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Oscar style recreated

April 18, 2014


Awards Season is one of my highlights of the year. I crave the inspiration leading up to it and after I spend hours dreaming of the dresses and details that I loved. Incorporating those details in way that are wearable in a more low-key life we non-celebrities live is one of my weekend hobbies. One dress I really adored was the Gucci navy dress worn by Amy Adams to the 2014 Oscars. While I am immediately attracted to any navy garment like moth to a flame I was more taken with the collar detail on the top of her strapless column dress. It was so simple and so striking. I had to recreate it. I picked the pattern McCall's 4440 but any strapless dress would work. The collar is shaped like an over-sized Peter Pan collar. To make the collar I stitched up the top of the dress according to the pattern instructions  but did not yet attach the lining to the bodice. Then I measured the width of the bodice at the top. My size 10 (with ½'' seam allowance because I am between a 10 & 12) measured 38''. I divided that in two since I intended to have the collar be two pieces to accommodate the back zipper. I drew a rectangle 19'' wide (half of 38'') by 6'' high. I then marked the center of the rectangle. One half is the front and one half is the back. The front will be curved like a Peter Pan collar and the back will remain unchanged. Next, I used my french curve to create a gently sloping curve that ended ½'' above the bottom of the rectangle (the ½'' is seam allowance so if you use 5/8'' than add that to your rectangle). If you do not have a french curve you can use a collection of different size upside down bowls and rulers. Be sure your rectangle is sized to fit you and your dress. I cut four pieces (two for each side of the collar) and placed them right sides together and stitched them leaving the bottom open. The curve was notched and so was the corner and the remaining seam allowance was trimmed to 1/4''. I turned the collar pieces right side out and pressed.oscar13.jpgoscar12.jpgoscar10.jpgoscar11.jpgoscar9.jpg

I attached the collar by pinning it to the top of the bodice matching raw edges. Start pinning the collar ½'' from the edge of the bodice (to accommodate the zipper) and leave 1'' at the center and starting pinning the second collar piece. Baste the collar pieces in place and continue assembling your dress.



I used a gorgeous stretch cotton sateen which was amazing to work with and created a beautiful dress. The slight stretch helps the dress hug my curves while still allowing for eating and breathing. The slight sheen was the perfect complement to this more casual approach to a stunning gown. 

Embroidery Secrets

March 28, 2014


I'm a big fan of embroidery but I haven't always been. I've always enjoyed the relaxing technique, the color choices and the small, quiet, repetitive sounds from needle puncturing fabric but the pattern choices always turned me off. There are only so many mice scampering across 20 yr. old computer screen housing cute witticisms that I can work on before my brain just says "NO, no more!" Even with patterns that I love you can only use them so many times. What if I want to embroidery that flamenco dancer more than nine times? What's a girl to do?

So today I want to share my secrets for creating my own embroidery patterns that you can use easily to break out of the standard pattern rut. These secrets can be adapted for existing embroidery patterns or to make your own. All you need is some muslin/light colored fabric (dark colored or patterned fabric secrets are coming in May), a light box/ sunny window, and a water soluble marker.

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I love to use coloring pages as embroidery patterns because the designs are not overly detailed and look great once worked in embroidery floss. Coloring pages are abundant and easily accessible. You can find any design you want for any project, just type it into the search box of your search engine. Here's an example: if you are looking for a giraffe silhouette just type in giraffe silhouette coloring page into your search engine and select from hundreds or thousands of images.


Print out your coloring page and edit the size on a copy machine, copy center or using photo editing software. Tape your image to your light source. You can use a sunny window or a light box. Lay your fabric over your image (I used muslin). Then using your water soluble marker trace your design. The design should be visible through your fabric. However, if it is a cloudy/rainy day and you simply cannot wait, then use this tutorial to whip up an overhead projector (you already have plenty of boxes around). Once your design is traced you can stitch over your marker and then spray it away when you are done. Simple.IMG_5501.JPG

You needn't be limited to just coloring pages or your old patterns either. I downloaded a picture of a free Sashiko pattern and blew it up 200% to create my 16'' x 20'' design that I plan to hang over my bed. You can use this technique for your children's drawings, handwritten letters or family photos. Just be sure you have plenty of muslin because this is addicting. Don't forget you can easily dye you muslin if you want another color.   


