Viola’s Quilt

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

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Saoirse's Helping

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

hopskipjump Violas Quilt

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

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Cheer Up, Blazers Fans!

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

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Yes, Josh really made this flag.

Yes, it’s completely reversible.

Yes, he cut and appliqued the felt pinwheel.

Yes, he sewed the whole thing together.

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

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

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

Because my husband is just that awesome.

~Sarah

Josh per a tres!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is Josh’s re-interpretation:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Trail Blazers Pioneer Square Playoff Rally – April 16, 2009

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

~Sarah

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

Off the Bench

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Josh

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

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Frank Robinson - The Reds should have never traded him.

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

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

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

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Stitching on the number 20.

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

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Trimming the stabilizer behind the numbers.

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

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

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

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

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

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Mixed sports metaphor happening here...

~Josh

Golden Globes, J-Boy Style

Bowing to the unrelenting pressure from Sarah (not really), it is now time for my Year-in-Review for 2008. I think we should do this Golden Globe style: Look! There’s Sarah’s Amy Butler purse sitting at the table getting drunk with George Clooney!

And now for the awards…

The most useful thing I made myself this year
. (This award is presented by Sarah’s lovely blue dress.)

And the winner is…

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The orange and blue hat was in heavy rotation most of the year.

My Baseball Hat! In surprise move that has totally left the producers of the Oregon Camouflage Sweatshirt reexamining, not only their script, but their tiny marketing budget, this low-budget indie project has come out of nowhere to capture the hearts and minds of, well, me. Why did I love this project? It is functional, fun and was on my head most of the spring and fall (too hot for the summer). I wasn’t even expecting this draft of the project to work and sometimes our “mistakes” lead to better things (I think Sarah might have edited that exact line out of our wedding vows).

The most useful thing Sarah made for me.


And the winner is…

Oh, something that didn’t make the blog (occasionally that happens). My awesome, blossom, Heather Ross gold fish fabric PJ bottoms. They are PJs–I am an adult and yet I still refer to them not by their proper name, pajamas, so you know they gotta rock.

The most disturbing trend of 2008.


Oh, and  we have a TIE…

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We've definitely upgraded our screen printing set-up since this early go at it.

In a surprise move, I actually spent a lot of time showing Sarah how to screen print. If you know the blog, you know I am the dumb ass, so this shift from grasshopper to master has been strange (but fun). If only I could be a hard ass and make her clean her own screens, then I would feel like I had some real power. (As an aside, she has been less rigid about making me pin my own things when they aren’t working. Could my subtle mind control be working? Will I get her to learn to “paint the fence” by painting our fence? This could be THE story line to follow in the New Year).

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Is this cool or concerning? You be the judge.

I think you all know what is coming next. Sarah’s ascension to uber-Blazer geek being broadcast to the world. Screen printing, season tickets, twitter followers? What is the world coming to? Did I mention she was on the 2008 Fan Board? Of course I have been caught up in this, but can we live in a world where the Blazers are playing into late-June? This also could be a story to follow.

(Would somebody please stop drink service to my Dayton Triangle Hoodie? Not winning does not give you the right to drink copious amounts of Bourbon and punch Jack Nicholson. Good thing that went down at the commercial break.)

Biggest question of 2008.

And the winner is…

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While the overcoat didn't get a lot of run, the shoes I'm wearing in this shot sure did.

In a landslide:  Why didn’t I wear my velvet clothing more? Pants from ’07 and a lovely jacket from ’08 just sat in the closet. They need a better agent (or belt loops in the case of the pants).

Let’s wrap this up…

Weirdest thing I did in a snowstorm that might become a feature.

Obviously it isn’t walking around in boots and no pants (which didn’t happen). It is the Video Threads series. Look for more; it was fun to do.

Best value in the house.

Besides the dog, the re-subscription to Burda World of Fashion. Man, that is expensive on the newsstand (did I sound old using the phrase “newsstand,” we need more of those by the way). If you like it, get a damn subscription. You, your accountant and your mailman will all be happy.

Most interesting thing about having a website.

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We sure had a hell of a lot of fun with this crafty posse at Thatch this summer.

All of the cool people I have got to meet this year. Really, I know I am the quiet one (which is very real), the one that is not as web 2.0 connected, but whether in person, on the comments or through Sarah’s stories, I am continually impressed. We had a political component this year, which I had a lot of trepidation about; it only produced a handful of hateful and idiotic comments. I think that most people, even if you didn’t agree with us politically, appreciated the passion. Thanks, it means a lot. Plus I got to meet Pearl, who is just about the coolest.

