One Work in Progress and One Finally Finished Project

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What’s this one going to be? Well, I’m not sure, but I know it’s going to be colorful. The repetitive nature of cutting out fabric all the same size can be soothing.

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It allows for the gentle progression of a project without a ton of hard work. But it could be fairly boring if it was done in all one color.

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I thought this combination of color was very punchy—a soothing palette of blues and grays interrupted by a core of strong yellows. Most likely this will be a pillow…cutting out all those strips might be soothing but I have my limits.

img_8772Finally, after four months, the Chicago Weaving School was able to reopen, although to a much smaller class size. The sampler I had been working on was abandoned on the loom when we all had to shelter in place back in March.

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But it was still there on the four shaft table loom just as I had left it. And I finally got to finish it and bring it home.

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I knew that as a sampler with lots of mismatched designs and colors, I probably wouldn’t want to use it as is. And after wet finishing it in the washing machine, the finished dimensions were just enough for several small projects.

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The first of which is an insulating sleeve for the large glass I drink hot tea from. I layered the wool woven sampler with Soft and Stable batting and a narrow piece of quilting cotton. I joined the two ends with two wide bands of elastic.

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I try to avoid hand-sewing at all costs because I think I hate it. But it turns out that it was much simpler, and faster, to finish the last seam by hand instead of trying to cram it under the sewing machine. I guess I don’t hate hand-sewing.

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And now I get to peak at all the different weaving techniques I learned over several weeks while sipping my black tea every morning. Tomorrow the loom gets warped with a new project and I’m so eager to learn new techniques and start a brand new textile!

School’s Out, Education Continues

I’d like to tell you about what I’ve been sewing, but after I share an invaluable resource directly related to the Black Lives Matter movement. The Evanston Public Library has put together a list of books and other resources for us to deepen our education on racism, antiracism, and what we can do as advocates and allies. The research has been done, the educational material has been created, the facts have been vetted. The only thing left for us to do is learn.

This list is for everyone. Even those who don’t live in Evanston and aren’t library patrons. I challenge you to just pick one resource and watch, listen, or read. And then come back to this list and begin again. Thank you for listening. Thank you to the teachers writers, filmmakers, and artists for providing us with this education. And thank you to the Evanston Public Library for this resource list.

Antiracist Resources


 

I’ve created a new tutorial video on how to sew a fabric wristlet key chain. This is an easy project that takes minimal fabric and can even be made from those scraps you’ve been saving up!

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I think these would even make great gifts…easy to make and way for you to share your creative projects! But maybe more importantly, the technique to make the fabric strap is the same technique for making the handles on a shopping bag, the pull on a zippered tote, or even the drawstring on a backpack.

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The video is about 16 minutes and there’s a printable instruction sheet as well. I hope you’ll make a bunch of these!

How To Sew A Simple Shopping Tote

New this month is an instructional video based on a simple shopping tote design I created.

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The project uses two half-yard pieces of fabric and an optional pocket uses some of the scraps remaining.

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There’s printable PDF instructions and a basic pattern to create the curved edge.

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This is part of my ongoing series of videos that I’m creating for CJE SeniorLife.

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I also spent some time this month creating a very streamlined cross body bag.

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I love getting outside when the weather warms up, but I have to admit that I miss the use of all those pockets on my winter coat (I don’t actually miss the coat itself!).

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I took advantage of the scraps leftover from last months pants project and some straps and buckles I have in my supplies.

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This turned out great because it’s just big enough to hold my phone and wallet and I can put in on my back or chest without taking it off.

Until next month, happy sewing!

April 2020

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Last month I shared that I was using hand dyed wool to weave a pillow cover and now that it’s finished, I can share the finished pillow.

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This is 100% wool, so it became super soft and cozy after I wet finished it in the machine on the delicate cycle.

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It was easy to weave with, and the colors turned out very vibrant, but there was a fair bit of wool lint under my loom when it was finished. Hand-dying wool and then weaving with it was an experiment that I will gladly do again.

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In the first garment sewing class I took many moons ago, we made a pair of pajama pants following Simplicity’s 8022 pattern.

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It certainly is easy, as it’s one pattern piece cut twice and the basic construction is three seams. But I’ve never been a fan of loose, elastic waist pants for me. So I thought I’d use the same pattern as a base and make a muslin from it which I could then tailor to fit me the way I want.

