Fish

Daughter Fish

JEANS! COUTURE ADVICE FROM ANGELA WOLF, EPISODE #17 OF THREAD CULT

Angela Wolf

One of the great sewing challenges I’m attracted to—but somehow keep dodging—is making my own pair of jeans. I’ve read up on other sewing blogger’s makes, such as the lovely creations of Tanit Isis  and Thread Square, and even invested in Kenneth D. King’s Jean-ius class, but still haven’t worked up the nerve. (Being pregnant, btw, has given me the perfect out for 9 months + until whenever I get my bod back). Yet, I’m still very attracted to the idea, particularly because designer jeans are so God-awful expensive and I have a hard time finding jeans that I love. This is why it was great to speak with Angela Wolf, the lovely guest of this episode of Thread Cult.

Angela is a jeans guru, of sorts. She’s been making them for years—for herself, and as a custom designer— and the woman is a wealth of information. Angela dishes on what to look for in fabric, how to distress denim (hint: a trip to Home Depot is in order!), the perfect pockets, and how to get great topstitching. If you’ve been thinking of making jeans, or already tried and want to learn more, this is the episode for you!

Of course, Angela is much more than a jeans expert. She’s the founder and designer of ABO Apparel, a contributing editor to Threads and Sew Stylish magazines, the couture expert on It’s Sew Easy, she has a successful custom design business, a pattern line (including a jeans pattern),  and she teaches regularly on PatternReview.com, as well as two courses on Craftsy (see the notes, below).

I learned a ton from this interview, and I think you will too.

Happy listening!

Notes:

Angela Wolf Pattern Collection

Create TV

Tailoring for Ready-to-Wear class on Craftsy

Creative Serging class on Craftsy

Vogue Fabrics

Metro Textiles  (address: 265 West 37th Street, Suite 908, New York, NY 10018)

Fire Mountain Gems

Simplicity Felting Machine

Angela’s YouTube chanel

 

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INDIGO MAGIC, SHIBORI MADNESS

Cotton-and-silk voile nursing shawl/summer scarf

For more than six months, I’ve been meaning to take some of the shibori skills I learned in a workshop at the Textile Arts Center and experiment with an indigo batch at home. I must have been waiting until the weather warmed a bit…that, and maybe a last burst of energy before Baby Fish arrives in June. Last Monday, I invited some fellow textile geek friends over and we whipped up a batch of pre-reduced Indigo I bought from Dharma Trading Company. Between my little back deck and bathroom, we managed to dye yards of silk, cotton, and linen, along with a few pieces of clothing. Now I’m fighting the urge to dye every white surface (curtains, bedspreads, etc) with some shibori goodness.

The process was much easier and less messy than I’d anticipated (despite the fact that my bathtub looked like smurf roadkill afterward!…nothing that a little scrub pad didn’t fix.) And now I have even more respect for those little old Japanese ladies who can make incredibly uniform and precise designs. If you’re interested, I would highly recommend checking out this video, a documentary excerpt about traditional shibori techniques from Arimatsu, Japan (center of the shibori craft). Despite multiple viewings, however, I’m still grasping at how to get a perfect “willow” pattern on cloth.

Attempt at “willow” pattern on linen. I pleated the fabric and wrapped it around rope, tying it with polyester thread.

My big project was to cut out, partially sew, and dye linen pieces for a future dress I want to wear this summer, after the baby arrives. (Unfortunately, I’ve found my future dress design doesn’t look so hot on a preggo bod. It was cool in my first and second trimesters, but with my ginormous belly, it now literally looks like I’m wearing a tent!) Those pieces up top are for the future dress.

I mixed the dye bath in a 5 gallon plastic container from Lowes, and used a recycling bin I had from Ikea to transport the dyed materials to the bathroom for rinsing.

 Here are a few of my favorites from the dye party:

My friend C accordion folded yards of linen. I love the lines with the circular shapes.

For this piece of cotton, my friend L accordion folded the fabric, then sandwiched it between two triangular pieces of woods (leftover wood scraps), and tied the package together with thread. I caught her unwrapping it, so the dye still looks green. Indigo oxidizes to dark blue after it’s been exposed to air for a few minutes.

My friend A created this lovely yardage of silk crepe. The dye bath was actually a few days old and had been used quite a bit already, so the blue here is lighter, and there are some interesting turquoise patches. She accordion folded the fabric and then we sewed lines across the folds at varying distances (that’s where you see the white sections).

Of course, the party wouldn’t have been complete without Baby Fish getting in on the action. I hope she/he like them!

