{Field Trip!} Honkin’ Huge Flowers

3902397064 09e08262f1 {Field Trip!} Honkin Huge Flowers

This Labor Day we piled into the car, along with our friend Bryan (check out his beautiful new photoblog, by the way) and went down to Sarah’s hometown of Canby to check out one of the cooler annual events in this area–the Swan Island Dahlia Festival. (Locals: Even though the festival is technically over, you can still visit the flowers for a few more weeks–actually, it’s kind of more fun when it’s not the official festival. If you go, the Canby Burgerville is one of the best. Just sayin’…) It’s simply acres and acres of dahlias of all sizes, shapes and colors–it’s a real visual treat.

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If we had been smart, we would have grabbed the handy sheet they had available and made a note of the really fabulous ones, since we’re definitely going to plant a few at our new house (more on that in a future post). But, we didn’t do that until we were leaving–whoops. Continue reading »

Ooooh! Bolt’s having a sale!

bolt Ooooh! Bolts having a sale!

Even if you don't live in the Portland area, you should be reading Bolt's blog--it's full of awesome stuff and pretty pictures of fabric.

So, we’ve been very naughty bloggers lately. Basically all summer long. We haven’t really had a post of any substance in over a month–isn’t that terrible. We have lots of good reasons, basically that this summer has been very hectic and extremely stressful. We’re hoping that things will calm down over the next couple of months, and that we’ll resume our regularly-scheduled programming here at Sewer-Sewist. We so enjoy writing this blog and connecting with all of you.

Anyway, we wanted to let you locals know about an awesome sale that our favorite fabric store, Bolt on NE Alberta Street, is having this weekend. All fabric is 20% off all weekend long! And Gina, Bolt’s fabulous owners, only carries top-notch, beautiful fabrics, so you’re bound to find something that’s just what you “need.” We love that Bolt doesn’t just carry quilting cottons, but also has a huge variety of stuff that’s great for garments, decorating, etc. Plus, the quilting cottons that are at Bolt are all ones that work for a whole lot of other things, which is great for us, since we make mostly clothes and accessories. We don’t really need to go on and on about the awesomeness or local fabric shop, but we sure do love it! So, if you’re local, and looking to treat yourself to some wonderful fabric, head on down there this weekend. Oh, and if you’re not local, you’re not totally out of luck, because they recently launched a very cool blog about the shop and neighborhood.

~S & J

Letterpress Workshop – Final Day

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

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Josh's locked up type for his baseball project.

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Josh operating the press.

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Locked up type from Josh's project.

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

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Both colors printed on fawn-colored paper.

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

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Detail of this beautiful type called Prisma.

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


Day Three of Letterpress – Now Our Feet Really Hurt

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

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Inked rollers...

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Inked rollers & locked up type.

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Hot pink ink. (Not ours.)

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

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

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Green ink draw down.

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Back of my type project.

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


Photos from Letterpress Workshop

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

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

Continue reading »

Celebrating Our Anniversary, Sewer-Sewist Style

3637799930 98c7e60a70 Celebrating Our Anniversary, Sewer Sewist Style

Today’s our 4th wedding anniversary. Last year, we celebrated by screenprinting weird T-shirts, Josh creating a bizarre–yet appropriate–fake commemorative poster for the Moon Family Band and by making new outdoor lights for our patio.

This year, we’re taking a four-day letterpress and mail art class together, this Thursday through Sunday. It should be loads of fun–and what a treat to get to spend four full days just making stuff and learning together! Undoubtedly, Josh will make something crazy and Sarah will shoot for something entirely overly ambitious. Should be a great time.

Cheer, everyone!

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A Year O’ Screenprinted T-Shirts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Shameless Self-Promotion – We’re in Stitch Magazine!

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Have you seen Interweave‘s awesome special magazine, Stitch? We loved it when the first issue was released–it’s defintiely a magazine for folks who love to sew and create. Well, the second issue of Stitch features a lovely article by the marvelous Susan Beal, and she interviewed Sarah for her article “Print Me,” which is about how to customize your sewing with DIY screen-printed fabrics. And, also flattering, little ol’ Sewer-Sewist was listed as resource for those aspiring to screen print at home.

Stitch is on newsstands now–it’s a great magazine and Susan’s article is wonderful, featuring loads of interesting and inspiring folks who are screen printing at home.

~Josh & Sarah

Garden Dreams

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

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

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

We’ve pretty much gardened together ever since.

Continue reading »

Snowpocalypse ’08!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our view for days and days and days...

