January 2012 Archives

One Row Buttonholes

January 30, 2012

A good cardi is always a pleasure to knit but I hated the buttonholes. "Too much math" I would to mumble when seriously considering another cardigan with delicate buttons. I hated knitting the button band because inevitability I would get the buttonholes wrong. By the time you figure out that your placement or buttonhole size is wrong you have worked two whole rows of knitting. However with this great tutorial, from Knitting Daily, for a one row button hole my knitting world became bright and sunny again. Once I had this handy technique under my belt I was planning cardigans left and right. I knew that I would only have work one buttonhole to determine if my sizing was correct and I would only need to work one row to see if my placement was right. It was amazing and very encouraging.

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While the technical drawings included with the tutorial are nice, they don't follow all the steps and sometimes just seeing it worked in actual yarn as you go can really help master a new method.

I recommend practicing this method in your favorite yarn to learn and then adding it onto your swatches when you work it up before your project. This will help you plan sizing before you have 100 sts to work and will also help you visualize your buttons with your stitch pattern. Trying your buttonholes in your swatch can also help you work out how to incorporate your stitch pattern into your one row buttonhole row. You can practice how the bind off and cast on stitches in the buttonhole will affect your stitch pattern and how to work around it for the best finish. 

Blog of the Month: Sew4Home.com

January 27, 2012

This is an exciting month for Blog of the Month because we are featuring Sew4Home.com. This site suffers a misnomer because it should more correctly be named "Sew everything for everyone/tutorials galore.com". This is a gorgeous blog full of projects that are specifically for your home but you can also find tote bags, outdoor cushions, and gift ideas. One important aspect that you will notice right away is that Sew4Home loves Minky. Many of the projects use it to add softness and great, low maintenance texture to your home. Here are some of my favorite Minky projects featured:

Minky Cloud Pillow

Patchwork Pom-Pom Throw

Minky and Satin Baby Blanket (which we featured on our blog as well)

The creators over at Sew4Home whip up project after project that combine style with ease and functionality. There are no silly projects or create for the sake of creating with no real purpose besides being pretty. Their nursery projects rival Designsponge; I especially love their Michael Miller Citron and Grey series. It is a great inspiration for both baby girls and boys and I am willing to bet it is something both moms and dads can agree on. These animal pillows are seriously fun and so easy!

You can find something on this site that is your style or easily adapted to be perfectly your style. Any pillow, linen, cushion or home décor item that you can think of, they have it and you will love it. This site is also very easy to navigate. Their drop down menus at the top allow you to search by project, find tips, offer a shopping directory and features a glossary of terms to make everything easy and understandable. Sew4Home is a great resource for the Do It Yourselfers out there and is my new favorite website! Thank You Thank You Thank You

All pictures are property of Sew4Home.com. Please visit their website to find all the featured projects and more!

January 25, 2012


Crochet Trivet

Doily Trivet1

If you remember my embellished tank top with knit and crocheted doilies, you will know that I love to think of different ways to use classic motifs. Decorating your favorite ensemble is just one way to put a good doily to work, another is to put your creation to work in the kitchen and add some vintage modern style to your traditional tuna casserole. By working any doily pattern in a worsted or thicker gauge cotton (or wool) yarn you can turn a delightful lace doily into a glamorous trivet. When not in use hang your trivets on your back splash, cabinets or in an offset pattern on above your desk. Work several in different patterns, colors and sizes to accommodate all your needs. Choose colors to coordinate with your kitchen colors or servingwear or to bring in new colors.

Another eclectic idea is to crochet up 6-8 large doilies to use as placemats. When you use your matching trivets at your next big family meal, dinner party or coffee with the girls everyone will gush over your delicate and bold style. Doilies knit 15-17 in. can serve as chargers while doilies 12-14 in. are better placemats size. Since they are knit from cotton, they are washable and can be easily reblocked with a quick run of the iron.

Doily Trivet2

You can create a traditional atmosphere by choosing a light neutral color like cream, white or yellow and sticking to the same doily pattern but adjusting the size by using a different hook size. If you are looking for a French bohemian style (think Anna Maria Horner) than choose many different colors from bright to mellow all mixed together. Pick all your favorite doily patterns to mix and match together. If you want a more modern manner (think Amy Butler) than choose 3-4 medium toned colors (not too bright but not too neutral) and 4-5 doily patterns. Mix up the colors and doily patterns and adjust the size as in the traditional style but don't get too crazy.

