Dyeing among friends.

I am incredibly lucky. All of my friends are amazing artists. From music to print making, cooking to graphic design, and writing to producing, I am surrounded by talented, inspiring people. So spoiled! Here is a great example:


For the past few months, I have been collaborating with a dear friend, Alyson Provax, who is translating her beautiful art to fabric, so that I can selfishly sew it all up.  What I love most about Alyson's art is her perspective on texture and placement. Whether its a scene, a phrase, or colors, everything she touches looks like it is in its right place.

Alyson's designs.

Alyson has been hand dyeing and hand painting canvas, linen, and denim. I came over during a dye sesh, and took a few pictures. She has been mixing her own colors to get those oh-so-pretty shades. 

A basket of ready-to-dye fabric!

The hardest part, aside from rinsing, rinsing and more rinsing, is waiting to see the results! Every piece of fabric becomes a surprise.

Alyson is getting hardcore with her dyes, mixing up soda ash, salt, and who knows what else, to get those amazing textures.

Her colors look great with a shibori technique, as well as my favorite trick of hers, which lacks a name, but is best described as "wadding fabric in an empty yogurt container and splashing it with dye" dyeing. We filled a basket with several experiments - folding fabric between boards, twisting fabric into tight ropes, using rubber bands and wood blocks, and laying out the fabric flat and sprinkling with salt for hand painting.

Patience makes for great colors!

Lately, I will come home from work to find a mysterious paper bag on my porch, and as soon as I peek inside and see a bunch of colors, I know that Alyson has just finished a dye batch. What a lovely thing to come home to!

A hand-dyed scarf.

Working with friends is the best way to create -- I get lonely sewing and crafting by myself, and having folks around me always leads to great conversations, new ideas, and the best kind of criticism. Alsyon and I have been working to find the perfect tote bag dimensions to put her fabric to use! With the softer fabrics, we have been making some good ol' circle scarves.

I hope to soon include some of her text in what I am making as well. Did I forget to mention Alyson is also a wordsmith?

Check out Alyson's TimeWasting Experiment. Seriously, leave my blog and go check it out now.

Hard at work with those rubber bands.

I want to reiterate how grateful I am to be able to create with friends. What a warm, fuzzy feeling. Stay tuned for more of our creations! And, please, for your own sake, go take a few to gaze at Alyson's art...

....aaaand, I'm back!

It's 2015, and I finally have a computer! My laptop died a few months ago, and I was slow to replace it. Obviously it meant no blogging, but worse, it was hard to read and comment on all the blogs I follow from my phone. I have really missed the sewing world! Thank goodness for Instagram.

The best news is that my new (used) computer can support Adobe, so no more  iPhone pictures here! (Except the one below...)

I will soon be catching up with some posts about what I have been working on these last few months. In the meantime, here is a picture of Tan from New Year's Day. The sun made a rare appearance, and I woke up to him appearing to meditate. Perhaps he was working on some resolutions for 2015?

Fabric Shopping in Los Angeles

My first attempt at a blog, and I go so many weeks without posting! Oops. I have some good excuses: I went to sewing school for a month, and then I took a trip to Southern California, and spent a good part of the day in the fashion district hunting fabric. Am I excused?

This was my first time in L.A. (Northern California born and bred!) and I have to say it felt really good to be back in a big city. Sorry, Portland, but you're just really, really small. I did a quick internet search about how to buy fabric in the fashion district, and came up with little, so I decided to wing it. This was a mistake. I had planned to do a blog post on a newbie's tips for fabric shopping in L.A., but I was so overwhelmed, I lost the good portion of an hour trying to orient myself. I stood and spun in circles before entering a store. To top it off, I took literally two pictures while I was there. So here is what little I learned! I didn't haggle, because a) I am a wimp, and b) nothing cost more than $3 a yard. I wasn't shopping for anything fancy. Half of it was pay-by-the-pound at Michael Levine's Loft. Nothing like digging through boxes of fabric in 90 degree heat! I just wandered from store to store, and bought what felt good in my hands. If the staff at the shop were friendly and not too pushy, I chatted a bit about what the fabric might be (sometimes they knew, and other times they grinned and just quoted me the price). In other words, I was a total tourist. Los Angeles sewists  -- any tips for my next trip down??



Here is my woven loot. None of the fabrics were labeled, so I made some major guesses. Comfy cottons in green plaid and blue on the far left, a fun, silky material in the middle (for a circle scarf, I'm thinking. Definitely not real silk) some flouncy cotton/rayon in orange and blue, and some mustard challis. I am using the blue cotton for the Alder Shirtdress sewalong starting tomorrow! I bought 5 yards, because at $2 a yard, I figured it would make a great (hopefully) wearable muslin for my first stab at the pattern. I also thought it looked/felt suspiciously similar to a fabric I bought locally for $12 a yard. After bringing it home, I discovered it was nearly identical. Washed up the same, too!




