Thread Catcher and Pin Cushion

thread catcher curry bungalow

I’ve always been more than a bit messy when I sew.  You can always tell when I’ve been on a late-night sewing binge, because generally I wake up to something that looks an awful lot like this:

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There are bits of thread and snippets of fabric and trim all over the floor, and a general state of dishevelment that defies the degree of productivity in evidence.  Or maybe it’s in proportion to it.  Whichever.

When I first started getting really serious about sewing, I had an old office chair that I used, in front of an old hand-me-down office desk made of oak.  The chair had small casters on it, which seemed really awesome at the time: I could roll from sewing machine to serger and celebrate all my victories, just like Alex P. Keaton.  But it had unexpected consequences when one day, the little rollers wouldn’t roll anymore.  I mean, the chair would roll across the floor, but it was more gliding on the wheels than the wheels actually turning.  A very small amount of research into the problem revealed that the issue was all those tiny bits of thread and trim and fabric getting caught up in the spindles of the wheels, gumming up the works and preventing them from rotating.  What a bummer.

I assumed I’d been relegated to a lifetime of non-rolling chairs–and where’s the fun in that??  Somehow I never quite put it together that I could just–gasp!–not carelessly toss my bits of thread on the ground, and then I wouldn’t have an issue.  Growing up, I don’t recall ever seeing my mother use a thread receptacle, and I had certainly never heard the term “thread catcher.”  I think my mom just kept the trash can really close to her side while she sewed–which seems like a nice idea, if you’re not tragically awkward and vastly more likely to trip over the can and break your teeth than you are to ever actually land any threads IN the can.

thread catcher pin cushion

Enter: the Curry Bungalow Thread Catcher pattern.  I saw this puppy on Pinterest not too long ago, and pinned it to my Inspired to Sew board.  I’ve been on a kick with Pinterest lately, though: I have spent so long pinning things and then forgetting about them that I’ve started CLICKING THROUGH AND BUYING THEM.  Yes, I realize you’re reading this thinking, “Mind=BLOWN,” but there it is.  So I not only bought the pattern, I bought the supplies kit, and then I MADE IT.

thread catcher

I feel like I could rule the world right now.  I’m Leo DiCaprio on the bow of the Titanic, y’know, when things were going really well and no one even knew there was an iceberg.  Bad analogy, because this thing is going to work out juuuuust fine.

thread catcher contrast band

This is such a clever little pattern.  The thread catcher “basket” has a casing with a piece of stiff Rigilene running through it, which keeps the rounded shape and makes sure the opening stays open all the time.  Which is awesome, as the idea of keeping a sad little plastic grocery sack on the table next to me made me so depressed I was forced to take to my bed.  There’s a skinny little band of contrasting fabric running just below the casing that gives a nice chance to mix up some fabrics–for mine, I used all Denyse Schmidt, from a Florence bundle I bought at Pink Chalk Fabrics.  We could all use more Denyse in our lives, am I right?

thread catcher detacahable pin cushion

Plus, these colors are totally in my comfort zone: I love blues and greens, particularly these chartreuse-y shades of green and softer, more robin’s-egg-and-turquoise blues.  Add in a bit of persimmon, and I’m singing.

The pattern includes not just the basket but a sweet little patchwork pin cushion, which attaches to the basket with hook-and-loop tape, sewn on to a base that’s filled with–wait for it–a subway tile!  I know, isn’t that genius? It weights the whole thing down, gives a solid place to attach the pin cushion so it doesn’t slide all over, and it holds the basket at a great angle (which you can adjust by moving the tile closer to or further from the edge of the table) so that you’ve got your best shot of actually getting stuff INSIDE the basket.

thread catcher sticky bottom

Keeping the tile from slipping around on the table top is a bit of kitchen drawer liner, cut to size.  The great thing about the kit that comes with the pattern is that ALL these things–the Rigilene, the drawer liner, the interfacing, the tile, even the walnut shells to fill the pin cushion–are included and ALREADY CUT.  YES, I JUST YELLED THAT AT YOU BECAUSE IT IS TOTALLY THAT AWESOME.  No thinking, no measuring, no worrying, no buying an entire package and only using 18″.  All’s I had to do was choose my fabrics and trim some rectangles.  It rocked.

