February 2012 Archives

Easy Peasy Braided Necklace

February 29, 2012

easy peasy1

Braided Necklaces are something that is unavoidable on Pinterest. They are super popular right know because they strike the right blend of color, texture and comfort. They are light, easy to layer and are super easy to make. You can try one of the many tutorials out right now on Pinterest, most of which are crafted from beads or fabric strips. Or you can make my version: the Easy Peasy Braided Necklace which is hand braided from cotton yarns. Very soft and yummy and cotton comes in so many colors to match your wardrobe or the look you are envisioning. I used Lily Sugar N Cream Cotton Yarn which offers a great selection.

easy peasy2


1 skein each of 4 colors of Lily Sugar N Cream (label them color A, B, & C)

Blocking board or some firm but soft surface to secure your braid

Pin to secure braid to board



Cut three 36 in. pieces in each color. Knot at end. Begin braiding holding each color as one strand (each strand will be made of 3 lengths of that color) until your piece measures 16 in. Secure 2 of the colors (B & C) so they don't unravel and tuck out of the way. Starting with Color A, braid the 3 lengths for 8 in. secure out of the way and repeat for B& C. Once you have completed the individual braids, join the three colors back to continue your main braid being careful not to incorporate the tiny braids into the main braid. The tiny braids should remain loose (as loose as you can get them. they might braid up a little). Continue with the main braid until you have run out of yarn to braid. You necklace should measure 24-28 in (depending on how tightly you braid). Knot the end and secure the 2 knotted ends together with one small length of yarn. Wrap your necklace around double or triple. This casual but trendy necklace will brighten up a plain white tee or add just the right accessory to your skinny jeans and blazer. 

easy peasy3

Blog of the Month: True Up

February 27, 2012


This month we submit to you as Blog of the Month: Trueup.net. This wonderful and informative blog is basically a mainline for everything fabric. You can find the newest designers, colorways and find great pictures of new and coming-soon fabric lines. TrueUp is not just limited to new fabric alerts, you can find great project inspirations, information of exisiting fabrics, sales alerts and fabric design.

Trueup also features a Fabric Design forum where you can find all the info your designing heart desires on: Creating, Repeats, Printing and Licensing. You can find others who have been successful in fabric design and many more who are beginners looking to express themselves creatively or to make it their career.

Trueup is a great site to help you find certain types of fabric. They feature a Liberty of London Source Guide as well as Linen, Wool and Vintage Fabric. You can be sure Trueup's list is inclusive because she encourages submissions of fabric sites that are missing from each list at the bottom of the page. It is a great resource for hard to find linen prints and Liberty of London outside of London.

In the Sales Alert, Trueup encourages shop owner's to give them the head's up on sales so they can alert you but it is important to follow the guidelines. You (the buyer) can also head over there on Fridays to find out the newest sales on fabric, notions and patterns.

Finally, you can purchase a copy of the Trueup book to fabric design which promises to provide the techniques needed to create, print and sell your own fabric designs. It is a very thorough and well written book that if it doesn't completely cover everything you need to know to design your own good-looking fabric, it doesn't fall far short. The pictures are great and then text is simple enough for a beginner to understand without being too handhold-y to bore the more advanced.

Bottomline is: if you love fabric then why are you a fan of Trueup.net already!

Ask the Expert

February 24, 2012

Samantha Michelle Wisdom asks: I'm trying to make a jacket for a friend of mine. I took all his measurements (chest, waist, shoulders, sleeve length.. any I'm forgetting?) But now I'm not sure how much bigger than the measurements I should actually cut the fabric. (It'll be a denim jacket). 

Tara Says: If you are using a pattern, it will instruct you in which measurements to take and how to incorporate them into the pattern to determine the correct size. If you are working without a pattern, a trusty tailoring or pattern making book is a helpful resource that can help you translate your measurements into the correct cutting size. I love my Reader's Digest Complete New Complete Guide to Sewing. It has everything from how to properly position body parts to obtain the most precise measurements and then how to create a size from those measurements. I also found a great basic website that walks you through the gist of sewing a men's jacket and what you need in terms of measuring to cutting.


Wendy Pollack Rieder I am having an awful time trying to install a zipper into a stretch velvet leotard (it has a mock turtle neck, so it needs the zipper). I tried interfacing the seam allowances with knit interfacing, but the top stitching distorted the fabric very badly, giving it a "unique" twisted appearance. I am thinking about trying again with an invisible zipper, but prefer the look of a regular centered one.

Tara says: I would recommend a top stabilizer. You can try tissue paper or some embroidery stabilizer either water soluble or cut away. It should really help keep your thread tension. Also be sure you are using the correct ballpoint needle but you might want increase the size to accommodate the thickness of the fabric plus zipper.


Laura J. Liles I make purses and love to use micro suede. I don't always find good coordinates though, which fabric types can be paired together and still look good? I also use flannel occasionally too. Thanks

Tara Says: You can't go wrong with Home Dec fabrics for purses and they make a great pairing with Micro suede. If you check in the designer section of our Home Dec page you can find many coordinating collections. If you still need some help finding great coordination fabrics, our customer service is here to help or you can post a picture or a link on out Facebook wall and any of our helpful staff or customers will give you loads of options in no time. 