You can find my Family Tree Coloring page here

Explore my other coloring sheet projects

Product of the Month: Twin Needle

February 14, 2014


This month's product of the month is the Schmetz Twin Needle. This notion is great for hemming knit garments and gives an elastic but professional finish to your knit edges. The twin needle creates a double row of straight stitching on the right side and a zig zag stitch on the wrong side which is very similar to the cover stitch found on most ready-to-wear knit garments. Twin needles are also great for pin tucks on wovens but that is another post that can be found here. I love the results achieved by the twin needle for hemming knits. I was so over the standard zig zag stitch: it didn't look as neat, professional and it often rippled as I stitched it up. The twin straight stitch adds the finish I love and drastically reduces the rippling. However, I did have a serious issue with tension on my Brother he-120 so I am including all the tips I tried in case you have similar issues.


Let's get started

First my main issue was with my upper thread being too loose and my bobbin being too tight. Even with my tension disc set all the way to 9 (this is where I set it when stitching gathering rows so the bobbin should have been loose as a goose) I was still seeing some upper thread on the wrong side and my zig zag was not taunt. So I tried rethreading just in case it was my error. No change. Then I tried centering my needles instead of just moving them to the slight left of center to clear my foot. I thought if the needle were centered then the zig zag would be pull on both upper threads evenly. No change.


A missed stitch!!


Still wonky

Next, I tried stitching with some light weight paper under my fabric in case it was an issue with the feed dogs. No change. I saw slight improvement when I moved the paper on top of the fabric but not enough.


With paper on top of fabric

I then tried using my walking foot and while I saw no change in my tension issue I did see that the tunneling effect was greatly reduced. So the right side appearance was much nicer but the wrong side was not correct and looked "off". Next I tried lengthen in the stitch length. This helped but only slightly but gave a better result on the right side.


Longer stitch length

I decided to take a chance and threaded my bobbin again but this time I did not run it through the guide but I just pulled it up through the needle plate. Since the bobbin tension was too tight I thought this would loosen it up. It worked great and gave me the tension I needed.

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Left: the usual threading of the bobbin
Right: the less tension method 


This was a very time consuming experiment that involved two machines (the tension issue occurred on two Brother machines) I had to keep tweaking and sewing, tweaking and sewing but finally I was able to create the correct tension and next time it will be so easy to hem my knit garments. Thank goodness spring is coming!

 I have found many posts around the blogosphere that give tips on using the twin needle on knits but only a few were truly helpful. Here are a few of those I found good reads and warmly recommend. Please add you tips in our comment section with how you achieve good results with your twin needle.


A Stitching Odyssey

Made by Rae

One Size Casserole Carrier

January 9, 2014


I love casseroles. I really really love them. While I do love to cook I am not about 30 ingredients and several hours of tastings and seasonings. I love chopping a few things, throwing them in a dish and tossing that into the oven. 20-40 minutes later I expect my nose to be in ecstasy and shortly there after my belly to be full and happy. Soooo, since I am such a casserolian I realized one day that I need a mode of transportation for my beloved one dish wonders. The glass lids on my corningware are not suitable for car trips so I improvised something that ended up doing the job but was a one-way venture only.   I was lucky enough to be dropping off a casserole to a friend who happened to have a casserole carrier she inherited from her grandmother. I stole it quickly and used it until it disintergrated. In this post I will remake this carrier and show you how to make your own to fit your casserole dishes. I made mine out of only lightweight cotton but feel free to add insultating batting.


1) Grab your biggest casserole dish and place it on a large sheet of paper (I used the butt end of a roll of newspaper print) and trace your dish, rounding any sharp edges. Next, measure the height of your dish, divide it in half and add that all around your traced shape. Add your seam allowance (I prefer 1/2'') all around. Cut out your pattern piece. 

2) On a fold piece of quilting cotton (I used Clothworks), trace your pattern piece and cut it out. You should have 2 pieces, a top and a bottom. Set your bottom piece aside. On your top piece, measure and mark 3.5'' in all around your piece. With a fabric marker connect all these marking until you have a shape similar to your top piece. Cut it out so you have a hole in the middle of your top piece and the remaining top piece is 3.5'' wide. 


3) Cut 2 straps 15'' long by 4'' wide. Fold strap in half lengthwise and press. Open and fold each long side toward the center and press. Fold the strap in half again with raw long edges tucking toward the center fold and press again. Top stitch down the strap on both sides. Repeat for second strap. Fold your top piece in half along the length and mark the center. Pin each strap short end 2-3'' from the center mark on either side of the center mark, matching the raw short ends with the outside edge of the top piece. Baste straps in place. With wrong sides together, pin and stitch the top piece to the bottom piece. 

