookstore at the interesting magazines (the men’s fashions magazines are amazing—especially the single-topic ones devoted to things like canvas sneakers or jeans) and the gorgeous craft books. In fact, we’ve accumulated quite the little collection of Japanese sewing books.

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The photography and styling in these books is just beautiful.

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When we stopped by Uwajimaya this weekend, they were featuring Japanese craft books as part of their “Japanese Crafting Books Fair.”

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Which was less of a “fair” per se (but it was still more than usual), and more of a special table set up with a display of unique craft books. This was our favorite that they selected for special display:

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In addition to the “Handmade Dog Dresses” book above (which we resisted buying, but it sure took a lot of self-discipline and reminders to ourselves that the dog mind not ever forgive us), there was a huge knitting book selection (Japanese knitting uses charts, so the language issue wouldn’t be too bad), softies, crochet, beading and embroidery as well as the awesome sewing selections.

We’ve been exercising restraint with the unnecessary purchases lately, but had to get the latest issue of “Female,” a sewing magazine.

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The reason? TEN HAT PATTERNS! The perfect companion for the Idea Hat Recipe Book! Our hat-making power has almost doubled. (Perhaps we have an unusual enthusiasm for hat-making? Just maybe?)

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Even though the patterns are complicated-looking because 1) neither of us knows a word of Japanese (okay, Sarah knows how to answer the phone in Japanese due to having a roommate from Japan for a semester) and 2) the pattern paper is crazy, with loads of intersecting lines, our (really Josh’s) first foray into sewing hats using the Japanese patterns really helped us develop an understanding of how hats are constructed and what shapes make up the various styles of hats. It’s pretty fascinating, really.

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The perfect accompaniment to a fresh set of Japanese hat patterns? A bit of fabric from Heather Ross’ Rabbits and Racecars line for Kokka of Japan (purchased at Bolt after our trip to Uwajimaya). This may just need to be a driving cap…

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~Sarah & Josh

A Day at the Beach

We’re lucky here in Oregon to have wonderful beaches—and every last one of them are public, thanks to the 1967 Oregon Beach Bill (learn more on this site from an episode of The Oregon Experience). We haven’t been to the beach since last fall because it’s gotten just so expensive to drive the eighty or so miles over the mountains to the coast. But, we make the trek to Cannon Beach today—and oh was it worth it! We couldn’t resist taking a few pictures so we’d have an excuse to post beach photos here on Sewer-Sewist… (Josh wearing his Sewer-Sewist T-shirt was purely coincidental, though.)

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~Sarah & Josh

Sewing a Celebration

We at Sewer-Sewist have been preoccupied with the idea of making our own flag (yes, you read that right, making our own flag) for quite awhile. The topic first came up when we were in the car one afternoon and Josh said, “You know, we should make our own flag. That would be really cool.”

To which Sarah replied, “Good idea. We totally should.”

We tossed that idea around awhile, and on a relatively recent Powell’s excursion (there are many of these such excursions) we picked up the groundbreaking Banners & Flags: How to Sew a Celebration. (For, like $5 or so…)

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There’s something really special about books from the 70s—they’re so over-the-top but folksy at the same time.

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This one has what is possibly the best book dedication ever.

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Hello! Who doesn’t love a parade? That would be downright wrong.

This book covers (obviously) making your own handmade flags and banners (AKA “Sew a Celebration”), and today being Independence Day we thought we’d share some selections out of the flag-making section.

Parts of a flag. (We also learned from this section that a person who’s really into flags is called a “vexillologist.”)

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While we were primarily interesting in the “how-to” component of the book, the types of flags and why they’re made is one of the most interesting sections of this book (this is actually really interesting because it goes into detail about using flags not only for celebration but designing them as protest symbols to affect social change—which has been a long tradition in the U.S.).

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Star placement on a traditional American flag.

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Applying the red stripes. There are very specific proportions you use to make a traditional U.S. flag.

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Techniques for stitching on the stars on the blue background.

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One of the author’s original flag designs.

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(Oh, if Levis still did last… The demise of the indestructible pair of Levis is often mourned around here…)

And, finally, being a seventies book, there’s the requisite rainbow flags.

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We haven’t started on our flag yet, but this book certainly has all the principles and guidelines you need to design and sew your own flag. We’ve been particularly thinking that we could take inspiration from this flag we saw appraised on Antiques Roadshow recently.

