Recent Projects + Some Ramblings

5118142019 9164cfbd19 Recent Projects + Some Ramblings

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

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

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

A Few Things That Are Awesome

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

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

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

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

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

Best of ’09: Blazers Letterpress Project

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

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

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

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

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

Twisted Caipirinha!

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

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

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

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

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The Twisted Caipirinha Team

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

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

Continue reading »

{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.

3902393358 6bd29a9b3e {Field Trip!} Honkin Huge Flowers

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 »

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.”

3639285849 cd6c383bd8 Photos from Letterpress Workshop

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.

3548531983 6722192067 A Year O Screenprinted T Shirts

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!


Josh per a tres!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is Josh’s re-interpretation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail Blazers Pioneer Square Playoff Rally – April 16, 2009

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


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

Comeback Covered Button Jewelry Set + Our Favorite Texan Visits PDX

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

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

3427699319 b42b418443 b Comeback Covered Button Jewelry Set + Our Favorite Texan Visits PDX

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

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

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

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


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 »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letterpress Class, Part 3: I Printed Something!

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

Locked up type.

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

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

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

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

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

Or so I thought.

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

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

Very lame, I know.

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

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

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

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

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


Humor me, please…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the shirts “in action.”

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

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


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

Letterpress Class – Week Deux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Letterpress Class – Week 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

I have a terrible, sinking feeling that my latest screen printing project may be cursed. Which is truly unfortunate.

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This cool hoodie can't be cursed... Can it?

Before you continue reading this post, I do want to make an important point: I’m not a Fan Girl. And I’m certainly not a Channing Frye Fan Girl. If I were going to be a Fan Girl of any of the Trail Blazers players, it would have to be Martell Webster. Yes, I know Rudy Fernandez is the flavor of the month, but, for me–if I were to become a Fan Girl in a parallel universe–it would have to be Martell. (Now you may click through to the rest of the post, and settle in for a lengthy post.)

Continue reading »

More Blazers Craftiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bingo, Bango, Bongo!

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

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

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

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

It was amazing.

Blazermania was back.

Continue reading »

Pimp My Ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next, I stuck the pieces on the sanded board.

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Sticking the pieces of contact paper on the board.

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The wolf silhouette on the back of the board.

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

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

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

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

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After the fourth coat of polyurethane.

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

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

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

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Election Pennants at Crafty Wonderland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Supplies ready to go...

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

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

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

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

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

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This couple made two of my favorite pennants.

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


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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Train-Inspired Screen Print

Josh seems to have finally mastered the art of the two-color screen print (it’s much harder than you’d every imagine)…

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Recognize the logo?

That would be Union Pacific.

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We’ve already talked about why we’re supporting Obama-Biden this year, so we won’t get into that any further (although, if you’re inclined, check out what’s going on over at The Obama Craft Project), but we’re also big fans of trains, and Josh’s dad is a HUGE train aficionado. Huge. He subscribes to train magazines. So, Josh decided that his dad really needed a custom screen-printed Obama-Biden hoodie that was train-inspired, and this was the result.

The challenge was printing the two-color image. Despite that we have a number of screen printing reference books, it’s still very much a trial and error type of situation—one of those old-fashioned “learn by doing” situations. After a lot of trial and error, Josh figured out that he could lay transparencies over each part of the logo, so that red ink wouldn’t encroach on the blue and vice-versa. It worked quite well (although some ink did dry in the screen, which is frustrating), and the colors turned out rich and opaque, thanks again to the Jacquard screen printing ink we like so much.

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Josh also made T-shirts for each of us, but they’re not nearly as awesome at the sweatshirt that’s en route to Ohio. The thick fleece took this large, bold graphic much better than the thin jersey of a T-shirt.

Good thing we mailed it off to Josh’s dad right away, because Josh seemed to be getting a bit attached to it during our “photo shoot.”

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~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 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

Field Trip: A Hood River Surprise

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Sarah & Josh


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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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.


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.

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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.

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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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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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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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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.

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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.)

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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

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