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

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

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

Happy holidays, everyone!

~Josh & Sarah

Snowed In

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Notice that the dog has kicked off one of her booties? She really regretted that once she realized how cold the ground was.

Ugh. It’s been frigid here in Portland, and we’ve even had a dusting of snow–a rare sight, for sure. So we’ve been stuck in the house (with the notable exceptions of Josh going to work for a few hours each day and venturing out to the Blazers vs. Kings game last night). You’d think that would help with the final push to get all of our holiday gifts finished and shipped. Yeah, you’d think. As of Sunday, this was the state of all of our gifts that needed to be made.

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The pile looks pretty daunting, eh?

We sent Sunday slogging through a couple of gifts for folks–the pieced bag (for Josh’s grandma) from Anna Maria Horner’s new book and a fancy hostess apron for Josh’s stepmother (also from Anna Maria’s book). Josh’s other grandmother is going to be getting an Amy Butler Downtown Purse, which she specifically mentioned when she didn’t get one last year (she saw Josh’s stepmother‘s last year), and it’s almost done, just needs the lining sewn attached to the bag body.

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Half of the pieced bag--this is looking dangerously close to quilting...

We’re on the home stretch, but totally blew our December 16 deadline. (Snow was a factor, but not the factor.) This year, we’re not attempting any insanity like last, in which we tried to make everything for everyone. That was just too stressful and exhausting. And, frankly, not everyone likes a homemade gift (weird, huh?).

In other–completely random–news, Sarah was shopping for the fabric for the pieced bag at Fabric Depot last week and was innocently minding her own business when she crashed smack into this pillar with her cart.

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At least they had the decency to paint it red.

Yes, it’s a concrete pillar, the same height as the bolts of fabric, in the middle of the aisle. Hands down, The Despot has one of the most inhospitable shopping environments ever. What, they’re booby-trapping the store now?

And, finally, this is Josh’s secret holiday project. He calls it, “A Very Zombie Christmas.” Can’t say much else about it…

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This guy was left over from our garage sale from hell.

Happy holidays, everyone. And please reassure us that we’re not the only ones who have totally botched up the gifting and decorating this year…

~S & J

Crafts We Can Believe In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Barack Obama

~S & J

Book Review: Printing by Hand by Lena Corwin

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Lena Corwin’s book “Printing by Hand: A Modern Guide to Printing with Handmade Stamps, Stencils and Silk Screens” (published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, the same folks who brought us the beautiful Alabama Stitch Book) caught our eye when it was featured on Design Sponge earlier this summer. Her aesthetic is very interesting—rather minimalist, yet bold and printed. It’s an interesting juxtaposition.

The book is a comprehensive overview of all three major printing techniques (stamping, stenciling and screening) and their different applications using a variety of inks and printing surfaces. One of the most valuable aspects of this new book is its focus on design. We have a lot of printing books, and they all have their relative merits, and this one stands out because of its focus on developing and executing an original, hand printed design.

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Some of the stamping techniques are very unique, leaving us wanting to try more and more printing techniques (it’s so addictive!). For example, did you know that you can create your own large stamps using foam mount and clear plexiglass? We sure didn’t. But you can and the results are pretty spectacular. Another unique application of the rubber block stamps that’s described in the book is using a large rubber black stamp and cutting an inverse stamp and printing on fabric to create an almost patchwork-like effect.

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This is definitely something that would be wonderful to create to cover our dining table/workspace.

Another technique that we’d never thought about before is using oil-based spay paint for stenciling. With a bold stencil, this can look quite dramatic, and is a pretty simple process, making it ideal for a large-scale project like curtains or even upholstery.

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Would you believe that the chair seat is printed with spray paint? Us either. Given the range of interesting spray paints available these days, you could do some really creative projects. (Although here in Portland, buying spray paint is a colossal paint in the butt, due to local regulations.) In fact, the stenciling section is extremely helpful, as many of the techniques can also be translated for use in screen printing as well, so they do double duty. Plus, like the spray paint, there are a number of mediums and tools that we hadn’t considered before, such as mylar, that are covered in the book. Our osprey pillows were created using the freezer paper stencil technique from Printing by Hand.

