Sew Together Bag

Sometime this fall, I managed to make a Sew Together bag. The design is so clever and I’ve seen lots of them on Instagram, so when I stumbled upon the SewDemented booth at Quilt Market, I bought a pattern. I thought it might be a good class project, but truth be told, it’s pretty darned labor-intensive.

I used fabrics I’d had in my stash for a long while—Echino prints and Cloud 9 Geocentric canvas—all on heavier substrates, which I thought would make for a nice, sturdy bag. And indeed it did, although I think it made the layers a little thicker and more challenging to sew through.

I didn’t wind up having enough of the exterior Echino fabric and so pieced in some Cloud 9, and I’m pleased with the result and will definitely make the bag again, although doing some batch sewing (making several at once) would be more efficient.

I also highly recommend the Quilt Barn sew-along tutorial from last March. It broke steps down even further than the instructions and was super helpful.

Knitting vs. Sewing

Some days I worry that my love of yarn is overtaking my love of fabric. I do believe they can co-exist, but there are only so many hours in the day and if I’m knitting, then I’m not sewing (and vice-versa). But these cooler temps seem to call out for sitting in my chair, feet up and a cup of something warm by my side, knitting away on some rich, beautiful yarn.

Finished (but not blocked) Low Brow Cowl: Pattern on Ravelry, Madeline Tosh DK yarn

I’ve also really enjoyed upping my skill level and trying techniques that are new to me. I have had the grand advantage of working at Home Ec Workshop on Wednesday afternoons, when Lisa Wilcox Case serves as the Knitting Nurse. Lisa is a certified Master Knitter (I wrote about that here) and when it’s not busy in the shop she freely gives of her advice and expertise. Suffice it to say, I am spoiled (but I’ve learned a lot, too).

Sugar Cane Hat: Pattern on Ravelry, Shibui Pebble and Silk Cloud yarn

I’m going to have a bit more time for sewing and knitting in upcoming days as there’s some surgery on my horizon that will necessitate me staying home for two or three weeks. I’ve got work lined up, of course, but I won’t be fulfilling my usual exercise classes, grocery runs, and other out-of-the-house activities, so I imagine more free time will be mine. I’m already lining up sewing and knitting projects—I’m in a real mode of wanting to finish those WIPs. We’ll see how it goes.

Imposter Shawl: Pattern on Ravelry, Madeline Tosh DK yarn

Sewing with the one who taught me

I spent a few days visiting my folks in southern California. One of the more fun things I did was to sew with my mom. She’s in her mid-80s and has Parkinson’s, but she’s determined to keep stitching.

She does seem to have a knack, however, for picking complicated projects. When I got there she had been working on a bag that had some really bad instructions and was feeling frustrated. I helped her finish it (and could certainly understand her frustration when I read the methods used in making the bag). Fortunately, she was happy with the end result (below).

Another afternoon we went to a quilt shop we’d visited previously in Orange, the Orange Quilt Bee. They have a great selection of fabrics and patterns and I wanted to find some patterns to try that had more clearcut instructions. We also got fabric to make pillowcases. Here’s the one she made while I was visiting, and when I called tonight she said she’s been making more.

We also stitched up an iPad cover, the Pocket Portfolio by Swirly Girls from some wonderful, traditional blues and were delighted with the pattern instructions and the result. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the finished piece.

I liked the fabric she picked for her pillowcase so much that I’m planning to make Cindy Taylor Oate’s Sit and Stitch Pincushion from the same combination—when I left, my mom hadn’t started this yet. I’m hoping to make mine while we’re on vacation in a couple of weeks. It was fun to sew with the one who taught me. Wish we lived closer so we could do it more often.

No, Pearl, No!

Pearl feigning nonchalance

When I was visiting my folks in Southern California, my mom and I happened upon a great shop in Laguna Hills: Sewing Party. They had some fantastic samples and their classroom was buzzing with activity. My mom was so inspired that she had my dad take her back the next day and she bought the Harlequin pillow pattern (which also includes this smaller, pin cushion version).

She asked me to clarify the instructions on the pin cushion portion of the pattern and so I ended up making one while we were at our cabin. (Pearl was convinced it was a dog toy and would snatch it whenever I looked away.) I made two using Vanessa Christensen’s Simply Style and when I got home I made another with Carolyn Friedlander’s Architextures fabrics. I’ve also marked the quarter-inch stopping points on two more sets of squares (the most fiddly part of the process) in preparation for sewing them. If you’re in possession of any of those mini-charm packs (2.5″ squares), they work perfectly for this project. Making something three-dimensional was really a revelation.

