Recent Projects + Some Ramblings

5118142019 9164cfbd19 Recent Projects + Some Ramblings

Most of the time, I feel like I totally fail at blogging over here. I swear, it’s for a combination of completely legit reasons:

  1. I really haven’t had much time this last year (gulp!) to make much stuff. Sadly, both Josh and I are slammed with various work projects, and so it’s hard to make the time to do much creative stuff.
  2. Since we had to move into a smallish rental condo near downtown last year (which completely and totally sucks), we just don’t have a lot of space to do stuff. When we were living in a regular house with a garage, yard, etc, it was a whole lot easier to make stuff and experiment creatively. Fortunately, this isn’t a permanent living situation.
  3. Similarly, we don’t have a great space for staging photos. We always enjoyed taking most of our project photos outside, using trees, etc, as props, so the project photos have kind of sucked this year.
  4. I blog about fabric-y stuff for my work, so it’s hard to feel motivated to come home and blog about fabric-y/sewing stuff for fun. Even though I enjoy it, it’s still odd when work/hobbies collide. Furthermore, this summer I also wrote some crafty roundup posts for PNCA’s Summer of Making, so I kind of feel like I’m already everywhere, more or less.
  5. I’m bored with writing about projects, unless it’s something that’s new/different or featuring a designer or company with which people may not be familiar. I’ve spent quite a bit of time mulling over what direction–if any–we should take this site.

All right, enough navel-gazing, let’s get on to some crafty goodness… Continue reading »

A Few Things That Are Awesome

4894962934 741544860d A Few Things That Are Awesome

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

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

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

4895029268 7665e6100c A Few Things That Are Awesome

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

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

Cool PDX Event – Laura Gunn at Modern Domestic

index trio Cool PDX Event   Laura Gunn at Modern Domestic

Laura Gunn's new Poppy Patterns made up in fabric from her Poppy collection from Michael Miller.

Gina, the owner of my favorite fabric shop ever–Bolt in northeast Portland, emailed me this week about an awesome event at Modern Domestic, the new sewing studio down the road from Bolt (Gina’s a partner in that business as well).

Modern Domestic is hosting a talk by Laura Gunn, who designed a beautiful new fabric collection, Poppy from Michael Miller, next Thursday, July 8th. I’m usually not a huge fan of fabric that’s so painterly, but I just love Laura’s work, it just makes so much sense translated into textiles. The colors are clear and bright and designs are the perfect scale for fabric. Gina tells me that Laura will be talking about her fabric design process, which should be fascinating!

The event starts at 7:00 (at Modern Domestic on Alberta Street) and will last until around 8:30. Gina tipped me off that not only will there be snacks and drinks, there will also be some sweet giveaways!

See you there!


Recipe: Sarah’s (Somewhat) Healthier Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is one of my all-time favorite foods, hands down, and when I make it, I always make it from scratch. However, it’s not exactly what you’d call “healthy.” I recently devised a somewhat less terrible for you version of Mac ‘n’ Cheese that’s relatively quick to make and extremely tasty, and I thought I’d share it with you.

4691959590 b2c4c638e9 Recipe: Sarahs (Somewhat) Healthier Mac n Cheese

What You’ll Need

  • One pound whole wheat shaped pasta
  • Five cups chopped vegetables such as bell peppers, broccoli, corn, onions
  • Two cloves chopped, fresh garlic
  • Two tablespoons olive oil
  • Two cups grated cheddar cheese (you can substitute other cheeses, according to your taste)
  • Two cups skim milk
  • Two tablespoons butter
  • Two tablespoons flour
  • Two bay leaves
  • Handful of breadcrumbs (optional)
  • Salt & pepper

Continue reading »

This & That: Catching Up

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

4535342807 9de86d8df2 This & That: Catching Up

Fremont Bridge

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

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

mom1 This & That: Catching Up

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

Continue reading »

Best of ’09: Blazers Letterpress Project

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

3639293351 8c15c3fe2c Best of 09: Blazers Letterpress Project

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

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

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

4304685304 02f635c3b7 Best of 09: Blazers Letterpress Project

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

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.

4246456384 d3a0561fd9 1949 American Fabrics Magazine

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.

Continue reading »

Twisted Caipirinha!

I had the most craptastic commute in the history of commutes tonight. Seriously.  I left my work in Vancouver, Washington (just across the river from Portland) at 3:15ish, and didn’t get home to our place that’s less than a mile south of downtown Portland until around 6:00 p.m. That’s something like 13 miles in three hours. I have never experienced anything like it, and our local traffic reporter said that in his 20 years of covering traffic in PDX, he’s never seen anything like it. Insanity. Now, in fairness, it did randomly start snowing, which doesn’t happen much here. But still, it was hellish.

And I hate snow. As has been well-documented here.

Fortunately, when we had friends over to watch the Christmas Ships last weekend, I invented a pretty stellar new drink–I call it the Twisted Caipirinha. When I got home this evening, the first thing I did to seek solace from the snow, was make myself one–and I thought I’d share my recipe with y’all.

I first had a caipirinha at one of our favorite restaurants several years ago, The Lumberyard in Cannon Beach. (True confession: we call it The Logjammer, which is a Big Lebowski reference; I’ll just leave it there for those of you in the know to snicker about.) I got a little obsessed (I know, shocking, me obsessed.) with re-creating a caipirinha, but we could never find the special Brazilian booze that goes in it, cachaça (theoretically, you can substitute rum, but I hate, hate, hate rum, so that’s a non-option for me). We finally found some a few months back at the wonderful liquor store near Josh’s work (liquor stores in Portland tend to be creepy places whose primary focus is lottery tickets and generic brand gin, so this place is a treat–if you’re ever in Portland, you’ve got to check it out). So, after tinkering quite a bit and messing with recipes from my two favorite cocktail books, I perfected the caipirinha.

4227437796 74c84d25db Twisted Caipirinha!

The Twisted Caipirinha Team

Ask anyone who hangs out with me regularly, I’m not a big drinker. Sure, I enjoy a trip to Thatch with Rachel when she visits (Uh, by the way, Rach, when are you making another journey to PDX?), love Portland’s vast selection of microbrews and really love the fancy bourbon Josh buys me every Thanksgiving (another one of our funny traditions–my favorite is Blanton’s single barrel, which is not hugely popular, but works great the way I like it: over ice, plus a teeny, tiny splash of soda water; it also has a badass bottle), regardless, I’m not much of a drinker.

(Geez… Was that a long enough intro to this cocktail recipe?)

Continue reading »

All in the Family

In our family everyone sews.

3707786620 398ed43505 All in the Family

So, Saoirse doesn’t actually sew, but she does love hopping up on the chair in front of the sewing machine. But my mom does sew.

3707788668 5248f76ae8 All in the Family

A couple of Mondays ago, my mom came over and hung and we each made a quick project–the Amy Butler Swing Bag. Oddly, my mom has never ever made a handbag. She had it in her head that it was really hard–and I think they’re one of the easiest things to make. She was kind of driving me crazy over the last year talking about how she was going to make a bag, but not actually doing–which resulted in lots of absurd conversations, for sure. So, we went over to Bolt and picked out fabric for each of us and she brought her machine over and we got to work.

Like I told my mom it would be, it basically took no time at all to sew up our bags–hers in a cool brown and orange Amy Butler print with a houndstooth lining, mine in an Anna Maria Horner print in aqua and blue with a complimentary lining. Here are a few photos of what we were up to (in reverse order, because my slideshow maker is not being cooperative at the moment).

It also seems like my making a quilt started an all in the family trend as well, because my mom finally pieced together the quilt kit that she’d ordered from Pink Chalk Fabrics “some time ago.” She brought it over that same day to show it off and get me to help her pick out her backing fabric (because, apparently, since I’m the only person in our family who has ever made a quilt, I’m now the resident quilting expert). Check out how gorgeous this is.

3706976529 f29fc07a0f All in the Family

She chose a very cool Joel Dewberry print for the back, by the way. At some point, I’m going to help her sandwich and quilt the thing. (Again, how funny is it that I’m now the “expert” on quilting around here? I literally have no idea what I’m doing.)

My point with sharing this random snapshot of an afternoon is to remind y’all about how sewing actually can be a “community” thing. For knitters, crocheters and needle-workers, getting together to work on projects and share knowledge is second nature, but–despite the history of quilting bees and families sewing an entire school year’s wardrobe together back in the day–sewers don’t really do that a whole lot. It was great to get the chance to share so new tricks I’d figured out with my mom, pick out fabrics and just talk sewing. It’s a great change from the normal solitary nature of sewing as a craft.

Modern sewing machines are pretty darn portable, and fabric isn’t that difficult to transport at all. Scheduling time to meet up with folks at your favorite fabric shop isn’t that hard either–I mean, you’re going to be going there anyway. One of the things I love about watching basketball (yes, it all circles back to basketball for me), is the communal nature of it, the shared experience. Sewing can have that same effect–try it sometime.


Holy moly! I made a quilt!

3677489644 ac0182e344 Holy moly! I made a quilt!

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

3676675181 b5dd9580ab Holy moly! I made a quilt!

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

3676674959 2c7caf1085 Holy moly! I made a quilt!

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

3676675341 b1d7782b61 Holy moly! I made a quilt!

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

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

3677489532 afb61e9765 Holy moly! I made a quilt!

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

3677490512 d3a2d13ea6 Holy moly! I made a quilt!


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.

steel bridge d300crw00817 s Letterpress Project Preview

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:

3652611860 4bdfe1569d Letterpress Project Preview

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

3651811513 3fb2106042 Letterpress Project Preview

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.

Wanted: Dead or Alive (Size 7)

3620953884 5b55f0878b o Wanted: Dead or Alive (Size 7)

I need these Chuck Taylors. Need. Them. Unfortunately, the Converse website only has them in a size 12.5! And I wear a 7. This is a freaking tragedy. Because they’re meant to be my shoes. They’re red. They’re patchwork. They’re Chucks. They’re perfect. I’ve looked high and low online and can’t find them. So, if you see them, please, please, puh-lease let me know and send me a link. Otherwise, enjoy the gorgeous canvas shoe eye-candy.



I’m Still Sewing, I Swear!

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

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

A couple of quick notes on this bag:

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

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

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


Ten Things I Heart Right Now (And a Few I Don’t)

Ten Things I’m Really Loving Right Now…

1.) While I was in Pittsburgh, Josh was able to put heavy-duty grommets (Or are they eyelets? I never know the difference.) in the awesome Trail Blazers-ified Gadsden flag he made me and hung it in our entryway, which is looks totally amazing. Yeah, visiting our house is probably a strange experience for newbies.

3563592029 4f7238e977 Ten Things I Heart Right Now (And a Few I Dont)

2.) When Josh picked me up from the airport, after I’d been in Pittsburgh for over a week, he met me with my favorite burrito from Laughing Planet (tempeh, pinto beans, rice, veggies, salsa verde). Some gals get flowers, I get burritos. Reason #817 I love my husband–he knows how happy a burrito would make me (I have lots of food weirdnesses, so Pittsburgh was tough on me with regard to eating). Continue reading »

Support Independent Fabric Shops – Check Out Project 95

3509647836 135f489080 m Support Independent Fabric Shops   Check Out Project 95 I’ve been very fortunate to begin working with The Fabric Shop Network, Inc, the trade association for independent fabric shops. It’s been well documented here that Josh and I are passionate about supporting independent businesses, from Bolt to Powells, so this has been an exciting opportunity for me. Sure, just like everyone else, we can’t avoid or Costco and Fred Meyer trips, but we try to do our best.

One of the most exciting things that I’ve had the chance to work on with FabShop is Project 95. Project 95 is aimed at growing support for independent fabric shops. Why? Because–and this figure shocked me–95 percent of fabric shoppers shop chain stores, and only 5 percent shop independents. I guess because this is so different from my personal reality in which I haven’t been in a chain fabric shop in probably a decade, I had no clue that so few people shopped the independents. I don’t know why this is–probably physical proximity is an issue, folks may not know about independent shops or even some people may be a bit intimidated by niche stores.

But, we’ve got a chance to change that.

So, I’m asking you all to take a minute, read the Project 95 web site (more content is coming–including a map and searchable database) and help spread the word about shopping independent fabric shops. You can also grab a blog button, become a fan on Facebook and follow Project 95 on Twitter, if that’s your thing.

Thanks for your support, everyone!


Book Review: Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross

3470014422 6614f56f30 m Book Review: Weekend Sewing by Heather RossI have been pretty much over-the-moon excited about Heather RossWeekend Sewing book for a year–ever since I saw the proofs at an event at Bolt here in Portland when Heather was in town for Quilt Market. Well, it finally hit the shelves, and boy was it worth the wait!

I love that Weekend Sewing is a real sewing book. Not to dog on any of the fine sewing books out there, but many of them are definitely geared toward beginner sewers or are more on the quick craft project or learn-to-sew end of the sewing spectrum. Few are actually down and dirty sewing books. Weekend Sewing is. And that rocks. As a very experienced sewer, I am thrilled to see a more comprehensive sewing book out in the market.

Before I get into talking about the the actual sewing projects in the book, I’d like to quickly touch on one of my favorite items Heather writes about in Weekend Sewing–setting up your sewing space. This is the second book on my shelf that really does a nice job of that (Anna Maria Horner’s Seams to Me is the other one–although she has a different approach). Heather focuses on utilizing limit space effectively to creative a functional, personalize sewing space. This is something that we don’t have at our house–the dining table is the epicenter of our projects. My favorite method for organizing your sewing space that Heather discusses is using a computer cabinet to store all your goodies–including your sewing machine and ironing board. However, I also really like this compact, yet very function expandable desk set-up. (I definitely need one of those boards like in this photo up on the wall of my home office/someday sewing room, by the way.)

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So onto the projects…

There are basically three types of projets in Weekend Sewing–home decorating projects, clothing/wearables and kids stuff. Being that I’m primarily a garment and accessories sewer, the clothing/wearables projects are by far my favorites. So I’m going to focus on that section here–the homewares and kids sections have been well covered in other reviews, anyway.

This bag, for example kind of rocks my world. In fact, I really think I need to make a sweet red pleather version for myself. (The original uses leather.)

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The “Summer Blouse” really is a perfect go-everywhere blouse for, well, the summer. I had a blouse that I loved that was almost identical in design for years and years that finally fell apart last year–I’m hoping that this will be just the pattern to use in its resurrection. This would also be incredibly cute lengthened, with a belt at the waist, and maybe left sleeveless for a dressy, comfortable summer look.

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And more summer cuteness (this was a perfectly-timed release, seasonally speaking), the Trapeze Dress is freaking adorable. It’s another one that could be eaily modified–I’d like it shorted to tunic length and worn over jeans myself. (Like everyone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest in the early nineties, dresses over jeans still seem like a totally legit option. I know it looks dorky, but I am always getting the urge to combine those two things.)