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There’s another one of the unique elements of Printing by Hand: a very thorough discussion of the design process, particularly creating repeats, which is something we haven’t seen in other printing books. We were very excited about this, since we’re interesting in printing small “runs” of fabric for our personal projects. While some books have described the theory of creating repeats, we haven’t seen much in the way of the practical application of actually physically creating and printing repeats and pattern design. (Not that we’ve completed a comprehensive survey of all printing books, but we’ve looked at a lot of them!)2843277351 999e8d4bcd Book Review: Printing by Hand by Lena Corwin

Since there’s such a variety of topics covered in Printing by Hand, it’s hard to give it an overall assessment. It’s definitely one that we would highly recommend for your printing library. It’s interesting, however, because the screen printing section is definitely more design focused than it is practical screen printing. For example, the author has obviously had difficulties with burning her own screens (uh, we can TOTALLY relate) and therefore suggests that you take your screens to a screen printing shop to be burned. While this makes a whole lot of sense, especially if you’re an apartment dweller with little space, it’s completely doable yourself–it just takes some trial and error. If this is something you’re interested in, there are a number of books that focus on the technical aspects of screen printing that you’d want as a companion to this one. With that said, we recommend Printing by Hand without reservation. For us, it not only provided us with a logical next step in our printing education (creating repeats and more sophisticated designs), it also opened our eyes to the possibilities of techniques and materials we hadn’t previously considered. All of the patterns used in the book are included in an envelope attached to the back cover and there’s a good resource list as well, so the book really arms you with everything you need to start experimenting. This one’s a real winner.

~Sarah & Josh

Note: For another take, check out Kim’s review over on True Up.

Pillow Fight

Not really.

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

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

Which leads us back to the topic at hand.

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

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

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

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

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2772437555 76141de302 Pillow Fight

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

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

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


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


Field Trip: A Hood River Surprise

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

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

2745075133 85506ca26f Field Trip: A Hood River Surprise

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

2745075245 c967eb6cf5 Field Trip: A Hood River Surprise

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

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

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

~Sarah & Josh

That was awesome!

2700740640 4c1b188e91 o That was awesome!

We had a real treat today—Rachel (aka Average Jane Crafter) and her wonderful hubby were here in Portland and Diane facilitated a fun get together this evening at Thatch, the super-cool tiki bar on northeast Broadway. Not only was the company fabulous, it’s pretty awesome to feast on pupu platters and drinks with umbrella garnishes.

We feel so lucky to be a part of such a fabulous creative community and even more fortunate that those connections can translate into “real life.” Thanks, Diane, for bringing everyone together—this was definitely a major highlight in our year!

Although we do think that Rachel needs to be a little more encouraging of her husband’s desire to sew himself a pair of Gene Kelly trousers. We’re just sayin’…

~Sarah & Josh

Crafting Across Cultures

(Or why we love Uwajimaya.)

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

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

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The photography and styling in these books is just beautiful.

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

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

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

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

2686695797 1f57091495 Crafting Across Cultures

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

2686697169 319267809f Crafting Across Cultures

2687512566 49baf2cdb7 Crafting Across Cultures

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

2687513622 62cac03a74 Crafting Across Cultures

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

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~Sarah & Josh

A Day at the Beach

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

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2669284785 4b7c43cf95 A Day at the Beach
2669282719 c2eef76811 A Day at the Beach

2670106082 6f951de0a8 A Day at the Beach

~Sarah & Josh


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

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

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

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

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2665809298 a034eef7df Blocked


Sewing a Celebration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2637447780 9bcbb3d405 Sewing a Celebration

Star placement on a traditional American flag.

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

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Techniques for stitching on the stars on the blue background.

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One of the author’s original flag designs.

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

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

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

wa200505A18 00 Sewing a Celebration

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

~S & J

Tutorial: Adirondack Chair Redux

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

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

2620499080 9038cacb54 Tutorial: Adirondack Chair Redux

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

2619676693 01d38273d5 Tutorial: Adirondack Chair Redux

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

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

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

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

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2620498834 98e630edef Tutorial: Adirondack Chair Redux

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

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

Now the fun begins…

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

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2619675875 09d27b3efc Tutorial: Adirondack Chair Redux

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

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2620499886 84162df220 Tutorial: Adirondack Chair Redux

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

Now even more fun…

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

2620497218 ce0378ef43 Tutorial: Adirondack Chair Redux

2619672709 39057209ab Tutorial: Adirondack Chair Redux

2620496864 f9750893df Tutorial: Adirondack Chair Redux

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

2606896290 385026626a Tutorial: Adirondack Chair Redux

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

~Sarah & Josh

Extreme Makeover: Plastic Adirondack Chair Edition

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

2606957336 1ef2198cf3 Extreme Makeover: Plastic Adirondack Chair Edition

2606128311 cb3c0683fe o Extreme Makeover: Plastic Adirondack Chair Edition

2606957088 a61bf578bb Extreme Makeover: Plastic Adirondack Chair Edition

2606896290 385026626a Extreme Makeover: Plastic Adirondack Chair Edition

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What do you think?

