Philadelphia’s Fabric Row

I feel so lucky to live in a City where I am within walking distance from wonderful shopping districts with a genuine historical significance.  Of course there’s the 9th Street (Italian) MarketJeweler’s Row, and the Reading Terminal Market.   But one of my favorite areas is Fabric Row  is located on Fourth Street below South Street. Even though  I don’t sew much,  I love window shopping on this colorful street.  There’s always something to see.

 

According to the Philadelphia History Museum’s web site, Philadelphia’s bustling fabric row on South Fourth Street ran through the heart of a Jewish immigrant neighborhood. Peddlers hawked dry goods from pushcarts and sidewalk stands. Successful vendors opened family-run shops. Dressmakers, shoppers, and tailors flocked to this area of the Queen Village neighborhood to purchase fabrics and notions for their customers and families.  

There aren’t as many fabric stores on Fourth Street as there used to be. Times change.  People are not sewing as much as they used to. (Although home sewing has moved into a new phase.)  New businesses are popping up among the fabric stores  including independent fashion stores,  shops selling hand made goods and the wonderful  Kawaii Kitty Cafe.  It is still a thriving, vibrant area.

 

 

Visit Fabric Row the next time you visit Philadelphia.  In the meantime,  here are some more pictures  I took on walk down Fabric Row when the weather was much warmer!

trimsteel ponypushcartold cash registerclearance salebarrel of fabric boltsadlers

 

To learn more about Fabric Row at Hidden City Philadelphia, the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia and the Fabric Row web site.

 

 

 

 

 

Learn to Sew in a Butcher’s Shop

win2

Amalia Petherbridge (Mali, pronounced “Molly”) is the founder and  tireless proprietor of the Butcher’s Sew Shop in the Bella Vista neighborhood of South Philadelphia.  While she has been sewing nearly as long as she has been walking, it was not until after college graduation, a stint working in the non-profit sector and  taking some sewing classes for fun  that she decided to go back to school and study sewing full time.

Mali was not sure what direction her career would take after she completed her course work in design and pattern making.   But she  discovered that she loved teaching when she started giving her friends sewing lessons sewing in her home. “I loved seeing things click for other people,” she recalled,  “and I still  love seeing adults learning those skills for the first time.  It’s really empowering for them.  Even something as simple as being able to hem your own pants.   It’s a life skill and it’s a great creative outlet,  too.”

cls

So she decided to open a business and teach sewing.  This is hardly surprising; many of the  women from Mali’s childhood  combined creativity and entrepreneurship  in their careers. An Aunt had a line of children’s clothing.  Mali’s mother built pipe organs in a home studio.  Mali’s step mother was a seamstress and quilt maker.

Mali located her shop in Bella Vista because she knew and loved the neighborhood.  “I think it has a great vibe and when I saw the for rent sign in the window  I just instinctively felt that it would be a good place.” And that turned out to be true.  “The neighbors are so supportive; it feels like a little community and we do have a lot of students who are from the neighborhood, although we get most of our students from Internet traffic.”

When Mali signed the lease, she did not know the space  8th and Catharine Streets had been a butcher shop. The shop had been a bodega after the butcher shop closed, and looked completely different when Mali first saw it.

tab3

Mali  tackled the renovations herself  with the help of many friends.   She found gleaming white tiles behind the peeling dry wall.   The drop ceiling hid an old fashioned  punched tin ceiling.  As the renovations progressed, she uncovered more relics and artifacts.

win

Transforming the shop was an intensely personal process for her; she felt a deep connection to the space. At some point in the process she learned the store had been a butcher shop.  But one day, purely by serendipity, she found out that one family had operated the butcher shop for eighty years. That’s when she started to research the history of the shop and the family behind it.  “Because here I am opening my first business,” she explained,” and I’m just trying to make it through the first month and to think that family kept a business alive here for generations!”

She located the family and asked them if they would allow her to name her business Butcher’s Sew Shop in their honor. “Butchers work with their hands, too.   It’s a craft and I felt that energy in the space and loved the idea of being able to honor that.” The family was delighted and sent her copies of old pictures and other information about the butcher shop which you can see on the web site here.

Front

“Our core adult student is a young professional  who wants some kind of creative release outside of work.  Some of the people who come in have some kind of vision.  They want to learn how to make something for themselves or to mend their clothes or we have young mothers who want to sew for their kids.  But a lot of people just come in to try it  and they end up taking more and more classes.”

SMd

“Half of our business is a sister program where we teach kids.  They are so creative and they soak up things like sponges!  We have kids who have been here for a few years and they can sit down at the machine and do pretty much anything at this point.  We start at age 5 and go to 14.  And we have the five year olds on the machines too.”

