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What We Wear Has Meaning
October 8, 2019

I recently read this blog post by Lyn Slater, of “The Accidental Icon”, about our relationship with clothes. In my case, that relationship is getting more complicated due to the ethical and environmental issues associated with the fashion industry. Do I stop buying fabric, use up my stash and start upcycling? Do I only buy clothes from companies that produce clothing with sustainable and ethical practices? I’m grappling with these questions, but in the meantime, I took a hard look at the garments I own to see what they tell me about where I am now.  I found meaning in my most loved and worn garments, meaning derived from several sources. 

Lyn mentions a collaboration she has begun with some design students at Parsons School of Design. Well, some of my favorite garments are ones that were created at sewing retreats or workshops where the input of creative sewing friends elevated my garment in progress. This kind of side by side, hands on collaboration is one of the joys of attending these workshops and retreats. Below are two examples of garments created in this collaborative way.
Kabuki Tee (The Foldline pattern) made of old jeans at an annual sewing retreat

“Tuxedo” dress made from 2 upcycled men’s tuxedo shirts in a draping workshop with Christine Mayer, of Berlin, Germany

Then there are those pieces of clothing I purchased on our travels or are made from fabric purchased on vacation. Every time I wear these pieces, I am transported back to treasured memories of the places we visited, the shop or the sales person who was especially helpful when I didn’t speak the language. This was the case when I purchased this tunic at Noriem, a small boutique in Paris carrying clothing by Japanese designers.

In London, I spent hours, between two visits, at Joel and Sons Fabrics. I remember the rolls and rolls of printed silks, the helpful, patient man who brought down fabrics I couldn’t reach and swatched them for me. My first purchase from Joel’s was the tweed for this Chanel style jacket.

I stitched a secret message to my daughter in one pocket, as some day it will be hers. I know she will remember the story of my purchasing this fabric in London.

Garments that are made for us or made with fabric, buttons, or trim gifted to us are most likely to conjure up memories of those who did the gifting or sewing for us. The lining of the Chanel style jacket, pictured above, was given to me by the original owner of Josephine’s, giving this jacket quite a sewing legacy. My most beloved cashmere bathrobe, below, was a Christmas gift from my husband. It is special because it was made for me by Marla Kazell, a custom clothier, mentor and friend here in the Portland area.

There is one more way our clothing can have personal meaning and even convey that meaning to others. These are the garments that visually convey a message. One of my favorite sewists on Instagram, @blakandblanca, is a pro at incorporating meaningful messages in the garments she makes. Here is just one example.

Chanel inspired Kalle shirt
(Closet Case pattern)

This is common practice among many fashion designers and is an area of fashion that I find intriguing. I am currently working on an upcycled jacket/top that incorporates a message I like on the pocket of a men’s Espirit de Corps shirt.

I know I want each garment I make or wear to have personal meaning, as those are the clothing items that make me happiest when I wear them. I will continue to give more thought to how I can be a more mindful creator and consumer. In the meantime, we are always happy to collaborate with you here at Josephine’s!


“Into the Light” with Christine Mayer
Japanese Draping and Upcyclying Workshop 2019

August 5, 2019

“The art of draping and upcycling was developed by Christine Mayer from the classic drapery. It represents a further development of the three - dimensional pattern cutting – working directly on the dress form with original materials. The designer becomes a sculptor who develops its creation directly on the bust – in harmony with the materials and body shape. Christine Mayer is teaching the creative reuse of worn and used fabrics. She gives people the opportunity and skills to work with old and loved fabrics and to re-imagine them as brand new garments.”

I was incredibly fortunate to attend Christine Mayer’s workshop in May on a farm in the San Luis Obispo area of California. I have attended a number of workshops, but this one was one was truly special. Christine is a designer from Berlin, Germany who has been at the forefront of re-purposing vintage garments and textiles into new garments for many years. Her garments have been available in many high-end retail shops around the world. Her latest collection, Asha, means “hope” in Nepalese. Christine worked with the women of the Nepalese mountains to develop these garments and each is hand knit by these women, providing them with a source of independence. All the while Christine teaches workshops around the world to encourage and provide necessary skills for sustainability in the fashion industry.

Our hostess, Melinda Forbes, and her dear friend, Julie Frankel, provided a nurturing atmosphere and farm fresh lunches, snacks and desserts for the group all six days we were together. Melinda and her husband live on 1 ¼ acres full of gardens and a grouping of studios. As weather permitted, we ate and worked outside in their glorious gardens.