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After hand basting the seams, cutting a bit more off here and there, I settled on a pattern piece I could then use to make my own pair of casual pants.

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I found a great fabric that has a bit of structure to it and the tinniest amount of stretch. It’s a water repellent nylon fabric with a fleece lining that is meant for lightweight jackets.

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I’m sure pants weren’t the intended use, but I was modeling the idea of the pants from a pair of store-bought athletic pants I own and this fabric came pretty close.

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I added a wide elastic waist band, but because there is very little excess fabric, I don’t feel like I have a lot of gathered fabric around my middle.

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All in all, I’m very happy with them. Super comfy and warm…perfect for Springtime weekend wear here in the Midwest. And now I have a customized pattern piece for making more pairs!

Sewing Online

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On this site, and on Instagram, I’m known as Max and Wolf. But in real life my name is Adam and I’m the Senior Graphic Designer at CJE SeniorLife, an agency devoted to the care of older adults in the many ways that “older adult” is defined these days. In our line of work, the idea of social distancing is anathema. Everything we do is directed at engaging older adults in meaningful and healthful activities.

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So while all of our in-person activities–from educational lectures to hands-on art projects to exercise classes–have to be cancelled for everyone’s safety during the COVID19 pandemic, we’ve decided to work with the technology tools at hand to bring our programs and services into people’s homes. We’re calling our new program CJE’s Cyber Club. I hope that you will share it with an older adult in your circle and maybe even take advantage of it yourself.

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I’m doing a lot more video editing these days helping to finesse our programs into a suitable digital format, but I’m also hosting sewing classes. Being in front of the camera is not a role I’m entirely comfortable with. I’ve spent the last 25 years providing art direction to highly skilled photographers and filmmakers and have had no need to be seen or heard.

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Now I find myself digging deep to try and translate myself into someone who is peppy and energetic on camera and it does not come naturally to me. But I am very excited for this new-to-me way of presenting my lessons and so I’m focusing on the best way to provide sewing lessons, tips and techniques in a clear, cohesive, and calm manner. I have two videos already produced and posted and several in the works.

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My intention is to create a video that corresponds with the twelve projects that I will be teaching in person at Measure, Cut, Sew, Repeat! starting (hopefully) in May. These will function not only as online workshops, but also as a refresher for anyone who takes the in-person class.

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For my personal projects this month, just before we had to shelter in place, I took a hand-painting yarn class at the Evanston Art Center. I had no idea what to expect, but wanted to include this step as part of my weaving endeavors. I ended up with five mini-skeins of wool in a variety of colors ways. I’m currently working on a pillow cover using three of the skeins and will get to share it next month!

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I hope you are finding ways to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, during this bizarre and surreal time. Be well.

Fiberuary

February sure was Fiberuary for me! To start, I taught three intro to sewing classes at Northwestern’s Norris Student Center this month. Some students were returning from the fall quarter and some were brand new!

This quarter I swapped out the cutlery roll project with a class in which we made a zippered pouch.

This gave us the opportunity to learn how to install a zipper and all the skills that go along with it, like changing the standardpresser foot to the zipper foot.

And I rounded out the quarter with previous projects like the drawstring backpack and patchwork pillow cover.

The drawstring backpack actually took quite a bit of time to make. So I decided to pull that project for next quarter and create a simple shopping tote.

Using just a half yard of fabric for the exterior and a half yard of fabric for the interior, we’re going to be able to make this shopping tote with only a few seams. Depending on time, we’ll add boxed corners to give the bag some structure. This is the sample I’ve made for my own use and to test out my pattern.

While an intricate weaving project is sometimes exciting to make, once in a while I like to have a really simple project that still offers big results. For that purpose I like to use self striping yarn.

For this project, I loaded up my rigid heddle loom with self-striping yarn from Patons. Some days I had a half an hour to work on it, and some days I only had three minutes. But either way I got to throw a few picks, make a little progress, and enjoy the feel of wool through my fingers.

Frocktails is happening this May and it will be here before we know it! I finally decided to make the Belvedere waistcoat from Thread Theory Designs. I’ll end up making a matching bowtie too, but first I have to get started on the vest. The pattern has been ordered and is on its way… Now I just need to decide on a fabric. Of course, I’ll make a muslin first!