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Of course, we’ll add our own twist. Just wait and see.

~S & J

Book Review: Alabama Stitch Book

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While at The Best Bookstore Ever (aka Powell’s here in Portland) this spring, Josh spotted the beautiful Alabama Stitch Book, written by Natalie Chanin of Project Alabama fame. (Josh has a real eye for design and aesthetics, so it caught his eye because it’s such an attractive book.) This is the book that inspired the purple skirt I wore to a party with some old friends last weekend.

To be completely straight with you, I really bought the Alabama Stitch Book because it was “neat looking.” Which it is. It is an absolutely beautifully designed book, from beginning to end. Even the inside cover is gorgeous!

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The book walks you through all kinds of projects based around the idea of the ethos of the original Project Alabama (the author is quite clear that she’s no longer associated with Project Alabama in its current iteration). The idea is revitalizing the craft of working with cotton that used to be tremendously important in Alabama. As I’ve written about before, is something that’s really important to me, and I really salute Ms. Chanin (’cause I’m sure a shout-out from Sewer-Sewist is the one she’s been waiting for) for capturing the sewing and crafting heritage of her region. There’s a bit of everything related to this subject in the book—sourcing and reusing cotton jersey, beading, various appliqué techniques and complete projects that bring together many styles from the book.

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Now, the thing that really tripped me up, that I didn’t realize when I bought the book, was that the author pretty much uses hand-stitching techniques exclusively for the projects. She has a good reason.

Working this way takes time. Some call this approach “Slow Design,” which means embracing the long-term view over the short-term gain by using age-old techniques to create products that celebrate strong design principles for modern living.

As we’ve covered thoroughly before, I don’t hand sew. I even avoid sewing on buttons, since our machine does such a good job of it. (And in fairness to me, I do have a good reason, with my stupid tendinitis and all.) However, I totally get that this book is a response to the absurdity of our mass-produced, on-demand modern lives. And the techniques in this book (even when machine sewn) really do demand that we slow down, think about the design and create something truly one-of-a-kind. Check it out.

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The book even made me believe that something as simple as a Sharpie can be beautiful.

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This jersey quilt is stunning. It would be the perfect gift for someone very special. I love that the author’s employees made a similar quilt for her to commemorate all the designs she’d created. I’m not a quilter, but it makes me wish I were.

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For we garment sewers, the corset and swing skirt are the thing. Both are just lovely, simple shapes that can be customized with any and all of the embellishments from the book. You’re only limited by your creativity and time. I also had the thought that you could actually sew the two together and make a sweet-ass dress. (Since I’m all about dresses these days—hey, no matching required!)

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I modified the swing skirt pattern (there are full-sized patterns for both included in the book, in addition to instructions for the 17 other projects) for my purple skirt and used the one stencil that’s included (there are others that you can photocopy and make your own stencils with, but this one is ready to go, on card stock). Since I didn’t have any fabric paint, I just traced the shapes in Sharpie. I also didn’t have much in the way of black jersey (is it my imagination or has cotton jersey gotten waaaaay more expensive lately?), I only had a one layered skirt, and simply backed the Sharpied stencil. Because I really cannot hand sew (I swear this is a legit physical restriction, not laziness), I used a long stitch on the Kenmore to mimic hand-stitching. It doesn’t really look the same, largely because I used normal cotton thread and should have used hand-quilting or machine embroidery thread so that it would “pop” more. Regardless, I was pretty happy with the way it turned out.

I really wanted to try some of the beading techniques on this skirt as well, but that didn’t happen. I just didn’t have the supplies or time. And it would probably do a number on my hands/sanity anyway. But sometime I’ll have a go at it.

I apologize for this rambling review, but the Alabama Stitch Book is a hard one to distill into a few thoughts. It’s part textile history, part instruction book, part coffee table book. But it serves all those roles quite well.

It’s very obvious that Ms. Chanin put a lot of herself into this book. And it’s because of this that I hate to offer up anything negative. However, I do have to pick at the publisher a bit. One of the subtexts of the book really highlights sustainability and bringing back traditional American craft. This is 100% something I can get behind. Which is why I was so profoundly disappointed when I flipped over to the back cover of the book and saw this:

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Yep, “Printed in China.”

