Blogs: Do it yourself (DIY)

Feel like moving some paint?  Want to splatter some alcohol inks?

One of my current obsessions is learning how to do mixed media visual art.  To get started I looked at books by Seth Apter. I took classes at the local mixed media center: Collage and with Serena Barton and Chris Cozen.  I also like to follow the blogs of Pam Garrison and Mary Anne Moss for learning mixed media tips and tricks.  

To continue learning I started a mixed media club with a couple of friends. We meet monthly. We share and try new products.  Basically, we cheer each other on!  I have found the best mixed media foundation recipe from the Jenny Doh’s magazine Somerset Studio. Don’t be fooled by the lack of a cover image in our catalog - this magazine is visually stunning. Most importantly I am having fun and I wanted to share some of these resources so you can have fun too!

Self portrait paintingBefore I became a parent, I was a painter. When my son was born, I imagined a mini easel propped up next to mine, where we would paint together. If anybody has actually made this work for longer than three minutes, I’d love to hear about it. I will also suspect you are lying through your teeth.Book Jacket: One Painting a Day by Timothy Callaghan

Now that my son is more self-sufficient, I think I’ve simply stalled out and I need an assignment to help jump start my art.  I already went back to art school in my thirties, so this time I'm taking a different and less costly approach.  My first course is One Painting a Day by Timothy Callaghan. The 42 exercises in this book center around painting ordinary things, but the examples from contributing artists are far from mundane. There is no muse more accessible than your every day surroundings and I am already looking ahead to day 11: Paint a storage still life.

Next quarter, I'm considering How to be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith.  I bought this book for my (then) 12-year-old niece with the intention of hanging on to it until she was a little older. In theBook Jacket: How to Be An Explorer of the World by Keri Smith end, I gave it to her anyway because I’m disorganized and found myself otherwise empty-handed on her birthday. It turned out not to matter that Exploration #26: Becoming Leonard Cohen, didn’t strike a familiar chord. Her interpretations of Exploration #9: Case of Curiosities and #34 Interesting Garbage, completely blew me away.

I hope to graduate this time, with a renewed and regular art habit. Feel free to join me. Admission is open year-round and you only need to dust off your art supplies and pull out your library card to get started with your first assigment!

Flowers are very important to me. I put up a couple vases at a time in our house. One has to be on the dining room table and another on the fireplace mantle. And if I am really flower rich, I will put a couple vases in the bathroom or bedroom. I am usually flower rich when flowers are blooming in our garden. In the dead of winter I splurge for flowers on payday.
I mark certain times of years by which flowers are in bloom. February is all about hellebore and daphne. Because it can be dark and gloomy in Portland in the winter, seeing these plants in bloom means the sun is coming with spring on its heels.
So when I found the book The Flower Shop by Sally Page I was thrilled! The Flower Shop is one year in the life of a flower shop in a village in England. Each chapter is about a month of the year. Every month is marked with holidays that are celebrated with flowers. Birthdays, parties and weddings are celebrated throughout the book. Pictures and tips for flower care weave their way through the pages. If you are looking for something touching and colorful, this is the book for you. 

Big Tiny bookjacketI am fascinated by people who go against societal convention to do something 'crazy' - swim across an ocean, bike across a country or live on food grown within 100 miles of their house. In The Big Tiny, Dee Williams tells the story of her decision to sell her house and pare down her possession to the bare minimum in order to move into a tiny house of her own making. The impetus was an alarming diagnosis for a relatively young woman - congestive heart failure.

Determined to make her precious time count she decides to do this bold thing and discovers that letting go of stuff is hard -- after all, the things we surround ourselves with define us somehow, don't they? I enjoyed Dee Williams voice, her humor, humility and her quirky way of looking at the world.  (As I read, I was picturing her as the comedian Tig Notaro, and as it turns out they kind of look alike, as evidenced in this Ted Talk!) I felt privileged to go on this journey with her. She seems like just the sort of person you'd want to have living in a tiny house in your back yard.


