Home Décor Tips and Tricks: Valance

April 16, 2014

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Recently my mom asked me to help her create a valance for her bay window. She wanted traditional with just a little drama (drama is otherwise known as trim). Understated but elegant was her description. We found an out of print valance pattern on eBay and got to work. First, we picked out fabric. Mom wanted a tonal damask pattern in a satin or satin-like look in gold. We found this lightly patterned fabric a year or so back from a designer lot on Fabric.com (Helpful tip: If you are looking for a jacquard woven damask search for "Damask" then narrow down your search by selecting "Home Décor" and then "Jacquard" on the left side bar). Here is a similar fabric from Duralee.  

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The one drawback from the beautiful fabric was because it was a poly satin it had much more drape than we wanted and needed for our pattern. Our pattern was structured with any drape from the swags given with careful shaping not from the fall of the fabric. We wanted each swag to be precise so we decided to add interfacing. Mom and I chose a medium weight sew-in interfacing because the fabric was a medium (almost apparel weight) and needed just a little bit of structure. Too much would have made the shaping of the swags impossible and stiff. I prefer to match my interfacing to the weight of my fabric. We also decided on sew-in because fusible can sometimes trap bubbles between the fabric and the interfacing and also can distort the fabric as it is being heated and pressed into place. Sew-in adds the structure we needed by preserves the shape of the pattern with no distortion and allows the fabric to be more easily manipulated.

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The final piece of the puzzle was the batten (this is the board that is used to attach the valance to the wall). Some valances can use a simple curtain rod to hang but most call for a batten. However, when you go and ask for a batten at a home improvement store, most sales people will look at you like you spoke a foreign language and explaining what you plan to use it for and its general purpose will not help your case. It is easier to ask in the lumber section for a 1" by 3" board. While this is wider than most battens it is close enough and will get the job done. We used three 1" by 3"s and some L-brackets to attach the valance to the wall. The valance is stapled to the top of the battens. Cutting your batten into multiple pieces will allow you to shape your valance to your window shape if you have an odd configuration like a bay window or two or more windows on a corner. 

Check back for my next Home Dec project: a grand, padded upholstered great room valance. Check our instagram feed for progress photos. 

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The Darling Duffle

April 13, 2014


I remember with great clarity the moment I fell in love with idea of making my own bags. I was probably 9 or 10, and I was flipping through one of my mother's sewing magazines. And I discovered a how-to article for making a pair of plush Christmas koalas -- brother and sister each with a full sew of adorable clothes. But the thing that grabbed my attention was the part of the sewing craft that showed how to make tiny duffel bags for each of the bears to carry their wardrobes and teddy bears in. I must have gazed at the tutorial for hours. I remember thinking that if I could learn to make bags for playthings, I could make bags for ME. And an obsession was born.

To this day, I love all manner of duffle bags, and I often think back to that magazine -- I WISH I knew what it was, but the publication details exited my brain long ago.

So, for today's blog post, I'm sharing a how-to for making a small-sized bag that would work great for a quick getaway. 

For this project, I used:

- 1.5 yards of double-sided quilted fabric

- 2 22-inch zippers

- 2 7-inch zippers

- 2.5 yards of ribbon (Mine was 7/8-inch wide, but you have some leeway with the width.)

- 2 D-rings to match the width of your ribbon

- 1.5 yards of webbing -- the width is up to you!

- 1 package of piping

Instead of cutting this duffle with round ends, it has elongated egg-shaped ends. It's the only pattern piece you have to sketch out, but I have it gridded out below. The rest is all rectangle cuts:

- 1 piece 19 x 7.25 inches -- this will be the bottom of the bag.

- 2 pieces 19 x 14.25 inches -- these will be the sides of the bag.

- 1 piece 19 x 10 inches -- this will be the front pocket of the bag.

- 2 end pieces -- shown below.

- 2 shortened side pieces -- fold the side piece as shown to cut end pocket pieces.

The seam allowance for all seams is 1/2 inch.


Once you have all your pieces cut, edge-finish the top edge of the rectangular pocket piece and the two rounded end pockets. 

Then, stitch each of the rounded end pocket pieces to the 7-inch zippers, right-sides together. Flip your zipper so it and the fabric are both right side up with the seam allowance pressed down towards the quilted fabric, and top stitch about a quarter-inch from the zipper teeth. Do the same thing with your long side picket and one of the 22-inch zippers.


