Saturday, March 14, 2015

Puyallup 2015 Recap

Marcy Tilton took this photo from the stage as we waited for her fashion show to begin

Puyallup Round-Up

Well, that was fun!

Last year, thanks to Vogue Patterns, I got a little taste of Sew Expo at Puyallup.

That motivated me to get myself there this year. I attended Sew Expo 2015 for 3 of the 4 days.

I know that a Sewing Expo isn't everyone's cup of tea. The vendor areas can be very crowded—and overwhelming—and prices are often perceived as "not a deal." The classes can be disappointing, and sometimes veer into thinly veiled advertisements. Garment sewers often feel that vendors who cater to garment sewists are eclipsed by vendors who cater to quilters and other craft sewers.

In fact, after committing to the 5-day trip (2 days were spent traveling), I became nervous. I worried that I would get bored after 3 days at Expo. I had visions of returning early to the hotel room, whiling away the time by knitting, or reading, or surfing the net. I wondered if I would regret being in Washington for so long, far from my idle sewing machine.

But that did not happen.

I had a blast.

Waiting for Friday Night Live to begin

After returning home, I spent some time thinking about this. Why did I enjoy it so much?

I can be a notoriously impatient person. In fact, I walked out of several classes I had signed up for and I blew off others entirely. Not because they were bad—I had selected carefully—but because I had ants-in-my-pants and I didn't want to be sitting in a class room, not even for 45 minutes.

So it wasn't the classes.

The reason I had such a great time at Sew Expo is because of the people.

The shopping didn't hurt either.

I'm peppering this post with a few anecdotes that highlight some of my memorable moments of the show. For example:

I was standing in line to see Louise Cutting's fashion show with a reader-of-my-blog that I had met at the snack bar, Elaine S. Elaine was wearing a very interesting print-blocked top that she had purchased in Florida, if I recall. It had a particularly cool collar. At least 10 other sewers, also standing in line, turned to admire her top and study how the collar was constructed. (You may see this collar show up on one of my garments in the future.)

I do this sort of thing all of the time—study a garment someone is wearing—but I usually have to bite my tongue and steal surreptitious glances. To be able to openly enjoy this activity with other sewers is a real high. This is my tribe.
The Tilton's with Gayle Ortiz

My home base at Expo is Marcy Tilton's booth. Just walking up to the Tilton booth fills me with joy, seeing Marcy's and Katherine's smiling faces. We can just look at each other and start giggling. A daily visit to the Tilton booth to study everyone's garments is positively mandatory. I am always particularly thrilled to see Gwen Spencer, who assists Marcy in the booth and also helps with testing pattern designs for Vogue. Gwen was my roomie three years ago at DOL and I don't see her smiling face, or bask in her creative glow, often enough.

(Wearing one of the most spectacular garments of Puyallup, I might add)

And, <ahem>, some very lovely fabrics followed me right out of that booth.

For me, the highlights of the show included:

  • The wonderful vendors, including the Tilton sisters, Diane Ericson, Louise Cutting, Linda Lee, the folks at McCalls Patterns.
  • The Tilton and Louise Cutting fashion shows.
  • Diane Ericson's classes: one on creativity, and one on designing your creative space. These classes were superb. My advice to you is this: if you can take a class, any class, from Diane Ericson, do it. Even if she's teaching something that you don't think interests you. Diane could make the History of Dirt compelling.
  • Lorraine Henry's class on pattern alteration. She uses a technique that is new to me and definitely worth further exploration. Her book was sold out at the show, but I ordered a copy.
  • Meeting up with fellow bloggers - both past friends (Carolyn, Amy, Gayle) and new friends (Myrna, Marris, Neufy, Terri, Gaylen).
  • Meeting up with many, many gracious and enthusiastic readers of my blog.
  • Some great shopping. Besides the aforementioned vendors, I enjoyed spending money at Kai Scissors, Vogue Fabrics, Billie's Fabrics, Indonesia Batiks, Professional Sewing Supplies, Pendleton Mills, Martelli's Notions, Clover Notions, Superior Threads, and the "Japanese" fabric store based in Hawaii. I'm probably missing some.
Diane Ericson with another fiercely creative friend, Marlene

