July 2010 Archives

Yoga Mat Tote- New Free Pattern Download

July 30, 2010

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I heart new pattern day. Today is the debut of my Yoga Mat Tote designed just for Fabric.com customers. This pattern is made to coordinate with the Yoga Water Bottle Cozy in the stitch pattern and in fiber. Now you can look pulled together for your yoga class from your head past your toes. The lace at the top off the bag allows for more elasticity where you need it to quickly get your mat in and out of the tote. It also increases breathability. The cotton/acrylic yarn ensures fast drying to decrease instances of mildew or unfriendly odors. The acrylic mixed with the yarn helps the yarn bounce back better than 100% cotton. Lion Brand Cotton Ease comes in a bunch of great colors, bright and neutral.

The Yoga Mat Tote is a quick knit with just enough to keep you interested to the end. There is minimal finishing and some seaming. The strap is made from quilting cotton and is sewn on. The tote is knit in the round from the top down. This project is great for TV knitting, Knitting on the go (it is not very large) and knitting in public. You will need 2 skeins of Lion Brand Cotton Ease and ¼ yd of quilting cotton, as well as size 8 circular needles in a length longer than 24 in (I used magic loop), a tapestry needle and coordinating thread. The finished bag measures 24 in. high by 4 in. diameter.

You can check out more info and pictures on my Ravelry project page.   

Cricut crafts

July 29, 2010

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Scrap booking has become big- HUGE- these days. It is a wonderful pastime that can bring friends and families together. Giving a gift like a scrapbook is one of the best presents you can give and great for any occasion. But scrapbooking can be consuming. There are stamps, papers, dies, glitter, fonts, etc to purchase to make your scrapbook awesome. Or you can buy a Cricut, which will eliminate the need for hundreds of dies, fonts and stamps.

I have a feeling though that if you are this far into this article, you are already all for the Cricut. I know I fell in love one sleepless night years ago when I first spied the Cricut infomercial. According to the infomercial the Cricut is not just for scrapbooking but for general crafting and this is too true. Sure, you can whip up a card in no time but that is not just it. Let me guide you through a few of the many Cricut treasures the internet holds.

Let me first show you my article on making paper magnets with your Cricut. It is so easy that it can be your first craft project with your Cricut. I used this method to populate a tree I painted on top of magnetic paint in my daughter's room. I intended to make tons of fabric leaves for this tree but then I received my Cricut for Christmas and the project was finished in no time. I then stepped it up to birds and flowers, because any good tree needs both.

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Next, I found a video tutorial from Above Rubies Studio for making name plaques that looks like a lot of fun. It involves painting but no artistic skill really needed. You will also need some vinyl to be cut with your Cricut. The host describes many gift ideas to broaden the range of this craft.

Custom Crops shows up how to make a really beautiful glass soap jar for your guests. This video even includes showing your how to decorate your soap on top of decorating the jar. I spied a second video tutorial by Custom Crops that walks you through making awesome sugar/salt scrubs and gussying them up as spiffy presents. A third video lead me to the sudden urge to make a bunting banner. These ladies are the go-to girls for non-traditional Cricut crafts and I recommend you check out all their videos (very well made too).

I hope this article has encouraged some crafters who are not scrap bookers to look at the Cricut in a new light. I don't really scrapbook but I love my Cricut. It is handy for all of the above as well as cutting out stencils, appliqués and letters. I also hope that I have allowed some scrap bookers to try something new or to get excited about their Cricut all over again.  

 

 

Review of Nashua Snowbird Yarn

July 28, 2010

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70% wool, 30% alpaca, 100% fun. My review for Nashua Snowbird must extend back to our first meeting. I was planning my July blog calendar and had just falling head of heels for the Coco Knits Ballet Slipper that this yarn ultimately went on the create when I first beheld this yarn.

Wait, I must interrupt myself. I have been listening to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen so should my language seem overly formal and slightly romantic, you will know the cause.

Back to our story. After choosing my pattern, I needed a yarn. I imagined something wooly but not full wool. I wanted it to offer good stitch definition but also offer some fluffy since I like a good fluffy slipper. I also wanted to select a yarn that was different from the yarn used in the pattern to offer you a different take on the pattern and encourage my readers to experiment. I found all of this and more in Nashua Snowbird.

I have been a fan of Nashua yarn since discovering Ivy (it is a wool/alpaca mix with some metallic threads woven in for glamour). Snowbird is another notch on their belt. It is well wound (no split stitches at all) and the color combination was really what landed me. The 2 colors strands of the yarn were bold but similar enough to be exciting without too much daring. The colors knit up in a way that I had not imagined but was even better than expected.

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The yarn is fluffy but gives the definition that I was looking for. The fluffiness is very evident when wearing my slippers. They are slippery but also very comfortable. The wool gives nice elasticity that the pattern needs since it incorporates so many techniques that inhibits stretch. The many K2togs and pleats make for a tight fit that cotton or even silk would not compliment.

A search on Ravelry shows that this yarn has been featured in many projects including hats, sweaters, toys and scarves. I would recommend it for any and all of the above projects. It would really shine with large cables and textured stitches. Snowbird might complete too much with fancy lacework unless the lace were worked on very large needles and very exaggerated.

To end: I loved this yarn and my slippers and have secured it a spot on my Christmas gift list. 

Lining up Christmas

July 26, 2010

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It is hard to get started thinking on Christmas when it is still hot outside but if you want to really enjoy the Christmas season and resist the slow decline towards "Ba Humbug" that results in homemade gift procrastination, then you had better pay attention. Allowing yourself plenty of time also ensures that you will enjoy making every gift which will surely be evident and will also allow for fine finishing details that make your gifts so special. Of course you will want to make something extra special for everyone but allow for your schedule, the number of people you plan on exchanging gifts with and how fast you create. Estimate in your head (or on paper) how many hours you can dedicate to each gift and stick to it. You can always supplement with store bought gifts or, even better, baked goods.

It is important to plan and try not to deviate but leave some wiggle room (you might want to take the weekend off to take in the leaves changing color or visit your favorite festival). The wiggle room will keep you going and help you to feel refreshed.

