December 2013 Archives

Sweater Knit Dress- Mad Men Inspired

December 30, 2013

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Last year I purchased a killer sweater knit dress for a wedding. I was newly post partum and depressed to be dress shopping so soon after baby but there I was shopping. I glumly grabbed a dress in a color that I hoped would bring life to my face. As I tried it on though something glorious happened: it fit and it looked good. As I stood transfixed by my image in non-lounge pants listening to angels sing in the background, I did the math. It must be the sweater knit. I mean think about it, the sweater knit had enough texture going on to hide any bits I wanted hidden. The lining kept me all tucked in and it draped instead of clung. It was a dream. When our sweater knits came in I was determined to recreate the dress for the blog so all can create a delicious dress that is sure to make you feel sexy, look sexy and eat too. 

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You will need about 2 yds of sweater knit and lining fabric (I used Stetch Jersey ITY for the lining). 

To create your pattern grab a fitted t shirt and a fitted skirt. Lay one over the other lining up the waists and folding in any bits that hang out (my t shirt flared a little at the hem). Trace the outline being careful to mark each neck line. I do this by first tracing the back neckline then I use a pin to poke holes along the outline of the front neck. Once the dress is removed I trace the holes with my pen. Mark the center line of your pattern and mark the center as the fold line. Add your favorite seam allowance (mine is 1/4'' on knits). Trace the sleeve of the t shirt too. Cut one front and one back from both the sweater knits and lining. Cut two sleeves from the sweater knit only. 

Stay stitch the neck lines on the lining. Stitch the shoulders together of the sweater knit and the lining. With right sides facing pin and stitch the neckline of the sweater knit to the lining. Then stitch up the sides of the sweater knit and then stitch up the sides of the lining. Stitch up the side seam on each sleeve. Turn the dress inside out and pin the sleeve in place and stitch it to both the sweater knit and the lining. 

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Hem the bottom of the dress and each sleeve. Turn the dress right side out and enjoy. This quick but great dress is perfect for work with a cardigan or blazer, for a date with strappy shoes and a clutch or with boots and a scarf for a day with friends. Mix and match your sweater knit to your lining for a fun effect or coordinate perfectly for a more classic look. I might even suggest an animal print jersey lining under a sheer sweater knit for fun. 

Collaboration Couture

Sewists, I bet this scenario is extremely familiar: A friend or relative finds out you sew, or sees one of your glorious creations, and the first words out of his or her mouth are "Will you make me something?"

Because I've been stitching for decades, I often hear this question. I've answered it in different ways throughout the years. In the beginning, it was always "Yes!" But after a few years of doing projects as favors, the idea of collaborating with someone who doesn't sew can lose its luster. There are a million reasons. People may not always realize just how much work goes into a garment, so you feel underappreciated. Or there may be an expectations management issue, where the person you're sewing for has built up the idea of the outfit in their head for so long that no reality will actually live up to it -- and then everyone's disappointed. And sometimes, there are cases where the item in question just isn't that interesting or exciting to you, so stitching it feels like drudgery. The list could go on. (Plus, I never envisioned a life of sewing for others -- I'm far too selfish!) 

But then, there are those times when you sew for a friend and the whole process is a delight. Those can make you feel like a magician. 

Because I am plenty busy in my life, it's extremely rare that I take sewing requests anymore. Almost everything I sew is for me or for a gift. But once in a while, when the right project comes along, I'll make room in the schedule.

When my friend Laura mentioned that she had designed a jacket, I was immediately intrigued. Laura's an incredible artist -- it's her job. She, like many of us, gets frustrated at seeing really cute clothes that don't fit normal humans. The jacket she had in mind was inspired by one she had seen online that only came in teeny-tiny sizes. Laura's an awesome person who always helps people out, and does a lot of good by donating her time to a local animal rescue. If anyone deserves to have a custom garment, it's her. 

When she emailed me her concept, I was super jazzed. Because it's a really cool design:

1-collaboration.jpg(See, I told you she has skills.)

What followed was a whirlwind of activity as we tried to get the project done before Laura flew out to the west coast to see friends less than a week later. There was frantic fabric sampling (we eventually landed on a dark plum corduroy for the exterior and a yummy printed charmeuse for the lining) and button selection and late-night texts about the placement of the braid trim.

