yeah, write

 

sewing machine series by Boston based artist KJ James

In one of those, “Ohmygosh! How did that happen?” moments, I’ve recently realized that mine has become a blog where awesome blog hops come to die. Over the last few months I’ve been flattered to have been tagged by several bloggers asking me to share a bit more about the person and process behind this blog. I’ve had fun thinking about and writing up some (hopefully at least half-interesting) responses to these cool queries, and over the next few weeks I’ll be rolling out my answers. Brace yourselves, friends, for perhaps more than you ever really wanted to know about me!

Morgan, the bright and beautiful author behind Crab&Bee, tagged me to write a little about a subject dear to my heart: Writing! As Morgan wrote in her own blog hop post: “Without being able to reference the original post, I don’t know what the intent of the hop is, but what swayed me to participate was just how much I enjoyed seeing these posts popping up in my reader.” To that I will add that I was equally swayed by the fact that Morgan’s was one of the first blogs I started following back when I was first discovering the online sewing community. I had an immediate appreciation for her style and approach to sewing, and that appreciation has only grown in the years since then.

And as I was pulling together this post, I was tagged a second time by Elizabeth, the brilliant owner and designer behind the most handsome blog + shop + knitting patterns of Hyer Handmade! Thank you, Morgan & Elizabeth, for linking me in to the fun!

Why do I write?

I’m pretty sure I started this blog because I saw everyone else doing it and it looked like fun. I really enjoyed seeing what people had produced, and I learned so much from reading about how they made it happen. I’d been lurking around a variety of blogs for a while, dropping the occasional anonymous comment, when I thought about setting up a space of my own. I was in graduate school at the time, working on a creative writing degree, so I was writing and reading and teaching writing, and writing about readings on writing and writers, and on and on ad-joyful-nauseam. Sewing was the perfect counterpoint to the work I was doing for school. It was nice to have something that came with directions to follow, and to produce something tangible and maybe even useful. (For the record, I do think fiction is tremendously useful as well.)

A blog seemed like the right place to get a little proud about what I was accomplishing and to interact with others who find sewing fun. Plus, writing for a blog is so different from the type of writing I now do for work (commerce driven content) and for myself (realist fiction inspired by writers like Mavis Gallant & Alice Munro). Writing for the blog is the most blatantly fun writing I do because it’s causal, and I’m writing about something real and tangible that I love: Clothes! Sewing! Style! But mostly it’s fun because there are awesome people actually reading and responding to what gets posted. (This small fact never ceases to amaze me.) Only in the last couple months have I started telling the people I know in my non-sewing life about this blog, and a friend of mine recently summed up the experience perfectly when he said, “It sounds like you’re part of a really kind and generous community!” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Whatever my reasons for getting started, the reason I continue has everything to do with the amazing people the blog has connected me to. Yeah, I’m look’n at you!

the reader - yelena bryksenkova

How does my writing process work?

Honestly, I’m still figuring out exactly how I want to write for this blog. Every new post is a bit of an experiment. Typically, it starts with sewing something; then I have to find the time to take pics and do some (very rudimentary) photo editing. I really love how blogging is all about the mix of words and images. When I’m taking pictures, I’ll think about what I want to write, and when I write, I’ll think about which picture might work best with what’s written. There’s a general outline I try to follow for posts: Start with a story, the what and why behind the project. Name the pattern, materials, and general process points. Talk a bit about what I like, love, dislike, and what have you. Open it up to comments. It will vary, but those are the high points I’m usually aiming to hit.

Sewing blogs, unlike a lot of other writing around the web, tends to go long form. Like, very long. (Some of my favorite bloggers standardly draft posts that come in around 1-2K words!) Still, I have it in my head that going much over 500 words at a time is a baaaad idea, so I often find myself sort of just hitting the high points, only to have someone leave a comment asking for the details I left out. I love when that happens! And it’s a great experience, learning more about what people want to read in this way. In a fiction workshop, so often what people want to see or not see in your story is just subjective, and whether you want to apply their suggestions becomes a question of artistic intent. When I’m writing about sewing, I feel bad about leaving out any information someone might have wanted to know or that might help them with their own work. Equally, there’s the feedback one gets from the data each post generates. I certainly don’t write toward the numbers, but it totally fascinates me to observe them and learn what there is to learn from them.

How does [your work] differ from others of its genre?

