August 2010 Archives

Pearl- A free knitting pattern download

August 31, 2010


Pearl gleams and shimmers. Pearl is elegant and sophisticated. Pearl is a knitted clutch with a textured body and lacey, scalloped flap. Pearl is lined with a sea blue Dupioni silk. Pearl is our latest free knitting pattern download.

I dreamed of pearl when I first saw Berocco's Lustra. For many months I wanted to get my hands on it and see what could be made with it to bring out the sheen and incorporate the slight fuzziness. The textured stitch came from a stitch guide but I had to reverse it for knitting in the round. The lace stitch is simple but delicate enough to add to the elegance of the clutch without detracting from the texture.

Pearl is knit with a worsted weight Tencel and Wool blend on size 8, 24 in. cable needles. You can sub in any silken or woolen yarn but I would not recommend anything too fuzzy or stark (like pure cotton). The slight fuzziness blends the gaps in between stitches in the texture. The pattern for the lining is also included. You can use any silky fabric or spice it up with patterned quilting cotton.

Pearl is perfect for any occasion where a clutch is needed. It's soft to the hand. A small luxury when you are stuck in heels for the night. 

You can download Pearl here and check out Pearl's Ravelry Page

Fall, Football and Staying Warm

August 30, 2010

Football games are being played everywhere now. Despite the fact that it's still summer in the Beautiful South, the sound of a high school football game on a Friday night brings fall to mind. Fall means cool temperatures, and those games can get chilly. I have a few suggestions for staying warm at the games and showing your team spirit at the same time.

You've seen them on TV, you've seen them in the drug store, and there are even pub crawls that blanket w sleeves.jpginclude those famous blankets-with-sleeves as required attire. As much as they are ridiculed, the blankets-with-sleeves are terribly practical. If you couldn't find the color or team you are looking for to take to the game, we have a pattern for you. Kwik Sew has a Blanket with Sleeves pattern sized for the whole family. We have NFL and Collegiate fleece patterns that are perfect for wearing at the game. If your favorite team is not represented, we have fleece in every color in the rainbow to match your favorite team's colors.

If you are not the Blanket-with-Sleeves kind of person, I have some stylish options for fleece that may suit you better. Kwik Sew also has some great poncho patterns including ones with hoods, mother/daughter versions, and asymmetrical ponchos. These can be made from any kind of fleece including the lighter weight fleece for those in warmer areas. We also have some great jackets that would be so cute made out of the fleece with the team logos. You will be the only one in the stadium with a custom made fleece jacket with your favorite team logo.

Cheer them on, and stay warm! I hope you have a great football season!

Sublime Stitching

August 29, 2010

Stitch Lesson 1

Now- I am not an old hand to embroidery but nor am I a green horn. You may find me safely in the middle of the road. This is just my experience we are discussing here, not my enthusiasm. That can be ranked way up high. You have to stand on your tippy-toes to reach it. But this is only since I discovered Sublime Stitching. Back when I was in high school and my mom started me with embroidery, we would head down to the local hobby/craft store and pick from their rather old-fashioned selection. It was just fine for my mom who was in the market for another "Home Sweet Home" sign but for a 14 yr old, a furry mouse hugging a computer just wasn't my style. Jenny Hart is much, much more my style. I mean, come on, she's got aliens, pie and pirates in there (the trifecta)!

Reading her book brought back all my fond memories of why I fell in love with embroidery all those days ago (despite the floral, whimsical jungle); the gentle "thunk" noise that the needle makes as it pierces the fabric, the gentle and precise movement, the freedom of color. Jenny's book is well written for a beginner or anyone looking to pick up tips. It features full instructions along with friendly How-tos, tips and "hey, check out this cool thing I found to do this better". The book has a nice selection of stitches followed by a stitch lesson and then PATTERNS-glorious patterns. Each is iron-on, including the stitch lesson. Most are bereft of added business in hopes that you will get creative and go crazy with your own business. I had such a good time with my stitch lesson. I choose to go with one color but different thicknesses of floss. I varied from 2-6 strands and found I much prefer 3. I left some of my lesson undone so you (my gentle readers) could see what the iron-on looks like. Jenny recommends 3-4 passes of a hot iron before checking but I found with my iron that one pass made it dark enough. My recommendation is to check after every pass. Just a little peek. I also used a 9 by 4 in. hoop as opposed to a circular hoop and thought it worked well for the longer stitch patterns in the lesson.

Stitch Lesson 2

I have big plans for the rest of the patterns in the book and most fall into the Christmas present category. There are plenty of cupcake, ice cream and coffee patterns that are great for tea towels. I know my brother (with a band) will love one of the Mexican dancers on his guitar strap and my toddler has a ton of hoodies that need a little something special on the sleeve or front pocket. I might even try something for my husband but I will have to sneak it!

For Felt's Sake

August 26, 2010

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Felted Flower Bowls: what a fun, quick felted knit. I love projects like this: quick and gorgeous. Not only is this an afternoon, naptime project but it also make a great gift. Give a cluster of 3-4 to a friend for catch-alls or jewelry in different colors. They make darling teacher presents (keeping erasers, paper clips, thumb tacks, etc) or for a little lady to keep all her treasures.

But... in order to make the bowl you must first come to peace with felting. It was hard for me (my first felt was a cell phone pouch) to knit an object only to 'ruin' it, in a way, by washing it against its washing instructions. It was also hard to fathom that it would be so different after than before. But felting is so fun, shrink-dinks fun! To an extent textures can play well but in general you want to stick with garter or stockinette stitch. There are no ends to weave in and colorwork takes on a whole new meaning. While felting is easier in a top loader washing machine, it can be done in a front loader. I felted the flower bowl in a front loading machine. I choose the shortest wash cycle and checked on it after each cycle to see when it had felted enough.

Felting makes a fabric so knitting the item in its finished shape is not a necessary step. You can knit pieces or just on big piece and sew it together once dried (try Knitty's pumpkin). Felted knitting gets thicker as well as denser in the process. Felted items that work well are bags, appliqués, hats, slippers, and decorative items (agina with the felt pumpkins- I love 'em). Felt is great for shaping, cutting and is much more manipulative than non-felted knitting. Felting is only possible with coat fibers like wool, alpaca and llama. You must also be very careful of blends. I used Berocco's Lustra, a wool & tencel blend, and I will admit I had some concerns on whether or not it would felt. With a 50/50 blend my fears were pretty small but there was still a small sigh of relief when I pulled it out and saw how fine the bowl looked. I have a special place in my knitting heart for felting and I certainly cannot wait pass it on!