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We abandoned the motif on the back and the trim along the back seam of the sleeve, and opted to place the lacing grommets on tabs instead of working them directly into the seam as her initial drawings suggested. 

All said, we did three fittings in our brief assembly time, sometimes in the middle of the night to accomodate our slightly insane schedules. Many photos were sent back and forth via SMS, so there were no surprises. We made the deadline -- barely! (I literally delivered the finished garment to her just a few hours before her flight.) But the best part is the smile on her face when she's wearing her design.

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3-collaboration.jpg4-collaboration.jpgDo you ever loan your time and skills to your non-sewing friends? If so, is it something you usually find frustrating or fulfilling? Share your experiences with us!

Feather and Fan Knit Pattern

December 23, 2013

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Pantone has declared the color of the year for 2014 to be Radiant Orchid but I declare Scallop to be the pattern of the year. Move over chevron (though in truth the "chevron" pattern that is so popular is really a zig zag) here comes the scallop. The scallop is a much softer take on the zig zag but has the advantage of being used as edgings as well as a pattern. The scallop is embodied very well in my favorite Feather and Fan knitting pattern. With its increase and decrease groupings Feather and Fan creates a beautiful, dramatic scallop that extends to both the cast on and bind off edges. The beauty of the Feather and Fan pattern is that it is easily customized with purl rows and garter. This eyelet pattern can add softness to necklines, pockets, scarves and afghans. It is easily memorized and great stacked or just one row.

I swatched three different variations in Berroco's Ultra Alpaca. You can find the instructions below. All variations are stitches multiples of 18 plus 6. I cast on 42 sts for 2 repeats (36 sts plus 6 sts)

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Grey: Garter Stitch Feather and Fan (garter rides on both sides)

R1 (RS): knit

R2: knit

R3: k3, *k2tog [3 times], (yo, k1) [6 times], k2tog [3 times]; repeat from * to last 3 sts, k3

R4: knit

Repeat R1-4 until desired length

Yellow: Stockinette Feather and Fan (smooth on front, purl bumps on back)

R1 (RS): knit

R2: purl

R3: k3, *k2tog [3 times], (yo, k1) [6 times], k2tog [3 times]; repeat from * to last 3 sts, k3

R4: purl

Repeat R1-4 until desired length

Green: One Purl Row Feather and Fan

R1 (RS): knit

R2: knit

R3: k3, *k2tog [3 times], (yo, k1) [6 times], k2tog [3 times]; repeat from * to last 3 sts, k3

R4: purl

Repeat R1-4 until desired length

Holiday Lace Party Dress-Butterick 5181

December 22, 2013

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Lace is all over my favorite stores right now so it inspired me to recreate the look for a holiday party dress. I love all the scallop edge laces we have in stock right now; it creates a great look and saves time on hemming. I chose an easy pattern, Butterick 5181,  to modify with a lace overlay by basically making the dress twice. First, I stitched up a grey dress from broadcloth as the lining then I stitched up the lace overlay but I changed it up a bit. 

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After I cut out all of my pattern pieces (more on the skirt pieces in a bit) I trimmed off the remaining scallop edge at 1.5'' to use on the armholes and the neckline. I stitched them all scallop edges together using a french seam and then I added it to the raw edges of the arms and neckline. After I stitched the scallop edge to the neckline and armhole I finger pressed the seam allowance towards the scallop and topstitched it in place. 

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When I cut the skirt I placed the pattern piece bottom on the scallop edge but added 2'' to the bottom so it would hang longer than the grey lining and create a peek-a-boo effect. 

Once the dresses were complete except for the zipper,  I layered the lace overlay on top of the grey dress and carefully pinned the waist bands together and topstitched the overlay to the lining to complete the dress. I then inserted a colorful invisible zipper just for a little hint of color and fun. The teal zipper pull looks like a little bit of jewelry at the back neck. 

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This lace was a pleasure to work with and looks amazing. The mechanical stretch means that this lovely dress will not be overly stiff and uncomfortable. This is perfect for holiday parties, New Year's Eve, dates or with colorful leggings and a cardi it makes a great girls night out ensemble. Make it your own with your choice of lace and lining. 

It's Not Too Late for Ornaments (to Keep Kids Busy)!