Pinterest Tutorial: Make Roman Shades from Mini Blinds

February 22, 2012

roman shade1

I am in love- Fact. This is an awesome tutorial- Fact. This was so easy that I want to buy tons more fabric and mini blinds to do all the windows in my house- Undeniable Fact.

This tutorial I found on Pinterest is quick, fun and easy. I am nearly jumping for joy on how fun, easy and quick it is. I expected it to be all of these things but not this much so. Enough embellishment, let's get down to business.

roman shade2

First, I went to a mega store and purchased the cheapest mini blind I could find to fit my window. I did this on principle to see if it would really work and just how little I could get away on spending on a tutorial I wasn't 100% convinced would pan out. Next I perused Fabric.com Home Dec Fabric and found the perfect fabric for my cornflower blue bathroom (thinking about painting it so I wanted a neutral). I wanted a neutral, also, so light would come through. This is the only window in the bathroom so I didn't want to darken it with a dark pattern. I choose a geometric to branch out of my comfort zone of florals and to compromise with my husband (long time anti-floral voter). I found out later that geometrics make it very easy to make sure your lines are straight. My window was 32 in. wide by 60 in. long so I ordered up 2 yds of Carver Lattice Sand.

I followed the instructions almost to the letter but because my window was a different size I went with 4 pleats 16 in. apart (this is 3 blinds plus the bottom slat). I really like the dramatic effect of less pleats and think it works well for our long window. I also used some Steam a Seam 2 for the side seams. I REALLY considered sewing these seams but I also really wanted to see how well this tutorial worked out so I decided to not deviate too far. I did however, hot glue all the blinds and slat down instead of using fabric glue for several reasons: I didn't see why to use one over the other, hot gluing seemed faster, I didn't have any beer bottles, I was out of fabric glue (this was the determining factor). This worked very well and I recommend it but arm yourself with an extension cord since most glue guns are not made to range as far as this project called for.  

roman shade3

Though I have only had my Mini-Blind-to-Roman-Shade up for a few days, it looks great and I mean great! It works well and it was such a pleasure to put together. I hate and I mean hate making roman shades because they are so time consuming and tedious. I love their look but I had ruled them out because they were too much given my limited time. This tutorial has reunited me with the look I love with a time commitment I can welcome! Thank you 365 days 2 simplicity!


Hot Off the Presses: Hot Patterns Free Hornpipe Vest

Oh, dear. We have a problem.

I may never be able to make enough of these vests.

The second I saw this pattern, I thought it was adorable. Now that I've made it twice, I am deeply enamored. This is my favorite of all the free patterns Hot Patterns has created for us. It's cute, it's easy and it takes very little fabric. And, as you can see, its simplicity and style make it super adaptable! I definitely suggest a muslin on this one, as the fit is close to the body and you want it perfect.

For my first version of the Hornpipe Vest, I opted for a cotton velvet with a gimp trim. Metal buttons finish the look. The trickiest element to construction is matching up the trim on each side of the vest so it's symmetrical when it's closed. I give myself a B or B- on this. OK, could be better. Even so, I looooooove this vest. I plan to wear it with jeans, with trousers and with big fluffy skirts!



I always like to make a couple of versions of patterns, so I decided to go a little edgy with the second vest. A bit of faux leather and zipper trim made for a fun, slightly rock'n'roll piece to add to my closet. Working with the zipper trim was a little tricky since it made for some interesting bulk at the folded points, but I opted to fold it a little differently than I did the braid trim to prevent awkward bulk and show off the teeth.



For my next trick, I suspect I will make one of these in black corduroy. Then maybe one in an olive twill. And perhaps something in pink. I also want to experiment with using ribbon trim instead of braid. How will I ever find time in my schedule to continue my affair with the Hornpipe Vest?

Get your pattern here, and let the designing commence!

Step in time! Step in time! (And wear a chimney sweep's hat while you do it.)

February 20, 2012

It's time for another entry in our "From Film to Closet" series. This one's a hat inspired by Dick Van Dyke as Bert the chimney sweep in "Mary Poppins." Clearly, I love Bert. I also love a good hat, and this one works for men and women.

A simple hat like this is easy to incorporate into your accessory collection. If you make it in a warm fabric, it can take you through the winter months in style. A medium-weight fabric will give you a cool way to shade your face from the sun as the weather grows warmer.

This is a DIY pattern. I have a sample version to guide you, but you'll most likely need to make a muslin and adjust to customize the fit. The sample is on the biggish side -- the hat it makes has a band circumference of about 22 3/4"

You'll need to cut 8 of the body of the hat (if you wish to line your hat, you'll need to cut 8 in your lining fabric as well):


You'll need to cut 2 visor pieces, plus 1 out of a very stiff interfacing:


For the band, cut 2 pieces 24" long and 2" wide. I don't interface mine, but if you like a stiffer band, you may want to.

Assembly is quick! Everything has a 5/8" seam allowance.