Now, I don’t place any blame whatsoever with the author. Like I said, it’s extremely obvious that she’s deeply committed to sustainability and preserving our crafting traditions. And authors really don’t have control over the business practices of their publishers. And if I were Natalie Chanin and were asked to decide between getting this message out to a broad public and having the book printed in China versus not having the Alabama Stitch Book published, I’d chose publishing the book every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

What shocks me really is that the publisher obviously didn’t see the inherent hypocrisy in sending this particular book halfway around the world to be printed. It’s because of practices like that that Alabama’s stitching traditions—that are the focus of the Alabama Stitch Book—have all but disappeared and need a book like this to preserve our craft heritage. This really bothers me. This isn’t a “gotcha!” thing for me, but rather a question to the publisher about how they justify that decision… It would be a revealing, and meaningful, conversation.


Sewn House = Fun House

As if the Tacoma News-Tribune telling us that “sewing is the new knitting” wasn’t enough, the new-found coolness of sewing is rearing its head in the latest Anthropologie Home catalog. Yep, the retailer that’s so great for sewing inspiration (love their styles, hate their pricing, really hate their bizarre fitting) featured a completely stitched together “Fun House” in the pages of their latest catalog.

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If the Sewer ever neglected to trim his threads like Anthropologie did for this photo-shoot, he’d be in big trouble, but I guess that’s artistic license for you. Actually, I just bought The Alabama Stitch Book (I’ll review it soon, I promise) and while I really like that book, one of the things that drives me nuts is their not trimming their threads as a “design element.” I know this makes me profoundly uncool, but leaving threads untrimmed drives me nuts.

Anyway, my weirdness aside, it’s interesting to see sewing and general craftiness used in marketing. Sort of shows that even the illusion of handmade is appealing on some level, which in a sense is positive thing. (Even though I take issue with the fact that Anthropologie’s stuff is not, in fact, handmade, and is actually likely from factories in China or wherever .)

I do really like what they did with the walls in this shot, though…

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Looks like they took fabric pieces and adhered them like wallpaper. Wouldn’t that we great in a sewing room? And if you didn’t want totally trash your walls, I’m thinking that you could stitch together some canvas the size of your wall and use spray adhesive to attach your fabric scraps to that, them tack the whole thing up on your wall for a similar effect. It would be a totally interesting backdrop for photos, too. Actually, that could be kind of cool on a small scale as well—sort of a fabric collage. Hmmmm… Something to think about, huh?

This is not how I store my spools of thread, by the way.

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(You’ve gotta love that the sewn together house is the “Fun House.” As if you needed to tell us that!)


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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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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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

Field Trip: Our Sewing Heritage

Today we headed out on a field trip in search of a good deal on a Pendleton flannel shirt for Josh’s grandpa’s birthday. If you’re not familiar, Pendleton is an Oregon company that’s been around for ages. They weave their fabric here in the Northwest, and the garments used to be sewn here. It’s very nice, quality wool that’s so soft you can wear it directly against you skin. It’s nice stuff, to say the least.

Our first stop? The Woolen Mill Store out on McLaughlin Boulevard—they didn’t have any shirts, but they had a giant warehouse annex of fabric next door. Pretty good deals to be had over there, we got to admit. (Sorry for the graininess of some of these pictures—we used the camera on Sarah’s phone, so the quality is rather hit and miss.)

There were cheap linings at a buck a yard…

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Ultra Suede for $15 a yard (it’s $40 at Fabric Depot)…

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Lots and lots of lovely wools at great prices (ranging from $6-$72, with most being around the $15 price point—and this stuff is wide: we measured, and was wider than 60 inches)…

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Bags of buttons were in abundance at $5 and lots of other zippers and notions—even a big box of fringe—in case you ever need it in a large quantity. (And if you ever need that much fringe, send us the pictures of your finished project—’cause we know it’ll be something amazing.)

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Apparently, the loom selvages are the thing to get here—people make rugs and other crafty stuff out of them that look pretty cool.

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Josh got a pretty cool $2.50 souvenir—a wooden bobbin that’s used in the Pendleton mills for weaving that is dark with dye from the threads and still smells like the pigments used in fabric production.

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Not finding what we wanted and needing to meet up with Sarah’s mom, we decided to continue our search for a shirt for Josh’s grandpa later.

