Thursday, May 27, 2010

Embroidery is to Gateway Drugs... sewing is to addiction. Or maybe that's just me.
I was at Powells on a lunch break, which is always dangerous. Usually I can resist, but this time I just had to buy myself a brand new crafty book: A Rainbow of Stitches. Maybe it was the bright colors, the nice thick feel and weight of it, or the beautiful simple photographs, but I just couldn't resist it. And while it's only been half a day so far, I don't regret it.
I've dabbled in stitches before. I did cross-stitch in high-school and college: those big packets you buy at Hobby Lobby with all the colors included, and a giant pattern that requires endless counting. I always got hopelessly off course on the big ones, but the smaller patterns were quite statisfying. It got less interesting as I went into college, and I put the needle and thread down and ignored them for a few years in favor of a social life.
Then, about a year and a half ago, I was in Powells Home and Garden, and came across Doodle Stitching, by Aimee Ray. This was completely different from my cross-stitch packets. Lines on fabric? It's like drawing with thread! I can do that! So I grabbed my old thread, bought some felt, and proceeded to go crazy with the homemade Christmas ornaments.
Embroidery proved to be my gateway drug. I didn't do it for long until it became unsatisfying, and after trying to sew one too many things together by hand, I began realizing, "This would be a whole lot easier with a sewing machine." So I once again put down the needle and thread, borrowed a sewing machine, and pushed on into the hardcore drugs like french seams and chiffon ruffles.
But today, once again at Powells, I was reminded of my earlier addiction, of sewing badly-stitched lines onto everything I could. This book actually has patterns, though. And directions. And over 80 ideas for projects, all beautifully photographed and most of them incredibly do-able.
Check out some of these:

So, armed with this brand new inspiration, I'm off to raid my closets and boxes for fabric! Who wants their underwear embroidered with poodles? Because I could totally do that.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A To-Do of Cabo Craftiness

What is it about beach vacations that are so attractive?
We're going on a fantastic family funtime in July, and lately all I can think about is soaking up sun, sitting on beaches, and sipping those giant fruity drinks with the umbrellas.  Oh, yeah, maybe it's because Portland is trying to remove sun from our lives with all this rain.
In expectation of the upcoming escape, I've created a little list of crafty to-dos. We'll be enjoying the sun in Cabo San Lucas, so these items are all beach and flower-in-your-hair appropriate.

1) Seersucker shorts. For years I've been looking for just the right beachy shorts, in perfect seersucker. The search is off--I'm making my own! I haven't made shorts before, and I don't actually have a pattern, so this might be an adventure...

2) English Seaside Dress, from (The name must change before I wear it in Mexico, of course.)
Yes, another Modcloth remake! This dress is so sweet and light, and looks so easy to re-create! I've already found the perfect doilys off Etsy, and I just got a nice soft cotton/bamboo fabric, in light sage green. I'll probably use a burdastyle pattern I already have, for a simple tunic dress. This one's next on my list! Any ideas for a better name?

3) This is one I'm actually already working on, and almost done. I call it Cabo San Sundress. To keep the suspense, I won't tell you anything more, other than that I used another Collette pattern, a bright fabric print from a sale at Bolt, and that it's very appropriate for Mexico.

4) I don't have any concrete ideas for the last project yet, but I just bought this fabric off Etsy:
There's not very much of it, but I think it would make a cute little short skirt, so we'll see what I can pull off.

I have two months to work on all of these-- hopefully that's plenty of time! It's my belief that one of the best parts of vacation is looking forward and planning for it. I can just imagine how satisfying it will be when I finally wear all the clothes I've been working on all summer. It's good to have goals. Cabo San Lucas, here I come!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fabric Find

I spent last Sunday wandering around our neighborhood enjoying the sunshine. I popped into Hawthorne Vintage, a cute little vintage shop that I expected to be quite small. It actually stretched back room after room, like a giant cave filled with ancient treasure. Or, little porcelain mugs with 70s style flowers on them.