And now for the knits! Most of what I bought was for practicing drafting my own patterns (it's hard to find enough yardage for knits to practice on without breaking the bank!) so I went with some pretty loud designs for a gal who mostly wears black. I bought stacks and stacks of plain colors, but here is the fun stuff. These knits are SO SOFT. After washing, the purple fabric got kind of pilly, so I'm sure it's cheapo fabric, but it will be great for samples. The rest of the knits washed up really well, and I am very excited to wear them. The floral fabric below is the softest of all, and I plan to whip up a pencil skirt soon.

SWEATER KNITS! Fall is coming soon....

SWEATER KNITS! Fall is coming soon....

I passed by a cute Japanese bookstore, and they had the largest selection of sewing books I had ever seen (much to my bank account's disappointment). Their translated section had all the books I had been wanting to check out in person before ordering online, so I grabbed a few that had some patterns I wanted to try. Of course, I also had to pick up Grainline's Alder Shirtdress pattern!

Books and stash.jpg

Here's the most important thing that happened: I filled my suitcase with 35 pounds of fabric for $80. All of my cuts were at least 2 yards, and upwards of 6. WHAT! Now I just need to see how/if the fabric holds up before I plan my next trip. 

I took one picture, see??? The folks here were SUPER friendly, and cut fabric quicker than I have ever seen.

I took one picture, see??? The folks here were SUPER friendly, and cut fabric quicker than I have ever seen.

Hudson Pant Sewalong!

I was so stoked when True Bias released the Hudson Pant pattern, and even more stoked when it meant I could participate in my first sewalong. Usually I find patterns a year after release, but I was on it this time. Kelli's tutorial was broken down in a way that made her already fabulous pattern even easier to digest. 

My favorite thing about this sewalong is that it gave me an excuse to buy some fabric I had been eyeing at Fabric Depot, but couldn't swing full price. Then Fabric Depot decided to have a 40% off sale, so I hustled there after work and bought the rest of the bolt. The fabric is Sophia by Logantex, a thicker Polyester/Spandex/Rayon blend in a fun orange color with a lighter heather orange on the wrong side - perfect for the waistband and cuffs on this pattern! It is extremely soft, and it worked pretty well for this pattern, although I am not sure I would choose it again, because it does cling a bit in the rear area. I think the softness might beat the clinginess, but I am going to try to make a shirt with the rest of the fabric to see how that fares in comparison.

Which laces? Too many options!

Which laces? Too many options!

The hardest part of the pattern was picking the right cording for the waistband. I bought a bunch of fun neon cording and some bright shoelaces. The husband had a pretty strong opinion about the orange and black shoelace, and I trust him and his design-sense. Thanks, hubs.

The pants are extremely comfortable. I could definitely wear them out of the house, and I plan to just pop them on every day after work, especially in the winter. Changing into lounge pants immediately after getting home from work is probably my favorite part of the day (off with the bra and on with the comfy pants, right?) and this pattern allows you to feel fashionable and comfortable. The best!

The pants sit comfortably on the waist, and I am very high-waisted. I was worried they would hang too low on the butt, like most pajamas or sweat pants that I have tried, but the wide band and the crotch length are perfect for me, and probably even better for you ladies with more even proportions. I love the accents and slight flaring on the pockets. It gives me a little more shape in the hips.

(Tan the kitten was an excellent helper as I tried to photograph the results, so here is a shout out to him. He's still too wiggly for pictures, but he also refuses to leave me alone when I am trying to take them.)

All done, and definitely ready to be worn.

All done, and definitely ready to be worn.

I only had one hiccup in the whole process. For some reason my machine was just not into sewing the second row of topstitching on the waistband. As soon as I hit the pockets, skipped stitches were the norm. I ripped out two-and-a-half attempts before deciding to skip the second row of stitching at the front of the pants, so it only has two rows in the back. I think this will keep the elastic in place just fine. Next time I might add an inch for my long legs, but other than that, these sewed up quickly and beautifully. More importantly, this pattern is FUN. I think it is my favorite pattern that I have worked with, and I can't wait to make an after-work uniform of Hudson Pants!

They go well with my me-made tank, but why are my toes so pink?

They go well with my me-made tank, but why are my toes so pink?

Summer knits! (And my fear of woven fabric)

I've been busting out some tanks and tees to get ready for the fashionably late Portland summer, and so far all of them have been made from knit fabric. I don't know why I first started sewing clothes for myself with knits, since I have heard so many horror stories. My experience has been quite the opposite. I am scared of sewing clothes with woven fabric! I will explain why later, but for now, the goods...

