Come to our 5th Anniversary and book launch party!

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We’re having a party!

Portland friends (or those elsewhere in the PNW):

Alyson and I are throwing a big party to celebrate both Colette Patterns’ 5th anniversary, and the launch of the new knits book! Come hang out!

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(Photos from some of our previous parties: first book launch, boston, new york, and portland)

Meet & Greet at Modern Domestic

The fun starts Saturday, May 31 from 5-7PM at Modern Domestic on Alberta.

The lovely ladies of MoDo will have sweets and wine, and we’ll be schmoozing and talking fabric. Meet the lovely Alyson, bring your books for her to sign, and and get our fabric recommendations from the lovely selection of knits.

Meet & Greet
Modern Domestic
1408 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR
5-7PM

After party at Radio Room

At 7PM, we’ll head just 3 blocks away to Radio Room for more socializing, a sewing-themed cocktail menu, and lots of fun photo ops.

After Party
Radio Room
Upstairs patio
21+
1101 NE Alberta St (just 3 blocks away!)
7PM

Wear your Mabel or Moneta (bonus: it’s an instant conversation starter).

If you’re planning to come, RSVP here so we can get a general headcount:



   
   
   

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Why polyester isn’t always the wrong choice (plus, some really awesome underwear)

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Recently, I received some adorable new underwear courtesy of the lovely folks over at Dear Kate. And these undies kind of blew my mind.

What’s so interesting about Dear Kate underwear (other than the fact that they’re pretty damn cute)? Allow me to talk about monthly lady times for a moment.

You see, these are designed specifically to be worn during your period and contain a special liner to draw fluids away from your body and repel stains.

Now, I’m a lover of nice underthings. But I also have a lot of b-listers (and c-listers, honestly) hiding in the back that I wear during that time of the month. They are ugly. They are stretched out, faded, and frankly sort of pathetic. I don’t feel great when I wear them, but I always considered it a necessary precaution, especially during the first couple of days.

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Having actual nice, pretty underwear that I don’t have to worry about ruining has totally changed my outlook when I get dressed. I had one less reason to feel miserable and gross. I particularly like the new Vera hipster they recently released (I have the orchid color), and want to buy a couple more.

Aside from the great concept and pretty designs, there’s one other thing that interested me about these. It’s such an innovative use of technical fabric, namely polyester.

Dear Kate was developed by Julie, whose background is in chemical engineering. She realized that so may women deal with the problems of heavy periods and overflow, and that new technology in textiles could help.

Julie did the R&D sewing herself, and is still the fit model for the brand. They’re also still manufactured in the US. I love stories like this: a woman sees a problem and how she can address it, and builds her company from there.

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This is Julie sewing in the very beginning of the company.

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This is Li Ping, one of the sewing operators who currently makes the garments in New York.

So why did Julie choose polyester to make her super absorbent gussets? Isn’t polyester just that cheap synthetic from the 70s? Isn’t it always horribly unbreathable?

For the answer to that, let’s first look at what makes a fabric breathable.

From fiber purist to poly stretch pants

Before I became a runner, I was a fiber purist. I only ever wanted to wear natural fibers and believed them to be objectively superior to anything synthetic.

In day-to-day life, I still wear natural fibers almost exclusively (perhaps with the occasional synthetic blended in, like spandex in pants, or nylon in socks). Generally, natural fibers are more breathable and feel great against the skin.

But when I began running longer distances, cotton no longer cut it. In the winter, I’d have to wear many layers of clothing when I headed out. After running for a while, my cotton leggings and t-shirts would become wet with perspiration, which is dangerous in very cold conditions. In extreme cases, it can lead to hypothermia.

In the summer, I’d sweat even more, and the moisture and salt would rub and grate against my skin, causing chafing. Let me tell you, there are few things less pleasant than being rubbed raw when you are on mile 17 on a hot day. So much pain coming at you at once.

So I began buying workout clothing in moisture wicking fabrics. I noticed that these fabrics were usually entirely synthetic, and I was confused. Aren’t synthetics supposed to be less breathable than natural fibers?

Are natural fibers really more breathable?

It’s true. In general, natural fibers are more breathable.

What does “breathable” really mean, though?

In essence, breathability refers to a fabric’s ability to maintain the equilibrium between the moisture contained in the fabric itself and the air around it. Fabrics that are constantly absorbing moisture and releasing moisture are more breathable than fabrics that don’t.

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In practice, what this means is that when there is moisture released from your skin, it doesn’t become trapped in the air between your skin and the fabric.

Take linen, for example. This fiber has been used for centuries in hot climates to keep people cool in even extreme temperatures.

Wool is also very effective at maintaining that equilibrium, especially in thin layers. That’s why merino wool socks can keep your feet cool and dry, even in warm conditions (weird, huh?). Wool is a great all-weather fiber.

Cotton can also be very cool, especially when worn in very thin layers. Cotton is also quite good at absorbing moisture. You probably wear a lot of cotton in the summer for this reason.

