I’ve added yet another bag to my growing collection of Klum Houses – the Oberlin Tote!
Klum House has really perfected bag making. The instructions lovingly walk you through each step and the maker kits have everything you need. Really though, you can unroll your tube of supplies and have yourself a beautiful, functional, and high quality bag in a few hours.
Klum House reached out to me a few months ago to ask if I’d be up for sewing the revamped Oberlin, and despite my impending move, I said yes. I was super stoked to be able to pick up the kit in person after moving to Portland!
The Oberlin is an elevated tote. It features FOUR exterior pockets, sturdy leather straps, an interior zipper pocket, and now with the relaunch, an optional zipper closure and lining. I opted to add both of the expansions because I can’t say no to lining a bag and I know I’ll actually use a tote if it can secure stuff underneath a zipper.
Klum House has so many colors of waxed canvas to choose from, but I defaulted to the same colors I used for my Maywood – dark brown (looks like a warm black) and brush brown, but with brown leather straps. I love the brush brown color so much, I wish I had leaned in an done the whole bag in it. Oh well!
One of the many things I appreciate about Klum House patterns and kits is the fun details. I mean I can’t think of a better way to finish a zipper. That little end tab is perfection! Also I really want a new key chain just so I clip my keys to that little D-ring.
The Oberlin is a really versatile size. It’s great for toting your everyday things around and I can see it working well as a travel bag too. The zipper expansion pops up allowing you to really cram it full of stuff.
The instructions allow you to customize your Oberlin. Only want to add the lining? The main instructions tell you exactly when to pop over to the lining PDF. Want to do both the lining and the zipper expansion? The instructions tell you when to switch from the main instructions to the zipper PDF, and then from the zipper instructions to the lining PDF.
I had one hiccup in the construction, but mostly because I was frantically sewing late at night to finish her up. The last sewing step before hammering in the straps is that line of stitching at the top, which I somehow managed to make three ugly folds in. Having never tried it before, I was really nervous about ripping stitching out on waxed canvas, but the puckers were bad and I had to. After redoing the stitching, I blasted the waxed canvas with a HOT hair dryer and now you can barely see the previous holes.
For the lining, I used some plain ol’ cotton duck from my stash. I think a bright lining in a cavernous bag is best! I’m really impressed with how clean the finish is with the lining and zipper expansions. All of the seams are hidden, except for a small opening in the lining to turn it right side out.
Full disclosure this bag took me a while to make, but only because in the middle of making it, I had to move all of my sewing stuff to another part of my house. We’re doing some construction in my soon to be fabulous sewing space and it started a lot sooner than I anticipated. I definitely misplaced so many things while moving which caused some fun challenges – who needs pins?!?! The construction is also why I wasn’t able to snap any blog or Instagram worthy progress pics.
Disclosure: I received the Oberlin Maker Kit for free but all thoughts and opinions are my own. If you use the above link to purchase a Klum House product, I will receive a small commission from the sale with no change in cost to you.
If you’re at all into quilting, you’ve probably laid your eyes on Laura’s beautiful modern quilts. One of the first things that drew me to the Vacilando Instagram account was that production was taking place entirely in an Airstream… on the road. As a person that loves to spread way, way out while making, Laura’s small space process blew my mind. Her use of geometric shapes and yummy colors also appealed to my aesthetic.
When Laura asked if I’d be willing to make one of the patterns in her soon-to-be-released book, I enthusiastically said YES even though I was about to move across state lines.
It took me a while to get going on this project, only because I couldn’t find anything after moving. It took me a couple of weeks to just find my iron and for some reason I packed my fabric scraps in several different boxes (seemed like a good idea at the time).
The construction of this pillow looks like it requires lots of precise cutting and piecing, but it’s really beginner friendly! Basically you sew larger rectangles together, then cut them up, rearrange, add some strips in between, and BAM, you’ve got a pillow top! I chose a really simple quilting pattern so as to not detract from the pattern.
It’s the perfect project for using up scraps and I told myself I wasn’t allowed to buy any new fabric for it. The majority of it is silk noil, which makes it super luxurious, but I would not recommend this substrate if you’re just starting out – it’s a little hard to control.
Brown and black silk noil fabric is from some Willow Tanks, a men’s tie, and a Shirt No. 1.
Speckled dark grey cotton linen blend is from my block printed Tamarack
I can’t say that this garment has been a huge hit with my partner – “you look like you’re wearing a Victorian nightgown,” . . . “there’s no amount of swishing that’ll make that look good,” and “are you wearing that nightgown outside?” have all been uttered by his usually supportive mouth. Oh well – I’m here for this lewk.
It’s been two months, five days, three hours, and 12 minutes since I’ve sewn anything. Okay, I have no idea exactly how long it’s been, but it’s definitely been over two months, and I’m going insane.