(If you’d like to try your hand at the Harlequin pin cushion and live in the area, I’ll be teaching a class at Home Ec on Oct. 19. They’d make great holiday gifts, and wouldn’t you feel so smug having a head start on those! )

Stitching Up a Storm

My vacation sewing seemed to inspire me to keep at it and since I’ve returned I’ve finished another Sorbetto top (my favorite yet), worked on the back for my recently finished quilt top, and stitched up a Sew and Stow bag from the latest Quilts and More, designed by none other than my friend Mel McFarland.

Quilt tops await backs at the top of the stairs

I’ve also started working an afternoon a week at Home Ec Workshop. As always with a new job, it’s that combination of fun (Fabric! Yarn! Nice people!) and terror (Why is the cash register beeping? How much milk goes in a latte? How do I help someone pick up a dropped stitch?). I’ve gone in three times now and Codi and Anna have been infinitely patient.

I stitched the Sew and Stow bag as a shop sample—whipped it up after dinner one night, and it was a great excuse to combine three lovely fabrics. The instructions were super simple to follow and it seriously took less than two hours. I might make the tabs that keep it rolled up slightly longer—just an inch, really—when using fabric that’s a little heavier than quilting cotton—I used Anna Maria Horner’s lovely linen/cotton Ghost Wing for the body of the bag, Vanessa Christensen’s Simply Style for the top exterior (and an orange solid you can’t see to line the top). These would be great gifts, because they’re not just tschotkes, but really useful. Yay, Mel!

My Sorbetto top is made of…the fabric name is escaping me, but I’ve admired it for some time. Anyone remember? The bias tape was made from a Kaffe shot cotton fat quarter: all of it actually only required a 10″square of fabric. I used this great method from Collette: took me awhile to get it the first time, but once I did it works like a charm.

Finally, I had some very exciting news this week related to my “real” job…writing. Can’t share it for awhile, but you’ll definitely be hearing about it later this year. 

Who me? Sew clothing?

The fabric from my kettle cloth shift

I took home ec in school and learned the basics of sewing. I remember well the blue floral kettle cloth I used to stitch a shift in 8th grade. My mom still had a scrap left and I snapped it up. It’s amazing how a piece of fabric can bring back memories (even if junior high memories aren’t always the best, I did enjoy making and wearing this dress).

My mom was a fabulous sewer, and a very patient one, at that. She took couture classes at our local community college in the evenings and sewed complete, wool suits for herself. I, on the other hand, was impatient and didn’t understand why things needed to be “just so.” When it turned out that I’m not the same size and shape as most patterns, I took it very personally (as in, there was something wrong with me). The idea of meticulously manipulating a pattern so it would fit was too nitpicky for my personality, and so I quit sewing garments. Though I sewed simple outfits for my girls when they were little and easy to fit, it wasn’t until I discovered quilting that my passion for sewing was rekindled.

Sorbetto “muslin” from 2002 Alexander Henry fabric

Still, the desire to make clothing was lurking. Probably getting to know Jenny Gordy and see the hundreds of Wiksten tanks and Tovas on Flickr and at Quilt Market had a little something to do with it. So when Home Ec offered a class on making the Colette Sorbetto top, I jumped. I used a fabric that had 2003 on the selvedge and stitched a tank. It was fast and fun, but didn’t quite fit—there was gaping at the armholes. My online searches (because there’s an amazing amount of information out there about this top—I’m guessing it’s been made thousands of times) revealed that to fix it I needed to do a full bust adjustment (FBA). It sounded terrifying.

After weeks of noodling around online, I realized that Creativebug offered a FBA class with Liesl Gibson, of Oliver & S. The instruction was clear and accurate and I loved being able to stop and start it as I worked through the process. I managed not only to complete the FBA, but I hacked the sleeve I found here, adding an extra inch to make it fit better. I added a couple mother of pearl buttons from a secondhand shop and voila! Just like the old days, I hung my shirt up so it was the first thing I saw in the morning. I remember the thrill of doing that as a kid. I still felt it.

Sorbetto from Amy Butler voile

Then I used that pattern to make a second top out of some Amy Butler Cameo voile. I’ve now got fabric for a third top…and I’m excited to know that I can use those skills to sew other things, as well.  So excited to have overcome my junior high impatience …finally! Just goes to show, it’s never too late.

Wiksten’s Jenny Gordy: A Stitch magazine profile

 I just got an email saying that the Fall issue of Stitch is coming off the press soon, and it reminded me that I hadn’t mentioned the profile I wrote for Stitch with Style, the special issue of Stitch that came out in May.