My crochet doily trivet was worked in Lily Sugar n' Cream Mod Green using the Mini Trellis Doily Pattern. Given that I am still a beginner this was a tricky pattern for me, mostly because it was in the round and there were a few stitches/ techniques I had not attempted yet. The outcome was more beautiful than I had anticipated and actually not as difficult. I love my trivet. While it is not as thick as I had hoped it will still protect my tables and counter tops and gives me just the look I was after in my kitchen. 

Gadget Guru: Sidewinder Bobbin Reviews

Vickie, our Quilting Maven and I have written reviews of both styles on the Sidewinder bobbin winder tools from Simplicity. Here are our findings.


 I resisted buying the Sidewider Bobbin Winder for over a year. I thought, ''my machine winds bobbins, what's the big deal.'' At $39.98, it didn't seem unreasonable, but to quote my favorite Food TV personality, ''it's a unitasker.'' Then the deluxe model came out at about $100. I thought that there must be something to this bobbin winder, so I got the basic one when we had a notions sale. Well, it's one of the best tools I have ever bought for sewing. Winding a bobbin to replace the one that's about to run out while you are sewing is really fabulous. It helps me keep moving through my project without stopping for anything. I have used it on bobbins for Brother, Janome and Elna machines, and it works on all of them. If you are a ''Power Sewer'' or like to work on many projects at a time, this little ''unitasker'' is worth the space it takes in your sewing area.


NR-2694.jpgA few years ago, the Sidewinder Portable Bobbin Winder appeared. At the time, I thought to myself who's going to buy that? Soon after I bought it and it has been one of the best buys I have ever made. Now I'm ready to embrace the newest model- the Simplicity Deluxe Portable Bobbin Winder. It accommodates almost any sewing machine brand.  Its interchangeable thread spindles will accommodate different size thread spools and thread weights. Added to that is the ability to store several bobbins. On top of all this flexibility, it is usable with longarm quilting machines. Now I know that most of us do not own a longarm, but if you do you know that the cost of a bobbin winder that would work with your longarm only is about $100.00. It would not have the flexibility of working with other sewing machines. This is already scheduled to be my birthday present this year. I can hardly wait!


Hot Patterns Free Download: the Baby It's Cold Outside Vest

January 24, 2012

A good, warm layering piece is vital to any winter wardrobe, and the latest free Hot Patterns download has you covered -- literally. This vest is easy-peasy, with just enough tapering at the waist to give a slightly feminine line and a shoulder drape that offers more coverage (read: warmth!) than your standard vest. The bias-finished edge is the perfect opportunity to play with pops of color. It's two pattern pieces plus a pocket piece, so cutting it takes mere minutes.

My first go at this one was done in a zebra minky. (I know, I know, my tastes are a little predictable!) In hindsight, minky isn't the optimal choice for this one. It's soft as can be, which is why I can't resist its siren song, but it doesn't have the ideal drape for this vest. A fur or knit with more weight, drape or cling would be fab -- that's probably why those are the fabric suggestions on the pattern!


I like the zebra version better with a belt, but if you're going the belt route, you might want to move the pocket placement down from the suggested spot or forgo them altogether. (Mine are sitting a little crooked on purpose -- I wanted to play with different levels to see which I preferred. Lower is better for me.)


I decided to make a second version out of a charcoal fleece, and I have to say, this is a seriously cozy garment, and is super cute with a belt. I am going to keep it at my desk at work for those days when the office is cold, because it will layer over almost anything I might wear.


As with many Hot Patterns downloads before it, the Baby It's Cold Outside vest gets high versatility ratings. Make it out of a floaty, light fabric and add a ribbon tie for a perfect poolside wrap. Elongate the hem and the sleeves, make a simple belt, and it's an easy light robe. Because the cut is so uncomplicated, this would be a great project to add embellishment to for a one-of-a-kind look -- I keep thinking of a repeating embroidered motif down the front edge. Print this one out and keep it handy, because you can use it again and again!

Felted Soap

January 23, 2012

felted soap1

If you are looking for a great kids craft, teachers' gift or rainy day activity, grab a bar of soap and some wool roving to make some felted soap. This project can be found in many boutiques and high-end stores but it is inexpensive and easy to do at home. The finished product is a soft, non-slippery, foamy bar of soap that is great for little ones to wash by themselves and makes an interesting conversation starter.

