Friday, July 11, 2014


When Mr. Mammoth and I met, we were each living alone in one bedroom apartments. We eventually combined households to live in a 3 bedroom house with two other guys, and we took the smallest bedroom (which was literally a walk in closet with no storage) so that I could have the attic space to use as a studio. Many of our furniture pieces became damaged or worn out in the environment, and when we purchased our first home at 2,000 square feet with four bedrooms and a finished basement, we didn't have furnishings for an abode on that scale.

We needed things like a couch, dining room chairs, a guest bed, night stands, and porch furniture, and with a minuscule budget I ended up purchasing some items that I wasn't totally in love with so that we had something for us to sit on, or a place for our guests to sleep. At this point out house is jam packed with my sewing supplies and clothing, all of the vintage stuff I sell on Etsy, and a lot of severely disjointed decorating themes and ideas, and when I look around I mostly feel overwhelmed instead of in love with my home.

I've decided to gradually start overhauling the house one room at a time, starting with a massive garage sale next weekend to purge extraneous junk, and a re-do of the smaller of our downstairs bedrooms. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw this photo when we finished repainting a few days ago.

We chose a soft blue grey that matched some of the art that had already been in that room, with an accent color that's close to terra cotta. I got rid of anything in the room that we no longer needed, or wasn't useful or meaningful in some way, and then started moving the future furnishings back into the room. I came to a stand still when I tried to decide which pieces of art would hang on the walls, as this is what was previously in the room.

The painting in the back is something I purchased at an Estate sale almost 5 years ago for $10.00. I loved the colors, and at almost 3.5 feet tall, it was a lot of bang for my buck. Unfortunately, it hand't fit anywhere in our house previously, though it does look fabulous against the grey walls in this room. The abstract flowers were painted by a dear friend of mine, and given to me as a birthday gift when I was 24, my parents had it framed for me as a Christmas gift the following year. I collect vintage Marushka prints, and the coffee pot has a clock mounted into the canvas. I love the kitsch factor and the bold primary colors, and the little print at the bottom is from a favorite artist, Sally Harless. It's called 'travelling circus' and is a carnival travelling on the backs of whales.

The dilemma I was having at this point in the decorating process is that I read too many lifestyle and design blogs. I AM a designer, and an aspiring blogger, and I kept struggling to make myself choose which piece of art would define this room, and which would be gotten rid of. I was convinced that if I could create a beautiful space where everything matched, I would feel more at peace with my home, and more sucessful as a publicly creative person.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

New Schtuff!

Work has been making me a little batty lately, and for some reason that means all I want to do is come home and make fruit themed outfits. It started with the shoes I painted to look like watermelons, followed by the dress I hand-block printed with potato stamps into a watermelon print... (Sadly, the only pictures of those two so far are the ones on Instagram)

I moved on to make the watermelon bunting/party banner necklace. It is formed out of slices of polymer clay watermelon triangles that I made myself, and strung on real leather cord with a metal clasp in the back.

Followed by the Watermelon Peter Pan collar, which is a particular new favorite of mine. It's cut out of dyed pieces of leather affixed with jewelers adhesive. It ties in the back with thin strips of black leather cording, and is bedazzled with tiny black rhinestones for the seeds.

When I felt like I had exhausted the best possible watermelon options, I went ahead and moved on to other fruits. I'm a particular fan of what I am now calling the 'Strawberry Fields Forever' dress

An ink pad made with permanent fabric ink makes it so that along with the custom stamp I made, every garment I make now has a coordinated Woolly Mammoth tag :-)
And the 'Cherry Bomb' tank top that came after it. As you can see, once the cherry tank was finished, I liked the pattern so much that I kept right on making more of them. 

Also, I haven't found the PERFECT lobster fabric yet, but this one is pretty close... Who doesn't need a lobster skirt with giant red rick rack trim? Yeah, that happened.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Albion 2.0!