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Here is a great article from on felting, ins and outs and how-tos.

Here is my project page on Ravelry.

Collage Skirts - Wardrobe Art for the Kid Inside You

Oh, how I love to paw through the new quilting collections when they come in. I love all the coordinated fabrics, the different patterns, the combination possibilities just waiting to be discovered. Trouble is, I'm not really a quilter. I've made a few quilts here and there, but my true passion is apparel sewing. How do I combine my love of cotton print groups with my love of clothing (and kitschy clothing at that)? Collage skirts, of course!

Being a full-fledged, pledge-swearing Disney nerd, I was so excited when the Thomas Kinkade Disney collections arrived. I could not WAIT for the Snow White collection in particular (she's my fave Princess, without a doubt). Looking at the deep hues of the wooded glade where the dwarf cottage nestles contrasted by the parchment style script print gave me an idea for a summer skirt that would have a slightly rustic feel. I cut a simple a-line skirt with a band of green color on the bottom, assembled it, and then started to have the real fun. I cut the large portrait of Snow White from the collection's quilting panels, and multiple small elements from the patchwork print, and then I just had fun playing with placements until I got the look I wanted, then I straight-stitched everything in place, leaving the raw edges exposed. The wave live of smaller pieces wraps all the way around the skirt.

A quick run through the laundry to get some fray on the cut edges was all I needed to complete the look - a slightly grown-up take on the adorable Disney Princess clothes I see little girls wearing, but can't fit into myself!

SnowWhite.JPGAlice in Wonderland has been incredibly popular this year, thanks to Tim Burton. As much as I love the design of the movie, it made me think back, longingly, to the wonderful Alice illustrations of Sir John Tenniel. Lucky for me, the British Library Board licensed Tenniel's drawings to Quilting Treasures to create a cotton print collection! This particular project was a very quick affair, a mishmash of colors and patterns all jumbled together, much like Alice's time spent in Wonderland.  I just cut 6 panels of equal size from various fabrics, with a waistband cut on the bias and cinched slightly with elastic. A "garland" of imagery around the bottom and voila! A patchwork vibe skirt that keeps me relatively cool in the Georgia heat, and makes me smile every time I look down.


I've got plans for more endeavors of this nature, all in the long project queue. Skirts like this are like art therapy for me; there's no wrong or right way to combine things, and they go together quickly so there's a sense of immediate gratification.

I've got plans for a dress made with the Haunted Oz collection, a Royal Peacock skirt, some kind of delicious silliness made with Viva! and heaven only knows what else. I have no doubt that some other collection will come through the door and trip my creativity circuit. I can't wait!

Home Dec Sewing: Easy and Chic Pillow Shams

August 24, 2010

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We all seem to be in a continual state of home redecoration. This is no more so than with me, though I do not really consider it REdecoration as much as decoration. You see we purchased our first house a few years ago and that coupled with our first child has not allowed me much of a decoration budget (good thing I can sew!). So I do a little here and there as I can. The priority now is our bedroom with bed linens being chief. I purchased some Waverly and Amy Butler  that I think will go wonderfully with the yellow Dupioni silk drapes I made a few months ago. I am starting with the pillow shams. I choose to start with them because they are quick and will give me a good visual for the rest of the fabrics needed for the room. Once the shams are done, I will be able to see if the bed linens I choose will work for my vision of the room (if you want me to label my vision I guess I will call it regency with milder colors, mostly black, grey, white, yellow and some unknown accent color). I have made beds thousands of times so a pattern wasn't needed to complete my shams. Though I wanted to add a flange that did not work out due to poor planning and math. But in the end I managed to convince myself that I did not really want a flange anyway. Perhaps on some throw pillows, I told myself.

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I measured my pillows' width and length and added a 1 in.for a ½ in. seam allowance for 2 front pieces. Next I added 6 in. to the length for 2 back pieces which I then cut in half. This left me with 4 pieces half the length of the front but with an extra 3 in. each for a 2 in. over lap and a ½ in. double turn hem.

Pinning the back pieces to the front (right sides together) overlapping the back pieces (after you complete the double turn hem) and stitch all the way around with a ½ in. seam. Clip the corners and turn right side out with a turning tool for the corners. Insert your pillow and done. Don't forget to prewash your fabric and press thoroughly beforehand. This is very important for pillows since you don't want them to shrink in the wash and they will need plenty of washing.

Once I placed my shams on my bed and placed my yet-to-be-made duvet fabric underneath, I was smiling from ear to ear. They looked great with my drapes and with the duvet fabric. My days of a miss-matched bedroom are slowly coming to an end and I cannot wait to see what it looks like in the end. I hope to add an upholstered chair, a repainted dresser or two and some new nightstands. 

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Once a bride... several times a bridesmaid

August 23, 2010

MCdress.jpgAs the summer draws to a close, so too ends yet another wedding season, leaving closets full of retired bridesmaid's dresses.  I know, bride's are always saying, "But I picked a dress you can wear outside of the wedding!"  Let's be honest - you never do. 

I have had several bridesmaid's dresses over the past few years (luckily, I have been a bride as well).  Some I have donated, some I have burned (come on, you've been there, too...), but there have been a few I can't stand to just be done with.  Two brides in particular have been fantastic friends, and I have always wanted to do something special for them.  

The first bride, Alyson, was married to my husband's best friend (and the best man at our wedding) in July of 2009.  Chad, my husband, reciprocated best man duties, and I was a bridesmaid (actually, my main job was keeping the bees from stinging the flower girls during the outdoor ceremony).  Our dresses were a taupe colored and tea-length with a halter top and a brown sash for accent.  The wedding was in the Lake Tahoe area (GORGEOUS!) and the weather couldn't have been better.  The ceremony was beautiful, the reception was a blast, and the bride and groom were as wonderful and gracious as could be.  Much fun was had by all, and the couple is still happily married and still very good friends with us.

I will confess that I started out with the intention of making something for myself out of the dress.  I never seem to have a clutch that can function with both a dressier outfit and something more casual, so I sought to find something to pair with the satin to balance out the elegance.  By the time I finished, I decided that I loved the bag so much that I simply had to give it to Alyson (my mind works like that).

