Sunday, November 27, 2011

Getting things accomplished! Hand sewing and shop update

I hope everyone is enjoying the last day of their Thanksgiving weekend. I had a wonderful weekend with my husband's family in New York, and we took the kids to see the Muppets movie last night. All that and I still have a day left.

I often struggle with going away for the weekends, because I miss sewing time. A lot of weeks, the only time I get to sew is on the weekend. I haven't been a big hand sewer in a long time, and I find that with embroidery, I can only take it with me if it' already started and I know what I'm doing. I can't start a project away from home. Weird, I know, but true.

One of the things I've been dying to try is making hexagons. I had gotten some pre-cut paper forms this summer (because I am too lazy to cut my own) and they've been calling to me to use them.

I for the life of me, couldn't figure out how to tack down the sides once I cut the fabric. I had to go onto Youtube and look at a video of a 9 year old girl making hexis to have to baste THROUGH the paper. I was trying to avoid the paper, forgetting I would be pulling out the basting stitches, and would be able to pull the paper out. Can you say DUH?

This is my first four...

Once, I got going...I LOVED it. Making these absolutely feeds my need for immediate gratification.

I already have a bunch more cut and ready to make the next time I have to sit still somewhere.

Yesterday, once I got home and SOME of the laundry done, I made some napkins for my etsy shop. I didn't want this fantastic Christmas print to not make it to the shop before the holidays.

and I had a few scraps left from a remnant I bought at a Sis Boom sale last year. If you live anywhere near here, and you can get to one of Jennifer's sales, I strongly suggest you do. She has one coming up next weekend.

What do you all take with you for sewing when you travel?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Izzy N Ivy Addie Jo Pattern Review - Adorable Skirt pattern!

I got this pattern as part of a kit from Above All Fabric. I love Melanie's kits. She does a great job choosing fabric choices and makes it easy to get the package in the mail and start sewing right away.

This was the first Izzy N Ivy pattern I've made. I always love trying new pattern designers, and this one did not disappoint. The pattern comes with 5 different style choices. My daughter chose version C, which had a ruffle at the bottom of the simple skirt top. This was my absolutely FAVORITE pattern type. The directions were very well written, with clear diagrams inside and it was easy to follow along with which version of the skirt I was making. The directions were fairly short, none of the versions of this skirt were very complicated. I made a modified size 6. My daughter is a skinny Minnie, so we have to really decrease anything with a big waist or too much fabric. This worked out perfectly, between the elastic waistband that I could cut to fit her, and the "just right" amount of fabric for a nice twirly skirt that was not too much to overwhelm her little frame.

Also, it came in a ziploc bag, which is wonderful. The cellophane with a sticker I always manage to make a mess of, rip the sticker and the cellophane gets stuck to another pattern. The directions were on nice thick stock, printed in an easy to read font. Perfect.

I would absolutely make this skirt again in another one of the versions. It went together very quickly. Including cutting, I would say a total of 2 1/2 hours. The only reason it took me that long is that I am NOT a good gather-er. I always break at least one set of gathering stitches and have to start over. Thankfully, this time, it was only once.

Who are your favorite pattern designers? For quilts and for clothing?

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Amazing Weekend with Heather Ross and friends

I want to get this out as quickly as possible. I don’t want to lose the intensity of the emotion before I have a chance to get it written down. Do you know how some days, or weeks burn themselves into your brain, either in the moment, or afterwards, as having been really critical in some way? Maybe you learned something that you’ve been trying to learn for a long time. Maybe you finally became aware of something that has been nibbling at your subconscious. This past weekend was one of those times for me, and here’s why.

I signed up for this Heather Ross “Sewing Weekend” this spring. It was something to look forward to, and it was purely “me” time. It wasn’t cheap, but when I saw the slate of guest teachers, I knew I had to go. There was Gretchen Hirsch of Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, Liesl Gibson, Moda fabric designer, Oliver & S and Lisette pattern author, and Jay McCarroll, winner of season 1 of Project Runway. These folks were IN ADDITION to Heather herself. An aspiring designer’s dream team. So I took my hard earned cube farm bonus and paid up.

(view from my hotel room...LOVE the water towers)

(blurry picture, but love this note on my bathroom mirror)

As is usually the case, as the weekend neared, I had doubts. Did I really want to be away, for a whole weekend, without my kids and husband? Was it really going to be worth all the money I had spent? Would I just be wasting one of precious fall weekends and come home exhausted needing another vacation? But I forged ahead, packed my bags, and headed to NYC on Friday evening.