This post will be a short one since I'm TRYING to take a break today from sewing and sewing-related projects ;-)

Once I finished My first Albion coat for Mr. Mammoth, he pointed out that there was plenty of time left before the deadline, and didn't I want to make one for myself? I did, and there was already a fabric that I had in mind, so I went ahead and got to work starting over.

I used a printed cotton canvas in a cool minty green color with a cammo style pattern in charcoal grey. (If you look closely you can see that there are tiny skulls and crossbones hidden in the print!) I kept the western style design details that I loved from the first coat, and did them in a dark denim fabric rather than the leather I used on the first one. I hand-made my toggles again, and used some miniature glasses frames from the jewelry section at hobby lobby. The zipper on my coat is a swanky rhinestone zipper that I had purchased months ago on impulse, and although it's not super visible in the photos, the coat is lined with a silvery coated black cotton linen blend. I did some contrast stitching on the denim, kept the modified in seam pockets I used on coat number one, and brought the front of the hood further forward. (I like a roomy hood and I still wanted to avoid using the tab at the front of the neck).

I tweaked the pattern a tiny bit for fit reasons, but left my over all fit much roomier on my own coat. I have upper neck and spine problems that become aggravated by wearing too tight of a coat whole trying to drive or move my arms, so I wanted to make sure I could move comfortably. I also tend to wear REALLY heavy woolly sweaters in the winter, so I wanted to allow space inside the coat.

The second coat came together much easier since I had already figured everything out on coat one, and I am totally happy with the end result. I've already been wearing it every day for several days!
The finished coat.

Rhinestone zipper detail.

Custom toggles with nerdy glasses!

Denim sleeve detail.

Shoulder detail with contrast stitching.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Colette Patterns Albion Coat Contest

Making the Albion coat was a bit of a tortured experience for me, and the whole process was riddled with issues that I hadn't planned on having to deal with. I began by starting the sewalong almost 20 days late. I had held off on starting because when I first decided to participate I had settled on making the coat out of black and white herringbone wool, and there wasn't any. I either visited or called every fabric store in Southwest Michigan, but none of them had anything even remotely close to what I was looking for. We had boked a trip to Chicago for my birthday on January 27th, and I held off on buying something else because I assumed my fabric of choice would magically appear at one of the big city fabric stores I planned to visit. It didn't.

It took me two days of searching the internet when I got home to find the pattern and fiber content I wanted at a price point I could afford. When I finally found a five yard cut on Ebay for $50 I then had to wait almost a week for it to arrive in the mail. When it showed up it was barely half as thick as I had hoped, and was riddled with imperfections and snags that had to be carefully navigated when I cut out the exterior pieces of the coat. I also had to go back to the local fabric shop again to purchase interfacing and interlining fabrics to help stabilize and insulate what would later be my finished garment.

When I finally had all of the fabrics and thread I was going to need (including two leather pairs of pants and a leather coat that needed to be ripped apart at the seams and disected into useable pieces) I got sick, really sick, and on top of maintaining a solid 40 hours a week at my day job

By the time I had free hours in my day and was well enough to start my garment it was two days after Valentines day, and the sewalong had officially started on January 23rd. I went down to my home office to print my digital copy of the pattern only to find out that I was out of ink, and somehow having avoided the modern world for this long, I didn't have a thumb drive to transport my pattern to the print shop. It took a trip to three different stores to find a thumb drive, and a stop back at the house before I could make my way to the Kinkos print show all the way on the other side of town.

