Thursday, December 9, 2010

Charley Harper in Ohio!

Ever heard of Charley Harper?  My first introduction to his work was through this Purl Bee post.  After a little research I discovered he had done a tile mural at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  I am on a road trip through the Rust Belt and made a point to stop and check it out.  Look!

I bet you are already thinking of how to turn these critters into embroidery designs, or patchwork blocks, aren't you?

The mural represents 81 different lifeforms, some favorites pictured below:

PS: To those of you waiting on an Elvie Block tutorial, hang in there!  I'll be out of town (and away from my machine) for most of December, but intend to put something together at the end of the month.  Thanks for your patience!

Monday, November 29, 2010

slow work

Confession: I secretly love embroidery.  There is something so satisfying in slow, intentional work like this.  So much of the production sewing I've been doing lately is about speed and efficiency that I relish any opportunity to step away from my machine and just concentrate on one stitch at a time.

I made these booties for Elvie, and gave them to Jessica as a surprise.  She said her heart beat fast when she saw them, or something like that, which I think is a good review.  They are entirely hand-sewn from Simplicity 2867, which was originally released in 1948.

This was my first experience embroidering wool felt and I am absolutely in love.  It's perfect!  It isn't squirrely like a woven fabric so you don't have to hoop it, and the needle just glides through.  Perhaps coincidentally, or perhaps due to some magical property of wool of which I'm unaware, the embroidery floss tangled seldom if ever.  Either way, I love embroidering on wool felt.  LOVE.

Elvie was kind enough to model for me, and I think the shoes compliment her style quite nicely.  

The free-form nature of the embroidery was inspired in part by Love Maude.  When I first saw her work, I got chills!  As recommended in the pattern, I crocheted the little laces from embroidery floss... you know, so Elvie has something to untie, and so her parents have something to retie.  Okay, one more cute baby photo:

What's your favorite 'slow' project?  Do you find your sewing or craft focus shifts as the weather grows colder?  I notice myself favoring projects that can be executed under a blanket or two.  Do you switch to knitting or crocheting, or are you tied to your machine no matter the season?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bloomington Handmade Market roundup

Hello all!  We survived the Bloomington Handmade Market, but barely!  Half of the caravan (myself and Elvie) had a serious case of the sniffles, so there were two babies on the trip instead of just one.  We had a gigantic table for our booth, which was exciting after trying to cram Owlette into a 4' space at the Indie Craft Parade.  Lesson learned.

You know, I am always amazed and humbled by the positive response we receive at shows like these.  I suppose when you spend all your time romancing a sewing machine, it's hard to know whether your work is a niche within a niche, or if it has mass appeal.  Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth, awww!'ed the bonnets, and supported us with kind words or dollars!

Some favorite vendors from Bloomington:
  • Orange Fuzz, my new favorite soapmakers!  Check out their shaving kit.  I bought one as a Christmas gift for my other half, but was so excited about it I gave it to him yesterday!  Oops.
  • Clutches and other pretties from Felix & Jayne: her bags are made of vinyl with big, bright zippers, screenprints, and couched yarn!  You really must have a look.
  • Beautiful (and affordable) metal jewelry from Courtney Fischer, whose work reminds me why I love abandoned buildings and metal scrapyards so much.
  • And of course, Panther By Hand: for those who love colorful unders for grown-ups and breakfast imagery for their home!
We also had a chance to visit Paper Crane Gallery.  It's part art gallery, part handmade boutique (I have an aversion to that word but heck), part community workspace/resource.  When in Bloomington, be sure to check it out!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

calling it a night...

The Bloomington Handmade Market is this Saturday!  It's held at the Bloomington Convention Center and is free to the public.  Hooray!  If you are in the area, stop by and get your holiday shopping done early.

I've been in Nashville the last week getting ready for the show with Jessica.  This was her last act before heading home to get some much needed sleep:

Yes, I think I am right there with her.  Goodnight!

Monday, November 1, 2010

forgive the wallpaper, just focus on the pants

Okay, I swear this blog is not turning into a vintage kid's style blog.  That said, behold!  I love this photo of my aunts, taken in the 1950s sometime, for several reasons:

1. The wallpaper, eeeew!
2. The suspenders!  And most of all...
3. The probably handmade pants, with topstitching, and matching contrast cuffs!

