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September 5th, 2012

Our New Website

We just launched our new website – and, what an experience it has been!

First, I’d like to give props to Tony Piscotti and Emily Johnson who designed our original website.

7 years ago I never dreamed how important a website would be for us. Tony and Emily, a web designer and graphic designer/illustrator respectively, offered to design a site (for just me at the time) with the idea of building up their own portfolios. I truly believe the amazing site they built is responsible for a good chunk of the business we garnered early on and I’m still asked about it today.

Thank you Tony and Emily, for forever.

As the business grew, I tried out several more web designers in an attempt to adapt the site to what we now needed. I quickly learned – ‘you get what you pay for’. It would be years before I could afford my ‘dream site’, but I started dreaming about it anyway.

Cut to 6 months ago – when the dream team came together.

I met Ward Nipper years ago when I first started the business and was still taking clients for custom interiors. I made him a few sets of window treatments and we always had fun talking shop. Ward, a longtime graphic designer, recently churned up his old love of figure drawing and started posting work on Facebook. I was in love. I bought a piece for the shop and when it came time to give the new website a distinctively artistic look, I knew he was the man for the job.

We had a great time on a photo shoot with model Giselle (a gorgeous TNS student) and he developed the drawings from that session. See more of his work here.

Thank you, Ward.

A lot of you already know Jessica Jones’ work and blog. She’s a big-pants graphic designer and I feel lucky to be able to work with her. I feel even luckier to be her friend.

She ‘got me’ from day 1 and has delivered more material that I instantly loved, than anyone I’ve ever worked with. That’s not to say I’m not a complete thorn in her side, changing my mind left and right, but she’s the consummate professional and has always left me completely satisfied. That’s saying a whole lot.  See more of her work here.

Thank you, Jess.

Finding the ‘web guy’ to build this site was the scariest piece. As mentioned, I have gone through several designers who were far from adequate. Granted, I’m a picky, picky girl, but now I was ready and able to afford the right person.

The question became, can it be done? I’d had too long to dream . . . of a site that could keep track of a student’s path through different classes and in turn, skills gained. AND, a site where we could sell everything in our store in a well-designed simple, yet sophisticated way. Tall order.

I can’t even tell you what all Zak Hardage accomplished, but I have a strong feeling it’s part magic. We used the Shopify platform, but I’m pretty sure Zak came up with ‘workarounds’ that Shopify themselves will soon have to incorporate. He did it. That’s really all I can say – he gave me everything I wanted.

If you need a site built, I can’t recommend him more highly. He’s endlessly patient too. While I’m a raging lunatic on one end, he never veered from kind and professional. See more of his work here.

Thank you, Zak.

And, a gigantic thank you to my man, Chris. He has been by my side every step of the way, helping me plan, plot, compose, edit and of course just listen to me moan. I don’t have any idea how I would have done it without him.

Now, I shall go on a european vacation in my mind.

Enjoy!

August 16th, 2012

Anna Maria Horner – Field Study

I love and respect Anna Maria Horner’s work enough that I feel ok about admitting I don’t always get it.

I’m a maniac when it comes to mashing unlikely fabrics/colors/images together, so it’s not that. I don’t know how else to explain it, but sometimes her stuff is just a bit too jumbled for me.

Not this time.

Her latest collection of fabrics – Field Study – is hitting me just the right way. I don’t love every single piece, but a whole bunch of them. It’s times like these I wish my store were much bigger!

Here are the ones I ordered up, but do check out the entire collection via this cool catalog pdf from AMH’s blog.

Shop them here.

August 4th, 2012

Gratitude

It’s rather annoying that the word ‘gratitude’ now just makes me think of Oprah, but that’s neither here nor there.

We celebrated 7 years in business today and while I’m not often sentimental about these things, I did have a wash, if you will . . . a wave, of how crazy lucky I am.

As familiar faces floated through the shop I was struck by how long I’ve known some of these folks. Most of them have seen many phases of the classrooms including classrooms that don’t even exist anymore! And, I’m sure a couple of them can remember hideous old carpet in what is now the back half of the shop.

I never had a whole bunch of money to sink into the shop at once – it’s been a gradual thing. But all along, the faces came back – smiling, and happy to support us in whatever phase we happened to be in.

It felt like a real day of appreciation and I’m going to try to just embrace it and be proud for 5 minutes before going back to my To Do List.

Thank you guys, truly.

And, to our staff, you’re simply the best.

July 16th, 2012

Meez Meals

I have to give a shout out to my latest Chicago love – Meez Meals.

Since starting a business my ability to cook for myself has kind of gone out the window. I was not much of a cook to begin with, but over time I’ve regressed back to pb&j levels.

