Category: Everything

Sew Bags by Hilarie Dayton Project & Book Review

Sew Bags by Hilarie Dayton Project & Book Review

A few weeks ago I was scrolling through the ‘gram and saw that a Hilarie Dayton of Little Stitch Studio in Norfolk VA had a sewing book published and I was totally overcome with excitement for her! I’ve always been a fan of creative books, my shelves have been lined with sewing and craft books since I was a teenager. I remember getting a (at the time) crazy popular t-shirt upcycling book and pouring over the projects in search of something to satisfy my fledgling sewing and garment making urges. While I probably barreled through those projects with the finesse of any beginner 15 year old sewist, what I gained from those books were new ideas and techniques that I would carry with me forever.

So, jump to my copy of Sew Bags: The Practical Guide to Making Purses, Totes, Clutches & More appearing in my mailbox (courtesy of Hilarie) this past month. Before I even opened the cover I noticed the approachable cover design, complete with fashion illustrations and drawings of the bags you could find inside. Upon reading the introduction I learned that Hilarie had set out to make this book like a design class, focused on teaching principles of design and applying them to basic, beginner friendly bag projects that had varying techniques and styles. Having gone to Parsons the New School for Design, I always appreciate when someone looks to break down the process of design as a concept as opposed to simply drawing and making bags.

Hilarie unpacks design terms like scale, proportion and harmony in the “Building Blocks” section, which are general tenets for any aspiring designer. I love how in her “How to Think Like a Designer” section she walks the reader through a color theory exercise, and then gives another little exercise on how flat patterns work with a mini-patterns of her bags. You get the feeling that it means a lot to her that you understand as much as you can about the process of designing and making things as you can. I feel as if this book is valuable for any budding sewists/designers for these sections alone! I learned while following her on Instagram that she has managed to teach many of her young students (as young as 8 and 9 years old!) how to draft patterns and manipulate darts- I love a fearless teacher who figures out how to teach kids more complex techniques in a way that they can understand and apply them. Especially ones that involve math! Sometimes I struggle to explain what seam allowance is to kids who’ve been sewing with me for months… I may start using some of the exercises she outlines in the book in my own classes!

In her “Getting Started” section, she preps even the most beginner sewist to tackle the projects included in the book. She covers all the essentials to getting started sewing from the tools, general sewing machine operation and bag hardware. She eloquently explains everything needed to sew her bags and complete these projects, which I could imagine a young child and a willing parent gathering all these supplies and feeling confident enough to make their first project on a sewing machine.


In addition to my review, I also wanted to make a point to follow one of Hilarie’s tutorials for a bag to see how clear her instructions where and if they would fly in a beginner setting. As a teacher, I appreciate when there isn’t any flowery language for beginners because often I find that it is straightforward instructions and execution to be the best for most people who are learning. It’s obvious that Hilarie is a fantastic instructor because she approaches the instructions with clear language and logical order. Earlier in the book she laid out most of the language we as sewists use, so once a reader gets to the project section they are well prepared (or else help is but a few pages earlier) to tackle each project. There are also variations and annotations added alongside construction notes to aid the reader in both personalizing their projects or understanding why certain steps are taken during construction. Hilarie leaves little space for confusion, I especially love a sidebar on page __ where she explains how pleats and tucks help create volume and how they can become functional and aesthetic details in our bag designs.

I have kids camps happening all Summer at my studio, Old Spool Sewing, so I knew her Abigail Boxed Bottom Tote would be a tutorial worth checking out. Because I’m at the beach here in Jersey, next week’s class is themed “Beach Bum Week” where I was hoping to introduce campers to the art of shibori dying with natural indigo, too, so I present a shibori dyed boxed bottom beach bag!

I used Hilarie’s measurements and patterns as a starting point but drafted my bag slightly larger to finish at 17’’ x 17’’’ with a 3’’ boxed bottom. This is helpful because I know I could give each student a half yard of fabric to dye and make their bag from. I omitted the color blocked portion so that the shibori could be on full display. The instructions were very clear and I even used a strap attaching technique that is new to me! The photos that accompany the instructions are also very clear and I appreciate that Hilarie prioritized clean, clear samples over anything too loud or over designed. She picked a bright pink fabric to make the pocket in for her sample which inspired me to dig into my stash for my beloved scraps of Rifle Paper canvas because I always love to mix and match my prints!

I feel as if my choice to hand dye my fabric before making my bag falls in line with Hilarie’s suggestions for getting creative and taking her designs to the next level. All of the bags included are great for beginners and I always suggest bags like these as beginner projects for my students of any age.