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Each of the clothing projects continues this theme–easy to wear, highly-adaptable designs. And that makes me very happy, because it really demonstrates that Heather understands sewers. We don’t just want to sew up a cute project out a a book or pattern–we want to make it our own, adapt it to fit our lifestyle and what looks flattering on us. The clothing patterns each provide a great base from which we can become more creative and develop our own unique versions of the patterns in Weekend Sewing. And, from reading Heather’s blog, I’ve got to believe that it’s entirely intentional.

A few more random notes before I tell you that Weekend Sewing is a must-buy.

  • The book has large sheets of overlapping patterns. You can’t cut these out. Heather provides instruction on using tracing paper to trace them. For my Burda World of Fashion magazine patterns, I use fused together wax paper, which makes large, transparent sheets. You may want to try this out. I find it is easier to work with than tracing paper–you may too. (Honestly, it’s a good habit to get into–tracing your patterns rather than cutting–because it’s easier to make alterations if you don’t have to worry about destroying your only copy of a pattern.)
  • There are a few errors (or helpful notes that should have been included) in the book, please check the errata before you sew.
  • While the patterns I was most excited about are the more complicated ones (the shirtdress, bag, kimono dress, etc), there are plenty in Weekend Sewing that would be appropriate for complete beginners–particularly the projects in the home and kids sections. There’s also a helpful “Sewing Basics” section at the end of the book.
  • My only complaint is that there isn’t a single men’s pattern in Weekend Sewing (well, I guess there is a little boy’s shirt, but that’s not really the same). I know that the perception is that there aren’t enough men who sew or women who sew for men to justify it, but sometimes that feels like a chicken or egg scenario–I know I would sew more for Josh if there were more good patterns to sew from, and I’m sure that Josh would enjoy sewing more if there were more interesting, well-designed choices. I know Josh struggles with finding good patterns for men, and I find it irritating that if I want to make something for Josh, there are only like five decent men’s patterns out there (seriously–the selection is awful)–that gets boring pretty quickly.
  • Let’s give a hand to STC/Melanie Falick Books for continuing to strike a great balance between appealing to casual crafters and hardcore aficionados of particular mediums–they did it with Weekend Sewing, the Alabama Stitch Book, Material Obsession and Printing by Hand; and I hear that their knitting books strike a similar balance as well. This is a tough thing to do, and they just keep bringing it with great offerings.

With all that said, this is one of those books that I think most sewers would want on their bookshelf.


Summer of Making Registration + Denyse Schmidt Awesomeness!

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Hi folks! Registration is now open for the incredible Summer of Making program that the Pacific Northwest College of Art’s awesome Continuing Education department is coordinating this summer.

These are unique courses, offered in more comprehensive formats than you usually get the opportunity with in craft and DIY courses. The classes run for longer–so you really will get to know the subject matter in a thorough way. I can speak from experience–I came away from my letterpress class (which I’m going to write about soon, but I got a bit derailed by my overly-ambitious project) really feeling confident in that particular medium. Also, the other–rather intangible, but extremely important–thing that was really different about the class I took through PNCA’s Continuing Education department was the eagerness of the other students; everyone was extremely engaged and it was a real community within our class. I expect the same out of the Summer of Making–especially because of the awesome line-up of instructors. (Check out all the instructors’  bios here.)

Headlining the program is the phenomenal Denyse Schmidt. She is one of my favorite fabric designers, and everything I see from her is just beautiful and inspiring. We are so lucky to have her coming to Portland to teach her workshop–I have only heard wonderful things about her classes, which focus on improvisation and intuitive design. If you’re interested in anything from quilting to jewelry design to macrame to fiber arts, there’s a class for you at the Summer of Making. Also–and I think this is incredibly cool, and not just because I’m one of the teachers–they’ve made the bold move of incorporating the DIY digital communications arts into the program as well, so you can learn how to effectively communicate about your craft or art. (My mom is taking one of these classes, actually because the idea of learning new technical skills in a creative environment appeals to her.)

Also–while not formally part of the Summer of Making, my awesome letterpress instructor is offering a Beginning Letterpress and Mail Art class that spans four full days. It’ll be awesome. If you’ve ever been interested in letterpress, and are in Portland or want to take a long learning weekend vacation in the City of Roses, I’d highly recommend taking Abra’s class. While the tuition may seem pricy, compared to how expensive the letterpress two or three hour seminars are around town, it’s a great deal–and the presses at PNCA are really great to work on, since they’re large cylinder proof presses that are well maintained. (Also, after having taken letterpress, I really don’t think you could learn letterpress at the level that you’d need to take on an independent project in a short workshop. It’s just too involved and sophisticated. )

So, check out the offerings from PNCA-CE for the Summer of Making–I bet you’ll find something that’s just what you’ve been wanting to learn!

Summer of Making Links

Help spread the word–the cutie-pie program coordinator for the Summer of Making would certainly appreciate your telling your pals about this awesome learning opportunity right here in Portland.


Comeback Covered Button Jewelry Set + Our Favorite Texan Visits PDX

I’ve given up all hope that any of y’all who read this hear blog think that I’m in any way what you’d call, “normal.” Just so you know. I figure I’ll just keep sharing all my weirdnesses and those of you who enjoy it will stick around, and those of you who don’t will head for the hills. Fair enough? So, I’ve got a couple of random ramblings to share today.

We had a great weekend last weekend hanging out with some lovely creative folks who were in town. And we were super-fortunate to have the delightful Rachel staying with us. I took her to hang out with me in the letterpress studio at PNCA and, after I was done working on my project (I have slacked on posting round-ups after each class, because my progress has been slow, slow, slow, but I’m working on an update for this weekend.), we set some type for Rachel and printed her up a little monogram celebrating her and her awesome husband’s tenth anniversary. It was so much fun! Please, check out her post on our day in the letterpress studio. Rachel did beautiful work, and I think she’ll be seeking out a letterpress facility soon–letterpress really floated her boat. On Rachel’s last full day in Portland, we had a get-together with some of our favorite Portland buddies (Caitlin and Patrick, Michelle and Brian, Susan and Pearl, Kellie [who doesn't blog, but should because she's so darn funny] and our other friend Patrick] to indoctrinate her into “real” Portland life–watching a Portland Trail Blazers game. But of course, we also had to spend some time looking through our vast collection of wild Japanese craft books. Because basketball and Japanese craft books are such a natural pairing. Susan aptly described this afternoon as, “Blazers-make-the-playoffs-meets-Japanese-craft-books wind-down.” Where else but at the Casa de Sewer-Sewist will you have that experience? I have to say, it was so wonderful getting to spend time with Rachel again, and both Josh and I can’t wait until she makes her way back up to Portland.

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This Denyse Schmidt cotton canvas print from her "County Fair" line is perfect for this super-quick project.

In completely unrelated news, I have actually gotten back on the sewing and crafting train and I’ve got a few sewing projects that we’ll be photographing this weekend and sharing. But, I did make a snazzy new bit of fabric jewelry on Wednesday night, using this tutorial from CraftStylish. It’s a quick project, and it only needs a tiny scrap of fabric. I’ve had some really lovelt Denyse Schmidt cotton canvas from her County Fair collection left over from this project, and the floral motif was the exact size of the covered buttons that we had. It was a perfect pairing. (It’s important to note, I neglected to look back at the instructions and didn’t include the flat button for extra stability. That would have made my life much easier. If you make this project, I’d suggest that you actually look at the instructions. Do as I say, not as I do, okay?)

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I love this ring! It's so funky and kind of screams, "I heart fabric!"

So you may have noticed that I called this project the “Comeback Covered Button Jewelry Set.” There’s a reason for that. Of course. You see, on Wednesday, Josh and I were listening to the first half of the Trail Blazers game on the radio. (We don’t have cable/satellite, and this game was supposed to be on over-the-air television, but it was rescheduled without notice to ESPN–errrgg, so we listened on the radio, Old School Style.) It was horrifying. Really, really, really bad. I got all anxious, because all day I’d been thinking that the Blazers would win this game–it’s important for playoff positioning–and I was wrong. They were going to lose. So, I had the finding for this project sitting on the table and grabbed them, cut out my fabric for my covered buttons and started making my necklace and ring. All the sudden, the team starts coming back. And then, Steve Blake makes a halfcourt shot to end the first half. By the time I finished this project, the Blazers were leading. In the end, they won by 12. And, that put the team at the 50-win mark. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the win was a result of some crafty superpowers, I did bring the ring to the Blazers-Lakers game tonight, just in case it was needed. (It wasn’t.)


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!


Sewing Heritage Sunday – Sew for Victory

First things first. Something’s been bugging me. Most of you probably read my last post. What you probably didn’t read was Ben’s post over on BlazersEdge (the most comprehensive and active Trail Blazers blog out there)–because I doubt many of you avidly consume Blazers’ news (despite my best attempts to convert you into fans). In that post, Ben references my story about meeting Channing Frye and linked to my post. Wednesday morning–when I saw that post on BlazersEdge–I stupidly thought that he was mocking me. I would like to publicly apologize to Ben for assuming that he was making fun of me in his post, and accusing him of such. His intentions were quite good–he thought it was a nice story, that BlazersEdge readers would enjoy it and that I would appreciate the extra traffic over here. (BE is a much bigger deal than this here sewing and crafting blog.) Even though we cleared the air, I still feel badly that I rashly accused someone of being a jerk. That was crappy of me.

Alright. On we go to some Sewing Heritage goodness…

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From the Library of Congress Image Collection

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted one of my favorite “Sewing Heritage” items, hasn’t it? At one point, I thought I’d do it every Sunday, but life–and Sunday brunch at Cadillac Cafe–has interfered.

This image from World War II had all the makings of something I wouldn’t like–it’s aggressive, intense and violent-feeling. But, it’s actually one of my favorites related to sewing that I’ve found in my digging. It’s a poster encouraging women to sew, to do their part to help with the war effort in the 1940s. The message of us all doing our part feels particularly timely, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I certainly don’t have the answers, but I think this is a good reminder that in these difficult times, where it seems that we’re constantly bombarded by bad news, that Americans have together in difficult times in our past and been victorious over tough challenges.

(By the way, don’t y’all think it’s been way too long since that husband of mine posted anything on here? I sure do.)


Completely Off Topic

If you’re weary of my Trail Blazers posts, you’re welcome to stop reading right now–you won’t hurt my feelings, I swear. But as you know, I’ve documented extensively here on this web site about my whole Channing Frye thing. So figure that I owe it to y’all to keep you up-to-date on any breaking news. If you’ve been paying attention here you know that he’s my favorite Blazer not named Brandon Roy, that I was worried that my “Buffet of Goodness” screenprints that I made for Susan and I might be cursed, and that I think it would be awesome if he were Mayor of Portland.

And I think I’ve shared the back-story here before, but here’s a recap. Back in summer 2007, it was pretty obvious that the Trail Blazers weren’t going to re-sign my then-favorite Blazer, Ime Udoka (local guy). They also shipped off two other local guys to New York as part of a deal to get rid the nightmare that was Zach Randolph. I was pretty tweaked out that I didn’t have anyone to root for–I love the star players, but I’ve had a lifelong habit of rooting for some player who is not a star that I really like (who will then, in turn, get traded sooner rather than later). It’s not intentional, it just sort of happens organically. Anyway… In that aforementioned deal, Channing Frye came to Portland. I was listening to the radio (I’m old school that way) when he did one of his first interviews where he was being very funny, slightly weird and actually mentioned a couple of neighborhoods he wanted to check out in Portland. Like actually in the city. Not the ‘burbs. I decided this guy had potential to be kind of cool. A few days later (my memory for the timetable here is foggy), we saw him wandering around the Pearl District (he’s very tall, so kind of hard to miss), staring up at the new buildings over on Lovejoy. I thought it was really cool that he wasn’t full of crap about being excited to check out the city, and wanting to live actually in Portland–a rarity for any Trail Blazer. I like to claim that I was the first Channing Frye fan in Portland (probably inaccurate, but whatever). Continue reading »

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 »

Buy This Book: “Button it Up” by Susan Beal

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Cover of "Button it Up," by my awesome pal Susan. Aside from the fact this is a unique new book, I really love the cover. I am a terrible one for judging a book by its cover, and Taunton did a lovely job with this design--it's very eye-catching and energetic.

I’m not even going to try to pretend to be unbiased in this review, I’m just going to try to give you a bunch of reasons why you should buy my friend Susan Beal‘s awesome new book, Button it Up: 80 Amazing Vintage Button Projects. While I’ve only recently amassed a collection of buttons (thanks, Bryan), I have always loved buttons, especially those of a vintage nature. This book, will certainly get your mind going about how to utilize the buttons in your collection in new and different ways.

Susan is a true button aficionado. Button it Up begins with a sweet introduction from her about her button memories as a child, playing with both of her grandmothers’ button stashes. As I was getting ready to write this post, I looked back on some of Susan’s old West Coast Crafty posts about this book, and I was struck by how many comments on this post in particular connected with a similar memory. It seems that there is something nearly universal about a childhood fascination with buttons, and this book is a warm reminder of that.

If you’re familiar with Susan’s jewelry-making book, Bead Simple (a well put together and highly approachable book, if you’re interested in jewelry making), you’ll appreciate that Button it Up follows a similar format–lots of great “recipes” (that’s how I think of them) for making unique projects, this time using buttons. This is definitely one of the strengths of the book–it gives you all the tools you need to unleash your own creativity–not simply replicate a project from the book. Also like Bead Simple, Button it Up is really enhanced by the presence of some really talented guest designers that bring their own flair to some unique button projects.

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This simple pendant could be customized in any number of ways using vintage buttons you've found.

Since Susan’s a jewelry designer extraordinaire, many of the projects (did I mention there are 80 of them?) are jewelry designs. I love the idea of showing off a love of sewing by creating jewelry with sewing’s most varied and fun notion. Buttons really are the accessories for our clothing, so why not have them serve as our, well, accessories?

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The simple plastic circles combined with retro buttons come together as a fun necklace.

Love buttons, but aren’t familiar with jewelry making techniques? No fear here–the introduction to Button it Up covers all the basic skills. Materials such as wire, chain, glues and findings are all discussed in a very straightforward manner, so you can feel very confident flipping to a project you want to try out and knowing that the resources you need to be successful in your project are right there in the book. As someone who hasn’t messed around with jewelry making since I was a teenager, I’m very grateful that this instructional section is so thorough.

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Definitely my favorite design in Button it Up -- circle chain combined with vibrant red buttons create a new take on the old school charm bracelet.

