Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Sewing Circle: Jeni from In Color Order

I started the series The Sewing Circle last year, meaning for it to be a regular feature of my blog. I got off track from it a bit but am hoping to revive it now. The idea is simple: I send my favorite sewing bloggers questions through email, they respond and we all get to learn more about the talented people in the online sewing community. You can read past interviews with Anna from Noodlehead and Marigold from Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky!

Jeni, today's interviewee, writes one of my most favorite sewing blogs, In Color Order. Her blog is inspiring, educational and very approachable. Jeni seems like the kind of girl most anyone would want to be friends with -- warm, smart and easygoing. Her blog is positive and encouraging without making you feel like there isn't a real person there behind all the sunshine and rainbows. And her sewing, that speaks for itself. She produces more finished projects than almost any other blogger I read, and everything she makes is so well-constructed and eye-catching. Her sense of color is outstanding, a fact that led her to write an entire series helping sewers and quilters pick the right colors for their projects. She alone inspired my own desire to start a vintage sheet collection, as she has an Etsy shop devoted to them.

With that bit of background, let's get to Jeni, who lives in Wisconsin. You can find her on her blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Flickr, on Pinterest and on Instagram.  Oh, and she has a pattern shop here.

When did you start your blog and what was your original plan for it?
I started my blog just over 3 years ago in February 2009.  However, I started journaling online way back in 2001, so I was no stranger to blogging! When I started my blog I had planned for it to be a blog to document my sewing projects, products I liked, and decor, which has stayed pretty much the same!

How has it changed over the years?
The biggest change in my blog over the years is the amount I post! I'm blogging about a lot of the same topics, but on a regular basis! I've also focused more on tutorials and informational series in the last year or so, which I really have come to enjoy!

If you have one, what's your day job?
This is a tricky question for me! I just graduated with a degree in marketing and studio art this past May and am still trying to find my niche in the world.  For now, I run my etsy shop selling vintage sheets and teach sewing classes part time at The Sewcial Lounge in Madison, WI.

Who taught you to sew?
My Mother taught me the basics of using the sewing machine, helped me with my first few projects and answered my early questions, but I mostly learned from trial and error.  I was never one for reading the directions or asking for a lot of help, I just liked to dive right in and try my strength at things! Sewing was no different!

Do you typically pick fabric first or a project first?
Almost always the fabric first! I joke sometimes that I sew in order to have an excuse to collect fabric.  I draw most of my inspiration from the fabric itself and figure out a design based around the fabric. When I do it the other way around, I tend to struggle about making a final decision.


How do you find time to sew? I'm constantly amazed at the amount you accomplish in a week!
Do you want to know the real secret? I don't have a full-time job, and I don't have any children! This helps a lot! I also don't sleep a whole lot! Believe me, there are weeks I don't feel like I've gotten a lot done. I keep lots of lists and set deadlines for myself, which helps me stay on track.

How did your vintage sheet business begin and how much time do you devote to it during a typical week?
I first started collecting vintage sheets in 2010, when I participated in a fat quarter swap on Flickr.  I soon got hooked, but realized that I was quickly going to be eaten out of house and home by my collection! In order to grow my stash without amassing too many sheets, I started selling the "leftovers" of sheets that I didn't need
for my collection.  This continues to be a main driver in why I run my shop! In the winter I don't spend as much time on the shop, as I thrift less and sell less because of the cold and gloom.  During the summer though, I'm often going thrifting twice a week and between washing sheets, cutting and packing orders, 20-25 hours a week.

How do you avoid burnout (or deal with it) when it come to sewing and blogging about it?
I let myself have days where I don't do much of anything I'm "supposed to do". I mix in projects that I do just for fun, and only blog when I truly want to. Sometimes this means a few days between blogging, but in the long run it's healthier for me than blogging when I'm not up to it.

A recent picture of Jeni's bunny George.
I love the way you post a weekly wrap-up post including "good things about today" and "today I love." You hit all the senses. And of course, there's always a cute picture of George the rabbit. How did that feature of your blog evolve?
Years and years ago I saw a photo online of a calender/journal that had something similar and saved it to my computer.  Unfortunately I don't even have the photo anymore, let alone know who manufactured it. It stuck with me and in an attempt to find the good in everyday, it wound up on my blog! I added the "good things" soon after, simply to remind myself that no matter how bad the day, I can still find a few happy moments!

I've never sewn a single quilt block. I'm a bit intimidated. I'm not the most accurate sewer. What advice do you have for someone like me (besides, just do it already!)? Also, if you want to recommend a couple easy blocks to try as a first block, that'd be fantastic.
Just practice! Grab some scraps and play around. And, I think start off with simple patchwork. It becomes easy to see where you're going wrong (seam allowance? cutting? etc), and so easier to fix.  I'd also recommend giving half-square triangles a try! Once you master them, you can make so, so many different blocks!

Also, in almost all quilt blocks (and many other projects), when instructions say 1/4" seam allowance, what that really means is a scant 1/4". This means that if you measure your seam, it measures just inside the 1/4" line.  You'd be amazing how much that can mess up your projects!

What's the one sewing tool you couldn't live without, besides the obvious (machine, scissors, etc.)
Definitely my thread snippers. I use them more than any other tool in my sewing room! Having a good pair that are sharp and easy to use make my life much, much easier!

Your sense of color is so spot on. I love your "Art of Choosing" series. Did you study this stuff or just gain an understanding through trial and error and practice?
It seems to be the type of thing that you either have naturally, or develop, and I got lucky! A lot of my color sense is instinct, although I have improved through practice for sure! I did minor in Studio Art, but wasn't able to take color theory.

What's your favorite palette to work with? Your favorite fabric line ever? Favorite designer?
My current favorite palette includes Eggplant, Mustard and Fuschia. Can't get enough of it! It also happens to be a palette found in my favorite fabric line, Mendocino by Heather Ross! Favorite fabric designer is a little more difficult for me! I think it's a very close tie between Lizzy House and Erin McMorris.  Although I can't say no to Aneela Hoey's fabrics either!

You can eat one sweet for the rest of your life -- what do you choose?
Only one?! I have a major sweet tooth! If it's for the rest of my life, I'd have to say regular milk chocolate! The good European stuff though! :)

The lined drawstring bag is one of Jeni's free tutorials!
 Thanks so much to Jeni for taking the time to answer my questions. Hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did!


  1. I really enjoyed reading this Krista! Love Jeni's blog, but she is one of those that makes me wonder how she can do it all. Good to know she isn't also hiding a few kids behind that cute bunny :)

    But seriously Jeni, your color sense is amazing and I love drooling over pictures of your stash!

  2. You are too sweet Krista! Thank you again for having me! :)

  3. Great and informative interview. Fun series!

  4. Great interview!
    Jeni's blog always makes me smile. I'm glad I found it.

    Thanks for sharing.