All in all, it’s apparent I enjoyed and absolutely recommend Sew Bags, by Hilarie Dayton. It’s a wonderful addition to the sewing library of newbie sewists, no matter their age. If you know a young person who enjoys reading and shows interest in fashion design, the bulk of this book introduces them to the design process and challenges them to think creatively. This review is unbiased and uncompensated, I was excited to give my time to help a fellow sewing instructor promote such a big milestone in her career.

Galentines Dreamcatcher Workshop Recap

After our first sold out adult craft workshop back in November, I invited my friend Jacki of the local handmade brand Tripsy Shop back to teach another dreamcatcher workshop! This past weekend we hosted a Valentines themed Sunday Brunch, complete with mimosas, home baked treats (all by Jacki, I’m far too busy these days too take a zen moment for myself to bake something sweet so I hit up the fancy Patisserie of Whole Foods for cinnamon buns) and we made moon shaped dreamies.

Snacks. Making things. Mimosas. Can’t really top it.

I always love hosting my creative maker friends at the studio so they have another way to share their passion. Jacki’s dreamcaters are crazy popular at all the local markets like the Asbury Bazaar or Makers Fest, so it’s no surprise her workshops are well attended as well!

Oh, and she’s just a delight of a human being, which doesn’t hurt either.

Here’a few snaps from the day by Jacki’s friend Walter Wall, a local photographer who was kind enough to hangout with us for a bit and document everyone’s finished pieces! I wish I could have him on staff over here, it would be so nice to have such great shots of my students regularly!

What I love the most about Jacki’s workshops is that there is no wrong way to make a dreamcatcher- everyone has their own style of decorating and no two end up the same. Some gravitate towards the bright colors (Jacki hand dyes all the fabric) others like to keep their palette muted and use only the slightest bit of colors. All of them turn out really beautiful!

A Heartwarming and Simple Sweater Upcycle

Just earlier today, I was listening to a new favorite podcast “Wardrobe Crisis with Clare Press” which is all about sustainability in the fashion industry and other intersecting industries and movements. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s amaze-balls. Clare Press is the Australian Vogue Sustainability Editor -at-large (and is a reformed shopaholic, which makes her human) who is spearheading the modern and growing conversation about sustainability in the fashion industry. I love an intellectual who’s in love with fashion, so naturally, Clare is currently my new girlboss crush.

A total (sustainable) babe.

While listening to an episode with Sarah Ditty (founder of Fashion Revolution) , I started to get really fired up about the four R’s- refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle, and their place in my sewing practice. So much so that I immediately began texting a friend too many memes of excited children and telling her my grandiose plans. Thanks Brigitte for always listening to my crazed plans and energetic inspiration sprees.

Now, I obviously hoard fabric scraps like a squirrel prepping for winter (Reuse). I also have made the conscious effort to be very mindful when purchasing new fabric, asking myself if I “need” this item (the Refuse part) while also considering how much new fabric I’ve taken in recently (Reduce, it’s always a work in progress!) but there is one element that I tend to drop the ball on: recycle.

Refashioning has become super popular among the sewing community in that so many of us got our start in sewing by chopping a part thrift store finds or old pieces of our clothing to learn how to put them back together into something better than it’s first incarnation. But here is where I have to be honest: refashioning something doesn’t get me as excited about sewing as taking a few yards of flat, fresh fabric and manipulating it into something. While I love thrifting and shopping second hand for clothing items to give them a second life, I don’t often see the potential in an old blouse or dress.

I’ve been following some amazing sewists who focus on refashioning the past few years on Instagram and I recommend you check them out: Portia Lawry (who ran the online competition “The Refashioners” for the past few years) Cotton and Curls, Trish Stitched , and my friend Gwenstella Made. Everytime one of these talented women posts a refashion I get the little spark of inspiration to try the same. But that spark lasts all of two seconds when I lovingly glance across the room at my beautiful fabric stash and promise them I’ll personally cut and sew each of them up in due time, not to worry BBs.

SHE IS SO IMPRESSIVE I can’t even. Photo from Trish Stitched’s Blog

But, this year I’m making the effort to push myself out of my comfort zone when it comes to my sewing practice. Outside your comfort zone doesn’t have to mean massively complicated, though! So I present to you: a simple upcycle that can be done in a few hours that will breathe new life into an old t-shirt or jumper.

let’s wear our hearts on our…uh…shoulder!

Me, battling my mixed feelings on Valentines Day.

Right around Valentines day this year I hosted a Sip & Stitch event at the swanky new Asbury Hotel over in hip & historical Asbury Park, NJ. I was super flatted that their events manager reached out to me to have an event there, so naturally I needed to go out of my way to impress (people pleasing Sagittarius up in HERE) by making a Valentines themed outfit for the evening, which was an embroidery workshop with a feminist touch!