Pick projects that the receiver will love but you will also love to make. It is infinitely more fun to give something that gave you as much pleasure to make as it will for your loved one to use or treasure. Our Creativity Headquarters is full of patterns and gift ideas as well as fabric. It is a great place to start your Christmas list. You can also check out other blogs for free pattern ideas, tutorials and pictures of finished projects. You will be surprised how another perspective can give you inspiration on new fabric choices and gift ideas that would not have occurred to you but that you must make.

Wee Wonderfuls has great free softie patterns for free as well as embroidery deigns

Angry Chicken has some awesome free video tutorials

Craftster is another go to for anything fun and free (check out my Craftster walkthrough)

Another reason not to wait is the sales. You don't want your perfect fabric to slip away ne'er to be seen again. We are always having great early sales so stock up now so you don't have to scramble later. Though most of our patterns are reorderable, sometimes the stock is depleted and can take a few days or a week to be refilled. That is time you can spare now but not as the clock ticks down. If you purchase all your supplies early, you can work on your schedule and not have to sweat bullets if the pattern you must have is still out of stock.

Christmas is a season of merriment and I hope that if you follow my advice it will be so for you. Gift giving is a delight for both parties so planning ahead, sticking to your plan and allowing wiggle room will guarantee that the smile on your face Christmas morning is the real deal and not hiding the fatigue, stress and frustration of last minute gift making. Plus you will need the time for cookie making (be sure to share you recipes!!)

P.s. More info on the advent calendar here

Fun with Buttons!

July 23, 2010

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I love buttons!

"But Tara", you might remark, "You say that in every article.""

"Of course", I will answer, "why would I write about anything I don't love".

 And buttons are at the top of the list. They are small, fun, and come in a wide range of size, colors and shapes. Buttons can be used for a wide range of projects and are not relegated to coats, cardigans and pants only. Just do a simple search for button projects and you will find more than you can complete in a year. My favorites are accessories; they turn a simple outfit into something special. Accessories are great for stretching your vacation wardrobe. Double Bonus!

Let's go over a few ideas with links included.

Craftstylish has a great tute on crafting a bracelet and ring from fabric covered buttons.

Thinks Crafts can show you how to make a button pendant

Craftlog has the cutest stacked button ring ever

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But enough of that, I have my own project: a button flower hair bob. You can wear it with a bun, on your wrist as a corsage, wrap it on a head band or even slip it on to a belt with your fave dress.

Cut a strip of fabric 2 in by 12 in and from a coordinating fabric a strip 1 in by 12 in. Lay the 1 in strip on top of the 2 in strip, lining up the edges. Use a running strip, ¼ in from the edge and pull tight and knot. Stack 2 of your favorite buttons and attach them to the center of the fabric flower. Turn your button flower over and stitch on a rubber band and you are done. It takes no time. You can whip up a bunch for additions to gift bags and cards. Decorations for wine bottles as hostess presents. The sky's the limit. 

Knitting for Baby

July 22, 2010

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I love knitting for babies but I didn't always. Before I joined the club, I had decided that knitting for babies was foolishness. Foolishness, I say! First, babies do not care one whit what they are wearing. Second, babies outgrow everything at a rate that exceeds the amount of time it took to knit the item. Third, from the rumors I had heard floating among other non-members, babies seemed to gain a cruel, almost nefarious, pleasure from spitting up on the cutest of baby presents. "That is not for me" said I. I will stick to knitting for those who appreciate it and can keep their stomach contents where they belong. However, all those thoughts dissipated with a quickness the moment my little one was born. Everything was so cute on her wouldn't it be even cuter if I had knit it, I questioned (it was of course rhetorical). My reasons against knitting for babes were rapidly replaced with arguments in favor. First, babies are cute, so cute and the perfect models for oversized sweaters, scarves used instead of warmth but to play hide n' seek, and colorful blankets. Second, babies are so super cute because they are small and small things are knit quickly. Third, Babies like bright colors and soft yarn. What a coincidence... So Do I! It was settled. I began to knit and as I did I came up with some rules (I mean guidelines. Who likes rules any way?)



The Baby Knitting Guidelines (Should you not be a member of the club please, PLEASE, heed these rules. Mothers follow your own rules but peruse should be you curious)

1)      Let it be washable. For the love of all that is small and cute, plan on it being washed again and again. Babies may smile and giggle at all you do but it is because they are plotting and all that smiling is a carefully planned ruse to make messes and get away with it. Their favorite palette, themselves. There is nothing they won't use to obtain this goal. They are cute and devious. Beware

2)      Let it be soft. No mother wants to put a scratchy wool sweater on their baby as much as you do not want to spend hours working with it. Test the yarn; rub it on your skin. Knit up a swatch and rub it on the inside of your wrist, your forehead or even your belly (all sensitive places). If the baby will touch it there so should you. If you love it so will the baby. Remember, babies do not really care how beautiful it is but momma's care how it feels.

3)      Let it be oversized. Anything knitted will take you so time and, granted, the baby will look so stinkin' cute in it that mom will want her to wear it forever and ever. We become dismayed when out baby outgrows a beloved item. But big garments can be tucked and rolled to fit well before the baby is actually to size.

4)      Let it be appropriate. A delicate lace shrug may seem like a good idea when you see it stylized in a pattern book but once the baby gets its toe caught in a YO or snags it again and again on the cabinet pull, it will become a hazard and ruined. There are many baby proof stitch patterns out there. Stay away from anything too delicate or lacey.

5)      Let there not be too many buttons. Babies wiggle. That is all I have to say on this.

Well, the hour grows late and I must get back to my baby. My knitting list for her has already outgrown that for myself. One day she will knit on her own and I might be allowed to knit for myself. Then again, I may just serve as a second set of needles set to check off her list.   

Here are some link to our great Baby Yarns (Yum):

Lion Brand Organic Cotton

Lion Brand Baby Wool

Filatura Baby Yarn (fun Pom-pons)

Vanna's Baby Yarn

Lion Brand Baby Soft

Rowan Cashsoft Baby

Shiva Paintstiks

July 21, 2010

If you're like me, you have a lot of fabric scraps. Scraps you just can't part with. In trying to use my favorite scraps to their fullest potential, I have the idea of using them, with other elements, as mounted art.