SM

The Butcher’s Sew Shop is stocked with heavy duty Singer Sewing machines and plenty of sewing tools and equipment.  Students also have access to two sergers.  They are also welcome to bring in their own machines; Mali and her staff will help them learn how to operate them.

Table2

 

In June, the Butcher’s Sew Shop is opening  a second location at  1912 South Street which it will share with  Loop Yarn who will offer knitting classes in the rear.  Programs are planned to start in July or August.  Mali is excited about this expansion which will give her more room for children’s classes.

For the full schedule of classes and activities at the Butcher’s Sew Shop, go to the web site here.  For information on the exciting  summer, afternoon and weekend programs for kids offered  through Sew Philly, click here.

images

 

 

Ent

BUTCHER’S SEW SHOP  800 S. 8th St  PHILADELPHIA, PA 19147  

TEL: 215-678-7671

www.butcherssewshop.com

 

 

 

 

The Apron

image

This fabric called out to me one day and told me I needed an apron.  A lined, pleated, top stitched apron.  In patch work.  No matter that I had never made one before.  It didn’t  matter that I didn’t have a pattern because I was not sure how to follow one anyway.  I had the pattern in my head.

image

Do you think I cut these pockets wrong?

image

Do you this think I made the pockets too small?

image

Grab a plate to mark a curve in bigger pockets.  Now I inherited my Mother-in Law’s sewing tools including her French curve ruler.  But I never knew what you used it for until I saw it in a sewing video in YouTube, after I finished the apron!

image

Small pockets look good on the big pockets.  Wait a minute, is this turning into a cargo apron?

image

Box pleats seemed easy enough

image

Magnetic jewelry clasps make a handy needle picker upper

image

Bottom is done

image

Sewing on the waist band and sash to the apron bib which my husband suggested I add.   I top stitched around the  bib and the skirt at the suggestion of Marie Elcin who is a fiber artist that I was taking a design class with at the Fleisher Art Memorial.

image

Rip out and resew three times

image

And Voila!

Turn An Old Skirt into Something New!

I wanted a dreamy looking leather satchel in a soft, buttery leather only I didn’t want to shell out a couple hundred dollars for it. I saw a cool looking black leather skirt in a thrift shop and I suppose they were having a hard time moving it because it was marked down to $7.00. I grabbed a back leather belt for $2.00 and away I went!

IMG_7753

I turned the skirt inside out and marked there I wanted to cut it.  Since the skirt was lined, I could skip lining the tote.

IMG_7759

I had to decide how to work around the zipper and  decided that I would  make a seam there and remove it.

IMG_7770

I’m glad I scanned the Internet for tips (see end of post) because I got myself some heavy duty needles which helped immensely.  The leather I used was thin-it had been a skirt after all, and the Singer Slant-O-Matic had no trouble handling it.  Plus it glided smoothly because the lining and not the leather was making contact with the sewing machine.

IMG_7772

IMG_7782

I cut the handles from a thick leather belt which was very hard to cut.  I used a utility blade.

IMG_7783

I attached the handles to the body of the bag with grommets I bought at Harbor Freight.

IMG_7784

I stitched the  handles to the top of the bag with a sewing awl, also from Harbor Freight.  You can see that I had to make the holes with a drill, but the awl was great for passing the thread back and forth between the holes.

IMG_7785

I installed a magnetic purse snap and I had a leather tote for under $10.00!

IMG_7870

Here’s another one made from a suede thrift store skirt

This tutorial from sewbeittudio.com was very helpful.  I also liked this one from the Vintage Ramble blog.

And here is a good video to get you started.

 

The Quilt In Progress

6

I have  started the block trimming and sewing.    Lots of scraps!  But now that I have a decent place to work with a cement floor, it’s much easier to keep things swept up

5

I decided to make sections of 12 blocks-2 rows of 6-and then I will join 4 of them to make each quilt top which will be 6 blocks wide and 8 blocks long. (Finished blocks are a foot square so the quilt will be 72 x 96 before binding.

 

4

Since I had so many colors of fabric, I decided to use white in the overall design to give the eye a rest.  I’m glad I did, because this is going to be a busy quilt.

3

Studio Birdie seems to be enjoying all the activity and bright colors.

 

A

I am wearing a wrist support  because I am doing a lot of trimming and I don’t want my wrist to suffer.

B

I find that it’s helpful to break up the trimming with the pressing and the sewing.  I am managing to keep all the thread under control  but I have a feeling I will be picking loose threads off these quilts for a long time.

 

C

 

1

 

      I started out sewing 2 blocks together then joining to make strips of  6 and then joining this to another strip of 6.  But last night,  I joined a two block section to another two block section to make a four block piece and I sewed three of these together.  It seemed a little easier to line up the seams with the latter method, but I am still learning.  Any tips would be welcome!