Needless to say, this has not been good for the ole waistline.

I kept beating myself up about it and even hired a friend to cook for me every once in a while, but it just wasn’t cutting it and my frenzied schedule was not letting up.

Enter Meez. These genius people come up with healthy, tasty recipes, gather and prep all of the ingredients for you, then drop them off at your house!

You can pick your plan, number of servings and how often you want delivery. I get 3 individual portions a week and can usually stretch that to 5, since they load you up with ingredients! $60 a week for me is so entirely worth it. And, so far – deliciousness!

All the meals are vegetarian and while I’m not one, I don’t ever miss a thing. You could add meat to a lot of the dishes pretty easily, but I promise, you won’t need to.

I don’t know these folks. I’m writing this because I’m genuinely in love with their execution of a fantastic idea. They deserve a medal! And, perhaps, your business!

June 28th, 2012

Pattern Review: Amy Butler’s Stash and Dash Bags – Scrap fabric gets a second life

Here’s a blog post by one of our teachers – Rachel Larsen. Thanks, Rach!

I’m gonna come right out and say it so no one feels bad thinking it – I’m cheap. Over the years of my sewing career, I’ve become more than a bit obsessed with laying out patterns and projects to maximize the scrap material that can be saved. And part of the challenge is finding ways to use these odd-sided leftovers to make other cute and useful things, thus saving fabric from the trash and saving money on the secondary projects.

Enter Amy Butler’s Stash and Dash Bags pattern. It’s absolutely adorable with unexpected pleat details and has tons of uses – cosmetic bag, night-out wristlet, sewing notion corral, or pencil bag (am I the only one who still uses one of these?). The pattern includes three sizes from small coin purse to big-enough-for-your wallet-and-keys size. Even the largest bag only calls for ¼ yard of fabric for the biggest panel – and you can get away with less – making it easy to avoid the fabric store entirely to make this versatile bag (provided you have a zipper and interfacing on hand).

I’ve made this several times and gifted a lot of them to appreciative “oooohs” and “aaahhhs”.

Having worked with Amy’s patterns fairly often, I find them to have a lot of plus sides. First, I appreciate that they are printed on heavy weight paper, rather than the traditional tissue paper of most mass produced patterns. They are much easier to use and use again, and I don’t have to bother transferring them to other paper. And they are written in a relatively plain language that isn’t super convoluted with sewing jargon as to make a beginning sewer want to pull out her hair and chuck the instructions across the room.

That said, while the language is plain, the instructions can still be quite verbose, which can lead to a fair amount of head scratching.

I found the zipper instructions (Step 7) overwhelming when I tried to follow them verbatim. But when I realized that all that really needed to be accomplished was to attach all four panels (two exteriors and two linings) to the zipper, I instead went with my instinct and winged it.

The other tricky part is final Step 8, when the side seams of the exterior panels are stitched together. I end up with little holes on the inside of bag at the side seam, at the very top against the zipper because you have to start sewing just below the zipper coils and can’t get the needle close enough to truly sew it up. The holes are tiny and they are tucked well inside, and a few hand stitches would solve the problem easily.

A few other thoughts:

The instructions only include the handle on the largest bag, but it works well on the middle size, too. For the smallest bag, I’d make the handle skinnier.

I add a patch pocket to one of the lining pieces. The medium and large bags are big enough to accommodate the pocket, and so handy for keeping the bag more organized.

Great practice for pleats! And much more forgiving than sewing them on garments.

Overall: An easy pattern especially if you’ve done a bag before. Great practice for a zippered bag and for pleats. And best of all, you don’t need to invest in fabric if you, like me, have a drawer full of salvaged scraps just waiting to be used. Try pairing them in unexpected ways, since this bag lets you show off three or more different fabrics at once.

June 20th, 2012

Raglan Sleeve Top Class – 6/30

I wanted to put a little reminder out into the world about our Raglan Sleeve Top class (sign up here). We’ve been teaching it for quite some time now and there are a few reasons why.

It’s cute. It has sleeves (and even sleeve length options). It’s simple to make – even for a brand new sewer. It’s a great into to using commercial patterns, which we all know is a big, scary world. And, it’s cute. See?

June 15th, 2012

No Surprise

Hiya,

I’m embarrassed but not very surprised to admit that I’m the worst blogger ever.

Being good friends with one Jessica Jones is an up close lesson in how to run a successful blog and rule #1 is consistency. Not a strength of mine.

That said, I am still an idea machine and my potential blog post list runs long. Today I thought I might write you guys a little note just to get warmed up. While I don’t completely get blogging, I can certainly see that it’s a muscle that needs to be exercised – even if at a snail’s pace.