The first 3 days of the workshop focused on the skills of Japanese draping. This type of draping involves creating a muslin pattern directly on the dress form. Christine taught us the needed skills with step by step demonstrations and attentive, individual hands on help. Each of us draped a jacket and skirt design provided by Christine.

My jacket muslin in progress    
Christine’s demo skirt in progress

She also showed us her process for using the patterns we created to place and piece together fabrics to create the final garment.

We learned how to draft one piece and two-piece sleeves! I discovered it isn’t too hard - just a little math and rulers and such a valuable skill to have!

Day 4 of the workshop fell on Memorial Day. Goodwill just happened to offer a discount on all clothing of 50%, so we happily started the day with some shopping for our upcycling projects.

                                                                       Janice and Shireen with some Goodwill finds

Once Christine wrangled us all back to the farm, she began demonstrating her process for taking vintage and used garments and creating new garments from them. She showed us how to observe what the fabric wants to do, where to cut, how to remove fullness, how to draw in an armhole, then make a sleeve fit the new opening. This whole process was quite a revelation and really made sense to me. I found a men’s large tuxedo shirt at Goodwill, then Shireen (on the right in the above photo) gave me a 2nd tuxedo shirt that had belonged to her husband. From these 2 shirts came this dress in progress:

I had so much fun draping this dress – the whole process was very freeing and at this point, I knew the workshop would be life-changing for me. I found a creative zone within myself that I had never visited before and came away from the workshop with a newfound fearlessness!

Over the next few mornings, Christine continued to demonstrate and drape several more upcycled garments, then sent us off to make more of our own creations. On the final afternoon, we gathered to model our new garments for the entire group. We were so impressed with what each attendee had made and it was with great reluctance that I said goodbye to all my sewing friends.

 Michelle Paganini models her upcycled overdress

Leslie Gelber with her hand sewn, pieced denim dress

Christine is in the planning process for a workshop in Portland, OR next spring.

Sew Expo 2019 Puyallup, WA

March 13, 2019

I recently spent 2 days shopping, learning and connecting with friends at Sew Expo, a 4-day event full of learning, shopping and inspiration for sewers of all kinds and levels. My last trip to Sew Expo was about five years ago when Marcy and Katherine Tilton, Sewing Workshop and McCall Pattern Company still had booths at the show. Knowing they were gone, and hearing from friends that the Expo was now all about quilting, I wasn’t in a hurry to go back (I have been a quilter, but not anymore). Yes, quilting booths dominate, but there are definitely vendors and workshops with appeal for anyone who sews. Those quilting vendors offer some great tools and Marcia Derse, a quilting fabric designer, has some of the most interesting “graffiti” style quilting cottons that would make fun garments.

Day 1:

My friend, Bev, and I arrived at the fairgrounds about 10:00 a.m. on the 2ndday of the Expo. We were lucky to find a parking spot on the street near the Gold gate – close enough that we could easily walk our purchases to the car when we tired of carrying them. If you aren’t as lucky with parking, you can check coats and bags at the fairgrounds for a small fee.

Our first stop was the L’Etoffe Fabrics booth, a small fabric store in Springfield, Oregon. Owner, Ina Mounir, offers a well-curated selection of fabrics and trims, as well as patterns from the French company, DP Studio.

On to Professional Sewing Supplies, purveyor of fine (and hard to find) Japanese sewing tools and supplies. Hisako and her husband have been importing and selling these supplies from their Seattle home for over 25 years. They have plans to go online soon, which would be great news for sewists everywhere.

We made quick stops at Billie’s Designer Fabrics (Chehalis, WA) and The Wool House (Toronto, ON, Canada) before heading to our first 45 minute seminar, “Enchantment with Fabrics and Tsukineko Ink”, with Joyce Teng. Joyce talks fast and packs plenty of information into her seminars. Her techniques have appeal for quilters and sewists interested in surface design with non-toxic materials. Her samples were stunning and we both bought her more detailed “how to” book for $10.00.

After lunch we headed to Vogue Fabrics, a Chicago fabric store that brings a very large truck load of fabrics to Expo each year. They are by far the largest fabric vendor at the show and you have to be willing to do some deep digging to find their special offerings. I found a beautiful digital linen print that was gone the next day. It pays to shop the fabric vendors early!