Ahhhhh, the holidays. The house is full of cheery decor, and the kids are out of school. OK, I'm not a parent, but I'm pretty sure the second half of that last sentence caused a needle-scratching-on-the-record sound for some of you. While I don't have kids of my own, I'm certainly related to a lot of them, and I WAS one (and in many ways still am), and I am all too familiar with the challenges of keeping youngsters busy during their downtime from school.

I was a busy bee of a child, and I perpetually drove my parents crazy trying to "help" with holiday prep. Until one day, my mom had a genius idea: She told me what we REALLY needed were some felt animal ornaments for the tree. (We didn't, but I had no idea -- I was super jazzed to be trusted with this VERY IMPORTANT task.) And then it kind of became a tradition; each year, new ornaments made their way to the branches of the Christmas tree. It wasn't until years later that I found out these little doo-dads had been called "busy birds" by my adult family -- because they kept me busy and not underfoot.

So, if you have a kid in your family who is ready for this important responsibility, here's how I made mine. You can always come up with a totally different animal -- it's a great way to not just keep a kid busy, but also to foster creative thinking and designing. These are perfect for kids that are comfy with a needle and thread, but they don't require crazy levels of skill. And felt is super forgiving.

I just sketch out a two-piece pattern, consisting of a basic bird body and an insert that will add some additional shape. I cut two of the body piece and only one of the inset piece. If you want a shorter, chubbier bird, just adjust the proportions to your liking.

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To start stitching, I first attach the inset piece to one of the body pieces, starting about an inch from the tail end. I just use a small whipstitch for all of the sewing.

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Here's the inset completely attached to the body. After this, I attach the second side of the bird.

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As I'm nearing the mid-back of the bird with my stitching, I take two to three slightly longer stitches -- later, we'll be using the extra bit of gap to insert feathers.

4-busy-birds.jpgI start stuffing with poly fill as I go -- it's easier for me than waiting until I'm almost done stitching. A chopstick works great for poking the filling into the head and tail points.

4a-busy-birds.jpgThis is what the underside looks like as I close it up. You can see how the inset gives the bird a rounded belly.

5-busy-birds.jpgNext, I use two seed beads to give the bird its eyes. (That tail of thread you see is me holding my needle and thread to the back for the photo -- I don't take a stitch over the head.)

6-busy-birds.jpgAnd then, I poke some feathers through those longer stitches at the back to give the bird a tail. You can dip the points of the feathers into a little glue before carefully inserting them into the stitching in the back.

7-busy-birds.jpgIf you'd like to also add some feathers for the wings, poke a small hole in each side of the body with an awl, and then insert glue-tipped feathers.

8-busy-birds.jpgTo make the bird tree-ready, I glue a ribbon-covered metal hair clip to the base so it can perch on a branch. (If you want to see the process of gluing the ribbon to the clip, there's a photo series in this post.)

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You can see the gap in my wider stitches more clearly in this photo, circled in black:

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If you want to add a little sparkle to your bird, you can always tip the edges of your feathers with a little glitter nail polish.

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12-busy-birds.jpgAnd that's it! It's a basic enough project to not be daunting, but it's time- and concentraion-consuming enough to keep helpers occupied for a little while so you can get cooking, wrapping and other holiday tasks done. While my two samples are fairly basic, you can really keep kids occupied if you let them add paint and other trims to their birds. And while my focus has been on keeping kids busy, every parent I know cherishes hand-made ornaments their children have produced. They become a beautiful way to commemorate each year.

I hope your holidays are joyous and peaceful, and filled with creativity!

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Product of the Month: Drapery Pleat Tape

December 18, 2013

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The joy of home decor is that there are so many short cuts, tools and cool notions that make interesting details a piece of cake to pull off. This can come in the form of hem tape, roman shade ring tape or giant plastic grommets that install without a press. One of my favorites is pleat tape. It is a wonderful multi tool that gives a professional look without a lot of work. Pleat tape can help give a professional finish at the top of draperies, can make pleating easy and includes a slot for metal hooks that the drapes hang from. It is suprisingly easy to work with. All you need is enough tape to go across the top of each curtain panel. Be sure to order a bit extra because you want to start the tape the same distance from the first pleat on all curtain panels. 