Something that Sarah mentioned in her “About” page is that her mom, Sandy, worked for Pendleton when she was young. She did a bunch of different jobs in the old factory on McLaughlin: lining inserter, thread trimmer, button sewer, etc. Sandy excelled at Pendleton (of course! she’s kind of an over-achiever), and likes to talk about how when she worked there she annoyed the crap out of all of the people who had worked at the factory for ages because she was promoted really quickly. (According to her, “Getting to trim the threads meant you were really good.”)

Anyway, when we met up with Sandy and told her that we’d been looking for a shirt for Shorty (that’s Josh’s grandpa), she got very excited about the idea of going to the Pendleton outlet store at the mill in Washougal, Washington—which seems like is so far away, but it’s actually only an half-hour drive.

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At the store, we did indeed find a great shirt, at a great price, for Shorty. However, what was more interesting was all of the historical stuff that was in the store (the mill’s only open for tours during the week, unfortunately) and how excited Sandy got about so much of the stuff that she found there.

This thing is an old sewing machine from the mill. Check out the pedal! This thing is serious…

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This is what Sandy got most excited about:

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Do you all know about the Pendleton Reversible Skirt (also known as the Turnabout Skirt)? It’s a Pendleton tartan, wool, pleated skirt that can be turned completely inside out and worn so it looks like a completely different garment. One side is lighter colors, the other dark. Sandy claimed that she was the “queen of the reversible skirt” and that she thought that she “looked quite cool in all her Pendleton reversible skirts.” (She had a great employee discount when she worked their, apparently.) She actually found one reversible skirt in the racks of discounted clothing—but it was purple and no one’s size. Too bad.

There were a couple of interesting styles that Pendleton has done for a long time (according to Sandy) that still look quite contemporary and fresh:

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(For what it’s worth, Sarah’s pretty sure that she can replicate both of these expensive skirts using the brilliant instructions found in the Sew What! Skirts book, combined with the super-cheap wool from either of the Pendleton Mill Stores.)

Sandy is a big fabric nut. Which is pretty amazing if you think about it. She said today that when she worked at Pendleton that there was so much lint in the air from all the wool that it would get into her nostrils—they were literally breathing fabric fiber. It’s amazing that she can even look at the stuff after something like that…

Anyway, she got very, very excited about the amazingly cheap prices for all of the beautiful woolens that have been around for ages. She got some of the amazingly cheap wool flannel in a lovely scarlet for something like $3 a yard, and a gorgeous green plaid remnant of over two yards for about $6. Needless to say, she was ecstatic about the deal she got.

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We picked up a few interesting pieces of fabric that we’ll write about when we get around to making stuff out of it, but here’s a sneak peak:

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We could go on and on about some of the interesting stuff that Sandy told us while were on our little field trip to Washougal. The textile industry here is such a important part of this region’s heritage, but I think that we often forget that. It’s wonderful that the wools are still carded and woven here, even if the garments aren’t produced locally anymore.

Perhaps our sewing this locally-milled cloth here in our own home helps preserve just a little bit of that tradition?

Cool Blue

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So it seems that the powers that be at Pantone (the folks who track color trends) have declared that the color for 2008 is “Blue Iris.” You know that bluey-purple color of, well, a Japanese Iris (I’ll probably embarrass the Sewer here, but I have a soft spot for that particular flower because when we were in college he used to surprise me with Japanese Irises).

You can check out the color here in Pantone’s news release. While it’s a lovely color, I think that this may be a slight overstatement:

…Blue Iris satisfies the need for reassurance in a complex world, while adding a hint of mystery and excitement.

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Anyway, I’m glad that the New York Times is reporting that blue has apparently eclipsed the popular green of the last year or two—you’ll remember green is not exactly my favorite color, although I will make exceptions for very dear friends. Blue is one of my favorites—especially for clothes for me, and it certainly justifies the fantasies I have been having about making Hot Patterns’ lovely Denim Diva Camden Coat in a rich blue corduroy. (I haven’t purchased pattern nor fabric for this, so it’s really a pie in the sky thought.)

Although, come to think of it, I still haven’t made my Chili Pepper Red trench coat in last year’s Pantone Color of Year. I believe that one was supposed to add “excitement” to my wardrobe as well.

What do you think? Will you be getting your excitement from Blue Iris or sticking with the Chili Pepper Red?

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.