Cedar Canyon Textiles makes great products that can help transform fabric into a work of art. Shiva Paintstiks, for example, are oil paints in the form of a stick. They have properties in them that allow them dry - and they're great for fabric! These Paintstiks come in a wide variety of colors, color sets and iridescent colors as well. Rubbing plates and stencils are available as well.


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Because these oil Paintstiks have drying properties, they form a film around the uncovered areas... so you have to get rid of the dry, film coating before you can paint with them. I colored on a scrap page, and even peeled it with a knife to get to the usable product. This was kind of disappointing because I don't like wasting the product. My first attempt was to color ON the fabric, with the Cedar Canyon Birch Leaves stencil underneath - for a rubbing effect. This gives the fabric more of a blended, abstract look. I can see the benefits and potential of this technique. I lightly colored the fabric just enough so that the paint would blend and the outlines would show up better. This was easy, quick and clean-up was a breeze!

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In my second attempt, I placed the stencil OVER the fabric and colored over. This was not as easy as I thought. My attempts at coloring over the stencil were frustrating at first. The paint would get on the underside of the stencil and affect the clean lines of the leaf shapes. I applied to the pigment with a brush. The brush helped even out the paint, however without force, the paint is not very spreadable. I love the bold, clean lines of this technique, but it was rather frustrating to achieve.

Moving forward in my projects, I would love to know if y'all have any suggestions, tips or techniques in using Shiva Paintstiks!


Nancy Dress Review- 2 thumbs up

July 20, 2010

Nancy Dress

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I have been tempted to knits since I first received Wendy Mullins Sew U Knits. I created one very oversized t-shirt and stalled. When I decided to try my hand at Nancy's Dress, I was a little intimidated because many people say knits are tricky and my first attempt was not really what I would call a success. Some knits and some knit patterns are tricky. The Nancy Dress is not one of them. This pattern was quick and easy. It took me about 15-20 to assemble the pattern and then another 20-30 min to cut it out. But the sewing part was so easy. A little over an hour and I had a dress. A super cute, versatile dress. So I made another. It was addictive.

My first dress, I went by the pattern for every detail. My second dress I cut a size smaller on top for more insurance against the "creep down" notable in strapless dresses. I also cut the back piece of the top 2 in. shorter so it would sit below my shoulder blades and I could wear the front a little higher. This was not a problem with the first dress since the top was bigger. I cut the skirt the original size so there would be some gathering to make the skirt look a little fuller.

You can also wear this dress as a skirt by folding the top in half and wearing it on your hips. This versatility makes it perfect vacation wear. It is wrinkle free and can be worn in more than one way. I selected a small floral print jersey that could be worn with a variety of other pieces. The pattern was not too bright or bold to prevent coordination. So far I have paired it with a denim jacket, multiple colors of tank tops, a light sweater, a linen shawl with a chunky necklace and strappy sandals (It dresses up really well. It would make a great little black dress) and a ruffle t-shirt with the dress as a skirt. You can also pin a long length of ribbon to the center of the top and tie it behind your neck for straps. I wear one of my dresses once a week. It is so great as a mom to have a piece in my wardrobe that doesn't need to be ironed and I can slip on and feel great. The length is great to for modesty but short enough for a good summer breeze. I really love this dress: making it and wearing it. I would encourage everyone to make one.

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Check out our recommendations for fabric here

Chapeau, Chapeau!

I love hats. There's an irony there, since I rarely wear them. But I do have a pretty sizable collection, many of which I made. There's a lovely joie de vivre for me in hat making -- just a small amount of fabric yields a unique new creation. It's a great way to buzz through the scrap pile, and you can let your inner child run a bit. What's the worst that happens if you make a hat that looks ridiculous? You just save it for a costume party or a day when you need a little whimsy. Win!

When we first got the pattern for the Sunny Side Up Sunhat, I was super excited. Even though it's billed as a sunhat, it's easily adaptable to other uses. As many of our Facebook friends commented when they first saw the sneak peek of this little gem, there is a little bit of a Regency era look to the silhouette.

I decided to make one version of the pattern as a regular sunhat, using a zebra print similar to this fabric and a pink twill. I interlined with a piece of canvas I had in my stash.

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The resulting hat is fun, but it is a little flopperific. The canvas I used wasn't very stiff, so while it added body, it's definitely got a droop factor going on. Still fun for beach time or gardening!

For the second hat, I opted to explore the less sun-oriented possibilities for this pattern. I had some black crushed velvet in my stash, as well as some pewter taffeta, so my plan was hatched. This time, I used an iron-in stabilizer on my fabric for a little extra crispness, and shortened the brim by about 3/4" just by trimming it after I had sewn all the pieces together. I also reduced the height of the band by about 50%. No real precision work there - I just eyeballed it.
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I actually really like how this hat turned out. For these pictures, I tossed on a flower clip that Melanie had in her office, but really, you could use almost any little accessory for a hat like this to dress it up or down and adapt it throughout the fall and winter months. I really love the Florentina Flower Brooches and Jeweled Feather Brooches that we carry, or you can just make something of your own design to really customize the look.

As far as assembly goes, this is a quickie! I think the first hat took me all of about two hours, and the second was even faster because I was familiar with the pattern. As Melanie mentioned in her post, it is a teeny bit small as is. I have a smallish noggin (21.75" circumference), so that worked fine for me. There is some wiggle room with the open back, but it might be worth adjusting if you prefer something a little larger.

Get your free copy of the Sunnyside Up Sunhat pattern here. Don't forget, Melanie put together a fab tutorial for assembling pattern downloads here on the blog if you need it!

Knitting for You

July 19, 2010

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With the first day of school fast approaching, holiday projects being planned, and warm weather ever so slowly fading into cool, it is time to start knitting for you. You have dedicated your time to summer projects, work deadlines and family fun but how much time have you set aside for some "me time". If you are like me, check the none-to-very little box please. It is understood that the time you can set aside for you may be very little but as long as you fill it with a relaxing activity (like knitting!) you can make the most of the tiniest of breaks.