Cover image: Growing up sew liberated by Meg McElweeOne day a young boy around the age of four, marched into the library dressed in the most adorable vintage sailor suit, paired with very Pacific Northwest Photo of little red riding hood cloakpractical and fashion forward leg warmers.  As he came up to the desk with his books I said, "I love your outfit!"  His reply? "This is not an outfit. These are just regular clothes."
That kid had it completely right. Some days you're a hulk-princess-mermaid and other days, you just want to wear head to toe brown. It's not a big to-do, just regular clothes because that's what the day calls for.
When I saw the hooded cape in Growing Up Sew Liberated: Handmade Clothes & Projects for your Creative Child by popular blogger Meg McElwee, I knew I had to make it.  Superhero capes were a big hit at my house when my son was younger, but they haven't been Photo of child in brown hooded play capegetting much use lately.  Add a hood and a little imagination however, and the possibilities open up to endless.
As with most all of McElwee's patterns, this one is crazy simple, even for the novice or impatient sewer.  Thus far I've sewn a little red riding hood cape for my niece, to gift along with a copy of the Grimm classic fairytale and a solid brown one for my son, which does double duty as either a Jedi or Robin Hood cloak.  I see a Harry Potter invisibility cloak on the horizon, just as soon as I find the right fabric. No big thing. Just regular clothes.

ICool Tools bookjacket’ve never really read more than an issue or two of Wired  magazine, only because I knew if I did follow the periodical on a regular basis, I would further more be a slave to technology than is humanly necessary. That said, for a few years now I have been a loyal follower of the “Cool Tools” blog curated by Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired. The blog proved so popular and full of, well, cool tools, that Kelly collated the best of the best into one gigantic catalog-reference guide of the same name. Over 450 pages of a seductive hybrid, melding your grandmother’s clockwork Sears catalog and the bottomless carpetbag of an exceptional, twinkle-eyed gadget clown. Initially, I checked it out from the library (of course), but after a day or two of barely exploring one-third of the tome, I knew I had to purchase my own personal copy. 

The “title” page reads thus: “A cool tool is...anything useful that increases learning, empowers individuals, does work that matters, is either the best or the cheapest or the only thing that works.” The inside and back covers are divided and indexed into 31 separate topics such as Craft, Dwelling, Edibles, Big Systems, Mobile Living, Storytelling, Aurality, Science Process, and Somatics. Sold yet? Ok, there is also another index by the specific  name of the tool and QR codes in each and every entry to link you straight to the web, usually the manufacturer’s specific site or Amazon. The back cover alone also gives you options: Raise backyard chickens, Erect an igloo, Publish an ebook, or Design your own fabric. Kelly and his team inform you in the first seven pages that all entries and/or links are as updated as possible, provide a FAQ, a How To Use This Book primer, and a handy supportive entry of a book on de-cluttering your life. Sounds counter-productive, right? Not really. Think of it as a non-threatening “abandon hope all ye who enter here.” Kelly plays the wide-eyed Tools R’ Us Virgil to your drooling Dante. 

This seems like a sales pitch, I know. As if I’m the underground marketing intern for Kelly’s company; but the title is self-published and most of the profits go right back into the people and materials that shaped the book in the first place. The best part is that you can spend hours slowly thumbing through it and not even think of purchasing anything.  Opening it randomly now, this is what I find: Three Jaw Brace, Virtual Piano, Silicone Pinch Bowls, and Etymotic Research Earplugs. If you put this title on hold down at your local library, make sure you bring a big bag as this book is like a yoga mat for cats.  Your brain, your budget, and your exposure to stuff that’s actually productive, however, will most certainly need their own personal Corpse pose.  Enjoy. 

book and e-bookYou’ve written something, and it’s time to publish! Self-publishing isn’t what it used to be - expensive, and often ignored by booksellers. Now you can bring your writing into physical form relatively cheaply, and it can be as glossy and perfect-bound as you like, or if you prefer, hand-stitched and hand-painted. With print-on-demand (POD) services,  you can have one beautiful book printed for a family member or friend, or you can print many to distribute to bookstores. It can also be an e-book - many authors are finding great success with self-published e-books. The avenues to self-publishing are diverse!

Because there are so many options, you’ll want to inform yourself as best you can. Things to consider include:

  • Do you want your book to have an ISBN?
  • How do you plan to market your book?
  • Who is the intended audience for your book?

Check out our booklist featuring books about self-publishing. Many of the books on this list discuss these questions, among others, that you should consider as you plan your self-publishing project.

What follows are just a few of the many resources available for you to choose from as you consider your self-publishing process.

For print-on-demand (POD) publishing, you can choose from a wide range of printers. Some popular POD printers include LuluBlurbCreateSpace (a division of, Lightning SourceIngram Spark (a division of Ingram, a major book distributor), and Smashwords (which publishes e-books only).