To get started you will need:

1 bar of soap (make sure it smells Really good because you will be spending quality time with it in a few minutes)

2-4 packages of our Wool Roving (2 packages for a small bar and 4 for a big bar)

Needle felting needles (optional for added details)

Panty hose

felted soap2

Wrap your bar of soap with enough roving to go around the bar twice so you do not see any of the bar showing. I like to use my felting needles to secure the ends of the roving; you only need a few pokes.

felted soap3

Next take your panty hose and cut it at about 8-10 in. long. I like to use the foot but if you have a run there, any 8-10 in. length will do. Carefully slip your wool wrapped bar into the hose and knot it tight.

With a sink of warm water or with a giant towel and a big bowl of warm water, dunk your bar in the water and then vigorously rub your soap. Periodically dunk your bar back in the water. Your soap will start to serious foam, which is really fun for the kids. My daughter wasn't interested in rubbing the soap but very excited about all the bubbles. Keep rubbing and dunking for about 10-15 min until your bar is totally felted (this is the quality soap time I referred to earlier). You can tell when it is close because the wool fibers will shift less and will feel thicker. You can unknot your hose to check. When it is done, rinse your bar in cool water and pull off the hose. My hose was felted to the wool so be sure to pull your hose off slowly. Allow your bar to dry for 24 hours on a cookie rack before wrapping or gifting.  I recommend waiting until your bar is dry before your needle felt any details. My bar looked different after it was dry.

Felted soap makes it easier for kids to wash themselves. They also combine a loofah and soap so they make great girl friend gifts. You can needle felt initials for personalization or silly pictures. Felting soap is a messy but clean craft that will provide many giggles and zero stress for the adult in charge of supervision. Once your original bar is done, cut a slit in the bottom and place a new bar inside. You can felt the slit closed again.


Warm Your Noggin with a Smile

January 22, 2012

When winter's crazy weather gets you down, what do you do? Hibernate? Zone out on the couch? This winter, to overcome the cold-weather doldrums, I am making ridiculous hats that keep me warm AND make me smile. I like to run in my hats, so I make skull-cap style fleece headgear that I then add ears and other details to. This ensures a snug fit that stays put when I'm in motion. Here's the how-to:

First, you need a salad plate to make your pattern. Mine is 8" in diameter. I trace half of the plate, ending at the widest part of the circle.


Then, extend the line from the semi-circle down 2" on either side from the widest point, and connect the two resulting dots. This is the pattern for the sides of your hat. Cut two so the fabric stretches along the straight bottom edge.


You'll also need to cut a strip 5" wide by 15.75" long, so the fabric stretches across the 5" width.

The assembly is quick! Just use the long strip to join the two curved side pieces together with a 1/2" seam allowance. Try it on to check for any needed adjustments and to see how deep you want your hem. I just use a simple fold-up hem, and stretch the fleece very slightly while I sew to give it a little stretch.

AnimalFleece3.jpg AnimalFleece4.jpg

You now a basic skull cap.


If you're not into whimsical animal hats, you can call it done. (I have about a dozen of these plain hats rolling around my house, for the record.) But come on! You want animal fun!

I like to just start cutting animal ears freehand,


but if you want some help with shapes, check out our Halloween ears and tails post for a few sample ear patterns. Unlike some of the patterns made for headband use, you want to leave the bottom edge of the ears open for this project.

Once your ears are cut and assembled (just a matter of stitching them together right sides together and then turn them right side out), you may want to shape them a little and baste any folds into place before you stitch them into your hat.

AnimalFleece7.jpg AnimalFleece8.jpg

To place your ears, put your hat on (or on your model) and see where you like your ears. I like to mark mine with a small dot or two using a permanent marker.


Once the hat is off your model or self, use the width of your animal ear at its base to mark out a cutting line.


Snip your hat open along the line, then make the same cut on the opposite side.


Insert each ear into its opening and stitch it into place. Make sure to taper the edges of your seam into the curve of the hat, and check your stitching to make sure your ear is securely in place.


Flip your hat right side out, and get ready to model your toasty, cozy animal side!


This is a very, very simple hat, which means it's great for experimenting. Add eyes and a nose if you want a full animal face on your hat. Make a dozen different animals so you have one to match any outfit. This version is for a medium-sized adult head, but this method of making a hat is so simple that you could easily scale it down for a child. Just start with a smaller semi-circle, and measure your resulting side pieces to determine the length of your center strip. You'll also want to adjust the width of the center strip for smaller heads.

Here are a few samples of variations on this hat:

Kermit, just for giggles.


And the zebra I was threatening at the end of the Halloween ears and tails post. I used minky for this one, and while it's not as warm as fleece, it's still pretty darned cozy.


