May 2012 Archives

Knitting: Easy, Loose Cast on

May 30, 2012

Regular needle.jpg

If you are like the majority of knitters, you cast on tight. Some just cast on a little tight, but most cast on really tight. This can be a real pain when it comes to sweater necks, top-down socks and even starting a nice scarf (you can clearly see where your knitting looses after the cast on edge). You can try teaching yourself to cast on loosely which can be an exercise in patience or you can just try one of my 2 easy, loose cast-on methods. You will love them both.

Big needle.jpg

1)      Bigger needle: depending on how tight you cast-on you can use a bigger needle for just the cast-on and then on row 1 switch to your pattern recommended needle size. I suggest going up 2-3 needle sizes (i.e. from an US 8 to a US 10). I prefer 2 sizes because my cast on is only medium tight. If yours is super tight, go up three. Try each with a gauge swatch to see which needle size works best for you. Remember the loose cast on may look pretty loose but this will be less visible after blocking and wearing.

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2)      Double your needle: If I don't have my needle pouch with me or if I am traveling I will cast on holding both my needles together. This doubles the size of the needle and gives a very nice, loose cast on. It is a little tricky holding and casting on with 2 needles but you will quickly get the hang of it. This one is especially handy because once you have cast on just slide one needle out and you are all set for row one.

A well-done loose cast on is not only better for garments and wearing but also for that trouble-some first row. If you cast on tight you probably dread working that first row because it is so tight and hard to get your needle in there to work each stitch. With your new loose cast on, working the first row will be as easy as working any other other row. On top of that, your knitting will no longer blossom out once you get past the first row. Your project will be the same size from cast on to the last row (unless you change the size). No longer will you need to knit a few rows to get a real feel of the width of your project.  You can see evidence of this in the first picture. From the cast on row to about row 2-3 the sample flares out until it reaches its working width (see red marks). This may not seem like a big deal but if you are creating a beautiful color work scarf you will want it to be perfect from start to finish and don't want the color skewed by this flare.  

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Mysteries of the Pyramids -- The New Hot Patterns Free Download!

May 28, 2012

Brace for gushing. Because the second I finished my first run of the new Hot Patterns Pyramid Wristlet, I texted a photo of it to my best friend with the caption "HOW CUTE IS THIS PATTERN?!?!?"

(Her reply: "Super cute!!!!")

First off, where has this pattern been all my life? No use crying over the absence of a thing. I'll just celebrate it now that I've got it. My advice is download it now! Right now!

Here's the rundown on my test drive:

For the first sample, I used a small cut of dupioni from the stash. For interfacing, I used a plain heavy canvas, also from the stash. I lined it with the same dupioni I used for the outside.

The pattern instructions mention the teeny tiny seam allowance you will need to use to create the zipper opening. It is not fibbing! That said, it's clearly marked and is no problem if you take your time. Here's what mine looks like flipped and ironed after I stitched and slashed it to make way for the zipper:

1-pyramid-wristlet.jpgNow, here's my trick for a little reinforcement at the base of the pyramid, which forms the bottom of the bag. I use craft foam. Yep. Regular old craft foam.

I actually stitch my craft foam into the bag structure. First, I fold my pattern along the lines that mark out the square at the bottom of the bag. Then, I use the folded pattern as a guide, and I mark that line with pieces of masking tape, working my way around all four sides of the square base.

3-pyramid-wristlet.jpgHere's my square, roughly marked out with tape:

4-pyramid-wristlet.jpgOnce my marks are in place, I slide the craft foam between the interfaced outer layer and the lining layer, making sure it sits within the boundaries of my tape marks. Then I run a straight stitch around my square, creating a permanent enclosure for my craft foam base reinforcement. I remove my tape as I go.

5-pyramid-wristlet.jpgAfter that, the bag finishes according to the pattern directions -- stitching up each of the four sides, and setting in the strap as you stitch across the top of the pyramid. The softness of the craft foam allows for easy turning, and before you know it, a bag is born!

6-pyramid-wristlet.jpgI made a second version out of a damask cotton print, using the exact same technique for the base. Worked like a charm on the second go, too, so it wasn't just a fluke on the first one!

The size of the bag is fab -- the wide base easily accommodates an iPhone or similar-sized mobile device, and there's still plenty of room for a wallet and any must-have cosmetics. In fact, this pattern could easily be used for cosmetic bags instead of purses.

The quick nature of this bag means that you can whip it up in an afternoon for a party that night, and you're practically guaranteed you'll have the best bag in the room!

Hop over here for the download, and have a blast playing! I see a version in a sand colored silk with hieroglyph embellishments in my future ...

Summer Embroidery

If school is out or will be shortly for you and your family, you are probably already mourning the loss of quality time with your sewing machine. Now is the time to start planning your summertime sewing projects. If you aren't a knitter or a crocheter, you are probably wondering what in the world you can fit into your purse to whip out at soccer practice, work on while waiting to pick up from camp or while listening to story time at the library- certainly not your sewing machine. Consider whipping out your embroidery hoop and getting ahead start on some hostess gifts, Christmas stockings or a little something for you. I love the soft puncture sound of the needle poking through the fabric, the wonderful choice of embroidery floss colors and being able to see the image softly impressed on the fabric coming to life with each strand. All are perfectly delightful accompaniments to the squeals of running kids, picnics in the park or lazy Sundays on the porch. 


Embroidery projects can easily fit inside your purse or beach bag, the materials are small and limited and it is easy to pick up right where you left off without having to find your place in the pattern (unlike knitting and crochet). Embroidery can keep your brain pleasantly occupied without really occupying it, making it the perfect vacation activity. I recently spent an idle morning embroidering the Georgia State Bird (a brown thrasher for those interested) onto a pillow cover. I used Anchor Six Strand Embroidery Floss in Topaz on a natural linen background and it turned out gorgeous.

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For Christmas I received an adorable tea towel from my mom which she worked on the previous summer. You can tell from her choice of pattern: Hot Fudge Sundae. The colors are so bright and delicious, perfect for summer time relaxation. If you are so inclined let me nudge you in the direction of our Sublime Stitching embroidery patterns, seen above. They are so whimsical and entertaining (pirates, robots and Rock n' Roll)

Let's Have a Luau!