Enter: my large box of recycled poly felt and an excuse to go sift through the racks at one of my favorite local shops- Squan Dry Goods over in Manasquan! SDG is a crazy reasonably priced consignment shop that has the best finds in the area- if you do not shop there, what gives?

One quick hunting session left me leaving with 2 cute tops and a practically-new-millenial-pink Kate Spade bag, all for under $80. YEAH I SAID IT, $80, KIDS. I don’t shop at actual RTW stores anymore, so Dr y Goods is where IT IS AT.

Here’s how I went about being extra cheesy on Valetines day with this upcycle:

  1. Snag a unloved sweater from the back of your closet or a thrift store. See the potential in it’s boringness. Embrace the boringness.
  2. Get some of that Eco-Fi Felt over at the craft store or online (it’s made of 100% post consumer plastic bottles)
  3. Channel your inner 3rd grader and cut out some felt hearts in various sizes.

4. Play around with the arrangement of the felt hearts on your top. I knew I wanted them concentrated at my shoulder so I placed a few large ones down first, then filled with smaller hearts. I also layered hearts for more texture.

5. Once you have an arrangement you’re into, lets pin them in place so we don’t accidentally pick up the sweater to try it on and they all fall off. Learn from my mistakes.

6. Carefully try your sweater on. Take a look in the mirror and assess if there are any poorly placed hearts (i.e. hearts on nipples looks funny, trust me!) Adjust hearts as necessary.

7. Let’s get stitching! Thread your machine with a matching color to your hearts- or don’t, it’s your world.

8. I stitched down the center line of each heart, with a small backstitch at the beginning and end to secure. Be sure to do only a few stitches for your backstitches as we’re topstitching and it will be obvious if you back tack the heck out of it. I usually like to ‘sink’ the needle into each heart while the pin is still in, make sure I’m centered, then lower the presser foot and take the pin out before I sew down the heart.

9. Stitch all hearts down, clipping your threads as you go.

10. Tidy up the inside by clipping the zillion threads. Ta-da you’re finished! You probably haven’t even hit a commercial in your Spotify playlist or have had to check your phone, this project went so quickly.

I am obviously super jazzed about my upcycling project.

If you make a top similar to mine, would you please share it with me or tag me on Instagram? I love talking about making stuff and would love to see what your take is on my goofy Valentines sweater! I’m @Julia_OldSpoolSewing on instagram, let’s be friends!

How to Recover Your Old Ironing Board AND MAKE IT FABULOUS!

How to Recover Your Old Ironing Board AND MAKE IT FABULOUS!

So, I find that I get a lot of joy from all of the things in my space being coordinated and colorful in some way. I’ve always liked the thought of “beautiful things work better” and sought to apply it to my work space and home whenever I can. When I’m out thrifting I’m always searching for bright glass jars or colorful containers that can help me in the eternal battle of organizing. Must be why I have an exorbitant amount of vintage tins floating around…

Actual image of me walking into a space that is colorful and happy.

Now, here’s a simple way to add a bit of personality and joy into your space by way of one of our most used tools during the sewing process: the ironing board! To outfit my studio when we were re-doing the space, naturally I had plans to hit up the magical lands of Ikea for tables and chairs (clean lines, affordable, well made, swoooon) and luckily while we were up there I snagged a few other important items for a functioning sewing studio. One of those things being a nice, sturdy and adjustable height ironing board.

flowers and colors weeeee!

Adjustable height is important, Jul? It is when you’re teaching super short 8-year-olds how to press their seams, my friend.

I bought the ironing board with full intentions to recover it’s slightly-too-thin padded top with a fabric that matches my space at Old Spool. Finally, like, 4 months later, I got around to this project will all in all took me about an hour to complete. Now every time I iron something I smile looking at the bright Cotton & Steel mod flowers that adorn my once Boring with a capital B ironing board.

The original Ikea Ironing board.

Here’s how you go about doing this yourself!

What you need:

  • An ironing board you wish to transform into a site so beautiful, mere mortals can’t look directly at it.
  • 2 yards Cotton Fabric. Quilting cotton is wonderfully affordable, comes in an array of prints and colors. Make sure to purchase
  • Cotton Batting. I used a cut from a twin sized package of Warm & Natural (*Cotton is important both as the covering fabric and the batting because it has a high melting point. I have heard of people using poly batting, but I like to be safe!)
  • a cord, ribbon or elastic between 1/4”-3/8” wide and long enough to go around the edge of your ironing board. I use a ribbon in this tutorial because it’s what I had around!
  • Chalk, Frixion Pen, Fabric Markers or something to mark fabric with.
  • Ruler or Tape Measure
  • Safety pin
  • Scissors
  • Sewing Machine, thread, pins.
  • *Optional is a layer of Insulbrite in addition to your batting layer, for added heat absorption.