This last example is a hat I made a while back to mimic a character from a video game. It's a little more involved, but it's all fairly simple applique.


Recreating your favorite animal is as simple as looking at pictures to determine the right ear shape, and then experimenting with your scissors and your creativity. Have at it! It's cold outside!



Circle Cutter Part 2

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I am still in love with the Fiskars' Circle Cutter and have not been able to stop playing with it or finding new ways to put circles together for fun projects and accessories. For this post I have created a graceful, stylish flower pin or hair clip. The base is a modified yo-yo technique and the petals are simply folded small circles stitched together topped with a vintage button. This pin is a quick project that can be modified to a smaller size for bouquets or made bigger to embellish bags.

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Cut 4 two in. circles from lightweight fabric, like quilting cotton, and 1 five in. circle from medium weight fabric, like drapery or linen.

Base: Fold the five in. circle in half and in half again and finger press to determine the center. Place a spool in the center and trace on WS. Use a running stitch and hand sew around the circle. Do not pull thread but leave a 6 in. tail and clip.


Petals: Fold each two in. circle and stitch together according to the pictures. Place petals over center of base and secure center of petals to center of base.


Pull base thread to draw in center of base, tucking in the center of the petals at the same time. Pull thread to gather tight and knot. Attach button to the center and pin backing.

My Circle Cutter flower pin is perfect to embellish a scoop neck t-shirt, border a pillow case or top a fold over elastic headband. Have fun making your own.

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Check out Circle Cutter Part 1

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Recreating Celeb Style

January 18, 2012

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When I watch my favorite TV shows lately I have noticed that the trend is leaning towards blousley tunics in geometric designs in a 2 color patterns. Whether it is green/white, black/ white or any other combination I was filled with desire to make my own.

I picked out Joel Dewberry's Heirloom collection for my go at a bold pattern tunic because it had the bold geometric pattern I was looking for, the scale was right but it had 3 colors (purple, white and pink) where I wanted 2. I figured 2 out of 3 on my list wasn't bad and went ahead with my plan. I used Heather Ross' Summer Shirt Pattern from Weekend Sewing as my pattern because it had the silhouette I was looking for: long, loose and flowy.

I made the medium but ended up taking it in 1 in. on the sides and arm as well as adding a 3 in. band of linen to the bottom because the pattern was shorter than I wanted (the pattern hits at the top of the hip and I wanted mid hip). This last part turned out better than I imagined because the linen adds a nice contrast to the pattern and really mellows is out. The tunic ended up being too bright and bold so I decided to try a new bleach technique I discovered in Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts and it turned out great! It was nerve wrenching but fun and well worth the results. I started with a too bold print with 3 colors and ended with a mellower 2 color version. I added the linen hem after the bleaching.

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I also made the bottom of the shirt straight from the underarms to the hem instead of the flare in the pattern and omitted the curved hem and made it straight.

You don't have to wait for spring to create and wear this look, these tunics are easily paired with a cardigan and leggings or belted jacket and riding boots. I love to wear my tunic with a skinny belt, huge scarf/cowl, jeans and flats on really chilly days. For a more romantic look, try micro floral patterns and really light weight fabric with lots of drape. For a more structure (hide your butt or hips) looks, try a crisper fabric such as medium weight linen or quilting cotton.  


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Here is my pic of my tunic straight off the sewing machine before I modified it at all. The sleeves are 5 in. too long and you can see that the tunic has come alive with the spirit of the 1970's. I must apologize for the bad lighting but I could not leave the tunic as is long enough to wait for daylight and a better picture. 

Thread organization

January 16, 2012

The elephant in the corner of very sewing space/room/studio seems to be thread organization. It has always been my nemesis but this year I am tackling it. If I can find a way to stop stacking them up next to my sewing machine as I change colors or tossing them into a HUGE zip top bag...  
The trick is the desire to change. A sure fire way to bring about change is to make it pretty. Pretty and sewing go hand in hand just as thread and organization should also go hand in hand. Let's make thread organization pretty and I am sure we will have our solution.

Now my mom prefers the old standard that can be found in most big box craft stores and it works for her but I need something with character, vintage and a little funky. I think I would really keep up with my thread organization if it were also art. So here are some of my favorite inspirations and tutorials for fun and original thread organization.