~S & J


2586015640 c66584a8a0 Anniversary

No, not our “Blogiversary” (that’s next month), but our real-life, actual anniversary was yesterday, June 17. It was our third, although we’ve actually been a couple since 1996.

Being the crafty type Josh made us customized, hand screen printed matching T-shirts (sort of matching, actually, one in magenta, one in baby blue) as a surprise. We’re not the sort of couple that normally wears matching T-shirts, but these are pretty awesome. Check out the screens ready to go.

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And they’re in German, an homage to wacky eighties band and concerts shirts. Josh’s creation is a tribute to the Moon Family Band—catchphrase: “A Girl, A Guy, A Dog – A Drum, A Flute, A Howl.”

Trust us, it’s a very funny/clever inside joke.

And a tribute to how the Moon Family Band (that’s us), together, can do just about anything.

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~Josh & Sarah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Big Printin’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sewing Emergency

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Have your sewing troubles ever gotten this bad?

From the The New Zealand Herald:

A woman in a rush to get to a garden party called 111 to ask for help with her sewing.

The woman, who has not been identified, called police in Rotorua yesterday pleading for help to thread her needle.

Now our friend Bryan, who recently deserted us for the greener pastures of Auckland, New Zealand, tells us that dialing 1-1-1 is like dialing 9-1-1 here in the States.

But the best part is the police response to her panicked call:

No one was sent as the local police lacked the necessary skill, the spokesman said.

So are we to assume that if someone had known how to sew they would have responded? Perhaps the Sewing Police? What if they needed to call for backup? Like for a bound buttonhole or something? One can only imagine!

Well, aside from when Josh “Incredible Hulked” a shirt, we can’t say it’s ever gotten quite that bad here at Sewer-Sewist, but we’ve been close.

How ’bout you? Ever had a doozy of a sewing emergency?

~Sarah & Josh

Putting on our idea hats…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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~Josh & Sarah

Rocket Science

Well, not really.

We have a nifty plastic box that’s supposed to hold bobbins, which is all well and good, except, it doesn’t really keep the tangled mess of threads from unused bobbins from knotting up into one another. It’s a tremendous pain in the ass during those moments when you just want the damn bobbin of black thread. We’re sure you can relate.

Anyway, on Sunday when Sarah was wresting with that damn bobbin full of black thread that was all tied up with both the damn bobbin of hot pink thread and the damn bobbin of red thread, she happened to glance up a noticed the roll of blue tape that’s oh-so-useful for oh-so-many things—taping patterns together after they’ve been hacked up for alterations, taping Burda World of Fashion patterns to the window for tracing without leaving a mark, et cetera. It’s great stuff, since it is meant for painting, it doesn’t leave sticky residue behind. Anyway, it was one of those head slapping moments: “Tape the threads to the bobbins so the won’t get tangled!”

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No, not rocket science, but it sure helped with the irritating tangle of thread.

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Anyway, a very simple solution to a simple problem.

How ’bout you? You have any “Not Rocket Science” solutions to those everyday, annoying sewing problems?

~Josh & Sarah

What’s going on?!

Something strange is going on in our little sewing world here.

First, Sarah just keeps fighting with every single project that comes down the pike. Case in point: Sarah’s first attempt at Amy Butler’s Lotus Tunic/Dress. A lovely, straight-forward pattern that has all the makings of a real winner. All the fitting issues were worked out. It was lookin’ good. Except one small thing. The fabric. It was a wool “melange” that we got at the Woolen Mill Annex during our little field trip last month. Pretty stuff, a beige and black herringbone with a blue and red windowpane woven into the fabric as well. Aside from the wool, however, the rest of the content of the “melange” was unknown. And unlike wool, this stuff just kept raveling and raveling. Then the itching started. Sarah tried the dress on for fit (perfect) before attachign the facings and sleeves and promptly broke out in hives. So, the lovely dress is now sitting in the washing machine, and maybe that’ll help and the reaction is to something the fabric was treated with and not something that makes up the wool “melange.” Oh well, it was only 2 or 3 bucks a yard.