Set the pocket and zipper for each end piece on top of the full end piece so the curved edges all line up, and baste into place along top zipper tape and around all edges.

Then, cut 2 6.5-inch pieces of ribbon. Slide a D-ring onto each piece of ribbon, then fold each piece of ribbon in half. Stitch close to the folded edge and the D-ring, then center each ribbon and D-ring assembly on an end piece and stitch down perpendicular to the zipper. (Don't fret about the raw edges -- they'll get covered uo shortly!)


Align the long front pocket onto one of the side pieces the same way you did for the end pockets and baste into place. 

Cut two pieces of webbing about 21 inches long. (You can adjust the length based on your handle length preference.) I like to lightly singe the ends of the webbing to prevent fraying, but you can also apply Fray-check if you prefer.

Stitch the ends of one handle into place just above the zipper, 6 inches in from each side, first stitching a rectangle and then stitching an X inside it to firmly secure the handle ends.

On the back side of your bag, measure down 4 inches and in from each side edge 6 inches and mark for handle placement. Stitch second handle in place just as you did for the front/pocket side.


Stitch ribbon on top running parallel to the zippers, covering the top edge of the zipper tapes and the cut edges of the ribbon and webbing, using a straight stitch along each side of the ribbon. For the back side with no zipper, stitch the ribbon into place about 4 inche down from the top edge, covering the cut edges of the webbing handle.


Time to insert your top zipper! Edge-finish the top edges of your side pieces, then stay-stitch 1/2 inch from the finished edge. Pre-quilted fabric can sometimes get distorted, so be careful not to stretch it as you stay-stitch it.

Fold each side piece along the stay stitching, and top-stitch them onto the zipper, with the folded edge just abutting the zipper teeth. You may wish to run a second line of stitching about 1/8 inch from the first for extra zipper secutiry.


Sew the bottom piece to the two side pieces to create a tube.


Baste piping all around the end pieces, so the basting seam sits about 1/2 inch from the edge.


Once your piping is in place, sew the end pieces to the ends of your tube. I recommend basting it with a long stitch first, checking it out, and then going over your stitching again with a shorter stitch. And don't forget to unzip the zipper before you sew in the second end so you can turn it!

Once you're done, you have a cute little duffle that you can clip a shoulder strap to if you choose. It can easily accomodate several warm-weather outfits, and the front pocket is just the right size for a magazine or two. 



Happy travels!

What's that fabric? Jersey Knit

April 11, 2014

Riley Blake Cotton Jersey & Designer Rayon Jersey

You probably wear this fabric everyday even if you don't sport a t-shirt. It used to be just for underwear but now it can be found in a type of garment. It's Jersey Knit. Jersey knit is most commonly known as a single knit, lightweight fabric with a knit side (with interlocking 'V's) and a purl side (small bumps) that curls toward the purl side (wrong side). It is named for the for the English Channel Island of Jersey that first created the fabric from wool and who is also famous for their dairy cows and is the largest of the Channel Islands. Jersey Knit can also be found in Double Jersey but it is more commonly known as Interlock Knit fabric. Jersey can also be found in Jacquard Jersey which is essentially Fair Isle or stranded knitting where one thread is carried across the back of the fabric to create a color design on the front. This carried strand makes the fabric thicker and less elastic but creates a nicer design that is superior to printed patterns.

Riley Blake Cotton Solid

Jersey Knit fabric can be worked up in many different fabric to give it different characteristics. Take our ITY Knit fabric which is mostly polyester. This fabric has a soft drape that skims without clinging and is very similar to silk jersey in its drape. Cotton Jersey has more body but still with a gentle fall but the added structure of the cotton makes it ideal for a true T-shirt and wicks away moisture well. Wool Jersey is ideal for cool weather since the nature of wool is to trap air to aid in heat retention. Wool Jersey is light and clings which makes it perfect for cold weather sportswear and evening wear. Silk Jersey has a sheen as all silks do and is very light with so much drape that is like water. It is well suited to fitted, ruched, tucked and gathered designs and patterns.

You can find many different fibered and patterned jerseys here. 

Product of the Month: Cotton Lawn

April 7, 2014


Cotton Lawn- It just sounds nice; like two bits of summer rolled into one. Cotton Lawn is a lightweight cotton fabric that is slightly translucent (more so with solid colors) and is finer in both hand and drape than quilting cotton. It is mostly commonly found as a shirting but can also be used in layered skirts or as dress linings. Check out our designer cotton lawns and dotted swiss lawn.