Picking a project for you is very easy; simply pick something you love and can't wait to get started. Pick something small so it will be a fast knit and pick something that will enhance future "me times". For me, that was easy, Coco Knits Ballet Slipper. If fit all of the above. It was for me! I simply could not wait to cast on and it was fast (approx 4 hours of knitting time +/-). As I write I am wearing these slippers so I can honestly attest to them enhancing my future "me times". They are cute, sassy and comfy. I can also say with a smiling face that I enjoyed knitting these slippers. First of all, they were fast. #2, They were easy. #3, It was not a bunch of Stockinette stitch (which is very easy and equal to a dose of Sleepy Time tea) but small little challenges, like mini games. There were enough small challenges to keep me interested but not too much to bore me. It has been some time since I have used Short Rows so I needed a refresher and I have never knit pleats. There was a little taste of everything and not too much. It kept me interested enough to happily finish the second slipper. No second sock syndrome here. I loved learning something new, as well. The pleats were fantastic and really added to the sassiness of the slipper. I was so pleased to have finished this project but also to finish with the sensation that my feelings of excitement and anticipation leading up to the project were never depleted and I did not feel let down. I am looking forward to knitting more Coco Knits patterns. These ballet slippers have now heard top ranking on my Christmas list projects.

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Knitting for you can benefit you in so many ways. For myself, I was able to find a project to look forward to. A project that I enjoyed knitting so much that very little wine was required. A project that left me feeling a little disappointed when completed, much like a really good book you don't want to end. After finishing my knitting for me project, I felt energized and rewarded. I am ready to get back to my daily grind and all I needed was 4 hours.

Check out my project notes on Ravelry

 

Sewing kid presents

July 16, 2010

One of my favorite reasons to sew is for kids. Now that I have one our birthday party invitations have increased exponentially. We trek off to a kid party every month. I try to make something different for each kid so I don't get bored and each one has something special just for them. Sewing for kids is enjoyable because the restraints of matching are exchanged in favor of favorite colors; attention to detail is traded for creative stitches and sneaking in glitter where ever possible is always encouraged. I love sewing for kids and challenge myself to push the boundaries of picking prints, adding details (like secret pockets for treasures) and including something extra just for that child.

Some great kid patterns and tutorials are:

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Organizing your yarn

July 15, 2010

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There once was a young girl, ignorant and inexperienced. Her world changed in a day. The day was Christmas day and started like any other. The young girl celebrated jovially with her family as they gathered around the tree for presents. As she began to open her presents, the girl had an eerie feeling that her life was never going to be the same. She was right. That Christmas was the year that she received her first knitting book and that girl was me. For the first few years, my house runneth over with yarn. It was everywhere: in the coffee table, closets, under the bed, on my nightstand, purse and in the guest room. But now, I have found organization and am at peace (Om). My yarn is happy and I am happy. Everyone in my family can walk unobstructed by yarn tails and balls rolling under foot.

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Quite an odd segue for yarn organization, I know, but I am a stream of consciousness kind of gal. Plus when it comes to yarn organization sometimes a little story helps get ya in the mood. Face it, if you are anything like the majority of knitters, you have let you yarn run amuck for way too long and organizing it into submission. A story helps but so do pictures, to help you get ideas for your space, style and stash.

If you have limited space, let me suggest investing in shelves (I think the work 'invest' is misleading. I don't mean that the shelves cost an arm and a leg but that you should consider them an asset). You can then display and systematize your yarn while saving valuable floor space. Consider magazine to sort each yarn by project. Or some cool vintage-y wire containers for each fiber. Baskets are also a great option for you traditional knitters. If you are so inclined add a basket liner embroidered with each weight of yarn.

Should you have some floor space available consider a small piece of furniture. I have seen some bloggers using wine rack but I don't see that as a high capacity solution. A pie safe is an excellent option, like Loopy Ewe's. It lends a classic/farm house feel and once filled with yarn; it keeps your skeins dust free while still leaving them on display. A small dresser, like this one from IKEA, is another opportunity which still allows a glimpse of your yarn but with all the functionality of drawers.

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Should you have a significant of floor space to offer up the yarn gods, try cubbies. I see this in many yarn stores as their display of choice. Many furniture stores offer a cubby system of some kind. I use this in my sewing room as you saw in my video and to your left. Cubbies are great for stacking lots of yarn in several different compartments. You can display your yarn by weight, color, fiber, or project. Check out these cubbies as another great example of the fun to be had with cubbies.

I hope you will share your yarn organization tips on our Facebook page or twitter. I am always looking to change it up since my stash is ever-evolving.

 

Picture 1: Craftzine

Picture 2: Loopy Ewe

Picture 3: GrueneTree

Melanie Plays Mad Hatter

It's that time again!  We have just posted our newest exclusive, free Hot Patterns pattern download, the much-anticipated Sunny Side Up Sunhat.   Holly teased this one on Facebook a couple weeks back, and many people were super excited to get their hands on it.


If you haven't had the chance to work with downloaded patterns, this is the perfect one to start with (and if you have, this one will make you pleased as punch).  The Sunny Side Up Sunhat is quite possibly the easiest of the downloads to assemble (although the Bossa Nova Skirt comes in a pretty close second).   When it came to creating the pattern, I was actually a little hesitant for a couple reasons - here's where my confession starts:

- I've never made a hat.  They kind of scare me.
- I don't really wear hats.
- I am really, really, REALLY horrible at sewing flat pieces around curves, especially when they keep going around in a circular pattern.   I have several wonky looking purses that attest to this.


Since I was already taking this whole hat-making business as a challenge, I also thought I would channel my "inner Holly" and go with some fun, colorful fabric combinations.  (Many of you don't know this, but Holly has absolutely zero fear of color.  Well, except brown.  Seriously, though, her office is bright pink and black.  No kidding.) 

 

NiceyJaneHat.JPGFor my first hat, I picked three prints from Heather Bailey's Nicey Jane collection.  

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For my second I decided to get a little wacky with some Michael Miller Hedgehogs.  I interlined both with canvas.