Let’s Get Going:

  1. Iron your new covering fabric so it’s free of wrinkles. If you’re using cotton batting, feel free to iron it as as well to get the creases from being packaged out.
  2. Lay your fabric face down on a large work surface. Despite having a perfectly lovely large cutting table, I decided to work on the floor, try not to be like me if you can help it.
  3. Flip your ironing board over on top of the fabric, being mindful of fabric waste. I placed mine towards a corner with about 3 1/2” of a border.

4. Grab whatever you’re using to mark your fabric and your measuring device and measure out 3” around the entire ironing board, following it’s curves. The reasoning behind 3” is that we will be making a 1/2” casing for the cord, elastic or ribbon and that will give it 3” to fold around the edges and under the board. *If you are not using 1/4”-3/8” cording, you need to increase the added amount the the fold under to accommodate your cording.

5. Remove the ironing board and cut along the drawn line.

6. This step is optional, but I serged the edges of my new cover because we’re only turning it once. If you don’t have a serger you may also: bind the edges, pink them, or leave them raw. They won’t be handled often so they shouldn’t fray. This step is up to you!

7. Bring your new cover over to your old ironing board and press under a 1/2” channel for your cord/ribbon/elastic. Use plenty of steam and it should stick in place, but feel free to pin the fold as well.

8. Step on over to your sewing machine! Let’s get stitching! Beginning on one long straight end, sew the 1/2” casing down close to the inside edge. Leave a hole where you began, though, so we can get our cording through! You may come across some pleats where the ironing board curves, that’s ok! I grabbed a seam ripper to help me ease these guys under the presser foot. You won’t be able to see them, so embrace the imperfections!

9. Once you’ve stitch all the way around (and left a hole) grab your safety pin and cording. Thread the cording through the casing, leaving a tail at the beginning and end.

10. Grab that batting you’ve left aside until now and spread it out on your work surface. Again, flip the ironing board over and trace the shape plus 2” onto your batting. Cut on that line. This is so that the batting wraps around the edges of our ironing board, but not too much. If using Insulbrite, do the same.

11. At this point you may remove the original cover and batting layer. I, however, am lazy and did not. Also, I teach kiddos here and they tend to get intrefacing glue on the iron, which then ends up on the cover, so I wanted to know there was a back up in case a cover needed to be removed and washed/replaced.

12.Lay your batting on the cover and make sure it is nice and flat and centered on the board. I have a iron rest attachment on this iron that refuses to come off, so I have to work around it. I trimmed the batting to end right where the board ends so that I have enough room to pull my cover between the iron rest and the board.

13. Begin fitting your new cover over the batting, smoothing things out as you go. If using cording or ribbon, adjust the gathers around the board so that it fits snug. Tie a knot in your cording and cut the strings short so they don’t hang down and look at untidy. If you’re using elastic: A) pull until it is snug B) pin the elastic together C) take the cover back off, over to your machine D) Stitch elastic together E) Close hole F) return it to its new home on your ironing board.

Marvel at how cute your ironing board now looks and how little time that just took you to accomplish!

If you run into any issues or have any questions or comment, tell me below!

My Interview on That Sewing Blab!

My Interview on That Sewing Blab!

So, apparently I’m interesting enough to be interviewed for a Youtube channel about sewing! Dawn and Myra of That Sewing Blab had me on their show back in the beginning of December to chat about my background as a childrenswear designer, my formal fashion education at Parsons, a little bit about Stitched (and overcoming your “kryptonite” as Myra so aptly called my anxiety!) and how Old Spool came to be. I had a great time chatting with these ladies and even though we had never met- I had only briefly chatted with Dawn before the live interview- I knew they were my type of people: sewists who love to talk about sewing! 

Shout out to our amazing mutual friend Kyle, who I now deem the “fairy godmother” of sewing as she loves to connect people in our community! 

Here’s the interview in full here, I come on about 4 minutes in. Of course, I’m wearing a me-made top: the Dove Blouse by Megan Neilsen. Enjoy! 

Community Over Competition (NJ sewing studios if you don’t live close to Brielle)

Community Over Competition (NJ sewing studios if you don’t live close to Brielle)

Since I’ve opened a business in my hometown area back in October, I’ve been really lucky to meet wonderful people who have become customers and friends. My goal, all along, has been to create a space where people feel welcome and comfortable to come and learn a craft that I love so much, and more than a few times my new customers have spoken up to tell me how inviting the space is and how happy they are to have something like this in their area.