How lucky am I?! I’m adding sewing classes to my responsibilities at my day job as a graphic designer for CJE SeniorLife. On the third Wednesday of every month starting in May, I’ll be teaching introduction to sewing classes to older adults, their families and friends, and anybody else from the community regardless of age. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be starting this series of classes! For more info and to register, take a look at the flyer above or follow this link.

In order to introduce the sewing classes, I ran a demo at one of our community events. The folks that attended joined in on the sewing and we made pillowcases for Ryan’s Case for Smiles. I was happy to see that the participants were excited I’d be offering classes on a regular basis. I happen to mention that I needed to remember to put chopsticks in everybody’s tool kit as they are so handy for poking out corners when turning some thing right side out. The next week there was a gift from one of the attendees sitting on my desk… a pair of chopsticks to get my collection going!

I finally got to do something that’s been on my list for six months! Instead of being a teacher I get to be the student at the Chicago Weaving School. Last weekend I began an eight week weaving class using a four shaft tabletop loom.

The first week we warped our looms using a warping board. The second week we started weaving and I learned both the plain weave and basket weave techniques. I gotta say… weaving’s the best–where has it been all my life! I can’t wait to see what we learn next week!

Sewing Risks and Weaving Experiments

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I really like the Finlayson sweater from Thread Theory and plan on making it a regular staple in my wardrobe. Despite the recommendation to use a fabric with stretch, I thought I’d take a risk and use flannel–nice and soft with a bit of structure.

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I ended up making it a size larger in the side seams and arms seams just to make sure I could get in and out of the sweater. But I ended up making it a little too big.

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After a few adjustments it’s just right and so cosy. The fabric I chose has a subtle herringbone pattern and the contrasting collar was something I had left over from and old project and happened to have the same pattern in it. Kismet!

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As I continue my experiments in weaving, I wanted to pair a hand-woven textile with fabric. If I’m using hand-woven, why not use hand-dyed.

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I still have some hand-dyed fabric from my fellow artist Marc.Benja and the colors paired perfectly with the color of the cotton yarn in the woven textile. A cool little zippered bag is the result!

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Finally, this beloved and much used (and abused) lunch bag of my daughter’s has finally given up the ghost after 10 years of use. It was time to ditch it, but not before I rescued the zipper, which was still in perfect condition. Not sure how I’ll use it, but it would be a shame to throw it away.

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Weave, then Sew

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Despite what it may look like, my sewing machine hasn’t been relegated to storage in favor of my loom. In fact, I’m excited to learn how to use the two pieces of equipment in tandem.

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This month, I sewed a pillow cover on my machine using a textile that I wove on my loom. I found some worsted weight acrylic and wool yarn in a storage box in both gray and green. I warped the loom in mostly green with a bit of gray, and used the green for the weft with bits of embroidery thread in multiple colors tucked in random places.

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After completing enough length to wrap around the pillow including a seven inch overlap, I was able to finish it on the sewing machine. I added cotton fabric as binding to the ends, securing the cut warp within it. I then sewed the top and bottom of the cover to close it up. I found the woven textile was getting caught in the throat of the machine, so I placed thin office paper underneath the textile.

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This kept it from getting caught and aided it in sliding easily while being sewed. I sewed directly into the paper which I was able to rip out easily but carefully when I was done sewing. The few bits of paper that didn’t rip out where washed away when I wet finished the cover.

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And there it is! A pillow cover made from a textile that I wove! It’s so gratifying to be involved in another component of the craft process.

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Also on the loom this month was a scarf. I found a dynamic hand-painted cotton yarn by Cascade Yarns at Close Knit in Evanston that matched a navy cotton yarn I had in my stash.

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Not only was I trying out a new colorway for me…um, rainbow…but I also tried my hand at the clasped-weft technique.

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This added a bit of a variety of texture as the weft threads are doubled up as well as the desired blocks of color.

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December is usually a time I focus my sewing efforts on gifts and this year I found the happiest of quilting fabrics.

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A sunny combination of lemon and lime to make a couple of kitchen related items. I made two cloth baskets and filled them with lovely smelling healthy cleaning products.

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I also made a microwaveable bowl cozy for a friend who loves a comforting warm bowl of oatmeal in these cold winter months!

