Off the Bench

It has certainly been awhile since I posted to the site—sorry about that. It happens…

Sarah brought home a really intriguing book called Fabricate that had an awesome notebook computer sleeve pattern in it. I spent a great deal of time thinking of making one, because it involved felt, which I love, combined with the opportunity for silly embellishment, which I also love. When Sarah brought home her little notebook from work, I like the cheetah, and sprang into action. Well, not really that fast since Sarah didn’t pick up my felt when she went out to the fabric store without me. (Ahem.)

When I was able to get out there, I found this really cool red, black and white felt made from recycled plastic bottles, much like the hoody I have been wearing lately (made by Sarah). The idea to make a Trail Blazers-looking bag was a no-brainer with Sarah completely wrapped up in the latest playoff push and I love of sports uniforms. My favorite Blazers jersey is the red alternative one that I have seen twice in person (both Christmas Day games, one against the former Seattle Sonics–normally they only wear them for special away games). 

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Following the laminating technique described in Fabricate (you used Stitch Witchery/Wonder Under to fuse the layers), I created the front and back pieces and started on the appliques. To get the three different color stripe pattern, I dug deep into the scrap pile and found a piece of white satin, grey coat liner and a piece of black jersey off an old t-shirt I never wear.

(Maybe the theme should be “sustainability?” But let’s get back to the topic at a hand.)  

I stiched on the three stripes and began working on the back. I hadn’t originally planned for a number, but I got some burnt stuff from the iron and adhesive on the felt that needed to be covered. Besides being a big Brandon Roy fan, Sarah likes the shape of the number 7 (hand-setting type will make you think about these things a lot), so the number to choose was an easy one. (Plus, who want to cuts out 44 or 88 from felt?).

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The appliques were added and it was now time to stitch the six layers of felt together, the bottom panel went okay. However, the sides just weren’t going to fit through our sewing machine (oh, for an adjustable presser foot). The solution I came up with was adding eyelets and lacing the sides together. This gave the bag and almost shoe-like look, so for the closure I decided to fashion an “S” in a similar style to the inside 7 on Brandon Roy’s kicks, which I was really happy with.

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The "S" on the laptop sleeve clasp was inspired by the "7" on Brandon Roy's shoes.

This project was actually incredibly easy except for the all of the add-ons that took it from an afternoon of working to a weekend of sewing, cutting, cursing my luck and, finally, completion. All in all a hell of a lot of fun. 

Does this mean that I have to join Sarah’s Posse?

~Josh

Comeback Covered Button Jewelry Set + Our Favorite Texan Visits PDX

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Sarah

Garden Dreams

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

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

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

We’ve pretty much gardened together ever since.

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More Buttony Goodness

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Some of the original projects from "Button it Up." I got to pick a necklace to wear during the event--I sort of felt like Angelina Jolie borrowing fancy jewelry for the People's Choice Awards.

No, it hasn’t gotten to be all buttons, all the time here, but Josh and I have both been sick with various bugs–again–so we still haven’t had much of a chance to do much in the way of projects or photograph a few (now) oldies for Sewer-Sewist. I’ve also not had a chance to take pictures of my progress on my colossal project for my letterpress class through PNCA’s Continuing Education program, but I’m going to go to some printing tomorrow, so hopefully, I’ll have an update for you soon! (Hint: My big project is looking like it’s going to be bad-ass.) Anyway… I just had to share some of the pictures from last night’s awesome event in support of Susan Beal’s new book, Button it Up. (Yeah, I’ve mentioned it once or twice.)

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Three of my button hairclip creations. I love these. They also reminded me that I need to accessorize more often.

Susan’s event was at the Best Bookstore in the World (aka Powell’s Books here in Portland) and was loads of fun. Not only did we get to hear all about buttons and check out the original projects from the book, Susan brought along the supplies for a really marvelous little project–hairclips embellished with buttons. It was so fun getting together with folks and working on this simple project. I honestly think I could have made button clips all night–if I’d had my way, they probably would have had to kick me out of Powell’s, clutching the tube of Dazzle Tack in one hand, vintage buttons in the other.

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I love the clip on the right--Michelle snagged those buttons out of the pile and said, "These so look like you." And she was right. I wore this clip around today.