I say that not to toot-toot my own horn, but because it shows how much we as people love to connect with one another in a creative context. How much we value the time we’re given to create and make connections with other people who may hold the same interests as us. I think it really gives us a sense of belonging that we’re always searching for as humans. I’m so grateful that my hopes for the space are, so far, what others have been taking away from it.

But! I have also met some people thanks to the beauty of social media who live farther away from me that I’ve realized! I’m lucky to have sewing friends in places like the UK, Singapore, Australia and all over the states. I know how it feels to maybe find a business or brand that sparks your interest that exists in a physical place far away from you, for years without having words to describe it I dreamt of a space like what I have today to pop up in my world.

I remember the first time I found an Indie sewing company on Instagram: Sew Over It. I think it was probably 2014 and Lisa Comfort’s good cheer about modern sewing with a touch of vintage flair was like a bolt of lightening in my heart when there weren’t any clouds. I suddenly was introduced to a world of sewing I didn’t know about, and a community I felt a part of. I remember realizing , “this is it” when I saw that Sew Over It held workshops in their brightly colored shop in London and quality products to assist the home sewist… one day I could see myself doing just the same, somewhere!

Lisa Comfort of London’s Sew Over It

Fast forward to 2019 and I now know studios like this exist all over the world and boy, does that really excite me. People are being introduced to sewing all over the world in friendly shops and studios by people who are so darn passionate it makes me want to cry. It fills my cup knowing these studios are thriving (Stitch Sew Shop in Alexandria, VA is actually moving and expanding this year! How AMAZING in the world today that a fabric store can grow!) and that more people are teaching others to sew even if they don’t have a permenant studio (my friend Viviana in Puerto Rico teaches workshops in a coffee shop under the name Costura Elemantal!)

So, my point here is that if you want to learn to sew and maybe don’t live nearby me in good ol’ Brielle, NJ, there are plenty of places you can start to explore the world of sewing. I want to introduce you to two shop’s I’ve been lucky to meet the owners of here in NJ in case you’re a bit too far from exit 98 to get your kid to an after school class or to spend a Saturday morning away from your family, or dog, or partner, or plants.

If you’re reading this and from a bit farther away than even the Garden State, don’t worry! Get in touch with me and ask me where you can learn to sew near you… I’m a tad obsessive and follow countless shops and studios around the world and would be happy to point you in the right direction. I’m a big believer in Community over Competition  and truly believe there is enough space for all of us to share the thing we are most passionate about.

Just Make it Sew in Bordentown, NJ

JoAnn outside her shop in the historic town of Bordentown.

Just Make it Sew is a sewing studio and fabric shop out in Bordentown, NJ run by the extra lovely JoAnn. I was visiting Bordentown back in September when my sister was vending her handmade goods at their annual Cranberry Fest and made a point to pop into their store while I was there to introduce myself, mostly because I so admired the business they have built after learning about it in mid 2018. JoAnn has an impressive background- she worked in the fashion industry for years in many different roles after she earned degrees from both LIM and FIDM. She hosts classes for kids and adults and when I met her I could tell she genuinely loves her craft and sharing it with others. She’s been in business for over 10 years, how amazing is that?

I actually had a mother/daughter duo come in recently for a beginner lesson, and I always love to ask where people are from when they first come to the studio. This pair happened to be from Robbinsville, which is out in west Jersey, maybe 15 quick minutes from Just Make it Sew. I was happy to recommend they don’t take thJoe 45 minute drive on 195 west to see me and that they visit JoAnn for more classes, especially because the daughter was definitely inspired to learn more!

Urban Sewciety in Westfield NJ

A few young students outside of Urban Sewciety in Westfield

Urban Sewciety is run by ‘the Megans’ up in picturesque Westfield, NJ. It’s a beautiful shop and sewing studio that I was able to learn about thanks to…Instagram! In late 2017 I learned about the location based sewing hashtags that the Love to Sew Podcast began to pioneer in order to help sewists build a bigger community with the help of Instagram. It was the the missing link between the Instagram sewing community and being able to have real life friends who sewed! My heart did a little flip the first time I saw that a sewing studio existed in New Jersey like the kind I had created in my head after learning about Sew Over It a few years before. I immediately emailed them asking if they taught more advanced garment making courses, popped in there that I love to teach, and the next week I met the dynamic duo in person and they brought me on to help with after school classes and teach their garment making courses.