Here's a quick summary of my project:

* For the pattern, I chose the Ruthie Clutch from Anna Maria Horner with a few small edits. 

bagclosed.jpg* I made the main body of the bag out of the satin from the dress (unpicked and cut carefully so that I had plenty left over).  You could recreate this look with duchess satin.

* The top band and the flower are made from a lilac colored microsuede, which was a little more difficult to work with than a regular cotton would have been since it is thicker and didn't make fusing the peltex an easy task.  Still, I like the contrasting texture against the satin.

* The pattern calls for a button closure with an actual button hole in the strap.  I'm too lazy for that (I'd just leave it open all the time) so I modified the pattern to include a magnetic snap closure.  I still used a pretty button for decoration.

Bagopen.jpg* The lining and closure strap are made from a cotton print I had laying around (for the life of me, I can't remember the name of the collection).

* I used some pretty, complimentary trim to hide the craziness of my seams... I mean add an elegant accent.

* The flower is from a tutorial (that I LOVE), found here.

Bagcloseup.jpgThe pattern was mostly straight forward, but it got a little tricky when it came to putting the stabilizer in the band.  Admittedly, it probably would have been a lot easier if I had read all the instructions before jumping right in.  It wasn't hard enough for me to give up.  It did, however, make me realize how badly I needed a pressing ham (the most underrated tool ever).  In the end, I decided that I couldn't keep it.  Instead, I am giving it to Alyson for a rather belated birthday present.  I hope she enjoys it.

Stay tuned in the next few weeks for the answer to, "What the heck do I do with a full length, ball gown bridesmaid's dress in midnight blue satin with a whole lot of fabric (to accommodate my then-pregnantly-round figure)?"  I'll give you a hint - both the bride's daughter AND son should benefit from my creativity (if I can disassemble the dress correctly).

Happy stitching!

It's the little things...


When starting a new project, you often consider the big items: fabric, interfacing, buttons, zippers, etc but often it is the little things that can really throw off a project and need to be considered just as fiercely. Like making sure your #2 pencil was sharp before a big test, it's the little things that can make a project a breeze or a nightmare.

·         Stock up on machine needles of all sizes, universal, sharp and ball point. Start every new project with a new needle. It will keep your sewing smooth, be still the tangles and prevent needle breaks. Also, make sure you match the needle to your project. While a universal 80/12 might seem to work well for most of your projects, there is a real difference when sewing knits with a ball point. Keep your needles in a handy place that is easily reachable from where you sew. You are more likely to change your needle as often as required if you do not have to get up and cross the room.

·         Bobbins are huge. It is houses half your seam. Be sure you have the right size bobbin for your machine. Be exact. Bobbins are much more temperamental than your upper thread and depending on your machine, not so easy to adjust. The wrong size bobbin can cause severe tangles, mess up your tension and simply mess with your head by causing intermittent issues that are difficult to determine cause. Wind your bobbin carefully. Make sure it is straight and tight. Any looseness in your bobbin can cause major issue.

·         Keep a good pair of scissors close by. Keep them sharp. Mark them in some fashion and sit your family down and announce that these are "Mommy's good fabric scissors and you are not to touch them except with Mommy's express permission (that goes for you too, husband) and if Mommy catches you touching her good fabric scissors she will use them to give you a special hair cut". But of course you can paraphrase; this is just what my mom said to us growing up. Use them to rescue tangle bobbin threads that have sucked in your fabric, clipping your thread as you go (we all dream the dream) and even as a turning tool.



Pincushions are not made of gold so there is no reason to just have one. Make several. You may remember from my sewing room video that I have about a half dozen (and counting). I keep them all over my sewing room because you are always in need of pins and they are always out of reach. Pincushions are cute, sassy, fun and quick to make. I have one for hand sewing needles; I have another to store my machine needles if my project calls for multiple needles and then the rest house my pins. With every project, one goes on the right side of my machine and one sits on my cutting table. As one gets empty and the other full, I rotate.

We have just covered a few of the little things needed to make every project go smoothly. Look around your sewing room or think back on a particularly trying project and contemplate on little things you can set up in advance to make your future projects move quicker, easier and more relaxing.     

P.s. The above pictures are (from top to bottom): Heather Bailey's Effie and Ollie & Heather Bailey's Henrietta Turtle

August 19, 2010


If pressed, I would call it the fabric equivalent of Ravelry. That is one way of describing Sewing Pattern Review to a 'T' but also missing it entirely. Sewing Pattern Review (SPR) has an awesomeness that is its own; this makes it a valuable tool for sewers and seamstresses. You can find pattern reviews there, sure, but you will also find reviews on sewing tools and machines, contests, forums, and online classes. It is a Girl Scout camp for the fabric minded. Before I purchased my new sewing machine (I say new but she and I have been together and happy for 3 years now) I scoured the internet for reviews. No site had more useful info than Sewing Pattern Review. If it wasn't for this gem of a site I would be shackled to another machine I had my heart set on that would have spent more time in the repair shop than my sewing room had I not read the reviews.

I have found many a good tip for a planned pattern on SPR that has saved me time, frustration and one or two times, I just put the pattern aside. When I was a beginner, it virtually held my hand while I attempted more challenging projects. I have not utilized the site as much as I should. Well, that is not true. I have used the heck outta SPR but I have not given back as I should. I only house two reviews of my own on SPR and those are just recent. But writing this blog has brought this problem to light and I will rectify it. My two patterns reviews are the Nancy Dress and the Bossa Nova Skirt. Submitting and writing your pattern is easy. There is a template you can use to write your review and you need a good picture of your finished project. Submitting your own may lead you to check out others and inspire you to make another from a fabric or with a technique you saw from another review. The same can be said for your review. Inspiration runs wild on this site so prepare your wallet and be still your heart. I would love it alone just for the window shopping. I encourage all to use this site; it is wonderful, helpful and an unending resource for all that is sewing. 