Lord help me from going overboard with the tie-dye and dressing my baby like a hippy!:)

 

 

 

GOING LOCAL WITH THE WESTERN CAROLINA SEWING COMPANY, EPISODE #16 OF THREAD CULT

In the months since I started Thread Cult, I’ve found myself drawn to people and businesses cutting their own path in the world of craft, sewing, and textiles. This week’s episode is no exception. When I was in North Carolina a few weeks back, I had the opportunity to interview Libby O’Bryan, a textile artist and founder of the Western Carolina Sewing Company (a.k.a. Sew Co.), which operates out of The Oriole Mill (the focus of episode #15).

Sew Co. is a full-service cut-and-sew manufacturer of high quality clothing and other products. Basically, Libby and her employees work with designers on everything from pattern design to sourcing fabrics and notions to actually constructing small fashion lines. It’s a service most designers would have to look for in a big city (or overseas), but Sew Co. is doing it all from the bucolic setting of western North Carolina.

As I mentioned in my last post, North Carolina has a rich history in the textile industry, but many of those businesses have closed or moved overseas during the past few years. Like Bethanne, of The Oriole Mill, Libby is focusing her business on producing the highest quality goods, and she’s been able to pull from an amazing wealth of seamstresses and pattern makers already living in the area who were once employed by the big textile mills. (Those sewing machines up top, btw, all came second-hand from closed textile mills.)

If you happen to be interested in starting your own sewn product business, you might be interested in a class that Libby is teaching at Penland School of Crafts this summer. According to Libby, it’s a sort of boot camp for getting your business off the ground. (Penland, btw, also seems like a cool place to hang out for a bit.)

If you’ve been listening to the podcasts as they come out, I wanted to give a heads up that they’ll still be coming regularly, but a little more spread out. I’m stashing away episodes, like a squirrel hiding nuts for the winter, in anticipation of Baby Fish arriving sometime in early June. Because of this, I’m only going to post an episode every other week, so I’ve got enough to go around until mid-July. We’ll see how ambitious I’m feeling after that! Until then, look out for a great episode the week after next with Threads contributor Angela Wolf on sewing jeans!

Here are a few images from Sew Co.’s design room:

A few works-in-progress, made with Jacquard fabrics from The Oriole Mill.

I nearly dropped my camera when I saw this lovely shibori top that Sew Co. made. The fabric treatment was accomplished with woven shibori fabric designed and dyed with natural dyes by Catharine Ellis. This is a technique I’m hoping to cover in a later episode.

Fabrics from The Oriole Mill. Sew Co. actually sews all of the fine linens made at the mill.

I LOVE this door, which was designed by Brandon Pass Architect (they’re called the Acoustic Doors). I think I need one for my future dream home.

Happy listening!

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Notes from this episode:

Opportunity Threads

Handmade in America

Local Cloth

12 Bones

Raleigh Denim

Appalatch

WEAVING SPECIAL! THE ORIOLE MILL, EPISODE #15 OF THREAD CULT

Wide Jacquard loom at The Oriole Mill. Barry, one of the mill’s experts, mans the controls. All photographs by Peak Definition

For someone who loves textiles, few experiences compare to actually seeing beautiful fibers woven together. I’ve had this feeling watching old ladies hand-weaving rugs in Turkey, and even watching my best friend weave art projects back in our college days. And so I felt very lucky last week to be able to visit The Oriole Mill, a small Jacquard mill based in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Part art studio, part industrial factory, the mill produces some of the most beautiful fabrics you’ll likely see made in this country. Bethanne Knudson, co-founder of the mill, showed my friend Lesley and I around, and sat down for an in-depth discussion about starting a high-quality mill in an era of outsourcing and cheap consumer goods.

Bethanne, who is also a fine textile artist, not only helps run the mill, but  she’s also helping to keep the art of Jacquard weaving alive here in the United States. In 2000, Bethanne started The Jacquard Center, which offers retreats in Jacquard studies for both industry professionals and artists interested in integrating this kind of weaving into their practice. Bethanne designs all of the fabrics for the mill, which are used to make heirloom-quality linens, scarves, aprons, and other products.

I’ll leave you with some eye candy of some of Bethanne’s creations.

Happy listening (and viewing!)!

This is a close up of one of the mill’s matelasse coverlets. Although it looks quilted, the fabric is actually woven in this design. The top and bottom layers of fabric are made of Egyptian cotton, with New Zealand wool inside; once the fabric is washed (the finishing process) the wool shrinks slightly, causing this puckered look that resembles a quilt. The coverlet is fully reversible.

Oh, how I love this design! Made of 100 percent Egyptian and American cotton, this multi-layer gauze fabric will be offered as a summer throw.

This damask coverlet (the image above is a detail shot) is made of 100 percent Egyptian cotton. The full repeat of the fabric’s design measures over 100 inches.

Close up of one of the mill’s throws, made from New Zealand wool and Egyptian cotton.

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* All photographs by Peak Definition

GIRLS GONE WILD!: PREGGO SPRING BREAK IN NORTH CAROLINA

Lace at Mulberry Silks & Fine Fabrics, Chapel Hill, NC.