Much softer hem curve now

I made a sleeveless tunic style billowy top inspired by some of the tops I have seen at J.crew lately with interesting, bold tiled patterns. I used McCall's 6509 Easy Tunic Pattern. I changed it up a little to accommodate my upcoming beach trip and the sweltering summer heat in Georgia. I eliminated the sleeves opting for a bound edge instead. I also only used the lower neck facing and made my own smaller neck band. I have only used a handful of neck facings that I am pleased with so for the most part I don't use them.  I cut a 2''  wide strip as long as my neck edge plus 1'', folded it in half lengthwise, pressed it. I opened it up and folded the short ends in ½'' towards the inside and pressed the ends. Then I folded it again lengthwise, and pressed it one more time. I serged the long raw edge and then pinned it to the right side of the neck edge and stitched it in place. Since the short ends were only folded I could insert my ties inside and then topstitch the opening closed and secure the ties.


Wrongside view of double folded hemband


Close view of my neckband before ties were added


I also made a 1 ½'' folded hem band instead of the hem facing. I did this because when I tried on my top it was too light and I didn't care for the way it hung (it actually didn't hang) because it was too light. I looked like I was hiding a pregnancy (which I assure you I am NOT). So I wanted to weigh it down just a bit and decided a double folded hem band would do the job and also since it was a straight band it would soften the curved hem line that I didn't care for either. The result is a beautiful shirt that is complimented by the soft, lightweight cotton and tiled mosaic print. I love the fit, drape and style together. The pattern was great but the fabric is even more wonderful. It is just slightly lighter than quilting cotton but it makes all the difference in a tunic pattern like this. I encourage you to branch out in your shirting material and try some cotton lawn. You need to cloth yourself in this; you'll love it. LAWNTOP7.jpg

On Trend: Blue and White Prints

April 6, 2014

LI-blue-and-white.jpgBlue and white prints are a super hot trend right now (as evidenced by the entire Michael Miller collection based around it). Plotting out new dresses for spring and summer, I looked for ways to incorporate the current 'it' color scheme into my plans, and came up with two dresses that use black and white cotton prints, but carry completely different vibes.

The first dress uses Toujours Bleu et Blanc and Simplicity 1418. I like the criss-cross design option for the bodice, but I didn't want to use a contrasting bias tape around the neckline and down the back. I cut bias from my main fabric, and then substituted satin ribbon for bias tape to form the faux lacing detail. 



The fabric gives this dress a slightly prim, old world vibe, like wearing a beautiful china pattern. 

For my second blue and white dress, I wanted to go a little more whimsical, so I settled on a print with an awesome octopus repeat

Because this print is busy but doesn't have the same type of bold motif as the fabric in the first dress, I wanted to keep the lines simple. For this one, I opted for another Simplicity pattern -- 1666. The dress in this pattern is easy to miss on the upper left corner of the envelope -- it's not featured in the main image.

This was a quick project -- it only took a couple of hours. (I will be making several more dresses with this pattern, for sure!) And the result is such a relaxed, unfussy garment, but it still totally delivers on style. 

I am so excited to wear these throughout the summer -- I'm hoping to get invited to a few picnics and garden parties so I can twirl about in my blue and white frocks! 

Blog of the Month: Anna Maria Horner

April 4, 2014

I have long been a fan this this month's blog, Anna Maria Horner, for several reasons. The first is she just does so stinking much in a day, I honestly can't work out the math. Of course, she has a few extra hands around the house to help out: her seven children. She also shares my love of bright colors and creatively employing those colors all across her life. Her house is filled with love and tons of fabric, yarn and thread. I have watched Anna Maria on Martha Stewart, recreated her free projects/tutorials and eagerly bought her fabric. Her blog is like looking through a window in her house but without all the weirdo, creepy vibes and you are welcome to pull up a brightly colored chair with a hand worked needlepoint cushion and enjoy a cup of coffee (though she strikes me as more of a tea gal).

If you are a fan of Anna Maria's fabric collections with Free Spirit you will definitely love her blog which is full of her fabric worked into colorful and creative projects. It will get the ideas rolling through your head. You can also get a sneak peek at her upcoming projects, cute kid pictures (like shooting fish in a barrel) and many how-tos on manipulating fabric. Look for her category cloud on the left sidebar for more specific searches. I love her tutorials because they are well done but also they are just fun. Her tutorials are heavily weighted towards quilting but since I am gaining interest in quilting and most of our customers are interested in quilting than this should be right up you alley.