- Stitch all 8 of your crown pieces together, as though you're reassembling a lumpy pie. (Yum!)
- Stitch one of your bands end to end to form a circle.
-Test the fit of the crown section to the circumference of the band. Adjust as needed. (If your have a smaller or larger head than the size provided, this is where you'll need to adjust.)
- Once your crown matches your band, stitch the crown to the band.
- Assemble your visor right sides together. Remember, your interfacing will be on the outside while you stitch so that it sandwiches between the two pieces of fashion fabric once you turn it. If you're using an iron-in interfacing, apply it to the wrong side of one of your visor pieces before assembly.
- Attach the visor to the edge of the band you did not stitch your crown assembly to.

This is a good time to test your fit!

- Once you're happy with fit, stitch the second band piece into a circle, and stitch it to side of the band with the visor attached, encasing the visor in between the bands so you have a finished seam edge at the bottom of your band when you turn it right side out.
- With your second band piece flipped to the inside of the hat, stitch the unattached edge to the side where you joined the crown.

Here's an inside-out look at the assembled hat.


- For a pretty, clean finish, assemble a second crown out of lining fabric, and then hand stitch it to the interior of your hat, enclosing the raw edges of your crown/band seam.

And there you go! Ready to hit the rooftops of London!



I made my two samples using corduroy and a microsuede. I want to make one using a cotton velvet, and maybe even a minky! A medium-weight linen version would be great for spring and summer.

Upholstery: My Dwell Wing Back Part 2

Well, Boys and Girls get ready for another installment of my Upholstery Series: Dwell Wing Back Part 2! (Part 1 right here)
This time we are focusing on the seat, arms and adding piping with a little hand sewing thrown in. 
First the seat which can be tricky if you don't have your old fabric pieces but with some practice and some muslin it can be easier than expected. The muslin can save your main fabric (which is under the cushion so isn't really needed and many furniture makers often add muslin under the seat cushion to save fabric and cost). Sewing on some muslin can also help get around some of the arm posts that can be very hard to fold and cut around. Because you already have a seam you can line it up with one of these posts (my wing back has 2 posts inches apart). When you stitch your muslin to your main fabric, use very short stitches and back stitch often close to the edges. Then when you place your bottom piece on you can open up the seam as needed to fit around your posts. This will also create a vent effect that will help you fold and tuck around any other posts. You can see below that I placed my fabric on wrongside up to make any marks needed for sewing and cutting. But before I did any cutting I practiced any fold or tuck that would be needed just in case the fabric placement wasn't ideal. It is best to determine the finished look before any cutting. 
upholstery P2 1
Below you can see my practice tuck for the corner. 
upholstery P2 2
Now I am moving on to piping (To see more about piping check out my cotton cording post). I compared the piping placement on another wing back I have to come up with this placement but you can place it where ever you like. Just remember to keep it as close to the edge as possible. Don't stretch it, just lay it down and tack it in place. Remember, piping is your friend and can be used to cover unsightly but necessary tucks. It can cover mistakes if placed carefully. I like to tack it in lightly (don't hammer in the tacks all the way) so you can move it as you go if you need to. You will either be using some curve ease (if you want to read ahead on curve ease check out this blog), tacking strip or hand sewing another piece of fabric to your piping so try to keep that in mind when placing your piping. 
upholstery P2 3
Make sure if you have overlapping piping that is matches on both sides. I hand stitched my bottom inside arm fabric to my piping before I hammered in my inside wing piping (though it is shown in place below, I later pulled up a little to add my inside arm piece).
upholstery P2 4
Below you can check out the hand sewing of the inside arm to the piping and inside wing. I was careful when cutting out this piece to make sure that it would hug just under the piping. This involved cutting it about 1-2 in above the piping and then lightly clipping almost to the piping so that the fold would curve with the wing. Don't clip down to the piping because then you can see some of the raw edge when sewing and it might pop out later with wear. Your fold only needs to look perfect when you are holding it in place. Below you can see how it sits below the piping a bit but when I was holding and pulling to determine the right fit it looked just right. You can see that where it has been sewn it looks just right. 
upholstery P2 5
See: it doesn't need to be perfect before. The hand sewing makes it looks just right. And you need some of these upholstery needles to make it easy peasy!
upholstery P2 6

Knitting Jogless Stripes

February 17, 2012

jogless stripe4

A very simple but often overlooked detail when knitting color work is a seamless transition. This is especially necessary when knitting stripes in the round. You will notice that there is a tiny step when you continue from the end of one round to the beginning of another. In the scheme of things this might be a tiny detail but when knitting something handmade, whether a gift for a beloved friend or a coveted pattern for yourself, you want everything to be perfect because in the end- you made it. Creating seamless stripes (or jogless stripes) frees you from trying to plan your stripes to end in a hidden spot. It allows you to knit a striped sweater, hat or mittens how you see fit and to place that all important beginning marker where ever the heck you want! It is a very simple technique that will amaze. The only really trick is to remember to follow it every time.