The cuffs are especially great, because they allow the pants to grow with the child.  This week, Jessica and I will be drafting a child's pant pattern inspired, in part, by this photo.  It will be my first hands-on experience with flat pattern drafting and I am thrilled to learn!  

Recently I bought this book and recommend it to those who are interested in a contemporary, technical-but-not-textbook introduction to pattern drafting.  Do you have any resources to share?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

vintage patterns: girls' outerwear edition!

First things first: in my last post, I wrote about Elvie's quilt.  Stay tuned, a tutorial is in the works!  Also, thanks so much to {KID} Independent for featuring Owlette last week!  {KID} Independent is an indie style blog for kids and parents based in Australia, a country that gives me more and more reasons to love it each day.

At a flea market last month, I found a box full of children's clothing patterns from the 1940s-60s (at the latest); I bought all of them for $10 and just about skipped home!  Here is a selection of girls' outerwear; I hope you find these as exciting as I do:

[LEFT: my favorite, Butterick size 4 girl's coat.  "The double-breasted coat with buttons to the waist.  It is nicely fitted, and has a gently flared skirt.  The back belt buttons on neatly.  This is a favorite dress-up fashion for the young miss... and it does for every day as well."  RIGHT: Advance size 8 cape and hat.]

Realistically, I know I won't make half of these.  But they serve as great style inspiration for Owlette, and I've had a difficult time tracking down vintage kid style resources.

[LEFT: Simplicity size 4 child's coat, hood and leggings.  "The flared-back coat, finished with lining, is styled with a double row of buttons and welt pockets...  In style 1, the leggings, made with suspenders, have openings at the sides and are finished with elastic casing in back.  The straps at the lower edge fasten with hammer or metal fasteners..."  CENTER: Simplicity size 4 child's one-piece dress, coat with detachable collar and hat.  RIGHT: McCall size 8 child's coat.]

[This is for my fellow lovers of technical illustrations!  I find them more useful than the pattern front.]

It is clear to me, from reading through these patterns, that our collective sewing knowledge has shrunk in the last several decades.  The reasons for this are obvious; perhaps I'll tell you what you already know in another post.  Inside of one of the patterns I found another mystery pattern, traced onto the funny papers:

[Note the date of copyright on the comic strip!]

So, readers, do you have any tips for working with vintage patterns?  What about for preserving them?  Some of the patterns are water damaged and especially delicate... about a third are unprinted, and have those holes punched in the tissue.  Does anyone have a good resource for deciphering unprinted patterns?  All advice and anecdotes are most welcome!

Monday, October 11, 2010

a quilt for Elvie

Nobody would know the baby's sex until it arrived, but I was sure all along it would be a girl.  Jessica's water broke, we spoke on the phone while she was waiting for the contractions to really begin and I started on the quilt that night.  Here it is:

Jessica and I have been sewing together for years and independently, even longer.  So as much as I loved my little collection of Wonderland fabric with all its sewing imagery, I knew I had to make it into a quilt for Jessica's little one.  Elvie was born the next day, and the quilt was finished a few weeks later.

This quilt is responsible for helping me rediscover my love for embroidery.  I remember working on some of it while staying  in a hotel during our first visit to Knoxville; I love a sewing project that can travel easily!

I pieced the backing and binding from fat quarters I got at the Indiana Heritage Quilt Show.  For those who aren't familiar, this fabric is near impossible to find in person, so I was thrilled to discover that another vendor was selling bundles of it.

The quilting was done by machine: first in the ditch around the square, then outlined by about 3/8-1/2" inch.  With all the pivoting at corners, it was a great use of my Bernina Free Hand System (that knee-lift thinger)!

I've been waiting to write this one for a while, thinking perhaps I would write a pattern or organize a sew-along based on Elvie's quilt.  Obviously that didn't come together, but if anyone is interested, I'd happily write a tutorial!  The block is quick to construct, and the step where you make it crooked is very fun.  Exciting, even!  So how about it?

And finally, I made coordinating bibs for Elvie, thinking she wouldn't really need them until she started eating solid food.  I was very wrong!  Apparently, babies are DROOLY.  Who knew?