Myrna suggested that the two of us meet for coffee on Saturday afternoon so we could have some time to talk. We were joined by my two roomies, Sue and Sarah, and Carolyn Norman. At one point Diane Ericson walked by and we called her over. Our discussion included sewing rooms (Diane had given a class on sewing rooms and had featured Myrna's space), Myrna's experience in working with Diane as a creative coach (what an interesting idea), and fabric shopping. In fact, I can't even remember everything we talked about, but that chat was another highlight of Expo. Our conversation spurred this contemplative post by Carolyn. Check it out!
Myrna and Carolyn

I very much enjoyed seeing the folks from McCalls/Vogue/Butterick again. Frank Rizzo was happy to speak to visitors to the booth on Saturday. He asked me what I thought about Kwik Sew patterns. (If you have thoughts about Kwik Sew patterns, I suggest that you let them know directly.) We also talked about the importance of cover art (photos versus illustrations) and technical drawings. I always enjoy talking to Frank and to all the folks at Vogue.
Frank Rizzo, president of McCalls/Vogue/Butterick

Kathy Marrone, editor-in-chief of Vogue Patterns

If you haven't already seen these, check out Marcy Tilton's and Gayle Ortiz's posts on Puyallup:

And don't forget to check out my Instagram photos. There are too many to re-post here.

My excellent Puyallup roomies, Sue and Sarah

So, yes, it was a good trip. I came home with new goodies. (I admit it, I got to what Sherry calls "The Earring Stage". That's where you only have room in your luggage for new earrings. Thank goodness Sue brought her luggage scale so we could re-jigger things to keep them under 50 lbs each.) I bought six pair of Kai Scissors. You heard me, SIX pair. They were a good deal, though, and I appreciated it when my roomies didn't even bat an eye—each evening we returned to the room, dumped our purchases on the bed, and had a little impromptu show and tell. I also bought titanium sewing machine needles, a new Martelli rotary cutter, thread from Superior Threads, and Japanese fat quarters for making jewelry.

Sherry educated me on "the earring stage" of luggage
She also made this jacket using Diane Ericson's Ventana pattern and stenciled the polka dots

But I won't bore you with a shopping post.

Am I going back to Puyallup next year?

I don't know. I do have a room reservation, so it's possible. If you'd like to attend Puyallup, but don't want to do it on your own, you might consider going with Marsha McClintock of Saf-T-Pockets. One of my friends has been on her Puyallup Sew Expo tour many times. You can fly into Portland, do some shopping and sightseeing there, then take Marsha's bus tour to Puyallup. It seems like a great way to go and a good opportunity to make friends!

Marcy took this photo in her booth

Knit Hat for DD2

DD2 received the hat I knit for her. As requested, she sent me this picture. It doesn't show the hat too well, but I love seeing her smiling face.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reveal! Weird Metal Thingies in Action


Weird Metal Thingies

It's done!

I decided to use the weird metal thingies in a cowl. I wanted to let them hang freely through grommets. I drafted a simple, shaped cowl, and used a textured knit from EOS. Installing the 100 grommets took some time and all that hammering is a bit hard on the back, so I split it up over several sessions.

I told you it was weird. :)

This cowl has a nice drape and makes a satisfying rattle when I take it off.

I wore it to work yesterday and no one seemed too surprised, so maybe it's not that weird.

Knitted Hat

Over the holidays, I knit a rather disappointing hat for DD2, who is attending university in Minnesota.

She loved it.

She texted me a week or so ago and informed me, with much sadness, that it had gotten wet from the rain and snow and was felting.

I replied that water will not, by itself, cause wool to felt. That it also needed agitation.

She replied that she may, or may not, have been playing in the snow.

Making snow angels, one assumes.