thread catcher scissors tab

And the details are really thoughtful, too.  This little scissors tab?  I have used the stink out of it already, and I just made this thing last night.  I generally have somewhere between 2 and 673 pair of scissors floating around at any given time, partly because I like to suit my scissors to the task, and also because I can never find any when I need them.  This single tab, just a tiny detail, has made it infinitely more easy for me to keep up with where my scissors are, and to trim loose threads as I go–I can’t even start to calculate how many years of my life I’ve just gotten back, in thread trimming alone.

thread catcher button posy

I adore the tiny button posy detail, which was included in the pattern, and which totally makes the pin cushion.  That pop of contrast ties the whole thing together, like a great rug.

thread catcher pin cushion

I’ve already gone back and ordered kits to make two more of these–the kits are only FIVE DOLLARS, y’all, for reals–because I’m realizing that I would like to have one of these on my cutting table, one by the sewing machine, and one at the ironing board (although I’m leaning toward some kind of ironing board organizer, but that’s another conversation).  This was a quick sew–about two hours total, from cutting to finish–and I can pretty much guarantee will get 6.7 squees from my Bee next time they’re over at the house.

Sigh.  The satisfaction of knowing I’ve made something both lovely and functional, coupled with the joy of shopping for a comfy chair on casters to put in from of my sewing machine?  Priceless.

A Successful (Bavarian) Halloween!

Long story short: we were a hit.

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The kids loved it, every single adult we saw loved it, and the whole adventure was a marvelous family memory.  My husband bought his Lederhosen in Munich, I ordered our boy’s from Amazon, and I sewed the girls’ and my own from scratch.  We presented quite the Halloween sight.

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My dirndl, which required an absurd number of inches of fabric all gathered up at the waist–FOUR FULL widths of fabric, all gathered to a <30″ waistline–was fluffy and delightful and much warmer than you might expect.  Thank you, Denyse Schmidt, for designing the perfect fabric for this project (I got mine from Pink Castle Fabrics, along with the fabric for the girls’ dresses).

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The moral of the story: some years, you buy your costumes from the store and have an amazing time rolling around in the relief that gives you.  Other years, you have the interest and the energy to sew them from scratch–and you have an amazing time rolling around in the joy that gives you.  Neither is better than the other–and having years that offer one and years that offer the other is the special gift of your sewing machine.  Man, what an awesome reminder of why I love to sew, and how powerful that makes me feel.  Whether I choose to wield that power or not, I am a superhero.  And so are you.

Hope everyone had a happy Halloween!

Halloweens Past and Present

Not too many years ago, these were our costumes:


Since then, the post I wrote about NOT sewing our Halloween costumes that year has been one of my most popular.  I think most of us feel caught up in that sewing pressure a lot of the time, and there are so many instances where we just don’t have enough juice left to do it.

And then other times, we do. If you follow me on the IG, you’ve seen this over the past few days and weeks:

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I’ve been busy sewing dirndls for myself and our two younger girls to wear alongside my husband’s Munich-bought Lederhosen, and our son’s store-bought junior version of the same.  We’re doing a group Halloween again this year, and heading out as the Von Trapp Family.  We’ll keep it small and simple–a pot luck at the neighbors’ (for as little time as I can get away with it, because the kids get really wound up and it gives me anxiety) and then approximately 10 houses to trick-or-treat before heading home.  Nothing over the top, and no super-late nights.

We’ll let the kids max out on candy until their eyes twirl, and then we’ll pack the rest up–ALL of it–and send it off to our oldest at college and to my husband’s office.  The little ones can keep back a handful of their very favorite pieces to save, but the rest will be sent away and out of our house.  I think the fun of Halloween is that it’s special, and we want to keep that specialness to the single day as much as we can, without letting all the sugar and the excitement throw off our every-other-days.  Because those are special, too.