We started out with a private shopping event at Purl Soho. The store closed at 7 and we got to shop from 7-8 with the guest teachers offering guidance. I was so star struck at first, I really found it hard to approach anyone, even the other students. As is often the case with me, I waffled between insecurity and that “oh, will they LIKE me” mess, and wanting to rip all the bolts off the shelves and run out the door to hoard the amazing fabric. I bought 2 ½ yards of a Liberty of London fabric to make a blouse pattern I had brought along (purchased 2 years earlier when I had a SERIOUSLY inaccurate handle on my sewing skills). I also bought fabric to make an Amy Butler bag, and this amazing ombre fabric that I have no idea what I do with, but just HAD to have.

(eye candy from Purl Soho)

(ONE of the many Liberty sections)

We went from there to a group dinner at Lucky Strike. They weren’t really ready for us, so we had to sort of stand awkwardly in the middle of the restaurant waiting for people to leave and for them to put our tables together. It was worth the discomfort though, because I got to sit across from Liesl and we had the most fantastic dinner conversation. (I have no idea if she thought the conversation was good, she was incredibly gracious). We talked about the fabric industry, her pattern making and how her Lisette patterns came to be. We talked about kids, charitable giving, and earning a living (or not) designing fabric and writing sewing and quilting patterns. If I had gone home that night, I would have been completely satisfied. I felt so fortunate to have gotten the seat across from her, and to have gotten to speak with her for so long. She was frank, honest, and forthcoming. It was wonderful. If that wasn’t enough, the dinner was fantastic.

Saturday morning we started sewing at The Sewing Studio, and in typical NY fashion, they packed a lot into a really tiny space. Each of us had a machine, and there were two large cutting tables in the centers of the sewing spaces. Not for nothing, but their cutting tables are the same Ikea ones I got this summer, so I was feeling pretty smart. Heather and Liesl convinced me to make a muslin of my pattern, which honestly terrified me at first. How crazy is that? What is that? Work the kinks out, make all your mistakes on muslin and NOT this $39/yard fabric? Liesel also helped to me to choose to make a size 12 muslin. I still get confused about pattern sizing vs retail sizing vs the fact that I am a real person and don’t fit into any one size…more on this later.

Heather also showed us this fantastic technique for copying patterns onto muslin or fabric using this cool waxed transfer paper (you can see it on the table next to her). Again, that information alone would have made my weekend complete (then we went to a store and we all bought it!). There was shopping at the FIT bookstore and Mood, then back to the studio for more sewing.
I managed to cut my muslin, sew together the front and back, including many darts, completely screw up the plackets, and get completely confused about how to make a collar stand. On Saturday night, about 8PM, I had my muslin on (embarrassing!) and got manhandled by Jay, Liesl and Heather all trying to decide if I should size up or let out darts.


We decided if I wanted to breathe or if I ever ate again, I should size up. Imagine if I cut that Liberty, and the damn blouse was too small??? I’d have sworn like a sailor on leave and jumped out the window. But I DIDN’T cut it first, and I got to cut the size up, and start sewing it on Sunday morning. Can I get an AMEN?

Of course all while this is going on I have extreme project envy. There are folks making children’s things, aprons, and messenger bags. And finishing them. And starting on second projects. Or thirds. I must have thought “oh I WISH I was making THAT” at least three or four times. But thankfully, as the last morning of sewing drifted away from me, and I got to see my fabric choice come to life, I decided that I was thrilled I had brought something so challenging for me. That was the whole point I told myself, right?? This was a rare opportunity to stretch, go outside of my teeny tiny comfort zone, reach to challenge myself and learn something new. Gain experience, knowledge and thought process from FOUR sewing experts. And learn I did.

What I learned, most importantly, were two things. One, that I need to “swim in my own lane” as my friend Bari calls it. I need to think for myself, make choices for myself, and be confident in my own skin. I am where I am, I need/want to learn more than I want to look like I can sew in front of total strangers. Every one of us is in a different place, and that it how it’s supposed to be. And two, maybe even more importantly, I learned that all this self doubt about how I look to others, or how quickly I’m learning, or how quickly I can make something, or how perfect my work comes out, or when I can create my own fabric line, is useless and wasteful. I’ll get there when I get there, and it will be exactly how it’s supposed to be.