Knit with your first color (color A) until your initial stripe is wide enough. At the beginning of the next round, drop Color A and begin working with Color B for one round. When you reach the beginning stitch for the 2nd round in Color B, pick up the stitch below (which will be in Color A) and knit it together with the first stitch (See picture).

jogless stripe1

This will eliminate the jog and give you a seamless stripe. It will seem weird at first but once you try it you will see the optical illusion it creates because each stripe will be 1 stitch less at the 1st stitch than the remainder of the stripe but the stitch picked up at the beginning from the row below will stretch filling the space so you can't tell unless you count stitches (example: if your stripes are 4 sts wide then at the 1 st of the round they will be 3 sts wide). It is really an ingenious method that has been passed down throughout the generations of knitting to daughters or sons. But often these days a new knitter doesn't learn from a close family member so these handy techniques fall through the cracks of sock classes, knit-alongs and online forums. It is important to pass on the tiny details so be sure to share it at your next knitting gathering!

Check out this picture for a great example of a jogged stripe. You can see the step at the beginning of the round.

jogless stripe2

In this picture the circled stripes are jogless. You cannot clearly see where one round ends and another begins.

jogless stripe3

This is a great technique to use on our Free Pattern Download: Telfair Capelet  

Wee Wonderfuls Mermaiden Doll

February 15, 2012


Following hard on the heels of my Dritz Doll Needle post earlier this week is this review and modification of Hilary Lang's Mermaiden Pattern from her Wee Wonderful's book. This is an excellent book and the patterns are so much fun. This is my first doll from this book but I have thoroughly read most of the patterns and find them to be well written and with very few errors. I had a lot of fun planning and making my mermaiden. The whole book is a huge source of interest and delight for my 3 yr. old daughter who doesn't acknowledge it to be a mommy book but a toddler book with fairies, trains and dinosaurs.


First off, I enlarged my pattern using my copy machine and increased the pattern pieces by 150% making this finished doll 10 in. instead of the 7 in. featured in the book. I wanted the mermaiden to be more squeezable and vie for a coveted spot in my daughter's bed and felt the larger size would give me that edge. I also used felt for the hair instead of corduroy because I find felt much easier and corduroy sheds a good bit and can fray easily. I only cut out one piece for each hair piece as well since it was felt and didn't need to be seamed together. A cotton flannel was used for the body and a very mermaid-y cotton print served as the tail. Luckily for all your readers I have also found a free version of the mermaiden pattern on Martha Stewart's website but I urge you to check out the book for more cute doll and toy patterns.


I really enjoyed exploring Hilary's different doll making techniques and want to stress that you should read this pattern before you even cut anything out. This doll will not go together exactly as you expect. Even cutting the patterns pieces out without reading will not be the short cut you expect. It may take longer than expected to sew up your first mermaiden but once you get one under your belt, you can fire them off for birthday parties in no time! Next time I am going to increase the enlargement to 250% in an attempt for a 14 in. sized doll. Wish me luck!


While you are waiting for your Mermaiden fabric order to arrive check out this great Wee Wonderful's Book Project page. It is full of project pictures made from the book!


Spring Trend Report - 2012

Thumbnail image for chanel-rtw-spring2012-runway-008_100552143373.jpgI would like to take a look at spring trends for 2012 and relate them to ''real'' life dressing. With that challenge in mind, I am only going to choose the trends that actually can be translated into a wardrobe that I could wear to most occasions in my life - work, shopping, dinner out. I think that will translate for most of you as well. Let's get started!

Changes of season always means new color trends. This season is no exception, and ralph-lauren-rtw-spring2012-runway-008_152756747192.jpg_collection_grid_tn.jpgthey are pretty clear cut. We will look at the trends of ivory laced with black, pastels, and brights. Ivory outfits laced in black pair nicely with the Art Chanel ivoryblack dress.gif  Deco/1920's trend in clothing this spring. There should be a shade between cool ivory and warm ecru that will suit almost any complextion. An ivory blouse might have black buttons and a collar piped in black. You could pair a black jacket with an ivory dress for a night out. Dreamy ice cream pastels are paired with floral prints this season. There's also a little shimmer involved. Ralph Lauren's spring collection embraced all of these trends. So if you like a lighter shade of pale, this trend is for you. Lastly, juicy donna karan 2 2012.jpghot colors temper all the fragile pale colors this season, especially with designers like Donna Karan.

 Pattern mixing has been a trend over the past couple of years. Patterns have de-coupled from each other this season, and it's just one big bold print that has predominace as the trend of the season. Designers like Dries Van Noten have taken whole city nightscapes and interpreted them into large abstract prints to be worn as dresses or very full pants. It's all about showing the large scale of a single print on a garment.

dries-van-noten-rtw-spring2012-runway-031_14545458290.jpg_collection_grid_tn.jpgNext week, I will match up some patterns we carry with some of our fabrics to interpret some of my favorite outfits from the spring 2012 runways.


Pattern Review: Hot Patterns Free Hornpipe Vest

Oh, dear. We have a problem.

I will never be able to make enough of these vests.

