Lunch with Good Folks

It’s not unusual for me to find out about a new product and then ask Sarah if she’s going to carry it at the shop. Imagine my delight the day I stopped in and she’d received the new laminated Anna Maria Horner fabrics before I’d even had a chance to ask!

I immediately volunteered to make a shop sample with them. (Admit it — you would have, too!) The laminated cottons (henceforth referred to as “lamco” because I’m such a dork) have such an amazing feel to them. They are so soft and pliable. My only complaint is that there’s not enough variety in the prints because I’d love to make more with them.

I used the two Good Folks lamcos to make the lunch bag from Favorite Things. I’ve had the pattern for a while but never got around to sewing with it and it seemed like the fabrics were a good choice. Well … yes and no. “Yes” because the fabric makes a nice waterproof lunchbag. “No” because it’s awfully hard to press a fabric you can’t actually iron.

I think the next time I make this pattern, I’ll do a couple of things differently. For one, I’ll use a woven cotton for the exterior so I can actually iron the darn thing. Next, I’ll add more Velcro strips to the flap so it closes more securely. And since I’m talking about the flap … I’m also going to lengthen the flap to give a little more coverage while it’s closed. It seems just a little skimpy, in my opinion.

Spotlight: Melissa Averinos

This is part of an occasional series of interviews with interesting artists and craftsmen.

Listening to Melissa Averinos talk about escaping into her art as a teenager, it’s easy to imagine her as the quiet girl with paint on her jeans and a sketchbook perpetually in tow.
“I was always doing art, ever since I was little,” she says. “In my early years, it started with just drawing and doodling, then I started doing more paintings.”
She fondly recalls the support her father gave her burgeoning hobby, from buying supplies and books to keeping her work.  “My dad had stacks of my drawings that he kept, and that was great,” she says.
Averinos began exploring fine art painting in high school, including a period of self portraits. She describes those four years as a creative experiment, which also included collages. “It was kind of a form of therapy,” she recalls.
The Cape Cod, Mass., native says her work has always provided an emotional outlet for her, particularly through a medium called visual journaling.
“I would take a blank book and just write some but mostly putting down color, scraps — anything,” she says. “I would spend hours at it a day to keep myself breathing and focused. It was very therapeutic and necessary. It doesn’t always come out pretty but that’s not the point.”
Averinos admits her art journal is not a part of her daily creative life right now but “when times are tough, I know it’s a good tool for me. It’s like a playground, a place where I can just go and be kind of unfettered and not worry whether it’s marketable or it’s pretty.
“It can just be whatever it needs to be.”
For many years, Averinos pursued art solely as a hobby. She describes herself in those days as “an artist on the inside,” while her days were spent operating an embroidery machine, stitching logos and the like on apparel. The solitary nature of her work forced her to take action and admit to her boss that she needed to do something else within the company — or find another job. The move paid off: the company had been considering adding an in-house art department instead of outsourcing its screenprinting and embroidery work. The only problem? The job required working with vector graphics programs on the computer.
“All I knew how to do on a computer was check email and maybe look online a little bit,” she says. “They said, ‘we think you can do this.’ I didn’t know I could learn anything new but they believed in me and I trusted them.”
Averinos’ employer gave her the tools and support to learn Adobe Illustrator, and soon found that she had a new medium for creating artwork. As her skillset grew, so did her confidence — as well as her portfolio.
Her first forays into commercial artwork involved the tabletop industry, and one of her designs was purchased for use on a vase. “It was a lot of work and a lot of pounding doors, and little payoff.”
Averinos struggled to make an income from her design work while she held a string of day jobs. A Craigslist ad seeking a vector artist caught her eye one day and soon led to selling some designs to a print house for use in the apparel industry.
“Victoria’s Secret ended up buying some of my designs and made pajamas out of two prints,” she says.
Each minor success, however, was trumped by other rejections. By early 2007, Averinos admits she began contemplating giving up her artistic dreams.  She decided to take another chance and submit her work to FreeSpirit Fabric.
“I had looked into FreeSpirit when I was looking into tabletop stuff,” she says. “I liked how they promote their artists, liked the other artists with them and I liked that they take chances.”
The gamble paid off and FreeSpirit licensed what now is known as Sugar Snap. Cinnamon, pink, aqua, yellow and cream play together in bold swirls, strips and squiggles. The line debuted at the International Quilt Market in October, which included an appearance by Averinos on the streaming podcast aired from Market by Boutique Cafe.
The line began shipping soon after Market’s close, and Averinos says she’s enjoying seeing how her work inspires others.
“It’s the best!” she says. “Fabric isn’t cheap, so to know that someone saw it and spent money on it is really exciting to me and really gratifying. I take it as a huge compliment.”
Averinos appreciates the chance to become part of someone’s childhood memories, as well.
“I remember stuff my mom made for me when I as little,” she says. “My heart kind of does jumping jacks when I think about it, to think someone who’s a little girl now has my fabric in a jumper her mom made for her is really exciting.”
Read a little more about Melissa Averinos, her artistic inspiration and her sewing endeavors on the Trendy Textiles blog.