 

The Sistine Quilt Saga or 85 Blocks Done!

 

BALL

I now have 85 Wonky (and I do mean WONKY) Log Cabin blocks made.

Blocks82

The next thing I must do is trim them all to size with my handy dandy 12 and 1/2 inch block template.

Blocks73

I got a pinking blade for my rotary cutter to keep fraying edges to a minimum

B2

As you can see, I have not bothered to limit  the color palette

Blocks68

B3

B1

I just tried to have fun with every block I made.

Blocks72

  Boy these quilts take a long time!  Will I ever finish?  But I really am enjoying the process.And I feel honored to be using the sewing machines and tools of my Mother and Mother-in-Law   My plan is to make two twin-sized quilts, each 6 blocks wide and 8 blocks tall or  72 by 96 inches.

In the meantime, if anyone has any tips for a newbie quilter like me, leave a comment.I will keep you posted.

Creative Thrift Shopping

One of my favorite thrift store in Philadelphia is Thrift for Aids.  With its creative and witty staff, shopping there is always entertaining even if I don’t find anything.  Case in point: their new trash receptacle outside the store.
wpid-IMG_20140323_151901.jpg wpid-IMG_20140323_151856.jpg wpid-IMG_20140323_151919.jpg

For me one of the best forms of therapy is retail therapy in a thrift shop. There is no thrill like finding an item like a pair of Talbot’s Silk pants for $4.00 or a an Ann Taylor sweater for $7.00. Unless you are shopping for new fashion trends, are a Wall Street Trader or work for Big Law, a good thrift shop can be your go-to store most of the clothes you’ll need, not to mention a source of fabric for quilts, a source of yarn for sweaters, and all kinds of household goodies.  But what to do  when you see a pair of Eileen Fisher pull-on pants in a soft and dreamy  Italian knit that you must have but they are much too large?  If you are like me, you buy them and keep them for a year before you get the courage to take scissors to them.  You search your sewing books and on line tutorials and then you come across a video on YouTube which is as simple as it can be watch it and get the courage to alter those pants so they fit!   I was so surprised at how well they turned out that I had to share the results and the video with you.

wpid-IMG_20140323_173608.jpg

I don’t have any “before” pictures, but these are the pants after I took in the legs and crotch, put in a new waist and  shortened them about 6 inches

wpid-IMG_20140323_173353.jpg

New hem

wpid-IMG_20140323_173451.jpg

New waist

wpid-IMG_20140323_173303.jpg

Here are another pair of Eileen Fisher pants made of linen which will be perfect for summer.  These don’t need a new waist so much as slimmer legs and a crotch that’s not in the middle of my thighs.   And now here’s the video to which I owe my new pants. 

Here are some links to instructions  for  altering waistlines and hemming pants.  Now get sewing!

My Sewing Machine Will Quilt Again!

In my previous post, I told you how I murdered my sewing machine and how Jack De Sorte carried it and my other machine off into the night. Did I ever hear from him again?

I am happy to report that I did. As a matter of fact, he had the Slant-O-Matic back to me THE NEXT DAY!!!!! I was beside myself with joy and sewed like a mad woman all weekend. But what about the Kenmore? Well, that’s a little more complicated.

I got a call at work the next week. It was Jack.

“What did you do to that machine?!?!” he demanded.

“Did I do something wrong, ” I whispered meekly.

“Did you do something wrong? The gears were shot! I don’t know what you did to that machine but I had to call in favors and drive to shops in Jersey to get all the parts. What did you do to that machine?”

“I dunno,” I squeaked, “Could you fix it?”

“Could I fix it?-It’s like new,” he shot back me, ” and when I deliver it I’ll give you some instructions.”

Yikes. What was I in for?

He arrived at my house that might cradling the machine like a baby. He laid it on my dining room table and pulled a small bag out of his pocket. “Here are needles,” he told me, “and bobbins and a new zipper foot. I want you to use them.” He put the bag on the table.

“Do not use cheap needles!” he admonished me. If you hit something while you’re sewing, STOP AND STEP AWAY FROM THE MACHINE! Do not try to sew with a bent needle! Do not pull the thread! Do not sew with a dirty machine! Clean and oil it regularly! ”

“Yes Jack,” I whispered.

And now, I am afraid-I am afraid that if I screw up one more time, that Jack will find out, come to my house, take my machine and place it in a foster home.

I will be careful.

Seriously, if you live in the Philadelphia area and need sewing machine repair, call Jack. I cannot recommend him enough.