Coolest spouse in the house.

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And there she is... (At the Barack Obama rally at Memorial Coliseum this spring.)

You all know it has to be the Sewist. As I have been distracted by work, printing and running she has kept the website up and still encouraged me to explore my creative side. I am a lucky mofo–look for me to pull my weight around here more in ’09.

~Josh

Pimp My Ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next, I stuck the pieces on the sanded board.

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Sticking the pieces of contact paper on the board.

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The wolf silhouette on the back of the board.

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

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

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

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

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After the fourth coat of polyurethane.

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

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

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

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Done!

~Josh

Dayton Triangles Redux Hoodie

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

Me.


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


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

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


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I really can’t believe this actually worked.


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

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


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


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~Josh

Run With It

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


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

~S & J

It’s Gotta Be the Shoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2439326949 e208e424c7 Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome The Velvet Overcoat!

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

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

2439325319 f021f94e35 Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome The Velvet Overcoat!


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

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

~Josh

Almost Famous

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If you’re not familiar with Diane’s fantastic podcast and blog, CraftyPod, you should be. And what better time than right now to check it out? Josh is one of four crafty guys that are featured in CraftyPod #73: Men Who Craft.

You may not know this about Josh from reading this web site, but Josh is actually pretty shy, so I’m very proud of him for being interviewed for CraftyPod. When I told him I was going to post the link to the podcast, he said,

Just make fun of me or something.

Well, I’m not gonna. It’s a very interesting and thoughtful podcast episode, and I hope you all will check it out.

Good job, sweetie!

~Sarah

Big Printin’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Josh

Things to Make & Do


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

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

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

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They Call Me “Crop-a-dile Dundee”

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

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

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~josh

Spring Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Any ideas?

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~Josh

Oregon Camouflage

2256405027 83aa6a31dd o Oregon Camouflage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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~Josh

Sew Together: How We Got Started

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here is a rundown of the supplies we used:

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

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

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

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Doggy Fashion

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

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

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

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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!

More Than I Can Chew?

1481302414 b2e2d65b68 o More Than I Can Chew?from josh the sewer

I think is would have been appropriate to start this post with “Dear Diary” because it is really whiny (or whingy in Ireland), many apologies.

Piles, that is where I am (or “piles and piles of demo tapes by the miles,” if you want to quote an obscure lyric or two). I think I thought (sounds clumsy, but it is really the best description) I was ready for Burda Pattern 8135 and my attempt at making throwback sportswear. I am having trouble easing the fabric into the curve to make the contour (the Sewist just articulated this for me). I have a pair of velveteen jeans half done and a flannel shirt half done, and everything feels a long way off from being finished. I grew up cooking and for me after doing the “prep work” I always expect the downhill toward finishing and sewing isn’t quite like that. 1481302284 0079a0153d o More Than I Can Chew?I guess it would make much more sense to make the pockets or carriers or other accoutrement (which should always be said in French) first and finish up with the large seam sewing, but as you know, that doesn’t work.

I have hit that point where I know enough to be dangerous, but still spend way to much time (redacted) up. I am ready to be good at this stuff, damn it! I am sure the Sewist is sick of answering the same question again and again, or maybe not. She is really patient (sometimes). Let’s ask her what she thinks(take it away my lovely Sewist):

You’re doing great. Really. I know you don’t believe me. But there’s no way I would been able to make a complicated pair of pants, let along had the guts to try a tough Burda jacket, when I was only six months into learning how to sew. Seriously. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but you’re learning and that’s a good thing.

Oops!

from josh the sewer

 Oops!
The dog and I got a kick out of this. The Sewist accidentally mixed up the back piece and one of the arms on her current rain coat project. She did fix it quickly, though I thought it would be much cooler to leave it with the trunk opening. I am sure she will have more to add shortly.

We sewed quite a bit during this rainy and cold weekend. I am working on another pair of pants (this a pair of jeans made out of velveteen, I love Bolt, because I always find the neatest fabric) and a flannel shirt. The Sewist is keeping my head spinning with her multiple projects, which are all coming together at once.

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

The Vinyl Countdown

 The Vinyl Countdownfrom josh the sewer

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

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

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

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

The interior actually came together as expected.

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

The changes to the original pattern include:

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

Lessons learned:

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Honey, enjoy!

Oh Shirt!

3422 Oh Shirt!
from josh the sewer

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

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

1199052439 7b2be76635 o Oh Shirt!
My major boo-boo was I took a chunk out of the front of the collar stand area while trying to trim some threads, I tried to cover it up with the buttonhole. Oh, yeah, and then I did the same thing somehow and had to “cover” that one up with a button. Not really sure how I managed to pull that off—twice.