Since Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer for many families, I am already thinking about warm weather entertaining, which means luaus, luaus and more luaus. I love a little theme decor, and hibiscus everything is a big favorite, so I decided to create some table accessories featuring a simple hibiscus graphic as the primary design element.

For inspiration and a pattern, I turned to my sewing room, which has a Hawaiian theme. My accent wall is painted with large-scale hibiscus (I used an opaque projector to throw the images on the wall and then just painted in the designs), so I figured I'd just trace those to make my appliques.

I taped my Wonder Under directly over my wall hibiscus and traced around the design with a water-based marker to avoid any bleed-through that might discolor the wall. Since the design is bigger than my fusible, I had to piece things a bit. I made two versions of the design for my table, one large and one VERY large.

2-hibiscus-table.jpgAfter I took the Wonder Under down from the wall, I went over my tracing with a sharpie.

3-hibiscus-table.jpgAfter I had my complete flower design transferred to the fusible, I ironed it to a pink duchess satin. For the stamen, I used a yellow duchess satin.

4-hibiscus-table.jpgIf you're careful when you peel the backing paper off your fabric once you've fused it, you can keep it as a pattern for future projects!

5-hibiscus-table.jpgAfter my pieces were all fused and peeled, I arranged them on a green twill that I've had in the stash for a while.

6-hibiscus-table.jpgOnce I had the pieces arranged to my satisfaction, I ironed them down to the twill following manufacturer's instructions.

7-hibiscus-table.jpgFor the smaller of the two designs, I used a fleece backing. I safety pinned the top layer to a layer of fleece before I stitched my pieces down. To start with the tricky stamen, I first straight stitched it into place with a long basting stitch. Then I zig-zagged over it.

8-hibiscus-table.jpgOnce I had my whole flower stitched along all edges (this was the most time consuming part of the process), I cut the piece down to follow the contours of the flower but still leave a green border.

9-hibiscus-table.jpgI used a pale green iridescent satin that I had on hand to create a bias binding, and voila! The smaller one can be used with warm dishes, since it has a fleece backing.

10-hibiscus-table.jpgThe larger version is more like a table cloth, and covers most of our dining room table. It doesn't have a fleece backing. It also needs more ironing!

I love knowing I can pull these out any time a festive tropical mood hits me -- and that I can machine wash them.

Of course, every time I do a Wonder Under project, I immediately think of 30 other projects I could use it for. But for now, I'm going to enjoy my Hawaiian getaway in my own house. Who's ready for a Mai Tai?

Knit: Transition from one stitch pattern to another

May 23, 2012


As you go along in your knitting career you may find a desire to branch out and design your own knitting patterns. This is a fun and creative outlet for any knitter how enjoys a good puzzle or a chance to create something only previously visible in their daydreams. One of the great hang-ups in knit design is transitioning from one stitch pattern to the next. Say you are constructing a lace shawl that features one lace pattern in the body and another for the border. If you are designing a triangle shawl, like my Tybee Cover-up, it is easier to plan your transition because the shawl increases every other row to create the triangle shape so if you need a certain number of stitches eventually your shawl will grow big enough and match the stitch count you need. However, it is often not that easy. You will not always want a triangle shawl and sometimes you want to place your transition in an area where the stitch count is not increasing or decreasing (i.e. at the elbow of a sleeve, below the bust of a sweater or the ends of a scarf). Or if you are working with a stitch count that is odd numbered and you want to transition to an even number stitch pattern. This can go on and on depending on your project.

However, transitioning can all be easy with some careful planning and choosing your stitch pattern wisely. Not only do you want to be careful from the start on your stitch pattern choices for the overall look of your design but also for ease of the transition. Try to stick to stitch patterns that are close in the stitch count, this will mean increasing or decreasing only a small amount and that is less stitches you will need to hide. Also plan ahead where you will hide your stitches. If you have a pattern that allows for a garter or stockinette row, this is an ideal place to hide your increase or decrease stitches.  For my sample I used a 6 stitch repeat pattern and then transitioned to an 8 st pattern. This may seem easy since it is only an increase of 2 sts, but it is an increase of 2 sts per repeat. I started with 30 sts (5 repeats for the 6 st pattern) and then increased on an all knit row to 32 stitches for the 8 st pattern. This meant I went from 5 repeats to 4 so I kept the size of the sample consistent but if I want to keep the 5 repeats I would have increased up to 40 sts which would have made my sample size increase by ½ in. With this pattern transition the reduction in repeats is not noticeable but if you wanted to transition and add some width this is a great subtle way to go about it.


If you are only increasing by a small amount or increasing by an odd number, space out your increases and decreases so they are less obvious. Also, try out different methods of increases and decrease to see which style works best with your stitch pattern choices!

Tie Top Pocket

May 21, 2012


I love a tie top pocket! They are the perfect detail to add to a cotton dress, a sassy pair of shorts or to finish off the front of your tote bag. These pockets feature a cute knot at the top that really takes any project to the next level. Tie top pockets are really easy to make as well. By downloading my pattern piece you can make your own to any size you need by increasing the size on your copy maker until you get it bigger enough or small enough to meet your needs. Or you can draft your own using a circular object: plate, lid or bowl.

Tie top pocket.jpg



To start print and size you pattern. You can download mine by clicking on the pattern above and printing or downloading. To create your own, trace a round object that is about ½ in. bigger than you envision your pocket to be (this takes seam allowance into consideration). Trace it and then add elongated bunny ear to the top of your circle. Line up your ears with the outer most part of the circle and the ears should be as long as the circle is tall and as wide as 1/3 the width of the circle (i.e. if the circle is 5 in. diameter than the ear should be 5 in. tall and 1 ¾ in. wide). These ears are your ties. Cut out your pieces from fabric and pin RS together. Stitch your pieces together leaving a gap at the bottom big enough for turning. Trim seam allowances, the tops of your ears and sharp curves. Turn your pocket right side out and press. Press the turning gap closed and topstitch your pocket into place onto the finished project. Tie your ties and you are good to go. 

