Cool PDX Event – Laura Gunn at Modern Domestic

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

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

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

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

See you there!


This & That: Catching Up

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

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Fremont Bridge

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

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

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

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Viola’s Quilt

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

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Saoirse's Helping

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

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

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All in the Family

In our family everyone sews.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Holy moly! I made a quilt!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I’m Still Sewing, I Swear!

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

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

A couple of quick notes on this bag:

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

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

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


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

Book Review: French General Home Sewn

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

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

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Every sewing book should include a pet bed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Scalloped tablecloth made with hemp fabric.

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

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Hooray for party banners!!!

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

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Directions page.

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

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

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


Dayton Triangles Redux Hoodie

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


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

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

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

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I really can’t believe this actually worked.

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

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

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

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We’re Still Here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Little Late to the Whole Apron Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wear a Dress Week & Another Amy Butler Lotus Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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(Nice farmer tan, eh?)

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

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

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

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


Oh so pretty…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

But, what to make?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And this cat thingy is just precious…

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

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

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

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

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


Behind the Times

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

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

Check it out…

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

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

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

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

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


Feelin’ Stitchy

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

 Feelin Stitchy

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


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