I asked her what color she would like in a replacement hat. She wanted grey but wasn't able to tell me what style of hat.

So I made an executive decision. I told her not to worry, she will love it.

I bought a pattern off Etsy with lots of cables.

I just love cables.

I bought a Malabrigo yarn which is a super wash wool, so it will never felt, no matter how much she frolics in the snow.

I cast on Saturday and finished Sunday, during the Oscars. It was a fun knit.

And I've started a second one for me.

You can read more on Ravelry.

Puyallup Sew Expo

It seems like it's been months in the planning, but it's finally here! Puyallup Sew Expo starts on Thursday and runs through Sunday.

I'm (over) packed and ready to go. I've heard from a LOT of people who will be there: both new and old friends that I look forward to meeting up with. I'm taking classes from Diane Ericson, Linda Lee, Louise Cutting, and Peggy Sagers.

It should be interesting!

I've been on Instagram for years, but have never once posted a picture there. I mostly follow DD1 but, even then, I've only logged on a few times. However, I will try to post some pics while in Puyallup.

My handle is sfshaza and I currently have one follower. I just posted my first test pic, to make sure I knew what I was doing.

I'll give Instagram a shot. Not sure it's up my alley, but I'll try. :)

Have a great weekend!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Triple Plait Scarf, Mycra Pac Field Trip & More


Triple Plait Infinity Scarf

Despite the fact that it's been a fairly insipid winter here in the Bay Area, I've been doing some knitting.

(Seriously, we've been having the most gorgeous spring-like weather, while the east coast is being pummeled with snow. But before you get too jealous, know that we are in a major drought. Think about avoiding showers (or taking really short showers), and not watering any plants, or doing fewer loads of laundry or dishes, and maybe you won't envy us so much. And to those of you in the horrible weather, I hope your misery ends soon!)

I saw this pattern on Pinterest, was compelled to buy it, and immediately started shopping for yarn. You can see my Ravelry review, but the summary recap is that I used Noro Silk Garden yarn in a black-to-brown ombre and I lengthened the braids.

Blocking it flat
(The white yarn is waste yarn for the provisional cast-on. This is thrown away when the live stitches are picked up and the scarf is joined into a ring.)

Field Trip to Mycra Pac

Have you ever heard of Mycra Pac?

Mycra Pac is a local company that makes high-end, boutique ready-to-wear. They mostly make raincoats. In fact, their signature raincoat, called the Donatella, is sold world wide. It features an a-line shape, raglan sleeves, a pleated hood, is made from a single-thickness of fabric, and is reversible. Their coats come with a coordinating bag and you can fold up your coat, placing it into the bag, or squash it into a suitcase. Because they are made from a single thickness of fabric, they are very lightweight and they resist wrinkles, so are perfect for travel.

Here are a couple examples of the Donatella. Note how the pleating gives the collar a lot of body—it can be worn different ways and forms a hood when it's raining.

But that's only one style of coat that they make. They actually make different styles of coats, not all reversible and not all for rain, and they make other things (such as vests) and accessories (such as hats, scarves and bags).

I've loved Mycra Pac for a long time and I own a couple of their raincoats, purchased on sale at a local boutique (which has sadly closed).

Mycra Pac is a very rare institution. They are a local company. Their offices are in the East Bay where they design their garments and make their samples. Most of their manufacturing takes place in San Francisco. What a gift to local sewers! Since they manufacture locally, we can sometimes get our hands on their fabrics, either from one of a couple local fabric stores, or from their outlet. (It's quite rare, but it happens.)

Anyway, I've heard about the Mycra Pac outlet for years, and I've been aware of their outlet sales, but I had never made it over there. Their offices and outlet are located in Moraga, CA. Moraga feels like it's far from San Francisco, but it really isn't. (Though if you drive over there during rush hour, you can get caught in some of the worst traffic in the entire Bay Area.) If you go during non-commute hours, it's only about a one-hour drive from my house in western San Francisco.

My friend Georgene, Sewing Diva, has been drafting patterns for Mycra Pac. She suggested that I come visit one day when she's working.