Log Cabin Knitting

August 18, 2010

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If you haven't read Mason Dixon Knitting, you are seriously missing out. Many a knitter's obsessions have sprung from this book. I, myself, bought it after flipping through it for 2 min in a book store. I saw the pictures (didn't read a word), closed the book and took it to the check-out. I have since read it over and over and over. It is my knitting Pride and Prejudice. One project I have dreamed of but not yet attempted was log cabin. It is gorgeous and so simple. The way it is explained lends it easily to scrap yarn, mystery yarn and random yarn. You can knit till you run out and counting stitches is not really required. It is perfect TV knitting; you can knit it in squares for take-along knitting and it is great for beginners because it is just garter stitch. For those easily bored, just change colors when you tire of one. It is perfect for everyone! I began mine a couple of weeks ago from scraps of wool and wool skeins with missing ball bands. I would love to give you more info on the colors, etc but I cannot. I do know it is all wool. This blanket (oh, yes, it will be a blanket one day) will features pinks, browns, turquoise and maybe some cream; it will be for my sweet, little girl. I am picturing it as a nap blanket, for family movie nights and story time before bed. It will be lined on the back side with quilting cotton, muslin or Kona cotton once finished. I will probably hand stitch the lining on but I think it will be relaxing. The lining may make it possible for me to avoid weaving in all the loose ends (GOODY).  

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My log cabin began with my scraps of yarn and grew from there. Once I gathered all my wool (it really is my favorite fiber to work with) and saw the color scheme my random bits leaned towards, I knew at once who the blanket would be for and I left out the colors I didn't need. I choose the center color from the smallest scrap of yarn and knit till it ran out. I bound off the edge but left the last loop on my needle, then turned the piece to the right and picked up a stitch for every garter ridge. I knit back and forth till I felt it was big enough and then bound off on the right side leaving one loop on my needle and turned the piece to the right. I will continue till I feel the blanket is big enough. I may add a border or not. I have yet to decide. But the greatest thing is you do not need to cast on 500 stitches and knit endlessly back and forth. You cast on a few, knit for a while then build from there. You can make squares and sew them together later. You can change directions, add increases and decreases. You are golden as long as the basic method is kept true: knit, bind off on the right side, leave on loop on your needle, pick up more stitches and knit.

This is a project to challenge the mind or a relaxing way to knit up all your random bits. It all depends on your approach.

More great fibers to knit a log cabin blanket with are:


Wool Blends

Rayon Blends

Fabric Scraps = Fabric Necklaces!

August 17, 2010


I love using fabric scraps- for anything I can. Luckily for me, fabric necklaces are very popular right now! I've seen bib style necklaces in magazines- with felt backing, swirls of fabric and beading scrolling around your neck. I prefer to go for something a little less bold- but still make a statement.

Lightweight fabric is best to use- lightweight lining or chiffon is best. You can choose a print or solid, or both; just remember both sides of the fabric will show.  All you need to do is cut a 17'' X 6 ¼'' rectangle- finish the edges with a roll hem, or use pinking shears for a raw look without having to worry about unraveling! I used a decorative hem stitch on my serger, with a different color thread. Once the edges are to your liking, fold one side over, not quite meeting the edge.  By hand, or by machine, baste stitch across the center of your folded fabric- then gather to create the ruffles. Thread a necklace chain through the generous loop you've created and you're done!

You can secure the edges of your fabric ruffle to the chain, or not, depending if you want to switch out your chains. Heavier weight chains are best to use because they help weigh-down  the lightweight ruffle.

This ruffle fabric necklace is an elegant way to add color to any outfit, with a fun, flirty twist. In my upcoming wedding, I plan on presenting these DIY gifts to my bridesmaids to wear with their black cocktail length bridesmaid dresses. I love the idea of adding pops of color! I'm still debating whether or not to give them all the same color or mix and match. Much of my wedding is DIY- with loads and loads of precious fabric scraps. So keep that stash going, and I'll show you more creative ways to put those scraps to good use!

Bossa Nova Skirt Review

August 16, 2010

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I feel ashamed to say that the Bossa Nova Skirt is my first Hot Pattern experience. I have long coveted the patterns but my plate has been so full since I first discovered them that I kept putting it off. The Hot Patterns free pattern downloads for have given me an excuse to clear my calendar for some quality time with my machine and a good pattern. Let's get started

I loved the Bossa Nova Skirt! Most of my love was gained because it was so quick and easy. It was laughable how quick and easy. About 2-3 hours from prewashing, ironing, laying out, cutting, pinning, sewing and finishing. This is definitely for a beginner. The Bossa Nova skirt should be a first project for most beginners because it will make them feel so confident that they will never want to stop sewing. Another significant portion of love is due to the fit and form of the skirt. It is just as cute and glam on as in the stylize rendering on the pattern download page. I scoured my closet for an equally cute shirt to match the model but I had to settle for something different but no less good looking (I am sure you will agree). The skirt is very flowy, swishy and forgiving, perfect for a night out, date night or luncheon with the girls.

The variety of fabrics that this skirt can be made from is another notch under the Love column. Woven and knits alike. You can make it casual with some Rayon Jersey, glam it up with some Ultra Sateen, or let out your wide side with Animal Print Satin Charmeuse. I was amazed with the variety. Since it is a gored skirt you can even make it bolder by alternating colors or coordinating prints on each gore. The skirt also uses a small amount of fabric, just 1 ½ yds. I choose some Hanky Weight Linen because it is still hot 

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here in GA and I love a good linen skirt. I choose a neutral to try something different (you all know how I love bright colors). With the hanky weight, I definitely recommend a slip under the skirt but the weight is very nice for swinging and swishing that I love in a fuller skirt. I over-locked the edges to prevent fraying so I just pressed all my seams to one side instead of open (as recommended in the pattern). I am playing around with an idea to either embroider the skirt around the hem a bit or add some ribbon detail down there. Jury it still out. The hem length is just right for me; I am tall -- 5' 7'' --   so if you are shorter, I suggest playing with the hem before the final stitching.  

I am putting this pattern on my list of favorites and will make another out of some jersey in the near future. I think the gathers around the waist and the fullness of the pattern will lend itself well to a lightweight knit, maybe in a fall color to wear with boots or leggings. I think leggings will call for a shorter hem. Oh, the possibilities!

Make your own stencils

August 13, 2010


Stencils are great for many projects: jazzing up your kids walls, adding some whimsy to a piece of furniture, adding a favorite quotation above your front door, or creating your own wall paper. Stencils can be expensive as well but making your own is not very hard. All you need are a few supplies, some moxie and you are ready to go.