But it’s not all jewelry–there’s something fabulous for any maker who loves vintage buttons. There are chapters devoted to both “Housewares” and “Accessories, Embellishments and Gifts.” Since a number of the vintage buttons I acquired are singletons, these projects are great because they mostly don’t require matched sets of buttons, as do a number of the jewelry projects (although, in fairness, you don’t need matched buttons for the jewelry projects and quite a few are pendants, etc, that don’t need multiples). These are a few of my favorites from those sections:

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A simple embellished T-shirt looks fresh with a cluster of unique vintage buttons sewn on--almost like a nouveau brooch.

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These hairclips are simply charming, and--depending on the buttons you use--could be elegant for adults or fun and playful for little ones.

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Sigh... Someday, we will decorate for the holidays and make wonderful handmade items to celebrate the season. I love this button wreath. (So if anyone wants to make it for us--since we're so crummy at the whole holiday spirit thing...)

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I love that this toy features covered buttons--which is one of my favorite button styles, since I'm such a fabric lover. Could this owl project be any cuter? I don't think so.

I’m sure that there will be lots of reviews of Button it Up in advance of its official release date this coming Tuesday, so I’m not going to belabor the point about how fun and inspiring all of the projects are. But as I was looking through the book, I was struck by something else, something more practical: The projects in Button it Up are extremely accessible from a financial perspective. I own a lot of craft books–mostly sewing, printmaking and funky DIY-type books. Looking through a lot of those books, many are not particularly sensitive to the costs of the projects, and have a fairly high cover price. It’s not something that I’ve really thought about before, but given the current financial landscape, there’s something appealing on a very practical level about an inspiring book that helps empower you to create with what you have. Not only is the cover price of Button it Up very reasonable ($21.95 list), but there are 80 projects in this freaking thing. 80! That’s 27 cents a project. And looking through the supplies you need, these are items you may already own–if you’re a button collector or a sewer/sewist who tends to pick up a card of buttons here are there to have on hand–or can easily find at rummage sales and thrift stores and in the bulk jars at your independent fabric retailer; the things you may need to purchase are basic, easy-to-locate, inexpensive items like glues and wire. That’s really refreshing. In fact, because of this, I think Button it Up would be a great resource for a crafty afternoon with friends or family–have a potluck, bring some buttons to trade and share and use this book to create some fun, affordable, one-of-a-kind projects together. Sounds fun to me.

If you’re local to Portland, Susan’s having a couple of fun events for the book. The first will be at Powell’s on March 20 at 7:30 p.m. and the second will be in our ‘hood (Whoohoo, Concordia!), over at one of my favorite places in the world, Bolt Fabric Boutique on Alberta on March 28 at 4:00 p.m. Susan tells me that she’s got some simple projects planned for both of these events, so you’ll be able to make your own button item to take home with you. Anyone who buys a copy of the book from Bolt will get a vintage button grab bag and I hear there will also be an awesome door prize as well (I’ve been to the Bolt events before–the door prize is always amazing.). Finally, Susan’s set up a web site for Button it Up that you’ll want to check out.

Honestly, even if Susan wasn’t a friend, I would tell you to go buy this book (at your local independent bookstore, if it all possible).


Letterpress Class, Part 3: I Printed Something!

3298728751 647046b516 Letterpress Class, Part 3: I Printed Something!

Locked up type.

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

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

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

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

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

Or so I thought.

3298727407 8814b4fc93 Letterpress Class, Part 3: I Printed Something!

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

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

Very lame, I know.

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

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

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

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

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


Humor me, please…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the shirts “in action.”

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

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


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

Letterpress Class – Week Deux

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Photos of letterpresses and letterpress tools from around flickr. Click through for links to the original images.

Why I felt the urge to call this post “Week Deux,” I cannot explain…

Last night was the second installment of my letterpress class through PNCA’s Continuing Education Program (and, no, I’m not pushing PNCA just because I’m teaching a class there this summer–it’s an awesome place, I swear). We got to fire up the printing presses and play with inks and actually start printing. Well, by “we” I really mean the collective “we,” rather than actually “me.” You see, when I pulled out my project from its drawer, I set it down with the other side facing toward me and noticed a big, huge gap next to the large “7″ I had in the middle of group of wood type. The “7″ seems to be fairly old, and the type slopes down and is significantly worn on one side. What this ended up creating was very loose type that would be a mess once it was placed in the press bed. So, the TA helped me fill in that large gap, which then affected the structural integrity of the entire thing. We ended up spending probably an hour and half filling in each little gap (they were odd-sized, too, since my type was going all different directions) to create a nice rectangular design that could then be placed on the press for printing.

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A nice clean, tight rectangular shape, ready for printing! Finally. All of those little pieces of leading, word spacing and reglets (the odd-shaped wood pieces) were items we used to fill in all the gaps created by that funky "7."

While I didn’t get the chance to start printing my project, it was really helpful watching several people lock up their type–a much more complex process than I ever imaged. Many of you probably know this already, but you can’t have any movement in the type, so you used furniture (wood blocks), reglets (funky-sized, smaller wood pieces) and leading (thin pieces of lead) to “lock up” your type. You then use quoins (our instructor pointed out that this is a great word with which to zing someone in Scrabble) to tighten everything.

The inking process is really interesting as well. I sort of regret not taking pictures, but I think that would be a bit obnoxious to those folks who are in the process of inking their projects. We used rubber-based inks (some people use oil as well–rubber dries through absorbtion, oil through evaporation) and they’re mixed according to a pantone formula guide. (Sidenote: I would love to have one of these formula guides for screenprinting–but they’re so expensive.) Since I love inks and colors, I’m really looking forward to my turn to mix. The rubber ink is so different from what I’m used to in screenprinting–it’s the exact opposite consistency.

Once the type was set, and the rollers were inked, people started printing and experimenting with adding more color to their inks (we used rather transparent ink on very transluscent paper). I think everyone who printed tried layering by printing repeatedly over the same sheet of paper–which created really beautiful effects.

Finally, clean up took a good twenty or thirty minutes with mineral spirits and three different people. Geeky me, I really enjoyed the chance to see the “guts” of the printing press.

Lots of fun again this week. While I didn’t make a huge amount of process on my project, I felt like I really accomplished something, because I spent so much time problem-solving. I’m looking forwarding to sharing photos of what I’ve printed and (hopefully) what other folks have printed as well. We have two weeks to come up with our proposals for our personal projects, and I have a pretty good concept formed in my mind. But, I’m not quite ready to share it yet.


P.S. We’ve got several sewing projects to share with you, but our camera has been acting up (these pictures were with the camera on my phone), so we haven’t had a chance to photograph them–hopefully, this weekend. Also, plans are in the works for an upcoming Video Threads episode that we’re very excited about.

Come Learn with Me!

3272131517 0d9bf6a132 Come Learn with Me!

I’m incredibly excited to do a bit of shameless self-promotion today. This summer, the Pacific Northwest College of Art’s Continuing Education Department will be hosting an exciting new program specifically geared toward crafters of all varieties–the Summer of Making. The Summer of Making will feature special classes, or unique formats, not normally offered by the school. There are some classes that I am very excited about being taught by some incredibly creative and knowledgeable locals–such as Alicia Paulson, Susan Beal and Diane Gilleland. There will also be a “headliner” from out of town, but I can’t tell you who it is yet. (Trust me, it’s someone awesome! And I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve gotten the okay to reveal it.) I don’t know about you, but I think it’s incredibly impressive that a respected art college wants to embrace independent making, creating and DIY with a multi-week, specialized program like this.

Anyway, since I have a close, personal relationship with the coordinator of the Summer of Making, PNCA asked me to teach a class on my area of specialty, which isn’t a specific craft, but rather, the art and craft of communicating. Electronic media has, as you all know, revolutionized the way we communicate and publish our work. Blogging can be an important piece of that for both independent business people and artists/crafters, as well as those of us who simply want to share with–and therefore learn from–other creative folks. I’m going to be helping to facilitate my students in creating their own self-hosted blog (none of that or stuff). Here’s the description from the unpublished course catalog:

Use blogging, complimented by social media tools, to share your art or craft with a broader audience. This course will walk you through developing a self-hosted WordPress blog that is customized for your specific needs. We will collaborate to develop a purpose statement for your blog and create compelling content and imagery to compliment your unique art, craft and individual style. We will explore complimentary social media which can be integrated into your blog, explore successful art, craft and design blogs and have the opportunity to learn from guest speakers. Additionally, we will examine the ethics and etiquette of blogging and freedom and responsibilities of acting as publisher, editor and writer.

Since my professional experience is in marketing, public relations and publications, I plan on bringing that perspective to class–students will get to pick my brain about all sorts of communication issues–from design to branding to the benefits and drawbacks of the various social media platforms. I’m a big proponent of creating a brand or image that is truthful, meaningful and reflective of not only who you would like to be, but who you are–so we will work through those issues together when developing purpose statements and talking about “voice.”

As an added bonus, I will commit to bringing some of my famous chocolate chip cookies to (at least) one of the classes. ‘Cause I’m cool that way.


P.S. My class will be on Wednesday evenings, from July 15 to Aug. 5. When I have more details about the other classes, and registration information, I’ll make sure to post right away, since I know the other, cooler classes will fill up rapidly. (Especially the one from the secret guest instructor.)

Letterpress Class – Week 1

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Some of my favorite images of letterpress type from around flickr. The lead and wood type is so beautiful in and of itself. (Click on the photo to get the links to the originals.)

I’ve wanted to try letterpress printing for ages and ages. I remember back when I was a kid we went on a school trip to some historic site or another  and someone was printing on a old printing press and thinking it was absolutely amazing. I think it appeals to me much in the same way that sewing and screenprinting does–there’s something simultaneously challenging and rewarding about creating something in the Old School way. I take a special pride in being able to look at something sewn, for example, and knowing how it was made and that I could replicate that myself.

I was fortunate enough–thanks to Josh’s work–to get to enroll in a continuing education class in letterpress at the Pacific Northwest College of Art here in Portland. This is a ten-week class that’s actually intermediate level (they were cool with my never having done letterpress before, though) that is three hours long every Thursday night. I started the class this evening, and all I can say is that it was totally geektastic.

One of the great things about PNCA’s Continuing Education program is that the classes are very, very small. This is great for me, because I have never been in a large class of any sort (I know, I’m spoiled, and I’ve got the student loans to prove it!). My college was very committed to small class sizes, so I think my largest course was fewer than twenty people. Something hands-on like this, I really need a small group. While not everyone could make it to the first class this evening (it was First Thursday, so there’s a lot happening in the Pearl District), I believe the total number of student was fewer than ten. And there is a TA, in addition to the instructor. Needless to say, that’s an excellent student-teacher ratio. (A sidenote: I was struck by how many of the students had taken this class before and loved it so much that they were taking it again–one person said it was her fourth time. These folks were very happy to help out us newbies, which was great.)

This evening we learned how to navigate the printshop (it’s HUGE) and the basics of setting type. Additionally, while we were doing this, the instructor (who is from Albuquerque and was more than happy to talk green chile with me) talked to us about the history of printing, showed us examples of what previous students had created and got us up to speed about what to expect over the next couple of months. It was pretty intense–but in a good way. Then we were given the assignment to play with the type (there is both lead and wood type available) and set it in our composing stick or tray to create a design only using type. This is going to be printed into a class book–a collaborative project to start out the course.

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That pound symbol was my big score--I love how thin it is.

I was immediate drawn to the wooden type, partly because it doesn’t weigh nearly as much as the lead type, but also because I love large, graphic elements in design. It was really interesting looking at the letters, numbers and symbols not as what they are functionally, but what they are in terms of their visual impact. Believe it or not, in that jumble of type, there was a lot of thought put into my design. The three hours just flew by.

Next week we’re printing our collaborative project–I can’t wait to see how my page, and everyone else’s, turns out!

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This is similar to the presses we'll be using--they're Vandercook cylinder proof presses. PNCA's have names--I think one of them is called "Tony."

Once we’re up to speed on how to use the presses, we’ll be able to use the print studio to work on our individual projects outside of class. We’re each expected to develop a concept for a project for the class, and work on it in the studio on our own time, in addition to the classroom instruction we’ll receive. I am actually at a loss as to what I’ll come up with for a concept for my “big project.” People have done anything and everything, but we do have to put together a brief proposal and have the instructor approve it, so I want to make it thoughtful and something that will be meaningful… I don’t even know where to begin developing an idea. Hmmmm… Tips on where to turn for inspiration are always appreciated.

My plan is to keep sharing my letterpress adventure with y’all… It’s pretty exciting for me–I hope you’ll find it fun to follow along as I learn this new/old craft.


‘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 »

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.

3178055170 b846ae1300 Buffet of Goodness (AKA The Mysterious Case of the Cursed Hoodie)

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 »

2008 In Review, Part 1

I’m labeling this post “Part 1″ in hopes that I can persuade Josh to do a similar post. Right, Josh?

I thought I’d do a bit of an informal, unstructured, year in review, highlighting some of my favorite project Josh and I have finished up, some stuff that wasn’t so successful, etc… Here we go.

Favorite Project by Me, for Me: Amy Butler Sophia Carryall

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The AB Sophia Bag--sans bottom piping.

Hands-down, the sewing project that I’ve gotten the most use out of was my Amy Butler Sophia Bag. I love, love, love this bag and carry it more days than I don’t. It was a colossal pain in the ass (err… finger) to sew, but was so worth it. In tattoo-loving Portland, Oregon, a lot of folks comment on the fabric. It’s funny because this bag is likely the closest I’d ever get to ink myself.

Favorite Project by Me, for Josh: Pintucked Floral Shirt

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Ahhh, yes, a great shirt for my great husband.

As Peacock Chic said, “Perfection…thy name is Burda 7767.” And it’s true. This pattern was absolutely perfect for Josh–he looks great in it. Which reminds me, I have to make him a couple more of those…

Favorite Project by Josh, for Josh: Skateboard Redux & Dayton Triangles Hoodie (tie)

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I love that both of these are 100% original--Josh just got a creative flash and came up with these two.

I love both of these so much because they really exemplify the way Josh’s creative brain works. The skateboard revamp was a wild, ten-day process that involved way more wood stain than you would think; the Dayton Triangles hoodie was another long, drawn out process because of the effort involved in screenprinting the arms.

Favorite Project by Josh, for Me: Black Denim Idea Hat

2285147032 fdcc5d32bd 2008 In Review, Part 1

Josh made this hat from a Japanese hat-making book.

I love my black “Idea Hat” with gold and red metallic stitching. Josh worked his butt off on this hat for me, and it’s one of my favorite hats–and I own a lot of hats, both home-sewn and mass-produced. Whenever I wear this hat, I get loads of compliments on it, and people are so surprised to learn that my husband made it for me.

Favorite Sewing Revelation: Dresses Rock

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This vintage-style dress is one of my faves, thanks to the awesome Pendleton wool.