This beautiful framed thread collection hangs on your wall and allows for extra surface space on your sewing or cutting table. Not only is it a gorgeous aged bright yellow but it can be built as big as your thread collection. This tutorial by Grey Luster Girl is very popular on Pinterest because it is a great art piece for non-sewers as well as fabric lovers!

I love the free form shape of Copy & Paste's thread wall piece looks like a piece of seaweed floating through the ocean covered in thread barnacles. It appears that she cut the piece with a jigsaw, sanded it, added nails or added nails to a purchased or found piece. Either way it is amazing and stunning when fully decorated. You could create your own with a jig saw or wall letters that spell out "Sew", "Craft" or "Create".

thread organization

Finally there is the thread organization I fell in love with. This is an antique typesetter's drawer that I found in my parents' basement. The compartments were the perfect size for spools and when they are lined up by color the rainbow effect really draws the eye in my sewing room and makes me very happy. It has been quite successful in helping my stick to my thread organization goal. You can try to find something similar or you can use a table tray with paint stick dividers or a shadow box and square dowels. Stain it lightly with tea or coffee to give it a real aged finish. 

Check out our new Organization Board on Pinterest. Use it to inspire you to stay true to your new year's resolution to stay organized!

Pattern Review: The Perfect Resolution Shirt, Kwik Sew 3843

January 15, 2012

This is one of those patterns that elicited an excited "ooooooooooh!" from me the first time I saw it. It's a darling knit affair, and because it's pieced in an interesting way, it provides almost infinite design options. If you love color blocking, this may be your soul mate pattern.

Large_KP-3843.jpgI have a couple of New Year's resolutions this year that involve running, and I really, really like to make original running gear. One of the ways I try to keep things interesting is by adapting knit patterns intended for day wear into active wear. I used this pattern to make three tops (so far): one for my normal day-to-day wardrobe, and two for running.

For the first top, I opted for a sparkly jersey knit in green. I love how soft and lightweight this fabric is, and the subtle shimmer gives it a visual depth that takes it beyond the tee shirt realm. The shoulder and center back of the crossover neckline option took me a little time to figure out, but once I started really looking at the instructions and the pieces of fabric in my hands, it all fell into place. I think subsequent efforts would go much more quickly. Now to decide which knits to use!


For the second version of the shirt, I went with a color-blocked top using stretch nylon jersey, which is perfect for running attire. This version goes together in a snap, and when I wore it for a 5k, two different people asked me where I bought it and then looked dejected when I told them I made it. (At moments like this, I always take the opportunity to urge people to learn to sew. We need more seamstresses in the world!)


My third effort at this pattern is my favorite, probably because it's the one I took the most liberties with. I opted to skip the collar entirely and just do a foldover edge at the neck. If you're wondering where I found that Disney princess fabric, here's a fun tip: It's a lycra bookcover I cut apart! You can find them in abundance during back-to-school time at all your big box stores, and they feature a wide array of characters and designs. I usually hit every store I can in the week after school starts, and stockpile all the cute designs I find for projects just like this.


To make my mini pockets, I cut an overlay for the triangle sections out of the princess print fabric, then used a stretch stitch to finish the top edges, which have 1/4" elastic folded into them. The pockets are small, but they securely carry an energy bar and my keys, and I can clip my iPod shuffle to the top edge. Functional and cute -- that makes me a very happy girl.

This is definitely not the last of my projects with this pattern, because I adoooooooore it. I want to make a version of it with ITY, and I will probably make at least three more for running -- which will no doubt help me keep those running resolutions!

And there's no telling what other versions I'll think of while I'm whipping those out. How about you?

Embellished Fold Over Elastic (FOE) Headbands

January 13, 2012

FOE headband1

FOE headband2

I have been taken by this tutorial I found featuring Fold Over Elastic. It seemed to fun and easy and I loved that you could wear just the headband or add a little something whenever it suited. So I tried it though I was hesitant over using my glue gun. I wasn't convinced it would last but once I got that sucker heated up I couldn't stop. This was a fun project because the gratification was so instantaneous and the results were darling.

I used one package of our Babyville Fold Over Elastic in Red/Blue because I am hot for red polka dots at the moment. I made one headband for my little one (almost 3 yrs) out of each and cut them to 17 in. as per the instructions. Each took approx 5-10 (probably closer to 5 for just the headband part) and they looked super cute as plain headbands. The next part was the really exciting bit. I wanted to add something really fun but still sane enough that my daughter could still wear them out. Her new favorite activity is going through all my buttons (well, really dumping them out and then picking out the cute ones and putting them in a "mine" pile) so I decided to make an embellishment starring her faves. The shank buttons I lopped off the shank with wire cutters and glued them in place scattered among her other favorite buttons. The base can be downloaded here. Just glue the 2 felt pieces together, glue the buttons on top and use a running stitch to attach to the head band or you can glue a hair clip to the back. 