And, we’ve seamed to have developed a zipper situation as well. There were at least three attempts at the invisible zipper insertion on the aforementioned dress. Then there was the big problem. Josh is a big fan of the quarter zip sweaters and sweatshirts and decided to make one himself. Using a reasonable-looking Burda pattern, he had a go at it and it was going fine until the zipper portion of the project. Let’s just say that it turns out that Burda had intended that the entire sweatshirt (including the zippers) be sewn reverse. As in the seams are on the outside. But we didn’t realize this and chaos ensued. You’ll understand what we mean when we post the finished project.

Oh, and Sarah volunteered to put buttonholes on a jacket her mom had made (she can’t figure out how to do the buttonholes on her new machine) and it turns out that Sandy had sewn her button on going the wrong way (vertically rather than horizontally). Arrrggg…

Sarah was super-excited to get her newest Burda World of Fashion in the mail last week. And, unlike every other issue ever, this one was certainly a bust. Especially considering that it contained a pattern that has got to be hands down, the ugliest, most horrifying pair of pants ever conceived! They are, simply-put, god-awful. They’re so bad, that it wouldn’t even be ironic-funny to make them as a joke. They’re that bad. Judge for yourself.

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It’s hard to imagine anything could make these worse. Pleats maybe?

Finally, and this is probably the weirdest of it all, we took Sarah’s mom out to Fabric Depot yesterday evening after we were done watching the Blazer game on TV together (an ugly loss to Indiana, by the way) and that was sure an interesting experience! We pull up and the cops were parked out front. They were escorting someone out of the store. We’re not really sure what crime was committed, but that’s kind of an odd sight outside a fabric store. the excitement died down and the police left, so the three of us headed into the store. As we’re walking in, to our left someone’s puking in the parking lot. Absolutely awesome. All of this so Sandy could get half a yard of fabric.

So, mysteriously itchy fabric, a wonky zipper curse, an inside-out sweatshirt pattern, backwards buttons and a little too much excitement at the fabric store. What a week…

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~Josh & Sarah

Sew Together: How We Got Started

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here is a rundown of the supplies we used:

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

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

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

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If they’d only learned to sew…

Here you go, folks—another in our intermittent series of sewing-related tidbits in the news.

We knew it! Sewing is an essential survival skill. EarthSky blog is reporting that it turns out that Australian researchers have discovered that Neanderthals would probably not died out if they’d picked up a thread and needle and stitched themselves some warmer clothes.

…when the last ice age hit, modern humans were well-equipped to produce clothes warm enough to fend off the cold. Because Neanderthals… [had not developed] advanced sewing technology. When the temperature dropped, they were stuck with clothes that didn’t keep them warm enough and didn’t know how to improve on the clothes they already wore.

In the spirit of today’s game in which the Green Bay Packers take on the Seattle Seahawks, UniWatch Blog has a great interview with Marge Switzer, the Packers’ team seamstress. There’s some real gems in this interview, and Marge has a pretty tough job. Who knew that the players wear the same jersey all season, and Marge just keeps stitching them up? The rips and tears and battle scars of sorts. Turns out, she’s just as neurotic as the rest of us stitchers:

…there have been times when I’m watching the game and I’ll go, “Uhhhhh [deep gasp of shock], we missed a thread there!” So I do see that sometimes, and the average person, I’m sure, wouldn’t have a clue.

We’re so happy that our missed threads don’t face the scrutiny of tens of thousands of cheese-hat wearing Packers fans!

And finally, CNET is reporting that we sewers and sewists have finally hit the big time at the Consumer Electronics Show. (Note: Sewing machine reference and photo are at the very end of the post on CNET.) Turns out, Brother is showing their fancy new ultra computerized sewing machines for the first time at the annual geek fest of gadgets in Las Vegas this week. Gotta love how CNET (which is a great and very useful site, so no offense here) marvels at this fact.

And just in case you missed it, yes, they have sewing machines at CES. From Brother.

The Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail is also amazed at this display at the CES.

Are we the only folks out there who are utterly baffled by these writers’ wonderment over the fact that sewing has evolved technology-wise right along with everything else in our lives?

Field Trip: Our Sewing Heritage

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

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

There were cheap linings at a buck a yard…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is what Sandy got most excited about:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year, New Blog

2153039551 dca1bddfe7 New Year, New Blog

We’ve been blogging about our sewing adventures for awhile now, and Josh is almost at the one year mark in his learning to sew, so it’s time to move over to a site that will better serve our needs.

Welcome to our new blog, at our own domain powered by WordPress. We’re thrilled to have built a site here that really looks like us. The look and feel is a bit different than most blogs, but we like to think that’s a good thing—’cause we’re a bit different than most sewing bloggers out there (we like to think!). With this new site we’re able to tell you a lot more about us, and provide a lot more content. We hope you enjoy.

