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.


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.


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

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!


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.)


Pintucked Preview

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

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


Pintucks > Pleats

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

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

2609892172 d9baebf688 Pintucks > Pleats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

I started this about a month ago.

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

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

Thanks for letting me share, everyone…


Book Review Preview

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


Back Pocket

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

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

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

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

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

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


What’s going on?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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~Josh & Sarah

Ready for the runway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


No Pain, No Gain?

from sarah the sewist 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, off to nurse my wounds.

Shear(ling) Love

from sarah the sewist

Josh’s birthday is coming up next month, and since he made me such a fabulous gift that I know was a real labor of love, as well as a major pain in the butt, I feel compelled to make something for him that’s he’s going to love as much as I love my gift. Plus, my husband’s just generally awesome, and he deserves something special.

When our latest Burda World of Fashion magazine arrived, Josh was thrilled because it actually contained three men’s patterns. He was immediately taken with the snazzy faux shearling fisherman’s coat.

 Shear(ling) Love
(You can check out the line drawing here if you’re so inclined.)

I’ve never made anything out of shearling, faux or otherwise, but I thought this would be a wonderful birthday gift for my sweetie. It’s certainly not something that he’d make for himself (even though I believe he’d be perfectly capable, despite his recent spate of self-doubt). And, faux shearling items are still so popular, that they’re quite overpriced. I’ve also never seen anything in the stores, even Nordy’s, that has quite these unusual lines and interesting shape. (Working just a few blocks from the downtown PDX Nordstrom can be a bit dangerous—I’m always checking that place out.)

What I didn’t know is that faux shearling is really expensive—like $25-30 a yard. That seems a little insane for something that’s basically fancy polyester. But I’m sure there’s a good reason. Anyway, these prices forced me to do something I never do—brave Fabric Depot on one of the 40% off days. Worse yet, the Saturday of the two 40% off days. Hardier souls can handle this, but I’m just not that tough when it comes to shopping. Anyway, I grabbed my fabric and ran (after paying, of course).

This looks to be almost identical to the fabric in the pattern photo. It’s your normal white fleece inside, with the outside of the fabric being a dark brown faux distressed leather. I think it’s pretty masculine, unlike the pink-on-pink that was also available.

1527630179 f5c199df04 Shear(ling) Love
So, I haven’t actually done any work on this pattern. Haven’t even traced it out of the magazine. But, I’m thinking about it a lot. I hear the this stuff is a nightmare to sew with, but I’m in denial. It’ll all work out just fine. And if I keep telling myself that, it just might be true.

Oh, in case you’re wondering… It’s (obviously) not a surprise. Kind of hard to hide a sewn gift in our house, since the trusty Kenmore’s in the living room.

More Than I Can Chew?

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

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

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

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

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


from josh the sewer

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

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

In the Trenches, Part 2

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

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

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

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

Anyway, I experimented.

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A lot.

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

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

Whale of a Jacket

from josh the sewer

I have working on another big fall project. Earlier in the summer (and summer lasts for about 4 more hours as I write this), I found this St. Louis Americans jacket that I really wanted to replicate. The Sewist and I decided to use Burda Pattern 8135 and gray corduroy. For the trim I found braided, folded-over cording in navy blue. This project is not going to be solo, it is by far the hardest sewing project I have undertaken. The pattern has twenty some pattern pieces!
1404645003 fd9f0618f2 Whale of a Jacket
Instead of doing a straight replica of the St. Louis Americans logo, I decided to do make the whale part of the Chicago Whales (of the short lived Federal League) logo. I went back and forth on making an “authentic” piece of sports wear, but I didn’t want to make a Cincinnati Reds jacket (my favorite baseball team—insert loser reference here) or a minor league team from Dayton, (the original hometown) or Portland (the permanent hometown and birthplace of the Sewist). Instead I decided to create a fictitious team the Portland Whales, I should also have a nice fake back-story written in my mind on completion of the project.

1424904333 4338fd8b99 o Whale of a Jacket
Anyway, so far I have sewn the back panel together and decided to eliminate the vents (I hate vents, and my digestive system has matured enough where they aren’t an occupational necessity). At this rate I should have this project ready in time for Summer ’09.