A few notes on the actually sewing and whatnot:
- Don't let the fact that it's a hat give you a moment's pause - it's really an easy pattern to make.
- The brim is pretty wide.  If it's too floppy for you, you can play with shortening it or using interfacing.
- The pattern is one-size-fits-all, but runs along the lines of an average sized head.  If you need to it be a little more accommodating, you may need to play with sizing.


While I may not be a complete hat convert, I have to say I have grown fond of my new millinery masterpieces.  I think I may keep them in my office to use as "thinking caps."  You never know when you might need a little bit of help getting the creative juices flowing.


Click here to get your copy of the free download and to see some of our favorite fabric picks for the pattern.  If you missed any of the previous download, click here to check them out!

Back to School Sewing

July 14, 2010

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Whether Back to School means getting the kids stocked up and ready to go or preparing for a slower pace for yourself, Back to School sewing is an important event.

If you are on the 'Stock up the Kids' side of the fence, start with measuring your youngsters. They have grown since the end of the school year. The first day of school outfit is make-or-break, as everyone knows, so pick a pattern that will wow! For Girls, I love the Bananafana Gumdrop or Mod Girls Julia. Both call for several patterns that are bright and fun, try Arianna or Pretty Bird by Michael Miller. For Boys, Oliver + S Sandbox outfit is fun with lots of personality. The Kwik Sew Hoody pattern is a simple project perfect for the first day of school once you add a Sublime Stitches Pirate.

For kiddos heading off to their very first day of school, SewBaby's Backpack pattern is perfect for art projects, crayons and notes home. Pair this pattern with some of the bright, fun prints in the Retro & Mod section.

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If you are gearing up to slow down once the school bell rings, you had better start your project list, because you are going to need a new bag, jacket, bed spread and more! Now you have the time to spare, why not spend it on yourself; you need a break! Check out this to die for purse pattern from Indygo Junction. The button placement and buckle are so different but also classic. You will be the envy of ladies everywhere. The Victory bag is begging for woolen fabric with complimentary retro buttons. I am going for a plaid version with buttons!

To go with your hot new bag, you need a hot new jacket. Perfect for early morning coffee runs, soccer games in the park and waiting for the bus, the Midtown Trench features bracelet length sleeves, a wide portrait collar, back pleating for swing and 2 lengths. I am dying to create one in Waverly Geometric or Amy Butler's Love.

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Finish off your project list with some Gumdrop pillows to seat extra guesst for coffee, book club or kids afterschool on rainy days. These pillows are also great for piling on for family movie night or just diving into followed by plenty of kiddy giggles. Choose a fabric that is washable and blends in with your décor. Or make some for the kids play room and let each kid pick their favorite print.

Whether you are sewing for you or for others, Back to School is different for everyone. Pick and choose which projects work for you and you are sure to find plenty to fill your time and dress your family. 

Sizzix and Westminster make a great team!

July 13, 2010

If you tell yourself you'll never quilt because of all the tedious cutting, have I got a solution for you! Westminster fabrics has teamed up with Sizzix (the die cutting machine people), and created a set of dies just for the quilter. You can make 2.5'' strips, 5'' charms and all kinds of special shapes to create the fastest quilt blocks ever. Just stitch them up! if you do not have the Big Shot Pro Sizzix Die Cutting machine, you'll need that, too. But if you are a die hard quilter, or really want to take most of the cutting out of the quilting equation this is a must.

A little background on how the machine works for those who don't know. The dies are strong plastic on the bottom and thick foam on the top. Inside the foam are blades in the shape of the item you will die cut. They are protected by the foam until you glide them through the machine. The pressure the machine exerts on the foam exposes the blades and cuts the fabric perfectly. When the die comes out on the other side of the machine, the foam is protecting the blades, and you, again. Pretty clever.

By the way, the Big Shot Pro can be used with any of the dies from Sizzix except the Sizzlets (they are too small and thin). And, all the dies that can be used with the Big Shot Pro cuts fabric. there are some very interesting applique opportunities out there! I am thinking popsicle quilt! triangle die.jpg

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Building a blocking board

July 12, 2010

While this was not my intended topic for today, a recent project has brought blocking to the surface again. My Wisp is coming to the final few repeats and I will need to block it to best show my work. However, I do not have a good blocking station set up yet. I bounce from one location to another trying to find the sweet spot. My mind has turned to building my own.

Many knitters are of 2 minds on blocking. Some are willing to wait an extra day or two for the best fit and presentation, while others just want to wear the darn thing already. I am understand both but I prefer to wait and block. After all that work I really do want my project to fit as the picture depicts. However, block locations are not easy to come by. So knitters purchase boards or foam blocks. Others use what is to hand such as towel covered tables, mattresses and empty square of carpet (I am the carpet person and recommend you vaccum first). The block board is the best choice but can be expensive ($70-100-Yikes). However, with the right fabric--yes, fabric--you can make your own blocking board. It is relatively easy and cheap. Here is the low down.

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Materials you will need:

Approx 3ft by 3ft, ½ in. thick OSB (a type of plywood)

Acoustic ceiling tiles to fit 3ft by 3ft

1 can of general spray adhesive

Cabinet  handle** (Optional)

1 ½ yd of 1in. Gingham (color of your choice)

Staple gun

Ruler

The OSB and ceiling tiles can be found at your local hardware store and you can find the gingham here. Now what you want to do is... Lay down your OSB and lay your ceiling tiles on top. Cut your ceiling tiles with scissors or electric knife to fit if needed. Once your tiles fit, apply the spray adhesive according to the directions to affix the tiles to the OSB. Next lay your gingham on top of the ceiling tiles. Take your whole blocking board sandwich and flip it over so the fabric is on bottom with the OSB on top. Straighten up your board on the fabric again if needed. Gently staple your fabric onto the back of the board starting in the center top, then the center bottom and center right and then center left (pulling your fabric taunt). Make sure to straighten after each staple if needed. Continue to add staples all around until the fabric is secure. Trim excess fabric. Add the cabinet handle as a carrying handle to one end if you so desire.

Your blocking board is now ready to use. The big 1 in. gingham squares serve as a ruler and straight edge to adjust your projects. Use with rust proof pins to secure your projects to the blocking board. For an excellent article on blocking, check out Eunny Lang's post here.

