WANTED!

I have a bad cat. Yes, Boris is wanted for Destruction of Furniture. This is a Felony in my house, but cats and small children get automatic immunity.

Exhibit “A”

We have some storage hassocks that we use as foot stools and coffee tables in our living room. When you live in a small (916 sf) house, every piece of furniture has have more than one function.

Boris keeps his sleepy pad one one of the hassocks where he hangs out with his stuffed mice. The little monster does not deserve a new cover on his hassock (never mind that he has three scratching posts on the first floor, plus a cat tree and he uses them all) but I decided that a pandemic sewing project might be interesting.

I used some heavy canvas fabric I got in a free bin at a house sale. I added a design with some fabric paint. The hassock was an 18″ cube, so I measured a strip of fabric 72″ long (the material swatch was huge. I could have also cut and sewn a strip 72″ long) plus an extra inch, and 22 inches wide. I made a giant tube snug enough that I had to finesse it over the hassock. The bottom of the fabric was already hemmed.

The fabric pulled over the hassock. I stapled it to the inside.
The finished hassock

So, what’s to keep Boris from destroying this? And I also decided that I didn’t want to make three more covers for the rest of the hassocks. And I’m not crazy about the fabric. Light colors don’t work to well for a foot stool. Replace the hassocks? And have them destroyed again? But I think I found a solution.

To be delivered this week. I hope it’s Boris proof!

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!

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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

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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

TEL: 215-678-7671

www.butcherssewshop.com

 

 

 

 

The Apron

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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.

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Do you think I cut these pockets wrong?

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Do you this think I made the pockets too small?

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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!

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

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Box pleats seemed easy enough

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Magnetic jewelry clasps make a handy needle picker upper

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Bottom is done

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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.

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Rip out and resew three times

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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.

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

 

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

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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.

 

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      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!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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  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.
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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.

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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

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New hem

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New waist

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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