Aside from putting all of my creative practices on hold, the move to Portland has been really good for my soul; I love our new house and neighborhood, I love not working at a K-8 school (working in an office is AMAZING), I love my 11 minute commute to work (18 minutes by bike), and I know I’m going to get a lot of shit for saying this, but I love that it’s not constantly sunny here.
Anyway, I know this space is primarily meant to be about sewing and making, but it’s my blog and there ain’t gunna be any of those things without some house updates first. So why not share what’s happening?
The entire second floor of our house is mine, and I’m so excited to transform it into a bright, beautiful, and functional workspace. As you can see, it’s currently dark and gross, but the bones, the bones are GOOD.
It’s a pretty big space. I’m planning to have a sewing zone and a computer / other art zone with storage in between. I think once it’s all done, it’s going to be pretty amazing. Now to just find some patience while all the work happens.
update the electrical (currently everything is two-prong / un-grounded)
add lighting and two ceiling fans
install duct work and remove ugly wall heaters
drywall over the OSB and paint white
install hardwood flooring
remove carpet on stairs, refinish
paint built-in bookcase white and add countertop
remove weird 70s glass partition and install another bookshelf or pony wall
update closet (paint white and install closet system)
create a ton of storage in knee wall
So far we’ve done the duct work and the closet, and the electrical work is starting this week!
This is the closet before. It was painted a dingy yellow and had stupid clothing rails. The long one was supported in the middle with a piece of cord tied to a screw in the ceiling. Removing them was an irritating challenge. The support system (first pic, right side) had about an inch of wood filler covering all the screw heads meaning I had to dig all 6 of them out to remove the dumb thing. I also discovered that the rails were punched into the drywall for additional support. Drywall patches are amazing!
Ah, what a difference paint makes. Once I had the white box, I spent a small fortune on a closet system for my clothing and a garment rack to store all of my paper patterns.
I’m really pleased with the pattern rack. It was something I told myself I could have once we moved. Prior to this, all of the patterns hung on hooks and it was really hard to find what I needed. Now they’re organized by garment type and it makes me want to get back in to sewing IMMEDIATELY.
Jenny over at Wiksten kindly sent me this pattern shortly before it was released. After opening it up and drooling over the beautiful photos in the instruction booklet, I became super irritated that life wouldn’t allow me to dive right in to making one.
But the school year finally ended, packing up the house for our impending move was in a sort of good place, and I had just picked up this amazing fabric on my last trip to Stonemountain… it had to happen.
So I made a deal with myself that once this idea was out of my head and on my body, I’d pack up my sewing space.
After all, my last summer break as a teacher should include at least one day of uninterrupted sewing, right?!
This texture is just so good! The fabric is probably a little more structured than the pattern calls for, but I don’t care.
I contemplated shortening the length while tracing off the pattern, but decided not to. I’m happy with its length even though I’m sure it was drafted for someone taller than 5’2″.
Pattern matching is not my strong suit, so I am wicked proud of the side seams and patch pockets.
I had hoped to have this dress finished for a family wedding in May, but that didn’t happen, so I wore it out to a super casual breakfast yesterday morning.
Layered over some tights and worn with a sweater, this textile works year-round. I love it when a garment turns out to be seasonless.
Yep, pretty sure once we’ve moved and my new, huge studio space is set up , I’ll be making the Shift Top too.
Back in September of 2018, I was asked to contribute to a Sew News article about Grainline Tamarack hacks that would be in the Fall 2019 issue. I agreed, signed a contract for a small payment, and started planning. Sew News wasn’t providing fabric, or compensation for material costs. The jacket and article were due January 10, 2019 and I had to pay for its shipping to Sew News for the photo shoot. Months passed and I didn’t receive my payment. I inquired multiple times, but it was chocked up to a slow system. Then I received a Chapter 11 Notice in the mail. I reached out to the point person again and learned that I would need to submit a claim to the courts in order to receive payment.
Needless to say, I’m miffed. However, I am pleased to report that after asking for my jacket to be returned and for my writing to be removed from the issue, it happened. It’s not a good feeling to leave the magazine in a lurch, but it’s also unfair for them to publish it when I haven’t received the agreed upon compensation. The whole thing makes me feel very weary of working with “larger” companies in the future. As far as I know, they’re still asking for contributors for future issues. I don’t know if the magazine has been bought/has a stable financial future, or if they’re able to pay for contract work moving forward.
Anyway, here’s my write up and some process pics. As I mentioned above, the purpose of the article was Tamarack Jacket hacks. My twist on the pattern was more about the surface design and quilting pattern than big changes to the sewing pattern. I did do some basic mods like lengthen the body, shorten the sleeves, and use patch pockets in lieu of the pattern’s welt pockets.