1424904231 b430d76794 o Whale of a Jacket

In the Trenches

from sarah the sewist

The Pattern Review Great Trench Coat Sew Along has proved just the motivator for me to start planning and working on some fall jacket projects. I’m working on the Indygo Junction Trench Topper in view 1, which is a lovely, princess-seamed (woo-hoo! my fave–I love princess seams!) trench coat. I’m creating a light weight cotton jacket that should serve me well this fall—particularly in my insanely cold office building (my fingers literally turned blue one day and I thought I was having some sort of circulation episode, but it was actually the a/c—I wish I was joking).

The Sewer, with his amazingly sharp eye for fabric and design, found this Amy Butler Fabric for the body of the jacket, and I’m using a complementary plain pink cotton from Moda for the bottom panels and bell sleeves. (In case you haven’t noticed by now, 50% of the fabric I by is pink, which is weird, since almost all the clothes I bought in my 30 years are some sort of shade of blue.) Anyway, it’s a gorgeous cinnamon color that’s not at all orange—I don’t share Josh’s fascination with caution orange.

I have been completely spacey with this project, though having already forgotten to cut out THREE pieces. Yes, I, with all of my sewing experience and my somewhat advanced skills, didn’t both to check to see what pieces I needed to cut out. I just cut out what I had, and didn’t do any accounting of the pieces. Low and behold, I had dropped the piece for the front side panel, and neglected to trace the back facing at all. Absolutely brilliant.

1404645213 9d7ed3fd08 o In the Trenches

As you can see, the omitted piece was a fairly critical component of the jacket. Oh, yeah, and did I mention that I griped about how the pattern called for way too much fabric, and so I wasn’t at all careful with how I cut out my pieces? So, of course, we had to go by another yard of fabric. Of course.

So, I’ve sewn a grand total of one seam on this thing. So, far, so good.

1404670913 60f40ee188 o In the Trenches

It doesn’t look like I’ve sewn anything backward, upside-down or wrong-side out, does it?

(By the way, Josh is making some slow and steady progress on a jacket of his own, but I’ll leave it to him to update you.)

It’s Labor (of love) Day Weekend

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

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

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

1306162603 2c002625ca o Its Labor (of love) Day Weekend
The orange zipper (note that the partially-constructed pants are laying on the Alice Starmore shawl that it took the Sewist eight years to knit—sewing is definitely more of an instant gratification hobby):
1309957480 c7646fe305 o Its Labor (of love) Day Weekend
1306161475 d3d1cb0d07 o Its Labor (of love) Day WeekendSarah’s got a couple of projects going on as well, including a Burda WoF skirt from the latest Burda Plus Fashion mag. (Sidebar for a minor rant: On what planet is a Euro 22—which is a petite Euro 44 or a US 44 or a US RTW 12—a plus-sized pattern? It’s fine, but just slightly annoying, but the upside is that it opens up a whole other set of available fabulousness that is Burda WoF. It’s nice that this is sized for petite, though.) This is in the brown Robert Kaufman stretch Vera sateen that I wrote about awhile back. Apparently, as you can see from the photo to the right, Sarah has completely forgotten how to insert an invisible zipper. This is a nice, classy gored skirt that, once the zipper situation is addressed, will be a good work staple.

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

1309069207 1f8ea1b624 o Its Labor (of love) Day Weekend
Despite all these projects, we’ve actually been leaving the house, enjoying the last bit of summer here in Oregon.

Perfect Princess?

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

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

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

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

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

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

1908 Americans Fabric

1143912737 de4430b16f o 1908 Americans FabricLast weekend we found the right color and drape of fabric for Josh’s 1908 St. Louis Americans jacket. We considered going more authentic, but the right color, weight and drape of wool flannel is just too expensive for such an experimental project (have we mentioned that we’re kind of cheap?). Instead, we found a stretch corduroy that’s very fuzzy and really has the look that we want, even though it’s not straight up authentic.

This is as far as we’ve gotten in the project.

We’ll keep you posted.

A big “thank you” to Nancy of Sew West for her input on the fabric. Hopefully, this one will work out fabulously so we can do an awesome flannel one next.

pixel 1908 Americans Fabric