We’ve imported all of our old posts and comments, but are still relinking the internal links in our blog, so if you’re looking through the archives, you may find yourself back at our old blogspot site. If you don’t mind, if you’ve got us in your Bloglines, or other RSS reader, please redirect to this site. The links to the RSS feeds for content and comments are at the bottom of the page. If you’ve got suggestions or feedback for us, let us know, either by leaving a comment or sending us an email at sewersewist [at] gmail [dot] com.

For the new year, we have a few sewing goals:

  1. Josh will finish his 1908 St. Louis Americans Jacket-–even if it makes him completely crazy.
  2. Sarah will finish Josh’s birthday present before the weather warms up.
  3. We’ll get our sewing organized—right now there’s stuff everywhere, and it’s getting to be a pain in the butt.
  4. Josh hopes be able to have more confidence in his sewing, so he doesn’t have to ask so many questions.
  5. Josh would like to sew some really nice hats.
  6. Sarah will make a red trench coat, which was the whole reason that she joined the Trench Coat Sew Along on Pattern Review this year.
  7. Josh wants to make a semi-authentic “throwback” baseball jersey.

These all seem doable, right?

On The Newsstand…

The first in an occasional series of posts on stuff we find interesting.

What can we say, we still love a good magazine or newspaper. In a “paperless” world, there is still nothing like getting a magazine through the mail slot. A bath isn’t complete without bubbles and some light (or not so light) reading. Here are few things that we came across this month.

Having trouble finding jeans that fit? Virginia Postrel has an article in December’s Atlantic about changing ready-to-wear sizes, technology and $900 jeans for sale in England. There is an interesting data about how different in shape we all really are and how “in a tough apparel market ‘better fit’ has become the latest competitive weapon.” Truncated version available here. Guess we sewers/sewists have an edge here in the whole effort behind “better fit.”

Surprise, surprise Amy Butler lives in an incredibly cool looking house. You can see it in the November / December issue of Martha Stewart’s Blueprint. We found that this magazine is kind of uninspiring but worth looking through in the check-out line or browsing at the store (if only we could organizer our life ala the “tipometer”). The Sewer’s favorite part is the “winter themed” pics that were obviously taken in the summer heat. Big props to Amy Butler and husband for featuring their Arbor Snowboard, we are big fans of Arbor’s long boards and nice to see them in an unexpected spot.

From USA Today, always double stitch the crotch of your pants!

A Sewer-Sewist Holiday Gift Guide, Part 2

Part 2 of our Holiday Gift Guide…

Miami Valley Pottery. This next one is a little tricky. Josh grew up with a guy named Nays (pronounced nace) who now runs a small pottery business near Dayton, Ohio. The thing is his website seems to be down and it is hard to get a look at the wonderful work that he does. Nonetheless, we strongly support his desire to bring hand made and wood fired pottery to people at production pottery prices. You can see we used one of his lovely pieces used to model the “Call of the Wild Hat” hat. You can read all about his shop here and get more information here . The pottery that the faux shearling Burda hat we made recently is photographed on is one of Nays’ originals.

St. Josef’s Winery. Neither the Sewer no the Sewist are experts on wine (or oenologist if you prefer), the Josh can tell you with all certainty that Turkish wine doesn’t taste particularly great, but will lead to pretty big drunkenness and a massive hangover. Sarah has much more refined taste and loves Reisling and whatever. We can both agree that St. Josef’s wine from Canby, Oregon is pretty great. Our love for their wine is more than taste; their vineyard sits right behind the home of the Sewist-in-law and the place the Sarah grew up. She can remember going to the Fleischmann’s bakery in Canby as a kid and both of us have enjoyed walking over to the tasting room when visiting the Sewist-in-law. Besides the nostalgia and the pleasantness of their vineyard, the wine is damn fine. Sarah prefers their Reisling and Pinot Gris while Josh likes the L’Esprit (Gewurztraminer) and Syrah. We are both looking forward to tasting their late harvest Pinot Gris desert wine. If you are out Canby way or are looking for a place to visit on the weekend definitely stop by or contact them to order.