I really like sewing dresses, which is weird, since was never a dress person. Skirts, totally, dresses, not at all. But this year I discovered that I’m a big fan of dress, since not only does it mean that I don’t have to match anything else with a dress, but I also get to challenge myself sewing-wise because there are a lot more complexities to fitting a dress properly than there are for skirts and blouses individually. The blue dress above was a big winner (made even better by the fact that it cost around $5 to sew), but both of my versions of the Amy Butler Lotus Dress got a lot of wear in late summer.

Best New Hobby: Screenprinting!

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Two color screenprint? Yes we can!

This was sort of the logical next step, wasn’t it? Josh was the one who was initially interested in screenprinting, but I have to say, I’ve gotten just as addicted. So much so that I’m most likely taking a class at the local art college this coming semester. It’s completely and utterly addictive. I’m constantly thinking of new designs and ideas, and am fascinated by the way that the prints look so different on different mediums. It’s a really challenging and rewarding and a hell of a lot of fun.

Most Disturbing Trend Here on Sewer-Sewist: Trail Blazers-Inspired Crafts

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Obviously, the Trail Blazers sewing & crafting has escalated, since I now feel compelled to report on other people's Blazers crafts.

I don’t think I need to elaborate on this one, but I don’t see that trend changing much for 2009. Sorry, folks.

Most Rewarding Crafting Endeavor: The Obama Craft Project

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My Obama party banners, which still hang in the window of my home office.

Developing and managing the Obama Craft Project site this summer/fall was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Not only was I inspired on a daily basis by all of the amazing work I featured, but I also got to know some totally awesome people as a result–particularly Caitlin and Susan. I also have to say, several of the projects that I featured ended up in Time’s Man of the Year issue, which was totally awesome! I had no idea when I got the idea to start chronicling people’s Obama-related craft projects that it would end up being so personally meaningful for me. Thanks so much to everyone who participated!

Other Random 2008 Reflections

  • We totally had fun with our first Video Threads post, so look for more in 2009.
  • One of the most awesome things to come out of 2008 via this blog was getting to meet Rachel in person. We had a great time hanging out with Rachel, Diane and their guys at Thatch this past summer–Rach, you better get your butt up to PDX this year!
  • Lots of good sewing/crafting books came out this year, we’re hoping this is a trend, and that we’ll see more growth in that genre toward crafters and sewers who have established their skills, rather than just beginner-focused books. I can dream, right?
  • 2008 taught me never to make sewing-related resolutions, because that’s just a recipe for none of them happening…

And there you have it–2008 in review. Bring on 2009! Look for a similar post from J-Boy soon.

I hope you have a wonderful 2009! Thanks so much for your readership, your comments and your thoughtful emails throughout the past year.


Just a Little Crazy

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

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Rip City, Baby!

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

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1990 NBA Finals Trail Blazers Button!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

3121417543 350e300a5a Just a Little Crazy

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

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


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!


Book Review: Seams to Me by Anna Maria Horner

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Anna Maria Horner's first book, Seams to Me, is exactly what you'd expect from this popular fabric designer.

One of the sewing books that I’d really looked forward to much of this year is Anna Maria Horner’s Seams to Me: 24 New Reasons to Love Sewing, which was released by Wiley in October. Anna Maria is one of my favorite fabric designers–I love the highly artistic graphics she utilizes in combination with vibrant colors. The result is a rich, bold and distinctive aesthetic that’s modern and fresh. When Seams to Me arrived in our mailbox, I was not surprised that the cover practically screamed “Anna Maria.” And the contents follow suit.

The first section, “Getting Started,” is a great introduction for new sewers and offers lots of tips and reminders for those of us old hands. For example, there’s an excellent page and a half of guidance on choosing and buying a sewing machine. My mother happened to be looking for a new machine after killing hers in a very abusive fashion right around when I got Seams to Me, and she found this advice very helpful:

The best machine for you is the one that keeps you inspired to try new things but doesn’t overwhelm you.

While that’s fairly simple advice, it is also advice that really holds true–and it proved helpful to my mom as she was making her decision about a new machine. This section also contains some excellent thoughts on setting up a comfortable sewing area, particularly making sure your setup is ergonomically appropriate. Anna Maria also covers some important concepts often overlooked in sewing books that are geared toward a broad audience (as this one is): good pressing, cutting tools and importance of using the right tools for your pinning, sewing and marking needs. Even advanced sewers and sewists need this reminder every so often. She even shares her clever trick for making perfect circles–which she dubs “Super Circles.”

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A page from the "Cooking with Color" section of Seams to Me. Anna Maria explains how three basic formulas can create wildly different effects, depending on the tone and pattern of your chosen fabric.

The final piece in this first section that really stands out to me as unique is her Anna Maria’s focus on combining colors–which she calls “Color Recipes.” She has three basic formulas for “Cooking with Color”–Monochromatic, Monocromatic with an Accent and Multicolored–and demonstrates quite well how these recipes can be applied in various ways to create radically different outcomes. While my initial impression was that these formulas would primarily benefit quilters and home decorators, after reflecting on it some more, I can definitely see some applications in the garment sewing that I do–especially when planning trims and accents.

Of the twenty-four projects in Seams to Me, seventeen are for home accessories or decorating items–only seven are garments or fashion accessories, two of which are (extremely cute) little girls items. As primarily a garment sewer, this is somewhat disappointing, although not surprising. This seems to be about the ratio in every general sewing book. It’s much more difficult and expensive to produce patterns for clothing with all the sizes required, and much more room for error in pattern drafting. With that said, the items in the “Stylize” chapter are really quite attractive, with one notable problem that I’ll discuss in a minute.

First, both bags are über-cute. (Because you can never, ever have too many bag patterns.)

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Taxi Tote: I really like the simple shape of this bias tape-trimmed shoulder bag. (I also think that the model in this photo may have stolen one of my outfits. That so looks like a combination I would put together.)

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I'll Have One of Everything Bag: This bag is constructed using small pieces of eight different fabrics--a great way to experience with the "Color Recipes" in Seams to Me.

I was also happy to see that the skirt “pattern” in this book is actually a formula, much like that in Sew What Skirts, for making a custom A-line skirt for your exact measurements. This is one of those things that really everyone who sews with any regularity should know how to do, in my opinion. I cannot tell you how many times I have witnessed someone at the pattern counter who is wanting to learn how to sew who is asking the (often grumpy) salesperson for recommendations on an A-line skirt pattern so they can learn to sew. The custom skirt route is so much more forgiving fit-wise (since you draft it for your measurements), and I think that the investment in time creating a well-fitting skirt pattern can potentially encourage people to keep at sewing. Whereas so many of the big pattern companies have so many crazy fit issues that a beginner is fairly likely to get frustrated–especially when they find out that their measurements equal three or four sizes larger in sewing pattern sizing than they do in ready-to-wear. Two big thumbs up for this!

With that said, however, Anna Maria should have either 1) omitted the “Smashing Smock” or 2) given it the attention it deserves. It’s a very cute sleeveless yoked top, but it only comes in a medium (no size chart included, that I could find). As we know, one person’s medium is another’s extra-large is another’s small, so the label “medium” is essentially meaningless. Also, while Anna Maria included very comprehensive and methodologically-sound instructions for enlarging and shrinking the pattern, it’s such a fussy maneuver that I fear it will turn most readers off of this particular pattern. And, while the pattern will be modified successfully using those instructions (since it’s a loose, boxy style), it bothers me that the modifications don’t include a discussion of the fact that for most pattern you would need to grade the pattern to modify it, rather than just enlarging it. I would hate for someone to apply this technique to a fitted blouse because it worked for a boxy smock. You would end up with gaping armholes and a neckline that folds over onto itself.  The child’s “Prairie Blouse” (which is adorable) is modified the same way, and measurements are also omitted for that pattern as well. I realize I’m far more advanced and particular about fit in garments that most people who will be using Seams to Me to make either of these tops, but it’s still somewhat disappointing. (I also wish that the “Prairie Blouse” was the adult blouse because I love raglan sleeves, but that’s just me being wistful.)

The “Organize” chapter is really fun, with loads of items that would be great to make for a sewing room especially, including organizing cubes, a magnetic inspiration board, wall pockets and even a garment bag. These projects would be particularly rewarding for a new sewer who could simultaneously work through these projects, build his or her skills and organize and decorate a sewing space. There is one item in particular that I absolutely love–the “Pin Cushion Caddy.”

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Pin Cushion Caddy: This is fun project requiring small bits of fabric to create a pin cushion that also helps contain clutter in your sewing space.

I also absolutely love the items in the “Domesticate” chapter, which range from beautiful appliqued and embroidered dishtowels to a fun patchwork ball (which our dog has requested I make for her). Each of the items in this section would be thoughtful wedding or housewarming gifts, too. (I always keep in mind simple projects that would make good gifts for various life events.) These are my two favorites:

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The "Doggie Dreams Bed" (which you make using a formula based on your dog's size!) and the "Full Contact Cooking Apron" (which I need to make ASAP). Both of these designs from Seams to Me would be well-received housewarming gifts.

You’ve often read me gripe about how hard it is to read the print in many sewing books and how their design often doesn’t think about the end user. I have to tell you, I am 100% thrilled with the readability and usability of this book. It has sewing-friendly spiral binding, clear, dark print on a light background (yay!) and clear, understandable instructions with appealing, clear drawings. And, even better, they haven’t sacrificed the book attractiveness to make it accessible. It has loads of color on each page, beautiful photography that really shows the projects in detail (and you can get a good sense of the size of the items, too, as they’re shown with other items in each photo). Also, the people used throughout the book look like real folks, and the settings feel very familiar–like the pictures were taken at your friend’s very stylish farm. This total package makes Seams to Me one of those sewing books that’s really fun to flip through and admire.

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An example of an instruction page from Seams to Me (this page is for the "Right Off the Cuff" project. Each project has easy to read text and clear drawings and most have multiple photos. Finally someone who really understands sewing designed a sewing book!

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Playing Along Quilt: This is an example of the attractive, yet familiar, nature of the photography in Seams to Me.

Seams to Me is a fun book, and if you’ve followed Anna Maria’s blog and are familiar with her designs, you’ll see her mark all over this book. There are definitely enough projects that have a special twist that make it worth the $24.99 price tag, and the introductory section really stands apart among the rapidly-growing catalog of sewing books that are on the market. With the holidays coming up, this could be a nice gift for a sewer or sewist in your life–especially if they’re an Anna Maria Horner fan. It’s also another one that would be a quality addition to a “learning to sew” list, because of the clear instructions, variety of projects, tips and techniques and the fact that it doesn’t appeal strictly to the younger set–to me, Seams to Me has a wonderful universal, ageless appeal.

You can check out projects people have made using Seams to Me over on flickr. There’s also a free pattern download available from Wiley, if you’d like to take Seams to Me for a test drive before purchasing.


More Blazers Craftiness

Obviously, I’m in need of a cell phone with a better camera, because I’ve spotted some awesome Trail Blazers craftiness at the last three games and my pictures suck, suck, suck. First, on Monday versus the Sacramento Kings, Susan and I were behind this guy on our way to the Fan Shop:

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This dude cut strips of black, red and white felt and then sewed them to a patch to create a wig fit for a true Blazermaniac.

Next, the lady sits in the row in front of us, and sewed a great blouse out of Trail Blazers branded fabric (they sell it at The Despot) that she wears as a jacket to the games. Her collar points are a work of art, and I wish this picture was better so that you could see them in all their perfectly pointy glory.

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This woman is a hardcore fan. Not only does she wear this awesome home sewn Blazers blouse, she simultaneously listens to the to games on the radio and keeps a stat sheet while watching the games. Impressive. She's kind of my personal hero now.

And finally… Josh and I got to sit in a suite in the game versus the Miami Heat because I was on the 2008 Fan Advisory Board and it was our last get-together. (This was a nice upgrade from our upper bowl seats.) The wife of one of the Board members made the most amazing sign ever. Ever. Check it out.

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For those of you not in the know, "G.O." stands for Greg Oden, the team's 7 foot center who was out last year (his rookie season) due to knee surgery.

The sign was created by Michelle, who is another Crafty Blazers Nut. She made this sign using glitter and installed a battery pack (battery pack!!!) to illuminate the basketball. The glitter letters pulled the whole thing together. Needless to say, her sign is unchallenged in its awesome. However, the geniuses who operate the fan cam thing that put people’s signs on the giant jumbo-tron thing obviously didn’t understand this and failed to feature her sign. Personally, I think this is a travesty of monumental proportions. My theory is that they didn’t want all the other sign makers to feel bad because their signs didn’t involve battery packs. It’s just a theory, though.


Bingo, Bango, Bongo!

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

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

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

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

It was amazing.

Blazermania was back.

Continue reading »

Sunday Sewing Heritage: Airplane Wings

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Did you know that airplanes used to be stitched together, and then epoxied? I had heard mention of it in documentaries and such, but the reality of the construction of aircraft literally from cloth didn’t really register with me until I saw these photos of women during World War II sewing together the wings of a plane.

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There’s something quite elegant about it, isn’t there?


Photos from the Library of Congress image collection.

Thirteen Random Things

First, Antoinette tagged me for the “7 Random Things” meme that’s making the rounds. Then, Amy at Craft Chi passed along the Kreativ Blogger Award to us as well. That one has, I believe, a “six random things” component.

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So that makes thirteen, right? Here goes–I’ll try not to replicate those that are on my about page:

  1. I love magazines, but I almost exclusively read them while soaking the the bathtub. My favorites for bathtub reading: The Atlantic, ReadyMade, Vanity Fair and GQ (yes, I realize it’s for men, but, whatever, they have really interesting profiles of people).
  2. I also love to read catalogs in the bathtub. Faves: Sundance Catalog (one of the few I actually ever buy anything out of), J.Jill and Title 9.
  3. I am definitely more of a night person than morning person. My ideal hours are: bed at 1:00 a.m., up at 9:00 a.m.
  4. My favorite Portland Trail Blazer who’s not named Brandon Roy is Channing Frye. (Seriously, no one in the history of Portland has ever embraced being a Portlander as much as Channing Frye. You’ve got to check out his blog and all the craziness. He’s weird and awesome in a totally Portland way!)
  5. I adore brussel sprouts. Love, love, love them.
  6. I hate cleaning–in Santa Fe we had a housekeeper who came and cleaned every other week and it was the best thing ever. The clean house and green chile sauce are the only things I miss about living in New Mexico.
  7. All of my socks have holes in them because 1) I don’t really throw them away until they’ve disintegrated and 2) the dog steals my socks and runs around the house with them and her teeth puncture holes in them. She doesn’t do this to Josh.
  8. To me, one of the primary objectives of going on vacation is eating out. That’s one of the reasons I love Spain so much. Manchego… Yum!!!
  9. I’m a sort of vegetarian. I only eat certain sustainable seafood, no other meat, and the rest is your typical vegetarian diet (veggies, beans, soy, dairy, eggs, yadayada).
  10. We had two pet guinea pigs for years; their names were Seamus and Izzy. Seamus had chronic dental problems and Izzy was blind. They were quite a pair. I still miss them even though it’s been several years since they each passed away. (Seamus was once “Pet of the Day” in the early days of that type of thing on the internet.)
  11. When I started college, I thought that afterward I’d go to law school and become a crusading attorney of some sort–then I worked at a law school and the law professors treated me so terribly that I knew I could never spend three years dealing with professors like that.
  12. I am extraordinarily picky about lipstick (gotta be red, gotta be the right consistency, gotta have the right ingredients), and it’s the one cosmetic I don’t leave the house without.
  13. I think this is the funniest YouTube video ever.