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This time of year, I also look forward to the new episode of Craft in America. There are two new episodes this season and one was called Quilts.

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It was a nice overview of the different roles quilts have played in American life as well as some in depth profiles of a few quilt makers and what the craft has meant to them throughout their lives.

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I highly recommend the Craft in America series and the Quilts episode in particular. The series is produced by PBS and some past episodes can be found on Netflix and some on Prime.

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Planning has commenced for Chicago Frocktails and we’re really excited for its inaugural party this Spring.

A date and location is still being finalized, but we’re narrowing in on the end of April or beginning of May. Just block off those four weeks on your calendar now…you didn’t have anything else planned then anyway, did you?

And finally, I’ll just leave you with this last image of the color palette Colorkuler observed of my Instagram feed. Am I surprised? No. No I’m not. I am Dim Gray, just like I like it.

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Weavember

Simple projects are often the most gratifying to make. For instance, this little grocery tote requires only two half-yards of fabric, one pattern piece and very little sweat!

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The project instructions and pattern are from a great book of sewing projects called Sewing to Sell. And while I haven’t sold any of the items I’ve made from the book, I do find a lot of value in it.

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I probably won’t use it for groceries as I want to keep it clean because it’s perfect for library books and fabric and yarn shopping.

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I’ve been stalking the Gist Yarn website for months…ever since I took the weaving workshop in September, I’ve been saving my nickels to buy a loom! And a couple of weeks ago I finally pulled the trigger (or the heddle, as it were).

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Inside this tiny little package, all the way from New Zealand, was my first SampleIt rigid heddle loom from Ashford. Thank goodness the yarn showed up a day later otherwise I wouldn’t have had the patience to finish the wood with beeswax and assemble it. I was just so excited to get started weaving.

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And here, my friends, is my first project on the loom. I used 8/2 un-mercerized cotton in four color ways to create a scarf. I kept the design fairly simple and put the detail in the middle of the scarf so it would take center stage for the way I wear winter scarfs.

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I had a few trip ups while warping the loom, and I can see why it’s so important to correct those right away. While weaving, you get to stare at your warping mistakes the whole time! But, they weren’t too horrible and only serve as a learning experience for next time.

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I already have the next project ready to go and can’t wait to show it off. Bye for now!

October is for Sewing Workshops

img_7120Finally, after months of planning, my sewing workshops have begun! What a joy to teach and share a skill with eager students.

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I designed three classes to be stand-alone workshops each based on a project.

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I wanted to both give students who are brand new to sewing a basic understanding of how to use a machine, as well as have them end the day with a completed project.

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The idea being that they would end the day either with the ability to use a machine on their own to experiment and create their own pieces or have had a fun experience making something. And hopefully both!

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The best part was the moment each student completed their pillow cover and turned it right side out. “Oh!,” they would say with delight and satisfaction. After spending three hours learning how to load a bobbin, change a needle, thread a machine, cut and press fabric, sew a seam, clip corners all while looking at the raw edges and wrong side of the fabric, they finally got to see the results of their hard work!

It was complete with clean edges and crisp seams. They had made something whole from pieces and parts that had been foreign to them when they woke up that morning. Success and accomplishment! I feel so grateful to have been a part of that experience.

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Workshop One was sewing a pillow cover for a 13 inch square pillow form. We pieced three pieces of fabric together for the front and used two pieces for the back to create and envelope closure.

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Workshop Two was sewing a drawstring backpack. We utilized French seams so the interior would not have any raw edges and a binding tool to create the drawstrings.

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Each of my lesson plans required me to make the projects myself twice. One to try it out and find the problems and one to work out the kinks and get it right.

Success! It’s a backpack!

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Workshop Three takes place this Saturday and will be a cutlery roll.

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Well use top stitching to create pockets and again employ the binding tool to create the tie.

This month I had the joy of travelling to visit a friend so we could create our own art retreat for just the two of us.

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She taught me how to make sour dough bread from scratch, make a one-of-a-kind plate by fusing glass and the proper way to hold Warrior Two and Child’s Pose during yoga.

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And I taught her how to use her brand new sewing machine.

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We made a lined, zippered tote while I was there and, via long distance, we will make a purse of her design.

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I leave you with a sneak peak of my daughter’s Halloween outfit…full of spider webs!