Cello by Jan Vogler. Again, we are not experts on classical music (and the things the we are “experts” on, Race and Ethnicity in George Pelecanos’ D.C. Quartet, Beatrice Grimshaw and late 19th century feminism, building public support of bond and levy issues for municipalities are not necessarily the most exciting things to read about) but we both like the music of Jan (pronounced “yawn” but that’s the only thing that’s yawn-inducing) Vogler. The Sewer in the past had a contract to do marketing work with a classical music organization in Santa Fe and worked with Jan and his agent on promoting his appearance. Jan, in addition to being a great cellist, is a hell of a nice guy. Despite his working with a great big music conglomerate, we wanted to include his music in our list; musicians, even when successful, are always working to get heard. We would recommend his album of American composers Barber – Korngold – Bürger. (Just as an aside we are also fans of Portland hip-hop group Lifesavas new album Gutterfly in the car if you want to go in a completely different direction.)

Poppi Swimwear. Just the most rockin’, retro-fabulous, gorgeous swimwear anywhere. Sorry, guys, they only make swimwear for the gals. Poppi is owned by Portlander Pam Levenson, who is a great designer and very nice person. Her swimsuits are beautiful—the way swimwear used to look, and it’s actually flattering. For our Australian readers (you know who you are) who are enjoying summer right now—yes, we’re jealous—she has reasonable shipping to Down Under. Sarah really likes the Skirted Boy Short (who knew a skirted swimsuit could be so cool) combined with any of the Retro Tankini Tops—especially the Wendy top. It’s just so refreshing to see swimwear that’s attractive, flattering and fun.

Powell’s Books. Okay, we know there’s Amazon, but before Amazon was even a twinkle in Jeff Bezos’ eye, there was Mike Powell and Powell’s Books, a regular bricks and mortar store that always seemed to have it all (before Amazon had everything you could ever want book-wise). A gift certificate to this wonderful “City of Books” can be used in person or in their vast online store. The book lover in your life can load up on used sewing books (they’ve got some good ones, too, like the old editions of Readers Digest Guide to Sewing) like they won’t believe. Give it a whirl…

Another one down…

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We’re plugging away with our Christmas gift making, and finished this up recently—an Amy Butler Swing Bag for Josh’s mom. It’s in one of Amy’s fabrics, two different ones from the gray and yellow theme from the “Belle” line. A lot of people have made this bag, and we can certainly see why. It comes together quickly and looks really sharp. It could use some pockets, but then it wouldn’t be as simple to make reversible—not that that’s a critical feature of the bag, but it’s a nice novelty. We think she’ll enjoy this one.

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There’s been a lot written about this pattern, and people have done beautiful interpretations of it, so we’ll not bore you with what a great pattern this is. But, we would definitely recommend this if you’re working on handmade holiday gifts, as it doesn’t take a ton of fabric (so you can splurge on something nice) and is so, so, so fast to make.

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P.S. We’re working on some changes to this blog, so our links to our blogger friends have disappeared for some reason… The links will be back once we finish with the upgrades, we promise.

Call of the Wild Hat

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

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

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

Behold Burda 7996.

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

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

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

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

 Call of the Wild Hat

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

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


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

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

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

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Our dog’s stuffed raccoon toy had to stand in for the cat in this photo shoot. Needless, to say, the dog was not impressed.

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

It’s Labor (of love) Day Weekend

1307043386 93cb386e9a o Its Labor (of love) Day WeekendHere at Casa de Sewer-Sewist we’re celebrating the long Labor Day weekend by juggling a bunch of different works in progress. There’s nothing like a three day weekend to encourage you to start more projects than you can finish. There’s something about that extra day to make you overly-ambitious.

Anyway, Josh is slogging along on another pair of Simplicity 3891 pants. (The photo at the top of this post is Josh working on these pants, by the way.) This time, he’s tapered in the leg so it’s shaped more like a boot cut pant rather than the exaggerated, ultra-wide cargo leg that is intended in this pattern. Again, he removed the numerous pockets and is just sticking with the patch pockets on the butt and hips. Oh yeah, and, because Josh is not a 12-year-old, he’s not putting zippers on the sides this time either. Josh is, of course, infusing his own unique personal style into this project. We’ve mentioned before that we’re big fans of Nordstrom, but too cheap to shop there (except the shoe department, the anniversary sale, the Rack and Sarah’s beloved Jag Jeans). Well, a month or so ago Josh spotted some really snazzy cotton Faconnable brand pants that were brown with orange facings and orange top-stitching. Well, these snazzy pants were something like $150! Josh knew that he could create an even more awesome pair of his own “Faconnable” pants for around fifteen bucks. He’s also adding a bright orange zipper in the fly.

