Friday, December 2, 2011

… retail location for Filia

I have really exciting news to share: my handmade clothes and accessories collection, Filia, is now available at The Merchant Company at 656 Congress Street in Portland, Maine! I’m really thrilled to have a brick-and-mortar retail location, and even happier to be among the awesome stuff available at The Merchant Co. Seriously, this place is stuffed to the gills with cool handmade and vintage items, lots of it from local vendors: ceramics, clothing, knit items, jewelry, bags, vintage housewares, skin care, baby stuff… you could find a gift for pretty much anyone in there (including, of course, yourself).

So the pics above are my little set-up. Items available right now include my wide elastic-band skirts in a variety of fun prints and solids, a few linen dresses, some newer print dresses and tunics, small zipper pouches, and cotton yoga mat bags. Some items are similar to ones available on my Etsy site, while others are unique to The Merchant Company location. I'll be adding new stock pretty regularly as well!

Here are some close-ups of the yoga mat bags. May I suggest, I think these would make a fantastic holiday gift for the yoga enthusiast in your life! They’re handmade with 100% pre-washed cotton, fully lined, reinforced in the bottom and the strap, and have neat features like deep side pockets (for your cell phone, socks and whatnot), a key ring, and an adjustable strap.

George and I knocked together this display for these flower pins I make from fabric remnants. We used scrap wood from my parents’ house, but my dad wasn’t around to help us use the table saw (AKA The Mangler), so we had to use a hand saw! It came out pretty dang good, though.

So this holiday season, consider shopping local and check out The Merchant Company! It’s right down by Longfellow Square on Congress Street in Portland. And then let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

... appearance on another blog

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Laura from Fore Front Fashion, a very hip blog that chronicles the innate fashion sense of us Mainers - Bean boots and all. She ended up stopping by the apartment to chat about my little clothing venture Filia and take a few pictures of my sewing room and inventory. You can check out the results here, here and here (as usual, I think my cat steals the show). I was super flattered that Laura wanted to feature Filia on her blog and am still blushing at all the kind things she said in her write-up!
If you’re not already a regular reader of Fore Front Fashion, I would totally recommend that you add it to your list. It does a fantastic job of spotlighting modern Maine fashion without veering too far into what a friend calls “lumberjack hipster”. It also has great info on local fashion-related events, local shops and vendors. Flag your favorites and patronize them this weekend on Small Business Saturday!!
In other making-things news, my sister Erin and her friend September helped me rephotograph a lot of my Filia items for my Etsy shop. Thanks to them, it looks a whole lot brighter and attractive! There are a few new pieces, too, so check it out here if you’d like to see the fruits of that labor.
*Noted* fashion photographer Erin.

I’m also in the middle of a chair-refinishing project that has unexpectedly turned into a bit of an odyssey. I’m hoping to finish that up and have something to show for it this weekend. After, of course, eating myself stupid. Hope everyone has a very happy Thanksgiving!! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

... fabric-covered roller shade

The fixing up of our new apartment continues! And while I never feel like a room is ever really “done”, I’m getting pretty close to “done for now” with my sewing room. In fact I’m almost ready to do a whole before-and-after post about it, but in the meantime here’s a quick little project I knocked together for the lone window in that room.
First I should say that I really have a thing about mini-blinds, and that thing is deep dislike. They are ugly, insanely irritating to clean, and it drives me absolutely nuts when the bottom is crooked after you pull them up. So of course there are mini-blinds in every single window of our new place, and I will be systematically eradicating them one by one.
The mini-blinds in the sewing room were particularly bad in that they were broken - some of the strips were snapped off on one side. This left an exposed hole when the blinds were down and when you pulled the blinds up, some of the strips would hang diagonally below the bottom. It looked like the mini-blind had a hernia. 

To replace it, I wanted something clean and simple - no drapes that I would bump into or get caught up in when I’m moving around the room working on sewing projects - but would add a shot of color to the room. Privacy isn’t much of an issue for that window, because it looks at the side of the building next door about four feet away. For the same reason, light quality really isn’t a big issue either. So I decided to use a simple roller shade and cover it with a colorful fabric - done and done.