I surf, so you don’t have to…

from sarah the sewist

I’ve been meaning to post some links for awhile, basically random sewing-related items that I’ve bookmarked and found interesting for whatever reason. I hope you do to.

Pantone’s recent color report. The definitive analysis of color for fashion fashion. I sure like the Chili Pepper Red and the the beautiful, elegant Dusk. The Lemon Curry should be illegal. Warning: You’ll need to view it in Preview or Acrobat.

The difference between High Fashion and ready to wear from a recent Wall Street Journal “Style” report.

Wardrobe planning
—not that I actually practice this, but I do like to think about it.

Color trends through 2009. This has been really helpful for me in thinking about choosing colors that will be current for awhile.

Fashion trends (Including menswear!) for the next couple of seasons. Three trends really interest me: Rockabilly for men (this probably is due to my love of the Bakersfield Sound and the like), British textures (gotta love tweeds!) and women’s sporty chic becoming even more popular, with significant influences from the world of surfing/skateboarding (so you can embrace your inner poser—I sure do).

For that matter, check out theentire Fashion Trendsetter site, I keep going back to it, absolutely engrossed.

I’d never heard of this technique for creating gathers, but it’s sheer genius.

Sew,Mama,Sew! Handmade Holidays: 30 Days of Gifts to Sew. If you’re more ambitious than I, you can make a holiday gift each day of November.

In that same vain, the Handmade Holiday Pledge.

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).
1819129640 0c2c0d7182 o Velvet(een) Rabbit (nope), Elvis (no), PANTS!
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!

Whale of a Jacket

from josh the sewer

I have working on another big fall project. Earlier in the summer (and summer lasts for about 4 more hours as I write this), I found this St. Louis Americans jacket that I really wanted to replicate. The Sewist and I decided to use Burda Pattern 8135 and gray corduroy. For the trim I found braided, folded-over cording in navy blue. This project is not going to be solo, it is by far the hardest sewing project I have undertaken. The pattern has twenty some pattern pieces!
1404645003 fd9f0618f2 Whale of a Jacket
Instead of doing a straight replica of the St. Louis Americans logo, I decided to do make the whale part of the Chicago Whales (of the short lived Federal League) logo. I went back and forth on making an “authentic” piece of sports wear, but I didn’t want to make a Cincinnati Reds jacket (my favorite baseball team—insert loser reference here) or a minor league team from Dayton, (the original hometown) or Portland (the permanent hometown and birthplace of the Sewist). Instead I decided to create a fictitious team the Portland Whales, I should also have a nice fake back-story written in my mind on completion of the project.

1424904333 4338fd8b99 o Whale of a Jacket
Anyway, so far I have sewn the back panel together and decided to eliminate the vents (I hate vents, and my digestive system has matured enough where they aren’t an occupational necessity). At this rate I should have this project ready in time for Summer ’09.

1424904231 b430d76794 o Whale of a Jacket

In the Trenches

from sarah the sewist

The Pattern Review Great Trench Coat Sew Along has proved just the motivator for me to start planning and working on some fall jacket projects. I’m working on the Indygo Junction Trench Topper in view 1, which is a lovely, princess-seamed (woo-hoo! my fave–I love princess seams!) trench coat. I’m creating a light weight cotton jacket that should serve me well this fall—particularly in my insanely cold office building (my fingers literally turned blue one day and I thought I was having some sort of circulation episode, but it was actually the a/c—I wish I was joking).

The Sewer, with his amazingly sharp eye for fabric and design, found this Amy Butler Fabric for the body of the jacket, and I’m using a complementary plain pink cotton from Moda for the bottom panels and bell sleeves. (In case you haven’t noticed by now, 50% of the fabric I by is pink, which is weird, since almost all the clothes I bought in my 30 years are some sort of shade of blue.) Anyway, it’s a gorgeous cinnamon color that’s not at all orange—I don’t share Josh’s fascination with caution orange.

I have been completely spacey with this project, though having already forgotten to cut out THREE pieces. Yes, I, with all of my sewing experience and my somewhat advanced skills, didn’t both to check to see what pieces I needed to cut out. I just cut out what I had, and didn’t do any accounting of the pieces. Low and behold, I had dropped the piece for the front side panel, and neglected to trace the back facing at all. Absolutely brilliant.