I was about to wander out empty-handed and call it a good trip, when I spied a little room with overflowing shelves. Of what? Fabric! All sorts of fabric, in all sorts of prints. There was a lot of crazy kitschy prints that I would never use, but a lot of really great ones, too! And prices were somewhere like $12 for 2 and a half yards, which is a great deal. So I settled on this one:

I think I might try to make it into a cute jumper, something like this one. This project might be down the line a bit, though, which is fine since the fabric is a bit thicker and fall-feeling. A perfect late summer/early autumn project!

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Little (Well, A Lot) of Ink

As of Saturday, I have joined a critical mass of Portlanders by being officially inked.
(Yes, it hurt. Like a string of bad words.)
The strange thing about tattoos is that everyone seems to have one, but they are all different. So by getting one you are at once being unoriginal by joining a subculture, but at the same time you are strongly asserting your individuality (The Great Hipster Dilemma). Oh, paradoxes.
I've had a long-time fascination with tattoos. Being in the Northwest means I get to see them even more, and I love seeing the differences and variations on everything. Some are completely original, some are homages to other pieces of art, some are traditional. And yes, some are dumb, ugly, and produce thoughts of "What were they thinking?" Just like any other expression of self.
People get tattoos for a lot of reasons. Historically, it was a way to say you belong to something. Gangs tattooed their members, Christians in Egypt would tattoo a cross on their wrist, and countless cultures have elaborate tattoos signifying identity, beliefs, or simply good fortune.
There's something very mysterious about the permanence of the tattoo. It's saying that no matter what, this image/idea/word will still be true. And that's scary! It's intimidating to commit to something like that. But it's very attractive at the same time, very seductive, knowing that something has enough meaning to you that you'll keep it with you always.
As for my tattoo, I love it so very much. It's been a long thought process for me--I've been thinking about getting a tattoo for years, and this one in particular for over one and a half years. Even after all that time, when I was finally sitting in the chair, it still felt like it happened so fast!
It symbolizes a lot of things for me about the nature of stories, books, knowledge and transformation. I've always felt that stories can show truth (almost better than life), and the kind of stories you tell yourself or absorb--about you, about the world, about anything, matter. They can change you, broaden you, and empower you, or do the opposite.
Past that, I just love the image, and the uniqueness, the simple lines and hint of art deco style, and the flow of the composition. I love that if I turn my head and peek at my shoulder I can just see the top bird flying up.
And once it stops itching and burning, I'll love it even more.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Goodbye, Downtown Life

On Sunday we make the big move to the other side of the river. I've gotta say, I'm sick of moving. This will be the 4th time Jesse and I have packed up in less than two years. We've been averaging about six months per place--it's kind of like we have a summer home, and a winter home! Kind of.
But in our defense, these last two times really haven't been our fault. I got a job that required us to move downtown, and now I have another job that requires us to give up that downtown living. So we pack again.
I've been struggling with downtown living for awhile now. Often, I like the idea of something, but in practice I find out that it actually isn't my thing. This is very true with concerts. I love the idea of hearing a great band live, but once I'm standing there for two hours with the lower-back-concert-ache, I find myself begging the band not to come out for an encore. With living downtown, though, I can't quite decide where my expectations were--I wasn't sure I ever loved the idea of it in the first place.
I liked parts of it. Downtown is synonymous with fast, exciting, walkable, convenient-to-everything, and fun. We found a lot of new restaurants and shops--but they were all a bit more expensive than our usual. It is more walkable--but most of our friends and social lives still took place on the east side, so we found ourselves driving more than we ever used to. And it is fast and exciting--but do I want that all the time?
My biggest problem, and regret, was that I worked in a high-stress job inside the very building I lived in. I often went a couple days without ever going outside. It was hard not to feel like I was always at work. I do wish I could have enjoyed downtown without that pressure hanging on me.
And secondly, the high-luxury downtown lifestyle in such a building just didn't fit us. I don't need to have a concierge buzz friends in--I'd rather open the door to them myself. I don't need to get a 14th floor view of the city--I'd rather watch the rain splash in puddles on the ground. Waiting for elevators just isn't fun. Ever. And riding bikes in traffic downtown isn't quite as easy as the wide, tree-lined bike routes of the outlying neighborhoods.
So while I mourn for the fun downtown experience I seem to have missed, I look forward to the small pleasures of being in a great neighborhood a little bit further away. Where we are a bike-ride or short walk away from friends, great cheap restaurants, parks, and a slightly slower way of life. Plus, there are a lot of trees. Who knew I would miss that so much?
Here's to our new house!