To apply your tape hem the sides of each curtain panel and fold down the top edge of the curtain. You don't need to double fold the top edge since any raw edges will be under the pleat tape. Pin the pleat tape in place on your curtain panel and sew along the stitch lines provided on the top. You will notice these lines are in a contrasting thread on the tape. This will ensure that you do not sew on the cord used to pull up your pleats or on the pockets the metal hanging hooks sit in. Once your pleat tape is securely stitched in place gently pull the cords in the pleat tape with even pressure. These cords work like pulling the bobbin threads to create gathers. The pleat tape and the weight of the fabric make it thick so you may need to help each pleat to slide along the cord. Once you have all your pleats in place and looking nice, knot off your cord. You can stitch parallel to these cords at each end to secure them but do not cut them off. Should you even wish to let down the pleats for cleaning you can pick out your stitches and then unknot the cords. This is very helpful for drycleaning. 

Using pleat tape can save hours of measureing, pinning and stitching and give a quality, professional finish everytime. I recommend it for every room. Even if you do not pleat the drapes, the tape helps to stablize the top of drapes for a clean look and an easy way to hang your drapes. 

Quickie Gift -- Leather Hair Accessories

December 16, 2013

We're officially down to the wire. If you're still hoping to make gifts this year, you're going to have to hustle! 

In case you're still pondering what to concoct for someone on your list, we have a few ideas if you've got someone who loves accessories. Leather and faux leather continue to trend, so why not whip up a few hair accoutrements for someone special? Here are four ideas:

1. Leather Hair Bow

Start with a piece of 4-by-4-inch leather. I used Perfection Fused Leather for mine, because the light weight and supple nature of it makes it easy to work with and turn. If you're using a heavier leather or vinyl, you might want to go a bit bigger to avoid major frustration. So long as you start with a square, this technique will work.

Fold your square in half, right sides together, and stitch along the raw edges opposite the fold, leaving about a 2-inch gap in the middle of your seam.

Then realign the tube you just stitched so the first seam sits about centered along one side. Stitch each end closed. 

Turn your closed tube right side out. These things tend to keep air in, so it will likely be a bit pillowy. Set this piece aside.

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Next, cut a piece of leather about 1.5 by 4 inches. This will get cut shorter, but I find it easier to work with a little extra length and then cut.

Fold in one side of your leather the long way and hot glue into place. Don't use too much glue -- you don't want to create bulk.

Then fold in the remaining side and glue it down, again being careful to add glue sparingly.

 

2-leather-hair-trims.jpgOnce the glue of this folded piece has completely dried, cut it down to about 2.5 inches long.

Join the two ends together and stitch, creating a small loop. In the photo below, you can see the remnants of the tissue paper I used to cover the loop while I stitched -- this prevents the leather from sticking under your machine's presser foot. 

Turn the loop right side out.

3-leather-hair-trims.jpgPull your tube that you assembled earlier throught the loop. This takes a little cajoling. Because the leather tends to want to stay in place, you don't even need to glue it at this point. You can if you like, but leave the back of the bow free. Thread a narrow headband through your bow loop, and you're all done! Easy peasy!

4-leather-hair-trims.jpg2. Simple Gathered Flower

Cut a piece of leather about 1 inch wide and 20 or so inches long.

Hand sew a running stitch along one of the long edges, and then gather tightly to create a ruffly flower.

Stitch the gathered circle closed. 

Glue a circle of felt to the back of the flower.

Glue on a button to cover the gathered center. 

5-leather-hair-trims.jpgNow the flower's complete, and it's time to make a clip to attach it to!

Start with a simple clip.

Glue a piece of narrow grosgrain ribbon (I usually use 3/8 inch size) to the underside of the upper arm of the clip.

Next, fold you ribbon to cover the upper side of the clip and glue in place.

Fold your ribbon under the picher part of the clip and trim it to fit. Daub a bit of glue on the underside of the top clip pincher and catch your ribbon into place.

Glue the grosgrain covered side of your clip to your accessory, and you're all set.

6-leather-hair-trims.jpg3. Leather Rose

This one works well if the back side of your leather is nice. The Perfection Fused Leather is perfect here. 

I used the same rose-making method I always use -- Melanie's awesome tutorial! You can also go right to the video here

I used daubs of hot glue to keep things in place as I went -- you can see on the back it's a bit of a mess. But a felt circle covers all sins in this instance, and a clip makes it hair-ready.