4) Cut 4 yds of 2'' wide bias trim from a coordinating solid quilting cotton and 1 yd of 4'' wide bias trim. Press both trim pieces into a double fold. Using the 2'' trim apply it to the outside raw edge of the casserole carrier. Apply the 4'' bias trim to the inside hole of the casserole carrier leaving a 2'' gap for the drawstring. Serge or zig zag stitch the remaining 2'' bias trim to use as the drawstring. Thread it through the casing your created with the 4'' bias trim with a bodkin or a safety pin. Knot each end several times until the knot is bigger than the opening. casserole7.jpgPlace your casserole in your carrier and pull the drawstring. It will tighten the whole carrier around your dish to secure it and the lid in place. This carrier can adjust to any shape dish. I've used mine for oblong and round. It is great and very handy. 


Product of the Month: Drapery Pleat Tape

December 18, 2013



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. 

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.

Blog of the Month: Burda Style Blog

November 13, 2013

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If you sew and you have not heard of Burda Style then it must be because you are new (then you would have discovered  Burda shortly), live under a rock (in this case you probably don't read this blog either) or don't own a computer (see previous). It is, quite simply, an awesome resource for sewing. And when I use the word "awesome" I mean it literally- it inspires awe. I have not written about it before because I have been referencing Burda Style for so long that I guess I have taken it for granted. It is my go-to resource for techniques, fashion/project inspiration and general time-filling while I have an idle minute.

 I recommend checking out all the sections of the Burda Style blog which are listed below. I have a few favorites myself which are the Fashion & Trends and Guest Columns. 


If you don't use Burda for the sewing resourses, tutorials, videos or inside tips then use it for the Fashion & Trends. Oh, the fashion! There are many free and purchase patterns available through Burda Style's blog but there are also tons of pictures, modifications and fabric ideas to be had. This is especially true around fashion week when you can expect a slurry of posts referencing your favorite designers and some Burda Pattern recomendations. I love this and always have it open along with a window so I can match fabric as well.

Another of my frenquented spots on Burda Style blog is definitely the Guest Column section. It is like a fresh take on Burda Style. Not that Burda Style is stale but it is all the style you expect from Burda but in a different voice and with a different spin. I liken it to discovering that your favorite author's best friend is also an author in the same genre. Double Jackpot! I enjoy the different voices and viewpoints and love the modifications on my favorite patterns. 

Elastic Tool/Sippy Keeper

October 9, 2013


This idea first occured to me years ago before my children were a twinkle in my eye: a way to keep tools at hand and off the floor. I hated using up precious cutting table space to layout frequently used tools and I hated moving them 30 times while I was cutting something out. So I deviced this elastic tool keeper but never made it. Then I had children and the idea flooded back. You can get so tired just bending over all day picking up toys, sippys and bottles off the floor that some amused baby had tossed just for the pleasure of watching you retrieve it. So I put the plan in action and came up with a great solution to my problems: an elastic, velcro keeper that can easily be moved and adjusted. 



To make your own you will need:

1/4 yd of quilting cotton

12'' of 1/2'' non-roll elastic (length depends on application). Elastic should fit snuggly around your sippy or bottle plus 1'' seam allowance. (mine was 6'')

One baby plastic link (you can buy them at big box stores in packs, very handy)

One 2'' piece of 3/4'' velcro


From the cotton cut one piece of 2 1/2'' wide by 12'' long, 4'' wide by 16" long. Fold each piece in half along the length with right sides facing. Stitch a 1/2'' seam along the length. Turn right side out. Press with the seam in the center. Repeat for second piece. Set longer piece aside. Insert elastic and pin it 1'' below the raw edge. Stitch it in place close to the end of the elastic to hold it in place. Tuck in raw ends of fabric and top stitch in place. Repeat for second end, fabric will be gathered in the middle. Starting at one end sew velcro in place carefully. Take a few stitches to hold it in place then stretch the elastic as you sew so the fabric is not gathered under the velcro. Always sew starting at the end. Repeat for second piece of velcro. 

With your long piece of fabric, tuck in the raw edges and topstitch in place. Then fold each end in half across the width and pin it. On one end fold down the end 1'' and stitch it in place. This creates a loop for the plastic link. For the other end, pin it to the center of the fabric covered elastic and stitch in place twice for security (this will be a stress point). 


You are done. This is a great gift to give to new moms, been-there-done-that moms and grands as well. It is awesome in the sewing room. I can hook my scissors to my pants or from a bar at the end of my cutting table. It saves precious space while still keep my tools within reach. I can't believe I went this long without it. 