I also really love Anna Maria's fashion posts. The mixed media that Anna Maria includes plus her color combos and embellishments really make my fingers itch. Her home posts are another favorite. It is like a beautiful family reunion, filled with cookies, song and nice smells (sans fighting and not enough bathrooms). I love the glimpses of kid crafts, hundreds of quilts and cozy blankets, and lots of smiles.


Hot Patterns Free Pattern Download: Aspen Cardigan

March 31, 2014

LI-Aspen-Cardigan.jpgIt's time for a new free pattern! It always feels like Christmas or my birthday when we get a new Hot Pattern download to test out. This time around, it's a cardigan with a ruffled peplum, designed for knits.

(Knits, I will never stop loving you.) 

The big draw here for me: There's no hemming or closure notions needed. The edges all around finish with a band of fabric, and it's designed to hang open (though I'll share some ways I played with closing it up wrap-style). Easy-peasy, perfect for a grab-and-go layer in your wardrobe. 

I made two versions of this, both in very fluid and drapey knits. For the first one, I went the ultra deluxe route and used designer knit -- a LIberty of London Dufour Jersey Knit in Darby Blue. It's like butter. 

The second version uses a slub jersey knit in a ballet pink. It's a much more economical option, but it also has a lovely drape. 

The cutting and construction is all straightforward. To cut a size 14, I used a little less fabric than called for on the pattern -- just a little more than two yards.

During construction, the only place I had to really take my time and exercise patience was getting the band that goes around the lower edge, center front and neck edge in place and lying smoothly. The curved bottom front edges were the trickiest bit. Once I had things figured out on the first go, the second one was a much smoother affair. 

The completed cardigan has a soft swing, and the peplum is not as full as I had expected based on the pattern sketch. This is a good thing -- it gives you more of a figure skim and less of a puffy effect. 

1-Aspen-Cardigan.jpgBut then while I was snapping photos, it occured to me that this garment is far more versatile than I had been thinking initially. I cut a strip off of a bit of knit yardage I had on hand and made a quick sash, overlapping the fronts of the cardigan like a wrap. And it is SO CUTE.


The soft pink, which is so girly and perfect for spring, also got a little belting treatment. 


This time, I used a chiffon scarf wrapped from the back, criss-crossed in the front, and then tied in the back. This is a perfect treatment to create an hourglass figure -- use a dark color for your sash and give yourself an instantly nipped-in waist.

4-Aspen-Cardigan.jpgWearing these soft, drapey fabrics in this fluid cut also made me think that it would be fun to make this up as a cover up for pajamas or even for poolside. Another versatile freebie from Hot Patterns! Huzzah!

Get your copy of this pattern here. Happy stitching!

Easter Basket Tutorial


Materials (for one basket):

½ yd. Fabric A Quilting Cotton

½ yd. Fabric B Quilting Cotton

½ yd. Medium weight interfacing

~ ½ yd. of Extra fabric for trim strips and handle

~ 24'' of ½'' diameter plastic tubing (from home improvement store)

All Seams are 1/2 '' unless otherwise noted


Print and cut out the Easter Basket Patterns Easter Basket Pattern 1 and Easter Basket Pattern 2. Cut out your pattern pieces. Fuse interfacing onto the exterior pieces.

With right sides together, pin 2 sides together along the short sides and stitch. Repeat with the other side. Clip the all around the bottom and pin to the bottom piece. Stitch around the bottom and press seams toward the sides. Topstitch to keep the seam allowance in place and trim seam allowance to ¼''. Turn right side out. Repeat for lining.

Place lining inside the exterior with wrong sides facing, pin in place. Cut a trim strip 3'' wide by ~24'' long. Press in ½'' of each long edge towards the center. Pin trim to inside of the basket and stitch in place. Fold the trim over the top of the basket and pin in place just covering the previous stitching line. Stitch in place, leave a 2-3'' gap to insert the tubing. Insert the tubing and cut to size. Stitch the gap closed.


Cut from fabric a handle piece 3'' wide by 20'' long and cut from interfacing 1''wide by 20'' long. Press fabric handle in half longwise and open and press edges toward center seam. Open handle and fuse interfacing to the center of the handle and fold the handle back up and topstitch down both long edges. Fold under raw short ends by ¾'' and pin to the center of the basket side right below the trim on both sides. Stitch in place with two lines of stitching to secure your handle. 