We wandered the vendor aisles for the rest of the afternoon, taking in as many vendors as we could. I was pleased to see so many independent pattern companies with booths. They always have sample garments on view and those samples never fail to re-frame my opinions of patterns I might otherwise have passed over.

We had purchased tickets for the Friday evening keynote speaker/fashion show featuring Angela Wolf, fashion designer, hostess of the PBS TV series, “It’s Sew Easy”, and spokesperson for Brother and WAWAK sewing. The fashion show was well done and featured some interested techniques, but the styles were definitely designed for younger sewists. There was a fun surprise guest for the runway finale. She was Daniela Gschwendtner, costume designer for the popular TV series, “Dancing with the Stars”. She talked about the process and challenges of producing elaborate costumes for dancers with only a 6 day turnaround. She brought down the house when the models strutted down the runway modeling a dozen of the sparkly and skimpy costumes!

Day 2:

We began the day with Louise Cutting’s seminar, “Fit, Fit, Fit: What do You Want to Fit?” Louise has been in the sewing, pattern design and education business for a long time, so she knows her subject and is an entertaining teacher. I always come away from her seminars with valuable information and attend her workshops whenever I can.

Before heading to our second seminar of the day, we re-visited our favorite vendors, running into a number of sewing friends. Nothing beats the camaraderie shared by the sewing community! Our next seminar, “How to Choose Fabric, Patterns and Styles to Sew that Flatter Every Body”, with Anne and Bruce Whalley, was pure fun. Anne, known as the “Pattern Whisperer”, and her husband hail from Australia. Anne loves color and pattern and had lively garments to illustrate her encouragement to let clothes reflect your personality.

Anne called this her “Fraggle Rock” dress!

Prior to our last seminar of the day, we took in a portion of the American Sewing Guild fashion show. Sadly, we weren’t in a spot that allowed for good photos, but after seeing the skill and creativity of some of the younger members in the show, I’m sure the future of the ASG is in good hands.

Our final seminar of the day, and probably my favorite, was “How to Pack for a Quick Vacation in a Carry-On Bag” with Sandra Miller. Sandra is a writer for Threads magazine, works with Louise Cutting and travels often. This 45 minute seminar was packed with practical ideas for choosing color themes, sewing a coordinated wardrobe for any climate and safety tips for airports. She showed samples of travel wardrobes and how the garments could be interchanged to make many outfits.

We headed home inspired, energized and anxious to sew with our new purchases. Sew Expo 2020 is scheduled for February 27-March 1. If you are thinking of going, here are some tips:

Bring your own food unless you don’t mind fast food, i.e. pizza and burgers. There is a good espresso stand outside the Pavilion.

Brig a refillable water bottle and remember to drink the water.

Wear comfortable shoes.

If you plan to stay overnight, we were pleased with the Fairfield Inn and Suites on 15th, just a few blocks and a comfortable walk from the fairgrounds/expo center. Our room was comfortable, breakfast was included, and we were able to leave our car in their lot after we had checked out in the morning.

Hopefully these tips will keep you going all day, rather than ending up like this gentleman…

Hope to see some of you next year!

Closet Refresh, January 2019

January 28, 2019

I always welcome a new year and the fresh start it represents. I’m not a fan of resolutions and have tried selecting a “word of the year” to guide me, with mixed results. This year my husband and I tried something new – we headed to the Oregon coast for a long weekend to plan and create some goals for the year. We will definitely make this an annual event. The time away, without everyday distractions, yielded great conversations and energized us for the year ahead.

One of my frustrations that I knew I wanted to tackle this year was my lack of planning when it comes to my wardrobe and sewing projects. Like most of us who love to sew, I have piles of fabric, boxes of patterns and creative ideas to keep me busy for years. Then, since I work in a lovely fabric store, one of our customers will stop by, spark a new fabric/pattern combo idea and I have to have it. Before even starting the previous 3 (or 10) great idea projects, I have another one! This problem is compounded by the fact that I am a s-l-o-w sewist. The result is a project backlog and a closet full of ready to wear to that doesn’t fit or suit my style needs, but temporarily fills gaps until I can get the garments I really want sewn. This year I hope to solve this problem with these three steps:

1.) Declutter my closet

2.) Determine what garments I need to create a coordinated, versatile wardrobe and set my sewing goals for the year

3.) Create a system to track my progress

Decluttering my closet

“Let go of the past. Let go of mistakes or bad choices, and look forward to the next opportunity to get it right.”