A couple weeks back, I mentioned to my friend Lesley, of Barely Domesticated, that I was curious about the textile scene in North Carolina (after an interview with NearSea Naturals founder Tara Bloyd piqued my interest). Lesley, a food editor, had a week free from work and a hankering for some BBQ and thrift shopping, so we hatched a plan to leave our menfolk at home and hit the road. It’s been fun. A real Girls-Gone-Wild-in-their-mid-30′s-with-one-expecting-a-baby style.  So, you know, lots of eating, sleeping, thrifting, and laughing. I can now cross NC pulled pork off my bucket list, and even scored a crazy-awesome Bergdorf wool frock for $5 that fits my blossoming belly. I can definitively say that Asheville is a great little town, and I will be back, hopefully at a time when the weather is a bit warmer (they’ve had a cold snap this week). It’s heavenly driving from gray, wintery New York into peach-tree blossoms and sweet southern accents.

Beyond all that, the big impetuous for the trip was that I wanted to record a few new podcast episodes. I’m not posting one this week because, well, I’ve been on the road. But next week, I’ll post  a fascinating interview with Bethanne Knudson, co-founder of The Oriole Mill, in Hendersonville, NC, which produces the most beautiful Jacquard fabrics I’ve seen outside of Lyon, France. It’s truly an amazing enterprise, and I’m really excited to share this episode.

Until then, I’ll share just a few images I’ve snapped this week. I finally broke down and started an Instagram account (@threadcultradio) for this trip, which I’m afraid might be turning into an unhealthy obsession.

Chicken’s at our Airbnb host’s place in Asheville. They had fresh eggs waiting for us in the fridge.

The cutting block at The BBQ Pit in Hickory, NC. They only sell pulled pork, cole slaw, and sauce.

After my episode last week with Sew Right’s Harvey Federman on buying sewing machines, I now realize this metal beauty at  a Salvation Army might not be the best buy.

Dobby looms at The Oriole Mill.

Southerners are so polite. The parking lot of Whole Foods, Chapel Hill. Might be one reason to consider moving south!

BOOST YOUR SEWING MACHINE IQ! EPISODE #14 OF THREAD CULT

When it comes to sewing machine maintenance, I’ll admit I’m a bit clueless. I probably know more about maintaining my Toyota than my Janome. This is why I was excited to catch up with Harvey Federman, owner of Sew Right, a sewing machine and quilting/embroidery shop in Bayside, Queens. For the past 30 years, Harvey has been repairing machines at his shop—a dealer for Bernina, Husqvarna Viking, and Baby Lock—and before that, he worked as a repairman for Singer. The man knows his stuff.

In this episode, we chat about what to look for when buying a new machine, which vintage machines are worth your time (hint: anything black and made before WWII is probably still worth sewing on), and how to keep your current machine stitching beautifully. This is a real nuts-and-bolts episode, filled with tips any sewist will benefit from. I learned a lot and I think you will too.

Happy listening!

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FASHIONING A SEWING CAREER WITH THE WILLIAMSBURG SEAMSTER, EPISODE #13 OF THREAD CULT

A little over a year ago, I remember reading a story in the Times Style section about Nayantara Banerjee, The Williamsburg Seamster. Tara, as she goes by, started a business six years ago as a traveling tailor, catering to those who like concierge-type services, in her ‘hood of Williamsburg/Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I remember thinking at the time….”clever girl!”  I’m always impressed when people figure out how to define their careers on their own terms. Like all good business people, Tara spotted a need and figured out how to fill it and charge for it. Over the past few years, Tara has expanded her business to making custom clothing and doing a lot more work out of her sewing studio.

I caught up with Tara last Friday, on what I hope will be the last snowy day of the season. We chatted about everything from starting a business to her favorite sewing notions and shops in the garment district. If you’ve ever contemplated ditching your day job and striking out on your own sewing-related business (whether it be designing or actually sewing) I think this is a great and inspirational episode to catch.

Tara and I also talk about a really cool nonprofit organization she’s involved with, called Awamaki. Founded to support a cooperative of weavers in Patacancha, in the Peruvian Andes, Awamaki accepts volunteers, and has—collaborating with Kollabora (say that 10 times fast!)— organized a textile tour through the area where you get to learn about natural dyeing and weaving from the experts (happening this May). If I didn’t have a little human arriving around then, I’d sign up!

Also, if you’re in the market for a basic sewing machine, you may want to check out the model Tara just invested in, Bernina’s Bernette 12 (see my pics below). It’s ultra sleek, like if Mac were making sewing machines. Can you tell I want one?

Happy listening and have a great weekend!

 

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Notes:

Ruffeo Hearts Lil’ Snotty

Pattern Making for Fashion Design

Swatch the Mood dog!