Sparkle Preservation Tactics

March 30, 2014

LI-glitz-bag.jpgWhen Michael Miller Glitz came in, I was all awiggle. I am a total magpie and love any kind of sparkle or shimmer, so I instantly wanted to make all kinds is things with the pretty golden accented fabrics.

But I know all too well that life can abuse fabrics with pearlescent and metallic accents. So something like a dress, which would require frequent washing, was not going to work for me. 

I really liked the idea of a bag with golden chevrons, but bags in my world also take a beating. And then it hit me: Protect it with vinyl!

For this project I used a chevron stripe in gold and pink, a set of Cindy's Leather Purse Straps (adorable -- why have I never used these before?), 6 guage clear vinyl, and Perfection Fused Leather for the piping. This project, which is from Sara Lawson's "Big City Bags" also requires several different interfacings



For every piece I cut from my Glitz fabric, I cut a matching piece in the clear vinyl. AFTER I fused my interfacings, I layered the vinyl on top of the Glitz, basted around the edges, and treated it like one piece of fabric from there on out. I opted to go this route instead of using a fusible vinyl because I wasn't confident about how the metallic would behave. In my swatch tests, it seemed like the gold dulled a bit with the fusible, and I want to keep as much shiny sparkle as possible. I was worried that over time, the sparkle would suffer even more.

1-glitz-bag.jpgAssembly difficulty was upped a little bit by the extra layer, but as is usually the case, it's nothing that a little patience can't get you through. (Turning it right-so-out was a pretty hilarious dance for me.) Attaching the purse straps is super simple -- it just involves a wee bit of hand stitching, and they look fantastic. 

1a-glitz-bag.jpgSo now I'm ready to head out into the world with a super fun (and sparkly!) bag on my arm. It's got a good amount of interior space -- I carried mine around while running errands today with my phone, wallet, small cosmetic bag and media wallet and still had loads of space left. And because I used leather for the piping and handles, I can just wipe down periodically to clean my new bag. 

And now I'm dreaming up a dozen more projects that involve layering vinyl over a fabric that would otherwise need a lot of TLC. 


Embroidery Secrets

March 28, 2014


I'm a big fan of embroidery but I haven't always been. I've always enjoyed the relaxing technique, the color choices and the small, quiet, repetitive sounds from needle puncturing fabric but the pattern choices always turned me off. There are only so many mice scampering across 20 yr. old computer screen housing cute witticisms that I can work on before my brain just says "NO, no more!" Even with patterns that I love you can only use them so many times. What if I want to embroidery that flamenco dancer more than nine times? What's a girl to do?

So today I want to share my secrets for creating my own embroidery patterns that you can use easily to break out of the standard pattern rut. These secrets can be adapted for existing embroidery patterns or to make your own. All you need is some muslin/light colored fabric (dark colored or patterned fabric secrets are coming in May), a light box/ sunny window, and a water soluble marker.

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I love to use coloring pages as embroidery patterns because the designs are not overly detailed and look great once worked in embroidery floss. Coloring pages are abundant and easily accessible. You can find any design you want for any project, just type it into the search box of your search engine. Here's an example: if you are looking for a giraffe silhouette just type in giraffe silhouette coloring page into your search engine and select from hundreds or thousands of images.


Print out your coloring page and edit the size on a copy machine, copy center or using photo editing software. Tape your image to your light source. You can use a sunny window or a light box. Lay your fabric over your image (I used muslin). Then using your water soluble marker trace your design. The design should be visible through your fabric. However, if it is a cloudy/rainy day and you simply cannot wait, then use this tutorial to whip up an overhead projector (you already have plenty of Fabric.com boxes around). Once your design is traced you can stitch over your marker and then spray it away when you are done. Simple.IMG_5501.JPG

You needn't be limited to just coloring pages or your old patterns either. I downloaded a picture of a free Sashiko pattern and blew it up 200% to create my 16'' x 20'' design that I plan to hang over my bed. You can use this technique for your children's drawings, handwritten letters or family photos. Just be sure you have plenty of muslin because this is addicting. Don't forget you can easily dye you muslin if you want another color.   


You can find my Family Tree Coloring page here

Explore my other coloring sheet projects