I think that probably most people have gotten one or both of these, so I’m just going to give a shout out to some of the folks that you should read if you don’t already.

  • Rosanne: She’s such an extraordinarily nice person and loves BWOF too!
  • Rachel: We share a birthday and she’s been to Space Camp!
  • Penny: You must check out her Halloween costume.
  • Patrick: A talented weaver, knitter and sewer.
  • Susan: Josh and I are so glad we met her–and she’s a Blazers fan!
  • Diane: She’s crafty, she’s cool, and she’s obsessed with plastic canvass. I love her weekly PDX Profiles on DIY Alert.
  • Stacy: Everyone reads Stacy’s blog, right? She’s has one of the friendliest voices in the sewing blogging world.
  • Kim: When she started True Up, Kim really filled a gap in the craft blogging world.

There are many others, but check those folks out–they’re all fantastic for completely different ways!


Book Review: French General Home Sewn

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Cover of Kaari Meng's French General Home Sewn, published by Chronicle.

Chronicle Books’ latest sewing offering, French General Home Sewn: 30 Projects for Every Room in the House, is a unique sewing project book from Kaari Meng, owner of the well-known store in L.A., French General (you can visit her blog here). (I figure it’s pretty well-known, since I’ve actually heard of it.) Part tour of the vintage French aesthetic, part sewing book, this is an appealing book for folks who are Francophiles or fabric collectors, in addition to those looking for unique designs for sewing useful and decorative home items.

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Every sewing book should include a pet bed.

This book was on my radar initially because I did judge a book by its cover. It looked so incredibly attractive, and visually very distinctive (I am slightly obsessed with design). In that area, Home Sewn did not disappoint. From the cover, which has an unusual fabric-y texture, to the hand-sketches of the project instructions, there is no doubt that this is a book inspired by the French aesthetic. Each project is even named in both French and English.

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Floral cocktail coasters made from 5-inch squares of fabric--a perfect project for using up remnants.

However, the sewing projects and innovative use of special fabrics are really what make Home Sewn stand out. Kaari Meng is a collector of vintage and antique French fabrics–and she has been doing so for years, “whether they are small scraps or large panels.” You may have noticed that I love Japanese fabrics, especially those designed by Etsuka Furyura. Sadly, they’re also quite expensive, and so it would be more cost-effective to purchase small quantities. This book is full of ideas for small pieces of fabrics, from the coasters pictured above, to small lavender-filled cushions. So, if you have an affinity for distinctive, and expensive, fabrics, there are a number of projects in Home Sewn that could fit your needs.

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My favorite project in Home Sewn--simple wall hangings and a shaped banner.

There are several projects that I haven’t seen in other sewing books, such as a shower curtain and a bath mat. While these are very basic projects, it’s the discussion of the usage of materials that really shines here. She recommends using natural hemp. Why? Because hemp fibers are naturally absorbent and fast-drying, which makes it ideal for bathroom projects. What a nice alternative to the plastic-y stuff that dominate mass-produced bathroom textiles.

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Quick-Dry Bath Mat: The striped ticking adds a bit of style to this simple project.

And that speaks further to my earlier point about Meng’s book–it’s definitely a book that’s written more with the fabric-lover in mind, rather than a more sewing focused work. While the projects are generally quite clever unique interpretations of really useful everyday items (the fact that the projects are focused on items that you actually need is a huge bonus in my mind), fabrics really take center stage in this book. Even when the projects utilize very simple, unprinted textiles.

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Scalloped tablecloth made with hemp fabric.

I was thrilled to see a different interpretation of “Party Banners” in this book—these are lined and, in the beautiful vintage French fabrics used in the book, could really be a wonderful decorative addition to a home office or guest room. (Full disclosure: I have party banners hanging in my home office.)

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Hooray for party banners!!!

There is an added bonus to Home Sewn if you’re mad for embroidery (I’m looking at both of you, AverageJaneCrafter and my mom). There are many intricate, vintage-looking embroidery patterns included with the patterns in Home Sewn. They’re meant to mimic the look of the embroidery on antique linens. There’s also a perfectly respectable step-by-step of basic embroidery stitches.

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Directions page.

A note on the book’s design and presentation: As much as I really love this book (I will probably make a number of the projects as I need housewares), this is another book in which I wish there’d been a bit more attention to the way in which the book is designed from the user’s perspective. Like so many craft books, the font is rather small and lightweight, which is difficult when you’re sewing. I generally glance down at the directions while I’m doing other sewing prep, and if the font were one point larger (which would make the book longer, and therefore more expensive, which isn’t a good thing either), it would be much easier to read. My other gripe is that, despite the absolutely stunning photography, some of the projects are hard to see completely in the photos, and it’s hard to get a sense of the scale and how some of the projects should look when finished. But would I trade the almost coffee-table book look of Home Sewn for boring pictures? Nope. Also, beginning sewers and sewists should be aware that there are not a large number of drawings accompanying the projects, although there are a few for each one. This doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, for straightforward projects like these, they’re just a bonus. However, if you’re used to the beginner-level books that have a lot of detailed illustration and instruction, be forewarned. Personally, I think you don’t need a lot of illustrations once you’ve got the basics of sewing down.

Despite those relatively minor criticisms, Home Sewn is really a winner of a sewing book. It is very, very different from anything else out there. It not only educated me about the French aesthetic, it got me thinking about new ways to utilize my favorite fabrics, about the benefits of collecting small pieces of really special textiles and about the beauty in elegant touches added to simple, everyday items.

If you’re a stationary fan, there is also lovely stationary that’s been developed as well. You can check it out here. Also, during the month of November, Kaari Meng is hosting a stash-busting contest with a really swell prize. You can get more details right here.


Election Pennants at Crafty Wonderland

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A message from an adorable little girl at Crafty Wonderland: "Vote!"

A couple of weekends ago, I ran the DIY table at Crafty Wonderland here in Portland. If you’re not familiar with Crafty Wonderland, it’s a monthly crafts fair that’s held at the Doug Fir Lounge and is organized by gals from PDX Super Crafty. One of the fun things they do each month is host a free craft activity that anyone can try out, and it’s loads of fun.

It’s sort of funny, because–and I think I’ve said this before here–I don’t think of myself as a particularly “Crafty” person. First and foremost, I consider myself a person who sews. And the crafty stuff that I’m attracted to are generally the things that are more technical or more designy; and I see sewing as definitely both of those things. Screen printing, which I really have grown to love, is very technical and design oriented. I’d love to learn letterpress printing (and I’d take a class if they weren’t 1) so damn expensive and 2) always full), which I see as technical and definitely very much a design process. It’s probably because I am a tremendous geek (just ask Rachel and Diane who have both been victims of my eagerly volunteering as tech support for their various web and computer woes) and I have somewhat of a background in art–since I took a number of art history courses in college and was particularly interested in mid-century advertising/propaganda and popular art. (Like I said, I’m a tremendous geek.) Anyway, that was a long-winded way of saying that when Cathy asked me to consider doing my election pennants as the craft at October’s Crafty Wonderland, I had a bit of anxiety over being “crafty” enough.

I cut out about 90 triangular pennants in advance, and instead of hanging them from a string, like I did for mine, I hot glued each one onto a skewer so they’d be like a little DIY flag.

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This was one of my prototypes. I hadn't used glitter glue in about 15 years.

I also created several stencils with slogans like “Vote” and “Hope” as well as some stars of various sizes. We set everyone up with fabric paints and glitter glue and let them go to town.

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Supplies ready to go...

There were basically no supplies left over at the end of the day. I was shocked at how enthusiastically everyone embraced this dorky little project I came up with. (Sidebar: A young gal, probably 20 or so used the “Hope” stencil to make a “No Hope” flag to commemorate a recent breakup. Not really what I had intended, but oh well…)

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The "Hope" stencil was definitely the most popular one of the day--it had pretty much disintegrated by 3:00 p.m. A number of people remarked that they felt like it was a message was timely, given the horrible news about the economy the previous Friday.

We literally had folks ranging from infants to nearly 100 years old!

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My pal Bryan and his 96 year-old grandmother working on their flags together.

I so appreciate how enthusiastic people were about sitting down and doing something fun like this. Everyone was chatting with one another, sharing paints, discussing glittering techniques (that is, until one young man literally used all the glitter) and just having a good time. I think that this type of thing is so healthy for folks of all ages to try out every once in awhile–there’s something good for the soul about getting messy and goofing off with complete strangers. (I probably helped in the cause by resisting the urge to lecture everyone about the history of political flag-making while they worked on their project. It was tough, but I kept myself in check.)

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This couple made two of my favorite pennants.

When Josh came to pick me up, he said it was quite the delightful sight as people walked down East Burnside on a windy, yet sunny, Portland afternoon with their little flags waving in the wind. I wish I’d seen that.


We’re Still Here!

We both just managed to each have a case of what will now be referred to as “The Worst Flu Ever.” First I was sick, and Josh was so wonderful taking care of me, and then I started to get better and Josh got hit with it even worse that I. But we’re on the mend, and will hopefully resume our regularly scheduled programming here at Sewer-Sewist shortly.

Meanwhile… Before our untimely case of the flu, I was busy being frustrated with my attempt to make this lovely kimono-style robe from a Burda World of Fashion from this spring.

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It’s adorable, right? I think so, too. And it’s a very simple pattern as well.

Unfortunately, I totally lunched when I was measuring and cutting all the bands for the sleeves, hem, neck and front and neglected to add the seam allowances. I discovered this when I was sewing the sleeve bands together. I know, a totally bone-headed/dumb-ass/nitwit move. I did, however, manage to get the bands together on the sleeves, but the rest of the garment, no dice. So, I was in the midst of contemplating whether I wanted to re-cut all the bands (I have enough fabric, but, come on, it’s a robe) or piece together a few squares and call it a day. (Can you tell which way I’m leaning?)

Either way, I think it’s going to be a pretty darn cute robe. It’ll go nicely with the snazzy Amy Butler Lounge Pants from In Stitches that I made out of the same fabric combination. (I haven’t posted those yet, because I wanted to share the whole “ensemble” together.) Here’s a preview:

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Last year, I was on quest–a serious quest–to find this gnome fabric from Heather Ross. It was out of stock everywhere. I had seen it once, and there seemed to be a citywide run on the stuff. So I did something I never do–because I don’t need to, we’ve going sewing resources like crazy here in Portland–and ordered five yards online from ReproDepot the second they got it back in stock. (Yeah, I went a bit crazy. No one really “needs” five yards of gnome fabric.) Since I don’t quilt, it took me all this time to figure out what the hell to do with my gnomes. Pajamas seemed like the logical choice.

Hope y’all are staying healthy this fall! Take care of yourselves!


Sewing Heritage: Stitching Old Glory

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We all know (or should, at least) the story of the Betsy Ross Flag, none of us know the story of these ladies and how they came to be sewing American flags at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1909. This photo was taken while the U.S. was still engaged in military action in the Philippines (an extension of the Spanish-American War, although it officially ended in 1902). The Yard was winding down from a huge surge in manufacturing employment due to goods needed by the military, with women engaged in the production of garments and textiles, including the sewing of American flags. What struck me about this photo is not just the high-intensity production these women are involved with, but simply the layers and layers of clothing and intricate hairstyles they’re maintaining while they’re doing this tough, physically exhausting work.

It’s interesting to note that when this photo was taken there were only 46 stars on Old Glory—New Mexico and Arizona joined the U.S. as a state three years later, with Alaska and Hawaii not admitted until 1959. The material they are using in this photo is bunting, likely made out of cotton, wool or a blend of the two. (Now flags are often sewn out of synthetics such as nylon, although official flags flown by the military and government still use bunting materials.)

This photo is another one from the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Reading Room.


A Little Late to the Whole Apron Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wear a Dress Week & Another Amy Butler Lotus Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sewing Heritage: Women, Sewing & the WPA

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Folks, it’s time for a little sewing history lesson…

The Works Progress Administration (rename Work Project Administration in 1939) was created in 1935, and employed millions of people–especially in the rural West and Appalachia and other mountain regions–following the catastrophic downturn of the U.S. economy resulting in the Great Depression. What many people don’t know about the WPA is that a sizable number of people put to work during this time were women, around fifteen to twenty percent of WPA-participants. They were considered unemployed heads of household for a variety of reasons, including abandonment or a husband’s death or disability–and the lack of jobs caused many men to seek jobs far afield, thus allowing women to participate in WPA programs as their only source of family income. Almost every single female WPA participant, with the exception of the very small Professional Division, was involved in a sewing project of some sort. Later in the program, bookbinding was added to the WPA program, and women were engaged in that activity as well. Interestingly, while the WPA made the intentional decision to pay women and men the equally for the same work, sewing–and eventually bookbinding, were the lowest paid positions available. Since most women at that time were still sewing by hand, they received training in using sewing machines. Once they became skilled with the machines, they were put to work making clothing, bedding and supplies for hospitals and orphanages.

The poster above, from the Library of Congress catalog, was used to advertise the positions using sewing skills available to women in Ohio via the WPA. Note that “Power Machine Operator” is highlighted at the top of the poster.


Note: I am likely going to make “Sewing Heritage” a semi-regular series here. I’m personally interested in the subject, and have been for some time—even prior to our post of the same title. I have both a B.A. and an M.A. in Women’s Studies and my focus was on history (at one point, I seriously considering getting a PhD and going into academia)–and for a long time I was very interested in women and the small craft and big-time garment industries, both in the U.S. and abroad, past and present. Anyway, I figure that this is as good of place as any to share both a bit of my knowledge on this topic and some of my finds (the LOC image library is amazing). Let me know what you think!

Bagged, baby!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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(Nice farmer tan, eh?)

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

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

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

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


We have a winner!