Getting Ready for Baby: Nursery

Picture from Chic Cheap Nursery (Love the bunting blankets!)

Team Green: If you are Team Green you are opting not to find out the gender of your wee one until the big debut (the birthday!) so you are probably going for a neutral theme in your nursery.  This is a great idea also if you know the gender but you plan on using the room for several babies or for siblings to share, then neutral is the name of the game. This is easier to achieve than the past version of yellow and green. You can go truly neutral by painting the walls a shade of grey or beige and bringing in similar shades in bedding, accessories and textiles. If you stick to a warm shade of either grey of beige your will create a soft, comforting and peaceful nursery that only needs a few gender specific accessories that can be easily changed for each babe. If you need a pop of color try adding it in bright colors like orange, green and turquoise which can swing either way and add it in small dose that any baby will love like an animal silhouette, bold letters in interesting fonts or bold colors in traditional motifs (turquoise paisley, bright green toile or big zig zag). Use these fabrics for your neutral nursery:

Premiere Prints Charcoal

Turquoise & White Coordinates

Parson Gray Nature

(Picture from: Laybabylay)

Team Pink: If you are loath to paint your room like every other feminine nursery- pink with ruffles, lace and a flood of hearts- take a look at some of the new trends for girls. Try a different twist on a pink paint color, maybe a bright hot pink or turquoise with pink accents. If you have your heart set on pink walls seek new accents in orange, turquoise and Kelly green. I am in love with pink/Kelly green combination. Unlike the typical pink/light green you are used to, Kelly green adds some sophistication and elegance that can take your little girl beyond baby hood and into school age. Use these fabrics to bring these trends to your nursery:

Premiere Prints Coral Collection

Check out this Twill Girly Turquoise coordinate collection

You can't go wrong with Heather Bailey; she offers both the Kelly green and turquoise


Picture from Project Nursery 

Team Blue: Rooms for baby boys are branching out from the standard navy, white and baby blue color schemes with trucks and monkeys dominating the scene. This decorating trend allows for a room that baby can grow with into school age instead of having to redecorate every few years, just change up the accessories. The new trend is bolder, bright colors and silhouettes that mean as much to the parents as they will to the growing child within. I found this great example on Café Mom; it combines bold reddish orange, turquoise alongside subtle grey horizontal stripes and neutral furniture. The accessories really make for a calming yet interesting room perfect for a baby to find stimulation and comfort in one space. Instead of a bombardment of cartoon characters and nursery rhymes, black & white real life animal photos, oversized letters and a few matted story book pages give baby a view without being busy. I especially love the dog silhouette pillow as an accent. Try these fabrics to gain a similar look in your baby boy's room:

Integrate the stripes on your window treatments is you are loath to paint your walls

Try these bold solids to create stunning accessories or as welting accents.

These Waverly Destination Prints are perfect to recover some oversized canvases as wall hangings



Dress Zippers Made Easy

May 20, 2012

Wooohooooo! It's summer dress season! I love this time of year -- it seems like I want to make a new dress every day. In an effort to try to fulfill my own desires, I have learned some tricks to make my dressmaking go faster. One of those tricks is my approach to zippers.

I know a lot of people dread zippers, but there's really nothing to fear. Once you figure out a method that works for you, zippers become just another seam, and you'll soon find your wardrobe growing lickety-split.

My method takes some of the usual dress assembly steps out of order. (Note: This approach assumes you're putting the zipper into the back of your dress.)

First, I prepare the two back sections of dress. Often, dress pattern instructions will have you assemble the bodice first, then the skirt, then attach the two, and THEN insert the zipper. By assembling the back sections first, I set myself up to set the zipper into a flat piece, rather than trying to fiddle with a garment that's more fully formed. It just makes it a bit easier. If you use the approach, you'll then need to assemble the front of the dress before you join everything together at the shoulder and sides.

Holding the two back sections together at the center where the zipper will go, I lay the zipper down the length of the seam to mark where it will end. I place the mark just past the metal zipper stop.

2-zipper-easy.jpgThen, I stitch the back pieces together along the center back. I use the longest stitch possible for the section where the zipper will go, and then I switch to a shorter, normal assembly stitch for the rest of the seam. The photo below shows the change in stitch length at the blue mark I made earlier.

3-zipper-easy.jpgNext, I press the seam open. I like to give it a good hard press to ensure my creases will be sharp once my zipper is set in.

OK, we're getting close to show time! Once my fabric has cooled from the iron's heat, I use my seam ripper to gently open up the top of the seam -- about 1.5" to 2" works just fine. You want to make sure that if the top edge of the zipper is lined up with the top edge of your fabric, you'll have about an inch of tooth area open. I align my slightly-opened zipper with the edge of my opened seam so the teeth match up with the creased edge.

3a-zipper-easy.jpgI set the zipper and dress back under the foot just as I was holding it in the photo above. You may have noticed there haven't been any pins in these photos -- I don't use them, even for zippers! I find I can work much more quickly and smoothly without them.

I carefully start stitching the zipper in place, sewing far enough down the zipper that I'll have room to pull the zipper tab up without getting in the way of my stitching.

Once I've cleared enough length, I lift my presser foot and pull the tab up, and continue to sew the zipper into place down along the center back seam.

6-zipper-easy.jpgTo keep the zipper centered, I usually keep the dress piece rolled (sometimes wadded) in my left hand, and I periodically lift things up to make sure the teeth are still lines up with the center of the seam. This is one of those things you get better and better at the more you do it.

7-zipper-easy.jpgOnce I've cleared the metal zipper stop, I turn the fabric to stitch across the zipper -- I usually backstitch to make sure this cross piece is strong -- and then I turn the corner again to make the return trip up the opposite side of the seam. Because the zipper is already in place and I don't need to check its alignment, the second side is much faster than the first.

8-zipper-easy.jpgOnce I near the top of the zipper on this side, I often open the seam up a little more to pull the zipper pull back out of the way.