Materials needed:

       Plastic Quilting Template

       Sharp craft knife

       Printed clip art in the design of your choice

       Adirondack Dabbers or a Stippling brush


Start with the desired design for your stencil. You can choose a damask inspiration, words or animals(like the featured pictures) . Decide which design or shape is best for your room or project. You can use these stencils on walls, furniture, canvases or even fabric (great for curtains). If you need to resize your design, you can use your favorite photo program (Picasa is a free program) or take it to your local photo center and ask them to resize. Print your design on regular paper. Tape your print-out to the template plastic on all sides to prevent it from sliding around. With a cutting mat underneath and using a sharp craft knife (the sharper the knife, the more exact your cuts will be) cut around the design. Check your craft knife often to make sure it is still sharp otherwise you will have to go back over your cuts. Once you have completed your cuts, pop out the inside of your design. What remains is your completed stencil. If you are using words as your stencil, be sure to keep all pieces you cut out since you may need them to finish each letter (i.e. the letters 'e, d, o, etc will all need their insides). Use painters tape to apply your stencil to your projects; it provides a strong bond, presents paint seeping and peels away easily.


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If your stencil is very large and open (see picture) then you may want to use a wall brush to fill in your stencil. Be careful of the edges, start dabbing the paint as you get within 1 in. of your edges. If you just brush your paint over the edge, it will seep under and blur your lines. Dabbing will preserve your sharp stencil edges. If your stencil features small details or tight areas, a small tight brush will work best for you and even better the Adirondack Dabbers. This is a brush and paint in one that comes in a wide variety of colors. They are easy to use and perfect for stencil work.  A few key techniques: keep your stencil clean and wipe off paint build-up, this will prevent marks on your work area and avoid seepage (dried paint can prevent a flush fit against the wall); don't put too much paint on your brush, work in light layers; test your stencil on craft paper or newspaper to make sure it gives a design you love. Clean and store your stencil flat between uses.

Designs that work well for stencils can be found by using coloring pages, clip art, etc... If you find a design idea that is not printable (wall paper, tablecloths or magazine images), just trace it onto paper instead of printing and follow the steps to complete. Anything works and you will be amazed with the finished project. 


The Bridal Time Machine

August 12, 2010

Throughout my years of sewing, I have stitched countless custom gowns for brides to wear on their big day, including my own. I always feel incredibly honored to be the person trusted with creating the dress that is so central to the moment that two people are united as one. In situations where I have the freedom to create a gown that has a historical slant, I am in total bliss. I adore historical costuming, and I think weddings that borrow style from times gone by have the perfect combination of flair and elegance. Here are two of my favorite bridal projects, created for two of my favorite people!

My friend Stephanie has always had that vibe that she's actually from another era. She's also cute as pie, so I have used her as a 1:1 scale doll on several occasions throughout the 14 years we have known each other. She's an incredibly good sport.


Back when Stephanie and her now husband began dating, I was flipping through a book of historical garments on display at The Kyoto Costume Institute, and I came across a photo of an incredible beaded gown from 1911. Stephanie and I were working together at the time, and I walked to her desk and said, "If you and Josh ever get married, I found your wedding gown." When I showed her the picture, she loved it and asked, "But where am I gonna get that dress?" "I will make it!" I replied.



I'll admit: at the time, I thought Josh was a rebound boyfriend. Little did I know, I'd have to make good on my offer! (I was thrilled to do it, though.) The dress was made using a silk charmeuse under slip and an overlay of english net, which I spent the next five months beading. Seeing her descend the grand staircase in the venue where she was married was worth every moment spent hunched over all those hundreds of thousands of teensy beads. Every inch of the dress was covered - some areas with clear, slightly opalescent seed beads to give it a bit of soft sparkle, others with more obvious pearls and silver beads to replicate the design we so loved on the original garment. She wore the dress beautifully, and it meant the world to me to have contributed to her wonderfully unique big day.

Carrie is another dear, darling friend, and when she first got engaged, I immediately wanted to talk about her dress. She and her husband are film buffs, so I began instantly trying to think of fun ways to borrow from classic movies to find the perfect gown for her. We even talked, at one point, of subtly referencing Elsa Lanchester's gown from Bride of Frankenstein.



Carrie wanted something unique, but she also wanted to please the members of her family who had envisioned something slightly more traditional. We talked about iconic movie gowns for a looong time. I have always thought Carrie would look divine in a Victorian bustle gown, and thankfully, I had a flash of inspiration and Carrie loved the idea. We decided to use Mina's red gown from Braham Stoker's Dracula as our inspiration, but we chose a subtle shell tone of dupioni silk instead of the red fabric used in the film. I altered some of the details to suit Carrie's taste and make it more wearable for a full night of eating, dancing and celebrating.



This dress had to be assembled from the ground up, meaning the lovely bride needed historically correct undergarments to create the proper shape for the gown and support the bustle. Under this dress she's wearing a Victorian combination (bloomers and camisole combined into one garment), steel-boned corset, two petticoats and a bustle pad. Yet she looks so relaxed! And I can vouch - she danced all night long.


The best moment of that wedding? Carrie's adorable mother Polly telling me I had created the perfect dress for her little girl. We had so wanted to please the fantastic Mother of the Bride, and we had. Mission accomplished!


Do you have a bridal gown project in your future? Are you a bride-to-be yourself? If so, I highly encourage you to take a trip through time to find that perfect look for your wedding day. It ensures a one-of-a-kind look and adds a special touch to the proceedings that is completely unforgettable.

Don't forget to check out our entire collection of Special Occasion Fabrics when you're tackling your next formal wear project!


Cobb Children's Theatre

August 11, 2010



One of my favorite parts about working at is getting to help a variety of charities, guilds, groups, clubs, causes, etc.  I had the extra special chance earlier this spring to lend a hand to a group in my own backyard (well, close to it), and I dragged my fabulous coworker Holly along for the ride.

Enchantress2.JPGCobb Children's Theatre, Inc. is a non-profit, all volunteer theater group for children and young adults 11-25.  I have known many people who have participated in this wonderful program, including my little sister and my future sister-in-law.  Unlike some theater groups, CCT is not about creating child stars but about teaching strong teamwork, determination and perseverance.   These kids (and the adult volunteers) work EXTREMELY hard, not only studying their lines and learning the choreography, but building sets and making costumes, too.  They put in long hours and bust their little rear-ends, and the passion really shows in the final product.