The second I saw this pattern, I thought it was adorable. Now that I've made it twice, I am deeply enamored. This is my favorite of all the free patterns Hot Patterns has created for us. It's cute, it's easy and it takes very little fabric. And, as you can see, its simplicity and style make it super adaptable!

For my first version of the Hornpipe Vest, I opted for a cotton velvet with a gimp trim. Metal buttons finish the look. The trickiest element to construction is matching up the trim on each side of the vest so it's symmetrical when it's closed. I give myself a B or B- on this. OK, could be better. Even so, I looooooove this vest. I plan to wear it with jeans, with trousers and with big fluffy skirts!



I always like to make a couple of versions of patterns, so I decided to go a little edgy with the second vest. A bit of faux leather and zipper trim made for a fun, slightly rock'n'roll piece to add to my closet. Working with the zipper trim was a little tricky since it made for some interesting bulk at the points, but I opted to fold it a little differently than I did the braid trim to prevent awkward bulk and show off the teeth.


For my next trick, I suspect I will make one of these in black corduroy. Then maybe one in an olive twill. And perhaps something in pink. I also want to experiment with using ribbon trim instead of braid. How will I ever find time in my schedule to continue my affair with the Hornpipe Vest?

Dritz Doll Needles

February 13, 2012


One often over-looked but very useful tool every seamstress (or seamster-for the gentlemen) is a set of Dritz Doll Needles. These are extra long but not overly thick needles that can be used outside the realm of doll making. I have had the occasion to use mine often as: a turning tool for very small projects to get those pesky corners just right, jeans repair and decorative stitching on very thick items (like my Bike Bucket). Several of Heather Bailey's pincushions from her Fresh Picked Pattern call for a doll needle to thread embroidery floss for shaping the tomato or making the right tucks for the apple. While I did not use a doll needle in the same way in my enlarged Apple Pillow based on the Fresh Picked Pattern, I did use it to attach my stem. And we can't forget Shannon's amazing Organza Ornament showcased last October. She used her doll needles to attach the flowers to a foam ball. Lastly, I used doll needles to create my wonderful  Molly Monkey Doll (shown above). 

Dritz Doll Needles are perfectly designed for their name sake, allowing the user to attach or repair various parts of dolls. The extra length allows you to get through all the stuffing so you can perfectly place stuffed items, like arms and legs. It is easier to place doll parts after stuffing because placement is difficult to determine without plumping up the doll's body. You can attain a more perfect symmetry after stuffing. Dolls need to be as close to symmetric and perfectly aligned so any clothes or costumes will fit. The large eyes make it easy to thread anything from all-purpose thread to embroidery floss or even ribbon and yarn. Doll needles are not just used for body parts placement but also for faces and the all important hair.  This is a valuable tool that should not be overestimated and will earn its place in your sewing box. 

Let Your Memories Keep You Warm!

February 12, 2012

Atlanta is in the grip of a winter chill at the moment. I'm not a fan. (I live in the South for a reason. I LIKE heat and humidity.)

To help ward off the cold that's accosting us, it's time for a cozy memory blanket!

I've talked about my love of tee shirts before and my firm belief that you can't have too many, and I stand by that. I won't disclose the number of shirts in my collection, but I can tell you, the total is in the triple digits. Just by virtue of running local 5ks fairly frequently, I've amassed a huge stack, but I also love to buy souvenir shirts when I travel, and friends often give me silly shirts as gifts.

This project puts those shirts to work! My husband and I each sacrificed a handful of shirts from our collections. This blanket is faster than a quilt, and it's a great project for beginners. All you need is a dozen shirts that are out of wearing rotation, and two yards of fleece.

First, I traced a rounded square shape onto each of the shirts, framing the area of the design I wanted to use. I used a square-ish plate as my template, but you could also cut one out of spare cardboard. (I would love to try this project using circles to create a bubble effect.)


Once all my tracing and cutting of designs was done, it was time to pin the pieces in place. I just used safety pins to secure each piece at the corners. You may or may not want more. I used a basic straight stitch about 1/4" inside the edge of each square to stitch everything in place.


To space my appliques, I used rulers as guides -- a narrow one for between the squares, and a wider one for all edges.


I used a 3 x 4 layout for my blanket, but you could easily make a bigger or smaller blanket to your tastes. 


A few tips and thoughts:

- When stitching down shirt designs that have a heavy or shiny transfer, you may find that the pressure of the presser foot causes drag. This is easily alleviated by placing a piece of tissue paper over the problem area. When you're done stitching, the tissue pulls away easily.

- Your squares are unlikely to sit perfectly square when you're stitching. That's one of the reasons I used a template with rounded edges. Further, a little imperfection gives a project like this character. It's not a tailoring situation, so don't sweat it!

- If you have a huge collection of shirts related to a specific theme, think about using them in a project like this. I see a Star Wars blanket in my future ...

- I used basic black fleece for the background on the sample project, but think about how cute a pastel backing would look on a blanket that combines your child's baby and toddler shirts that you can't bear to send to hand-me-down land.

- I finished my edges by folding them over and straight stitching them, but it might be fun to use your tee shirt scraps to create a multicolored binding.