9-zipper-easy.jpgWith the zipper opened so the pull is no longer creating an obstacle, I finish up the second side of the zipper, taking care to keep the fabric aligned with the zipper teeth so the creased edges will abut when the zipper's closed.

10-zipper-easy.jpgAfter the stitching's done, I quickly open up the rest of the stitching that covers the zipper.

And that's that! Zipper is in and I'm free to finish my dress. Whether your pattern calls for a facing or a bound edge at the neck opening, you'll likely need a hook and eye at the top of the zipper to keep things neat and square.

Is your zipper method similar to mine? Do you have another trick? Let us know!

Ask the Expert: Summer Time edition

May 18, 2012

Terre Downum from Facebook asks: I'm planning to make a tablecloth with oilcloth, what size needle do I need to use

Tara Says: Well, Terra I would recommend your heavy duty needles, a size 16 sharp paired with some poly wrapped cotton thread so it will be durable but won't break when sewing. Be sure to stick a piece of tape to the underside of your sewing foot to help guide the fabric through and prevent hang-ups.

Oilcloth is a great fabric for all kinds of summertime projects like tablecloths. You can also make picnic mats, tote bags, beach bags and aprons.

Hannah Wright Robinson from Facebook asks: how often do I need to oil my machine and do I need any oil in the bobbin area?

Tara says: it really depends on your machine. If you still have your instruction manual, check out the maintenance section for exact instructions on caring and maintaining your sewing machine. If you don't have one, take it to your local sewing machine shop for a tune up and ask them for all the details. However, works on your machine should be able to tell you what at-home car you can give and how often.

My sewing machine is due a yearly check up so I will be taking it in to the shop this week. I have a Brother and my manual state that I do not need to add oil (it comes with enough) and if I think it needs oil to take it in for a tune up. Brother also recommends that I get my machine serviced once a year to get hard to reach lint and debris out as well as check the tension and lube it up. You should never used compressed air to wash out dust from your machine; it can often make a problem worse by sweeping it into hard to clean areas. I use a soft craft paint brush to clean my bobbing case after every project and when my threads get tangled (dust in the bobbin case is the number one cause).


Paula J. Hatmaker from Facebook wants some tips on adding an underwire shelf bra into a swimsuit or where she can find size F foam bra cups?

Tara says: well, after some deep searching I found a link to a link to a link to a store in Germany that sells size F foam cups. There is another in Canada that sells swimwear foam cups in size F as well. You can price shop for the best deal. I also found another link to Dixie DIY's big list of Bra suppliers that you may find very helpful should you need more for your shelf bra. She includes store with supplies as well as patterns. As for instructions on adding a underwire shelf bra to your swimsuit I would advise you to either study a well fitting suit you already have with a bra you like and use it as a pattern or check out the Pattern School for a guide on adding a underwire shelf bra to swimwear. Or you can take the easy way and use a store bought bra and add it in like instructed in this Thread's Magazine forum posting. Both are great options if your pattern instructions are not up to par. 

Blog of the Month: Suzy Cucumber

May 16, 2012

You will love this month's Blog of the Month so much: Suzy Cucumber. I stumbled upon it while doing research on some interesting knots. I found Aimee's blog because she had some knot pillows which intrigued me so I clicked. Then my jaw dropped: I was amazing by the amount and variety of projects she had done and written about. I'm talking sewing, upholstery, painting, embroidery, hand lettering and rug making and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Seriously, you will love this blog. Not only is Aimee great to get you inspired and off your butt but she will give you some great ideas for something new to get your excited to craft again.

I am really thrilled about her 2012 project in which she will do a project from each of her library of craft books (she has over 200). The variety seems to be a full spectrum of crafting from Ukrainian egg decorating (Picture above) to tabletop rugs. Here is a list of just of few of the craft book subject she has covered to get you interested:

·         Color Cement

·         Paper Mache

·         Book and Journal Making

·         "Sew What Skirts" (I love this book!)

·         Crayon Roses (GORGEOUS)

·         Needle Felting

·         Decoupage

·         Batik Calligraphy

I only linked a few because I want you all to really check out Aimee's blog. It is incredible and fulfilling. She is a Renaissance woman and I know you all will love this blog. If one subject is not for you, you are sure to find another that is. I applaud you, Aimee, and keep it up!


All pictures are from

Trending At Colorful Toes & Summer Sandals

May 14, 2012

When you walk into the offices you can't help but notice that spring is in the air! Our wardrobes have transitioned from the neutral layers of winter to bright and colorful minimal layers that come with warmer temperatures. But the biggest indicator of the rising temperature is that our little toes have come out from winter hibernation and they are ready to be shown off! As you know

new toes.jpeg

this Spring/Summer is all about color, color and more color! Color is everywhere from bright candy colored denim, to eye-popping neon colors and outrageously bold prints, there is just no way to escape the color explosion! So what better way to show off this of the moment fashion color trend than with a head turning nail polish color worn on your toes or fingers. Who would of thought that nail polish would become the must have fashion accessory of the moment? But why not - it's inexpensive, fun and versatile and an easy way to play with fashion trends and show off your own unique style. The options for nail polish are truly endless - you can get it with sparkles, crackled, rhinestones, metallic, marbled, iridescent and the list goes on and on. It is really up to you how simple or extravagant you choose to go with your nail color. And don't worry if you don't like the color, the beautiful thing about nail polish is that you can easily wipe it off and start over! So the next time you are in a fashion slump pull out your favorite nail polish and get to painting! Check out our brightly colored toes showcased in our sassiest summer sandals for some style inspiration!

Knitted Baby Hat

baby hat.jpg

If the thought of knitting in warm weather just doesn't get your excited but like many knitters you can't seem to quit the habit, consider small projects as a way to bridge the gap until the fall. Small projects fit into cute little summer bags, don't cover your lap and offer quicker turn around. A quick turnaround is key because as summer progresses and fills with activities you have less focused time to dedicate to big projects with lots of instructions. Smaller projects can be knit in a few hours and don't involve staying mentally centered on one technique or project for long, making it easier if you get interrupted or need to take frequent breaks (soccer games, doctors' appt, carpooling, etc).