Belle.JPGThis last spring my sister participated in CCT's production of Beauty and the Beast, and my mother volunteered for various odd jobs.  A few days into the pre-production process, my mother called me to say that the costume and set budgets were less than optimal, and the human resources to do the sewing and construcstion were even scarcer.  With the fabulous Mrs. Frey and her extensive costuming experience at the ready, we set to work helping find fabrics for various costumes and set pieces.  Some, like the Enchantress, were fairly easy (embroidered taffeta).  Others, like curtains for the sets, took a little more effort (printed canvas that had to resemble tapestries).  Holly was there for advisement on some of the costumes, and I helped my panicked mother pull together last minute costumes for the most adorable teacups I've ever seen (pic below).

teacups.JPGI saw the play on opening night, and I have to admit that I was shocked at how professional the production was.  The sets were much more impressive than I expected (all made by volunteers and the performers), and the stage hands worked as seamlessly as old pros (even though they were all middle and high schoolers).   The acting was fantastic, and you could tell everyone on stage was having fun.  To add to the excitement of every little girl in the audience, the actress playing Belle sounded almost exactly like the actress from the Disney movie (it was almost a little freaky how much she sounded like her).

gaston.JPGIf you happen to be in the Marietta, GA area, the next CCT production is "Into the Woods" on August 20-22, and I HIGHLY recommend you check it out (and volunteer).  If you aren't in Georgia, look into your own local theater groups to see where you can help out.  Whether you pitch in your sewing skills for the costumes or even just buy some tickets and take your family for a special night out, you can rest assured it's all for a great cause.

Check out the Cobb Children's Theatre site.

Some of the fabrics we donated:
Vintage suede
Duchess satin
Embroidered sequined taffeta
Cotton broadcloth
Metal clasps


Review of Claudine Hellmuth's Studio Multi-Medium Gloss


Thanks to our new Crafts section, we now carry Claudine Hellmuth Studio Multi-Medium Gloss. It's a fantastic product that does so many different things! For fabric art and crafts, it serves as a wonderful glue or glaze. It's very similar to Mod Podge, but with a much better smell. Just apply it with a brush- it dries clear and relatively quickly. Depending on how much you apply, I've noticed it takes a good ½ hour to 45 minutes to dry. The gloss is my favorite (instead of the matte finish) because it provides a nice, subtle sheen.

I've used it to make fabric flowers, gluing thin fabric together, with a wire in between, to make moveable petals (more on fabric flowers to come!). Pressing down allows the medium to seep through the fibers- glossing the fabric petals as well as sealing them together. This medium is also great for decoupage! Once you are finished arranging and gluing your pieces- Use the medium to coat your project and seal it. It's a breeze to clean up too, and it won't mess up a paintbrush.

This wonder product is one of my new favorites at I've only used it for fabric, floral and decoupage crafts, but you can also use it for image transfers and serves as a paint extender (to be used with Claudine Hellmuth Studio Paints). Check out the Multi-Medium Matte gel as well!

Serendipity Monique Dress Review

August 10, 2010

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Monique Dress

I will not mince words: this will be a bittersweet review of the Serendipity Monique Dress (Bittersweet like chocolate chips. Yummy chocolate but not as smooth as milk chocolate). I will summarize than expand. I love the finished dress and I will make more in many different fabrics because the design is versatile enough to be more or less fancy depending on the fabric used (more on this below) but the pattern gave me trouble and needs some tweaking to be as easy as it should be. I give the dress an A but the pattern a C.

Let's deal with the pleasantries first since that is more fun. I love the dress. It makes me feel very pretty when I wear it. The skirt flares a little when I twirl (Bonus!). The details and embellishments included in the pattern are the cat's meow. I love how you can "choose your own adventure", if you will, with ruffles, trim, hems, and flowers. The pieced bodice option is also very fun and looks amazing. I went with Variation 4, which called for 2 fabrics. I choose a lightweight rayon blend fabric as the main fabric and Chateau Rococo by Free Spirit as the trim fabric. The fabric combo turned out much more fancy than I had anticipated from the pattern. The pattern images gives the impression of more of a sundress, fun and flirty, but I have learned that if you choose your fabrics carefully you can have a fun, casual dress (Retro & Mod quilting cotton) or a sleek cocktail dress, fit for an evening wedding (think Dupioni Silk in tonal colors). I love the versatility of this dress. The fit was another plus. I did not make any additional alterations to the pattern to fit my shape; I made the pattern as was to give a good account to you in the fit department. The dress fit exactly in the bust and waist. I was amazed. It should be noted that I am busty so if you are not, you may want to fiddle with the darts before you call the bodice finished and move onto the rest of the dress. I made a size small which was based on my measurements taken as specified in the pattern and the fit was wonderful.

Now for a quick run through of the stumbles I came across in the pattern. The front neck facing was too big and when I sewed it onto the dress, it pulled the front of the neck out for a very unsightly look (I left this intact in the pictures to give a true representation. The facing was about ¾ in. too long. Also the notches on the neck facings didn't match leaving me to refit 2-3 times before they lined up. Lastly the front and back bodice pieces do not match with the front being ½ in. too long. All problems were fixable and not huge deals but for a beginner sewer they would have been. These are also not issues I expected to have.

The hem was a good length. The overall shape of the dress was very complimentary. Oh, I almost forgot: I decided to go for the whole visible zipper as a design detail and it worked well. I really like the look. It gives a different feel to the dress in the back but you should be warned this may be a dress you need a hand to finish zipping up. That being said I can't wait to get back to my sewing room and make another!

You can see more pictures on our Facebook page!

Review of S. Charles Sahara Yarn

August 9, 2010

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I do not often get the opportunity to work with novelty yarns or any yarns outside the ordinary but I do enjoy the walk on the wild side, as in this case. I would certainly describe S. Charles Sahara Yarn as outside the ordinary but a delight none-the-ess. Sahara looks like a ribbon yarn but when knit up doesn't behave as expected. The texture of the knitted swatch was not flat and light as I would have expected. It was dense, soft, and with a subtle texture when knitted with the needles recommended (size 8, see picture right).I expected a much lighter drape but was pleasantly surprised at how significant the yarn knitted and how well it would hold up to wear for sweaters, blankets or capes. This is no whimsical yarn.  