Block printing is one of the easiest ways to alter the surface of just about any textile. With a few simple supplies, you have endless opportunities to customize fabric right from your home. In my at-home block printing kit, I like to use Speedball Speedy Carve Blocks, a Speedball brand linoleum cutter, a Testrite Foam Brayer, a baren to help apply even pressure, and water-based silkscreen ink for fabric. I prefer to use a foam brayer when block printing on fabric as it applies more ink to the blocks and prints more evenly than a rubber brayer. I also like to use water-based ink because oil-based is a little smelly. Whatever base ink you choose to use, make sure it’s designed to be applied to fabric, or your ink won’t ever fully adhere! Most importantly, remember to wash and dry your fabric to remove any sizing that might affect the ink.
For the exterior fabric of my Tamarack, I chose Robert Kaufman’s Essex Yarn Dyed Homespun fabric in Pepper. This textile is a linen-cotton blend that I knew would quilt up beautifully. For the lining I used the same fabric in Charcoal. The bias binding is also Pepper to keep the emphasis on the block printed design. This was my first time block printing on a fabric with any visual texture (I usually keep to solid colors), and I just love the result. The weave shows through the print and also helps conceal the wonky, imperfect nature of block prints.
Block printing can be quite time consuming. I recommend cutting out your garment pieces before printing the fabric. There’s less waste, it requires less space, and you have more control over the print’s placement. With all of your pieces cut out, it’s easy to find a printing groove. I also recommend doing a few test prints on scrap fabric before committing to block printing your cut out pieces.
After your fabric is printed, it will need to dry for a minimum of 24 hours. It’s hard to wait, but I’ve found if I rush this step, the ink tends to smear. After it’s dried, be sure to heat set the ink with a hot iron too. While I was allowing my printed pieces to dry, I decided my quilting pattern would also emphasize the geometric shapes. I quilted around each shape instead of using a standard line quilting pattern. I used black thread in the bobbin and I love how the quilted shapes look on the inside.
Since I decided to use large scale geometric shapes to create a surface pattern, I lengthened the body by 10 inches. Although many Tamaracks look great with a rolled cuff, I wanted the surface pattern on mine to be the focal point. I shortened the sleeves by three inches and added about half an inch to the cuff opening. Additionally, I chose to round the bottom front opening to mimic the rounded corners of the patch pockets.
A lot of RTW quilted jackets feature patch pockets and I thought it would be an opportunity to puzzle out how to print an uninterrupted pattern. I cut the pocket pieces so that the top edge is on the fold, sandwiched batting in between, quilted around the shapes, and finished the sides and bottom with the same bias binding. It didn’t turn out perfect, but it’s pretty close! Instead of attempting to pin the pockets in place, I used Wash Away Wonder Tape to stitch in the ditch and edgestitch the pockets in place.
Initially I had planned to use Hong Kong seams to finish the inside of the jacket, but it ended up being too bulky. Instead the seams were serged and pressed open. The finishing touch was a block printed label. I like to add these to all my me-mades, or print directly onto the garment with my NOT A PRIMARY COLOR block.
I have wanted to design fabric for a while now and knew one potential step in that direction would be to learn how to screen print fabric. I took a printmaking class during my undergraduate studies, but it was a long time ago and its focus was fine art prints. It did help me understand the basic concepts, but it didn’t include any practice with photo emulsion (we had to hand paint the screens), or using digital images.
I found a local space that regularly holds screen printing workshops and thought I would just figure out how to use it on fabric later. Thankfully, after all my fabric-based questions, the instructor told me to just go for it.
For my design, I went with something I’d drawn with ink in my sketchbook. I snapped a photo of the sketchbook page and imported the image into Photoshop. I cleaned up each element and arranged them until I was happy with the layout. This part was pretty fast paced, so I didn’t have enough time to figure out how to make a repeating pattern. My Illustrator and Photoshop skills are pretty basic. We then printed our designs on a transparent film.
The next step was to create our screens. The studio had a pretty neat vacuum set up – you can see my screen’s frame underneath the rubber membrane which firmly presses the mesh up against the light box. The screen was exposed for 4 minutes and 45 seconds. After that, the screen is power washed to reveal the design.
The whole process was fairly quick since the instructor had already prepared our screens with the photo emulsion fluid. Usually that step takes a day to dry/cure.
I didn’t take the time to register the fabric prior to printing so each print’s placement was just a guess. Again the class wasn’t set up to print on fabric, so I just had to wing it. I decided to print the solid shapes white and the brushstrokes in black. You can simply mask off the parts of the screen you don’t wish to print with painters tape.
Pulling prints is super physical and my lack of upper body strength became very apparent. I think that having a softer squeegee might help though – all of the tools were meant to print on paper and were quite firm. I had to pull each print a few times to get the desired coverage. We got to take home our screens!
I’m so impressed with the level of detail you can achieve with screen printing. I could have never created a lino block for that brushstroke arch!
After heat setting the prints with a hot iron, I decided to sew up some zippered pouches. I think they’re pretty darn cute (and functional!). I’m figuring out a web shop, so they’ll be up for grabs soon!