Product of the Month: Glue Gun

September 25, 2013

Possibly the single greatest addition to the crafting world has to the the glue gun. It allows non-sewists and sewists alike to create wonderful projects. The glue gun helps finish details with ease. It is great for home decor projects, upholstery, crafting and accessories. I love every opportunity to use my glue and I try to use it as often as possible. Not only is it a quick way to finish certain projects but it also allows for a better finish to others and makes the impossible possible with still more projects. If not for my glue gun I would have had several hours worth of hand sewing to finish my Chalk Cloth Snack Box. For my Fall Wreath last year, attempting to sew all those cute rosettes and wool felt bid onto a straw wreath would have been a nightmare but it was wrapped up neatly with a few minutes of hot glue. 

Remember my Anthro Inspired Bib Statement Necklace, finding and sewing on gems would have been a lot of time and effort but gluing on easily accessible, beautiful glass beads allowed me to create the exact look I wanted.  Holly used the glue gun almost exclusively on her top hat fascinators.  

Finally, a glue gun is a must to finish off your upholstery projects. I use it to add my final detail of double welt to the back and bottom of my chairs. It cut the last few hours of what would be hand sewing the welt onto my chair. I feel that the glue holds it on more securely and it is invisible. 

Check out all of our blog projects featuring the glue gun and you can find of selection of glue guns and accessories here

Man Corner: Recovering vinyl bar stools (on a regular sewing machine)

September 4, 2013

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Before and After

**Edit: I sewed this completely on my regular home machine. It is a Brother HE-120 so pretty basic and any sewing machine can sew this project. I used a Schmetz size 16 needle, Coat Clark All Purpose Thread and a piece of matte scotch tape on the bottom of my regular machine foot. The tape reduces friction when top stitching. 

My husband owns a motorcycle shop and is always bringing home cool motorcycle stuff for me to fix up man-style for his shop. A few years ago he scored a pair of stools from another motorcyle shop. These stools were practically in the dumpster when my frugal-minded husband snatched them up knowing he had a crafty wife at home. The stools have seen better days back in the early 90's (umm, maybe) but even then it looks like they were all looks and not much comfort. I took one look at them and knew I could do better. 



Kid approved

We started with 2 yards of black vinyl since my husband has since found a third stool. Since each stool seat is approx. 14'' in diameter and 4'' high I calculated that 2 yds would cover it. Next, find and mark the center point. This makes it easy to measure the diameter. Now measure the diameter, at least twice moving the ruler as you go. This means measure it one way then pick up the ruler and measure it another way. Yes, it is a circle but not all stools are perfectly round and since this stool is old it might be out of round and warped. It was but my average was 13.75''. Your vinyl will stretch a bit so go with the average measurement not the smallest or the largest. add 1'' to your circle measurement for seam allowance. Now, measure how tall your seat is. To calculate how big to cut your band, use a circle calculator and find the circumference and add 1'' for seam allowance. This is your band length. The height of the seat plus 2-3'' (for pulling and tucking) is the width of the band.


Now on the reverse of your vinyl draw your circle. Draw and cut your band. Sew the short ends of the band right sides together. As you pin the band to the circle, clip into both about 1/4'' and keep the pins in the 1/2 seam allowance just to be sure not holes show when finished. Next, start sewing about 2'' past the band seam and sew around to about 2'' before the band seam. If you have any measurement discrepancies or stretching you can easily adjust the band size without ripping any seams. Finished stitching.



See my band was too big but easily fixed

Clip all the way around just shy of the seam. Finger press your seam towards the band and topstitch it in place. Now trim that seam to 1/4''. 


Take 1'' foam (this is double the thickness of the foam I removed) and trace your original circle measurement on to it and cut it out with scissors. I used standard chair pads. Remove any old fabric and using spray adhesive attach your new foam to the seat base. Wait 30 min (time for a glass of wine!) then slide your seat cover over the base. Flip over your stool onto a clean smooth surface since vinyl can scratch. Using a staple gun start on 4 "corners" of the compass of your base and attach your cover. Work around the entire circle until your cover is secure. Flip is over and sit yourself down. 


Our stools will be going behind his front desk for the employees to sit on and for me when I come to visit and take my turn behind the counter. My bum is really looking forward to the new seat covers and increased foam thickness and density. Now its your turn to fix up your bar stools whether it is for your husband or your kitchen. Trust me, you'll feel better and its so easy!

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