I’m so grateful for the experience I had teaching at Urban Sewciety and the friend’s I’ve made through classes and the community in North Jersey. Even though it was a trek up the Garden State Parkway (exit 98 to 136- but nothing like my commute back in the day to Secaucus!) I loved going to work there and all I learned while I taught there. If you haven’t noticed, my forte is not quilting, and my friend Mandy who teaches my quilting classes here at Old Spool was originally a student in one of my first garment classes at US. I’ve had a wonderful amount of students-turned-friends thanks to Urban Sewciety, and thanks to that space I gained the confidence to bring sewing to my community down here at the Jersey Shore.


Again, if you’ve found me thanks to the internet or social media, I’m so happy you’re here. But, if you’re a tad too far from me to come hang out at the studio and talk about fabric.. no fear. There are welcoming, beautiful spaces where you’ll learn from talented sewists anywhere in the world!

Sewists I admire: Jo of the Unfinished Seamstress

Sewists I admire: Jo of the Unfinished Seamstress

I’m a pretty lucky gal. 

Thanks to the power of social media, I’ve been able to make so many new friends over the past few years that love sewing and making as much as I do. Whether it’s a seamstress in London or a crocheter in Australia, I have been able to widen my circle of creative friends with the simple tap of a ‘follow’ button on Instagram. 

And in so many instances, I’ve been able to chat with these people about different topics that affect us as makers- how to find inspiration, how to better our sustainable sewing practices, and what to make next! 

One Instagram friend I’ve been lucky to find in the sea of social media is the lovely Jo of The Unfinished Seamstress. Jo is a sweet maker mama living in London who always seams to hit the right spot of extremely wearable but unique makes that I always love to see pop up in my Instagram feed. She’s a Seamwork Patterns Ambassador, instigator of the “Sewing the Scene” challenge that takes place on Instagram each year, lover of gardening in her allotment (she introduced me to the wonderful being that is Monty Don!) and a proud member of the ‘always improving’ mindset of sewists. I love reading her blog posts and seeing her makes, and I especially love when her cute kiddos make an appearance in her photoshoots! Jo is also extremely sustainably minded and as a vegan she always tries to sew with natural fibers and find good uses for her scraps: one time she managed to get a jacket for herself AND her daughter out of the same small cut of fabric! 

I wanted to share some of Jo’s makes to help inspire others who may want to learn how to sew their own clothes, because Jo’s wardrobe is extremely practical while also being very ‘her’ : I love her pink coats, effortless sundresses and countless linen garments that look like you can simply live a good life in them. She’s a believer in sewing for self care (we all are trying to stay sane in an increasingly insane world) and getting a little bit of sewing done while her two small children nap. 

Make sure you follow her on instagram @theunfinishedseamstress 

Jo’

The Perfect Sundress! A Mimi G Jessica dress

Her simple entry to the sewing contest she hosts yearly called “Sewing the Scene” which is an homage to Audrey in Funny Face. The sweater is the Sew House 7 Toaster Sweater. 

A pink linen Sew Over It Kimono Jacket aka “The Monty Jacket” which she wears regularly to her allotment! 

A Folkwear Sewing Patterns Beach Pyjama that she pattern-hacked into a dress. 

The aforementioned pink coat: Simplicity 8509. It’s just too damn cute! 

And finally, a snap of her and her cute as a button daughter! Jo made both the pieces she’s wearing, and although I don’t think she made her daughters dress here- she regularly sews for her kids too. What an amazing mom! 

I hope you enjoyed Jo’s makes as much as I do! And if I’ve inspired you to learn to sew- pop into one of my many Beginner Workshops to get yourself started sewing and make sure to check out all the workshops I have coming up! 

Fa-la-la-llama! A Felt Sewing Pattern and Instructions for your Holiday Crafting Delight

Scroll to the bottom for my video tutorial!

Sometimes we all crave a quick and fun little project that let’s us get the creativity moving and grooving just a little bit. You know the kind: “I don’t really want to make a huge mess” (that rules out making those delicious 20 ingredient cookies you saw on Pinterest…) or that “I have a free afternoon, what do I do with myself?” (“and the kids, what do I do with the kids?!”)

Enter: my Fa-la-la-Llama felt sewing project! 

Ain’t she the cutest?! 

She’s inspired by everyone’s most favorite well dressed llama’s, Peruvian llamas! 

How majestic and colorful! 

stylin’, baby.

I am a very big fan of cute, well dressed animals. Peruvians have kept llamas as livestock for thousands of years, and it’s obvious why: they can wear the heck outta a pom pom! 