— Brenda Kinsel

Sometimes the best way to set aside time and embark on a new project is with help. I had done a closet purge 2 years ago when we moved into this house, but it was time for another. My best friend came from Seattle last week to spend a few days helping me with my cleanout – a sure sign of a good friend! We talked, ate, laughed, shopped a little, and cleaned out my entire closet. I loaded my car with cast offs yesterday and donated them, so no looking back. We also watched a few episodes of the Netflix series “Tidying Up” with Marie Kondo. She inspired me to keep at it until the job was finished. Here is a “before” photo, except that I had already done shoes…

Marie Kondo advises only keeping those things that bring you joy. Brenda Kinsel, in her blog, recommends asking yourself, “Is this still me, or have I moved on?” I asked myself, “Do I feel great in this?” Here are my piles at the end of day one:

I know, doesn’t look like much – yet

Day 2 was easier and decisions came more quickly. We finished going through all but my handbags, which we completed on day 3. Here are some “after” photos:

All my shoes, with the exception of boots, fit on my shelves now. The big basket on the floor used to be full of shoes – it now contains one pair of flip flops and one pair of trainers. There were several shopping bags of knitting projects on the top shelf, so I ended up going through all my knitting. Each project is now in its own box up there. The shelves between clothes racks have empty spaces and clothes aren’t crammed in. The closet feels more spacious and it’s easier to see what I have. I’d like to pare down even more, as I figure out what I like to wear day in and day out, so plan to do this twice a year with the change of seasons.

Now I need to figure out my approach to step 2: planning a coordinated wardrobe. Do I want to try a capsule wardrobe or would it be too limiting? I’ll be reading The Curated Closet to see what wisdom I find there. Readers, let me know what wardrobe-planning tools have worked for you. Whatever I do, I know I want to incorporate quality, sustainability and slow fashion principles. I’ll let you know what direction I go in my next post.


December 4, 2018

Last month I was in Seattle doing some shopping with my son. Walking by J. Crew, we decided to pop in for a quick look. After all, everything was 30% off. I spotted a floral t-shirt in my favorite shade of blue so, without much thought, I bought it. Back home in Portland, I pulled another J. Crew t-shirt, purchased earlier this year, out of a load of delicate wash and hung it to dry. When I went to fold and put it away, I discovered the front had multiple tiny holes in it. I had worn it maybe a dozen times since purchase and the fabric was already disintegrating. I returned my new floral t-shirt and vowed to sew all my t-shirts in the future.

Coincidently, I found a used copy of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion about this time. This book has been on my radar for several years; the time for reading it seemed right, given my experience at J. Crew. What I learned has changed the way I shop for clothes and fabric, filled me with gratitude for my sewing skills, and sent me on a quest for quality in my closet.

What is quality?

Most of us don’t know the answer because we haven’t experienced garments made of quality fabrics and techniques. Very few quality garments are produced any more. We simply couldn’t afford quality garments if we could find them, and for good reason. Those garments are made of the finest fabrics, in factories that pay a living wage or better and have finishing details requiring hand sewing and hours of labor.

When it comes to quality, the best fabrics were milled in England and Italy (still are) and many fine cottons were milled here in the south. Synthetic fibers were rare. Men and women used to buy fewer clothes, but the best they could afford. They knew about fiber content and could feel the difference between quality and inferior cloth. If you have been fortunate to handle Liberty cotton, you could surely feel the difference between this fine fabric and inferior cottons.

Finished garments of quality deserve a closer look. Inside you will find French or Hong Kong seam finishes, linings in jackets, skirts and pants, blind hems, covered snaps, etc. Outside you will find design details like tucks, pleats, matched plaids, covered belts, ribbon, lace, soutache braid or other trims - details that are too costly in today’s fashion market.

Why did quality disappear?

The simple answer is fast fashion. The rise of fast fashion seems to have started with the social upheaval of the 60’s. Rebellious youth weren’t interested in the fashion dictates of seasonal fashion collections. At the same time, sportswear became popular with its offerings of lower cost separates. People moved away from making their own clothes in favor of buying cheaper clothing. Consumers began losing their knowledge of quality construction and materials. Fast fashion retailing broke away from seasonal selling to meet constant demand for new styles. As most of us know, clothing manufacturing moved off shore to meet the demand for lower prices. To keep prices lower, fabrics have become thinner, more synthetic fibers are used and quality control is almost non-existent. Oversight takes time and slows down the fast fashion cycle.

