Posted on November 25, 2013
It has been Simple Sewing craziness out on the internets the past couple weeks, y’all. So many posts about Katie Lewis’ new book, Simple Sewing, which has just been released, and is chock full of quick and basic projects that will help you hone your sewing skills and master the basics–or whip up some lovely quick gifts for anyone and everyone.
Now, I tend to like to sew things reeeallly tiny or reeeallly oversized–so I had no interest in a teeny-tiny handwarmer. I might live (quite happily) in the Deep South, but when I spend those 8 carefully-scheduled (I set an alarm on my phone so I never arrive more than 2 minutes early) minutes at the bus stop each day, I can get shivery cold. Yes, even when it’s only 60 degrees. Don’t make fun of me. I am a delicate flower.
A girl who gets cold needs to keep her extremities warm. And while I have a very nice coat, I can never, ever, ever seem to locate more than one glove at any time. And I’m not being picky, neither–it isn’t as though I insist on the gloves even matching, just on them both fitting on my hands. And I can never find two at the same time. I need something else. Something BIGGER.
Giant thanks to Katie for inviting me to be part of her blog tour, because it gave me the perfect motivation to remedy the situation. Katie’s brand-new book, Simple Sewing, lives up to its name: thirty fast and simple beginner-level sewing projects that allow you to use your foundational sewing skills and make some really great-looking projects. If you’ve taken my Essential Sewing online class, this book is a fabulous extension of some of those lessons, and offers you clear and easy ideas for translating your new skills into practical finished projects that look good enough to give away.
You can find the book here, or scroll down to win a copy!
Following one of the projects from Katie’s book, I busted out some jumbo-sized handwarmers to pop in my pockets and keep me cozy while waiting on the kiddos to make it home from school! Woot. I used some of the truly (almost obnoxiously) awesome flannels from Robert Kaufman that I picked up at Pink Chalk Fabrics. They are both super soft and heftily substantial–and can we talk about the fact that they’re in HERRINGBONE for just a second?? I really, really love this fabric, and can’t encourage you enough to grab some for yourself before it’s all gone.
These handwarmers are filled with rice–or, in my case, some with rice and some with lentils. The design intends for you to toss them in the microwave and nuke some warmth into them before popping them in your pockets or under the quilt on the sofa, right by your toes where you need it most. Oh, yeah, you know the spot. I’m not sure how the lentils will work out in the microwave, but I’m willing to roll the dice–I ran out of rice, but once I got started sewing these, one or two wasn’t enough. They stitch up sooooo fast, truly. I am thinking very strongly of making a zillion and sending them off as my same-gift-for-everyone-just-in-a-different-fabric present for extended family this year–I do it every Christmas, and having that assembly line going makes sure that no one is ever left off my list. Choosing a fabric to suit each recipient makes the gifts really personalized, and you’d be surprised by how fondly family members recall these gifts later: “Oh, was that the year we all got drawer sachets? Or relaxing eye masks?” Haven’t done handwarmers before–maybe this year’s the year!
Katie’s instructions are written so clearly, and there are step-by-step photos on each page. Every project in the book is designed to be quick and simple to put together, so you can be successful even if you’re just starting out at the sewing machine. I think there are enough folks out there who are still intimidated by the machine that they’d really appreciate a book that presents a wide range of projects that can all turn out so smoothly, even for newbies.
A single seam, some top-stitching, and a funnel. I think I could easily have made two dozen of these in an afternoon. And adding the rice is such a great task to share with even the smallest children–I smell a teacher gift!
Best part? You have a chance to win a copy today! Enter to win one of THREE chances to win a copy today. And happy sewing, y’all!
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Posted on November 13, 2013
The cutting-out step is often the slowest part.
Three sets of flannel pajamas, all a size up from last year.
All of them in the absurdly cute Fanfare from Cloud 9 by Rae Hoekstra. Love.
Posted on November 12, 2013
Join me Tuesday, November 12 from 10 am to 12 noon for the monthly Whipstitch Sewcial! We’ll be meeting down by the Chattahoochee just before the bitter cold weather blows in for the rest of the week–meet inside the Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee shop (now called the Chattahoochee Coffee Company, but still in the same location as previous Sewcials–see link for map).
For directions and details about our meeting site, see the Sewcials page. We’ll be in the back room, in the comfy chairs, rather than down by the water this month–just come in the door, stop off at the counter for your cup of something warm, and head straight back to find us! RSVP through Eventbrite so we’ll know to look for you!
I’m still working on my Ferris Bueller cross stitch. What will you bring?
P.S. The recent Virtual Sewcial was HUGE fun on Instagram! Check #virtualsewcial to see all the photos, and subscribe to the newsletter to bealerted of future events–I had such a good time, and was super productive all while chatting wildly with my thumbs. I think we might need a getting-ready-for-the-holidays Virtual Sewcial, am I right?
Posted on November 11, 2013
When I made the quilted sewing machine cover included in Stitch Savvy, I went ahead and made a matching serger cover at the same time. I wanted to demonstrated how to adjust the design to fit a less rectangular machine, and I also knew that I would be keeping the samples for my very own self once the book was done (learned that writing Stitch by Stitch: always make the sample in your own size, so then you get to enjoy them later instead of trying to find homes for a bunch of orphans–so sad!).
For the past two years or so, it has looked like this, though:
See, I made the whole cover, and then just could never quite get around to adding the bias binding at the outside seams. Like a lot of projects. Stop looking at me like that–I am SO not the only one who has one or two or *ahem* more unfinished sewing projects lying around. The serger sat under its unfinished cover all this time, looking at me sadly day after day. Every once in a while, I even felt guilty.
In the space of 15 minutes the other day, I finally sat down and sewed on the bias binding. Which was a little like Harry and Sally finally getting together–only takes a sec to finally make the right decision, but it could take a decade to get to where the decision is easy to make. Oy.
The half-square triangles were made when I sewed the sewing machine cover, so they’re identical. The quilting was done at the same time, too, so the design matches perfectly. See what I mean? There was TOTALLY no reason for me not to have just finished this thing back when I made the other. I kinda feel like I remember that I ran out of the fabric that I used to make the bias tape for the first one–which would make sense, because I couldn’t find it when I got ready to work on this (at last).
See how happy they are together? Makes me feel like I’m one step closer to Total Organization. I did a deep clean of the studio over the weekend, and with little bitty projects like this completed, it gives me the sense that it’s all coming together.
I guess the lesson here is that all of us, in one way or another, put off doing things, taking care of projects, getting loose ends tied up, or otherwise cleaning up on our side of the street. In the long run, it’s doesn’t save us any time by avoiding those tasks–it wastes time we could have spent feeling content and satisfied. This wasn’t a sewing task so much as an organizational one–and now I feel vastly more motivated to not just finish up some unfinished tasks, but move methodically through my stash to take advantage of all the other great ideas that have been hibernating there for months and years.
Raise a glass to getting stuff done, y’all.
Posted on November 7, 2013
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted on November 4, 2013
Long story short: we were a hit.
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.
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).
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!
Posted on October 31, 2013
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:
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:
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.
Posted on October 29, 2013
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!
Posted on October 22, 2013
Have 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!
Posted on October 18, 2013
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:
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:
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:
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!