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The Way Sewing Used To Be: Scissors

thor scissors 1 The Way Sewing Used To Be: Scissors

Why do I like vintage? Except for the speed of communication, medicine, electricity and maybe a few other things, everything is recycled. DaVinci knew how to fly, the Egyptians used make up and the Chinese made beautiful silks thousands of years ago. Today, most things are remade and there is very little newness. The future is in the past.

About 4 months ago, I was gifted a box of vintage sewing goodies. It originally belonged to the gifter’s grandmother and inside were doodads so delicious, any sewer would want to eat them. Okay, not really, but any sewer would toy with the idea of preserving the contents rather than putting them to use. Myself included. The packaging, its colors and its designs were and still are incredible. What happened to that kind of graphic integrity? Seems like it was thrown out the window along with handkerchiefs and pantyhose. But it would be a shame to leave them in the box for good. Would I sew a garment and hang it in my closet forever? If the future lies in the past, I had to find a way to keep the memories of these items but also put them to work. So, I started taking pictures of a few and uploading them to Instagram with the hashtag #thewaysewingusedtobe. To my surprise, a couple weeks later, other people started posting their goodies as well. I can’t believe it, but today, there are over 150 images! Thank you for being a sewing nerd with me. Is it just me or how cool is it that there is now an archive of the way sewing used to be?

I want to continue this little initiative and start a monthly theme – scissors. If you’re like me, the only variety you know are Gingher or the cheap-oh alternative found at Joann’s, Michaels or other local craft stores. A quick search on Ebay and you’ll quickly learn just like I did that in the 50s, 60s and 70s, there were more choices. Many more; even electric scissors! I’m sure people in the 60s thought they were so high-tech too! For less than $15 dollars, I bought a pair of Thor Speed Snip Electric Scissors. According to the instruction sheet, they were “intended for the 40 million women who sew creatively.” The manual continues, “The dramatically new way for accurate cutting of cloth, fabrics, dress goods, drapery materials, seating, etc. Completely eliminates chances of sore fingers and cramped, tired hands. Small, compact, durable. Safe, even for children.” A little online research and I learned that Thor was founded in 1893 as the Independent Pneumatic Tool Co. by John D. Hurley, John Hopkins (then mayor of Chicago) and Roger Sullivan (a politician). In 1953, the name was dropped in favor of Thor Power Tool Co., but the same Thor logo was kept. They acquired Speedway Manufacturing Company in 1954 and incorporated its name and brands into the Thor family. Thor was best known for handheld power tools and had factories in Cicerio and La Grange Park, Illinois. The company was later acquired by Stewart-Warner Corp and by 1988, all products with the Thor name were replaced with Stewart-Warner.

So, for the next month or so, I’ll be posting the various vintage scissors I’ve acquired on Instagram with the same hashtag, #thewaysewingusedtobe. Feel free to join in this theme, but don’t feel pressured that only scissors are welcomed. There is room for all vintage sewing notions!

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Weekend: Mishka Update

weekend 10 17 Weekend: Mishka Update

As Mishka recovers from cancer, I’ve been making it a point to call her more often. She still sews everyday, from 9 in the morning to about noon, but other than that, her schedule is clear. During those times when she’s at home, mostly watching TCM – it’s the only channel she’ll allow, I update her on the going ons and happenings in my life (she was cheering me along while I was making my coat). When I get off the phone with her, I can’t help but be inspired by her enthusiasm despite her sickness. “My hair is growing back! It’s about an 1/8 inch” she says, in which I respond, “I’m sure you look just a good bald as you do with hair.” Side note – only a seamstress would use the measurement 1/8″. Amirite? One of the most deadly diseases is attacking her body, and she’s has nothing but upbeat things to say. No oh-woe-is-me kind of attitude; she’s all joie-de-vivre. We’ve all got things going on in our life – work issues, relationship quandaries and family predicaments, but we’re not in as big of a pickle as being sicken by cancer or heart disease or luekemia or ebola. I’ve been going at life with the appreciation Mishka display – that despite what I don’t have, I have a lot more. A great career, a loving family and an amazing community of sewers who are my biggest cheerleaders and keep me going when I don’t feel like going any more (I’m rooting for you too!). So, I hope you go into this weekend and the rest of your days with this same “tude.” Happy weekend, happy days, happy sewing!