So, I assigned each of your wonderful comments a number (two numbers if you answered both questions or shared the giveaway on your blog, etc), and plunked all those numbers into Randomizer to get the winner of the Alabama Stitch Book. I must say, I am so glad that I didn’t do something ridiculous like pick the best comment, because y’all were amazing! Seriously, I’m going to compile your comments into a blog post or two because I was really touched by your reflections on your sewing heritage and was very inspired by your tips for integrating sustainability into your crafting.

Anyway, the winner of the Alabama Stitch Book is Stacy of Stacy Sews, who recycles clothing that no longer fits into other usable and useful items. I loved her tip for even re-using the pockets of old jeans for tote backs–that’s too clever!

So, Stacy, drop me a line at sewersewist [at] gmail [dot] com with your mailing address and I’ll send you the book. I have a feeling that you’ll love it!

Thank you everyone who entered for your wonderful comments!


A Giveaway!

(Note: Comments are now closed. We will announce the randomly-drawn winner shortly.)

But you gotta work for it a little bit.

Remember The Alabama Stitch Book that I reviewed back in June? The one that I used to make the skirt that I wore to that get-together with some old friends? Well, the lovely folks at Stewart, Tabori & Chang sent me a copy to review as well, so I have two copies. So, looks like I need to get rid of one of them…

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I think that whomever gets the copy of this book will really enjoy it. There are lots of great project ideas (which can easily be converted to machine-sewn projects for the hand-sewing averse among us, ehem…) and the real gem is the author’s take on sustainability and rejuvenating traditional craft.

In that vein, in order to win the book, I’d like to ask you to leave your tips in the comments section of this post on reusing, recycling or integrating “green” concepts into your sewing and crafting. Do you search out organic cottons? Refashion thrift store finds (Antoinette, I’m talking about you!)? Try to shop locally? Plus, feel free to make the argument as to why sewing in and of its self is sustainable… If you’re not feeling green, share something about your sewing heritage, which is a huge theme in the book. If you do both, I’ll enter you twice.

If you feel compelled to pass this giveaway along to someone else (via Facebook, Twitter, some other social networking service or on your own blog), let me know by emailing me at and I’ll enter you again.

I’ll keep this giveaway open until midnight (Pacific) on Monday, August 25.

Thanks, and I hope the winner enjoys this book as much as I did!


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.


Book Review: Amy Butler’s Little Stitches for Little Ones

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As you probably know, I’m a huge Amy Butler fan. I so appreciate that she has built a brand that has succeeded in encouraging newbies to sew, while also meeting the needs of experienced sewers/sewists. It’s a winning combination. One of the things I appreciate most about her new book, Amy Butler’s Little Stitches for Little Ones: 20 Keepsake Sewing Projects for Baby and Mom, is Amy’s acknowledgments on the first page of the book,

This book is dedicated to the sewing community at-large. Without your enthusiasm and spirit, the fine craft of sewing would not be as vibrant.

I was really impressed with that shout-out. I believe that one of the keys to ensuring sewing’s long-term success (which is important, otherwise it will be harder and harder to practice our craft because of inadequate supplies and a lack of shared knowledge) is growing a community. It seems that (and this isn’t the first time I’ve noticed this) Amy really understands that we’re all connected and integral to sewing’s success as a craft and industry.

I am a complete doofus when it comes to knowing what to give people as new baby gifts. In fact, I am eternally grateful for the whole “Target Baby Registry” thing or else who knows what I’d have given any number of acquaintances who have had babies over the last few years. However, I have a friend who is expecting his first little one ANY DAY NOW and wanted to make (of course) he and his wife something nice and thoughtful as a baby gift.

But, what to make?

Fortunately, I was lucky enough to receive a reviewer copy of Little Stitches (published by Chronicle) that bailed me out just in time.

The book is very comprehensive, with projects organized in six different categories: “Comforts” (snugly stuff), “Style” (clothes), “On the Go” (bags/bibs), “Decor” (that one’s obvious), “Playtime” (also obvious) and “Memories” (hand-sewn albums). Each of the twenty project is rated according to difficulty level, with a nice distribution from easiest to hardest, with most projects being in the middle of the range. It also comes with the most complex pattern pieces — the simple square and rectangles you draft yourself, as in In Stitches. The clothing projects are available in sizes for babies ranging from newborn to twelve months, with a (rather amusing) illustrated size chart. There are very comprehensive (if you’ve ever sewn an Amy Butler pattern, you’ll know what I mean) written instructions accompanying each project, and one or two illustrations. Each section has introduction pages of photos of the projects that follow. It is also spiral bound –which I so appreciate because it lays flat — and contains a handy pocket for the pattern pieces.

Little Stitches is definitely, and I think intentionally, geared toward people like myself (no, not complete doofuses) who are wanting to make a special handmade gift for new parents. This is definitely not a “quick and easy” type of guide that would be of use to busy soon-to-be parents who want to create some DIY baby projects. Check out what I mean:

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Even though some of the projects like the last one I posted are simple from a technical perspective, it’s definitely a labor-intensive endeavor. But, I am sure that anyone of those projects would be absolutely adored by the recipients.

One of the real highlights are the toys. Seriously, I had the urge to just make them all for our friends. They’re that fun and charming. And, they really highlight vibrant fabrics.

These blocks would be great — and probably less dangerous when the little one learns about throwing things and their siblings!

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And this cat thingy is just precious…

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My favorite, though, is the snail toy that converts into a pillow/cushion.

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There are also two bag patterns included in Little Stitches, and both are not only great-looking diaper bags, they both seem as if they’d make really functional everyday bags if you simply omitted or modified the bottle pockets. The “Modern Diaper Bag”, in particular, struck me as just about perfect as a big shopper that would work well for farmers markets — or any other time you need to haul a bunch of stuff around and still want to look cute.

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The two “Memories” projects would both make lovely gifts for grandparents especially. The “Brag Book” is rated at the easiest difficulty level and is a simple, folding album with stitched details. It also integrates paper craft, which is pretty cool (love that craft cross-pollination!). I’m also too embarrassed to admit this (but not quite), but when I first saw that particular project, my first thought was “Cool! I should make one about the dog for Josh!” (Yes, I’m a dork.)

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My only real quibble with this book is that the font is too small and fine to be easily read, especially against some of the darker backgrounds. My sewing style is definitely more of the glancing at the instructions as a plow through my project, and the typography does hinder that a bit, making it harder to find my place quickly and easily. I know that some people really didn’t care for having to draft out some of the pattern pieces in In Stitches, but it doesn’t bother me. My recommendation would be to create pieces on paper rather than directly on fabric, as Amy advises. That way, you can use the pieces over and over without having to repeat the drafting. Plus, the pocket in the book provides enough space that you can store your self-drafted pieces as well. You should also be aware that this is not a sewing instruction book, it is definitely for someone who knows their way around their machine, or has a good sewing reference book. The techniques used aren’t difficult, but if you’re not confident with the basic sewing techniques (although the glossary in the back is helpful), you may want a bit of support from another source.

All-in-all, I highly recommend this book as a great one for gift-givers. I can see many, many well-loved gifts coming out of Amy Butler’s Little Stitches. I look forward to sharing my project from the book with you soon! (The gift needs a few finishing touches and a trip to the post office. Sorry!)


Behind the Times

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

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

Check it out…

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

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

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

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

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



Not only do we have a functional computer again (Public Service Announcement: don’t fill your Mac hard drive beyond 70% capacity; just ask Josh & I what happens), but I also managed to let go of some slightly obnoxious perfectionist tendencies I have with regard to sewing.


Yep, on my latest project, I had a significant bobbin malfunction (it happens to the best of us, right?) and had some bobbin stitches—yes, the stitches no one really sees—go wonky. And I took a deep breath, fixed what I could, and moved on with life.

And, you know what? It looked just find.

Kind of liberating, I think.


Feelin’ Stitchy

In my last post, I mentioned that I’m planning on making another Burda shirt for Josh—this time with a bit of monkey embroidery… I usually farm out my embroidery needs to my mom, who’s amazing, but since this is a shirt for Josh, I’m thinking that I should do it myself. To give myself a bit of practice (Mom taught me, but she’s kind of, er, fanatical about stitch evenness and embroidery perfection, so I’ve never embraced the craft with a lot of zeal as a result), I’m doing some embroidery on an Amy Butler Lotus Dress (this is my second—I made the first in two evenings and haven’t had a chance to take pictures yet—it needs a good wash/iron before the big photo shoot) made from some Gino’s Chino. Here’s a peek at my concept.

 Feelin Stitchy

Yes, of course it’s going on the shoulder of the dress.


Fashion Forward

 Fashion Forward

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

 Fashion Forward

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

 Fashion Forward

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

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

Fold the pleats over 3/16th.

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

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

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

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

 Fashion Forward

 Fashion Forward

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

 Fashion Forward

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

 Fashion Forward

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


Pintucked Preview

Can I just say, I am so incredibly excited about how the shirt I’m making for Josh is turning out?! Seriously, each time I make something for him I learn so much and really feel like I can justify my “Advanced” skill rating that I gave myself over on Pattern Review. This project not only has pintucks, it’s got a banded collar, cuffs, sleeve bands, a narrow hem AND an interesting yoke… Anyway, I’m so thrilled out the progress I’m making I thought I’d give y’all a little preview.

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Oh, and I found the PERFECT buttons today when we went over to Bolt to pick up white thread… But I can’t show them to you yet—I sort of feel like they need a big “reveal” on the finish product.


Pintucks > Pleats

This is about the only math I remember, the “>” sign, meaning “greater than.” (Yes, the world breathes a sigh of relief that I was a liberal arts major and not a rocket scientist.)

I cleaned up the horrific mess that was on our, er, dining table (which sees more thread, needles and fabric than plates, cutlery and food)…

2609892172 d9baebf688 Pintucks > Pleats

(I’m thinking the dire situation with our workspace may have been adding to my creative funk caused by my impending unemployment. Just maybe… I’m also thinking it would be a brilliant competition to see who could name the most items in this picture. But that would be truly disturbing.)

Anyway, I set aside the dress I’m working on in favor of making something lovely for my sweetie. Josh has been so great while I’ve been a bit of a pill and was so wonderful on our anniversary, making us special commemorative T-shirts. Recently I had picked up this pattern from Burda the last time I was at The Despot, thinking it would be a nice men’s shirt pattern for J-boy. I sacrificed some white, floral striped fabric from Heather Ross’ “Lightning Bugs” collection from FreeSpirit (I’m a bit of a FreeSpirit junkie, I think) that I had originally intended for myself.

I haven’t made a ton of progress, because all of the pintucking (eight on each side of the shirt front) is quite time consuming, and I have a tendency to get a wee bit compulsive about the evenness of the tucks. Just a wee bit. Really. I swear.

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But, I’m certainly liking the result so far…

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There’s something inherently less stressful about making something that’s a labor of love for someone you love than, say, making a dress to wear to work. (Especially when you’re looking for work. Eegads… I didn’t even think of that factor until just now when considering my whole creative funk situation. Geez… No wonder I couldn’t make progress on my damn dress!)

Anyway, I just adore pintucks. Granted, I’m also firmly committed to pleats, but their petite, more refined cousin the pintuck is one of my favorite design elements—one I don’t get to use very often. There’s just something to structural and appealing about the ‘tucks. Sadly, pintucks are not the most flattering blouse style for me, although I do have an ancient pintucked skirt that I really like. So it will be fun to finish up this funky shirt for my hubby.

You gotta appreciate a guy who gets excited about his wife making him a floral-striped tuxedo-inspired shirt…


P.S. We’re still not certain that our commenting function is working reliably. So, if you feel compelled, we’d appreciate your trying out the commenting to see if it’s working for you (it’s an intermittent problem, of course). If you can’t seem to leave a comment, please drop us a line at sewersewist [at] gmail [dot] com. Thank you! We really want to get this issue resolved ASAP.


Rosanne was the first of you loyal readers to notice that I haven’t been posting much lately and ask what I’ve been up to sewing- and crafting-wise lately. Josh has certainly been making, and posting, a lot more stuff lately. But I promise, I haven’t gone permanently AWOL.

In fact, I started what I think will eventually be a really fabulous dress, the HotPatterns Metropolitan Coat Dress (the shorter, short-sleeved version).

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 It’s a great dress, huh? I’m making it in another fabulous fabric from Bolt—this one’s a smoky blue cotton with a bit of stretch (hooray for stretch!). I think it’s European, too, which equals triple bonus points, you know. I hit a few roadblocks (i.e. the yardage requirement on the envelope is very, very wrong—it takes about 3.5 yards of 60″ fabric, not 2). But, it was going along well.

I started this about a month ago.

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Then I found out that my position at work is being eliminated. Which means I’m out of a job on June 30. This has been really tough on me because I’ve never been kicked to the curb before, and I work in the public sector, which means it’s even more unusual—although marketing’s always the first hit for cuts pretty much everywhere, so it’s not that surprising. (We’re facing budget cuts—the bad economy’s affecting everyone, apparently.)  Basically, the stress of this whole experience has really gotten me in an awful funk and has left me feeling pretty damn uncreative.

Anyway, I guess it’s a bit weird to write about this in this medium, but I did want to explain what I’d been up to and why I’ve been so absent from Sewer-Sewist lately.  When we started this little site we never in a million years thought so many people would be interested in what we have to say about sewing and crafting, and follow us so closely, so I want to recognize that loyalty by being straight up with y’all. Know what I mean?

Thanks for letting me share, everyone…


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.


Party On

2544170298 737cf44fe0 Party On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Review Preview

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This is just a quick preview of a book review I’ve promised I’m going to write—the fascinating Alabama Stitch Book. I buy a lot of sewing books (and more recently lots of print making books, too), but I hate to review them until I’ve actually made something out of the book. Looks of books are lovely to look at (such as Amy Butler’s In Stitches)—which has lots of merit as inspiration, but it takes a special one to be truly useful (such as Sew What! Skirts). In order to really know if a book is useful, I just need to dig in and make a project or two out of the book so I can let y’all know if it’s one I can really recommend. So, while I bought Alabama Stitch Book awhile ago, I haven’t had a chance to make anything until now. So, enjoy a little preview of my first project from the book.


Cub Reporter

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Kim, over at TrueUp, the stellar newish blog for the fabric-obsessed, has a guest writer for today’s post—me! Needless to say, I’m thrilled to be her very first guest contributor. So, scoot on over and check out my outsider’s review of the Quilt Market fabric weekend here in Portland.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just wait. You’ll see.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


P.S. Some housekeeping and other notes…

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

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

Sewist’s Block

You probably remember my Hot Patterns Jeanious Jeans that I was so gung-ho about… The ones that were looking totally awesome?

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Well, I finished them up, complete with the hot pink pocket and waistband lining.

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And some funky pink twin needling on the hem.

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Pretty fresh, huh? I thought so, too. And they fit great. Seriously, Hot Patterns’ fit works really well for me.