A new summer wardrobe!

A new summer wardrobe!

To familiarize myself with the basics of t-shirt making, I sought out some simple patterns that had a bunch of online tutorials to ease me into the process. Thanks awesome internet sewing community! I'm late to the game, but that's how I roll, so I found the free Plantain Tee, by Deer & Doe, and Grainline Studio's free Hemlock Tee. Once I figured out how shirt patterns work, I started to buy patterns from the above designers (And more! Go indie sewers, go!), most recently the Tiny Pocket Tank, which is my new favorite shirt. These patterns have boosted my sewing confidence, and I am now well on my way to making up my own patterns.

My shortened Plantain Tee.

The Plantain Tee fits me better than any shirt I have found in stores. I can't tell you how hard it is to find shirts that fit my frame. I have zero torso, a wide rib cage, and a somewhat concave chest, so shirts always gape in the front. I'm all legs! Whenever I make a Plantain, I raise the neckline about an inch or two, and I shorten the overall length of the shirt by several inches (or I just use the length for the smallest size available). I also take the sleeves in significantly to account for the skinny arms. And just like that, a perfect fit! Here, I left the sleeves unfinished, partly because I like it when they curl up (bad, bad, I know) but also because I haven't decided if I will make them a little shorter. Right now they are halfway between the short sleeve and the 3/4 length on the pattern.

How many tiny pocket tanks can fit into my closet?

Grainline's Tiny Pocket Tank is one of the only tanks that fits my frame. So naturally I had to make it in *all* of the fabric! I actually made these three to slowly work my way up to sewing a woven version. On the far right is a super soft jersey from Girl Charlee, and it was the most picky of the three fabrics, but definitely posed no serious threats. I plan to buy a bunch more of that fabric. In the middle is a very sturdy mystery fabric I picked up at Mill End's annex, famous for amazing piles of cheap, nameless fabric. No idea what it is made of; something slightly stretchy, but teetering on woven, with very subtle herringbone stripes. I'm obsessed, and I have enough to make a dress in the near future. The squared polka dots are a very thick jersey, also from Mill End, so really, who knows what it is or where it came from.

My favorite mystery fabric!

This is my favorite shirt out of all that I have made, and I took a risk by cutting the fabric in the direction with the least amount of stretch so that the stripes would be horizontal. This only worked because the fabric behaves more like a woven. It is stiff enough to hold its shape, but stretchy enough to easily cover my tummy. I think it's the perfect bridge in my journey from knit fabric to woven. I didn't make many changes to Grainline's pattern, just shortened it a bit. Next time, I will likely raise the neckline.  Grainline's amazing tutorial on how to get necklines to lay flat worked perfectly with this fabric, even though it is a knit. Normally with knits, I just attach the neckline and use my twin needle to finish it, but in this case, I followed all of the steps for bias binding. It worked beautifully! That is definitely the best neckline tutorial I have found.

Like polka dots, but squared! Haven't mastered darts yet...

I love this thick, super stretchy jersey. I used material from the black tank above as binding, and followed Grainline's tutorial again. Now that I have enough practice with necklines and binding, I feel confident that I can make this shirt in any type of fabric!

So why am I scared fabric that is not knit? It might be because the whole sewing-in-a-straight-line thing still needs some work on my end, but for some reason I have found knit fabric to be very forgiving as a beginner. Below, I have listed all the things I need for sewing knits, as well as the tutorials that made learning this a breeze. Speaking as a complete beginner, if I can do it using only the tools below, then a more experienced sewer will have no problem! All you need are the following:

1) A walking foot. The poor sewing machine salesman didn't realize he could have upsold me a model if I would have known it came with a walking foot! Instead, I saved up for a couple months, because the dang thing cost almost a third of what my machine did! However, I use it all the time.

2) A stitch for stretch fabric and a stretch (or jersey) needle. At first I used the stretch stitch on my machine, but I have found a zig zag to be less likely to leave the fabric to the mercy of the hungry feed dogs, and I just increase the stitch length on my straight stitch for any topstitching. Get yourself the right needle, too.

3) A twin needle: My new best friend! I haven't gotten around to finishing all the sleeves and hems on my shirts, because I hadn't learned how to use one yet. I used this tutorial, and was sewing with the needle in 5 minutes or less.

4) A rotary cutter: I don't even want to talk about what my first few knit shirts looked like while using scissors...

I still have more questions than answers, and necklines still haunt me in my sleep, but I can't believe how much I have accomplished after 6 months of sewing. I look back at my first project with a big "awwwwwww" (but I still totally wear it!) and I can't wait to see how much things improve when I start to work with different fabrics. Coming soon: my adventures in sewing summer school.