I love knitting hats for all of the reasons above added to the fact that they can be customized with simple details. Allow hats to give you the opportunity to try new stitch patterns with little commitment. Hats also require smaller amount of yarn so you can try to reduce your stash to make room for your winter splurge or to try daring color combinations. I recently knit a small baby hat in just a few hours and loved every minute. I did try a color combo I was unsure of initially. I wanted something gender neutral since I don't yet know the gender of my incoming little one but also colors that I could add blue or pink to later after we find out. My baby hat was a great knit on a warm day because it was so small, I was totally comfy working my cotton/wool blend yarn and it gave me a great excuse to take a break off my feet.

I used the pattern Kim's Hat from Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Jovelle Hoverson, one of my favorite hat patterns. This is the garter brim version; however I flipped mine inside out so the purl bumps are on the outside. Using the garter brim version but flipping it inside out gives me a look similar to the Land of Nod Chickadee Hat I posted a few weeks ago but keeps the brim from rolling as it would if the hat was knit entirely with Stockingette stitch. This hat is worked on the WS then turned inside out to the RS. I knit the brim in Lion Brand Baby's First Honey Bee then changed to Lion Brand Wool Ease Chunky Fisherman (I chose a wool blend for the majority of the hat because my hat will be worn in fall to winter) but you can stick with Baby's First for a cotton based hat. I switch colors on a knit row so you could see the color change on the purl side but if you don't want to see the color change do it on a purl row in the brim. The color change will face you but, remember, the WS is facing you right now.  I finished off my hat with a cute little tassel, wound around 3 of my fingers using about 3-4 yds of yarn. Then tie to secure and clip to even up the tassel. Tie onto the top of your hat. The duplicate stitch vertical row and brim whip stitch will be added later once the gender is known.  

Crazy Cat Lady Tailor Time

May 13, 2012

This one goes out to all the pet people! This particular post is cat-focused, but doggies are always welcome to hang.I like 'em all!

Pets wearing clothes in one of those polarizing topics. Some people think it's hilarious to put clothes on their pets, while others think it's incredibly cruel. My stance on the topic is in the middle -- if the pet is OK with it, so am I, but it breaks my heart to see an animal struggle or thrash around in fear or discomfort.

However, there are some cat breeds that actually benefit from having a good shirt. These include the hairless Sphynx and the curly-haired Rex breeds. Because the fur on these guys is either missing or less dense than your average house cat, they lose their body heat easily. Their exposed skin also puts them at risk for sunburn when they fall asleep too long in a sunbeam. Seriously, you do NOT want to deal with a cat with a sunburn.

I am lucky enough to have a Devon Rex named Mr. Burns in my brood -- so I'm familiar with the constant heat-seeking of a chilly feline. To help him out, I decided to try my hand at making him a shirt. Luckily, Mr. Burns is one of those rare cats that doesn't mind wearing clothes a bit.

First, I took his measurements and drew up a plan. (I am keenly aware that he's a butterball. We're working on it.) I measured him around the widest part of his belly, across his back from one shoulder to another, and the length from his neck to almost the base of his tail.

Note that my sketch for the top and bottom pieces is woefully off, proportionally speaking.

1-cat-shirt.jpgTo start cutting on the fleece I selected, I first cut a piece 11 inches wide and 13 inches long. The grain runs along the 13 inch length so the piece stretches across the 11 inch span. I folded the piece in half so I could cut the fabric according to my measurements and keep it symmetrical.

2-cat-shirt.jpgTo start shaping the piece, I first cut a curve along the bottom. The shirt will be longer on the cat's back and a little shorter on the belly, so the cat can groom as normal without getting a mouthful of fleece.

3-cat-shirt.jpgNext, I made a cut from the widest part of the piece at the bottom, angling in to the narrowest measurement at the top. For Burnsy, I wanted an 8 inch width across the back of the neck. Because cats' necks are very delicate -- much more so than a dog's -- it's better to cut the neck wide and then take it in a little after a fitting than to have it too tight.

4-cat-shirt.jpgThen I cut semicircles for the leg holes.

5-cat-shirt.jpgTo cut the belly of the shirt, I cut another rectangle, this one 9 inches wide, and folded it in half as I did the first rectangle. Then I aligned the folded back piece with the underpiece and used it as a cutting guide.Not that the folded edge of the back piece sits (folded) and inch back from the folded edge of the underpiece.

6-cat-shirt.jpgAfter the two pieces were cut, I just joined them at the sides with the serger, then I cut two pieces of soft rayon knit each 6 inches by 2 inches, and used those to make mini sleeves that finished the arm holes. Since I'm working with fleece, I'm not going to add bulk by hemming the top or bottom. Here's the shirt laid out flat:

7-cat-shirt.jpgOK, time to fit it on Mr. Burns! Forgive the fuzziness in these images. Anyone who has tried to take photos of a pet knows that they rarely cooperate. As you can see, this shirt run a little tight across the upper back -- the arm holes need to be cut wider.

8-cat-shirt.jpgMr. Burns didn't seem to bothered, and trotted all over the house in his new shirt, but the fit did bother me, and it did limit his range of motion slightly -- a big no-no in pet clothes.

9-cat-shirt.jpgThis shot of him walking from the side really shows how much it's pulling around his front leg.

10-cat-shirt.jpgSo, I decided to try a second shirt, this one out of a lightweight cotton knit. For this version, I also skipped the sleeves and cut the arm holes wider. I am happy to report a much better fit.

11-cat-shirt.jpgAs you can see, I need to take in the neck a bit or add a small amount of elastic. But first I'll have to wrestle it off of Mr. Burns, who seems to be enjoying his new finery quite a bit!