It was also lovely getting to catch up with some cool folks from around our area–and it reminded me how fortunate we are to live in a community that really fosters such creativity. In addition to Susan, I got to chat with the undeniable Queen of Craftiness Diane, Knitter Extraordinaire Lee (who also took the crown for “Best Dressed”–check it out), Baking Phenom Caitlin and my fellow member of the Blazers Craft Posse (yeah, we definitely need T-shirts), Michelle. (Y’all know about my love of assigning random nicknames to people, right?)

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Three different sets of fingers digging into a rainbow of buttons.

Oh, and Caitlin and I “styled” this part of the display.

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It's sort of hard to believe all these beautiful pieces are made with something as simple as buttons. It kind of blows my mind, even though I've seen a number of the items before.

I totally think that we knocked it out of the park–we could totally get jobs doing window displays at Anthropologie based on our skills here.

It was loads of fun, and reminded me of the importance of taking a bit of time to do something simple, like make a little hairclip for yourself. I felt a nice bit of creative revitalization, and I think everyone else did as well.

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Don't you just want to plunge your fingers into all those buttons and play with them?

You can check out all of my pictures from the event over on this Flickr photoset.

Also, there’s still an opportunity to come do some buttony crafting with Susan and pick up a signed copy of her book. The Best Fabric Shop Ever (aka Bolt in Portland’s awesome Concordia neighbor, right on Alberta Street) is hosting a book event where you can also make a bit of buttony goodness to take home next weekend. As a double-bonus, everyone who buys the book at the event at Bolt will get their own sampler bag of vintage buttons to take home–so you can get started with your own button projects right away. Get the details here and here. As a triple-bonus, Bolt is a unique independent sewing shop, so if you haven’t been there before, you’re in for a real treat.

~Sarah

Another Reason to Love Buttons

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What’s this? Two posts in one day? Be still my beating heart! (Although the first was definitely “unplanned posting,” so I’m not sure if that really counts.)

In case my review of Susan‘s new book didn’t give you enough reason to love buttons, here’s another–this really charming necklace that the aforementioned Susan dropped off at the house last night. But, before I get into the awesomeness that is this necklace, I have got to say that this is one of the reasons Susan is such a gem–she’s always finding or making things for other people–and they’re always things that are just “perfect.” For example, shortly after we met Susan and her lovely family, she gave us this awesome cocktail trail with a New Mexico motif on it. She’d purchased it before she met us, and said something along the lines of, “When I bought it, I didn’t know whose it was supposed to be, but then when I met you guys, I knew who the tray’s owners were.” She’s also the queen scavenger of vintage Trail Blazers paraphernalia as well–and I have definitely reaped the benefits of that. You can check out a couple of her finds that she’s passed on to me here and here. Or better yet, you can admire her own handiwork right here. My point is, that’s just the sort of exceptionally thoughtful person Susan is, and I really, really appreciate it. So, I’m reciprocating in my own way, by encouraging you to check out her book.When she gave me the necklace, she had no idea I would post it here, she just said that when she was making it that it looked like me. (Which is totally does–it has an almost Marimekko element to it that I love, love, love.) It even perfectly matches my favorite pair of spectacles.

Anyway, back to this necklace–which is definitely one of the the coolest things ever. Sure, it’s made from buttons, which rocks. But, not only is it made from buttons, Susan made the freaking buttons herself! Which might be a little crazy, but is also awesome. You can learn how to make your own buttons just like this over on Susan’s post on CraftStylish, and then get the instructions for making the necklace, plus two other styles, on this post. It looks like loads of fun–plus, how long has it been since you’ve played with shrinky-dink?

So, as you’ve probably noticed, I’m going to continue my little one-woman campaign to encourage you to buy Button it Up (it would make me super-happy if you’d consider buying it from your local, independent bookshop, too).  I can’t help it–I’m a “public relations professional,” promotion’s ingrained in me, I guess. (Although, if I can be introspective and random for a moment, I rarely ever promote myself–I’ve been trying to more lately, but it’s really hard.) I know economy’s crap–trust me, I know–but it’s a relatively inexpensive book, with great bang for the buck, since it includes some 80 projects. And, as I mentioned in the original review, the vast majority of the projects can be created with things you have on hand–since I know we sewers and sewists love to hold onto our favorite buttons!

And, since I’ve got a captive audience here, a reminder that Susan’s also got a couple of events coming up here in Portland in support of Button it Up. You can get the details here. There will be lots of crafty fun–you can be sure of it!

~Sarah

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