Remember, if you have any questions you can post them on our facebook page on the wall or under the discussion tab.

Good Luck!

 

 

Checking out Craftster.org

July 9, 2010

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While I love writing these blog posts for Fabric.com, some topics are more fun than others. Today's topic will be filed under the Super Fun category. I always begin every article with research, though some need more than others. Today's article on Craftster didn't, at first, seem to be one topic that needs much research. However, it has been a while since I have visited Craftster so I went back just to reintroduce myself. Within seconds (literally seconds!) I was kicking myself for not continuing to visit daily. Right on the home page, I spotted a dress I cannot live without and nor will I!  

Craftster is full to the brim of swaps, projects, tutorials, reworking, recycling, challenges and forums. Craftster is a great place to show off your latest FO as well as check out inspiration when you are hankering to start something new. Knitting, Crochet, Sewing, Upholstering, Jewelry are just a few of the crafts welcome at Craftster. In the past I have learned to make yoga pants from old t-shirts, found one of my favorite dress patterns and discovered projects that make me want to run to my sewing room and get to work right away.

Upon entering Craftster you will see 4 sets of pictures that change all the time: Hot New Projects, New Projects, Featured Projects, and Current Craftster Challenge. These pictures alone are enough to secure you on the website for hours, since one picture inevitably leads to another and another. But if you click on Community on the bar above the pictures you will find a drop down menu of all the crafts on Craftster. You are sure to find something interesting and more. My favorites are clothing, home sweet home and, oddly enough, crochet (that is my next craft to tackle). I love how you can find projects created with all new goods as well as recycled and reused items. I feel ashamed to say that the days I am able to dedicate ample amounts of time to Craftster are followed a short time later by a delivery from Fabric.com. I am duly inspired by the new prints in 

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Just Arrived Quilting as I am by the projects on Craftster. More often than not, my shame spiral starts with a visit to our website to get ideas for new articles, when I just pop in to peek at the new prints. It is all so innocent in my mind. I see a fabric or 15 that I LOVE (that must be said in a sing-song voice for full effect) and then I descend like a lion onto Craftster to give me a reason to purchase these new prints. 15 min later I have an order confirmation. It is all so shameful that I walk around the house berating myself for 10-20 seconds and then I feel so much better. After all I cannot possible be expected to work on my new projects in a bad mood. Plus, I have new fabric coming in the mail and an awesome Craftster project awaiting me. Who can feel bad in that situation?!   

P.s. Check out the Green Ophelia Dress here!! 

The Wonders of Interchangeable Needles

July 8, 2010

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I would like to think my evolution of knitting needles is not too different from the average knitter. As previously mentioned, I (for the most part) taught myself to knit. So I picked up a kit from a big box store; a kit that included metal needles. Once I gained some knowledge and did some research, I started to wander from the apron strings of my kit and tried wooden needles as well as plastic . I fell, hard, for bamboo. But one day, after a desperate search for a LYS in my area, I was wandering through the small yarn store and discovered my first set of interchangeable knitting needles. While I had not yet attempted to "Knit in the Round" (That should be heard in your head with an ominous echo for emphasis), I was intrigued. Even more so when the shop owner showed me how you could attach the end caps and have really long and weird straight needles. I snatched them up right there. A short time later I learned that it is possible to knit straight on circulars without joining in the round and without the weirdness. My mind was, officially, blown! Since that day I have always knit on interchangeable needles. I repeat, ALWAYS. Straight knitting and round. Magic loop or knitting round on 2 needles. There has never been a project that they do not work for me. I shun the use DPNs. I do not like small diameter knitting with them. I use mine for cable needles and icord. Interchangeable serve as circulars, straight needles, stitch holders, and you are able to expand your cable without removing your project or switching needles. There is no need to buy a size 7 circular in 5 different length cables. One project no longer monopolizes needles. If you have a sweater and a blanket knitted with size 10, but you really want to work on the blanket, simply detach your needles from the sweater, add end caps and attach your needles to the blanket. You can switch back and forth in minutes or cast on a third. 

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I would recommend Interchangeables to beginners as a cost saver and building their tool box. However, they should have some knowledge of needles. Namely which material they prefer: wood, plastic, bamboo, metal. Also, give some thought to the cable. Some cables are thicker and have more memory, while others are thinner and have less memory. The thickness of a cable is important in accommodating smaller needle sizes and use for Magic Loop knitting. Memory means: does the cable hold its shape or is it loose, flexible and easily shaped to your project. This is important in allowing your project to move on the cable as well as Magic Loop.

I would definitely recommend Interchangeables to more experienced knitters because they are so simple. All your needles are in one place (or in my case 2 places: in the case & in different projects all over the house). Since more experienced knitters are more likely to add to their collection to fill it out, a set of Interchangeables will save them money.

Interchangeables can vary in price from cheap to very expensive but the variety of projects they allow you to work right out of the gate make them a value from day one and continues 20 years down the road. Invest in a needle and cable set that you can see yourself working with for years. 

Colette Pattern Review

July 7, 2010

dress 3 .jpgRecently featured in the new August/September issue of Sew News Magazine, Colette patterns are a breath of fresh air in patterns. Upon receiving them here at Fabric.com, I bought 4! They are exquisite. The designs, by Sarai Mitnick, are classic and modern all at the same time. The edgy styling and vintage inspired looks immediately caught my attention.

The Macaron Dress is the first Colette Pattern I have made so far (like I said, I got a few). The instructions are simple and easy to follow. Instead of having a giant sheet folded 8 times to fit in a small pattern package, these instructions are in the form of a book. How easy! You always know what order to put pieces together. There is even a blank section in the back so that you can make notes about your project. However, there is an assumption that a certain skill level is required. For example: the instructions do not explain or diagram how to put in an invisible zipper; it simply instructs you to put the zipper in.

 

 

 

 

dress detail.jpgPreferring sleeveless, I opted out of the short sleeves for this particular dress. When my bodice was half complete, I simply used tailor's chalk to draw the sleeve that I wanted, and then made bias strips to bind the sleeve openenings. For the skirt pleating, I left the pleats open instead of stitching them closed right below the waistline. Another option I considered is to gather the skirt, instead of pleating.