1404645213 9d7ed3fd08 o In the Trenches

As you can see, the omitted piece was a fairly critical component of the jacket. Oh, yeah, and did I mention that I griped about how the pattern called for way too much fabric, and so I wasn’t at all careful with how I cut out my pieces? So, of course, we had to go by another yard of fabric. Of course.

So, I’ve sewn a grand total of one seam on this thing. So, far, so good.

1404670913 60f40ee188 o In the Trenches

It doesn’t look like I’ve sewn anything backward, upside-down or wrong-side out, does it?

(By the way, Josh is making some slow and steady progress on a jacket of his own, but I’ll leave it to him to update you.)

Pants-Pants Revolution!

from josh the sewer

1392598215 c5918d88e7 o Pants Pants Revolution!
I have this friend who a couple of years ago was obsessed with Dance-Dance Revolution. He and his wife used to have dance offs and he was always getting off the phone to play the game. I have never played it before in my life, but I dedicate the title to him (and puns make good titles for blogs).

Anyway the pants I made were the second go ’round of the Simplicity 3891 cargo pants. Like the first time I left off most of the pockets and decided to pass on using the zipper on the leg, but instead of cutting the legs out at the pants line I cut them at the zipper line to make the legs narrower than before. This resulted in a much more reasonably-sized leg circumference.

The pants are made with Robert Kauffman Kona Cotton in chocolate brown and the facing is made with the same fabric in caution orange; both were from Bolt. While at Nordstrom not too long ago I noticed a great pair of chino pants that were this color brown with orange top-stitching and details, the problem is I don’t pay $150 for chinos; while there is nothing wrong with this, I just can’t do it. In that same vein, to give the pants a more finished look I decided to take inspiration from Nordy’s and the Sewist’s latest skirt and use the twin needle to add some detail. I used brown thread to twin needle the pockets and the inseam. To do the hemming on the pants legs and to sew the facing down, I used the orange thread with the twin needle. I had some orange thread left over from a long ago project and when I bought the second spool I got the same color except it was made from cotton instead of silk, I like the effect of the subtle differences in shade.

1392599849 b693840227 o Pants Pants Revolution!

I also went with the caution orange zipper, just to pull the whole look together. Creating the fly was much, much easier this time and required far less intervention from the Sewist.

1393492418 ca46769d13 o Pants Pants Revolution!
1392597851 156322cc00 o Pants Pants Revolution!
I love the way these pants fit and look. This was my first attempt at making something fancier than the pattern called for, which was a nice way to be creative and not go too far above my skill level. It was also the first time I actually changed any major component of a pattern (I’ve left stuff off, but never really altered anything intentionally.) Oh yeah, I should add that I used a button to close the pants instead of Velcro as called for (actually, I did this in the first pair as well)—I am committed to keeping my pants from falling down in public.

1393491632 f6df46604d Pants Pants Revolution!This also marks a major milestone in my sewing—this is my first completely seam ripper-free completed project.

1908 Americans Fabric

1143912737 de4430b16f o 1908 Americans FabricLast weekend we found the right color and drape of fabric for Josh’s 1908 St. Louis Americans jacket. We considered going more authentic, but the right color, weight and drape of wool flannel is just too expensive for such an experimental project (have we mentioned that we’re kind of cheap?). Instead, we found a stretch corduroy that’s very fuzzy and really has the look that we want, even though it’s not straight up authentic.

This is as far as we’ve gotten in the project.

We’ll keep you posted.

A big “thank you” to Nancy of Sew West for her input on the fabric. Hopefully, this one will work out fabulously so we can do an awesome flannel one next.


992856172 461cc9f79f o InspirationWhat you have here is a 1908 St. Louis Americans Warm Up Jacket. That’s baseball. We’re looking at trying to replicate this as our big fall project. We’re perplexed about the fabric choice, though. What do you think? Corduroy? Flannel? Boiled wool? Nothing seems just right, and all we’ve got to go on is a photo in an auction catalog Josh picked up at Powell’s. The plan we’re thinking about right now is to go for a gray corduroy (because it’s relatively cheap) for the first one, pretty much copying the styling as much as we can—with the exception of the wacky button placement. Then, if that works out, maybe Josh will go for a Cincinnati Reds-inspired version in red wool.

It’ll also give Josh a chance to mess around with his favorite sewing technique—appliqué. No, we’re not kidding. Josh loves appliqués.

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