Sahara was a not the smoothest of yarn sliding over your fingers but the knitted piece was more supple than I anticipated and deserves the term 'soft'. Like all linen it will get softer and less stiff with washing and wear. The ribbon folds nicely when knit up and gives an almost slubby texture similar to the textured cottons on the market but on a smaller scale. The stitch definition is very nice, good for cables and some slip stitch but I would not try anything too intricate, like herringbone, for fear that the yarn's texture would compete with the stitch texture. This yarn would work very well for knitted bags, cardigans, and blankets when knitted according to the ball band. When knitted on bigger needles- I used 17's- the texture and display of the yarn was very different (see picture below). The yarn was not much different from that wound in the ball and worked very well with such a large needle. Knitted in a lace stitch on big needles this yarn will make a nice, airy, lacey shawl perfect for summer picnics and early fall. Sahara it works very well for an high interest lace when knit with anything larger than size 11 needles. This makes a great fall yarn due to of the colors offered, the nice texture (makes me think of boucle) and the fibers (linen, bamboo and rayon) make it a perfect transitional yarn. 

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Keep Your Pockets Full

August 6, 2010


If you're like me, you have lots of clothes you don't wear and lots of fabric scraps you just can't part with. After all, you might wear that top eventually and those scraps might come in handy! Well now is that time... Get your old boring tank tops or t-shirts and give them a makeover! Nothing crazy, just a little cute pocket makes all the difference.

This fancy little pocket, which I call a "Cowl Pocket", has been made with some rayon jersey left-overs. Lightweight jersey works best for the cowl pocket because it has excellent draping qualities. For an unexpected twist, put the pocket in an unconventional place! Have some old jewelry? Throw that in there too! I used an old broken necklace and hand stitched the ends of the chains to the edges of the pocket. If you do this, be sure the chain is lightweight enough so it doesn't pull the fabric. Also sew it onto where you have top stitched the edges- the multiple layers of fabric well help support the chain as well.

Here I've used some scrap Anna Maria Horner voile fabric for this "Mini Pocket". Because tanks get smaller where tunicpocket1.jpgthe straps form, a smaller pocket is best. Lightweight woven prints work great for pockets! This one is super easy to sew: just iron and top-stitch!

Pockets are all the rage right now and can make such a difference to the most boring of tank top, or any garment! Instead of buying the latest trends, recycle your old wardrobe, and your beloved fabric scraps.


Lace knitting tips and tools

August 5, 2010


Lace knitting is an indulgence for me that I do not treat myself to very often. This is due in part to the challenges of lace knitting and the concentration I like to devote to it that I am often lacking lately. But I enjoy it so very much and have for some time. I wrote the below back in 2007 and it has inspired me since to sing the praises of lace knitting but also shout even more loudly the tips and tools every knitter should arm themselves with before they are elbow deep in YO's and no way out.

"I have been knitting my largest and most complicated to lace project to date: Swallowtail Shawl from Fall 2006 Interweave Knits. It is not so much that it is very difficult, but just that I did not do any research beyond reading (well skimming, if we are going to be honest and I guess I will since you can't hunt me down and shame me in the streets) the pattern before casting on. I ran into many or really one difficulty. My count was off repeatedly and it was extremely vexing (was watching Pride and Prejudice last night)." -Tara Miller,, July 2007

Here are the tips and tools I have been testing and recommending since that fateful project. I hope you will read this and use them before you end of like me back in 2007.

1.                  Stitch Markers-  Have many kinds of stitch markers handy and test them with your yarn for EACH PROJECT. Example: I am knitting the swallowtail with mohair (Rowan Kid Silk Haze to be specific) and it is very fine. I am using jump rings that I fashioned into my very own highly fashionable stitch markers unfortunately as stunning as they may be, the mohair slips through the jump ring and thus making it appear as though my count is off. I now use a locking stitch marker, as plain as it may be, the ends lock in place leaving no space for mohair to slip through. My jump ring stitch markers work just fine for every other yarn I have knit with successfully.

2.                  Life Lines- If you are knitting lace without a life line you are either very brave, have too much time on your hands, or are ignorant (no shame in that, obviously you recognize this fault and have decided to continue reading) or are an idiot. I love my life lines and am so paranoid (or is it too tired to starting over 5 times) that I double up. I will knit one repeat, weave in my life line, knit another repeat and then weave in another. I do not take out the first and just move it up. I usually have 2 just in case I made a mistake and it has managed to evade my notice and climb up 2 repeats. I am not taking any chances; I like to start new projects, not old.

3.                  Needles- Make sure you pick the right needles for your project. Take into consideration the size the project will grown to be and the weight. If you are knitting with, say, mohair you will only need to take into mind the size and pick your length of needle or cable according to your preference. But if you are using a thicker fiber you also need to consider how heavy your project will become and probably want to consider a cable needle to distribute this weight to your lap instead of your wrists. Another yarn/needle combo you want to consider is slippery-ness and delicacy of the fiber. If the fiber is very delicate, like mohair or silk, than you might not want to trust your wood needles. As smooth as they may feel, there could be a rough spot that you do not find until you are 80 million rows into your project and it has caused a minor turning into major hiccup. Also, you want to reduce the chances of dropped stitches as much as possible which can result from slippery yarn on slippery needles so make that swatch and go with your gut.

4.                  Be confident. This is only knitting; you can rip it out. It is for fun and relaxing, no use stressing over it. How much are you really going to want to wear a shawl with bad memories? If it is too difficult, just put it down and come back when you have more experience. If that is 2 weeks or 20 years, no biggie. No shame in passing it down to the next generation. How much more fun will it be to pass down than to painful get through it. Wouldn't you love to finish a project your mother or grandmother had started? Even better if you finished something they considered over their heads. Then you can wear it around and boast. Perhaps you can make a custom tag for it that says "In your face Mom/ Grandmom!" Just a suggestion.


Finding free knitting patterns

August 3, 2010

I love me some free stuff, especially knitting patterns. Though a free knitting pattern gets my blood pumping for two reasons:

1)      I fall in love with a new designer and end up buying all their other patterns

2)      I feel an undeniable desire to buy yarn immediately in order to complete said knitting pattern.