I’d heard that Jenny Gordy of Wiksten fame had moved to Iowa City and pitched a profile to Amber Eden, Stitch’s fantastic and very enthusiastic editor. Though I turned the profile in last fall, Amber thought it would be great for Stitch with Style, which focuses on sewing clothing and accessories, so it wasn’t in print til this May. But the great thing about that is that since the interview Jenny and I have gotten to be friends, which is a lovely outcome! (She was part of my Quilt Market posse in Portland.) So many of my profiles are written from phone interviews, rather than face-to-face talks, and I rarely get to follow up in person.

A quick bit about Jenny: she started by sewing a line of clothing herself—yup, designing clothing and then stitching an average of ten pieces of each style. As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy, but she did it quite successfully for several years. Though she still sews and sells occasional pieces, she’s turned her focus to creating a line of patterns to accompany her Tova and Tank tops. (We called them “nearly iconic” in the Stitch story, but at Quilt Market I realized we could have omitted the “nearly.” It seemed that in everyone’s booth there was a Wiksten tank stitched up in their latest fabric line.) Not only do I admire Jenny’s determination in making her business work, but I’ve learned that she’s got a great sense of humor.

At any rate, there are lots of great things in the issue. I, for one, intend to use Jenn Mason’s “A Shirt that Fits…Finally!” article to make adjustments to my Sorbetto top. I am feeling kind of excited about sewing clothing…just need to find a little time to do so. So if you haven’t yet checked out Stitch with Style, now’s the time!

It Never Rains but It Pours

That old saying certainly applies to Iowa City weather just now. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the roses as beautiful as they are this year and it suddenly dawned on me that it’s because the climate is mimicking Portland’s (aka The City of Roses) to a tee—cool temps, cloudy skies, and plenty of moisture. This rose was climbing up a trellis at a friend’s home.

But the phrase also applies to my current forays into sewing. I’m still working to finish a many-pieced quilt, but couldn’t resist taking a pair of Home Ec classes. On Saturday I attended the first session of a quilt class taught by Erick Wolfmeyer, about whom I’ve had the opportunity to write a couple of times (here’s one of them). He taught a pattern by a designer whom I was unfamiliar with, but whose work I’m loving—Pam Rocco.

Erick’s got a terrific color sense and having him help sort through our fabrics was fantastic. I somehow had far more fabric than anyone else…now how could that be possible?

Here’s a shot of each of our first blocks—one person’s working in neutrals, one in all prints, one in batiks. Guess what? I’m working in brights. At one point I said I felt like I was making a quilt for a clown. We’ll see how it shakes out. Session two is next Saturday.

On Thursday I took a class in which we made the Colette Sorbetto top. It’s a free, downloadable pattern, but it’s been so long since I made any clothing (especially any that fit, save the bias skirt I made at Home Ec), that I wanted help with that aspect of things. I’ll post more on that next time, but suffice it to say, I’m loving it. Forget cooking, gardening, exercising, and working…Can I please just sew all the time?

Spring Quilt Market Update #2

The adventure continues…

By the time we got our act together to organize our trip, hotels near the Portland Convention Center were full. But Greta got us a lovely condo across the river and each morning we got to cross this bridge. It enabled us to see geese, rowers, bicyclists, and a section of the Portland marathon. (The biggest challenge was crossing the morning of the Heartlandia walk. Literally thousands of people were walking in the opposite direction, but we managed to part the sea of humanity and cross over.)

Here’s more of what I saw at Market:

Echino bags in the Seven Islands booth
Loved the subtle piecing on these Seven Islands aprons
Neons from Michael Miller. I was standing next to one of the women from the Portland Modern Quilt guild who had stitched two of the quilt’s blocks but never seen the completed top. She was so excited to see her work on display.
Tula Pink’s booth
Super-excited to meet Sherri McConnell of A Quilting Life. We both blog for Moda’s Cutting Table, but had never met in person. She’s a real sweetie and was helping Camille Roskelly with her booth (and had sewn some quilts for her, including the one she’s standing by, above).
Fig Tree Quilts booth
Each fabric collection shown in Free Spirit’s booth included a piece of clothing stitched from the collection—garments were a true trend at Market.( That’s Amy Butler on the left, checking out a visitor’s bracelet.)
And not exactly part of the garment trend, but this incredible selvedge dress was the star of RicRac’s booth 
Iowa, represent! We join our other eastern Iowa buddy Vanessa Christensen, in her Simply Style booth (and check out her dress—she added a strip of her fabric to the bottom of a Target dress—she’s not just cute, she’s’ clever). 
Loved the big stitching on this quilt by Jen Kingwell
The garment theme continues at Monaluna’s booth
Butterflies flit across the walls of the Art Gallery Pure Elements booth
Nobody uses color and pattern quite like Sandy Klop of American Jane (for Moda)
Another Market trend was pink and orange. Here, Kanvas fabrics did it up with festive tissue-paper flowers.
When Market ended, we treated ourselves to a day-and-a-half of play in Portland. One of our first stops was Cargo, in the Pearl District, which offered an incredible array of Asian antiques and imports, with prices that ranged from less than a dollar to thousands.