This is an interesting question, though I’m not sure I have a great answer. Perhaps the thing I love most about reading sewing blogs (you know, in addition to learning just an amazing amount of valuable information) is the inspiration and delight I get from seeing the many creative, brilliant, beautiful approaches other sewers take to their projects. We’re really all of us totally unique in our ways. Still, when I first started sewing, most of what I saw was very feminine with a vintage edge. I loved it! But when I sew that type of garment (and I still do, sometimes, sew things like this) even if I love the garment I don’t tend to wear it much. That’s just not me.

I think my personal style and aesthetic preferences are pretty different from other sewers on the web. If money were no object, I’d swath myself in designs by Rick Owens, Isabel Marant, Martin Margiela, Raquel Allegra, and other sort of edgy, luxurious, modern garb. I don’t see a lot of people sewing that sort of thing. Heck, I don’t really sew much that way myself! But I think I’m striving toward my version of something like that. This is not always easy to remember, like when I was at the fabric store just this weekend, hunting up some cool shirting fabrics for a delightful friend who somehow managed to convince me that I needed a dark purple quilting cotton decorated with chubby black cats. It’s great fabric, but when I got it home I was like, Wait, why do I have 2.5 yards of this???

 What am I working on?

Oh man, too much, always! Over the last year I’ve focused a lot of my energy on reacquainting myself with city living and launching a new career, and so, just as it was in grad school, the blog has had to take a back seat. Still, I do have some fun stuff I’ve been slowly (sooo slowly) working on to evolve this space. On a separate but related note, I’m working on getting my sewing room looking less like a room overflowing with fabric, machines, pattern paper, and thread, and more like a functional (perhaps even beautiful?) workspace. Project wise, this week I’m working on a (late) bday present for one of my best friends.

 Nominations!

I’d like to nominate Amy, of SewAmySew. Her’s is another blog I’ve been reading for a happily long time. She has a a great sense of style, pushing boundaries while still keeping things realistic (read: wearable), and most of what she makes I’d happily steal for myself. And, is it possible no one has yet nominated the ultimate reader + writer + sewcialist + all around amazing woman, Nettie of SownBrooklyn? Well then, don’t mind if I do. No pressure to play along, ladies, but of course we’d all be thrilled if ya did!

And really, I’d be interested to hear from any and everyone what interests and excites you most about sewing+blogging+writing, so please do share your thoughts!

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ginger jeans // sewing triumph

Sewing a pair of jeans has been on my Want to Sew list from just about the beginning. I wear jeans no less than 4 days out of every week, and this is one garment where you’re guaranteed to save money constructing them yourself. Because, did know you could spend nearly $500 on jeans?! I mean, they’re gorgeous, but…. That said, I spent over $100 on my last pair of jeans, and it totally seemed worth it at the time. Meanwhile, fabric + notions for these was less than $20. And they might be the best fitting pair of jeans I’ve ever owned. Triumph!

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The pattern behind these beauties is the latest from Heather at Closet Case Files: The Ginger Jeans. I was a pattern tester, and since Heather has made some adjustments to the sizing since then, I’ll spare you the major details on the sizing + fit. My adjustments were minimal and basically came down to grading between sizes at the waist and hip. The only major change I made was to the leg, which I wanted to be more of a straight leg than was drafted for, and the length, which I cropped. I’m 5’7″ and these were perfectly full length on me before I shortened them.

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I used a serger to finish all the inside seams, except on my pocket bags. Those are made of a mid-weight quilting cotton and french seamed.

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The only places I ran into trouble was on the button hole and the tacks, all of which really stressed out my machine. I suppose with good reason, as there’s at least four layers of denim in there. However, using Heather’s suggestion of putting a wedge under the foot really helped with the tacks. I also added rivets, which was fun. But one of them keeps falling off, so I guess I need to work on my hammering technique!

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I’ve been wearing these just about non-stop since I made them. I’ve never been more proud of a garment, which anyone who knows me will confirm. I’ve been bragging about these all over the place!

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Heather is turning out an amazing sewalong right now over on her blog. It’s full of details on where to buy the best fabric and notions, plus everything you need to know to craft your own pair of jeans. Now that it’s done, I thing I was more freaked out than I needed to be about making these. Sure, they were a healthy challenge, but no more than that. And it is weirdly liberating to know I have the ability to make a great fitting pair of handcrafted jeans. So… have I convinced you to give it a try?

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