So if you aren’t a local friend of mine (hey there, Jersey Shore folks!) and you can’t make it to my felt llama ornament workshop on December 9th at the Asbury Park Christmas Bazaar I’m happy to share the free pattern and simple tutorial for this hand-sewn furball! 

The link to download the file is below, please let me know if you have any questions! And if you make your own, I’d love if you’d share it on social media and tag the shop: @julia_oldspoolsewing on instagram and Old Spool Sewing: Brielle NJ on Facebook! 

Fast Fashion and Why it Sucks Part 3

Fast Fashion and Why it Sucks Part 3

So, everything about the Fast Fashion Industry generally stinks. Like, big heaping piles of waste water tinged with local sewage and lots of garbage STINKS. Yes, there are some companies that do “the green thing” and have begun including textile recycling drop offs in store (looking at you, H&M) or “upping their commitment to sustainability” like Zara. But as we discussed briefly in the last post, most of these companies do a lot more harm than good and often these practices are just trendy “green-washing,” meaning they do them to look good and make themselves more marketable, not really because they care about the impact they have on our planet. A bit of research shows that H&M doesn’t entirely recycle all of those textiles in the best of ways- and don’t forget that they give you a 5% coupon so that you buy more stuff.

That’s not the point here, guys.

Are a little annoyed? A lot annoyed? Good. Civil unrest and change are fueled by a bunch of people who’ve hit the tipping point and don’t want to float along with the status quo anymore. Here, the status quo is $3 t-shirts and dresses you can buy for the same price as a Burger King Baconator. Neither are good for you or the environment! So what do you do? Commit to going naked for the sake of poor Cambodian mothers or the sea life we’re killing off because of manufacturing by-products?

That’s a little intense. Don’t get me wrong! I love your intensity. It’s just…well.. we need our actions to be sustainble in the way that we can continue to practice them for an extended period of time, just as they need to be sustainble in the traditional sense.

Here are a few things you can implement in your life RIGHT NOW to be better by our Earth. They range from actions that will take maybe a sliver of your time to something that you can spend the rest of your life perfecting. Like I promised in the beginning, there are more simple actions for those of us who don’t feel the need to make major changes to our daily routine and then there are increasingly more impactful changes for those who want to immediately rid our wardrobes of anything labeled “Made in various developing countries”

But wait! #1 is to NOT throw out everything in your closet! Including that old top that you don’t like anymore or those jeans that don’t fit your bum now-a-days! We have a major problem in Western culture of throwing things away when they’re still useful, and in the USA alone we generate 15 MILLION TONS of textile waste a year, of which 10.5 tons is clothing. That’s UNREAL, don’t you think? Consider this: consign it, donate it to your local church, throw a party with your friends where everyone brings old clothes and swaps it out for something new-to-them from their friend’s closet. All of these things are better for the planet than mindlessly tossing that old t-shirt that you “just don’t like anymore” into the trash, which ultimately fills up our landfills. Synthetic clothing is often made of plastic-like fibers and can take hundreds of years to decompose. That 100% acrylic sweater you don’t care much for anymore (and probably bought on a whim because it was trendy, right?) will exist on this planet ten times longer than you will.

If we can divert even some of the textile waste from landfills we can make a bigger impact down the road. Speaking of diverting stuff from the trash, #2 involves a bit more effort but is something we really love here at Old Spool: learning to mend! Mending clothing that has been injured in some way just shows that we care about the items in our closet and the people who made them. Barely 50 years ago most people would darn their socks when they got holes in them to make them last longer, now a days we buy a pack of 10 at Costco for $5 every 6 months as they wear out.

Amazing Embroidery from Tessa Perlow

Maybe that favorite t-shirt of yours gets a hole or a stain. My recent obsession is embroidering ANYTHING that offers itself up, and I love using embroidery as a way to cover food stain or holes! Or you can just make a simple little patch to cover up that hole, or practice your quick whip stitch to close it without extra fabric.

Now, mending applies to all sorts of repair work when it comes to clothing. Hemming that dress so you wear it more often or replacing the buttons that fell off your favorite jacket are both simple mending techniques that involve sewing but make those things wearable again, and therefore save them from the landfill.

Shashiko Mending

Shashiko mending is another fun technique to learn, it’s a traditional Japanese craft that almost celebrates the holes and tears in clothing as a part of its life. It’s visible mending at its finest- rows of stitches in different patterns in bold shashiko thread (or embroidery floss) say, “yeah, this was torn, but now look how loved it is!”