The true cost of fast fashion.

I can’t write on this topic without touching on the human and environmental costs of fast fashion. Undeniably, the clothing industry is labor intense; typically, 20-40% of a garment’s cost is labor. It’s no wonder cheap labor has driven garment production overseas, causing staggering job loss in the U.S. News accounts have highlighted deadly fires in overseas factories where workers are rarely paid a living wage and work inhumane hours in toxic environments.

The environmental costs are not only unhealthy, but unsustainable. The EPA estimates Americans throw away at least 12.7 million tons (68 lbs. per person) of textiles each year. At one time 3rdworld countries were happy to receive our cast-offs. As clothing has become cheaper, they can now afford new clothing. Some of our discarded clothing can be recycled, but about half of our wardrobes are now made of polyester, which is recycled plastic. Landfills cannot continue to absorb our textile waste. The microscopic polymers found in synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon and lycra are released into our lakes, rivers and oceans whenever we do laundry. The toxic chemicals and dyes used in producing these fabrics are polluting soil and water unchecked in manufacturing countries where there is no awareness or money for clean-up.

Sew what can we do?

Those of us who sew are the lucky ones. We have choices not available to everyone and our choices can effect positive change in the clothing industry. We can make and wear better quality clothing than we can find or afford in stores. By choosing to sew with natural fibers, organic textiles, or otherwise high-quality fabrics, our clothing can be nourishing. We can create demand for ethically produced, quality textiles by educating ourselves about fibers and where they are milled and purchasing the best we can afford. There is a greater cost to quality, but we can choose to own less. With our knowledge, we can look for quality garments to refashion and recycle. We can mend, repair and extend the life of our quality garments, shoes and bags. We can educate our children to appreciate quality, understand the costs of fast fashion and to be content with less.

We are fortunate to have a variety of independent fabric stores in the Portland area, each offering a selection of quality fabrics:

· Josephine’s Dry Goods

· Bolt

· Modern Domestic

· Mill End

· Pendleton Woolen Mills

I encourage you to get to know them and their offerings.


Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth L. Cline

Laundry, Vol. 01, a UK publication available at Barnes and Noble

“A good fabric should feel good next to your skin, wear and wash well over time, and have a certain texture and beauty that becomes recognizable once you start to look for it.”

— Elizabeth L. Cline


September 17, 2018

In this final post from my spring travels to Europe, I’d thought I would share some of my favorite resources for wardrobe planning, packing, and a few more miscellaneous resources from my Paris and London travels.

The two most helpful blogs, when it came to my travel wardrobe planning, were these:

Brenda Kinsel. Brenda is a wardrobe consultant in California, one who writes from the heart and knows fashion. I use her travel checklists (under the “Resource” tab) for all my travel now. Once I’ve filled out the wardrobe plan chart, I follow her advice to make a copy and keep it in my carry on. This way, if my luggage is lost or stolen, I have a complete list for insurance claims – very handy!

Une Femme d’un Certain Âge. Susan travels often and provides capsule wardrobe ideas with links to the garments for purchase, luggage reviews, and shopping info for cities she visits, especially Paris.

London Resources:

40 Quick London Travel Tips

Dining Favorites


· Monocle Café

· Scandi Kitchen

· Quo Vadis


· Sefridges

· Jianhui London (jewelry)

· Oxford and Regent Streets

· Marleybone neighborhood – Noriem, Tracy Neul, Oska

· Gift shop at the Victoria and Albert Museum

· VV Rouleau

· Joel and Sons

VV Rouleau: ribbon, trims, hat making supplies

Paris Resources:

The Essential Paris Travel Guide

How to Spend Five Days in Paris

How to See Paris in Three Days

Dining Favorites

Our best dining finds came from David Liebovitz, an ex-pat food writer and former. Alice Waters protégé living in Paris.

· Le Relais d’Entrecote

· Breizh Café

· Poilâne Comptoir

· Ellsworth

· Ladurée on the Champs Elysée


Oh, my, it’s hard to know where to start on this subject!