This was a super easy project to prep for - just unrolled the roller blind and washed it, measured it, and cut the fabric to fit with a rotary cutter (adding about two inches to each side). The I ironed the fabric, took everything outside, and used my trusty spray adhesive to adhere the fabric to the shade. The one issue was how to finish the sides. I initially thought I’d wait for the adhesive to set and then use a rotary cutter to trim the extra fabric right to the edge of the shade, but I was concerned it would eventually start to fray. So I decided to wrap the sides around and glue them on the back, thinking no one would see the back side, anyway. However, I totally forgot that you see the back side of the shade on bit that’s rolled up. I don’t hate the look of the fabric on the sides - because the fabric I used has a white background, it kind of looks intentional, like a border - but I do wish I had trimmed the excess so that the sides were even. Right now one side is wider than the other. But it’s not driving me crazy (YET). So if you use this method, make sure to trim the edges even before you glue them down to the back. Or, you could cover the roller up with a valance or something (I’m just not a huge fan of valances).

Then George took down the hated blinds, installed the roller shade hardware, and we hung the shade. That’s it! I will say, the fabric makes the shade a little heavy, so it doesn’t spring up as quickly or enthusiastically as a shade normally would - but this doesn’t really bother me. I love that this was a pretty dirt-cheap project, which is my favorite kind. The fabric was from Marden’s and I think was about $4/yd, and I bought two yards, so that’s $8 for the fabric. I actually got the roller shade from my parents, who had a few leftover after changing some window treatments in their house, so that was free. And I already had the spray adhesive. So all in all $8 and about 2-3 hours (including drying time and installation) and I’m up one unique, colorful window treatment and down one nasty set of mini-blinds - I’ll take it. Only 13 more windows to go!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

... baby gift and a characteristic mistake

Lots of my friends have been having babies lately, so I find myself making my fair share of baby clothes as gifts. I mostly enjoy it, because baby clothes are so small that they work up quickly - it’s like instant gratification sewing. Plus I think it’s generally accepted that things that are smaller versions of regular-sized things are magically cuter, like kittens and Smart Cars.
My friend recently had an adorable baby girl, so I was excited to make something ruffly and pink. I decided to work off of a pattern (Simplicity 2572), which I find relaxing every once in a while. Making my own designs usually involves a lot of agonizing over the measurements and details, whereas working off a pattern is just following the directions. It’s like playing with Legos - clearly the best part of Legos was throwing all your sets together and making whatever you wanted, but sometimes you just want to follow the directions and end up with a giant pirate ship, you know?
For this project, I found this adorable printed pinwale corduroy at Joann’s that matched some solid pinwale corduroy I had leftover from another project. I wanted to make the jumper and matching hoodie, so I got right down to it. I had my fabric, my pattern - so far, so good.
Here’s the jumper:

Cute, right? Kind of a pain to have to put in a zipper - I usually try to avoid them on baby clothes - but otherwise straightforward. And here’s the hoodie:

Have you spotted the problem? That’s right, I cut out the entire hoodie UPSIDE DOWN. All the owls and the trees and the hearts are wrong side up. Such a silly, easily avoidable mistake!! I didn’t notice until I had already cut all the pieces, and then I didn’t have enough fabric left to start over. Plus it would have seemed an awful waste to toss the upside-down pieces and I really didn’t think my friend would mind all that much. But it was a good, albeit aggravating reminder to slow down and double-check all my fabric and pieces before I cut - basically to measure twice, cut once. Classic advice for sewers and carpenters everywhere!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

... lined jewelry drawer

I am so in love with this project! It was so fast and easy, it almost feels like cheating to call it a project at all. And credit where credit is due - it was 100% George’s idea.
Here’s the background: our new place doesn’t have a linen closet or much bathroom storage, so we bought an old dresser at a yard sale that tucks perfectly into a little alcove by the bathroom door. It has three deep drawers and two shallow drawers at the top. The bottom three I filled with towels, sheets and bathmats. I filled one shallow drawer with facecloths and hand towels, but didn’t really have enough of them to fill both shallow drawers. So the question was, what to put in the top shallow drawer? 
The other half of the background story is that I have lots of big necklaces and bangle bracelets and have never found a good way to store them. I’ve kept the necklaces in a jewelry box, but they get all tangled - hanging on the inside of a door, they get banged around every time you open it. And bangle bracelets take up lots of space. So George’s awesome solution was to line the inside of the top shallow drawer with some kind of fabric and store the big jewelry in there - out of sight, untangled, and easy to access.

