Saturday, February 21, 2009

Work in Progress Part I: Aprons

I am having a lot of fun playing with the fabric over here <-- (to be read with a tone of barely restrained glee.) Above is new gingham (a bit pinker than I expected when I ordered it, but I'm getting used to it) and a vintage Liberty print.

Gingham just makes everything look so sweet. The blue on the right is an almost electric shade in the middle of turquoise and royal. What is that shade of paint we all had in oil painting class? It's one of the basics on the pallet. Well, whatever it is called, this is it. I like both ginghams with this - another vintage floral. Winter is not bothering me lately as it is spring in my studio now. I think it sprang because of Florabunda, which is my first show for which these aprons are being produced.

Apron production is going really well - all the skirts are hemmed, rolls of wide twill for back neck ties arrived from my new supplier - and I've been dabbling in pairing waistbands to skirts. This is the most creatively exciting part of my work - marrying up prints.

One of my goals for 2009 is to increase the efficiency of my production process so I can continue of offer one-of-a-kind American handmade aprons at such a low price. One of the unfortunate realities I discovered in 2008 is that it is considerably more expensive to hunt down, buy and repurpose textiles that are already out there in the world. I now know why my favorite sweaters at Preloved are $90. I have had to embrace that other meaning of the word "sustainable," as in, "In what way do I have to work to make this business sustainable?" I have known for a while that I'd have to write about this here and have been hesitating... But this feels like a joyous context in which to bring out the truth of my use of *gasp* bolts from the factory. I am still incorporating thrifted scores where I can: shirt collar and cuff trim, some waistbands and pockets, the lining of the apron bibs, special aprons made entirely from vintage table clothes, and when I can get big enough pieces, whole aprons from repurposed fabrics. But the fact is that I can use new fabric for a fraction of the price of repurposed and that's what I need to do to keep the aprons at $39 for another season.

Here are some other fabric combos I've been playing with:

The blue and white stripes here are vintage Marimekko. Note on the right the excellent company I keep in the studio ; >

I am so keen on this dark chocolate wood grain and the fun pairings for aprons. I keep thinking: "Picnic in the Woods." The fabric's a heavier weight and cost me twice as much so these will be at a somewhat higher price point.

Lovely vintage table clothes reborn as very special aprons. All the edges of these (except for the pink on the very right) will be finished with bias tape. They will have that *special* price point also.

This might not be even half of fun, so I think I'll post again when I get to the other fabs. More Mid Winter Projects coming too, so...stay tuned!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mid-Winter Project Series Part II: Custom Market Apron

During my holiday shows I got a fun commission to make a market apron for a local grower who sells at the Montpelier Farmers Market. Boots and his partner, Chris Esten (also a fantastic grower and botanical artist as "The Green Reaper"), had an upstairs booth at the Norwich Holiday Market (mine was downstairs) and "demonstrated" a couple of my aprons to drum up interest. Boots really liked the house-painter style one I had for him to wear, and wanted me to make one in a fabric with an appropriate theme for him. Well, I happen to have just the thing.

Boots is one of those very rare men who can wear shorts (vintage I'm sure) that show off his thighs. I was given specific dimensions for the apron: 18 inches wide and no more than 5 inches tall. The idea is that the bottom of the apron not be below the bottom of his shorts. Apparently he already causes quite a stir at the Farmers Market and we don't want him looking like he's wearing no shorts at all! I put a seam in the middle dividing the apron into two large pockets. I'll try to add a pic of Boots wearing it this summer so stay tuned!

Meanwhile if you would like to order a decidedly sharp, durable and super useful apron of your own for your vending events I have enough of this heavy canvas and fruits and veggies fabric (and other interesting fabric options) to make a few more, made to your specific dimensions to show off your legs...or not.

This is one of my favorite fabrics and I've used it in some wonderful billfolds and belts also.
This belt was recently featured in a treasury on Etsy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mid-Winter Projects Series Part I: The Couch

I'm back! I was wondering what January would be like for the no-longer-so-fledgling-but-still-not-fully-in-flight Mountain Ash Design. Would I get a lot of production work done? Would I be half on vacation after the busy holiday vending season, cooking elaborate meals for my family every night? Would I have my Etsy shop fully stocked with new and sale products? hasn't turned out quite like that, though that third one is not too far off. And I have been keeping up with feeding the family and doing the subsequent dishes. Quite charming tasks when I'm not on such a tight schedule and I have a cute apron on to help me feel organized and purposeful. The toasty warmth from the wood cook stove in the kitchen doesn't hurt either.

I've done a little bit of production work with Betsy, the most excellent veggie and chicken grower in town, but mostly I've been working on show applications and taxes and sewing custom orders and some non-business related sewing projects, too. So here begins a little series of posts in which I'll show you around some results from the MAD labs, shall we say off season.

First I'll give you a little tour of by far my biggest project (of the season): Covering new foam cushions I bought for our vintage Modern couch. ("vintage Modern" - interesting term, huh? I see it on on Etsy all the time - appears to be all the rage. The other term I see that makes more sense is "Mid-Century Modern")

This is the before photo. We got this couch at Recycle North in South Burlington a few years ago. It's actually a pretty cool item. But alas, this has been it's typical state for a while.

See, the caning is good. The structural integrity is quite good. It came with old disintegrating foam cushions covered in this same heavy green weave. I bought new foam cushions over a year ago and finally got around to covering them last month.

In the sewing room: I only had enough of this maroon retro 1940s-style bark cloth to use on the front/top of all the cushions. I used heavy denim for the rest. The one on top I made for practise. Couldn't spring for piping so I made up this edge treatment instead. (I don't even know if I'm using the correct slipcover terminology.)

Voila - Here it is all done! I just finished it on Sunday. The bark cloth has been kicking around for years also and was often used as the under-the-dog layer so it is a bit faded and snagged in places. I realize that I am mixing up period styles here. I believe the couch is from the 1950s or early 1960s. The walls downstairs in our house had wallpaper similar to this fabric when we first bought the house 13 years ago, except water-stained and grimy. I was sorry to paint over it.

I'll post again soon about a custom baby quilt I am finishing and a sweet little market apron with very specific proportions I recently made for a local grower.

Ta Ta!