Of course the caveat to all of that is that I need to actually DO it. I need to make time for myself, and for what I feel is my passion. What I was born to do. I need to go away for weekends, or spend time practicing and screwing up. I need to ask for help. I need to be willing to look like I don’t know what I’m doing (because a lot of the time, I don’t).

What I will get though, is infinitely valuable. Experience. Confidence. Comfort in my own skin. Pride in myself when I accomplish something hard. And the wonderful camaraderie with all my fellow sewists, designers, and bloggers. Well worth the bonus money spent on a weekend in New York City with total strangers.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

She-Werewolf...from a vintage Simplicity 9206 pattern!

I keep saying this every time I mention this project, but I am SO happy with how it came out. This is the werewolf costume I made for my 7 year old daughter for Halloween. We had to hunt for a pattern that she liked, and when we found this one, the smallest one I could find was the 8-10. She's no 8, so I had to re-size the pattern pieces myself to make her a 6, which is something I've never done before.

There was virtually no "fitting" to this costume. It went together like a raglan sleeve set of zip up pajamas. A nice easy fit so that she can wear clothes underneath. As great as this looks, it certainly is no Project Runway garment.

We were looking for something scary, but still, well, cute. I think we found it!

Maybe a little tough. 7 year old girls don't get to feel tough very much.

Of course, the tail was a HUGE hit. There was much butt swinging and wagging to see how she could get the tail to move.

She did a lot of practicing with her "RRRAAAARRR" noises and holding up her claws. I am told that we have to cut the teeth out of the hood part. She tells me that she thinks she looks like she's in the werewolf's mouth.

Best of all, it's made of FUR. So it's super warm, and plenty cozy enough to actually lounge around in.

Given our success this year, I can absolutely see making more costumes in my future.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sneak Peak - She werewolf

I will be doing a much longer post about the costume I made for my daughter this year, but I finished the hood today and just cannot stand the cuteness. She doesn't like the teeth, so I promised her I wouldn't post this on Facebook (mwahahah!) until I take the teeth off for her. But this isn't Facebook, is it? The costume has a full body with a tail, and I am thrilled with how it came out.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Child's Artist Beret Tutorial PDF

So, what's it been, a year?? And I finally found the time to learn how to make my tutorial into a PDF and make it linkable to my blog. Feeling very proud of myself actually!

So here is where you can find the one page version PDF.

And here's my daughter wearing her beret. She says it makes her feel very artistic!

Friday, September 30, 2011

On my way to 100

I hate it when so much time passes between blog posts. I feel like you all will think I'm just lazing around, doing nothing. But that's not the case. I've been busy at work getting the kids back into their school routines, starting horsebackriding lessons, and dealing with our regulator at my "day job".

But I've also been making more ConkerrCancer pillowcases. I'm up to 15, and literally have 10 waiting to be sewn up.

I'm finally getting to the end of the donated fabric. Some of it was really had to find a match for, but I dug through my stash and came up with some bright colors. It's interesting, we did seem to get a good mixture of boys and girls fabrics.

This fantastic sock monkey fabric came from Above All Fabric. My son loves sock monkeys and his favorite color these days is lime green, so he got one just like this, and the other got added to my pile for donating.

During the day, I work for a very large insurance company. They had a great volunteer day a few weeks ago, and a co-worker set up a table for us to try to get some help sewing up pillowcases. You can find Peggy's blog here. She did an amazing job setting up an appealing table, and we got 25 volunteers! We're really looking forward to seeing how many cases we can collect, and the goal is 100 for the first drop off scheduled in later October.

Next up...a she-werewolf costume. My daughter has convinced me to try to make her costume this year. I found a vintage pattern, that will have to be altered (because I could only find an 8-10 and she needs a 6), so it's quite an undertaking. I'm cutting pattern pieces this weekend, so wish me luck!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What the heck I've been up to

So I finally got to go on that vacation that I've been whining about. I took the kids and we went to visit my cousin, his wife and newly adopted son in Virginia. It was my daughter's first plane trip, and my son's second. He said he was too little to remember the first one, so he felt like this was his first too. We had a FANTASTIC time.

Our first day we spent at the National Zoo. It was close to 90 and just downright steamy. The kids are wet from the water sprays they have along the walkways to keep cool.