Come on, isn’t that such a great idea?! And it was so easy to do. I bought some velvet at Joann’s - about a half a yard, so not very expensive, plus I think I used a coupon. I decided to go with royal blue, as a bit of a joke - like the crown jewels! Except that the priceless items displayed on this royal blue velvet are mostly from H&M, Forever 21 and flea markets.

After I cleaned, lightly sanded and measured the drawer, I used a rotary cutter to cut the velvet into a piece about 1” larger than the drawer bottom on each side. Then I took the drawer, velvet, and some spray adhesive outside (this was before it snowed(!) this weekend), sprayed the inside of the drawer (I stood it up against the side of the house) and adhered the velvet to the drawer. Then, back inside, I used a combo of an Exacto Knife and little snippy scissors to trim the edges off the velvet to fit the drawer bottom perfectly. Then it was just a matter of cleaning up the sides of the drawer with a little Goo Gone to remove any stray spray adhesive. That was it! Less than an hour. And this is the result:

It works perfectly - everything stays in place when you open and shut the drawer, it got all that stuff off the top of my dresser, and frankly I think it looks really cool. A really elegant solution to the jewelry storage problem, my favorite kind.
Now what to do with the outside of the dresser is still up in the air. When we bought it, I assumed I’d paint it and change out the hardware, and I had a color in mind. Now I’m not sure about painting it, or at least not about the color. I think I have to live with it for a little bit more before I decide. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

... sparkly bridal bolero

In my last post, I promised more “soon” - and as that was weeks ago, it’s now apparent to all that I have a very lackadaisical sense of time. Actually, parenthetically, one phrase I overuse more than any other is “the other day...”. For me, it can mean something that happened last week or last year - it’s the perfect temporally ambiguous qualifier for a forgetful person like moi. But it does kind of drive George nuts.
ANYWAY, back on topic, I have a really fun project to share. I do believe that I mentioned my exceptionally talented friend Emily designed the logo/business cards/other assorted collateral for my Filia clothing this summer. As she is a super-busy graphic designer, I didn’t expect her to do this for me gratis, so we bartered for it. I love bartering - it makes me feel like I’m back in elementary school playing Oregon Trail, only with less fording and my whole party isn’t dying of dysentery (I was not very good at Oregon Trail). Emily was planning an October wedding in Napa Valley, so we decided that my half of the bargain would be some kind of coat or wrap that she could wear during dinner (in a wine cave, so cool!). 

Here's where we're going with this. Read on for details!

After a bit of brainstorming, Emily settled on a loose, open jacket made from sequined fabric that would sparkle in the candlelight. She bought the fabric in San Francisco and shipped it to me in Maine with her measurements while I worked on the design. I knew the color and shape of Em’s gorgeous dress and wanted to complement that, while also keeping the shape simple (since it was made out of blinged-out sequins) and comfortable. It went through a couple iterations, but ended up being a pretty basic bolero shape with bell sleeves. It was disco-fabulous with a little hint of 1930’s glam!

Working with the sequined fabric was a new experience. After I had made a dry run of the jacket out of muslin to get the shape I wanted, I cut the pieces out of the sequined fabric. 
Estelle, helping me work out the design in muslin

Faaaaabulous fabric

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

... Picnic wrap-up

Is tomorrow seriously the last day of summer? Gah! Well, I don't want to be a Deb, so instead of lamenting the end of summer I'll take a mo to look back fondly on the Picnic Music+Arts Festival that I participated in on the last weekend in August. It was really just a few weeks ago, but it seems like an age at this point! My sister took all the fantastic pictures below.

Despite a hurricane threatening the northeast that weekend, we ended up having great weather for the show (it was a little humid, which is why my hair looks hiddy). I'll be honest, I found being a first-time vendor a bit stressful - a heck of a lot of work went into getting everything ready and as an introvert, talking to new people all afternoon was an intimidating prospect. And that doesn't even get into how nervewracking it was to put my work out there for people to like or not like or otherwise judge. But I can't overstate how nice and friendly everyone was. All the positive feedback was hugely satisfying and I met a lot of really awesome people. Overall it was a really great event - I only wish I had snuck away from my table to do more shopping!

