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Weekend: Mishka Update

weekend 09 19 Weekend: Mishka Update

When I went home to Florida last weekend, I thought a lot about Mark Twain and his views on living in real time. Before his famed titles The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Twain was a travel writer, but instead of recording what happened as it happened, he wrote later. “I would not have fooled away any of it writing letters,” is what he penned during a journey to Hawaii.

I’m a bona fide shutterbug – I see life in photographs – but this trip was different. I found out Mishka, the woman who taught me to sew, the woman who has ripped out so many of my sleeves and the woman who calls me her second daughter, has cancer. My priorities changed when I saw how cancer and chemotherapy devastated my mom’s body and took her life, and it happened again this weekend when I heard Mishka is sick. Once again, I realized that life is too short and can be cruel. I only want to surround myself with the people and the things that matter. Sewing is one of them, and my family, Mishka included, is another. Despite the torment she is going through, one thing has remained unchanged – her spirit and courage. She still goes to the shop ever morning, bald, to sew. Isn’t that incredible?

So this weekend, I broke away from our reportorial obsession to capture this very moment. The only moments I photographed where the ones I was specifically asked to – my brother’s 29th birthday party, dubbed Jamesapalooza. The rest of the time, I did exactly what Mathew McConaughey said to do, “L-I-V-I-N.”

post footer weekend Weekend: Mishka Update

Book Review + Giveaway: Sewtionary

sewtionary 2 of 21 Book Review + Giveaway: Sewtionary
I know you know. Tasia, the woman who gave birth to the perfect maxi skirt, has released a book. I admire all the indie pattern makers – Grainline Studios, Colette, Pauline Alice, Closet Case Files – but Tasia has a special place in my heart. Why? Because just like me, she has experience in the production, sourcing and technical design side of garment making. Her newest title, Sewtionary, is a chockablock of the most essential sewing terms and techniques, 101 to be exact, which are written in easy to read language and pretty to see images. Novice or skilled, there’s a place for this book in every sewer’s library. I won’t share too much information about what’s inside, and that’s because one of you will be receiving a copy. Tasia is offering one book to one Madalynne reader. To enter, like Madalynne on Facebook and follow Madalynne on Bloglovin. If you’re already a follower on either platforms, that’s okay. Just tell me so below. In the comments section, be sure to leave your name and contact information. Contest opens immediately and closes Wednesday, September 24th, where a winner will be chosen, notified and featured on the blog. Last, contest is open internationally. Good luck!

And don’t forget the other wonderful ladies who are hosting a Sewtionary tour on their blog:

sewtionary 1 of 22 Book Review + Giveaway: Sewtionary

Handmade: Wise Owl Shop

wise owl 3 of 31 blog Handmade: Wise Owl Shop

It’s no surprise that I gravitate towards things that are handmade. As mostly a maker of clothing and lingerie, I not only desire the me-made, but I understand and appreciate the value of treasures crafted with human hands. What started off as a humble project in 2009, Wise Owl Shop has grown into a blooming brand that offers upcycled clothing, neckwarmers and soon-to-be boot sleeves. Its home base, which is in the basement of the same building as Madalynne Studios, is a glorious jumble of garments, shoes, sewing notions, fabrics, tree branches and hardcore machines. The dame behind the label, Ashleigh Loeffler, disassembles thrift and vintage clothing and re-assembles them into new, fashion pieces. Her hailed (and very cozy) neckwarmers use recycled fabric as the outer liner and new, micro-fleece as the inner liner. The kicker? Each one is finished with a wooden button that Ashleigh slices from a fallen tree limb from her family’s home in Pennsylvania. How’s that for one hell of a story.

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construction process Handmade: Wise Owl Shop
It was the woman who lived next door to my grandma who got me into sewing. Her name was Eleanor. She altered my family’s clothes, and I would go over to her house and watch her work. I took home economics in high school, and this is when I started to make my own clothes. I had a hippie aesthetic, adding patchwork to my jeans and such. I didn’t sew for a long time after, only picking it up when I had my daughter. I was very into baby wearing, so I made a lot of baby wraps. One winter, Kevin, my husband, was vending his glasswork at Christmas Village in City Hall and I made a neckwarmer just like my current ones. I received so many compliments that I started selling them. The next season, I was helping someone vend and he put me in touch with his wholesale contacts. A year later, I attended a show on my own. That was 3 years ago and we’ve been growing ever since.
your story Handmade: Wise Owl Shop
First, I shop a factory that receives vintage and thrift clothing from places like Salvation Army. It’s huge – blocks long. I spend an entire day sifting through a two thousand pound bale of scarves, usually leaving with anywhere between 500-600 pounds. The following 2 or 3 days, I wash and dry the items at the laundry mat. After, I cut each one to size here in the studio, and then serge it to the fleece.