The fabric (a nice medium-weight Robert Kaufman 100& cotton for both the orange and brown; this stuff is great value and nice to work with):

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The orange zipper (note that the partially-constructed pants are laying on the Alice Starmore shawl that it took the Sewist eight years to knit—sewing is definitely more of an instant gratification hobby):
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1306161475 d3d1cb0d07 o Its Labor (of love) Day WeekendSarah’s got a couple of projects going on as well, including a Burda WoF skirt from the latest Burda Plus Fashion mag. (Sidebar for a minor rant: On what planet is a Euro 22—which is a petite Euro 44 or a US 44 or a US RTW 12—a plus-sized pattern? It’s fine, but just slightly annoying, but the upside is that it opens up a whole other set of available fabulousness that is Burda WoF. It’s nice that this is sized for petite, though.) This is in the brown Robert Kaufman stretch Vera sateen that I wrote about awhile back. Apparently, as you can see from the photo to the right, Sarah has completely forgotten how to insert an invisible zipper. This is a nice, classy gored skirt that, once the zipper situation is addressed, will be a good work staple.

Finally, we’re working on a project as a gift for Sarah’s intern at work, AKA the Best Intern Ever. It’s another one of the Amy Butler Gumdrop Pillows, in the ottoman size. (We wrote about this pattern here and here.) Because the Best Intern Ever really doesn’t have a lot of furniture, just like all college students, the ottoman seems like a good choice. This one will be in the lovely Imperial Fans fabric from Amy Butler’s new Nigella line, in the slate color. It’s cut up and ready to be sewn up and stuffed.

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Despite all these projects, we’ve actually been leaving the house, enjoying the last bit of summer here in Oregon.

Shoe contract?

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from sarah the sewist

So can you get a shoe contract for sewing?

Josh saw me sewing with my brand-spankin’ new shoes on (oddly, Vans seem to be the only shoes that I can wear while sewing and get enough traction for optimal foot pedal control) and stuck the sticker that was in the shoe box on the foot pedal. We have a lot of vintage skateboarding magazines around the house at the moment (believe it or not, these are related to my job—I have a very cool job) and Josh was inspired by the ads in them. They always show some cool dude doing a really cool trick in the shoes. Well, I guess I’m a cool gal doing a really cool trick with the sewing machine.

Stop, Drop & Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

Ubiquitous dog being cute with the sewing project picture.

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

Sporty Fabric Haul

923803847 81094a2cc8 b Sporty Fabric HaulIn our ongoing quest to identify and procure the perfect vintage-style baseball flannel (more on that later), we visited Rose City Textiles deep in the heart of Portland’s Northwest Industrial District this weekend. We’d read that they sold fabrics mostly for active wear, and thought they may sell the perfect stretchy wool flannel. They didn’t. But it was an experience nonetheless.

We walked in, and were greeted with, “Are you here for the sale?”

Looking at each other, “Uhhh, okay.”

We were led through the store (Sarah was momentarily distracted en route but some interesting-looking bamboo knit) to the back, which was an enormous warehouse with rolls of fabric of all colors, textures and types piled on shelves. Our friendly guide to the store then said, gesturing at the piles,

“All this back here is a buck a yard.”

We stood there and watched him walked away. It was a heady, overwhelming experience, because this place sells fabric that’s from all of the big active wear retailers: Nike, Adidas, Columbia and lots of the designers and boutiques. Literally, there were piles of stuff that we civilians can’t normally buy.

Sifting through the piles and piles of huge bolts of fabrics, we found some gems. Josh discovered what’s probably the coolest fabric in the haul—a strechy fabric for basketball uniforms from Nike that was the fabric worn by the USA Men’s Basketball Team. Does it get any better than fabric AND basketball? Josh also found some interesting red and white soccer jersey fabric and felt the need to purchase quite a bit of red ribbing—and they through in the trimmings from the ribbing as well, so we now have a big pile of red ribbing sitting on the sewing room floor. Sarah found great high-end raincoat material in both brown and blue (the cool satiny stuff) and then went a little crazy and bought who-knows-how-much smoky-purple organic cotton knit that was the EXACT same as her favorite hoodie from JJill. Because you really need lots and lots of purple hoodies. Oh, yeah, and we won’t even talk about the hottest of hot pink knit that made its way home with us as well.

All and all, it was pretty awesome. Thirty-eight dollars (and at least 50 yards of fabric—they threw in extras), we loaded the loot into the MINI Cooper—which was a story in and of itself—and headed home, high on the excitement of scoring the weirdest lot of random fabric ever…

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