SO many people helped me out at this, my very first show - so I just want to shout out a few thank-yous. My parents helped me set everything up and stayed all day to help out. My sister, as noted, took all these fab pictures and also spent most of the afternoon hanging out and keeping us company.  My mother-in-law lent me the canopy, which turned out to be super-clutch - it didn't rain, but we were under an oak tree that started pelting us with acorns when the wind picked up in the afternoon (FYI, those little buggers sting like anything). It was particularly awesome of so many friends and family members to stop by my table and say hi - I was so appreciative of their support. And of course, George was pretty much indispensable in every way: he shuttled everything to the show, manned the table when I had to go use the ladies', used the Square thingy to run credit cards when I didn't bother to figure it out, and kept me from stressing out to the point of insensibility (not to mention putting up with all the sewing accoutrements all over our apartment leading up to the show, and basically doing all the hard work of moving us two states away when I was busy getting ready for Picnic). In a word, he rocks.

Speaking of moving, all our stuff is finally in our new apartment - we are Mainers once again, with new licenses and the plates to prove it! Although I fear we're going to be unpacking for the foreseeable future. I have no idea how all the stuff currently lying around our new place in boxes and piles actually fit in our old one-bed apartment - I think it magically reproduced when it crossed state lines. But we're slowly getting everything set up, so after a little break to get organized, I'll be back to making things!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

... Etsy store

Just a quick note to thank everyone who stopped by the Filia booth at Picnic on August 27th!! I had a fabulous time and it was great to see so many friendly faces. That's the short version - the long version will be coming in a few days once I get a chance to organize all the pictures taken by my staff photographer (aka my sister).

Between Picnic, moving, and an out-of-state wedding, things have been a little crazy at Filia HQ (now in Maine). I did however manager to open my Etsy site and continue to add new items, so do check it out here if you are so inclined! I also picked up some great new fabric while I was in NY for a wedding, so fun stuff to come with that. More soon!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

... Picnic sneak peak: tunics & things

Holy cow, August has flown by – it possibly has something to do with moving to another state, wrapping up the busiest month at work, and getting ready to be a vendor at Picnic on Saturday (THIS Saturday, for reals!). I'm taking a quick sewing break to preview a few other little bits and bobs I'll have with me on Saturday at Picnic. First up is a lightweight tunic made with a fun cotton voile:

I'd wear it with jeans, but you could also pair it with leggings (or jeggings, if you are indecisive about pants). I've got a few other great prints that I wanted to use for this design, but I'm basically running out of time. So I'm thinking I'll bring swatches with me on Saturday and if anyone is interested, I can custom-make more on order (or sell them on my sweet Etsy site).

I also wanted a few smaller items to take with me to Picnic, so I've sewn up a few different little zipper bags. I seem to accumulate these little bags like crazy – I have them in my purse, in the car, everywhere. I just find them super-useful. So I made a few out of linen with cute little ruffles:

And some with printed twill and poplin:

I was thinking of doing something fun with the pulls, but I haven't quite decided yet. (Clearly I have to decide pretty quick).

So if you are in the area, definitely come say Hi at Picnic this weekend. And for the love of all that is holy, cross your fingers that we don't have a hurricane! Otherwise I'll be sitting there in a poncho, and you won't be able to see my cute dress. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

...adventure in dip-dyeing fabric

I spent most of last weekend at Filia's temporary Maine HQ (aka my parent's house), getting an huge assist from various family members on projects for Picnic. One project I was really excited to try was dip-dyeing fabric that I would then make into skirts. Dip-dying gives a lovely sort of ombre effect, going from light to dark. I was using white 100% cotton gauze and a mix of red and pink dye, so my ideal result was a dark, fuchsia red fading into a lighter pink, with a band of white preserved at the top. I had never tried this before and prepared by doing really the barest amount of research on the internet and basically winging the rest - which probably factored into the results. But more on that later.

It took us a while to figure out what our process was going to be. Because I wanted to use the fabric for skirts, it had to be oriented in a particular way. My mum also cleverly pointed out that all the fabric for one skirt should be dyed at once, since it would be hard to replicate the intensity of color or the exact fading pattern in two subsequent batches. The plan was to dip the fabric in the dye, leave it in there briefly, then raise the fabric up a few inches (so that the bottom of the fabric was still sitting in the dye) and let it soak for a few more minutes. We settled on a characteristically elaborate/MacGyverish set-up involving safety pins, dowels and bricks.

Eye of newt, toe of frog
We started out by making the dye bath according to the instructions on the box (as any of my friends who have played board games with me can tell you, I always read the directions). I used half a box of scarlet dye and half a box of fuchsia. Then we took our pre-cut pieces of fabric (cut a bit bigger than I would need for a skirt) and pinned the top of them evenly to a dowel, two at a time. We also decided in advance how low we would dip the fabric and where we would pull it out to in the second phase of the dyeing, and put safety pins on both sides of the fabric pieces to mark those spots (you can just see them on the picture below).