Knitting: Picking up stitches

May 11, 2012


Call me crazy but of all the detail work in knitting (most of which I detest) I love picking up stitches. It is a reason that I cannot narrow down but I like it, I enjoy it and I am pretty darn good at it. Picking up stitches is an acquired skill but it is based on the foundation of knitting; it is not like not like learning to knit itself. Learning to pick up stitches is similar to learning to drive in the rain. It is a lot to take in at first but since you already know how to drive you are just pushing your boundaries a little. Learning the nuances of picking up stitches will help you apply this skill to any gauge or any yarn fiber so you can pick up and knit with confidence. Picking up stitches is great for button bands, hem details, or simply adding details you didn't realize you needed originally. I used this instance when I knit my daughter's first hat. It was an undemanding ribbed brim hat that I thought would stay in place well on her (then) 9 mo. old head. And it did until she was 12 mo. old and decided hats weren't for her anymore. With the temperature outside falling, I picked up some stitches on the brim of the hat and added ear flaps with ties to keep the hat on her head. It worked great. You can add length to your socks after binding off, length to sleeves or a scarf or even add a ruffle trim to your favorite cardigan.


First with the WS of your project facing you, begin picking up your stitches by sliding one needle under 2 loops (if you only pick up 1 loop it will pull away from the knitting by accessing the slack from neighboring loops, by picking up 2 loops you anchor your picked up stitches so it won't put too much pressure on one stitch). When picking up stitches from a bound off edge I like to use the 'V' shape the bind off makes and slide my needle under both lines of the 'V'.




Slide your second needle into the same space as your first and make a loop with your yarn and slide it over your right needle and pull it through using your left needle to help the 'V' in place. Slide your left needle under the next 'V' moving to the left. Insert your right needle and wrap your yarn and pull through.


Above is a look from the WS. You can see the white purl bump against the yellow.


Above is a look from the RS. You can see the loops continue from the row above. From the RS, you can't see that the white row was picked up, it looks like a continuation.


Continue until you have enough stitches then turn your work and continue knitting. It is important that your pick up your stitches from the correct direction. Always pick up with the WS facing up (or facing you) because you will be picking up and knitting the first row with means the purl bump will be in the back. If the RS is facing you, then the purl bump with be on the RS and the picked up stitches will be obvious. 

Getting Ready for Baby: Cloth Diapers

May 9, 2012


**Disclaimer- These are my opinions and are by no means a judgment on Moms who choose disposable or any other diaper method. I have been known to employ disposables from time to time. **

I have LONG wanted in on this gig since I love cloth diapers so much. Not only do I love them for their Green value but also their comfort, style and convenience. The brand I choose for my first born were BumGenius One Size. I choose them because I need only buy one size which would grow with my baby. I could pack them up and go. When they were spoiled, I could fold them up and the mess would be contained inside. I could adjust their size as well as adjust their absorbency. The list goes on...


However, as colorful and super cute as they were, I still longed to make my own with prints that would match my daughter's personality, wardrobe or just something with a little funk. But I was intimidated. It just seemed so tricky. Plus I had no idea what materials were involved and where to purchase them all. Well, none of those reasons is much of an issue now.'s Diaper Central is a one stop diaper fabric purchasing center and we offer several patterns to make your own diaper, I chose Favorite Things "The Nappies Pattern" and decided to modify them to be One Size just like my beloved BumGenius.


** Prewash your fabric as you would wash your cloth diapers**

First I choose my fabric: for the print outside, I used quilting cotton but you can also use minky, flannel or any decorative material (Note- It must be washable, these are going in the wash at least 1-2/week). Then I added in some PUL- which is the waterproof but breathable layer that gets sandwiched between the decorative outside and the super soft and comfy lining fabric. I went with plain white because I knew I would be using a decorative print on the outside but if you just want a solid color check out our wide PUL color selection. Then I chose my lining fabric which was a diaper flannel but you could also use cotton flannel, terry, cotton or hemp (Hemp is the most absorbent for heavy wetters). Do not use microfiber for the lining. It will irritate baby's skin. Then following the directions I cut out my pattern pieces.


Since I am making my diaper One Size, I choose a size large because it was the size closest to my BumGenius at its largest size. After finishing step 1 I added my rise adjustment snaps (these make the diaper One Size). I added one row of 3 male snaps 1 in. below where the Velcro would sit and 1 row of 3 female snaps 1.5 in. below the male row, and another row of female snaps 1 in. below the first female row. Each snap was spaced 2.25 in. in each row. With the middle snaps centered on the diaper, I used my Babyville Snap Pliers and Snaps in Playful Green/Orange. Then I continued following the directions to complete my diaper.

One important note is to be sure you use the 3/8'' swimwear elastic as instructed by the pattern. This will make your diaper function better but the size is just right to fit in the seam allowance. Also, when stitching on your elastic, I used some binder clips to keep my elastic in place about 2 in. above the pattern mark. I started sewing on the mark but clipping the elastic above the mark really helped me keep my hands free for guiding the fabric and stretching the elastic. Pull your elastic to about 90-95 of its capacity. This will make sure your get the stretch you need but won't make it super difficult to guide. After your elastic is sewn, clip off the excess elastic. A little waste makes for much ease. I also used these same clips to keep all my pieces together as I sewed them up instead of pin because I didn't want any holes in my waterproof PUL which might cause leaks later.


Finally you can see in my pictures the before elastic comparison to my BumGenius Diapers



 And after. Pretty close huh?!


Finally, I would love to show your this cute little diaper on a equally cute little bottom but we will all have to wait for the fall before that happens. Also, I don't know the gender yet but just loved this cowboy print so much that even if I have a girl she will be rocking western style. Have fun with your print choices!

Posh Inspired Keyhole Pillowcase top (for Adults)

May 7, 2012




I was window shopping over at my favorite store, Anthropologie, a few weeks ago and found this top and knew it was destined to be mine- But not for $58! A quick look at the close-ups confirmed that is was a very stylized version of a pillowcase top with a banded hem. Done, case closed, let's get to work. I, being 5 mo. pregnant, decided to craft my version from knit to make it last the summer. I tell you I feel really pretty and myself in this top (which is hard to accomplish, considering I just popped).Here's how to make your own. You can easily make this top from a woven or a knit.