Cargo whistles

We sampled the beer at a couple of brew pubs, including Deschutes, where we stopped for lunch.

We stopped at Front Porch, which has a sister store in Des Moines, and ran our fingers over the blankets.
The next day we had some fantastic Indian food at Bollywood Theater

And we ended our day at the Rose Garden.

Thanks, Portland, for a lovely week! And thanks, too, to the folks who work so hard to make Quilt Market happen. It was great to go, and great to be home.

Spring Quilt Market update #1

Thanks for waiting! You may have seen similar photos elsewhere, but I’m sure I’ll have a few that are unique, so I hope you enjoy them.

My Quilt Market entourage has expanded since the days when Codi (center) and I went to include the super-talented Greta Songe (on left, who’s gone with us the past two Markets) and this time Jenny Gordy (right) of Wiksten. Since I interviewed Jenny for the current issue of Stitch with Style she’s started working at Home Ec and we’ve gotten to be friends and she was ready to check out Market in relation to her patterns. Greta had some great conversations regarding her fabric designs and Jenny was a veritable celebrity, as shop owners told her how much they loved her patterns and her Wiksten tank showed up in numerous designers’ booths.

Our arrival was delayed by a day due to tornadoes in Texas. Our night in the hotel-from-hell could be a post in itself, but I’ll spare you the drama. Suffice it to say, we were darned happy to make it out the next morning, but it did mean we missed most of Schoolhouse. Got this one photo of this Quilt Market’s “it girl,” Tula Pink. She has definitely hit her stride—the session was SRO.

The first booth that caught my eye was Deep South Fibers, a knitting pattern distributor that was looking to move into the sewing pattern world. The owner (I think Donna Higgins, but not 100% sure) had some examples of things knitted with Deep South Fibers patterns, including these adorable kids clothes of her own design. If you knit, check them out. Really elegant items.

Next up was a stop at Penguin and Fish (mentioned yesterday). I covered Alyssa for True-Up, so check out lots of photos here.

Just across the aisle was Carolyn Friedlander, talented designer of Architextures fabrics (for Robert Kaufman) and very cool quilts (and we spotted her teaching at Portland’s Modern Domestic when Market was done). I love the quilt behind her.

I had the pleasure of talking with people I’ve interviewed for past and present stories, as well as meeting with editors, including Amber Eden of Stitch. She took this photo of us all (who have all appeared, or will appear in the pages of Stitch), along with Stitch contributing editor (and a former American Patchwork and Quilting profile subject of mine) Kevin Kosbab. (You can see a shot of Amber here.)

Now, in no particular order, are more Market photos. I’ll be breaking this into two posts. In addition, over the next few days True Up will be including my coverage on Cloud 9, Rashida Coleman Hale, and Camelot, so I won’t duplicate them here. (Except for these fabulous ties, below, from Sarah Watson’s Dem Bones line for Cloud 9—love ’em.)

Riley Blake’s cleverly titled “Gingham Style”—love the varied sizes of checks
Deb Strain’s fabrics for Moda
Kaari Meng’s mood board
Not a great photo, but the only one I managed to snap of the vibrant Heather Ross. We’d “met” via phone when I interviewed her for Stitch, and she was kind, complimentary, and a great story-teller.
Jennifer Sampou’s stripes
Minnick and Simpson’s fabulous ikats for scarves (Moda)

Cluck Cluck Sew offered more great patterns
One of the loveliest booths belong to Leah Duncan for Art Gallery. She was also extremely lovely, herself. Check out the two photos below for more.

And then we ended the day—yes, ended rather than started—with a trip to Voodoo Doughnuts. Everyone raved, but I for one was not going to be taken in by doughnuts that featured bacon or cereal…seemed gimmicky. But I was so wrong. The plain ol’ chocolate glazed doughnut and blueberry cake doughnut I managed to eat were amazing. Plus, we got a great trip phrase out of our visit. When Greta was contemplating trying the maple bacon doughnut, the cheery server offered “Zero reasons not to!”which quickly became our Portland motto.