1199988544 d7ef6061bf o Oh Shirt!
More shirts.

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

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

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.

Bag: (fake) Pig (skin) in the City

from josh the sewer

I did it. I made a bag and it isn’t too girly. When the Sewist and I started (well, mostly the Sewist) making her mother’s bag, I also cut out the pieces for my own bag attempt and sat it I aside until I had some time to put toward it.

1034682610 654054256c o Bag: (fake) Pig (skin) in the City 1034680926 d172be04ab o Bag: (fake) Pig (skin) in the CityEarlier this summer when we were looking around the Mill End Store, I noticed a bolt of pleather football upholstery and thought it would look kind of cool (almost made pants, but that would not work too well and, really, I ain’t the type for those kind of duds).

A month later I found the Moda “Varsity” fabric in the 50 percent off rack at Fabric Depot. (Already this bag is off to a weird start, I really don’t like either place that well, and don’t get me started on the Porta-Potty situation at Fabric Depot, errrrrrr. Oh, and I don’t like football that well either).

Since the football stuff is really thick, I did not use the canvas in any part of the construction except for the side panels. Like the Sewist’s bags, I left off the tab. I used white thread to contrast with the pleather and only topstitched the strap, which I also sewed a couple times to the main bag for reinforcement. I always end up carrying heavy stuff when I bother actually carrying stuff at all, so it makes sense to make it extra durable. The other change I made was to the tool pocket were I cut down on the pencil and pen holders and went with a spot to put a cell phone and a place for the iPod Nano I don’t have.

I also learned that, like everything else I sew, the seam ripper is my best friend. Which sucks. I would really like to sew something without picking something out over and over again. The strap, in particular, became intimately acquainted with my seam ripper. A word to anyone thinking about making this out of pleather: it’s a tremendous pain to make the strap. If you try to iron it, it’ll melt. So, first I tried basting it down, which didn’t work. Then I tried gluing it, which didn’t work. Finally, I glued it, then stacked books on top of the strap to hold the glued sides together, holding it in place for 24 hours. Which worked really well, until I forgot to check how much thread was left in the machine’s bobbin. So, I “sewed” most of the strap without a bobbin. Back to the seam ripper (because even though there was no bobbin thread, the top stitches stuck). Finally, after try number 172, I sewed the damn thing together. And it looked pretty good.

1099473463 d65458582f o Bag: (fake) Pig (skin) in the City
Despite all of the excitement in constructing the strap, I enjoyed putting the thing together. The pleather wasn’t that bad to work with, it rolled a little, but was manageable. Now that I am done, I am not sure I like it enough to carry around, partly because the pleather is eerily soft and I don’t actually go to that many places that I actually need to haul enough stuff to warrant carrying a bag…

1100328402 bfeea4c753 o Bag: (fake) Pig (skin) in the City

Dude, Here’s My Pants

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

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

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

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

1034678738 155ff36f70 o Dude, Heres My Pants
Next pair I am hoping to construct in tan rip-stop and orange top-stitching, and I think I am going to take the legs in a little under the knee, so they’re more straight, less of an A-line. This pair runs a little too close to Estonian Navy for my taste (of course I wear them all of the time, who cares—they are comfortable as hell). The girl thinks the look great though. I think she is just happy they don’t have so many unusable pockets. She’s also happy that they fit appropriately rather than being two sizes too large, like most of my other pants. I should also mention that I carry very little with me at all times, which makes cargo pants even stupider for me.

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

Inspiration

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.

The SewER

from josh the sewer

Here is a little bit about me and my sewing (I don’t have, at the moment, any great projects to share):

1. I can use the sewing machine well and even sew straight
2. I suck at pinning
3. Patterns still don’t make much sense to me, I can make a garment but I need my co-host to help me figure out “what’s next?”
4. I have a problem cutting the seams to close, this has resulted in having to re-sew the seams on the raglan shirt I am working on and a hole in my pants (errrrrrr)
5. I like cotton “chillin‘ shirts”
6. I once (not too long ago) “incredible hulked” a shirt I was working on; I thought the sewing was wrong, but turns out the cutting was bad. It was a muslin, so not a huge loss
7. I am not very good with scissors
8. I have 8 yards of double knit polyester in the garage, but I hate it
9. My goal is to make a really nice “throwback” baseball jersey and to use scissors well; one is possible, the other, maybe not
10. I really like texture
11. I am obsessed with piping (but I like to call it pipping (soft “i”).

pixel The SewER