Color Theory

Probably one of the most frequent comments I hear about my sewing is “I love the fabrics you choose!” It never fails to bring a smile to my face, as well as a little bit of a blush.

One of the things I touch on in the classes I teach is fabric selection — not just the appropriate type of fabric to use for a garment but also color, print and scale.

Give any 10 sewists the same pattern and you’ll likely get 10 very different interpretations of that garment, each with a very different “feel.” A lot of that has to do with fabrics they chose. It’s not just about color, but about how the colors and prints work with (or against) each other.

When I pick fabrics for a project, I think about who I’m sewing for plus how many fabrics I want to use and where I’ll use them. Samantha’s Miss Madeline pattern is illustrated with dresses that use the same fabric for the sleeves and dress, with a contrasting fabric at the waistband and apron edges. I like to mix it up a little more, so I use that same contrasting fabric on the sleeves as well. (Of course, I think it would be super fun to add another fabric into the mix and have the sleeves be something entirely different.)

For this particular dress, I knew I wanted to use that gorgeous orange floral print from Sandi Henderson’s Farmer’s Market line but I wasn’t quite sure what to put with it. The person I was sewing it for said she likes stripes and wanted a very fall feel to the dress. I literally went to the quilt store, pulled the bolt of main fabric off the wall and started walking around to find fabrics that spoke to me. (Doesn’t that sound so zen? LOL!)

I do it fairly often, actually. It’s not unusual for me to pile a table with bolts of fabric so I can lay them on top of each other to see how the colors and patterns work together. Often, it’s not so much about matching colors exactly but seeing if they’re harmonious when placed alongside each other. The orange in the stripe from this Amy Butler fabric is pretty darned close to one of the oranges in the flower but what really makes the two work together is the graduated shading of the green stripes. It kind of echoes the graduated shading of the flowers. Similar but different. It’s why I chose the Flutterby panel for the apron. The greens sort of fade into each other and really complement the bordering stripes without being an exact match. When put together, the three fabrics give off a similar vibe; they all say “fall” with the same subtle voice.

Contrast that dress with these two, also made with the same Miss Madeline pattern. They have a completely different feel, thanks to very different fabric choices:

Another thing that’s important to think about is the scale of print. Most fabric lines made by quilting fabric manufacturers include a large print, medium print and small print. Why? Because when you are combining fabrics, it’s pleasing to the eye to have prints of varying scale. A good rule of thumb for choosing a fabric based on scale is fewer seams, bigger print. Bigger pieces of fabric will maintain the integrity and feel of the print, whereas smaller prints can more easily accommodate more seams and smaller cuts.

I absolutely adore the aqua mermaid fabric on the dress to the left. Those mermaids, however, are HUGE, about 12″ tall and 8″ wide. If I tried to use that fabric for a patchwork twirl skirt, for example, it would lose so much of the under-the-sea effect that it just wouldn’t be the same. Instead, I chose to make a jumper-style dress with two big pieces and two side seams. The accent fabric is a medium-ish sized polka dot that balances the larger print.

I don’t really think of these as hard-and-fast rules by any means but these are the kinds of things in the back of my head when I’m selecting fabrics. Ultimately my goal is for whatever I make to reflect the wearer’s personality, rather than wear the owner.