Contrast this with a synthetic fiber like polyester. Everyday polyester doesn’t breathe in the same way, leaving heat and dampness trapped on your skin. Yuck.

Cotton will absorb about 7% of moisture, but polyester only about 0.4%. That’s a huge difference. When you buy a cheap polyester dress at Forever 21 and wear it in the heat of summer, you’ll feel that.

So why synthetics?

If all this is true, why choose synthetic fibers at all when moisture is a concern?

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Put simply, not all synthetic fabrics are the same, even when they’re made out of the same fiber. Polyester fabrics are not all created equally.

Yes, natural fibers are breathable and lovely in everyday life. But where they are less successful is dealing with very high levels of moisture.

Natural fibers tend to absorb a lot of the fluid, holding onto it instead of releasing it all back into the outside air, away from the body. If you’re sweating a lot (or have a heavy period), the fabric becomes saturated. Not good in either of those situations.

This is where technology steps in, and why moisture-wicking fabrics are often referred to as a category of “technical fabrics.”

These wicking fabrics are made from blends of polyester. Remember what I said above about polyester only holding about 0.4% of moisture? In cheap polyester fabrics, this is very bad for staying dry.

But wicking polyester is woven differently. The weave is extremely permeable, meaning that moisture can pass through easily. The weave is designed so that the bits of moisture are pulled into the small holes in the weave and towards the outside of the fabric, where they can evaporate. Sometimes, additional chemical treatments assist this process (though not always).

So back to the panties.

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Because they’re made with wicking fabric, moisture is pulled away from your body, and into the absorbent, thin lining within. They are extremely comfortable and, yes, breathable!

So next time you’re looking at a content tag and think about turning up your nose at polyester, consider whether it’s your everyday polyester or one of these modern fabrics. While you may still prefer natural fibers in everyday clothing (I do), when you have special concerns about moisture, technical fabrics might be the way to go.

It’s science!

PS: You can buy Dear Kate panties over here. They sent me some undies to check out, but they did not pay for this post or anything. I really love what they’re doing with these innovative fabrics!

Now hiring: Sewalong writer and instructor

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The time has come to get a little more help with creating and writing our sewalongs. Are you a skilled sewist who wants to help us design, write, photograph, and teach our sewalongs at sewalongs.com?

Part of our goal here is to provide the most detailed and insanely helpful sewing instruction we can. Our sewalongs are a big part of that, which is why we’re looking to expand them. But we need more help to do it!

If you too are passionate about sewing and care deeply about the sewing community, if you love writing and thinking about sewing, if you are eager to teach your skills to others, consider pitching in with us!

For more information on what the position entails and how to apply, visit our jobs page.

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What skills have you avoided (for no good reason)?

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I used to avoid sewing knits. I didn’t have a great reason for this, other than that I was more comfortable with woven fabrics and knew more about how to work with them. They just seemed more versatile.

What changed my mind was discovering that I could whip up a dress in three hours. Or a skirt in one. And then I’d wear the hell out of them because they were so comfortable.

What kind of sorcery was this? Where had knits been all my life? Why had I written them off for so long?

The answer wasn’t that I was scared of them. The reason is that I’d told myself that knits “weren’t for me.”

I had no good reason for this. It’s just something that I had convinced myself of, and the longer I believed it, the more I stuck to my story.

This was a weird realization for me, because I love learning new things. I am not the type to wring my hands about my perceived abilities instead of just trying something out. For me, learning and growing is what makes sewing such a joy and I’ve learned to take failures in stride.

But still, we all have blindspots about what we can do, or even what we want to do.

We all draw these imaginary lines in the sand around certain skills. I’ve seen honts of it here on the blog, in your comments.

Sometimes these lines make a lot of sense. Maybe you prefer to buy fancy underwear because it feels more luxurious. Maybe you have no interest in working with little seams and small pieces. Maybe you’d just rather spend your time on sewing coats. Those reasons and feeling are totally valid.

But other times, we tell ourselves that we’re not interested in learning something because it just seems too big or overwhelming. Maybe we’re afraid of sucking at it for a while, which we inevitably will. But instead of admitting that, we just tell a little story to ourselves about how we really don’t want to learn about it.

Personally, I think we lie to ourselves a lot about what we can and can’t do.

What’s something (sewing related or not) that you have put into your mental “I don’t care enough” box? Are there any that you suspect are there for different reasons?

Weekend Reading: Fashion revolution, me made may, and inside a couture collection

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We had an amazing anniversary this week. Not only did we get so many thoughtful, kind comments from all of you here on the blog, facebook, twitter, and instagram, but we got a surprise cake sent over from the lovely Lisa over at Sweetpea Baking! So incredibly sweet (both the gesture and, of course, the delicious cake).

I’m hoping to do some sewing this weekend while the sun is hiding. Here’s some reading for your weekend pleasure:

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