City Sewing

Alter Knit New York 

Manhattan Wardrobe Supply

Sil Thread

Paron Fabrics

Pacific Trimming

REUSE, RECYCLE, REFASHION! EPISODE #12 OF THREAD CULT

When I think back on my fondest dresses, I’ve usually found my favorites (besides the ones I’ve made) at vintage or second hand shops. I can’t stomach—or afford!—the full prices of things I love in most department stores (if I really love something, I’ll usually just try to figure out how to make it myself). Some of my best-dressed friends are also inveterate thrifters and second hand junkies.

This is why I was interested when I recently met Kate Sekules, founder of Refashioner, a new website that acts as a curated consignment shop for pre-loved couture and designer fashions. The site will sell anything from big designer labels, to vintage, to nice pieces from places like J Crew. And, if they’re high quality, they’ll even take your handmade creations. Unlike venues like eBay and Etsy, this site is all about the clothes, and the staff carefully edits the selections. Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar consignment shops, which take between 40 and 60 percent, Refashioner takes a minimal 20 percent (plus a 2 percent admin fee). If you’re just buying, there’s no fee.

Kate and I met in her Brooklyn home to chat about the company,  what it means to invest in a beautiful wardrobe, and why we should keep good clothes in rotation.

On another note, I’ve got a new Thread Cult Twitter account: @ThreadCultRadio. If you’ve got any suggestions for the show—like people you’d be interested in hearing about or subjects you think would make a great podcast—tweet ‘em to me. Of course, you can always leave suggestions in the comments here, too.

Happy listening!

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Notes:

StyleLikeU

Project Pop-Up NYC

Make Love Not Porn

ahalife

GOING ORGANIC WITH NEARSEA NATURALS, EPISODE #11 OF THREAD CULT

A couple years ago I was on the hunt for some sustainably produced, possibly organic fabric. When I trolled the garment district here in New York I was surprised to find there weren’t many options. In fact, in most places I visited it was hard to determine exactly where any of the fabric I was looking at actually came from, let alone how it was made. This is, of course, to be expected in many of the discount shops I like to frequent, but even in places like Mood and B&J there wasn’t much info on the bolts, except maybe “made in Italy” or “France” on the nicer fabrics.

Many people who love fabric recognize there’s a dark underbelly to the textile industry. The way most fabric is produced carries a serious environmental toll — maybe not in our backyards, but somewhere on the planet. However, it’s easy to disregard the full cost of the fabrics we use when our only connection to them is at the fabric shop.

That’s why, for this episode of Thread Cult, I was very interested to speak with Tara Bloyd, founder of NearSea Naturals, an online fabric company that specializes in sustainable and organic cotton, hemp, wool, and silk. The kicker is that many of the fabrics NearSea Naturals sells are actually made here in the U.S. of A. (the cotton and many of the wool fibers are also grown/raised here as well). In fact, NearSea Naturals moved it’s main office from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Asheville, North Carolina, for the express purpose of working with the textile mills in the area.

If you’re interested in how fabric is made, or curious about why you might want to choose fabrics made with organic and sustainably-produced fibers, you won’t want to miss this episode.

Happy listening!

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THE ART OF FIT WITH KENNETH D. KING, EPISODE #10 OF THREAD CULT

A few weeks back, when New York was at the blustery beginning of a mid-February snow storm, I made my way down to Kenneth D. King‘s cozy sewing studio near Union Square. Some of you may know Kenneth from his Craftsy Jean-ius! class (as I did), or from his Threads articles, or his many couture sewing classes held around the country. I was visiting Kenneth on this chilly afternoon to chat about the art of fit, a subject in which I have a keen interest, but less-than-perfect skills. Kenneth is an expert, you see, and just finished filming a three-part DVD series  for Threads called “Smart Fitting with Kenneth D. King,” which should be available toward the end of April.

Kenneth is a natural showman, which I knew from watching his Craftsy course, and I was delighted to find that he’s just as funny and engaging in person—and on tape, which makes for a great podcast guest. Kenneth and I discussed everything from sewing for Barbie (where he got his start), to how to perfect fit (practice!  and a sewing “fit” buddy!), to getting the right dress form.

If you’re interested in becoming better at fitting, this is a great episode to catch. And if you’re enjoying these episodes, please throw Thread Cult a bone by giving her a positive rating on iTunes. The podcast is the #1 fashion & beauty podcast this week (yay!), and more good ratings and reviews will help the ‘cast reach more people!

Happy listening!

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Notes:

Dress Design: Draping and Flat Pattern Making, by Marion S. Hillhouse and Evelyn A. Mansfield

The American Sewing Guild

“Fit for Everyone” by Kenneth D. King. Sew removable covers to make your dress form work for multiple figures. Threads, July 2012

Kenneth’s newest creative endeavor, an autobiographical novel, All Grown Up: A Friendship in Three Acts