Monday, May 3, 2010

I Capture the Castle

The best part about being sick is that you get to watch movies, and no one else gets to decide but you. This weekend I watched I Capture the Castle, based on the book by Dodie Smith.
I loved this book when I was younger. It's told by 17-year old Cassandra Mortmain, who's family lives in an old castle in England with a famous author of a father (who hasn't written anything in twelve years), a stepmother who likes to take off her clothes in the rain, a beautiful older sister, a smart-alecky younger brother, and the handsome hired help. Throw in the arrival of two brothers from America, and you've got yourself quite the soap opera.
Except the great thing about the story is that it's not a soap opera, not in the least. It's such a real, down-to-earth, true story about growing up and falling in love that including a castle is the perfect counterpoint instead of a cheesy cliche.

The movie was pretty much perfect, by the way. It follows the book like all movies should--staying true to the story while adding those details that make it great to watch. And it was so great to watch, I think mostly because of the costumes and setting.  It's set in 1930s England. I have such a weakness for 1930s anything. Look at some of these pictures:


The hats! The swimsuits!  Trenchcoats! Curly red hair! This one is my favorite:
1) Love the hat. 2) Love the cardigan. 3) Love the fact that there's a castle in the distance, which doesn't have much to do with 1930s fashion, but still.
I couldn't find really great pictures, but there were more. Delicate sweaters, trim pantsuits, amazing hats, a cute dog. Did I mention the hats?  I wish more people wore hats these days.

I was really inspired by all the styles, but it's hard to re-create hats and sweaters with sewing...but maybe I'll look for a fun 1930s or 20s dress I can make.
For now, I just need to feel better. It's getting there.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Art Nouveau Sencha Blouse

I'm feeling a bit under the weather today, so these pictures do not have me in them, for everyone's sake. I finally finished a new blouse, with some of my favorite fabric ever!

My mom and I found this fabric, a Liberty of London print, at Bolt during their huge Spring sale. I love love love the print--art nouveau style circles with tulips and pretty colors! I was so excited to use this for the Sencha pattern, so started immediately. And finally I'm done! I ran into a couple issues along the way, mostly with fit. First, the neckline was incredibly high, but that was an easy fix to lower it. The second problem was a bit harder to fix.
Turns out these patterns are made for women who are much bustier than I am. Seriously, this is the first time I've wanted a boob job, just to fill out the shirt! The pintucked waist looks great, but there is such an excess of fabric around the chest that it almost looks ridiculous. I tried to help it by adding some pintucks to take in the extra fabric. It worked okay, but still not great. I'm a little disappointed, to be honest.

But I think the fabric saves it. It's just too wonderful not to show, so I'll have to wear it anyway, and find some way to make it work. Plus, I love the red buttons, and how they play with the tulips! Here's an up-close shot:

Okay, I lied. Those aren't tulips. I don't know what I was thinking.

So to sum up the blouse: Love the fabric, love the style, hate the fit. Meh, what can you do. I'll probably set it aside for a bit to get some distance, then come back later.
I got a ridiculous amount of fabric at the Bolt sale, so I have too many other projects to work on to dwell on this one. Better luck on the next one, I say!

a little ridiculous, old-school, and oh so stylish