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Handmade: Philadelphia Independents

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Philadelphia Independents isn’t a wanted, local jaunt, but a needed establishment in a city that is known for its hometown pride, loyal sport fans (go Phillies!) and official cuisine – the cheesesteak (wit or witout wiznot wiz). In one of the largest small city in this country, it is also known for its handmade pursuits. While previous subjects of Handmade have produced, or sewn, items of their own namesake, this shop doesn’t. Instead, it sells a curated collection of handmade items from local artists – jewelry, handbags, accessories, home décor, candles, pillows, baby gifts, pet gifts and more – and that makes it just as admirable. As a maker myself, and as a maker yourself, we love seeing people, businesses and retailers highlighting and helping our home spun, grown, baked, sewn or whatever be the case, products.

After a long career in the art world, co-owner Ashley Peel Pinkham left her long-loved job, opening the shop in Old City with two other women. Since it opened in May of this year, word of mouth has spread, and its original roster of 35 makers has grown to almost 70, including herself (she has her own line of handmade jewelry). The quick blossoming makes one thing clear, that this space is more than a gift shop, but a harbor where parochial merchants can bring their good to share with in and out of towners.

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your story Handmade: Philadelphia Independents
Considering my career, it’s ironic that I wasn’t an artsy child. My grandmother was creative, but art was a hobby for her. My parents weren’t artsy either. My dad gave me his old, clunky 35mm camera from the 1960s, which spawned my studies in photography, but for the most part, our family was non-artsy.

I was introduced to jewelry making when I was student at The University of the Arts. My major was photography, but I took a jewelry class that included soldering and forming metals. It was inspiring to be among people who made not just delicate items, but adornment and sculptures for the body. After graduating, I worked in photography and printmaking, including for a nonprofit art gallery in Center City for 14 years.

Towards the end of my stint at the gallery, in 2012, I was searching for a necklace, but I couldn’t find it. I didn’t have the tools, machinery or knowledge of how to make exactly what I wanted, so I took a few courses on jewelry making. Anna Thompson, who owns Anna Beau Designs, took me under her wing and showed me the business and craft of owning a jewelry business. I vividly remember meeting with her many times with inspiration tear sheets, mission statements, etc. and she was very transparent and showed me how to achieve my goals. I launched my line, INDICAN, in October of that year. At the time, I still had a job, so I spent weeknights making product and weekends selling at craft shows. In the fall of 2013, I was at the Clover Market in Chestnut Hill when my future partners, Jennifer Provost and Tiffica Benza, casually mentioned they were interested in opening a shop. I had a vision of owning a store that only sold my line, but I loved the idea of having a store that celebrated Philadelphia. I told them I hoped they didn’t mind they have a third partner now! We rounded up a good group of artists and scouted high traffic locations. We considered Reading Terminal Market and Philadelphia International Airport, but landed on this spot in Old City because of its rich heritage and culture. On either side of our store are other small businesses that support small makers and the neighborhood is very receptive and supportive of our mission.

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your jewelry Handmade: Philadelphia Independents
I primarily make necklaces; they’re my thing. At first, I used mainly coral, turquoise or wood. As a vegetarian for twenty years, I wrestled with the decision to use coral, since it is an animal and is being harvested for adornment. But every vegan/vegetarian/pescatarian has their own reasons for living their lifestyle and mine is that I don’t consume living creatures. Each piece is inspired by traditional cultures around the world including African, Asian and Native American jewelry. It has a very indigenous feel to it. It’s a basic, minute detail, but every necklace has an extender chain. Women come in many shapes and sizes and it’s important to me that each item can be altered, or at least somewhat, to fit many women. When I first started making jewelry, I used mainly coral, turquoise and wood, but since then I’ve expanded my material choices to rose quartz, moonstone and lapis lazuli being just a few of the stones I’ve branched off and used.

favorite thing you made Handmade: Philadelphia Independents
A coral necklace. It was 6 or 8 strands with orzo-shaped beads. The beads were polished and smooth, as opposed to coral’s rough texture. It was very pet-able because it was so smooth!

mission Handmade: Philadelphia Independents
Our mission is not only to celebrate Philadelphia, but encourage others to celebrate their own city, whether that be Portland, Seattle or San Diego. Also, even though the word “independent” is a play on Independence Hall, it’s also a message to recognize independent artists and the art of handmade.

