Sew a Softie Day

Finley and I hosted a Sew A Softie party at our house today! Founded by UPPERCASE reader Trixi Symonds, the yearly event encourages passing on the love of hand sewing to the next generation.

Trixi writes, "It encourages parents and children to turn off their computers, put down their smart phones and discover the fun and fulfillment that comes from creating a simple-to-sew softie together. This year Sew a Softie will take place from July 1st to 31st."

I've been teaching Finley to sew for a while and he was proud to be a Kid Ambassador for the event. We invited a few friends and parents over and had some fun making creatures (with a break for cookies and muffins, of course.)

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Rather than have a set project that we were going to make—and set up expectations of what something is "supposed" to look like—I simply offered the framework for what were going to do.

1. Draw the body shape of your creature on an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper (this way, it won't be too large and take too long to sew).

2. Cut out your paper pattern and trace around it on two pieces of fabric. Or have a parent cut around the pattern. We used fleece, felt and various remnants.

3. Cut out eyes, ears, feet, beaks, wings or any other embellishments out of felt. Use a simple running stitch to attach the features to the front fabric piece. Attach any button eyes at this point. We used contrasting thread so that it was easy to see what we were stitching.

4. Put front and back together and stitch around the perimeter, leaving 2-3 inches open so that you can stuff the softie. A running stitch is easiest. Finley used a whip stitch, which was a new technique for him to learn today. Sandwich any feet or wings between the front and back layers and sew them in when you're going around the edge. We used safety pins to hold things together in the meantime.

5. Stuff your creature and then finish by stitching the opening closed. Done!

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Our friends were ages 5 through 7, and although some attention spans started to wander we were able to finish our softies in about two hours.

To find out more about Sew A Softie, visit Trixi's website and join the Facebook group!

Work/Life 3: Gabriela Larios' new fabric collection

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UK-based illustrator Gabriela Larios has had her first fabric collection produced through Modern Yardage. "It is called Mochi and consists of eight different designs, available in two different sizes, medium and small and two different colour palettes: natural and deep blue," describes Gabriela. "The collection is inspired by my love for nature, imaginary worlds and childhood experiences. The Mochi name itself is inspired by the way my parents called me when I was little ('Mochis')."

Gabriela is understandably excited about the launch of the project, though it is bittersweet. "With all my heart I have dedicated this collection to my mother who unfortunately passed away recently but who thankfully managed to see the whole project finished."

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The collection also includes a special touch of fabric gift tags: "It is an extra special piece of fabric that is included with every purchase of Mochi fabric so people can cut them out and use them to wrap up their presents."

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Congratulations to Gabriela on a fine entry into fabric design! 

lots of stitching at ideologio, London

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"'Iris Todd - Stitching in my own way', is a artist book published by ideologio earlier this year. The book features embroidery works of the late artist, with focus on how the work was built up, starting with a section on small fragments intended for use in bigger pieces, followed by unframed works, many of them banner type formats, ending with a section of story telling illustrative embroideries. What distinguishes this book is that all works are shown from front and back, revealing the reverse side of the embroideries, where possible, which allowed us to show more of the process and craft behind the works."

"Evelin Kasikov's CMYK was a daily special at the 2013 Pick Me Up show at Somerset House in London. This short video is a collaboration between Evelin Kasikov (CMYK embroidery), Bill Stratford (stop frame animation) and ideologio (concept and direction)."

UPPERCASE commissioned Evelin for a CMYK alphabet that appeared in one of our early issues (#3, back in 2009).

robert kaufman fabrics

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I see the name "Robert Kaufman Fabrics" a lot (and there are usually fat quarters piled in my fabric stash in my basement), but I never knew who Robert Kaufman was...

He was a Russian immigrant born in 1899 who came to America. The company website goes into detail on his journey from owner of a menswear business in New York in the 1920s to a fabric manufacturer in Los Angeles in the 1950s. The company was later run by his sons, and now his grandsons are in charge.

The company's current CEO, Ken Kaufman, made this documentation of the long (and geographically expansive) process of making their fabric today.

Robert Kaufman fabric Architextures designed by Carolyn Friedlander. Click on the photos for credits.

Robert Kaufman fabric Architextures designed by Carolyn Friedlander. Click on the photos for credits.

During the research for this post, I inadvertently fell in love: with these new fabrics designed by Carolyn Friedlander. (Another architect-turned-quilter!)

I hope my local fabric stores will be stocking this range. These designs would be wonderful for mixing into a modern quilt. 

I hope my local fabric stores will be stocking this range. These designs would be wonderful for mixing into a modern quilt. 

Kaffe Fassett

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Kaffe Fassett is not afraid of colour and pattern. Even if you're not into quilting (or knitting or needlework, his other areas of expertise), it is well worth your time to look at Kassett's work for its exuberant hues and daring excessive designs. More is more in his world and though it is not often to my taste, one could definitely be inspired to pair some shocking textiles together for some graphic punch amongst a calmer backdrop.