· Trippen shoes in the Marais

· Arche shoes in St. Germain-des-Prés

· Opticiens du Bac if you are looking for fabulous eyeglass frames and great customer service

· Noriem

· Petite Bateau for traditional Breton tees

· Rue Saint-Honoré

Ellsworth – our favorite Paris restaurant

“The best journeys answer questions in the
beginning you didn’t even think
to ask.”

— Jeff Johnson

Travel Notes from a Fashion Lover, Part IV

August 24, 2018


I joined my husband in London for a second time in June. We spent a few days exploring the museums again, then headed to Bath for five days, including our wedding anniversary. Besides being home to the famed Roman baths, this city was full of good food and some amazing museums, including The Fashion Museum. From the outside, it looked small and I wasn’t expecting much. Well, what a mistaken impression! The museum houses an impressive collection of 100 historical garments spanning the period from the 1600’s to present day. It is housed in a beautiful, Georgian building and well worth a visit. Here are some images from this ongoing collection of 100 garments:

There were two special exhibits at the time of my visit. The first was Royal Women, a collection of clothing worn by Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Alexandra and Princess Margaret demonstrating their influence on fashion. Here are a few of my favorite garments:

Queen Mary

Queen Elizabeth

Princess Margaret

Queen Elizabeth

The second special collection was titled Dress of the Year 2017. According to Wikipedia, “The Dress of the Year is an annual fashion award run by the Fashion Museum, Bath from 1963. Each year since 1963, the Museum has asked a fashion journalist to select a dress or outfit that best represents the most important new ideas in contemporary fashion.” The collection included previous winners, as well as the 2017 winner from Dior. These were some of my favorites from the entire collection!

Dress of the Year 2011, by Sarah Burton for the House of McQueen

Dress of the Year 2012, by Raf Simon, House of Dior

Dress of the Year 2016 by JW Anderson for Loewe, with its menswear counterpart

Dress of the Year 2017 is an ensemble from Dior’s Spring-Summer 2017 collection. It showcases the white cotton “We Should All Be Feminists” print T-shirt. The T-shirt is worn with a black wool jacket and black tulle skirt with black knitted underwear.

I spent several hours at this museum, without realizing how fast the time was passing. For more information on the museum or these exhibits, here is their website:

Travel Notes from a Fashion Lover, PART III

August 9, 2018

London Shopping

As you can imagine, there is plenty of great shopping in London! I am going to introduce you to two of my personal favorites, Joel & Son Fabrics and Selfridges Department store.

Joel & Sons Fabrics got its start in 1940’s post-war London as a market stall selling surplus parachutes cut into pieces. The business eventually grew to several market stalls, then finally opened at its current location on Church Street in 1979. It is now one of the leading fabric retailers in the world. You know you are in for a treat as you pass its windows on the way to the main entrance.

Inside you are greeted by floor to ceiling luxury fabrics from around the world. I had no idea where to begin shopping!

Elegant seating is provided for non-shoppers…

I have never seen a larger collection of print silks…

The staff was so helpful, swatches are available, and they will ship your purchases to your home! I opted to purchase another suitcase at the Church Street Market. For online shopping, you will find their website here:
Selfridges is a department store like no other! It is full of luxury goods, beautiful displays, etc., but what really sets it apart are the employees. I could personally not afford to purchase much of anything there, but the staff are friendly, never pressure you to buy, and allow you to wander and look without feeling “supervised”. They were also very gracious about allowing me to take photos, so let me treat you to some of my favorite fashions.

Jackets were front and center this season…

Sheer fabrics were popular, as they were in Paris…(check out the Tyvek facing on the jacket on the right below)

There were plenty of raw edge denim designs – my personal favorites were by Japanese designer Sacai…

The Selfridges window designs are pretty spectacular, too…

Some of you may have seen the fictional BBC series about Selfridges, but there is also a wonderful documentary about the founder and history of the store with footage from its construction interspersed with scenes of shoppers in the store today. The history is fascinating and the program can be found here:

To see their offerings online, go here:

Travel Notes from a Fashion Lover, Part II

July 27, 2018

I found myself in London at a time when both the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Design Museum were hosting special, and diverse, fashion exhibits.

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Fashioned from Nature exhibit celebrates all the ways nature has inspired fashion from embroidered motifs to fantastical imagery on fabric. However, the exhibit also explores the impact of the fashion industry on nature and our planet as a whole. Fashioned from Nature challenges us, the consumers, to be more thoughtful about our own choices when it comes to clothing and fashion.