- Be ready for memories to come flooding at you when you're stitching. Even though I didn't select particularly sentimental shirts for this blanket, I found that while working with certain squares, my mind was instantly transported to the moment when I acquired the shirts they came from, or to a memory associated with wearing it. It made for a really fun afternoon.

The Fabric Maverick gives you the secret of making men happy!

Love and romance was so simple when I was in grade school, no one was left out. Everyone received a valentine.  I carefully chose the packages of mini valentines in the theme of my choice. Barbie was popular for girls. I know today you can pick from Scooby Doo, Cars, Dora the Explorer and more! I spent an incredible amount of time selecting the valentines to go to each person in my class. The teacher created a special post office box where we mailed our valentines. On Valentine's Day, one lucky person delivered the valentines! Handmade valentines of red construction paper, paper doilies and bits and pieces of trim decorated our classroom.  At home my mother and I created a special valentine for the teacher.  Of course, valentine cupcakes were the perfect ending to the day. Everyone went home with their special valentines and treats.

Teenage years were not so joyous! Everybody did not get a valentine and sometimes you got a valentine you really didn't want! It isn't easy to be a teenager.  Once you get by the teenage years, it hopefully gets easier. Of course, I have discovered it is pretty easy to please women on Valentine's Day, but what about men?  I have always found it difficult to buy men presents- whether it is Christmas, a birthday or Valentine's Day. Impossible! This year I decided to go directly to the source-men. I persuaded the manly men from the IT  and marketing departments to break the man silence and let me in on the secret of making a guy happy at Valentine's Day! According to guys in IT and marketing, this is what they want:

1.       Sports carrying bag or tote.

2.       Remote/Magazine caddy for couch or chair.

3.       Beer cozy

4.       Trendy Hats for the chilly season

Of course, there is always one that wants a 'hall pass' to skip Valentine's Day altogether. Of course, all these gifts would be accompanied by a well cooked meal for two. Who said romance was dead? Perhaps if we follow this advice, we might get the love letters, chocolate, flowers and bling-bling that all women want.

Chef Bubba has a quick trick to create a Valentine sweet treat (no cooking required):

6 Sugar Cones

M&M's or similar candy


Curly ribbon


Wrap a ½ cup of M&M's in cellophane and place in a sugar cone. Wrap the entire sugar cone in cellophane and tie a curly ribbon around the tip. You can attach a valentine's card with a paper punch. Voila! Ready to give to your beloved.


Fabric Maverick

Upholstery: My Dwell Wing Back Part 1

February 10, 2012

For the past few weeks I have been diligently working on reupholstering a Queen Anne style wingback chair in Dwell Studio Vintage Blossom Dove and it is going very well but not done yet. I wanted to share my progress as well as make suggestions and show my techniques. The wingback I am working on, none of the fabric was salvageable so I am working without using the old fabric as pattern pieces (Which is a very handy tip) so the finished product will not look exactly like the original but close enough that it won't be noticeable. This means that some of my folds, tucks and darts will be in different places but will achieve the same look. I also had to do some frame repair and change out the front legs due to damage. Most of this posting will be pictures which I feel best communicate to you my techniques and give you an idea of how best to document your progress to learn from and to use for future projects.

Wingback before.jpg

This first collection of photos is an example of all the photos I take of the chair before. Every fold, tuck, sewn-bit and interesting area is documented so after the chair is naked and I am putting fabric back on, I can see how it was attached, pieced and cut in different areas to make my job easier and it give it a professional finish. If you aren't sure if you should take a picture, take one anyway. If you use a digital camera you are not wasting anything and you can delete the unuseful pictures after you are done.

Dwell Wing back1

I like to start with the front back on any chair because it is the biggest piece of fabric that will really show. This is a good way to get comfortable orienting your fabric if you choose a directional fabric like mine (birds up!) and since it is one of the biggest pieces, you can really choose what you want to feature. Make sure you do a dry run before you cut or tack anything. I use skewers for this but for the front back piece you can just drape. I also tack this piece to the top and bottom completely before I cut any excess. You don't want to trim too close on this one.

Dwell Wing back2

Next I move on to the front of the wings because it is easy to match the fabric and it is another big but easy piece to place. The round of the wings can be tricky but remember most of your tucks will be covered by piping (which we prepared here).

Dwell Wing back3

Also be very careful where you cut your slit around the top bar that connects wing to back (it goes across the top and you want your fabric to go on top of and below it). Cut your slit closer by an inch or 2 to the front back piece side and then fold your fabric under toward the wing. If you place your cut right on the money, you will see raw edges. The fold hides the cut edges and gives a smooth transition from front back to wing.

Dwell Wing back4

Dwell Wing back5

Lastly on the wing, there is usually piping placed between the arm and the wing so you can secure your top wing fabric with tacks at the bottom. They will be covered by arm fabric and piping so they won't be seen or felt if you pound them enough.

Remember if you use tacks, you can pound them in just a bit as you go to secure your fabric and then easily pull them out to move them to refold, tighten or just get a better placement. This is why I prefer them to staples (which are faster but harder to correct). When starting your own project, be sure to take lots of pictures before and during. Keep your old fabric as pattern pieces if you can. This will also help you estimate fabric. Do as many dry fits as possible before committing to a cut or tacking especially on very tricky places like the front arm (with the scroll) and the under seat (often with darts and tucks).

