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What's that fabric: Mistress of the Art of Death

August 30, 2013

I stumbled across the Mistress of the Art of Death Series when I was visiting my in-laws who live by an overstock/library outlet bookstore. It was hardback books as far the eye can see. There are so many books that it is almost overwhelming. I created a system that involves 2 basic questions: Does it take place in modern day and is the cover pretty. If the answer to questions one is no, it goes in the basket. If the answer to number two is yes, it goes in the basket. The Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin passed my tests and it was love from the first read and I rushed back to collect all four books. 


I am capitivated by all the interesting fabric references in this book series namely what Adelia wears as well as a few of the other characters. 

Homespun: In Medieval England there was no off the rack clothing; it was all hand made from the lowest of peasants to the richest barons. As Adelia chose to live most of her time in the Moors serving as a village doctor she would not have spun and made her own clothing but it would have been done for her, either by her patients as payment or by her housekeeper/ companian, Gyltha. Homespun was both wool and linen as either were prevelant in England. Flax grew all over europe and England and was cut. The plant fibers must be loosened either by long soaking in pools or left out to decompose in the fields. Finally the fibers are sorted and processed before they can be spun into yarns and woven. Wool was sheared at most twice a year and spun into strands that were then knitted into fabric. That fabric could be made fine and smooth for the summer months or thick for winter.

Boiled Wool: For colder and wetter climates the wool fabric would then boiled with some lye soap. The suds and agiatation would create a type of felted wool which would be 20-50% smalled but more dense with some ability to resist water, snow and wind. 

While linen was more labor intensive than wool it was also more abundant. Both could be processed during the summer but then left to be spun and woven during the slower, winter months. 

Leave me a comment with your favorite books with mysteries fabric references that you would love to know more about. I am always looking for a new good book. 

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!


Weekend Sewing Guest Slippers

October 31, 2011

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I love Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross because the projects look like a lot of fun, the pictures are gorgeous and the idea of projects whipped up over the weekend is great for busy sewers. However, I have learned to take this book with a grain of salt and always make a muslin. I have discovered from my previous projects that many of the projects in this book are ill-fitting and poorly graded. If you will remember the Flower Girl dress made with Liberty Art fabric. It was gorgeous but not sized correctly. After I made the size 2 and it didn't fit, I checked the gradations for the bigger sizes and they were too small as well. Then there was the Kimono dress from Dupioni Silk which called for the wrong drape of fabric and the overlap of the dress was all wrong.  Now I have gone for the Guest Slipper because they are a great gift idea and should be very easy to make for friends and family. Umm, wrong again. These slippers are great gifts ideas and easy to make up... with my modifications! If you make them according to the book (which I did first) they will be:

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Heel before modification

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Heel after modification

1)      Too small

2)      The heel is too low and slips off

3)      No fun because the sole is too thick and then you have to hand sew it on

Bah Humbug! To make these slippers fun and fitting, follow these steps:

First, I used some super soft flannel for the exterior to keep tootsies warm in the cold months. Second, I added ¾ in. to the length of the upper and 1 whole inch to the height of the back of the upper (see photos). 

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I did not modify the sole pattern piece at all. I only cut out 1 sole for the lining and 1 for the exterior, out of Micro Suede, and I interfaced the lining sole with fusible fleece for comfort.  Next I assembled my slipper in 2 different ways, and you can decide for yourself which you prefer. For my muslin, I stitched the uppers together at the heel as per the pattern but then I stitched the uppers to the soles for both the lining and the exterior. I added the elastic to the seam allowance of the exterior and the loop to the lining. Then I stitched the exterior to the lining leaving a gap for turning. Turned and pressed the slipper open and topstitched around the edge. Since this was my muslin I didn't add the rick rack because I wanted to see how my assembly and the fit worked out first.

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My second mode of assembly is faster but leaves the seam allowance visible inside the slipper but the edges can be pinked, serged or zigzagged for a more professional finish. This second method is more similar to the pattern as well. I stitched the uppers together at the heel and then stitch the lining and exterior uppers together and added the elastic. I then basted the exterior sole to the lining sole, wrong sides facing. With the slipper turned inside out I stitched the upper to the sole with the exterior sole face up and the upper lining side facing out. Then I trimmed the seam and turned the slipper right side out.

The first method eliminates a seam showing but makes it more difficult to add rick rack, elastic and loop but leaves a very nice finish. The second method just changes the end of assembly but there is no need to top stitch and who looks inside a slipper anyway.

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All in all this is a good book with many good projects, the slipper among them. Just be sure you make a muslin and be prepared to modify. I recommend both the flannel and micro suede as they are great additions to this project. The micro suede inhibits slipping and looks good. The flannel is just right for hardwood floors on cold mornings. 

Fabulous Fabric Book Cover

September 26, 2011

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Back to school time for me has always been synonymous with book covers. My brother and I would raid mom's paper bag stash and cut and color to our hearts content. Today, paper bags are a fond memory paired with remembering when we could eat Little Debbie's not gaining an ounce and run around outside for hours without even thinking of napping (not like to today when I yearn for naps). The reduced availability of paper bags means that we must turn to other mediums for our book cover materials and what else, but fabric, would be my first choice. It is also a better choice. It will last longer than paper, can be easily patched should it rip and can be easily coordinated to any book bag or jacket for the ULTIMATE back to school outfit.

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My Fabulous Fabric Book cover is easy to make and here is what you will need to make one.


½ yd of fabric (quilting cotton, linen, twill, etc) for exterior

¼ yd of fabric for lining

½ yd of fabric for bias tape binding or one package of prepared bias binding

Download your instruction sheet here

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Sewing Green for Earth Day

April 22, 2011

Remember back in November when I first took a stab at a project from Sewing Green by Betz White? Well, I decided to take another go at the Easy, Breezy Skirt for Earth Day. I really like my original skirt but have decided to take the pattern up a notch for Earth Day to inspire our readers with the versatility of the pattern. My first version used a pillowcase, but I wanted more volume for my second try so I decided to use the matching flat sheet that came with the pillowcase. If you don't have a great sheet laying around to cut into you can use1 ½ yds of quilting cotton or 1 yd of 56-60 in. apparel fabric (like our Tropical Hemp fabric).

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I had the picture in my head of a hybrid of a Paper-bag Skirt and a Ruffle-topped Skirt. The modifications I added were that I started with 2 rectangles of 25 in. by 26 in. which I cut using the existing hem as suggested by Betz White. When it came to sewing the elastic casing, I folded over the top 5 in. towards the right side and with a 1 in. seam allowance stitched the elastic casing-this created the top ruffle. Before adding the elastic I added a double turn hem to the top of this ruffle.

Because of the added volume and length (I made this skirt longer than my previous), I can make this skirt do double duty as a strapless tunic. It looks amazing with a chunky belt (try my free fabric belt pattern) and jeans.

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This is just one way to recreate this great eco-friendly pattern. You can layer 2 or more pillowcases to add more color or texture. You can sew on some knit ruffles to create movement or if you opt for a solid colored sheet (like me) or pillowcase you can add some great embroidery from Sublime Stitching. I recommend purchasing Sewing Green book for your library so you can make your own version of the Easy, Breezy Skirt plus anyof the other 24 great projects.

Sewing Green is a great book to enjoy on Earth Day; not only does Betz White encourage you to work from existing goods but to also grab from your stash. She also highlights other Green Fabric Lovers so this book is full of eco-inspiration. However, should your stash be in need of replenishing, check out our Organic and Eco-friendly fabric section!  

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