I was thrilled to take a day off work to go visit and have lunch with Georgene! I think pattern drafting could have been my calling in life, so I find it fascinating to see a real environment where it happens.

Anyway, it was a great visit. I especially enjoyed looking at all the beautiful garments in the outlet store.

I even bought one, though I had a heck of a time choosing just one! (Georgene was most helpful.)

I hope you enjoy some of the pics I took of the racks of beautiful coats for sale in the outlet.

See that red and black coat on the third from the right?
Does that fabric look familiar?
They didn't have my size, or this red one would have come home with me

I considered the coat with the green fleece sleeves...

...but I bought the one with red sleeves.

Thanks, Georgene, for a great visit! I really enjoyed meeting your wonderful colleagues and seeing where the magic happens!

Sharpening Kai Scissors

I love my Kai Scissors. I've owned Gingher and Fiskars (among others), and those are nice, but I prefer the Kai. They cut through fabric like buttah.

I have 3 pair of Kai shears, and some smaller Kai scissors as well. Two of the shears had become dull, due to my misuse of them. (I accidentally tried cutting through a hidden pin with one of them and I'd lazily used the others on paper. Many times.)

I was aware that Kai will sharpen their scissors for a nominal fee, but I searched all over their website looking for details and couldn't find any information. On Stitcher's Guild, I asked if anyone knew the details, and it turned out that Margy did.

Here's the info, which is current as of this posting. Please check to make sure that the details haven't changed before sending off your precious scissors:

We sharpen our Kai Brand Scissors only.

The 5000 series scissors are $5.00 each.
The 7000 Professional Series are $7.50 each.
The price includes return postage.

You can include a check or money order for payment, or include your contact information for us to call you for a credit card.

Kai Scissors
13716 24th Street East
Suite #103
Sumner, WA 98390

thank you,

I know that Kai has a booth at Puyallup and many folks bring their scissors to the Kai booth in person for sharpening (though I don't know if you pick them up at the show or they mail them to you afterward), but I didn't want to deal with that. So, I first ordered a third pair of shears, so I wouldn't be without both pair. Once the new pair arrived, I wrapped the older pairs in bubble wrap and mailed them off.

Sure enough, they called me for credit card information and promptly shipped back my newly sharpened babies. I shipped them my first pair, from the 5000 series (green handled) and they placed that into original packaging. They placed a cover over the tips of the second pair, from the professional line, and securely wrapped them.

I sent the bottom two pair for sharpening

It cost $12.50 and I am very pleased!

Weird Metal Thingies

Do you know what these are?

I saw these at a local fabric store over 3 years ago. I had no idea what they were for, but I really liked them. They were placed into little bags - 8 sets for $2. I bought 2 bags, then I went to eat lunch and studied them. I decided I had to have more, so I went back and bought all 11 bags that they had.

But I have no idea what they were designed for.

They are made from pewter. The bar that connects the two balls is threaded, so it's rough to the touch. One ball is soldered on and the other ball screws on and off.

I don't think these were meant to be worn in a body part, though they remind me of jewelry for piercings. (I can't imagine anyone wanting to wear pewter in their skin.)

In the three years since I bought them, I pull them out every so often and try to figure out how to use them.

I took them to DOL 3 years ago and showed them to Diane Ericson, hoping she might have some insight.

She didn't.

I've made various samples over the years. For example, I thought maybe I could put them down a center front seam. But the rigid (and long) bar distorts the fabric.

I thought maybe they could be used along the right-angled seam of a purse. But I was still a bit dubious.

Adding to the challenge is I don't have that many of them - there are only about 100 of them and I can't get more.

I am happy to report that I finally had an inspiration. I've been working on a little project that uses them.

I'm not ready to show it yet, but it's kinda weird.

It's pretty weird.

I emailed Margy, describing the weirdness, and she replied, "Cool!"

But I am wondering... does anyone actually know what these are or what they were designed for?