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FOE headband4

Her red head band features a collection of circles I cut while testing our Fiskars' circle cutter, linen and felt (well the felt I cut with scissors, see article for more info). The largest is 5 in. going down the to smallest at 1 in. They are all stacked and attached to the headband with a costume jewelry pin.

You can add your own embellishment to these great and comfy headbands (my little one asked to put her headband on as soon as she woke this morning!). Flowers are very popular but you can clip any of your existing hair clips or make something new. 

Notional Notions: Circle Cutter

January 11, 2012


I am taking the Notional definition #3: indulging in or influenced by fancy. Fiskars' Circle Cutter is an indulgence in fancy but also a smart buy. I loved this from the first try. One of my biggest pet peeves is cutting circle and patterns that call for circle cutting. Why? Because it usually involves a random search all over one's house looking for any and all objects round that will create the size circle that is needed/called for. Plus, I can't cut circles out with my rotary cutter very well, somewhere around the hand switch I either bump the pattern object or I don't put enough pressure on the rotary cutter and all goes awry! These days are over and a new circle cutting era has dawned in my sewing studio- a glorious era of circles of all sizes (1in. to 8 in. that is) living in harmony with me.

IMG_20120111_134133.jpg                                                                Locking Wheel

Eventually my eyes cleared of stars and I was able to get down to business and put this circle cutter through its paces.

  1. This cutter is designed for paper. Well, I say "pshaw" to that. You can use it to cut lightweight fabrics easily. Get yourself some freezer paper (I bought mine at Wal-Mart) and iron it, shiny side down onto your fabric. Now cut your circles out with the paper side up. Also keep some pressure on the paper/fabric with pattern weights. This will keep the paper/fabric from shifting when the cutter is moving.
  2. You can also cut lighter weight Home dec fabrics but you will need to press a little harder.
  3. This circle cutter does not cut felt. The felt is too thick and the blade is not long enough, plus the felt is loftier than a woven so when you press down on the gripper foot it raises the area around the blade making it difficult to cut. I was a bit disappointed by this but cutting circles from felt is not as bad as a woven for me.
  4. When you are choosing your circle size, line up the ruler with the center of the shaft. This will give you an accurate size (the instructions don't mention this).
  5. You can pop out a dull blade with the tip of a knitting needle or a turning tool. The slot is small so you can't use a finger and you might need more pressure than a seam ripper can give without breaking.
  6. Best on quilting cottons, shirting, apparel fabrics including bottom weight, lightweight Home dec (linen, light wovens, silks, drapery).


IMG_20120111_134148.jpgLining up ruler for 3 in. circle


My failed attempt at cutting felt

Ask the Expert: Wooden Needles

January 9, 2012

Our last Ask the Expert I didn't have time to answer a question on wooden needles and I promised to touch on it next time. Well, I decided to dedicate a whole posting to wooden needles since the types of wooden needles are vast and varying. I recommend wooden needles for every level of knitting. If you are a beginner or just getting started wooden needles are a smart "first needle" purchase because they will last your whole knitting career. Wooden needles are great for beginners because they are forgiving. They are smooth but slick like metal needles. This means they will slighty grip the yarn which will be helpful for a beginner. Most beginning kits provide metal needles which is like teaching someone to drive in a Porsche; metal is just too slick for a beginner. Wooden needles have benefits for intermediate and advanced knitters as well. Since intermediate knitters are looking to branch out and try new technique the soft and smooth characteristics will help prevent fatigue and will keep your yarn where you need it, when you need it. Advance users will appreciate that there are no allergies associated with wood. Wooden needles also vary in strength, durability and flexibility which makes it easy for an advanced knitter to find just the right wood for their preference. Below is a list of common wood types for knitting needles and their attributes. Some knitters might even prefer one wood to another based on the aesthetics of the grain alone.

Rosewood- Strong and sturdy better for small gauges, beautiful grain

Birch- tight grain and flexible

Ebony- Hard and durable

Blonde- Strong and warm

Coconut- Very strong (great for those who knit tight)

Surina- Very hard but very light

You could also include bamboo needles in this article because the attributes of bamboo in a knitting needle is so similar to wood: it is light and strong but the most flexible of "wooden" needles. Bamboo is also less expensive than wood so it makes the best beginner needle. Bamboo is a great choice for an eco-conscience person because bamboo is a grass, it grows back very quickly and the environmental impact of its harvest is minimal.  