Friday, October 8, 2010

a sartorial detour and story time

This is a photo of my Grama Dona around 1952.  She is holding my Aunt Debe and is pregnant with my Aunt Kathie.  My mom would be born several years later, the seventh of eight children.

My Grama is wearing a suit that she made.  I love the stripes and the purple lining--so sharp!  She sewed for many years on her grandmother's treadle machine before finally entering the modern age with an electric machine.  After sewing virtually everything for eight babies, Grama decided she was through with sewing and I can't blame her.  Her grandmother Ingeborg (my great-great-)  was a seamstress, a trade she learned in her native Norway and brought to upstate Minnesota in the 1890s. 

They were homesteaders, and lived for a number of years in a cabin built by my great-great grandfather.  Ingeborg had twelve children, so I imagine her sewing skills served her well.  She also played the harp and made hairpin lace, and baked a dozen loaves of bread three times a week.  Kind of my dream life, minus the twelve kids...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

sewn footwear

I really love handmade slippers.  Or room shoes, or house shoes, or whatever you call them.  They're so much cuter than your standard rubber-soled fuzzies!

I made these as a sample for the quilt shop where I once worked; they are the Favorite Things ballet slippers pattern.  A major bonus of this pattern is it is sized infant through adult!  I don't recall whether the adult sizes are according to shoe size or S/M/L.  I can tell you I wear a 7 and these are the tiniest big snug.  I made an  infant medium, and they were a snap!

I shoulda finished the seam inside but what the heck.  Sometimes, life is too short.  Other times, you don't read the directions all the way before declaring yourself finished!

These sew up relatively quickly and would make great gifts!  If you choose to do either of the two strap variations, invest in a turn-all tool.  If I were to make these again, I would probably just make straps by cutting a strip 4 times the desired finished width, then press the strip in half the long way, and press the raw long edges to the center.  Edgestitch and you're done!

Here are a couple of links to past room shoe sewing projects.  Happy sewing!
*Note: I used Jiffy Grip for the soles.  It's nice and seems to be more durable than scrap denim.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    I'm still here!

    Jessica and Elvie visited yesterday and part of today, and we accomplished a lot!  Elvie woke me up a few hours earlier than usual, which was good for productivity but now I am exhausted.

    We put together a parcel for Paper Crane Gallery in Bloomington IN, plus we're getting ready for the Bloomington Handmade Market, the Rock n Roll Craft Show in St Louis, and the Crafty Supermarket in Cincinnati.  (I finally learned how to spell Cincinnati thanks to this event!)  I will post photos of the stacks of bonnets we made soon. It's quite a sight!

    Edit 09/30:

    This is my half of the workload, which need the binding sewn on and that's it!  We made 22 bonnets.  We are machines.  Speaking of, mine will be spending some time up on blocks again.  The tension is all kinds of wrong... looks like the $100 I spent to have it serviced earlier this month was money well spent!  Arrgh.

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    a quilt I didn't make (but wish I did)

    I haven't had time (or made time) to finish a quilt in quite a while.  My mom, on the other hand, sews circles around me!  She pieced this quilt and had it longarm quilted by Kathy Kessler in Bloomington, IN.  Kathy's rates are very reasonable and she ships!  She's also the most cheerful person you'll ever meet which somehow comes through in her quilting.

    The prints are a mix of Kaffe Fassett collective, Anna Maria Horner, and Aboriginal prints from M&S Textiles.  The solid fabrics are Gee's Bend hand dyes and Kaffe Fassett shot cottons (street name: chambray).

     I advised my mom to choose Hobbs Tuscany Silk batting, which is all silk fibers with a polyester scrim.  It's very light and breathable, so is good for warmer weather.  Isn't Kathy's quilting amazing?  This is no pantograph--she quilted the design freehand!

    The smallest block is about 3.5" finished, and the largest is somewhere in the neighborhood of 15".  I just can't get over the colors!  Here is the quilt pictured with the pillowcases I made and featured in my rolled pillowcase tutorial:

    Dear Mom, if you ever get tired of looking at this quilt, I will do you a favor and take it off your hands.  Fair deal?