1 yd of Knit fabric (you can use interlock or jersey just make sure it has at least 20% stretch across the grain)

Walking foot on your standard machine.

Measure and cut your fabric pieces according to my handy cheat sheet that you can download below (click on the picture to save and print or click here to if it is not visible).

Posh Keyhole Pillowcase Top.jpg

Here's an example of the main panel measurement: widest measurement is 38 in. / 2= 19 in. + 1 in. (seam allowance)= 20 in. cutting width

Length from shoulder to hip bone is 22 in. + 4 in. = 26 in. cutting length

From the remaining fabric cut a 2 in. wide strip by at least 60 in. in length for the drawstring tie at the top.

All stitches are assumed zig zag stitches unless otherwise noted


Mark your main panels 6-8 in. from the top on each side; above the mark is your arm hole and below is your side seam. Stitch your sides together (RS facing) starting at these marks. Fold down seam allowance in your arm hole and topstitch in place.

To make the front keyhole, cut an 8 in. by 2 in wide piece of knit for the facing and pin it the front main panel of your top as shown on the cheat sheet, matching centers (RS facing). Using a narrow stitch, stitch close to your center line on one side, stopping ½ from the bottom of the facing, stitch across your center and stitch back up the other side of your center using the same spacing (try to stitch between 1/8 and ¼ in. from the center). Clip down your center line and turn your facing to the inside of your front main panel. Turn under the raw edges of the facing, pin in place and topstitch around the edges of your facing to secure in place using a straight stitch.

Make top ruffle and casing: on the front and back, fold the top of your top down 1/2 in. and pin or baste, fold down another 1.5 in and pin in place, topstitch along fold using straight stitch. Stitch another line 3/4 in. above the topstitching using a straight stitch.

Stitch your hem bands together at the sides and fold in half, matching raw edges, WS facing, and pin to the bottom edge of your top, stretching the hem band as needed to fit. Stitch around hem band.

To make the draw string, fold draw string in half lengthwise, RS facing and stitch down the length. Turn draw string right side out and feed through casing using a safety pin or bodkin starting at one side of the keyhole on the front of your top and finishing on the other side. Knit your drawstring at both ends.

Congrats you are DONE! Enjoy your Keyhole Pillowcase top in wovens as well as knits, just cut your hem band on the bias for a little stretch around your hips. I love this top in solids as well as medium or small scale prints. Polka Dots are a must for this style!

P.S. because this is knit it makes a great maternity top!



Tools: Snap Pliers

May 4, 2012


If you are familiar with Grommet Pliers then, please, put all your pessimistic plier preconceptions aside; Snap Pliers are nothing like Grommet Pliers. Compared to Grommet Pliers, Snap Pliers are a walk in the park on a breezy spring day while drinking an iced coffee, holding hands with your sweetheart. I was loath to try these but I have some cloth diapers that needed to be converted from Velcro to snaps and have some cloth diapers to make in the days ahead and knew this was a task I could no longer put off.

I should have purchased a set of Snap Pliers years ago. They are so easy and snaps are handy for so many projects. Before I start listing their uses like Bubba listing shrimp recipes (see Forrest Gump for movie reference) I will share how to use the Babyville Boutique Snap Plier Set ($19.98) which includes the Snap Pliers already pre-loaded with a size 20 die trays (this is where you place your snaps pieces and press them together to seal) which is the size of the snaps carries! Plus a screw driver to change the die plates, an awl to punch a hole for your snaps and a shank that fits the larger die tray. Complete instructions are also included.

I am converting some of my daughter's cloth diapers that she has used for the past 3 years. She only wears them while sleeping now but she thinks it is fun to pull off the Velcro. She still has trouble or, at least, has not attempted freedom from snap diapers (I have both in the pictures below. I am using the purchased snap diaper as a template for applying my snaps to the Velcro diaper). The Velcro is shot on most of my diapers and since I plan to use them for baby # 2, I figured now was a great time to get them all done. First, using my seam ripper I removed all the old Velcro. Next I measured and marked where I will place my new snaps. My Velcro diapers are slightly slimmer than my snap diapers so I can't copy the snap placement exactly but I can use the spacing.


After my placement is marked I use my awl to punch a hole for my first snap. Since I am punching through PUL, which is a knit, I need to punch and twist to make a larger hole than I really need because the hole will slowly close up once I remove the awl and I need to get the shank of my snap through the hole before it closes so I make it a little bigger than I need to allow time for my fumbling fingers.



Once your shank is in place, place one of your snap cups on the shank. It doesn't matter which just make sure you only use one kind in each location. I will use the other kind on the diaper tabs. Once my snap cup is in place, I hold the two pieces together with my fingers while I maneuver the pieces into the Snap Pliers placing the shank end in the bottom die cup and the top snap cup under the top die cup. 



Once the snaps pieces are in place, I squeeze the plier handles together with as much pressure as I can muster and then release and squeeze again for good measure. That's it. You do the same procedure for the other side of your snap but you really don't need to be super strong to squeeze the pliers with enough force and it is all really easy. I love how professional they look (I don't always get the best looking grommets) and can't wait to convert all my diapers to snaps and make some new ones as well!!


Check out our great selection of snaps in different, cute colors!

Let's get this show on the road! (With a super-fast travel machine cover)

May 3, 2012

OK, this one's a super easy project -- perfect for budding seamsters. All you need is a t-shirt and about 30 minutes -- and you'll have time to spare!

To start with, pull your shirt -- inside out -- over your sewing machine. A unisex size Medium is just about perfect.

To make marking easier, you might want to pin the shoulders of your shirt so the neck opening sits higher than the top of the machine.

Next, mark the curve of your machine where you'll cut and sew the top of the cover. I used a sharpie so it's easy to see in photos.

Pull your shirt off your machine, and clip along your marked line. I usually taper my curve so it ends down at the bottom of the armscye.

Here's the trimmed top of the former shirt/almost cover.


To true up the top and make it symmetrical, fold your fabric in half and clip your curve so both sides are ever.

6-Travel-Cover.jpgNext, just stitch that top clipped edge closed.I usually use my serger.