There some local resources that might be relevant to your project, too: 

  • Portland State University’s Ooligan Press is a teaching press staffed by students pursuing master’s degrees in the Department of English at Portland State University (PSU). PSU is also the home of Odin Ink, a print-on-demand publisher.
  • Powell’s Books has print-on-demand self-publishing technology in the form of its Espresso Book Machine.
  • Portland’s Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) is a membership organization with resources and workshops related to printing and book-making. They also have certificate programs in creative nonfiction/fiction, poetry, and comics/graphic novels.

If you’re interested in making contact with a local publisher or association, you might find the following organizations useful:

For advice and news, the Alliance of Independent Authors has an advice blog about self-publishing.

Are you interested in having your e-book available in the library? OverDrive is the service that many libraries, including Multnomah County Library, use to provide access to e-books. Like publishing houses, self-publishers must fill out a Publisher Application found on OverDrive's Content Reserve site. OverDrive has also created a helpful Intro to Digital Distribution pdf for new authors and publishers. OverDrive's public contact info can be found here. If your e-book is added into the OverDrive catalog, you can then suggest that we purchase it.

In your creative work, you may find yourself wondering about copyright law and how it applies to you. We have quite a few books that provide guidance on these subjects - two of these are The Copyright Handbook: What Every Writer Needs to Know by Stephen Fishman and Fair Use, Free Use, and Use by Permission: How to Handle Copyrights in All Media, by Lee Wilson. You’ll find quite a few others under the subject heading Copyright -- United States -- Popular Works.

Have fun, enjoy the process, and feel empowered to get your work into print! As always, please let us know if we can help direct you to books or other resources to help with your project. 



Where do you go once you’ve mastered sewing basic items of clothing and are ready to branch out into more challenging fashions?  

Step one is to make sure you are getting the best out of your sewing machine.  The Sewing Machine Classroom is more than just information about your machineIn the first chapters, Charlene Phillips talks in-depth about needles and thread. Think of it this way -- you can have the best car (sewing machine), but if you use the wrong tires (needles and thread), then the only thing between your car and the road (fabric) won't perform well. And may crash--badly.

Picking out a more advanced pattern can be intimidating, but the website helps you get the scoop on which patterns work and which don’t. The site is a little clunky and cluttered, but there is a wealth of information there. You can create a free profile to access sewing pattern reviews, get reviews of sewing machines, visit forums, find tips and techniques, register for classes and the list goes on. If you need help with anything to do with sewing clothing, you can probably get your answers here.

You might be intimidated by trying a more complicated garment because you are worried it might not fit and you will have spent all that time creating something unwearable.  Check out Fitting & Pattern Alteration by Elizabeth G. Liechty. I’ve found fitting solutions in here I’ve never seen anywhere else.

So now you’ve got it to fit, how do you give your garments that extra special touch?  Try some couture techniques.  Claire Shaeffer has really studied couture garments in depth and has stellar techniques in her book Couture Sewing Techniques, as well as interesting histories of some garments from couture designers. Made a v-neck top that gaps? She’ll tell you how to fix that.  Know all about closures? This will tell you even more.  Claire is also featured on the Couture Allure Vintage Fashion Blog.

If you are making a shirt, take a look at David Page Coffin’s book, Shirtmaking:  Developing Skills for Fine Sewing, and companion DVD, Shirtmaking Techniques, in order to get seriously professional results:  well-turned collars, perfect plackets, and impeccable hems.  I would recommend these techniques even if you aren’t sewing a shirt. They can be applied in other areas of other kinds of garments. For example, I use his instructions for attaching a sleeve cuff to attach waistbands to pants as a way to avoid bumpy corners.

If you’ve gotten to this point, you’re probably ready to try some tailoring. Tailoring, a volume from the Singer Reference Library, goes over classic tailoring techniques, but gives you the option of shortcuts with modern fusible stabilizers, too, making the process a little less daunting. 

Maybe you’re still not sure what you want to sew next. Look for some inspiration in the form of online blogs.  Two standout blogs I regularly visit are Gretchen Hirsch’s blog, Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing and Peter Lappin's Male Pattern Boldness. Gertie sews her own clothes with a vintage flair, and has transformed that into a successful teaching business, a book, and even her own line of patterns.  For every creation, Gerie provides tutorials or photographs of the process.  Peter makes dresses and suits and everything in between.  He also takes photos of his sewing process which are really helpful, and his writing style is a joy to read, even if you don’t sew.

And, lastly, if you’re feeling really adventurous, check out this drool-worthy blog of period costumes at Before the Automobile. Wow!