I'm curious, how would you use them?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Kantha Quilt Jacket


Kantha Jacket

I first became aware of coats made from Kantha quilts two years ago, when someone posted a picture of Heidi Klum wearing a Meiko Mintz coat (made from a Kantha quilt) on Stitcher's Guild.

I was smitten. I quickly started researching Mieko Mintz and her amazing work. I even found a boutique that sells her pieces locally and tried some on.

I then started shopping for Kantha quilts on Etsy and Ebay. I didn't buy one, however, and I moved on to other things.

Then, recently, Ann Smith, a local sewing buddy (who is well known on Pattern Review), made a Kantha quilt jacket, inspired by Meiko Mintz. It was fabulous.

(Ann is not posting these days, so I can't point you to any photos of her jacket, but it was great! She used Vogue 2949 - an OOP Sandra Betzina pattern that I made long ago.)

Anyway, Ann got me all fired up about kantha quilts again. This time I went shopping, and bought, a Kantha quilt on Etsy. It came from India but arrived quite quickly.

So...what style should I use for my jacket? The standard Meiko style, with its a-line shape, and giant collar, isn't flattering on me. (Trust me on this.)

So I decided to use a silhouette that works better on my uber busty, inverted-triangle-shaped form. Inspired by another RTW designer, I started looking for a pattern that featured shoulder front and back princess seams and a pointed shawl collar.

There was nothing like this available in any current pattern offerings. This is too bad as this is a great silhouette and very popular in current RTW.

I started searching OOP patterns on Ebay and I found one that had the right bones, but would need substantial altering: Vogue 1042.

The pattern and the quilt arrived in November, but I set them aside as I was working on other things.

During my 2-week break over Christmas and New Years, I decided I wanted to tackle this project. I pulled out the pattern, traced it off in my size, did an FBA, lengthened it, and changed the style lines a bit. I quickly ran up a muslin, because I was going to be seeing Ronda Chaney, head of the Fashion department at Cañada College the next day, and I wanted her to be able to take a quick look at the fit. I finished the muslin late the night before, so I had no time to finesse it.

When I modeled it for Ronda the next day, it was in fairly rough shape. She made quite a few suggested alterations.

I went home and incorporated her changes, creating muslin #2. The second muslin was better, but it needed further tweaking. (The first version was so off that it required more than one round.) I was going to be seeing my pattern drafting friend, Georgene, only a few days after seeing Ronda, so I brought muslin #2 along.

Georgene made quite a few further alterations. By the time I was finished with these two rounds of edits, the finished pattern barely resembled the original and, most importantly, it fit me to perfection!

I was planning on making muslin #3, but Georgene convinced me to "go for it", so I grabbed the kantha quilt and started cutting. I'm not sure if you can tell, but I cut the quilt with careful thought as to how the design would flow around the body. I wanted the printed design and colors to flow in a particular way. The twin size quilt was just large enough to create the jacket—I had very little left over. I also did my best at cutting around the holes and imperfections, but I couldn't avoid all of them. (This quilt is quite authentic in its use of worn saris.)

One of the hallmarks of Meiko Mintz's jackets is that they are unlined and reversible. She finishes the internal raw edges with a purl marrow stitch, which is similar to a serged edge, in a contrasting color. She generally doesn't use closures, and the external edges are sometimes finished with the same purl marrow stitch, and sometimes she just turns both outer edges towards the inside and slip stitches them together—finishing them in a similar manner to a double-cloth coat. This results in garments with no extraneous fabric that are as light as air.

I didn't own a serger that I felt was good enough to use in this way, so I sewed my coat with normal 5/8" seams. (I have since bought a new serger...) On the wrong side, I turned under the raw edge under of each seam, and stitched it down by hand. (I really didn't feel the need for this jacket to be reversible, but I did want to finish it neatly.)

8 yards of self-made bias binding using a batik purchased from Stone Mountain & Daughter

I finished the outer edges with self made bias binding made by using the 18mm bias tool from Clover. Finally, I added a dark brown toggle closure purchased at Britex.