Anyway, I wore these jeans/trousers to work the day after I finished them. I got a number of compliments on them, including my favorite,

You made those didn’t you? I can tell because there’s hot pink lightning bolts on the ass.

I guess normal people would be annoyed by a comment like that, but it was meant in the nicest way possible. (For the record, I wasn’t thinking lightning bolts, I was just going for something geometric and even possibly “designer”—whatever that means.)

Anyway, I was feeling pretty good about my fancy pants, and Josh picked me up from work that day. I hopped in the car and the second my butt hit the seat I hear,


Yep, my jeans, that I’d worked so hard on, and was so proud of, ripped—and ripped big. Good thing we have heated seats—that’s all I’m saying.

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Anyway, upon inspection, I remembered something I’d noticed when I was sewing these jeans. You see, this was some super cheap denim that Josh had bought at The Despot for a project that he’d thought the better of. So, I commandeered it for my first pair of Hot Patterns Jeanious Jeans. And at one point, when I was doing some topstitching on the yoke or somewhere, and noticed what can just be described as a fabric “nub.” I though, “weird,” and sort of pushed it out of my mind.

I’m thinking that was a mistake. The nub seemed to be the epicenter of the tear—with the fabric basically “running” up and down.

This whole episode has totally gotten my head out of the sewing game. I just can’t seem to get anything going. The only thing I’ve managed to make since this near-catastrophe is my “Not Knitted” Burda World Fashion sweater. It’s stupid because I know that this had nothing to do with my sewing ability, but nevertheless, I feel like I’ve lost my sewing mojo.

I can think, think, think about sewing. Help Josh with sewing. Even cut out another pair of Jeanious Jeans. But when it comes to putting thread to needle to fabric, I just can’t get my head around it.

Maybe it’s Sewist’s Block?


Creative Energy

Josh’s screen printing has really piqued my interest. So much so that since he made his first screen, I had this vision in my head of a tree. I couldn’t quite get my head around what that tree would look like, but I had been messing around with a bunch of different ideas of trees and being slightly obsessed with looking at tree silhouettes online. Weird, I know. Anyway, I finally found the image that I was looking for—in the wonderful book Neubau Welt. This is the description of the book/CD:

My house, my pool, my horse, my Learjet, my Mercedes, my wife, my toys, my trees, my garden, my cockroach. Now it’s really all yours.

It’s an eclectic assortment of royalty-free vector images that are manipulatable using Adobe Illustrator. Pretty sweet!

Anyway, I printed “my tree” on several items, including a raglan sleeved T-shirt that I’m going to reconstruct into a cardigan inspired by The Alabama Stitch Book (I will write a review soon, I promise!). I also got the idea that it would be interesting to “make” my own fabric. And by make my own fabric, I mean printing on some black cotton from our local Ikea. (Oh Ikea, how I love you, even though that love makes me feel really unoriginal.) Using the same deep burgundy I used on my T-shirt, I screen printed my tree at more or less regular intervals over a yard and a half or so of fabric.

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Flat fabric is kind of hard to photograph, so this isn’t quite what it looks like in reality. The tree is a much deeper color, and it’s actually quite subtle. It turned out really lovely—I’m not really looking forward to cutting into it. But I am looking forward to telling people I printed the fabric myself. I’m thinking about either this skirt or this skirt—both from Burda World of Fashion.

Not really sewing related, but I’m also pretty proud of some printing on paper that I did with the same screen.

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I messed around with blending several iridescent colors, trying to mimic (albeit in an abstract sort of way) the way that the leaves on some of the Japanese maples in our yard almost glow in the fall evenings.

I’m warning you: I’m going to sound like a tremendous dork here—don’t say I didn’t warn you! I’ve never really thought of myself as a creative person. I had some really bad experiences in art class in elementary school (91 Grade School in Hubbard, Oregon!) and actually got a really bad grade in art on several occasions. Perspective gave me all kinds of trouble. I also had a lot of problems with the whole complementary colors thing. I distinctly remember having a fairly heated disagreement with my fourth grade teacher over whether or not green and purple are complementary or not. (I thought they were, but I guess our art curriculum didn’t agree.) I sort of realize now that a lot of my problems in art class actually were because I was kind of creative, and wasn’t huge on the rules of art (really, rules have never been my strong point in any context). Anyway, my point is, I’m always reluctant to do “arty” stuff because I have it in the back of my head that I suck at it. Anyway, screenprinting’s been really fun, and the stuff I’ve made with “my tree” doesn’t look half bad! That’s pretty exciting for me.


P.S. Lots of sewing projects we’ve got going on… We’ll update you soon—promise.

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.

2383923198 978c75caca Sewn House = Fun House

2383923064 eb771ff2ee Sewn House = Fun House

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!)


Not Knitted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Back Pocket

I recently had a moment of weakness and was once again tempted by HotPatterns‘ sewing patterns that promise high fashion and really long legs (if you’ve visit the HotPatterns site, you know what I mean). I’d had my eye on a couple of their patterns for a long while (pretty much since my original HotPatterns purchase last year) and finally decided that they’re never going to have another sale, and I was going to have to pay full price (long-time readers will know that this is a rare occasion indeed). These were my two picks (great restraint, just two):

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The “Biker Babe” jacket, I have no idea why I wanted it, except I had to have that pattern—I mean, it’s got an asymmetrical zipper! Who could not want an asymmetrical zipper? It’s pretty bad-ass…

The trouser jeans I’ve wanted since they came out. I love the Burda World of Fashion jeans I made last year, but they definitely have a straight-up jeans look… The trouser jeans are a bit different, kind of dressier—as dressy as jeans can get, that is.

Anyway, I absconded with Josh’s lightweight denim he’d bought recently and am intermittently working on these. I’m trying to make them a bit special, so am busting out with some funky fresh pink stitching details. It’s amazing what you can do with the zig zag stitch.

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2297756114 7c8ff63b2a Back Pocket

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All 180+ stitches on our little Kenmore, and it’s the old fashioned zig zig that’s the best for embellishing.

Not that I’m working on these jeans at all tonight, since we went to Russell Street Barbecue this evening for some barbecued salmon and NoPo lemonade (me) and barbecued tofu and chocolate milk (Josh). After a meal like that, you just don’t come home and sew. That would be weird. Even for us.


Sewing is an attitude.

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

2256403835 a7921dfcfa Sewing is an attitude.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Swell Dressed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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~Sarah the Sewist

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


Mamma Mia!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, he was right.

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She looks pretty fabulous, doesn’t she?

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

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

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

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

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


Ready for the runway?

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Well, I guess if I really were a contestant on Project Runway, this top would be ready for the runway… Just use the glue gun on the hem (this never fails to enrage me when they do it on the show—I scream, “Put down the damn glue gun and sew your stupid hem!”) and call the unfinished arms an edgy/youthful design element and I’d be ready for Heidi, Nina and Michael…

I’m working on a quick project, one of Simplicity’s new Project Runway-inspired patterns, this one being number 3535—a lovely top/tunic/dress thingy that’s pretty much identical to a style I was eying at Nordy’s this fall. I was looking for some rich blue silk like the Nordstrom top, but haven’t been able to find just the right color. However, during my search, some raspberry colored silk/cotton from Robert Kaufman’s “Radiance” line made its way home with me. I haven’t ever used the cotton/silk blends before, but this stuff sure is yummy… It’s got all of the lovely drape of silk but some of the sturdiness of cotton.

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Anyway, it’s progressing nicely and is a really quality, albeit simple, pattern. It’s well designed with some nice details.

What this project really got me thinking about, though, was an article I read recently on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s web site about Project Runway and the revival of sewing in recent years—especially among younger people (like me). What the P-I contends is,

…[Project Runway] has touched off a home-sewing renaissance among young, urban hipsters eager to add fabric draping and bobbin winding to their repertoire of craft skills.

I think that it’s fabulous that the show has inspired people to think about sewing, but I also think that the timing was right for P.R. to become popular. Many of the young people that I know really are fed up with everything in life being mass-produced and, well, boring. If this frustration hadn’t been building, would the Bravo series have been such a hit? It’s a desire for self-expression and something different that gets a lot of people excited (me!).

The Post-Intelligencer echoed this sentiment a bit (although the “girls night out” thing annoys the crap out of me),

Rising from the ashes is a new brand of sewing that emphasizes self-expression, individuality, digital technology and girls-night-out camaraderie (though a surprising number of men have take it up as well).

Anyway, I’m being a smidge stream-of-consciousness here, but I guess my point is: Project Runway has helped sewing come to the forefront as a hobby. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if once the show has run its course (I’d hate to see it go—it’s definitely on my Netflix queue), hopefully the groundwork has been laid that people are still feeling energized and excited about sewing. I like these new Simplicity patterns because they do encourage creativity (apparently, I’m a minority in this—most sewing people I’ve talked to are really annoyed at the way these patterns are put together, with the individual elements and add-ons). I hope that they help inspire people new to sewing to stay excited about what they do, to build on their skills (because I think this is key to staying interested) and experiment (also key to keeping one’s interest up). Although, for Josh’s sake, I do wish they would put out a couple of these patterns in menswear, too.

Simplicity does need to include a note in the Project Runway pattern instructions reminding people that a glue gun has no role in hemming. Just in case anyone’s a little too inspired by the show.


I’ve stopped whining…

Because my Sophia Bag looks so awesome!

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

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It was totally worth it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No Pain, No Gain?

from sarah the sewist 

I spent a lot of this weekend working on Amy Butler’s lovely new pattern, the Sophia Bag. However, this pattern has officially kicked my ass. Or at least my fingers.

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Yep, that’s my index finger—one of the many victims of this little project. As of this evening, I have had to stop bleeding on my fingers three times, and suffered a couple of bruised finger tips. I never knew that you finger tips could actually bruise! I believe about half of our pins are now toast as well.

Yes, I’m feeling sorry for myself. No, I’m not apologizing for feeling sorry for myself.

This bag is shaping up to be a pretty cool one, despite all of the drama.

For something a bit different (okay, maybe a lot different), I’m using an Alexander Henry home dec weight fabric called “Tattoo Too.” It’s absolutely brilliant. It’s got lots of funky stylized “tattoos” all over…

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I love the slightly edgy look of this fabric constrasting with the very girly, old-fashion shape and lines of this bag. It’s fun and a little unexpected.

Here’s a close up of one of the tattoos—the only thing that would make this better is if it said “Mom” in the heart instead of “Amor:”

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Just like Amy’s High Street Messenger Bag (several of which I made this fall), there are a lot of pieces to this one—but, luckily, I’ve made enough of these bags to save my sanity and label, label, label each piece (ask my how I learned this lesson).

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I also had an adventure with the piping, somehow buying way too thick of cording to make the piping—I know I bought the quarter-inch stuff like was called for, but I think my stuff was a lot more dense that most cording, so I zipped back over to Fabric Depot before they closed last night and bought three yards of 3/32 cording instead. (I’m a big spender—my total came to 62 cents. This may be some sort of fabric store buying record.)

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So far, I’ve made a few changes, including the piping size: after staying up until 2:00 a.m. last night wrestling with the bottom panel with all of its piping and interfacing, etc, and then getting up wrestling with it some more, I just decided to omit the bottom panel’s piping. (Sidebar: I really need to investigate my options for creating a sturdy bag without so much thickness. There’s got to be a way.) Oh, and I added feet to the bottom.

I had hoped to finish this up this evening, but honestly, my hands and fingers ache. And the trusty Kenmore really needs a break. It was starting to get pretty aggravated with my abuse. It’s been so good to me, so I need to return the favor. After this project’s done, I’m going to give it a good de-linting and clean out as a reward.

Well, off to nurse my wounds.

Cool Blue

2160708065 771fe81394 o Cool Blue

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?

Punk Poodle Coat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not so quick, I tell you.

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

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

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

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

Hard to give away…

from sarah the sewist

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Hard to give away...

 Hard to give away...

Rip City Raglan

from sarah the sewist

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

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

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

The two had to meet. It was fate.

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

However, I wasn’t done…

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

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

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

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

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


from sarah the sewist

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, the jeans do look pretty good…

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

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

A Sewer-Sewist Holiday Gift Guide, Part 1

 A Sewer Sewist Holiday Gift Guide, Part 1

Despite the continued pressures of “buying stuff” we love the holiday season and love giving gifts (and the Sewer loves to get them—lots of childhood issues, that one). In the spirit of the season, we decided to put together a gift guide to handmade or unique gifts. Some of these are Portland-centric, but they’re certainly a great excuse to visit our fabulous city (aside from the lack of a sales tax and not pumping your own gas)—some of these may seem odd for a sewing blog, but we believe in supporting the unique and creative whenever possible. Besides, we know that (amazing as it may be) not everyone shares the sewing bug.

We’re trying to make most of our gifts, but, undoubtedly, some will come from this list once our sewing energy wears out. The following represent our favorite individuals, small companies or large companies with a unique approach to their business.

Bolt. Obviously we love Bolt here in Portland’s Alberta Arts District/awesome Concordia neighborhood. You guys have heard us sing the praises of this wonderful little fabric shop a time or two, and we’re lucky enough to have this shop right here within walking distance of our house. What better gift for your favorite Portland-based sewer or sewist (or even a quilter) than a gift certificate to this lovely shop? If you want something more personal than a gift certificate, how about a couple of yards of fabric from her selection of interesting wool blends or silk, or some funky sweater knits, or maybe even an interesting embroidery pattern for someone looking to learn a different type of stitching. Sadly for those of you outside of the Portland area, Bolt is a bricks and mortar operation. (While you’re at it, check out some of Alberta Streets other interesting, independently-owned shops—you’ll be sure to find something unique, handmade and thoughtful.)

Ebbets Field Flannels. Sometimes you just want to buy something that you could probably replicate. As you can tell the Sewer loves (loves) vintage athletic wear. Mitchell and Ness (now owned by Reebok, which is owned by Adidas) is probably the name that is most associated with the “throwback” look, but if you are looking for old baseball stuff Ebbets Field Flannels is the place to go. Located in sunny (har!) Seattle, their flannels are made in the U.S. and Canada of original fabric, construction and craftsmanship. After a brief merger with Stall and Dean, when the Sewer felt the quality was not as high, the original owners are back. The Sewer has a jacket and his eyes on a ton of flannels. Two favorites are the classic Josh Gibson (the Sewer’s namesake, by the way) Homestead Grays Flannel and this 1953 Estrellas Orientales Road Jersey. They can also custom-make a jersey of your choice. Their stuff isn’t cheap, but that’s sort of the idea—it’s not cheap, it’s made authentically, and we don’t see quality like this much anymore. By the way, the Sewer’s father has always enjoyed great customer service, especially by phone.