A free pattern can make my weekend, give joy to a long road trip and allow some quiet time. Some days it seems as though there is nothing more prefect than a free pattern and if the person who shared it were right in front of me, I would be forced to give them a big hug, a cup a coffee, some brownies and a nice chat about how awesome they are. Alas, that has never happened so I just give a quiet cheer and the requisite fist pump from behind my screen.

But, Say, don't you want to know where to find such delights as I described above? Of course you do. Let me share some of my favorite plunders for free knitting pattern gold. A little tricky since you have to follow the link to see a picture and sometime there aren't any pictures but this is common among free pattern databases. This one is the most extensive I have found not attached to a brand. You only have a project name to go by but you can search by project type (i.e. afghan, sweater, scarf, etc) This site is the most extensive associated with a brand. Lion Brand makes some NICE yarn and all of these patterns feature their yarn but you can make substitutions for a similar yarn should the mood strike. You can save your pattern notes for future use and most patterns have reviews for you to check out. Lion Brand also features a wide variety of Crochet patterns.

Knitty- You knew I would sneak this in here but half of Knitty is the patterns. Free patterns submitted by fellow knitters and reviewed and selected by other knitters for publication. Each pattern features many pictures of the finished product plus a schematic with measurements. All the pictures are artful and fun giving you a great idea of the true nature of the project.

Ravelry- Another you were sure I would sneak in. This is my fave feature of Ravelry: I click on the pattern tab then on the 'pattern browser & advanced search' link. Then under 'availability' (the third box on the left) I click 'free' and voila- all the free patterns I could dream of, complete with pictures. I love it. I can read the project notes, search by garment, anything and it is all FREE!

Interweave Knits- Now the Knitting Daily does not have the catalog of free patterns as the above but they are awesome patterns. Magazine quality, some challenging, professionally photographed patterns. You will find yarns used you have never heard of or designers you never meet before. It is all very exciting like a fancy restaurant that dares you to try something outside your comfort zone. You will learn something new and you will never be the same.

Of course you cannot forget's growing collection of free knitting patterns that I add to each month. I am gearing up for Christmas with some smaller, faster knits that will make excellent presents for the big holiday. 

P.s. the featured picture is a free scarf pattern called the Sally Stripe


Brightly printed knits are here!

We've had so many people ask, ''Where are all those printed knits I see made into tops in the stores?'' We don't have exactly the same prints as the clothes in the boutiques, but we have a terrific assortment of prints in different types of knits. Let me give you a rundown of the types of fabrics these prints are available in.

  Michael miller knits small.jpgMichael Miller is a well known cotton print/quilting fabric manufacturer and mod kids nina dresses.jpgdesigner. They are known for great prints and terrific quality. One of their designers, Patty Young, has created a line of Interlock Knit prints in solids, dots, stripes and more. This interlock Knit is 100% cotton, so it's very comfortable to wear. Interlock Knit is a T shirt style knit, and this one is nice and thick. There is some stretch, but it does not come from Spandex, so the recovery is not as good. Also, if you are making something for yourself, and not the kids, I would wash it on the gentle cycle, inside out and dry on low.  This will prolong the color of the knit and minimize wear on the outside of the garment. Don't get me wrong, you can throw this into the washer and drier and never think about it like any other T shirt. Check out the cute Mod Kid pattern! 

matte jersey prints small.jpg  Our Matte Jersey is 100% polyester and will wash and wear like iron. It will hold its color forever. Since this is a more stable knit without a lot of stretch, it will glide over any lumps or bumps gracefully. I think it's a great transitional fabric for kwik sew wrap dress.jpgspring and fall. It's perfect for not only tops but dresses and skirts as well. Check out the cute wrap dress from Kwik Sew! 

 Stretch Rayon Jersey is a thinner knit with a lot of stretch and good color retention. It can be blended with cotton. It is very soft and has a lot of drape. It will tend to pill, so laundering in delicate and laying flat to dry will stretch jersey rayon prints small.jpggive your garments the longest life. Tops are my first choice, and we have some great patterns for this soft, drapy fabric including those great jackets and vests that are fuller at the front to allow for wrapping and tying many different ways.

  kwik sew wrap front jacket.jpgWe have a lot of solid knits available as well. I will talk about those fabrications next time and give you some pattern suggestions. Happy sewing!

Sewing for charity

August 2, 2010

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Type "Sew Charity" into Google and you will find over 5 million hits. Outrageously overwhelming but also heartwarming at the same time. What is a sewer to do with all the love? How do you pick just one? Well, start close to home. I am an animal lover (big time) so that is where I always choose to start. Both of my hounds were shelter dogs, as were all the animals that have ever shared my home. Working in a shelter is for braver folks than I but, then again, that is the basis of most charities. You give what you can because sometimes you don't have the strength, time or ability to give any other way. In this economy, monetary gifts may not be possible for most families but you can give your time and blessed skill by sewing for charity. Pick your favorite; I am sure it won't be hard. There is something for everyone. For you wafflers we will narrow the field to make it easier for you or to give you a starting point. The big three (As I like to refer to them) are children, military and animals (in no particular order). Let's explore shall we?

Sewing for your kids is easy but sewing for others can be just as fun and fulfilling. Project Linus specializes in blankets for ill or traumatized children. Just reading about this wonderful charity makes me think of warm, fluffy blankets entwined in a child's arms. I need a hug now.  Newborns in need asks for gifts of clothing and other goods for children with illness, born premature or in need to ensure a brighter future. This charity urges me to whip out my brightest and most fun prints and patterns and start creating.  Sewing for Babies will accept any small toy, quilt, quilt block or fabric which is donated to an area hospital for babies in need.

My favorite charity to sew for is Project Snuggles which encourages crafters of all kind to create blankets for shelter animals to cuddle in while they wait for new homes and so they can have something familiar when they make the transition from shelter to loving home. They have a great search feature so you can find a shelter near you to drop off your goods. I just sent an email to my nearest letting them know to expect some donations soon (See picture above of blankets waiting to go).  

We covered the military in my post for Independence Day but I encourage you to sew for your troops every month of the year.

Last, giving the gift of your sewing can brighten hearts everywhere but teaching those who are willing to learn can brighten hearts that you may never reach. The old adage is: give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for life. Giving the gift of skill can only increase the circle of charity. You teach them to sew and they sew for charity. You have just given the charity world another hand to help and that is the best gift of all.


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This page is an archive of entries from August 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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