All that they cared about was seeing the pandas, which we did. From far away, but they were live pandas nonetheless.

The next day we spent at the Museum of Natural History and walking the National Mall. It was a wonderful day, but LONG for little legs.

The true excitement was being in a terminal at Dulles when the EARTHQUAKE hit. The whole terminal sort of slid side to side. Some pieces of tile fell from the ceiling. After a brief "huh, what was that?" my kids went right back to reading their books. Really. They are tough to impress apparently.

Now that we're home, I've been working on this blanket for a co-worker. I've made so many of these "a la Betz White Warm Fuzzies" style blankets now. They are really loved. I try to put some of my salvaged trims on each one. The blue on this one is one of my favorite and almost gone.

I usually put flannel on the back and they are just super soft and cuddly.

Last but not least, I am still on my two-per-week pace of making pillowcases for Conkerr Cancer. So far I've got nine. My goal is to donate a cool 100 over the course of the year. I'm hoping to find time to branch out and use different patterns as the year goes on. This one is just so easy and sews up so quickly, I've stuck to it for now.

What are you working on these last few days of summer??

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pillowcases for Charity - Conkerr Cancer

One of my jobs for the weekend was to sew pillowcases for Conkerr Cancer. A co-worker of mine got people at our company to donate fabric, and got a few of us signed up to sew the pillowcases. I used a great, super simple, quick to sew up pattern from the 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge website called "Roll it Up". There are loads of great free patterns there.

The first two I made are exactly the same...

Now all the rest have been washed, just need to start cutting.

The challenge with donated fabric is that you don't always have stuff that goes well together. And this charity is specifically for children, so we want as bright and cheery fabric as possible.

Conkerr Cancer commits to keep the donated cases in the local community where the donations came from. Unfortunately, we don't get to see them actually go directly to the hospital, but for what we sew, they will likely end up at CT Children's Medical Center. It makes a huge difference to me to know that the sewing will go to kids in my own community.

I'll show you the rest as soon as I get them done!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Baby steps back into embroidery & welovefrenchknots

Somewhere around a year ago, I began to notice embroidery making a serious "comeback" as sewing becomes more and more popular and mainstream again. I saw patterns for skirts, or children's clothes, embellished with some small amounts of embroidery. Then there were quilt patterns with embroidery on them. And then, full on embroidery patterns seemed to be everywhere all of a sudden.

Then my friend Bari texted me about a great new idea she had for a new blog, guess what...all about embroidery! That was it, I decided I had to give it a try. The cool thing is, I had done a ton of stitchwork of various kids as a kid. I LOVED cross stitch, and for years worked on project after project. Like so many things, when I became a teenager, it wasn't "cool" enough, so I stopped.

I was a bit intimidated, but I got some gorgeous floss from Bari's shop, some cloth, a cheap hoop, and some needles at Joann (ack!) and then I hunted around for something easy to start with. Here's what I chose.

I found some great, easy, BASIC, but cute iron on patterns at SewMamaSew, and chose this Aunt Martha's to start with.

The directions were clear, and the transfer worked super well. It was easy and took maybe a total of 5 minutes, including heating up my iron!

Here it first "project" on the second stage of my embroidery life. I used only a split stitch, but by the time I was done I was feeling much more comfortable and confident enough to try other stitches.

Here's the back of my work. Not great, but not horribly messy. Again, I'm sure this will improve with practice.

One universal recommendation was to get this book. I got mine on Amazon here. I am so looking forward to my next project!

To see more about my friend Bari's new endeavor, head over to She's got videos up already and it looks to be a super fun and exciting blog.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Starry Night BOM done?? It's been a YEAR already???

It's hard to believe. A year has gone by, right before my very eyes. How do I know? I bought and finished my 12th block for the Starry Night BOM quilt I started forever ago.

Here is my 12th block, and I can see a huge difference between my first and my 12th. Both my sewing skills and my quilting skills have come a long, long way in the last year.

Here are the only filler blocks I've managed to make. 2 of 13. Ouch. But I have started to cut for them, and I do think they will go quickly because I can do them "assembly line" style. Yet another technique I've learned this year.

I think the next one is my favorite block, and it was the 3rd one we made. I really love the diamond placement.

This is the photo that they gave us when we started. I'm really looking forward to getting mine all together because I think it will look so much better. The colors are so much brighter in real life.

Which one is your favorite?