Arbor Longboards. When the Sewer was a kid he had skateboard and rode all around the little town in Ohio in which he grew up. Josh was also terrible at: tricks, jumps and cool stuff. Now that he is feeling old and wants to skate again, he is riding a longboard, which allows him the free feeling of skateboarding without the pressure to do anything but go forward. The Sewist is starting to pick up this habit and has been riding an Arbor Longboard (the 36” Bamboo Bug to be exact, a great size for Sarah). The Sewer has been looking on in great jealously and plans to upgrade to an Arbor soon. Why do we like Arbor? Well, their longboards and snowboards are incredibly beautiful to start. They use environmentally friendly woods like sustainable Koa and maple wood, bamboo and non-toxic glue in their boards. Did we mention that they are beautiful? To order we suggest Daddies Board Shop here in Portland (in person or by their extensive website), they have always been great to deal with, can answer any questions you might have and are strong supporters of the skate community in PDX.

Uniwatch. Do you or significant other love a specific sports team or care about one at an unhealthy level (The Sewer slowly raises his eyes to the Sewist, who is dressed in red and black for her beloved Blazers as their game against Detroit is broadcast through our radio). One of the most unique gift ideas we have seen is a membership to Uniwatch. A great website to track sports uniforms and a great access to insider information on uniform design, construction and materials (believe it or not the Sewer has figured out construction techniques while reading an entry). This lively community not only features your “ra-ra” sports fan but also includes professional and college equipment managers, designers (not just sports), sporting good manufacturers, and jersey customizers. If you love Purple or Nike this is not the place for you. If you love socks you will like it here. The website is free of course, but one of the advantages of membership is a custom member card that features your name and number on the “jersey” of your choice. You can choose the back of your favorite teams jersey from your favorite year and color, even the 1977 Blazers.

The Button Emporium. Buttons, who doesn’t love ‘em and who doesn’t need them. The place we go when we need something unique or specific is the Button Emporium and Ribbonry here in Portland. They have a metric ton of buttons (we didn’t actually measure, but it is impressive). We have found them to be incredibly helpful and have picked up tips on buttons and sewage hookups. Really this place is small town America (and all of its wonderfulness) in the middle of Portland. If you need to close something, this is the place to go. The do have online ordering, but it’s worth a visit if you’re here in Stumptown.

Well, that’s the first five. Hopefully, you’ll find this useful for the oddball in your life. We’ll post five more in a couple of days.

Pretty in Plaid

3835 Pretty in Plaidfrom sarah the sewist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: The Collection by Gioia Diliberto

415%2BXDWLSfL. AA240  Book Review: The Collection by Gioia Dilibertofrom sarah the sewist

Taking a brief break from our regular programming here at Sewer-Sewist…

If you’re in need of a good read, but don’t want to break away from the sewing completely, take a look at The Collection by Gioia Diliberto. There aren’t a lot of books around that actually feature sewing as a plot device. (In fact, if you can think of any, particularly any that are actually good, let us know, and we’ll compile a list.) Not only is sewing central to the plot, it’s truly the catalyst for the story, with the first line in the book being, “Instead of dying, I learned to sew.” You gotta love that.

Anyway, this book tells the story of a seamstress in post-WWI Paris, who has joined the House of Chanel (as in Coco) just as fashion is becoming relevant again. While there are several fascinating subplots involving personal relationships, the outrageousness of Coco Chanel and the energy of Paris at the time, what I was most enthralled with was the story of the creation of a very special dress for “the collection.” This dress is just one of those projects, the ones that never end, if you know what I mean. Isabelle, the main character, even names the dress—Angeline. For whatever reason, probably because I sew myself, I just was rooting for this dress to work out. I won’t say much more about it, because if the saga of the dress, too, fascinates you, I don’t want to spoil it.

I thought this book would simply be a fun read, but it was honestly absolutely captivating. It’s more than the summer beach reading that I thought it would be. Because of the book jacket and some of the overly-embellished reviews, I had a vision that it would be something like Sex in the City post-WWI Chanel style. I was very wrong. This was not a fluffy read at all. Definitely it is a curl up next to the fire on a cold winter night type of novel.

It’s also worth mentioning that this book seems to be very historically accurate and well-researched. There’s a pretty comprehensive bibliography, that would probably be well worth a look if you’re interested in fashion history. I also think that with the holidays coming up this would be a thoughtful gift for someone who loves sewing or fashion.

Check your favorite local bookstore for The Collection, or virtually visit my favorite, Powell’s (this is my frame of reference for what a bookstore should be—we’re so spoiled here in Portland).

If it were raining on the moon…

from sarah the sewist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out of the Trenches

from sarah the sewist

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

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

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

1445913294 e39d4c03c1 o Out of the Trenches

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

1445050979 9414d022c6 o Out of the Trenches
I also faced the pink bands at the sleeves and bottom so that they’d have more of a structured look and flare out a bit more. Which I think turned out pretty nice, since the two fabrics were different weights. The contrasting bands actually, oddly, toned down the busy look of the main fabric, which is sort of interesting.
1445050691 b3ba183d61 o Out of the Trenches
I must have placed the three stupid button on this jacket at least three times. Each. It was really difficult to figure out the right spot for the buttons, and I still not completely satisfied with the way the buttons look on the jacket. I am really crappy at hand sewing and avoid doing so at all costs. Our sewing machine does a lot for us—including auto buttonholes and it’s really easy to use the machine to attach buttons. However, like I mentioned in a previous entry, the buttons I chose for this jacket were too big for the auto buttonholer, and it turns out, also are too big to sew on with the sewing machine. Which sucked. So I spent all of last evening sewing and re-sewing the buttons.

Basically, the buttons won.

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

In the Trenches, Part 2

1435134261 f1e41532f9 In the Trenches, Part 2from sarah the sewist

I’m making good progress on the Indygo Junction Trench Topper that I’m sewing as part of the Trench Coat Sew Along on Pattern Review. It’s been fun being motivated by knowing that others are working on similar projects at the same time (and I feel a bit of extra pressure for it to look extra-fabulous); however, this project has had some silly problems.

First, the ones that are beyond my control: the sleeve markings are screwy on this trench coat—basically, there’s no way to tell which side of the sleeve is the front and which is the back; the neck facing is way wide than the shoulder facing that it’s supposed to be joined with, so I had to fix that issue; and the belt for the trench is waaaaaay to short. Like seven inches too short. Anyway, I worked through those issues, and am on the home stretch at this point. As an aside, I emailed the lovely folks at Indygo Junction and let them know about the problems I’d had with the drafting of the pattern, and they were fabulous, and seemed very appreciative of the feedback. I was very impressed—I’ve sent my observations of errors/issues in patterns to other companies (I figure everyone has an interest in having high quality patterns) and they’re not always so receptive. Thanks, Indygo Junction!

Now, the issue that was basically my stubbornness getting the best of me. I’m using some really big buttons for this project. Like 1 5/8″ in diameter. I needed to make one buttonhole. Well, since Josh and I got our fancy schmancy new Janome-made Kenmore 19233 sewing machine that has one-step automatic buttonholes, making buttonholes has been a dream. Seriously, this is probably my second-favorite feature on the machine (this first being the speed control). However, apparently, the auto feature doesn’t allow for buttons over one inch. So I searched the owners manual, then the internet, then all of the Pattern Review message boards that had any reference to buttonholes, and Kenmore sewing machines. Then I just cried. Because I just couldn’t make a stupid buttonhole. (Someone on Pattern Review posted the directions for overriding the auto function for the Janome equivalent machine, but it just wouldn’t work for me.)

Anyway, I experimented.

1435912878 f2e9b55b55 o In the Trenches, Part 2
A lot.

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Finally, I just fudged it, and it looks okay. I don’t care that it’s not perfect. At least I can get the damn button in the damn buttonhole and close the stupid thing. And that’s all I really wanted.

1435913042 e9998ba378 o In the Trenches, Part 2
On the home stretch…

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.)

Another Burda WoF Skirt

from sarah the sewist

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

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

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

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

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

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

1368589889 4c775ddf87 o Another Burda WoF Skirt

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

Intern’s Ottoman

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

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

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

Very Green Bag

frenchy bags cover med Very Green Bagfrom sarah the sewist

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

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

The result? Well, pretty green.

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

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

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

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

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

1309047737 9e6e458213 o Very Green Bag

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

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

As always, the dog got in on the action:

1309933492 1c13ff34e2 o Very Green Bag

Love it

from sarah the sewist

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

1227768290 606904fb97 Love it
Anyway, this is the three-quarter length sleeve version, and it’s in an absolutely beautiful stretch cotton sateen from Robert Kaufman’s “Vera” line that I got at Bolt here in Stumptown with this pattern in mind. I had second-guessed myself shortly afterward, thinking that maybe this pattern wasn’t special enough for such a wonderfully smooth, elegant, and uniquely sturdy fabric. I’m glad I didn’t just make another skirt or something, because the pattern and the fabric do pair very well together, creating a sort of fifties vibe.

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

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

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

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

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

1227767546 ebf9585d39 o Love it

Perfect Princess?

HPTP%20Plain%20&%20Simple%20Princess%20Shirt%20Env Perfect Princess?
from sarah the sewist

I’m nearing the home stretch on a shirt that may very well be an almost perfect dress shirt (for me).

About a month or so ago I sucked it up and bought three Hot Patterns patterns that I’d had my eye on—this was during their buy 2, get 1 free deal. I chose three that I thought would be very good basic wardrobe pieces: Plain & Simple Princess Shirt, Classix Nouveaux Raxor Sharp Pants and the Deco Vibe Cocoon Coat. They’re each from a different one of Hot Patterns’ (very cleverly-named) lines—so I could get a feeling of what their fit and design was like across a range of styles, and they’re honestly quite pricey ($15-18 a pop). I’d been intrigued by their contemporary, Nordstrom-esque (Josh and I both love Nordy’s waaaaay too much) designs, so I took the plunge and purchased them.

The first up was the Plain & Simple Princess Shirt. I cut into the gorgeous pink Robert Kaufman that I wrote about here. I love this fabric and it’s been amazing to work with. This shirt has come together wonderfully, with the exception of a bit of a hiccup (okay, a day-long hiccup) with the collar. It’s constructed like a tailored jacket lapel, rather than a regular shirt collar. I wished I’d snapped to that before I started, because that would have saved me a lot of ripping. I was saved by this post on the Off the Cuff sewing blog. If you’re planning on trying this shirt, please read that oh-so-helpful post first. Trust me.

I’ve only got to hem the shirt and figure out the button placement. I also want to take in the waist seams a bit as well, to create a more fitted silhouette. So, hopefully, I’ll be able to post the finished product in the next day or so.

Oh, and when I do post the finished product, I won’t be wearing like the sketch model in the long-sleeved blouse (sorry, Josh!). Just in case you were worried.

No So Charming

from sarah the sewist

I should have quit while I was ahead.

Last weekend I picked up the Betsy Ross Patterns’ “Charmed Dress” pattern. It’s not really anything that unusual or special, but it seemed like a nice, classic style dress produced by an independent pattern company. I regularly read the designer/owner’s blog and really like supporting the independent companies, so I’d wanted to try one of her patterns.

This should have been my first clue that this simple, straightforward dress wasn’t meant to be.

1034677424 778ea252ff o No So Charming
If you could see my face in the photo, you would notice that I’m absolutely perplexed. The pattern pieces simply don’t fit on the two yards of fabric called for in the pattern. I ended up contorting the pattern pieces, and myself, trying to make it fit (I can be a bit stubborn—just ask Josh). Finally, as the picture shows, I got the pieces to fit, but they were touching, so I was cutting it (har, har) very close. Measuring the pattern pieces and the fabric, the math simply doesn’t work.

But I pushed on. Using a Michael Miller pink and brown polka dot fabric my mom picked up for me, I cut the thing out. Following the (really excellent, way better than most you see) directions, I proceeded to sew the skirt together—which went fine—and then the bodice. It was at this point something went very, very wrong. The bodice and the skirt literally couldn’t physically connect to one another. The bodice stopped well above my belly-button, while the skirt ended where it’s supposed to—at the natural waist. It simply wasn’t going to happen. Now, I am not a tall person, so this cannot be explained away by an oddly long torso or something. I would post a picture, but that would be scary for the readers and mortifying for me. There were several other issues (that were resolvable), such as the dart needing to be moved somewhat, but I just can’t get over this one. It’s definitely a first—usually I’m able to at least get to the point where I can sew two major parts of a garment together.

Anyway… What to do? What to do? It seems like this is an entirely fixable problem. I really just need to make a new bodice that’s much, much longer. I could just make a skirt out of the bottom half and call it a day.

Either way, I am very disappointed, as I really like the classic styles offered by the company, and like that there’s a real person behind the business. I almost wonder if I got a defective pattern. I noticed on the web site that the size range I bought isn’t even offered anymore, so I do wonder if there have been others with the same problem, and it’s a design flaw? I’m also really annoyed with myself, because there were many, many points at which I knew that there was something wrong with this pattern, that it wasn’t going to work, but I continued working on it. I really should have listened to my instincts. I have enough “sewing sense” that I’m usually right about these things.

All, in all, here’s what I think of the Betsy Ross “Charmed Dress”
The Good: The directions are formatted in a little booklet, which is much easier to deal with than an big ol’ sheet that I can’t ever fold back correctly; the tone is very friendly, but not annoyingly so; I also like the black pattern envelope (weird, I know); the style is classic.
The Bad: The pattern doesn’t adjust fabric quantities for various sizes, which is annoying and just plain inaccurate. The dart placement is a bit low, and a little more straight on, if that makes sense. I prefer a more diagonal style. There aren’t finished garment measurements or ease amounts included, which I find annoying, but that’s a common gripe I have with any number of patterns.
The Ugly: Uh, the fact that the pieces simply don’t connect? That’s really ugly.

I’ll keep you posted if I decide to re-draft the bodice.

A First

gumdrop cover med A Firstfrom sarah the sewist

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

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

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

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

Then the real fun began…

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, and the dog loves it.

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New Fabric

1034683452 dc78df7d3c o New Fabricfrom sarah the sewist

One pink, one brown. Both Robert Kaufman stretch “Vera” sateen. Had a plan for these, but reconsidering said plan. For some reason pants and a shirt just don’t seem interesting enough. Lots of projects to go before I have to commit either of these to a pattern.

Both were procured this weekend at Bolt. They also had red. The red was pretty awesome.

Two Buck Skirt

1018427127 cdb029910b Two Buck Skirtfrom sarah the sewist

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOOK REVIEW: Sew What! Skirts

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

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

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

I have made three skirts utilizing the book so far.

First, inspired by the “Asian Dream” skirt:

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

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

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

And, finally, my banana bike skirt:

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

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

Bag Lady

from sarah the sewist

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

First, my Will the Wolf Survive? messenger bag:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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