So, hello. I’ve also been working on some of our teachers to chip in with some cool tips and projects, so hopefully we’ll have a lot to share this summer.

For now, I’ll leave you with this little bike-hanging tut from ManMadeDIY.com – one of my favorite blogs for funny and unique ideas.

Cheers!

Rachel

June 30th, 2011

Hooray for Applique!

Yesterday I made a round tablecloth and today I will show you how to add some appliqued details.

Sticking with the 4th of July theme, I’ll be adding some fireworks using the natural canvas we printed the Outside Oslo line on.

You’ll need a chunk of fabric and a chunk of Wunder Under big enough to draw all of your images.

Wunder Under is a fusible product that has a peel-away paper layer so you can sandwich the glue between 2 layers of fabric.

1. I like to fuse the WU to the uncut chunk of fabric first. Make sure to turn off steam for this – you want a dry iron. Fuse for 5-8 seconds on each spot across fabric.

2. Trace or draw your image straight onto the paper side of the WU. If you’re doing letters, you’d need to draw the mirror image.

I just free handed these, but there are tons of printable clip art type images online.

3. Cut out images.

4. Peel off paper and place glue side down onto fabric and fuse with dry iron.

5. To applique on, use a short zig zag stitch. I used 1 for length and 3 for width on my machine, but be sure to check settings and practice on scrap.

6. You’ll zag just past the edge of your image and pivot at each corner. For these crazy stars I had to manually lower the needle and adjust every time I started a new side, so I didn’t end up stitching way off my image fabric.

7. Overlap where you started a little and trim threads close. You can add a dab of Fray Check if you’re worried about stitches coming loose.

You can buy this tablecloth and all of our other samples from our new retail wall!

Happy 4th everyone!

June 29th, 2011

Round Tablecloth

I don’t think Jess had the 4th of July in mind when she designed this fabric, but when I went hunting for a holiday theme this one took on a dynamite feel. I used the natural canvas used for printing Outside Osle for the accents. Find both here.

I’ll be listing out the instructions today for putting together a round tablecloth and tomorrow will add some applique techniques.

1. Measure across the center of the table and add the amount you want for the “drop”. This term refers to any fabric covering that hangs off the side of something, including bedspreads, bedskirts, etc.

My table is a pretty standard 40″ and my fabric was 55″ wide, so I just used what I had for the drop. If you have a bigger table or narrower fabric, you’ll need to add strips of fabric to the sides. Sewing selvedge edges together will save you having to finish any raw edges.

I measured 55″ down the length and ripped across.

2. Pull on the bias to square any angles and fold the fabric into quarters – wrong side facing out.

3. Measure from folded corner point to bottom curve to mark. Move a few inches at a time to create a broken line. Make sure to measure from exact corner each time.

I measured to 29″, the biggest I could get.

4. Throwing a few pins in along bottom curve will help while cutting. Cut through all layers along broken line.

Clean up edge as needed, if you have some wonkyness to your cut.

5. Baste a line around circle 1″ from raw edge. This will give you an easy way to fold up hem.

6. Fold hem in along basted line and press with steam. It helps if you pick up and put down iron as you go, as opposed to sliding around too much.

8. At sewing machine, open fold and roll raw edge in toward baste line. Fold again on crease and finger press as you go. Edge stitch near inside edge.

I don’t pin too much when the hem is this small, but feel free if your hem is rolling around. This is what I call a “burrito hem”.

9. Remove basting stitch, press and steam again when finished.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on how to add applique details!

June 9th, 2011

Photo Wall

I’m not sure why this occurred to me today when it’s really dark at 9am (because of the weather), but I thought I’d show off one of the more attention grabbing pieces in my apartment.

This is the longest wall in my dining room.

I’ve been hanging pictures of the musicians I love for as long as I can remember and have had some version of this mixed up display in every one of my apartments. It wasn’t hard to get my bf in on the game and here is our current collection.

Loving the same musicians is something we love about each other, but we’ve made a few concessions, uh uhm, They Might Be Giants . . .

As you can see, I’ll take any kind of frame. These are culled from thrift stores, garage sales, Michael’s, Ikea – the more mixed up, the better.

That whole laying out pieces of paper on the floor thing is a great idea, but I’m just too impatient for that. I just go by feel . . . well, and I have lots of practice.

So, if you have a hobby, passion or maybe even obsession (sure, I’ll own that), pick a little spot and try this out. I promise it will make you smile every time you walk by.

And, the most popular game in our house . . . “Who’s That?!”