Spring fashion inspiration and picking fabric

January 7, 2012

I am all geared up for spring. I am tired of knitting heavy sweaters and wearing them. I am ready for cute dress, silky shirts and light pants. Some of my favorites stores are all stocked up in all the above which makes them the perfect stalking ground for inspiration. Let's fill those closets with something new to spice up your wardrobe and help you pick fabrics to make your dreams a reality. 
First find some key pieces that will really fill in the holes in your wardrobe. Pick some classic silhouettes that you can wear year after year. Below I have selected a button down blouse, maxi dress and a pair of slimming knit pants. Notice what it is you really love about each piece and base your fabric selections on that characteristic. Take the polka dot blouse below as an example. Do you love the silky body of the the blouse or the polka dots. If is the the silky texture than choose some of our Radiance Cotton Silk. If it the the Dots that catch your eye, choose a lightweight poplin or satin to recreate the dot detail. 

Shirt from j.crew

Maxi Dress: To recreate this boss v-neck maxi dress use our Jalie T-shirt Pattern modified to maxi length using Shannon's blog post on creating maxis. Since we don't carry the exact coral stripe fabric perhaps recreate your dress in a similar color or texture. I have chosen a gorgeous berry color slub jersey that will blend well with my skin tone better. 

dress from nordstroms

To recreate these slimming and comfy knit pants, use a pj pants pattern but cut it one size smaller. Make sure it is straight from the knee down. Try using a thicker interlock rather than the jersey this pair is made from. The thicker interlock will wear better, won't be see through and will hold its shape better than a t-shirt jersey. I love our Organic Interlocks especially in the purple. It is very close to navy and dark enough to be slimming and not too purple. Go for a deep hem (2-3 in.) at the cuff to allow your pants to sit on the foot like the inspiration pant. 
pants from landsend

Simple Chocolate Truffles a Recipe for You!

January 6, 2012

I know, I know. You just got through eating all that party food. You just made your New Year's resolutions and they definitely did not include chocolate truffles. I completely understand. That's why I am giving you this recipe in the spirit of giving, not eating.

You probably have someone in your life that you have fond or loving feelings for. You probably like to do nice things for them. You know, Valentine's Day is only a few weeks away. I am just trying to help you get a jump on planning the nice things you will do for the loved ones in your life. I will have to draw the line at recommending these for your Pet Loved Ones. I have always heard chocolate is not good for them. Maybe we can find a treat for them for you to make

trufflescoated(1).jpgSo, here's my Simple Chocolate Truffle Recipe:

8 ounces of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate cut into small pieces (I like Ghirardelli 65% cacao or higher)

1/2 cup of heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cocoa for rolling the truffle in

Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the heavy cream to a simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate and slowly stir them together until the chocolate has melted. Wisk in the vanilla. Let the mixture cool for about an hour. I have a small ice cream scoop, but you can use a spoon to scoop balls of chocolate. Place the balls on to a parchment lined baking pan. If you are using a spoon, take another spoon to lift the ball off the first spoon. With cool hands, roll the scooped balls of chocolate around to make a nicer ball shape. Roll them in cocoa powder to create the truffle-like look. Serve at room temperature, but store them in the fridge for up to a week.


If you make truffles, let me know what your favorite flavor additions are. I always love a good recipe deviation!

Reasons to continue sewing in January

January 5, 2012

You may be worn out from the holidays: family and friends visiting, a mad rush to finish all your homemade gifts and cooking (not to mention all the eating). Getting back to your sewing machine may not be high on your list (Mine goes: sleep, eat, sleep, try to stay awake, walk the dogs and if I have time knit and sew) but here are some great, easy projects that will get you back in the mood for sewing in January. Both of these projects call for quilting cotton so grab the most fun prints you have and get back to work. 

The first project is a free pattern Amy Butler did for Better Homes and Gardens' website. The Clutch purse is one of my all time faves because it is so simple but also so unique at the same time. I had a great time picking out the ultra girly fabric for this clutch (which was gifted to my sister) out of Moda fabric. It only requires 1/2 yd of quilting cotton for the exterior and interior and it is interfaced with canvas. You can make your own pin or change out your favorite from your collection. 