The garments in this exhibit span a 400-year period, so there was an enormous number of them. I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

Beautiful embroidery on silk

Print chiffon – Zandra Rhodes

Vivienne Westwood

Beaded Leopard Skin

Vivienne Westwood – early 70’s British designer influenced by punk.

The Leopard skin portion of the gown on the right is crafted entirely out of beads and took over 1000 hours to make!

Unisex Suit

Unique Fabric

The grid pattern of this unisex suit represents an aerial view of hedgerows with tufts of sheep’s wool caught in the hedges.

The fabric in the photo on the right combines an 18thc. European landscape with a contemporary photo of Puerto Rico!

Honest By

The Honest By company is the first in the garment industry to provide 100% transparency by publishing the full details of each garment – its suppliers, manufacturers and time and cost of each garment.

Alessandro Michele for Gucci 2017

Shoes inspired by Ito Jakuchu

The shoe above are from Masaya Kushino, a one of a kind pair, inspired by Japanese artist Ito Jakuchu’s bird paintings. Claw heels sculpted by Atsushi Nakamura.

I was inspired to learn more about fashion history and sustainability by this exhibit. If you would like to learn more about the exhibit, or see more of the garments, here are some resources:

The Design Museum’s Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier is the first solo exhibition of Monsieur Alaïa’s work in the UK. Azzedine Alaïa was born to Tunisian wheat farmers in 1935. He became interested in art and design at a young age, eventually moving to Paris where he went to work for the house of Dior. Always an industry outsider, showing only when ready, he introduced his first collection in the late 70’s. He went on to discover the famous model, Naomi Campbell, and made garments for Grace Jones, Lady Gaga, Tina Turner, Scarlett Johansson and Michelle Obama.

The garments in this exhibit reflect his exploration of shape and volume, as well as his favorite color, black. He was an interesting man, one who made lifelong friends, loved to entertain in his Paris apartment, and sadly, passed away in November 2017 while collaborating on this exhibit. His garments were breathtaking, as you can see…

“My obsession is to make women beautiful. When you create with that in mind, things can’t go out of fashion.”

— Azzedine Alaïa

More information about Azzedine Alaïa can be found on these websites:

Travel Notes from a Fashion Lover, Part 1

July 12, 2018

I have been traveling a lot these past two months. I am fortunate to have a husband who travels to London on business every 6-8 weeks, so I finally tagged along in both May and June. I have a lot to share, from fashion observations to multiple fashion related museum exhibits, both from Paris, London and Bath, so hang in there readers! Over the course of the next few weeks, here’s what I will be sharing with you:

Pt. 1 – Paris and London fashion observations/comparisons

Pt. 2 – London fashion exhibits at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Design Museum

Pt. 3 – London Shopping

Pt. 4 – Bath Fashion Museum

Pt. 5 – Resources, including travel blogs, fashion documentaries and sewing related shopping in Paris & London

Ready? Let’s go to Paris…

We decided to preface my husband’s work week in London with a vacation week in Paris. This was our second trip to Paris and very different than the first one, 15 years ago, with our 10 year old daughter along. Her priority was a trip to Euro Disney and there was a lot of grumbling over the leisurely meals.

On this visit, we checked into Hôtel La Perle, a lovely boutique hotel in the Saint Germain des Prés quarter of Paris. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the Tilton sisters (Marcy and Katherine, Vogue pattern designers) were in our same hotel for the week with their Paris tour group! I enjoyed seeing what these fashionable women were wearing each morning at breakfast, especially the garments they had made themselves.

Paris is a very compact city, making exploration on foot easy and our preferred mode of transportation for window shopping and street style observations in between garden gazing, museum going, and sipping wine at sidewalk cafes. It’s hard to get good photos through windows (most shops frown on photos inside), with all the reflections, but here are some of my favorite window fashions:

Keeping in mind the temperatures were in the high 60’s, low 70’s while we there, here are my notes on fashion trends from what I saw in boutique windows and on the street:

§- Dresses in pretty florals or sheers

§- Platform tennis shoes in metallic or with a lot of “bling”

§- Raw edge or high waist jeans worn with crop tops or silk blouses, often with big ruffles

§- Midi length full skirts, in sheer or silk fabrics, worn with loafers and a jacket and always a scarf

§- Embroidered fabrics

§- Ankle length pants in bright colors, especially red and cobalt blue, worn with heels or ballet flats

§- The Chanel style jacket is alive and well, worn by women of all ages

§- Architectural and oversized garments

§- Dusters are big this spring

Overall, Parisian women are dressing more casual than I remember from my previous visit, although they are never “sloppy”. They still put thought and care into the way they dress. I did not take any jeans with me on this trip and enjoyed dressing up a bit more than I do here in Portland. I found I felt really good about myself when I had taken some time to pull together a nice outfit. We are lucky here in Portland, in that “anything goes” when it comes to fashion. For me personally, I intend to “up my game” a bit after this trip!