Upcycling comes in at the #3 thing to do, it’s a fun and challenging process where you look at the clothes you already have and consider how you can make them a better version of themselves (maybe that tshirt just needs a funky printed patch pocket?) or how you can pull it apart and make something completely new. If you want to get inspired by some AMAZING upcycling makes, search the Refashioners challenge by Portia Lawry on her blog Makery.uk. Each year Portia challenges the sewing community to an epic battle of upcycling wits and intelligence and it’s so much fun to watch!

(this is the amazing pattern designer Megan Nielsen, in a dress made solely from upcycled denim jeans!) 

So, for #4, I’ve saved my favorite “F you, fast fashion” for last.

Learn to sew!

I know I mentioned it before in the mending and upcycling points, but learning to sew enables you to completely remove one part of the fast fashion manufacturing process from your closet- having someone else make your clothes and needing to buy them from the store. How amazingly destructive to the fast fashion is that?!

Learning to sew your own clothing not only allows you to make clothing that fits you (because when you make it, you make it for YOUR body, not a million others!) but you can to exercise your creative freedom in picking fabrics and styles that you like the most. There are many pathways that lead people to wanting to learn how to make their own clothing, whether it’s that store bought clothing doesn’t fit or they have expensive taste (into that $800 dress on ShopBop? I bet we can make it for a fraction of that!) but one of my favorites are the people who find the fast fashion system so repulsive that they want to remove themselves from it like a hermit from society. Total and complete separation!

I could go on and on about all the wonderful things involved in sewing your own clothing. Knowing how to make stuff is empowering, and knowing that by participating in a hobby like this allows us to lessen our footprint on the planet is like the cream cheese icing on that carrot cake.

Sorry, am I the only one who craves carrot cake? Would you prefer chocolate? It’s as sweet as chocolate!

So, I hope I’ve hit a nerve and caused you to begin rethinking your relationship with the clothes in your closet. I know personally, I became more interested in removing myself from the belly of the beast of fast fashion as I started to appreciate the quality and personality in my handmade clothing. Not only do I get a skirt in the exact color and shape I want, I get to break down that system, stitch by stitch.

And now I leave you with this:

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world” Archbishop Desmond Tutu. 

Bra Making with Madalynne, my experience this Summer

Bra Making with Madalynne, my experience this Summer

Back in June, thanks to my cheerful sewing bud/student Mandy who is always up for anything, I attended one of Madalynne Intimates’ sewing workshops in funky ol’ Philadelphia, PA. As someone who teaches sewing to others, I really love having the chance to learn new techniques or gain more knowledge about an aspect of the garment sewing world that I love so dearly. Maddie’s class did not disappoint my endlessly curious heart!

Now, I’ve dabbled in a few different worlds since my time at Parsons: I specialized in childrenswear during my thesis year, I designed Halloween costumes and dress up clothing as my first job out of college (so. much. glitter. tulle.) I did special occasion for a moment and sat through a few lectures about the amazing technology that is 3D knitting as well as worked freelance design for a knitwear brand. But one thing that has always seemed foreign to me was the world of galloon lace, rose gold sliders and fold over elastic. Enter stage left: Maddie Flanigan, lingerie designer extraordinaire!

We spent a nice warm Saturday at Maddie’s cute little studio tucked away in some Northern part of Philly making her free pattern the Barrett Bra out of pre-cut materials that Maddie prepped for us as a part of the workshop. If you want to get a bra done start to finish in one day, it’s best to have everything ready for you to start sewing! We worked on Pfaff machines that sewed through soft elastics and delicate swiss dot mesh with ease. The best part of the Barrett Bralette pattern is that you can sew it all on a regular sewing machine that is capable of a zig-zag stitch!

We had a totally beautiful Instagram worthy lunch made by none-other than the Renaissance woman herself, Maddie! She believes any good sewing day with new friends is incomplete without cake, and I totally agree with her!

By the end of the day Maddie had filled my brain with tons of information about how to buy laces, the best grain to cut stretch mesh on, and lingerie hardware and elastics. We got sweet little goodie bags with bits of lace and elastic in them, and I also had a brand spankin’ new and damn cute soft bralette I had completed in one afternoon.

For those interested about the Barrett Bralette pattern: the pattern, a sew along and any other information you need can be found on Maddie’s website through this link. I also hope to woman-up and take a few photos for the blog because I LOVE my new bralette… I even purchased one of Maddie’s kits especially for the Barrett so I can make another ASAP (which is turning out to be months later, oh well)

Also, my big boob-a-licious ladies! Fear not- we had a few ample bosomed friends with us in the workshop who fit Maddie’s pattern just fine, despite fears that soft bralettes were not for them. It’s all about giving yourself enough support with the types of mesh fabrics you use and not being afraid to try something new!

X