This image of Kaffe is from his most recent book, Dreaming in Color (published by Abrams). Publisher's synoposis:

Kaffe Fassett has led an extraordinary life and is a captivating storyteller with a vivid memory. Born in 1937, he spent much of his youth in Big Sur, California, where his parents bought a cabin from Orson Welles and transformed it into the world-famous Nepenthe restaurant, a gathering place for artists and bohemians. After attending a boarding school run by the disciples of Krishnamurti, an Indian guru, he studied painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, then traveled to England, where he made his home. After an inspiring trip to Inverness, Scotland, Fassett began designing knitwear for Bill Gibb, and then the Missonis, Vogue magazine, and private clients like Lauren Bacall and Barbra Streisand, and, in the process, revolutionized the handknitting world with his explosive use of color. Further explorations led him to needlepoint, mosaics, rugmaking, tapestries, yarn and fabric design, costume and set design, and quilting. Now in his seventies, Fassett continues to produce new work and to travel worldwide to teach and lecture. In this intimate autobiography, Fassett shares rich, detailed stories about his lifelong creative journey as well as hundreds of glorious photos taken along the way.

men in quilts

When I'm preparing content for the blog, I sometimes like to pick a topic and just search and browse and brainstorm and see what comes up. For me, it is a really fresh way to find content to post... rather than just visiting my usual roster of popular blogs, I find new sites and usually discover a wormhole of interesting things.

My topic this week started broadly as men in craft, but, inspired by Adrienne Breaux's profile of Luke Haynes in the current issue (that's him in the video above) and yesterday's feature on the quilting fabric designs by Mark Cesarik, I decided to focus on "men in quilts."

I encourage you to pick up issue #16 to discover more about Luke Haynes, an architect-turned-quilter.

Luke is often the subject of his own quilts.

Luke is often the subject of his own quilts.

"My most recent works have been investigating nostalgia and function. I work with quilts because they embody these subconsciously while lending a unique materiality to the process and resultant product. I can work with disparate pieces of fabric and create a cohesive final product that is greater than the sum of its parts."

thread week: an eclectic stash

Artist:  Vicky Lindo

Artist: Vicky Lindo

As this post goes live, we'll be deep in the midst of thread, vintage finds and crafty friends. Sounds like a perfect Saturday eh? When Janine recently visited STASH, and discovered a kindred spirit, we knew it would be the perfect place to hold our Embroidery Bee and Issue #16 launch. 

In addition to her thriving business, STASH proprietress Veronica Murphy maintains an amazingly eclectic Pinterest pressence. If you aren't able to join us visiting her boards will give you a taste of the STASH experience. 

Artist:  Jose Romussi  Image Source:  The Jealous Curator

Artist: Jose Romussi
Image Source: The Jealous Curator

thread week: Debbie Smyth

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I've had Debbie Smyth's website bookmarked for quite some time and when I was working out the concepts for issue 16—which includes both thread/string/knitting/knotting as well as concepts of home and nesting—I asked to see if she would share her work on our cover. Fortunately she agreed and the result is a very attractive cover that touches on multiple themes.

Debbie Smyth is textile artist most identifiable by her statement thread drawings; these playful yet sophisticated contemporary artworks are created by stretching a network of threads between accurately plotted pins. Her work beautifully blurs the boundaries between fine art drawings and textile art, flat and 3D work, illustration and embroidery, literally lifting the drawn line off the page in a series of “pin and thread” drawings.

“On first glance, it can look like a mass of threads but as you get closer sharp lines come into focus, creating a spectacular image. The images are first plotted out before being filled out with the thread, the sharp angles contrasting with the floating ends of the thread.  And despite the complexity of the lengthy process I try to capture a great feeling of energy and spontaneity, and, in some cases, humour.”

Debbie plays with scale well; creating both gallery installations and works for domestic interiors. Her unique style lends itself to suit corporate environments, public spaces, window display, set design, graphic design and illustration. By collaborating with interior designers, architects and other creative practitioners, Debbie pushes the expected scope of her work even further.

“I feel as if I am taking thread out of its comfort zone, presenting it on monumental scale and creating an eye-catching, and in some cases, jaw-dropping effect.”

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This post kicks off "Thread Week" here on the blog. Each day we will be sharing posts related to thread, needlework and all variety of creativity related to string—from the simple to the extraordinary.

For our local friends, make sure that you join us this Saturday for our Embroidery B and issue launch at Stash in Inglewood! Click here for details and to RSVP.

featured stockist: Gather

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Next we head to a shop in Napier, New Zealand. Gather is textile and knitwear designer Nikki Gabriel's newly opened shop and she sent us an email to let us know:

"I'm thrilled to be a new stockist of your fabulous magazine. It encapsulates everything that I attempt to project in my store called 'Gather'. Gather is a knitting store with a difference; as I've set up the shop to inspire and delight every customer that walks in."

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FROM THE GATHER WEBSITE: Nikki moved to New Zealand 2 years ago from Melbourne, and has set up a textile design studio in the seaside town of Napier, on the North Island. In the heart of Napier, here, she has created ‘Gather’ a retail store attached to her studio.