7-leather-hair-trims.jpg4. Glittery Vinyl Star Stack

Cut several starts out of leather or vinyl. I used Sparkle Vinyl.

Glue your stars together in a strip. You can go in a straight line or an arc, all aligned the same way or turned slightly askew -- it's up to you!

Glue a small strip of felt to the back of your star grouping.

Then glue on a clip, and you're all set!

8-leather-hair-trims.jpgClip-backed accessories are great because they can be attached to all kinds of things. They can clip directly into a hairstyle or onto aheadband. They can spruce up a handbag strap or we worn on a shirt. They can even clip to a bracelet. The ultimate versatile gift!

Test out other shapes and ideas for your leather accessories -- flowers, concentric circles to create bullseyes, hearts -- whatever your mind can conjure. They key in any hand-made gift is that it's something made especially by you.

Last Minute Hostess/Teacher Gifts

December 13, 2013

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If you are like me I am still trying to get everyone on my list a little something homemade. Luckily, my family all knows how much I love them everyday so they are at the bottom of my list and my daughter's teachers are at the top. Even though I tell them all the time how much I adore them I also know how much they give and sacrifice to give my daughter a great education so I place them at the top of my "homemade list".Also at the top are all my hostess friends who work so hard to make my holiday season festive. Everyone's list is long so the only way to get it all done is to pick great gifts that pack a punch. I love tote bags, cowls and sweet little details for those really special givers in our lives. 

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For my teacher/hostess gifts I chose to make a chic but simple cowl, a quick but so cute tote bag and a super sweet little girl's dress. The cowl makes the perfect hostess gift because you can wrap it around a bottle of wine and its use goes beyond the party. I learned to make this cowl from Craftsy's Beginner Serging class but it is basically two 60'' wide fabric pieces serged together. It is so easy but so lux. There is knit on the inside and twill print on the outside.

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For a teacher gift I made the Pleated Shoulder Bag from Amy Carol's Bend the Rules Sewing. This is a great book for quick, creative gifts. I had previous cased out my teacher's handbag to determine her style but I wasn't sure I had the time to take on a really great handbag project. I opted for a super great tote bag instead; something every teacher can use. This bag came together with 1/2 yd of each fabric: Organic Cotton in Gray and Denyse Schmidt Cotton Print. This tote carries a lot and looks great doing it. It goes together pretty fast and it is easy to customize. The large gussets help it to accomodate lots of books, games or tasty treats. 

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Finally for my daughter's head teacher I made something for her own daughter. She has a 2 yr old who is very dear to her and I wanted to make something special since she is always admiring my little one's dresses. I casually asked about her daughter's favorite colors and when I found this pink dog print I knew I had struck gold. I modified the back for a zipper for ease and added a tie to the back so there would be a big pink bow on the back for cutness. You can't go wrong with an Oliver + S pattern. 

For those of you still scrambling or looking for more quick gifts check out our other great gifts blog posts here.

Blog of the Month: Hello My Name is Heather

December 11, 2013

It occured to me last month while I was checking out Heather Bailey's newest fabric collection, Lottie Da, that I hadn't yet featured her blog, HELLO My Name is Heather,  on Blog of the Month. While I do try to highlight our less mainstream customers, I do also like to share my favorite popular blogs, like last month's Burda Blog. Heather's blog is one of my favorites to read and to just look at. Her pictures are literally eye candy and I often print them out just to tack around my sewing room for inspiration and to brighten up my space. I really enjoy reading about all her processes, new projects and  new collections as she creates them. I'm also a big fan of baby/kid pictures- you may have figured that out about me already. 

Heather's blog features many great tutorials, picture galleries, access to her shop and many free patterns. Most can be found on the right sidebar on her blog. Heather also runs several giveaways throughout the year which is another great reason to follow her blog. Have I yet mentioned that it is a beautiful blog- the most beautiful. Well, it is. I love catching a peek atl all Heather's patterns and fabric combinations as she creates them. Her flickr groups which she set up for her patterns and fabric collections are very enjoyable. It really lights my creative fires. 

One of the most exciting things one her blog lately is her upcoming embroidery patterns. I am really excited about this. Embroidery is really relaxing and fun but until I found Jenny Hart's Sublime Stitching I couldn't really find any patterns that really fit me. Now I can add Heather's gorgeous collection to my growning "To Stitch" list. Christmas next year will be the year of embroidery!