De Sorte’s Vacuum Cleaner Service

6153 Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19139
(215) 474-3045

Here are some pictures of what I sewed after Jack fixed my sewing machines

Stripey
Stripey
Stack-O-Blocks
Stack-O-Blocks
Two old dresses and a napkin
Two old dresses and a napkin
Chain Pieced Blocks before separation
Chain Pieced Blocks before separation
Home made thread cone stand
Home made thread cone stand
Just-Started Blocks
Just-Started Blocks
More Blocks
More Blocks
Wonky!
Wonky!

Still Quilting, Still Dreaming

I started these quilts (I am making two) a year and a half ago. I put them away during our house renovation.  I have moved from the dining room to my new workshop in the basement where I have lots of room and a floor that is easy to sweep.  I moved my mother’s Singer Slant-O-Matic down there and plan to have it tuned up.  In the meantime,  I’m using my late mother-in- law’s Kenmore which I also love and which I  used to make my couch covers.

I’m making a modified Log Cabin pattern, semi wonky because I could never color inside the lines and still can’t. I plan each block to be 13 inches square raw and 12 inches square sewn and I have 70 made so far. I want to make 14 more.  I am using mostly cut up clothes, old sheets and tablecloths, scraps and found fabric.

I bought a big box of scraps on Etsy.  If you do a search for “fabric destash” you can get some incredible deals and the shipping is reasonable too.

You use a lot of thread when you sew patches together so I am using a cone rather than a spool of thread and I made a stand for the thread cone that is working out quite well! Here are some instructions.

I also learned about the chain piecing technique that helps you to sew faster. There’s a nice video on it at the bottom of the post.

 

And now for the gallery

My First Quilt


I did not plan to make this quilt.  I wanted new quilts or comforters for my bedroom but could not justify buying new ones when the old ones were perfectly fine and I was just tired of the way they looked.  Then I started searching for the perfect duvet cover.  I didn’t see anything I liked.  Then I saw quilts I liked in a catalog and thought about making a patchwork design duvet cover.  I started dreaming in patchwork and going on line and looking at quilting supplies and fabric.   That’s when I got the idea of making quilts for my bedroom using the old comforter as the insides.  Have I ever done this before?  No.  But the Internet is full of blogs and tutorials with information on how to do things.   I read and watched videos.  A lot of videos.  I read books.  The main idea I came away with is that a beginner (me) should start small.  It was then that I remembered that a baby was due in our family in a few weeks and, if I put the (sewing machine) pedal to the metal, perhaps I could make a baby quilt.

What about the fabric?  I knew the little Tater Tot was a boy.  I had some great fabric I found at Jo-Mar in Philadelphia, along with some Bohemian Chic   style tablecloths bought at deep discount.   Not appropriate for a baby boy quilt.  So I went looking on line and saw all these kits and jelly rolls and charm packs  with gorgeous color coordinated fabric meant to be cut and sewn together.  But that didn’t resonate with me.  This project wasn’t about recreating someone else’s idea; I wanted to create my own palette and  I wanted to recycle fabric.  So I  bought old clothes at thrift stores, and raided  my small fabric stash and closet.  A co-worker gave me fabric that belonged to her late aunt who had made baby quilts for her family.  That seemed appropriate to use. I brought everything home,  washed and dried it, ripped out the seams in the clothes and ironed everything. 

Plumpton helped me to “audition” the colors.  He took his job seriously!

                                                                                                                               

I decided to make the quilt five (six inch) blocks across and down and to have blocks on both sides.  Because I intended to do the quilting on my sewing machine and didn’t have a walking foot, I used a baby blanket for the inner layer.  My first step was to cut out 50 blocks, arrange them in two sets of 25 and sew each set together.

One side sewn together.


After I completed both sides, I sandwiched the baby blanket in the middle using spray adhesive to hold everything in place and smoothed out the layers.  I put in a few pins for added stability.  Then I started to machine quilt.  It was here that tips from two friends came in handy.  I had watched one video where the quilter  started machine quilting from an outside corner.  “No,” instructed Jeri Beading Yoda, “You start from the center and go out.”  And since I had never machine quilted anything,  Susie B recommended I practice on some cheap fabric first. I’m glad I did.

I used a modified zig zag stitch because I knew my quilting was going to be crooked and this stitch would sort of hide that.

 

After quilting, I trimmed everything square and sewed on the binding.

 

Here I am machine stitching part of the binding.  I did it over  about three times before I was happy with it.  I ended up machine stitching one side of the binding and hand sewing the other.  You can see this technique here

They say you should sign the quilt, so I did.  I thought it was important to mention that I sewed it on a machine that had belonged to baby’s Great Grandmother Vicky.  It wasn’t until after I signed the quilt that I remembered that Vicky had  made me a beautiful quilted jacket  on the very same machine. 

 

Here is the finished baby quilt.