Our second project is a super easy laptop bag. It is a simple zip top bag with bottom gussets to give extra room for cords and cards/cds. To size it to your computer, add 2 in. to your width and length. Cut 2 rectangles to those measurements for the exterior and 2 more for the lining. Interface the lining with fusible fleece. Attach your pieces to the zipper using Holly's instructions here and add a 1 1/2 in. gusset at each bottom corners using the same tutorial here. So easy and quick. It is sleek and sizable. You can adjust to fit any electronic device, camera or portable gaming system. 

Both projects can be worked from your stash or can be a low cost way to do some stress-free shopping. 

Pattern Review: The Free HotPatterns Flutter-By Tank

January 4, 2012

I know it may be chilly out, but in my world, a good layering piece has no season. Such is the case with the super cute free pattern download Flutter-By Tank. It's flirty, it's girly, and it whips together in a flash. This is a great pattern to make in multiple colors to fill out your wardrobe with options that can go casual with jeans or a little more professional with a blazer.

For my version, I used ITY, and it was a breeze to work with -- I didn't need to edge finish my ruffles! I opted to use the knit for both the body of the tank and the ruffle accents.

I found that the armscye on this pattern runs a hair tight for my taste. It may be perfect for you -- it's great in that you get full coverage, and you won't fall victim to gaposis or risk exposing your undergarments, but I am a wiggler and I like a little more space at for my flailing at points of articulation. In the interest of full disclosure, my upper arms are not exactly svelte. Even so, it's super easy to trim the armscye just a little wider and augment the length of the binding to match, and I want to stress that this is a personal preference issue.

I altered the neck ruffle on my version as well. Because I used my knit for this detail, the weight of the fabric seemed to pull the ruffle fairly flat initially, so I added a bit of pleating.

One of the best things about this pattern is its versatility, which really encourages creativity. You can extend the neck ruffle to go all the way around the neckline. You can play with with contrasting colors for the accent pieces. You can make it in novelty knits as a pretty-as-can-be pajama top, or splurge on a luxurious Liberty of London interlock to make a really special garment. It could be a dramatic black-and-white statement piece, or a neutral everyday favorite. The correct way to make it up is any way you can think of!


Herb Pocket

January 2, 2012

herb pocket

If your New Year's Resolution is to get better sleep or to create a more inviting guest room, this project is perfect for you. An Herb Pocket is a cute little pocket that you can add onto the back of any pillow to tuck in a sachet of herbs designed to promote better sleep, relaxation or well being. This is great for your bed, couch or guest suite. Different herbs offer different aromatherapy so find which combo works best for you or your guests. You can make several sachets with different dried herb combos and switch them out. The removable sachet can also be heated to amplify the relaxing scent. Each sachet is made from linen and embroidered with a small picture of the herb hidden inside. A decorative pocket is attached to the back of the pillow or pillowcase (you can even sew it to the inside of the pillowcase for added comfort) with a button flap to ensure the herb sachet stays secure inside. Here's how to make your own Herb Pocket:

herb pocket2


1/4 yd (makes 6-7 sachets) of 100% linen for sachets

1/4 yd (makes 6-7 pockets) of 100% linen or lightweight cotton for pockets

 1/2in. to 5/8 in. buttons

Dried herbs

herb pocket3


Download and cut your Herb Pocket pattern piece. Cut 2 from linen for sachet, cut 1 from linen or cotton for pocket and cut 1 from cotton for pocket flap.

Embroider one piece of linen with the herb of your choice

Take 2 pieces of linen (one with embroidery) and with RS together sew 3 sides with 1/2 in. seam. Clip Corners, turn and press. Fill with dried herbs and stitch opening closed.

Take pocket flap and fold in half RS together. Stitch along 2 short sides with ¼ in. seam. Clip corners, turn and press.  Fold down top ¼ in. and press toward WS of flap. Mark center of flap for the buttonhole. Place buttonhole ¼ in. from bottom of flap. Set flap aside.

Fold ¼ in. on all sides of pocket and press toward WS. Pin on pillow or pillowcase and topstitch around 3 sides, leaving top open. Pin flap ¼ in. above the top of the pocket, sew in place along the fold line on the wrong side (when flap is closed stitch line will be hidden). Mark button placement by folding down flap and marking on the pocket. Sew button in place. Insert herb pocket and enjoy.

I love to place the herb pocket towards the front when I use them in the guest room so my guests can see it and I can tell them how to use. I sewed my husband's on the inside of his pillowcase because he sleeps with his hands under his pillow. I also placed one on the pillow on my little's one reading chair. 

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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