The littlest already wore her dirndl for the Halloween pageant this morning:

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The dressing up and play-pretend is making her pretty happy.  I’m hoping we can make the candy and treats be an afterthought, and not the main event.   And then this sweet dress can go into the regular rotation as part of her wardrobe–with optional apron and kerchief for adventures and imagination time.

Conclusion to the Be A Better Craft Teacher Series Up at Sew, Mama, Sew

tutorial image

Up NOW over at Sew, Mama, Sew: the conclusion to my Be A Better Craft Teacher Series.  You can also read all the other installments of the series, from introduction through wrap-up:

I have really, really enjoyed writing this series, and think there is so much more to say and explore on this topic.  If I were to, say, develop this series into an in-depth e-book, the kind with worksheets and charts to fill in and bullet lists of ideas and checklists for planning, is that something that you all would be interested in?  Share with me in the comments today what you’d like to see in a guidebook to teaching sewing & craft, and I’ll cogitate on it some more!  I’d love to create a really practical, useable guide for teachers who are tackling bringing these skills to students, all over the world, and I’d love to hear from you what you’d most like to see!

The (Secret) Toy Society

Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 5.07.24 PMHave you heard of The (Secret) Toy Society?  I just stumbled across them the other day, and honestly, I teared up when I read what they’re doing over there.  Volunteers make snuggly, hand-sewn toys and package them up to leave anonymously in parks, on benches, in grocery carts, or anywhere else they might be found, and each toy has a little note that says, “Take me home, I’m yours!”  The finder gets a number and can match it up with the maker on the Toy Society website and see where their toy originated!  In many ways, it reminds me of BookCrossing (another awesome project), where folks leave books lying around to be “found” by others, to share the love.  This is like that, but with awesome toys!

If you’re looking for a charity project for your sewing group, or something to do with your children leading up to this season of heavy advertising as we roll into the holidays, I can think of few opportunities as rewarding as this one.  How fun to sew up some joy, not knowing where it would end up!  Open to anyone, anywhere in the world, with registration on their site.

Happy gifting, y’all!


Thanks to my Slip Covers Class, No More Eyesore!

This chair is in my oldest child’s room.  She has since gone off to college (sniff!), and now when we have guests, they get to sleep in her room–surrounded by her books and her hot pink four-poster bed.  Years and years ago, when her whole room was done in lilac and pink (so, like, twelve years ago), I got this chair off Freecycle so our girl could have a reading chair, and made a linen-blend slip cover for it–complete with contrast piping in a floral print.  It has had a good, long, hard life with lots of play and stories and phone calls made in its arms.  And the years show:

slip cover chair before 1

That enormous rip wasn’t our fault, that was the damage caused by movers who were still hauling our stuff hours after dark and in the rain.  They were grumpy, and the chair paid the price.  Bygones, though, because thanks to my Slip Covers e-course, this chair has a new life!

*Updated to add: I don’t think any of us really appreciated how tragic and disgusting this chair had become.  My oldest kept her clean-but-unfolded laundry here the last two years, and this is a tucked-away corner of the house that doesn’t get much foot traffic.  Having said that, thanks for being kind and not pointing fingers at the family with the horrifying chair!

Obviously, it couldn’t go back to what it was before the slip cover:

slip cover chair before 2

Although I did make 25 cents when I cleaned out the cushions (I think my face here is asking, “What is all this garbage??”).

A new slip cover was in order, and Amy Butler fabric purchased 2+ years ago for just this room saved the day.  The finished result:

slip covered chair 3

slip covered chair after 2

slip covered chair after 1

Totally renewed.  I love that the piping matches (so much more grown-up).  I love that the print matches across sections.  I love that the color works so well with these walls (the ONLY walls in the entire house we didn’t paint when we moved in).  And I love that it only took four hours sewing time from start to finish (not including the video and images I shot for my class).  Come on down, house guests!  The chair’s not scary anymore!