Stay tuned for this continuing series and comment with any questions on upholstery.

You can find my previous upholstery posts here

Organizing Your Knitting Needles/ Crochet Hooks

February 8, 2012

Organizing my knitting needles and crochet hooks is a battle I am constantly fighting. I am a 5-6 project at a time person so needles and hooks tend to be everywhere at all times. But despite this I still keep my needles and hooks organized so I know that if they are not wrapped up in yarn somewhere then I know where they are. However, It was only when I found some collecting techniques that worked for me that I became this organized. Here are a few that I use and some more that I love from the web that might work for you.

First, I made a needle/hook case (tutorial to sew your own here) and I love it. I made 2 sizes, the first is the full tutorial version and the second is a smaller, half version that I created using the tutorial but working around just the first set of pockets. I love both of my cases because together they fit all my straight needles and enough of my cable needles that I can take them anywhere. The smaller case also fits my DPNs and my hooks. The cases fold up small enough to fit into any knitting bag.

These glass mason jars (I am guessing 32 oz size) that I found on Pinterest work great for grouping all your needles and hooks together by size. Straight, DPN and cable needles of the same size all fit nicely into one jar along with the corresponding crochet hook. Plus they look divine along the top of a book case in a sunny spot. Pair them with this jar stenciling tutorial and you can grab the right size at a glance!

Sundae Cup.jpg

In my studio I love to use colorful ice-cream sundae dishes picked up from thrift stores to house my straight needles and hooks. These bright dishes are the perfect place because I can fit many needles and hooks in each, the cupped shape fans them out to mimic a floral bouquet and the bright colors are a great contrast for the mellow bamboo color or subtle brights of my aluminum needless & crochet hooks.

Last but maybe the most brilliant is this idea I found on Pinterest from Eve Barbour. She envisions using a flatware tray to house all her crochet hooks and knitting needles. When I saw it, I felt the urge to smack myself on the forehead because it is just so clever and so obvious that I can't believe no one has thought of it before. A flat wear tray is the perfect solution and could only be more perfect if it could be integrated into a set of drawers for extensive collections. Then you could have a set of them and pull out each drawer of flatware trays to check your inventory.

Hot Patterns Loveable Retro Playsuit

February 6, 2012

HP Playsuit1

I love this pattern! Let's just get that out of the way. This playsuit was fun and quick with lots of room for modifications to make it custom to you or to change it up each time you make it. I am always hesitant when making nightgowns or Pjs of any kind because when I sleep in them I want to be sure ahead of time that they will be comfy as well as attractive. The Hot Patterns Retro Playsuit definitely fits the attractive bill but does it also meet the comfy qualifications? Only making one will answer the question.

HP Playsuit2

I opted for a navy charmeuse satin because we all know dark colors make us look slimmer but I don't look good in black. I am a naturally pale Irish girl so I wanted something with a bit of color. The fabric arrived and it was dreamy (quite apt that it was destined for sleepwear). I then decided to trade the lace trim in for some cotton, ruffle accent. I loved the romantic look of the lace but I love the feel of cotton so much more. Using approx. ½ yd of 45 in. cotton, I cut 3 in. straight strips of quilting cotton (about 5 yds) and pressed it in half widthwise, wrong sides facing. I then ran it through my ruffler using the 12 st setting. This created about 4 yds of ruffle trim, just right to finish off my playsuit.

HP Playsuit3

Overall this was a dream pattern. It went together exactly as instructed. The satin was not the hassle I was expecting. Just be prepared with a sharp needle and quality thread and it should be as manageable as cotton. The ruffle really worked well with the style of the playsuit. I attached it to the right side of the top and leg openings and then folded the raw edges toward the inside and topstitched the seams down on the right side. Be sure and finish off the seams with a zig zag or a serger otherwise your satin will fringe. The ribbon details are also a nice touch though you can create some spaghetti straps out of your satin. I picked one of the complimentary colors from my ruffle for my 1/4 in. ribbon. The lavender really works well with the navy and my skin tone. This is a great addition to my PJ drawer and I like it even more then my satin gowns because the shorts keep the playsuit from riding up in the night. A + in comfort! 

HP Playsuit4

Pattern Review: Relaxation Upgrade! Chill Out Without Going Schlumpy

February 5, 2012

I have been wanting to make the Hot Patterns Weekender Chill-Out Sweat Suit Pattern for quite some time. I just love a comfy outfit, and this fits the bill perfectly. Since this is the time of year when many of us are hitting a wall when it comes to fitness resolutions, it's the perfect time for an upgrade to your active wear. This pattern is perfect to fill out your yoga wardrobe with a little oomph of style. You'll look smart whether you're in downward dog, or just hanging out around the house having a relaxing weekend breakfast.