Sunday, July 24, 2011

...Picnic sneak peek: pink linen dress

Another quick update and a sneak peek of what I've been working on for Picnic! Holy cow it's been super-hot in Boston this week. Luckily my sewing machine is in the only room in our apartment with an AC unit, but even so, it's been hot work. Howeva, I've been working with some lovely light linen, perfect for the summer heat:

The dress has an elastic waist and button closure in the back. The linen is this really pretty pink - it's called ballet slipper and it looks exactly that, sort of peachy-pink. I wanted to make the sleeves sort of fluttery, but they came out more like cap sleeves. Guess I'll have to work on that! It would look great with a belt. Like so:

Cinch it.

So this will be available at Picnic in a few different sizes and variations. I can't sell you the belt though, I still wear that. 

Also, I've set up a Etsy store where my clothing will be available beginning September 1. Check it out here (there's nothing available at the moment). There you will also see my excellent logo, created by my amazingly talented friend Emily of Three Little Words, which you should really check out if you are planning a wedding, throwing a party, or doing anything else that would benefit from hip and stylish paper items (and really, what wouldn't?). Isn't it pretty?? I've also added a link to the store on this here blog – just click on “Shop” up at the top. 

I just received another shipment of fabric with some great early-fall fabrics... fun plans for that. So things are cranking right along, and I hope to see you at Picnic on August 27th!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

... announcement (or really, two)

This blog has been really quiet, but I have a good excuse, honest! I have two bits of exciting news. Sewing is something I love to do and I’m so grateful for all the positive feedback I’ve received over the years about the clothing that I’ve sewn. Although I originally began by sewing clothing mostly for myself, lately I’ve enjoyed creating special items for friends and family. I felt like the next step would be to consider making my original clothing available to a wider audience, possibly even to people that were not related to me by blood or close friends (plus, I feel like I’ve made myself so many dresses, I can hardly wear them all at this point!). 

So with that in mind, I’m excited to introduce Filia, a small collection of women’s apparel designed and sewn by yours truly. My new little label is making its debut at the Portland Picnic + Arts Festival on Saturday, August 27th at Lincoln Park in Portland, ME. So basically, I’ve been sewing as fast as my little fingers can sew, to build up inventory for this event. I’ll periodically post previews of items I’ve been working on and that will be available at Picnic. First up, a comfy drawstring-waist dress in a really pretty coral linen:

(This is actually a Medium, so it’s a little big on the dummy). This style will be available in several colors. It’s one of my faves - a great little casual dress (with pockets, obviously) - great with chunky jewelry or a belt or what have you. And here’s a preview of some fabrics I’m working with for skirts:

So if you’ve liked anything you’ve seen (or will see) on this blog, or are interested in custom handmade clothing, or just want to say Hi, definitely stop by the Picnic Festival on August 27th. I went last year and it’s a really fun event with loads of super-talented vendors selling all manner of cool stuff. 

Moving on! The second exciting development is that, after more than six years of living in Boston, we’re up and moving to Portland (Maine) at the end of the summer. This is causing large amounts of excitement and anxiety in equal measure. Plus, of course, moving is The Worst. But! This means lots and lots of projects in the coming months as we start from scratch in our new apartment on Munjoy Hill. When we first moved to Boston, I was job-seeking and thus had tons of time to repaint and redecorate our one-bed apartment from top to bottom. We tweaked the furniture arrangement and brought in some new stuff from time to time, but I’ve basically been looking at the same decor for the last six years and am so ready for a change. Our new place has so much more space (I’m going to have a SEWING ROOM. For reals! And I only have to share it with George’s guitars and maybe a daybed!). I’ve already got some projects lined up – some Goodwill lamps to paint, my great-grandmother’s dining room chairs to refinish, building a dining table – and will really, really try to remember to take some pictures along the way. Really this time! So lots of exciting stuff coming down the Pike. 

One last thing, I couldn’t resist: we’ve had a couple of really hot days in Boston and I feel like it’s definitely cut down on my productivity. Or it could be this:

Cats, I know it's hot, but could you lie somewhere else?

This is my fabric cutting surface. Please note how Pandora is stretching out to maximize the amount of fabric she’s lying on. Not helpful.

Seriously though, this face.