Getting Out of a Dinner Rut

dinner rut pt 1I don’t really cook.  I mean, I don’t suck at it, necessarily, but I don’t relish it, either.  I know that these days, it seems like every mom is supposed to have infinite patience and DIY fancy decor and parties for the kids, plus look smokin’ hot in a pair of yoga pants while whipping up five-star-restaurant quality meals on a weeknight for the family.  I…haven’t mastered all that.  I’m working on the ones I think matter, have let go of the ones that don’t, and am pretty content being less than the currently-held-up-as-perfect Mommy Ideal.  However.

I’m bored.  With my meals.  We eat the same basic four meals over…and over…and over.  I used to have about 10 in rotation, pretty easy and quick things, but my husband is looking to limit his weekday carb intake, and that has knocked out about half of my usual stuff–no more stuffed shells, no more knishes from scratch.  Sigh.  So while I am happy with my mom identity, I am NOT happy with my dull-as-toast meals.

I’m looking for help.

The internet is a great place to dig for ideas, and heaven knows Pinterest is rife with sixty-five billion pins for scrumptious-looking meals that swear they cook themselves and leave no dirty dishes.  I want something else. I want recipes that I can rotate through that:

  • require ingredients I don’t have to visit a specialty store to obtain
  • my kids will eat
  • my husband will be impressed by (he’s impressed with good ingredients & solid flavor, just FYI)
  • contain vegetables (we never seem to eat enough)
  • take 45-minutes or less to prepare
  • store well and travel for leftovers (hubs takes his lunch to work, and it’s usually last night’s dinner)

If I were being extra picky, I’d also dream of recipes that:

  • go easy on the carbs or have the carbs primarily as a side dish
  • include meatless options, but don’t rely too heavily on soy
  • can be made ahead and frozen, for when we travel and the kids are with the grandparents

Is this the Holy Grail of home cooking?  Probably.  I don’t mind cooking from scratch–that’s my preference, so most “quick” meals and crock pot dishes are off the table, since they contain mixes and pouches and pre-packaged ingredients, and we’re really sincerely doing our best to stick to foods we can point at and identify.  I don’t mind shopping for ingredients the day of, so fresh is fine by us.  I don’t mind spending the hour between 5 and 6 cooking, although I am pretty much never ever going to spend more than an hour on a weeknight dinner.  I want something more than just a pin on Pinterest–something real people have actually made and served to other real people, and all those people ate it and said, “Yum!”  Ideally my kids will try it and eat the portions I serve them, and it sure would be lovely if my husband was impressed and thought I was even more awesome than usual because I prepared a yummy meal in the middle of the work week.

Tell me these recipes exist.  Not a whole zillion pages, just a dozen or so delicious meals with real ingredients that have been tested by actual families with young children and not thrown in the garbage disposal at the end of the meal.  Can you help me? Because I could really use the help.

If you’ve found one of these elusive recipes, hit me in the comments.  Links, images, your own blog, names of cookbooks, whatever you’ve got.  Our test kitchen over here, with five hungry and discriminating mouths, will cook them up and let you know how it goes.  I’m looking to build a stable of recipes to put into regular rotation and hopefully shake off the rut we’ve been in.

I’m ready, y’all.  Bring it on.


New Be A Better Craft Teacher Post, and You Can Vote For Me!



So, I got an email yesterday that I’d been nominated for the Best Craftsy Instructor Blog in the Sewing category–you guys are so nice!  Final voting is taking place now through Oct 29–hop on over and you can see all the nominees (including MADE and Sew, Mama, Sew).  Click on the “Sewing” category and scroll down to see the other great blogs who’ve been nominated, and to cast your vote–every vote gets entered to win a free class, apparently, so why not, right?

whipstitch buttons

Speaking of Sew, Mama, Sew: the last major installment of the Be A Better Craft Teacher series is UP and ready for you!  I’ll be back next week with a conclusion post to tie it all up in a bow, but until then, you can read all the posts in the series:

I have really, really enjoyed writing this series, and think there is so much more to say and explore on this topic.  If I were to, say, develop this series into an in-depth e-book, the kind with worksheets and charts to fill in and bullet lists of ideas and checklists for planning, is that something that you all would be interested in?  Share with me in the comments today what you’d like to see in a guidebook to teaching sewing & craft, and I’ll cogitate on it some more!  I’d love to create a really practical, useable guide for teachers who are tackling bringing these skills to students, all over the world, and I’d love to hear from you what you’d most like to see!