Born in rural South Africa, Nikki draws and on her childhood experiences of gathering materials from all around her to make things, which inspired the creation of the store ‘Gather’, as a celebration of her innate yearning to collect, create and share. Nikki has curated a unique collection of work from designers and makers, who produce amazing contemporary and traditional items from thread, plastic, wood, ceramics, plants, and paper. In and amongst shelves of beautiful and rare fibres, knitting yarns and plant dyes, Nikki also has on display many tactile and wonderful objects, books and magazines that breathe a Gatherer’s instinct.

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We're thrilled that UPPERCASE has found such a lovely home so far away! Thank you, Nikki.

creative calgary: Stash

Veronica Murphy, proprietor of Stash Needle Art Lounge in Calgary's Inglewood neighbourhood.

Veronica Murphy, proprietor of Stash Needle Art Lounge in Calgary's Inglewood neighbourhood.

Stash is a few blocks off of the main street in Inglewood at 1B, 1215 – 13th Street SE, nestled in corner of the Woodstone Studios building.

Stash is a few blocks off of the main street in Inglewood at 1B, 1215 – 13th Street SE, nestled in corner of the Woodstone Studios building.

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The welcoming centre of Stash, where you can sit, knit and chat over a cup of tea.

The welcoming centre of Stash, where you can sit, knit and chat over a cup of tea.

A store copy of Dottie Angel, at the ready to inspire you as you sit down and be crafty.

A store copy of Dottie Angel, at the ready to inspire you as you sit down and be crafty.

The store's display fixtures are all repurpose vintage finds, showing everything to desirable effect.

The store's display fixtures are all repurpose vintage finds, showing everything to desirable effect.

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A record player sets a relaxing retro vibe.

A record player sets a relaxing retro vibe.

Old suitcases hide workshop supplies.

Old suitcases hide workshop supplies.

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A wander over to Stash will be worth your while; as you can see, the place is full of beautiful vignettes, enticing yarns and a relaxed atmosphere. Stash offers various workshops from introductions to knitting and crochet to project-specific classes.

Follow the Stash blog, Pinterest and Twitter for the latest.

book recommendation: Ruby Star Wrapping

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One of the perks about being an editor of a magazine is that publishers generously send preview copies of forthcoming books in the hopes that you will promote the title. There's quite a stack of books awaiting my review—now that issue #15 is off my plate, I'll start sharing the best titles here on the blog (read about Louise Fili's new book here). Ruby Star Wrapping: Creating Packaging to Reuse, Regive & Relove by Melody Miller and Allison Tannery is a standout and was moved right to the top of the pile. The submission included a letter from the book's publicist, Jennifer Campaniolo at Roost Books, but also a handwritten note from Melody and some actual finished crafts from the book. The book preview sent was just a black and white printout, but even from that (and without the goodies), I could tell that the book is beautiful. (Flip through a digital preview over here.)

In reading the book, I quickly discovered why the book is so beautiful... Of course it features the bright and quirky textile designs of Melody Miller, but the book's stunning product and style photographs are by her husband, Greg Miller. The book's design is by writer Allison Tannery's husband, Blake Tannery. Ruby Star Wrapping is obviously a labour of love for everyone involved. Each has brought their exceptional talents to this book, a publication that is all about giving gifts in beautiful packages.

The projects in Ruby Star Wrapping are really easy to accomplish. Those who are naturally crafty might not necessarily need a book with instructions on how to, say, sew a drawstring bag or turn a cereal box inside-out and decorate it... However, I think much of this simplicity is on purpose; this is a book about making the packaging for gifts, so a quick and easy assembly is actually an asset. Perhaps when the gift itself is less creative, like the ubiquitous gift card, then the presentation can become more elaborate, like this Gift Card Truck Softie.

This pillow with pocket is a double gift: the pocket is meant for a gift card.

This pillow with pocket is a double gift: the pocket is meant for a gift card.

The use of vintage and repurposed fabrics emphasizes the ethos of the book: why give a gift in wrap that is thrown away? Give something where the entirety, packaging included, is the gift.

The use of vintage and repurposed fabrics emphasizes the ethos of the book: why give a gift in wrap that is thrown away? Give something where the entirety, packaging included, is the gift.

While the crafts might be simple, the gorgeous styling and photography elevate the content from just a how-to book into a lifestyle book. This is the kind of pretty craft book that you just enjoy looking through... it gives you that joyful boost of encouragement: "yes! I can do this at home!" As a book designer (and publisher) this is the kind of book that I personally love to see; where all elements have been considered and come together seamlessly.

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I have seen Melody's typewriter print fabric a lot lately; it seems a favourite with Etsy sellers. Melody included a length of fabric inside a gift box covered with the design. I asked Melody about the typewriter motif:

I don’t currently own a typewriter, but I’m always looking for objects to include in my designs that are meaningful and nostalgic without necessarily being kitschy. The typewriter just happened to strike the right chord. I still remember the rare occasions when my mother borrowed and brought home a typewriter from the bank where she worked. I felt supernaturally strong carrying it around in its case (I had never been allowed to pick up something so important!), and would beg to use it when my mother was finished. Sitting at a table hitting all those keys fulfilled my every fantasy of being grown up and busy and important.
— MELODY MILLER

Ruby Star Wrapping is available here.