When I got to kinkos I realized I had two print options, I could either have 80+ 8 1/2 by 11 sheets of paper that would have to be carefully trimmed and taped together for $8.00, or I could have it printed on large format blueprint paper for $25. That $25 fee was twice what I originally paid for the digital pattern, but I didn't want to waste more time taping so many separate pieces, so I shelled out the extra money. When the helpful kinkos employee came back to the counter with my large format print, he looked worried and went back to look at the pattern files he had open on his computer. He then proceeded to tell me that he had made a mistake. The pattern PDF was formatted for 40 inch paper. The printer at my kinkos only had 38 inch paper, and the printer had shrunk the image to fit. This left me with either the 8 1/2 by 11 sheets, or paying $50 for the large format print on two sheets (the charge is by the square foot) plus a $20 processing fee for the employee to reformat it for two sheets. I went home with the huge stack of letter sized sheets, and the mis-scaled large sheet that the employee was kind enough to throw in for free since he would have had to throw it out anyway.

When I got home I spent over an hour doing math and measuring with Mr. Mammoth to determine that I could still use the large format version if I used the shrunken size large instead of the medium he needed at full scale. At the end of work day one, I had a functioning pattern, but nothing cut out.

For the next three days I spent my free time before and after work tracing off and cutting out pattern pieces, and making design and fit adjustments. I wanted all of the design details in my coat to mimic the V shapes in the herringbone pattern of my outer fabric, so I made some pretty major design changes. I got rid of the separated yolk pieces that came with the pattern and drafted my own front and back yolks that would mimic the sort of details that a western shirt has. I drafted pointed 'gauntlet' sleeve covers and a whole new sleeve pattern since the original seaming would have looked too cluttered with the leather detailing I was adding. While I was at it I elongated the sleeve since the pattern sleeve was too short. When all of my pieces were ready I spent all of the following day outside of work laying out, pinning, and cutting all of my pieces. This also included gutting two pairs of leather pants and a leather coat so that the center exterior hood piece, sleeve caps, and leather toggles could be made from real leather.

I decided I didn't like how large and square the in-seam pockets were, and I thought the exterior front pockets would look too cluttered with my other design details. I re-shaped the inseam pockets to the standard kidney shaped pockets that most garments have, and cut them out of a small remnant I had saved of a miniature skull print on sturdy cotton. Since I know my husband likes a lot of pocket space, and I had eliminated the front pockets, I drafted to interior breast pockets out of the remaining scraps of herringbone wool and lined them with the skull print as well. I used printable fabric sheets and downloaded a skull font from dafont to make a custom tag that would mimic the overall theme. The text is in purple ink to match the purple lining of the coat.

I knew before I even started the coat that I wanted to use cast metal hummingbird skulls for my toggles. I purchased a set of six on etsy, and then had to cut off and file down the loops that they had to make them pendants. I carefully cut thin strips of leather and used tweezers to pull the strips through the center of the skulls. Since I was keeping my V shaped themes in mind, I cut triangles for my toggle mounts instead of the traditional half circles. I used six toggles instead of four, since my toggles were a bit smaller than standard, and installed a zipper in the coat as well to make sure it would stay firmly closed.

The coat itself is liked in a heavy weight poly blend sateen in purple ombre. I wanted to line it with something that would slide easily when trying to take the coat on and off, and since I had added interlining I didn't need to be concerned with using a 'warm' fabric for the lining. For finishing, I hand stitched the hem, because I wanted a clean look, and added a small hidden black snap at the top of the zipper to make sure the top of the coat laid flat, and so I didn't have to use the tab closure, which I thought might look too busy with my other design details.

This is the first time I have worked with real leather, and the first time I have ever made a coat. My last day off before the deadline was February 19th, and I worked for 16 hours straight that day to finish everything. Since I had made so many pattern modifications, it became somewhat impossible to follow the sewalong, and I had to do a lot of things on my own that I've never attempted before. With the exception of a few small areas that I wish I had done better, I feel REALLY pleased with my end result. This coat is true to my own aesthetic, and my husband loves it. Fingers crossed that it will earn me a new Bernina!

Just for good measure, here are a few more photos of the lining. I'm really pleased with how the ombre purple satin looks on the inside!

Close up of the custom tag detail.

 I would highly suggest using any of the patterns from Colette Patterns They have fantastic directions, and really great web support if you follow their blog or the new sewalongs Facebook group!