Yellow Sofa is in the House!

yellow vintage sofa

Remember when I was working through my living room curtain uncertainty, and mentioned that I’d be re-covering my sofa?  Well, it’s done.  And it’s home.  And it’s AMAZING.

two curtains

If you’ll recall, this was the original sofa (along with a mock-up of what white curtains would look like in this space).

yellow sofa one curtain

And this was the projected yellow sofa with those projected curtains (before we somewhat misguidedly painted the mirror silver).

And here is the sofa now, along with temporary curtains:

yellow mid century modern sofa

I ain’t even gonna lie: it is even better in real life than I ever imagined it would be.  Took me somewhere around 19 swatches–no exaggerating–to finally find the right fabric.  It’s a wool/poly blend, and while I generally avoid poly like it’s the source of all zombie viruses, in this case, it gives the fabric a real heft and recovery that I like, and it’s a very small percentage of the overall content, so I gave it a pass.

wool upholstery fabric in corn

It might have been the weave that really tipped things over the edge.  See how it’s this really bold, over-stated weave?  And how this corn color is nothing short of life-changing?  OK, maybe not life changing in the way that, say, a miracle cure would be, or meeting the love of your life.  But man, does this puppy give a boost to my mornings every time I walk past the room.  And it has done nothing short of transform the atmosphere in our house, no joke–that pop of bright joy where a lump of down-and-out day-old chocolate used to be?  An injection of happy, nothing less.

bright yellow mid century sofa

There is still PLENTY left to do in this room:

  • have lamp repaired (because, like a dork, I set it down to polish the side table and knocked it over, making the fitting loose so it won’t support a shade or hold a bulb anymore–the lamp on the left is currently decorative)
  • either re-paint the mirror black or find a new mirror (or both, with the painted mirror the temporary fix until we find a piece of art)
  • to throw pillow or not to throw pillow? (am leaning very hard in the direction of piped boxed skiiiiiiny pillows along the entire back of the sofa)
  • re-plant the tree in the larger pot and locate a smaller indoor plant for the blue pot–that’s a houseplant tragedy over there (and maybe move them to the other side of the room?)
  • find some glass wall plant sconces like these for the wall behind the plant
  • score myself a Craig’s List Eames chair–I know it’s out there–for the corner opposite the plants
  • oh, and FINALLY figure out the right fabric to sew the forever drapes for this room, rather than the white linen temporary ones

So, yeah, we’ve got a long way to go in here, but as I tell my husband: when you pull back and look at the long train, you can see that we’ve come a zillion light years from where we began, and the rest is the details.  This is like constructing a garment, where the major seams do the most work, but take the least time; it’s the details that really make the dress stand out, but they take a little longer.  We’re in detail land right now, but we’ll be pulling into the station soon enough.

And that’s enough mixed metaphors for one day.

New Installment in the Become a Better Craft Teacher Series is up!

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The next installment of my Be a Better Craft Teacher series is up over at Sew, Mama, Sew!  This week, I’m talking about how much fun it is to plan HOW you’ll teach a class, and what format that will take–and why one format might be better than another depending on your topic and the students you’ll be teaching.

I’m writing this series with a focus on folks who are currently teaching and looking for more structure and direction as they work to improve their classes, and for new teachers who have never planned a class before and are looking for where to start.  I’m also hearing in comments and emails and on Facebook that even non-teachers, folks who are and have been students of sewing and knitting and embroidery over the years, are getting a lot out of the series.  One reader said it was helping her better understand what to look for in a class so she can find the ones that have the best planning and thoughtfulness at their core.  Another said reading through these ideas was helping her have a better handle on what feedback to give instructors after a class, and how to put into words her thoughts when the instruction was complete.  Those are totally unexpected responses, and so exciting for me!  I can’t wait to see what you think of thee last three installments now that it’s October (!!).