Each button is made from fallen tree limbs I gather at my family’s home in northern Pennsylvania. Using a band saw, I first slice them and then, I let them dry. I cut when the wood when it’s wet; fresh wood is better to work with. After, I use a sander to smooth the surface and apply Howard’s Feed and Wax. It’s the most eco friendly wood finish I can find. Last, I drill a hole through the middle.

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favorite Handmade: Wise Owl Shop
I consider myself a self taught seamstress, so a lot of the things I make are very simple. My favorite piece is a jersey knit dress; the silhouette was so basic with two pieces of fabric serged together and armholes and a neckline cut out. I still wear it and I still think it’s awesome. I can do whatever I wanted with it – wear it with sandals, put a belt around it, etc.

machines Handmade: Wise Owl Shop
Vintage-wise, I have a 1929 industrial Singer straight stitch and an old Singer zigzag machine. I’m not sure the year on the zigzag – I call it the blue one! For the buttons, I have a band saw, belt sander and a drill press. For finishing, I have an industrial serger and a home serger.

sew for yourself Handmade: Wise Owl Shop
Not really, but I somehow found time to make my daughters Halloween costume last year. She was Daphne from Scooby Doo and I rubbed off the pattern from an existing dress to make her costume. It was a fun process, minus the sleeves. It was the first time I had to set a sleeve to an armhole, and it got a little funny at the underarm, but I figured it out. She loved it.

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mentor Handmade: Wise Owl Shop
I worked at a gallery in Chestnut Hill called Windfall Gallery. It was my first job when I moved to Philadelphia after high school, and the owner was the first person who recognized and fueled my creativity. She allowed me to express my style in the store’s display and merchandising. I also joined her when she attended wholesale shows, and for me, that got my artistic juices flowing. I had the opportunity to see work that most people didn’t have access to. It was an art overload. Most importantly, she taught me to keep my boundaries. If I have an intention with my business, it’s okay to stand by it. Some people tell me what my prices should be, but in the end, it’s my decision and I should stick to it.

still want to learn Handmade: Wise Owl Shop
Leather! I’m not sure what form I would want to create from it, maybe shoes? I’ve made a few moccasins, but they were very much prototypes. Still needs a lot of work!

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Weekend: Jamesapalooza

weekend 09 12 Weekend: Jamesapalooza

Hemingway advised us not to think about work in progress between leaving the desk and returning to it. Tis true. Our best work is rarely the result of direct thought; too much brooding spoils and tarnishes.

My mojo boomerangs between full force and total recharge. This year, I’ve noticed that I can work 6 weeks straight, weekends included, but at that point, I need a break. Luckily, my weekend of rest comes at just the right time. This Saturday, my brother, James, will host Jamesapalooza, a giant shindig celebrating his day of birth. Now, I know Marce will have words over the naming of said party – Jamesapalooza versus Oonapallooza? – in which I will say, I love you both equally.

So, until Monday, I’ll be in Florida. I have jam packed my calendar with absolutely nothing, and will spend every second with my favorite dudes – my brothers and my father. While I’m gone, I ask of one thing. Take care of the sewing world for me, will ya?

As a wise seamstress once said, see you on the other side of the needle!

post footers giveaway winner Weekend: Jamesapalooza

      Did you hear that I'm teaching an online bra making class? In 1 hour, I walk you through constructing a bra from start to finish, and I'll cover choosing a bra pattern, finding your size, tracing and cutting tips and construction. Click HERE to sign up now! If you can't attend the class, I will be teaching it in person this winter here in Philadelphia; EMAIL ME to be put on the waiting list.


      Another famous bra maker is teaching an online class! BEVERLY JOHNSON just announced that she will be teaching a class on Crafty and the release date is Tuesday, September 23rd. Enter now to win a free spot!


      If you're like me and you live in the northern hemisphere, then fall is upon us. Join the ladies at CASHMERETTE as they make on spectacular, green coat.


      Have you heard? SARAI and the ladies and Colette Patterns are dedicating the entire month to hems. Called SEPT-HEM-BER, they will cover how to make sure a hem is even, everything you need to know about stabilizing hems, several options to finish the raw edge of your hem, how to stitch a hem by hand, how to sew basic turned hem by machines (and a few different options for doing it), how to sew a machine rolled hem, how to sew a faced or shaped hem, how to sew a baby hem and how to sew a mitered corner. Whoa! That's a lot!


      Congratulations MADY on your second year blog anniversary! I've been following you for only a short time, but I'm excited to get to know you even more. Here's to many more years of happy and healthy sewing!


      For her engagement shoot, ANGIE made a striped Emery dress and looks stunning next to her forever partner and fiancé.