As far as measurements are concerned, the fit of this garment is great! As standard practice, I rounded up for my size because of in-between measurements. However during the construction of the dress I realized that I actually could have rounded-down for this pattern. I used 3 fabrics from Timeless Treasures "Botanica" quilting cotton collection.  The pieces of this Macaron Dress Pattern allow for creativity of mixing and matching fabrics, and a quilting collection is great because you can find coordinating prints and colors. Here are some quilting cotton collections I suggest for this dress: Michael Miller's Emmaline and Benartex Brooklyn Heights.

Sewing for Soldiers

July 6, 2010

changing pad.jpgKeeping with yesterday's theme of handmade goods for soldiers, I wanted to write an article featuring sewing patterns but amidst my search I stumbled upon a small niche for soldiers' families. While our hearts and thoughts follow our troops into battle everyday and we watch the progress every night in this news, the soldier's families blend, often unnoticed into the crowd at home. Moms and Dads doing the work of 2, putting on a brave front while worry is a constant companion and the news a continuous reminder of the danger. Children carry on normally but knowing that half their heart is a world away and longing for the day when Mommy or Daddy will be home again. Supporting our military families rallies both at home and aboard. Seeing their child smile and know that a 'stranger' cares can ease the burden for both the soldier and their family. Below are a few projects perfect for spreading good spirits near and far.

bibs.jpgOperation Top Knot- Created by a college student who wanted to share her admiration for expectant and new mothers of military families. This operation sends care packages to new moms and soon-to-be mothers to help them care for their new family members as well as themselves. Items to sewn include but not limited to: Bibs, blankets, burp cloths, booties, hats, onesies, washcloths and diapers. Since many of these items are for new babies be sure when you prewash your fabric to do so with a gentle detergent. Choose soft fabrics that wear well.  You can also nominate a family you know or donate fabrics suitable for their projects, clip coupons and contribute store bought goods.

Daddy Dolls- Giving a child a doll sewn up with Daddy or Mommy's image not only allows a kid to snug up with their loved one but also helps them remember and be proud of their soldier parent. All you need is some Muslin or Broadcloth, printable transfer paper and a sewing machine. This is probably best done for a friend of family member whom you know and have access to their pictures since I could not find any websites that organized making and sending Daddy Dolls to military families. Once you have a picture of a solider you can have it sized to whatever size you like at any photo center. Print your picture out on the photo transfer paper and follow the direction included with the package to affix it to your fabric. Cut 2 pieces approx. 2-3 in. around the picture and place right sides together sew around the edge with a ½ in. seam allowance leaving a small gap for turning. Stuff your doll and hand stitch closed. If you are not up to sewing one of these treasures or want one bigger than your transfer paper allows, you can order one from these fine folks.

Drawstring bags- Not technically for troop families, these drawstring bags can be whipped up from quilting cotton in no time and sent full of toiletries for a taste of home overseas for our troops. Hearing how good it is to have toothpaste, deodorant and gum, home front parents will love the feeling of knowing that it is not just family members who care about their spouse.

P.S. Changing pad tutorial here

Bibs here

Knitting for our Troops

July 5, 2010

ri.jpgOn July 4th 1776, We the people declared independence from the British and in doing so declared war. 1783 brought this hard fought war to a victorious end thanks to the many citizens who fought and died to bring freedom to America. It is in thanks to those soldiers and to the thousands of troops today that continue to fight for freedom that this article is dedicated. But it is not through the efforts of troops alone that freedom is won and protected. It is also with the aid and support of the home front that our soldiers do their job and do it well. The making and sending of handmade goods extends back as far as war itself. Always it was families and friends conveying their love from afar. Times change but the endeavor remains the same and you can help. Knitted goods are needed and wanted by our troops overseas. Below are some items you can knit and send to our soldiers deployed to demonstrate our appreciation, respect and pride.

*Please note the colors allowed by the military are black, charcoal, brown, tan, gray or combinations of these colors.

Helmet Liner- This pattern is very popular among soldiers and knitters alike. It fits comfortably under a helmet and tucks into a coat or jacket to protect the face from extreme cold and wind. The ribbing used allows the liner to contour to the wearer's face ensuring a snug cozy fit. Be sure to use a cold weather fiber like wool or alpaca (not linen or cotton) but also something soft. Certain kinds of wool can be scratchy when worn next to the skin so take that into consideration. Also, wash ability will be something every solider will thank you for, especially if they are anything like my nose which yields to running when the weather gets cold. I recommend Rowan Pure Wool DK. After checking projects on Ravelry where this yarn was used in many hats and for wee babes where the items was worn close to the skin, I can assume that it is not itchy and it is also superwash. A double bonus. Choose colors Black, Shale, Barley, Hessian, or Earth. Silk is another great cold weather fiber but it is often associated with only summer. Silk is lighter weight than wool, silky to though and quick to dry. Nashua Creative Focus can be knit up in Black, Deep Shadow, and Raw Umber.

 Socks for Soldiers- In a land of few luxuries, a price cannot be put upon hand knit socks. Even here where a whim is just a car ride away, hand knit socks are a welcome reprieve. Sock for our soldiers was founded by a mom for her son deployed and in need of good socks. All you need is the simple pattern and some wool or wool/cotton blend. Let me recommend Rowan Wool Cotton Yarn which is a sensuous blend of merino and durable cotton. Perfect for our over worked troops in need of TLC (Choose Inki, which is black).

Afghans of Honor- Knitting for troops is not limited those in active duty. Those who are injured can be said to be even more in need of our support than those not. Afghans of Honor "reminds men and women who have stood in harm's way in defense of their country that they are appreciated and remembered". To some an afghan may be intimidating but surely the courage of a fallen solider can lend itself to the needles of a newbie afghan knitter. Each stitch can be one more stitch of comfort and one less of loneliness. With each stitch you are closer to being finished and shipping your afghan to a soldier in need. Even better, there are no restrictions on this project. Any color and pattern is accepted (but do keep your recipient in mind, kittens and puppies may not be popular). I encourage you to choose warm and inviting colors to keep spirits up. With no pattern restrictions you can be sure to choose a pattern for your level. I suggest Berroco Vintage Chunky for a quick knit in a yummy Wool/Acrylic blend or Nashua Vignette for colorwork without the work.