Tried & True Patterns Part II

April 13, 2018

With spring in the air, we’ve been busy getting new spring and summer fabrics in stock, priced and ready for your shopping pleasure! This is also a great time to feature Bini’s tried and true favorites, as they are perfect spring and summer casual basics to add to your wardrobe.


Playful and fun, Bini’s favorite patterns are easy to wear and provide a canvas for the variety of fabrics Josephine’s has to offer. She loves to combine prints, dive into her stash, and make use of a one yard piece of Libery of London cotton whenever she can.

This first tried and true pattern is a self-drafted tank top with bias binding. It requires just one yard of fabric in size small. Ask Bini about tracing this pattern to try for yourself! Come see more samples in the shop.

Some favorites from Bini's Tank Top Class! Making a year round favorite is a fun way to jump into Spring sewing!!

A Liberty of London and lace combo for one of Bini’s signature tank tops.

Another staple in Bini’s wardrobe is the Burnside Bib pattern from Sewhouse Seven. This is a pattern that can be made from many different fabrics to suit the season. She has made versions in wool, cotton and linen. The pair pictured below right is made in a charcoal gray wool.

Bini is so fond of this pattern that she made a pair in linen for her sister-in-law and co-owner, Dana!

The Burnside Bib and other Sewhouse Seven patterns are available at Josephine’s.

If you are in the Portland area, please stop in and share your own tried and true patterns!

Tried and True Patterns, Part I

January 20, 2018

I am not a speedy seamstress. I wish I was, but I’m too meticulous and, thankfully, I enjoy the process. Once in a while, though, I need something fast, made with a pattern I’ve already altered and with familiar construction. That’s where our “tried and true” or “TNT” patterns come to our rescue. They are familiar, but with a change in fabric, sleeve, pocket, or length, we can make them look new again without starting all over from a different pattern.

Each of us here at Josephine's has our own style and favorite TNT patterns. We’re going to let you peek into our closets to see some of our favorite TNT patterns and the garments made from them.


I’m a fan of simple shapes, as you can see from my TNT garments pictured below.

The first of my favorites is the Scout Tee from Grainline Studio. As you can see, I’ve made a sleeveless version in rayon (fabric from Josephine’s), one in linen (Fabric Depot) and a sheer version in embroidered organza (Emma One Sock).

My second TNT is the Esme Tunic from the book, Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style. My black and white check version was made with fabric from my stash and followed her pattern as written. My second one, however, was made with some changes. I replaced the neck facing and sleeve hems with velveteen bias binding. I also drafted a new pocket to show off the velveteen lining.

Designer Kayla Kennington is the source of my last TNT, Vogue 9188. This pattern challenged me to learn to sew bias garments. One is made of a rayon (Mill End Store) and the other is a cotton/linen blend from my stash.


Judith’s tried and true patterns allow her to play with interesting fabric combinations and couture details.

Her three blouses made from Butterick 5684 (out of print), by designer Jane Tise, showcase the different sleeve and front placket options, as well as Judith’s masterful fabric combos. The sleeveless one, as well as one of the long-sleeved versions, combine silk and Liberty of London cotton prints from Josephine’s.

A vintage Vogue western shirt pattern, Vogue 8976 (out of print), is Judith’s second TNT favorite. She made each version unique with designer details like Liberty of London contrast piping and the embroidered design at each end of the pockets on the luxurious cream colored Viyella version.

Coming up in my next post…Bini and Dana’s tried and true patterns, so stay tuned!

Josephine’s Dry Goods is hosting a

“Sew Social”

and you’re invited!

Meet other women who love to sew, be the first to see our new spring fabrics, and enjoy some refreshments.

Date: Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

Time: 6-8 p.m.

Location: 2609 SE Clinton St. Portland, OR