*All pictures came from HELLO My Name is Heather

The coolest pillowcases ever!

December 10, 2013

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Around the office, we are buzzing about all the really cool fabrics for kids of all ages we have in stock right now. We are dreaming up quick gift ideas, and the one that keeps coming up is to make pillowcases with a theme. Sew4Home has a great Sleepover Pillowcase project that's quick and easy. Here are just a few of the really cool prints we have: Peanuts, Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel Comics, Family Guy, Angry Birds, Strawberry Shortcake, Sesame Street, The Big Bang Theory and Hello Kitty. Check out the Famous Character Cotton Print fabrics if you want to see all the great prints of characters you know and love.

New Year's Style -- A Casual Tuxedo

December 8, 2013

Casual Tuxedo Jacket and Pants Sewing ProjectIt's time for another bucket list sewing project!

I have always loved the idea of my own tuxedo, but with very limited reasons to wear one, it seemed like an impractical endeavor. With New Year's Eve approaching, it's the perfect time, but what about after the ball drops? I have a space issue as-is, so I can't really justify a one-time-use project to squeeze into the already cluttered closet.

I remember when I was in high school, I found an old tux jacket at the thrift store and wore that thing constantly, until it was threadbare and the textiles were breaking down. That got me thinking about the idea of a more casual tuxedo -- a trouser and jacket that could be worn together or as separates. Pieces that would go great with a T-shirt or a dressier option, that could mix and match with the rest of my wardrobe.

Continue reading New Year's Style -- A Casual Tuxedo.

Nearly Invisible Knit Increases

December 6, 2013

I have been on a sweater knitting rampage lately which is weird because I prefer fast knits. However, I went on a bit of a hiatus after my second baby was born; it's tough to imagine but I just didn't have the time. But I have grown accustomed to two kids and I needed my knitting fix again so I have been burning through sweater patterns. One trend I have noticed that has been giving me a challange is invisible increases that, well, aren't invisible. No increase can truely be invisible because you are adding a stitch-creating something from nothing. But some of these invisble increases are very visible and in a most distrubing way. They all tend to leave holes in my sweater, like a yarn over increase but smaller. I have tried video's, blogs and forums to figure out the way around this and have found nothing. I was left to solve it on my own. The answer came one night while I was night by the fire. Knitting makes me relaxed and sleepy at night so I accidentally increased on the wrong side of my cardigan but didn't notice until the next morning. I was shocked and excited not because I had to frog all the way back to my collar (which I did any way just to fix my holes) but because the increase was less visible when done on the opposite side. 

Continue reading Nearly Invisible Knit Increases.

Stitched Embossed Vinyl

December 4, 2013

Stitched Embossed Vinyl

This tutorial uses my previous post, Man Corner: Recovering vinyl bar stools, as a foundation. I wanted to give my husband something special for Christmas but this method can easily be applied to vinyl tablet cover, a vinyl clutch, footstools, headboards or even vinyl stocking cuffs for an edgy look. As soon as I finished my first bar stool which was to sit behind his counter at his motorcycle shop I thought how great it would be to cover another stool with his logo to sit on the other side of the counter for customers. However, I didn't want to just stitch it and be done; I wanted to stitching to really stand out and have an embossed appearance. To change it up for a more classic look try white vinyl with black stitching, for something more casual try a tone on tone scheme with turquoise vinyl and thicker, heavy weight thread for kitchen stools. I used a dark grey heavy weight thread. I considered black but I wanted the logo to be noticed but white was too high constrast (also it was going to a motorcycle shop which isn't the best place for white).

Continue reading Stitched Embossed Vinyl.

Make a Fabric Deer Head: Free Pattern from Charming Doodle!

December 2, 2013

Free Fabric Deer Head Pattern from Charming Doodle! Free Fabric Deer Head Pattern from Charming Doodle!

This adorable free pattern and tutorial for a whimsical stuffed deer head (that
you could interpret as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for the holidays) if from the creative mind of Charming Doodle blogger Elisa Clark. She calls herself and ''adventuresome beginning'' sewist, and she has some terrific projects at Charming Doodle. We spotted this project for holiday decorating and wanted to share it with you. Happy Holiday Decorating!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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