7-Travel-Cover.jpgPull your stitched cover over the machine, and mark the handle width. You'll clip an opening from one marking to the other to let the handle through. I know what you're thinking. "Why don't you just leave an opening in the seam?" You can totally do it that way if you prefer, but I find that in the course of being carried around, the seams tend to start to split open. This way, the seam stays intact.

7b-Travel-Cover.jpgYou also need to mark the point where the cover hits the table or other sewing surface once it's pulled down.

8-Travel-Cover.jpgUse that lower edge mark as a guide, and fold up the remaining piece of shirt. The mark will be inside the crease of the fold.

9-Travel-Cover.jpgI make a reverse cuff by folding the hem back down. This will reinforce the top edge of what's about to become a series of pockets.

10-Travel-Cover.jpgStitch channels into the folded lower edge to create pockets. You can customize the width of your pocket channels to match the items you most often take with you when you sew on the go. I like to make one wide enough to hold the foot and power cord, and the rest varying sizes to hold spare needles, thread, snips, trims and whatever else I need.

Here we are, loaded up and ready to go! Who wants to host a sewing get together?


Interview with Kim Kight of True Up

a field guide to fabric design 2.jpg

Kim Kight has been writing the blog True Up since 2007. She is an avid sewist and loves fabrics and design. She is now an author, and her latest book is A Field Guide to Fabric Design. Here's our online interview:

Is sewing your passion? Or, is it more about the fabrics and the designs printed on them that inspire you?

I'd say it's both! I don't have as much time to sew as I'd like (who does?), but the more you sew, the more you understand and appreciate fabric. To some extent I guess I do collect fabric for its own sake, though, especially vintage feedsacks. It's hard to cut into those. My stash is my happy place, even if I'm not pulling something out to use it.

What is your favorite thing to make? (it doesn't have to involve sewing)

Quilts, definitely. I also love making stuffed toys. I want to love apparel sewing but I think I have more to learn before I feel the love!

Tell us about your blog, True Up. What inspired you to start a blog?

I used to have a personal/craft blog, and I ended up posting about new fabric collections on a regular basis. This was back (in the olden days -- five years ago?!?) when modern fabric collections were few and far between, and shops specializing in them were just starting to emerge. At some point I realized that I could start a blog that was JUST about fabric, and that maybe it would work as a professional, niche blog. Thankfully I was right!

Give us an idea of your creative or design style. What has inspired your creative sensibilities?

I like vintage everything! Now that I have kids of my own, I share all the books and cartoons I loved when I was little. I realized how much these things formed almost everything about my tastes. Just about everything I love creatively/visually can be traced back to Richard Scarry, Ed Emberley, Go Dog Go, and Looney Tunes.

We are so excited about your new book, A Field Guide To Fabric Design! Give us a flavor of the book and tell us who you wrote it for.

Thank you! Everything I know about fabric printing was self-taught. There just weren't any comprehensive books out there that show how to print repeating designs onto fabric. I wrote the book that I was wanting 5-10 years ago when I became interested in designing fabric. I wrote it for the person who loves fabric, who dreams of having their own designs on fabric. It's geared heavily toward people interested in designing fabric as a career (or as part of a larger design career). But it has a lot of inspiration and information for people who just want to print for fun, and even for those who just want to be more informed in their choices of prints and fabrics. Since it shows how to create pattern repeats by hand and with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, it's also useful for anyone who wants to design patterns for any reason (graphic design, scrapbooking, etc.)

Add anything else you think fans would like to know about you, sewing, the creative process your book, your blog, etc. that I missed.

I launched a Fabric Design Forum as a companion to the book ... I knew I couldn't show every technique in the world, and I knew things like the computer tutorials had a limited shelf life, so I wanted a place where people could go and talk fabric design with like-minded folk, and keep up on new technological developments. It's free, and you don't have to have the book to join, and I'd love to see you all there! It's at

Mother's Day Memories

May 2, 2012

Mason jars-Mother's Day.JPG 

Memories are fleeting. You wish you could reach out and grab one. One year I was looking to add another Christmas present for my daughter, I had already purchased her ''big'' presents, but I just needed something more. I stumbled across ''the memory jar''. I thought she would think it was hokey but she was very touched by it.

 What is the memory jar?  You think about the memories and good times you would like to remember.  I picked memories from her childhood and wrote them on slips of paper and put them in a decorated jar.  I added mementoes of her childhood. It was a very satisfying experience for me to make.

I decided it was time for another memory jar. This time the theme will be Motherhood.  My daughter is expecting her second child at the end of August.  This is also a great project to make with your child or grandchild.


Mason glass jar



Mother's Day coupons


Selected memories written or printed on cardstock ( I am using blue cardstock because she is having a boy and the white cardstock is Sebastian's coupons)

When my daughter reaches into this jar she will pull out a memory of my memories as a young mother or some of her experiences with her first pregnancy. I am also throwing in some sonograms from her current pregnancy. I am calling this jar the "Just Because I Said So" jar. When my daughter was young I pledged that I would always explain my rules to her. Little did I know that I had given birth to a lawyer.  She countered all my arguments with her own thoughts. By the time she reached the age of ten, I retreated to the phrase I thought I would never say- Because I said so!

I am including some Mother's Day coupons that I will help my grandchild (Sebastian) fill out.


Use your imagination to create your own memory jar or create a different style. I found a sewing kit at Martha She also has some other great Mother's Day gifts.

Sewing Kit Jar Supplies:

Mason Jar


Fabric Scraps and poly-fil (to make pincushion)

Tape Measure

Safety pins

Hand Needles




Hot glue and glue gun




Printing Labels- Always print your label on plain paper and align with the labels to  make sure that the printing will be centered on your label. You may have to adjust your printer settings. I found out that I needed to click on borderless printing to ensure good printing.

If you make the sewing kit jar- only apply the glue to the seal and not the rim to attach your pincushion.

If a child is helping you, let him/her select stickers to put on the job.



Hobby Lobby





Better Homes & Gardens

Woman's Day

Video Guide to Wet Blocking your Knitted Project

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