Rebecca is a library clerk at Belmont who has been sewing since a very young age, but recently realized she was resting on her laurels and needed more of a challenge.


Are you a kid who wants to learn to make your own books?  Are you a grown-up who wants to make books with your kid friend?  Making books isn’t as intimidating as it looks, especially if you’ve got a great how-to book to help you get started!  Here are my favorites:

In Print! by Joe Rhatigan has instructions for 40 different publishing projects for kids -- everything from a make-it-yourself audioboook to instructions for starting a writers’ group or workshop to getting your work published in a magazine.  This book has it all!

Pop-ups and moveable books that fold out or turn into a sculpture when you open them sometimes look complicated, but actually they can be really great projects for a beginner!  Gwen Diehn shows you the basics in Making Books That Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, and Turn.  That’s a long title, but you really know what the book is about now, right?

If you want to go totally D.I.Y. and make a zine -- that’s a book or pamphlet you make and distribute all yourself -- you definitely want to check out Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?, by Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson.  It covers everything: zine history, tools and methods for making your own zine, why you might want to write a zine, photocopier tricks, promoting your zine, and more.

Are you more of an artistic than a literary bent?  Perhaps comics are your thing?  If so, the book for you is definitely Drawing Words & Writing Pictures: Making Comics: Manga, Graphic Novels, and Beyond, by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden.  It’s an everything guide for comics creators, covering basics like layout and lettering and extra credit topics like how to reproduce your comic so you can distribute lots of copies.

Questions? Let us know if we can help you find the how-to book (or any other book) that's just right for you.


The library has a large collection of books about sewing.  Jen Winn, sewing enthusiast and on-call staff person most often at Hollywood, has enhanced the book collection with this list of some of her best sewing picks from the Web. 

Colette Patterns is the work of local sewing and design mastermind Sarai Mitnick.  The Coletterie is the blog arm of Colette Patterns and it's a wonderful resource for garment construction and fabric choice. The patterns are vintage-inspired while still feeling wearable, modern and fresh.  The blog features wonderful photography and so many tips for giving new clothes that vintage touch.  (Subscribe for free to Snippets, their email tip of the week.  Good ideas galore!)  In addition, there's a vibrant forum where a person can find the answer to (or commiseration about) almost any sewing or fitting concern.  PLUS, she's written a fantastic book that we have in the our collection.
Oh, Fransson! is the blog of Elizabeth Hartman, local stitcher and quilt wizard.  She's a modern-style quilter, teacher, and author who writes simple, easy to follow instructions.  Her site has basic quilting tutorials and she also does a lot of quilt-alongs on her blog.  She's written two popular quilting books, both of which are available at the library.
Portland Modern Quilt Guild has a lot of good information and opportunities to meet other quilters of all skill levels on their blog, even if you're not a member.   What is a modern quilt anyway?  Check out this site to see!

If you're looking for information or inspiration from vintage pattern envelopes, Vintage Pattern Wiki is the place to go.  If you've ever bought a grab bag of patterns at an estate slae or thrift store, you know what I'm talking about.  It's not always easy to find details on old patterns, but the Vintage Pattern Wiki is a great place to start.

True Up:  All Fabric All the Time is a blog by Kim Kight, who keeps readers updated with new fabric lines as they come out, notifies about online fabric sales and is a bit of a printed fabric historian as well.  She too is an author and we have her book, A Field Guide to Fabric Design, which has beautiful pictures and salient information if you've ever thought about designing and printing your own fabric.
Wise Craft is the blog of Blair Stocker from Seattle.   She's just completed a series on granny squares, but there's always something new around the bend.  Lots of ideas for re-use (she has designed holiday craft projects for Value Village, among other things), but she also talks about home decorating, quilting, knitting, painting, collage and so on.  She recently announced that she's working on a book, but it's not out yet. I can't wait to read it!
Crochet Empire is a fairly new local site by Erich Treeby. Crochet designs cover everything from amigurumi to fancy doily rugs and beyond. He's got tutorials, yarn reviews, pattern reviews, and is good at answering questions. 
A Dress a Day is a whole lot of fun!   Erin McKean sews mostly vintage or vintage style and is very upfront with the triumphs and trials of matching plaids or getting your zipper in straight. She's also the founder of wordnik and the author of The Secret Lives of Dresses, (fiction with a little romance, some sadness, familial love, a victory and a lot of vintage dresses).

Contributed by Jen Winn from Hollywood Branch Library.


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