Punching holes into the toggle

There is quite a bit of handwork in this coat, so it took me awhile to finish. For example, I made 8 yards of bias binding to finish the outer edges. I also made two patch pockets, also finished with bias binding, but I haven't attached them to the jacket. I may attach them still. Or I may put them on the inside. Or I may not use them.

Completed, but unused, pockets

I have't decided.

How do I feel about the finished jacket?

To be honest, I'm not sure. I'm not sure that it's "me." I love the fit. I looove the fit, the shape, and the silhouette, but I'm not so sure about the colors and the print.

I also think that, when I use this pattern again (and I will), that I will make the collar a bit larger. This will quickly become a TNT pattern for me and you can expect to see it in many incarnations. In fact, I have already started another version using a beautiful fabric from Marcy Tilton.

What do you think... Is this quilted, brightly colored, jacket "me"?

Time will tell.

I also decided to model it for some of the photos inside-out, because I can wear it that way if I want to.

Inside out - front

Inside out - back

I may bring it to Puyallup to wear.


Thanks, Ronda and Georgene for your fitting expertise!
Thanks, mem for taking these pics!

I'm enjoying my new purchased-on-sale Trippen boots! Or I was, until I walked out of a conference room this morning, looked down, and saw this:


Self Made Earrings!

I decided over the holidays that I wanted to try my hand at jewelry making. And by that, I mean working with metal. The very next day, on January 3rd, an email dropped into my inbox offering a discount on a beginning jewelry making class at a studio in downtown San Francisco.

I jumped on it. I attended the class on the weekend before last. This 3.5 hour workshop offered a hands-on experience in metal folding, resulting in a pair of leaf-shaped sterling silver earrings.

I had never even heard of the metal folding technique before, so there was lots to learn. I find this sort of artistic expression difficult. Before you completely fold the metal, you paint the inside with ochre. Then you fold the metal completely in half and start hammering. This shapes the metal and imparts surface texture. But hammering the silver also makes it brittle so you periodically have to anneal it, which means you fire it. (Or, in this case, the teacher applies the fire.) After it's been fired, it returns to a soft and malleable state so that you can hammer it further without risk of breaking it.

Both pieces of metal are folded (one for each earring) and the hammering has begun

You repeat this cycle over and over until you achieve the shape that you want. The ochre prevents the two sides from fusing together during the annealing process.

Then you cut the folded metal into a leaf shape, using your own self drawn template.

(I hope you are still with me, because I'm going somewhere with this blow-by-blow recap.)

Now it's time to open up the folded metal to reveal the leaf shape.

I should mention that the heat from the annealing process changes the ochre from it's characteristic mustard color to red.

Except, once opened, my pieces of metal didn't look so much like leaves as... something else.

I seemed to be the only student in the room wondering aloud why my pieces of metal looked like they needed underwear.

After opening up the folded metal "leaves"

I took my pieces to the assistant and asked her what I could do to make my "leaves" look less...

"Georgia O'Keefe?" she offered helpfully.


I spent quite a bit of time re-cutting the leaves, bending and shaping them as best as I could, and scrubbing out the red ochre (which is very difficult to remove from deep in the fold - I had to use two different brushes and the magnetic cleaner machine).

My friends tell me that the resulting earrings are quite leaf shaped and not particularly "Georgia O'Keefe."

I hope so. Though they still remind me of my very favorite Everybody Loves Raymond episode, Marie's Sculpture.

I'm thinking that my silver-smithing career might be over. I didn't really enjoy the process that much.

Get Your Motor's Running Contest - the Results

Thanks so much for your votes in Rhonda's contest! The lovely Cennetta won with her beautiful rendition of a color-and-print-blocked sheath dress. Congrats, Cennetta!

On Sunday, I could see that I would not have the votes to win first prize, so I took advantage of the announced sale last weekend and I purchased Janet Pray's class—which comes with the moto jacket pattern—for half off. It's a win-win!