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growth Handmade: Philadelphia Independents
Our artist roster has grown a lot since opening and what’s really impressive about it is that it has been mostly through referrals. Locals, tourists and other artisans have come in, seen what we have to offer and then mentioned someone they know who would be a good fit for our assortment. We have tea towels, napkins and woodworking materials coming soon.

mentor Handmade: Philadelphia Independents
More than jewelry making, Anna Thompson taught me the business of owning a jewelry line. She was very transparent with sharing her best practices, methods for presenting jewelry and logistical strategies. She allowed me to tag along to gem shows when I first starting out and ask her questions like, is this a good deal? Should I pay this price? Are these stones good to work with?

experience Handmade: Philadelphia Independents
I came from a stressful work environment coming from the small nonprofit sector, so I traded one stress for another type of stress. It’s a different type of stress in that everything is on you (and my partners). I have a different sense of ownership now. I have always been a very dedicated person, so I’m not the type of worker that comes in for the time required and then leaves, so I’ve used to working long hours to make something successful.

co owner Handmade: Philadelphia Independents
Actually, owning a business with two other women has been great. We bounce ideas off of each other and of course, there is never a tie over a decision, since there are three of us. Another perk to having three sets of eyes is that our different backgrounds and experiences combine to come up with very creative ideas and strategies.

feedback Handmade: Philadelphia Independents
When people say that Philadelphia needs our store – that’s what fulfills me. Not that it’s cute or that it’s fun, but that it is a requisite establishment to our city. Residents who have lived in the neighborhood for decades have come in and said, “This is exactly was Old City needs!” And that was our second week we were open! People also ask where our other location is as if we have numerous stores. That’s definitely a compliment too!

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What i Made: Portia Blue

portia blue 1 What i Made: Portia Blue

When it comes to outerwear, there are a lot of choices. First, there’s the blanket statement, where one can wrap themselves in a draped number; opting for patchwork or embroidery would make the look extra boho. Then there’s sporty, or a boxy silhouette equipped with a hood and extra pockets that are ideal elements for braving even the coldest cold. Or one could be a caped crusader and battle wild, wild winter just like Little Red Riding Hood with a sleeveless topper. But if you want to channel your inner savage, grab the fur fabric and be one with the pack. Shaggy, baby! Not the most flattering choice, the down jacket is still going strong. Personally, I’ll pass. The Michelin Man was never a good look. As for me, I took my own spin on 2014’s outer selection and transported back to the 1950s. With the most sumptuous vintage brocade chenille, I made Simplicity 1505.

To bring the folks who missed my in-progress post up to date, I’ll reiterate a few details that have already appeared on the blog. For those more informed readers, hang tight. We’ll get to the fun bits below.

I scored this fabric on Ebay over a year ago, winning it for a total of $28.00. Because it’s thick, textural and has a weight similar to home dec fabrics, finding a suitable pattern required a search. The silhouette couldn’t have lots of seaming or details like pockets, epaulettes and/or darts because it would detract and break up the beauty of the fabric. After several long nights on Etsy, I finally chose the one – Simplicity 1505.

Released in 1956, Simplicity 1505 pattern is a misses’ one-piece dress and coat in 2 lengths. The ensemble features a slim lined dress with a v-neckline and short kimono bodice and skirt seam. Coat may be dress or hip length. Buttons trim lower edge of kimono sleeves.

Despite the fact that it was an easy silhouette doesn’t mean construction and patterning didn’t present a few obstacles. Because I only had 2 yards and there was no more available, I had to reduce the body length by 6 inches and sleeve length by 1 inch. Even then, the facing had to be broken into 2 pieces. Also, because of the fabric’s texture, ironing was out of the question, so all interfacing was sewn in. I spent many nights and morning hand sewing hair canvas and then cutting away the seam allowances to a perfect 5/8 inch. Also due to the texture, all seams were steamed and then fingered pressed open and topstitching (including understitching) was a no no. I wrestled with pattern alignment too. I only had enough yardage to have the pattern match in one place. So while the stripes don’t align at the overarm seam, they are centered at the center front and center back. I made a muslin, in which I added back waist darts to make it less sac like, but if I had to go back, I wouldn’t have included them. The darts break up the stripes to a point where it looks weird, like a mistake. I would go back and simply take them out, but because the intake was 2” total (1” on the fold), I clipped into it and cut away the excess. Other details include a back piece made of hair canvas, neck darts to have it shape to my frame, side seam pockets and 2 snap closures at the center front and 2 faux buttons on each sleeve.

So bring it on old man winter. I’m ready for your polar vortex!

*vintage dress from Chariot Marie*

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post footer wardrobe What i Made: Portia Blue

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