I made the pants in a stretch nylon jersey. They go together in a snap. These casual trousers are cut a little fuller through the seat than many active wear patterns. So, if you have a curvy figure and find it difficult to find fitness patterns that actually fit right out of the envelope, this might be your soul mate pattern. The comfort level is off the charts.


I made two versions of the top -- one in a printed thermal knit, and one in a stretch velvet. Love the style -- it's got a great ease, and the hood is super cute. I have a little bit of a full bust that can make many non-tailored pieces look boxy, so I found I liked the fit of this top better when I tapered it in at the waist just a tiny bit (I think the most I took it in was 1/4" at the most, tapered in along the existing seam line). Because I am short (a towering 5'3"), I also cut the neck opening just a little bit shorter than the pattern.

I cannot stress the comfort of the Chill-Out Sweatsuit enough -- I feel relaxed and slightly more serene the moment I put these pieces on! They can be made in heavier fabrics for a cozy winter vibe, or in a lighter weight knit for a spring-into-summer cover up to wear on your way to and from the gym. These are also perfect for relaxed travel -- I love that knits can roll right up into my suitcase and come out ready to play without any fuss. I could also see this pattern being adapted into the most perfect pajamas imaginable, but that might be because I have a serious pjs addiction. I'm already shopping for the next fabric I'll use for my next iteration of this one!

Cotton Cording

February 3, 2012

cotton cording1

Cotton Cording is an essential Home Dec finishing notion that is as versatile as it is easy to use. Cotton Cording can be used for the typical piping and welting used in home dec applications to add finishing details and accents but it can also be used for non typical functions, such as bunting, purse handles and couched monograms. Today I am going to walk you through using cotton cording in its most applied purpose: bias covered piping for home dec projects.

Since I will be using my piping for my upcoming upholstery project, I am cutting my bias from scrap pieces cut into for specific chair parts. As long as the scraps are good size (I prefer at least 12 by 12 in. sections) then it is worth your time. You don't want to spend all your time sewing up tiny bias strips together. To determine the width of the bias strip you need, multiply the size of your cording by 8. Example: I used ¼ in. cording so I cut my bias strips 2 in. wide. Make sure you cut your fabric on the 45 deg.  angle to the grain for the best stretch.

cotton cording2

cotton cording3

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To begin stitching your bias strips together, overlap by the seam allowance you will use. I like to use 3/8 or 1/4 in. Align them up right sides together and only stitch as much as you need. You don't want to end up with more covered cording than you will need. It is hard to find another project that will match. I like to leave my last 6 in. or so of the bias strip un-sewn uncase I need to add more. This extra bit will be enough to sew on another bias strip.

cotton cording5

cotton cording6

Fold the bias strip over your cotton cording with raw edges matching. Use a zipper foot to sew very close to the cording without sewing on it. You want the cording to be tightly stitched in the center. If it is too loose you will see bunching and shifting. Use a medium length stitch and back stitch at beginning and end to keep you piping from undoing before you can use it in your project.  

cotton cording7

To recreate my cording you will need Dwell Studio Vintage Blossom Dove and size 2 cotton cording

Rowan Big Wool Review

February 1, 2012

big wool1

From the first stitch Rowan Big Wool feels like a wooly cloud. Once you have 5 rows on your needles you begin to plan sweaters, scarves and pillows. Big Wool is fluffy, soft and cuddly making it very difficult not to plan future projects involving this triple threat: 1) it knits up fast; 2) it is unbelievable soft; 3) now you can get it at an inexpensive price at Fabric.com.

big wool2

I have been crushing on Bulky Yarns for a while ever since I attempted the Welt and Rib Raglan featured in Interweave knits. It works up in a size 5 needle. This was in 2010 and I am still only half way. I blamed the needles and might have (there were no witnesses) thrown it across the room in frustration. Before this fateful day I had steered clear of bulky yarn because I didn't think I could carry off thick sweaters and (what may be the main reason) I didn't want to pay for less yardage. But once I threw my size 5 project to the ground I did my research and found that yes, bulky yarn carries less yardage but you also need less when you knit it up. Each stitch carries you that much farther meaning that you need 900 yds for a sweater instead of 1200 in worsted. Another point for bulky!

big wool3

However, until I picked up Big Wool I was never really in-LOVE with bulky yarn. It was a means to an end in helping me explore a new area in knitting and complete projects faster. But Big Wool was a pleasure start to finish. This 3 ply wool did not throw up any snags even though I worked it on huge size 17 straight needles. There was a nice smoothness to the spun wool that is alluded to in other wools but rarely delivered in such a finish. The yarn itself is fluffy but only compacts a little when knit up. The stitch definition is very clear with only a slight wool fuzziness which I love. I don't like stark stitch definition, the fuzz just helps the texture look warm. Big wool is smooth enough to glide over your needles easily but not slick. It is very forgiving and excellent for a beginner looking to learn a new yarn. I do not recommend Big Wool for a first project because the needles are so big. Size 17 needles would be awkward for a newbie unlike a size 8 or 9.

Over all I give Rowan Big Wool 5 stars due to the fine finish of the wool, no snags and excellent stitch definition. Lastly the color selection is dreamy!

About this Archive

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

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