 

Christmas in July- The knitted edition

July 2, 2010

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Now is the time to start planning your knitted Christmas presents. Not that it necessarily take 5 months to knit presents for your family and friend but it takes time to find the perfect pattern, find and order yarn and then time to knit it to perfection (especially if you are working on a new pattern). Starting now gives you time to make a list and do it right without stress. This way if you decide to take a night off for wine bar hopping, a wine tasting or trip to Napa Valley, you've got time. The last thing you want is it being Dec 22nd and you have 2 scarves, 3 hats and 1 sweater left to finish and block!

Now, where to begin? Ah...the fun part. Planning is always fun for me because it involves lots of window shopping, very little price tag looking and much imagining of people opening presents with looks of delight painting their faces. Make a list of those for whom you wish to knit presents. Next, decide the general genre of the present (i.e. hat, shawl, gloves, etc). Then start your search. I always start at Knitty but Ravelry is another good place to start given the rating system. Your library of books in another starting place. I curl up on a comfy seat pulled up next to the shelf with a cup of coffee. Once you have all your patterns selected, it is time to pick your yarn (SIGH. I love yarn shopping!). Make another list of all the yarn you will need. I generally categorize it by fiber. Then if I can combine orders or yardage (say you only need 50 yds from this ball and it will work for another project, then you can combine it and save). Unless I have a definite image of what one project should look like, I try to be flexible with fiber and color so I can combine.

Next, estimate how much time you will need for each project. I write this down on the pattern itself along with the yarn I selected for it. A good way to estimate is to check out completed projects on Ravelry. Each project lists when someone starts and finishes and you should get a good feel for how long it will take. Then get started. I would recommend prioritizing your list but at this point you have already made enough lists and you should just start whichever project you are most excited over.

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But wait...Let's make a plan B. Let's face it, knitting Christmas present can be much like starting a diet: You are die-hard for a while then you get distracted and lose you way. That is why a Plan B is in needed in case you have too much wine too often or your husband insists on taking you out dancing (crazy talk, I know). I like to take readymade objects and add little knitted somethings so the sentiment of a handmade present is still there but in a limited amount of time. Some good ideas are:

·         Hand towels with knitted edgings

·         Knitted flowers added to a tank top or tee shirt

·         Wristlets

·         Purchased sweaters with added details (knitted appliqués, monograms, edgings or ruffles)

·         Crazy cozy- chicken for your teapot, pig for your toaster

·         Knitted fruit and veggies are great for kids

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There are many little things you can knit and give or add to readymade items. This will give you tons of satisfaction but none of the stress or guilt so often plaguing us during and leading up to the holiday season. 

Writer's note: The above pictures are a super cute tank top with knitted flowers added on in a cluster and a knitted inset in red flannel to make a pillow. The pattern is Odin Eagle for my Norwegian MIL but I did not have time to knit the whole pillow. This compromise allows me to give my MIL something she will love in a 1/4 of the time. The striped scarf is my free Sally Stripe pattern found here

Sewing Library

July 1, 2010

Every occupation has references that are the foundation of a job well done or a job easily done and sewing is no exception. With the guidance of a few of my favorite books I slowly educated myself in the correct and, consequently, the easy way to do certain tasks and complete certain projects. You will discover new skills and techniques, get inspiration for new projects or gain knowledge needed to tackle a challenge. Here are my foundation books for any sewer, beginner or beyond.

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Machine Embroidery Essentials (Jeanine Twigg)- When I first purchased my sewing/embroidery machine (Brother He-120) I was stoked to be able to embroider. "This is going to be so easy!" I said to myself. Well self, you were wrong. A dozen broken needles and almost to tears or on the brink of drop kicking the machine down the stairs (the jury is still out on which), I found this book. It has opened the door to embroidery. There are notions and techniques that are not even comprehensible to a beginner such as me. I highly recommend this book to make machine embroidery enjoyable and fun.

Reader Digest: New Complete Guide to Sewing- Not just everything you wish to know about sewing but everything you could know seems to be in this book. Tailoring, adjusting patterns, stitches, feet, tools, you name it- it's covered. The book has saved my behind several times when I had a hunch on a technique to try. Each time I would check out what "The Book" says before launch my own method and I was way off. The tome has saved me countless minutes of wasted time but also frustration which can call a halt to any project for me. I have also learned how to tailor certain garments from this book, which saves me money since I can now peruse the sales rack in just about any size (knowing I can adjust it to fit). I have also gained inspiration from "The Book" as well. Not so much from the pictures but from the techniques. I can read one and just imagine the possibilities.

Sew U Knits by Wendy Mullins- I love this book so much I often read it before bed while dreaming of my soon-to-be wardrobe. Wendy's tips on working with knits are spot on. I love the one concerning resting your knits before cutting. She walks you through all the essentials of working with knit with both a serger and conventional machine. Each book comes with patterns for basic pieces and Wendy shows you how you can modify them to create a bevy of looks with recommendations of fabrics. This book is easy to follow, I recommend it for beginners on up. My first t-shirt from this book was cut and sewn in less than 2 hours.

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Big Book of Window Treatments (Sunset Editors)- One cannot assume that every sewer sews only clothing. I thoroughly enjoy dressing my home as much as myself. But I don't have hours to spend searching the internet for window treatment looks that I like and hoping to find a picture big enough so I can guess how it is done. One book can give me access to many, many different options with techniques on creating them yourself. Do you really want a café curtain in your kitchen- here you are with several different customizations to choose from. Not sure what exactly you want for your living room, you just know it must block the light and keep out the drafts, check out the panels, drapes and roman shades. I have used this book for few of my neighbors' homes as well. I often sew home dec around the neighborhood and this book helps me show them the image I have in my head (especially good since I don't really have a hand for drawing). This is a must if you love to sew home dec or want to redo your home. 

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