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24 Oct 2012

Fall Days

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My mother-in-law just returned from a trip to Italy and look what she brought me from Venice!

A fox mask made in the traditional style–paper mache and hand painted–by this artisan.

I have a big event this weekend that I’ve been getting ready for this week. Here are some “work in progress” shots for you–all from today! Not even including the Halloween costume I’ve been working on in between these other fun things. I hope to share more photos and details with you all later.

A final note for this lovely Thursday afternoon–we are having a lot of trouble with our comment box and spam filters.  If a filter is on, no comments get through. Without the filter, the site gets about 100 spams a day!  If any of you have some corrective action to recommend to remedy the problem, I’d gladly welcome it.  In the meantime, if you leave a comment, it may take longer than usual to appear on the site.

Happy crafting, sewing and cooking everyone!
~ Erin

07 Jun 2012

Lola Pajama Pillow

9 Comments In the Craft Room

Katie’s Once Upon a Thread, Chapter 3 is drawing to a close and I couldn’t resist playing along with my Lola Pajama Pillow.  

The pillow is a small quilted sham in which Nora’s PJs (such as these) can be tucked out of sight each morning.  It’s big enough to hold a blanket too, so it could also make a cute “going to grandmas” overnight travel accessory.

My children’s book inspiration is I Am NOT Sleepy and I WILL NOT Go to Bed by Lauren Child.

I am drawn to all of Lauren Child’s books as much for her illustrative style, which combines textiles and real paper elements with Ms. Child’s sketched drawings, as for her infectious and charming characters.

I am NOT Sleepy is one of a series of stories (based upon the Charlie and Lola television series) about a little girl (I am guessing 4-5 years old) and her older brother Charlie. Charlie is often tasked with keeping his capricious sister in line–in this case, he has the monumental job of getting her ready for bed.  Lola pulls out every stalling technique in her arsenal and several make-believe animals all to avoid going to bed. Will Charlie succeed?  

As for my sewing project, I selected a trifecta of illustrations from this bedtime book that would make for perfect embellishments for Nora’s PJ pillow–Lola in her pajamas, her toothbrush and toothpaste, and her favorite snack: strawberry milk (for my daughter, it matters only that the milk is pink). 

The finished pillow uses a combination of linen, quilter’s cotton, vintage sheets, and, for the toothpaste tube and pink milk, a few scraps of Umbrella Prints left over from my Trimmings Pack.  And if you look closely, you’ll see the real 1/4″ buttons I used on the front of Lola’s pajamas.

I’ve used one of my favorite techniques–raw edge applique–to apply the pictures to the pillow front.  Here’s where I traced the shirt to the vintage sheets for Lola’s pajamas: 

A few more mid-process shots:

Once I finished up the design, I quilted it to a neutral interior fabric (with a bamboo batting sandwiched in between for stability and shaping).  The finished dimensions of the front are approximately 12″x14″.  

The 2 back panels are also quilted with a curly-q design similar to something I saw in the book.  The dimensions of these panels are 12″x9″–which provides about 4″ of overlap on the back of the pillow and easy access to the PJs within.  Here’s a shot of the back:

The raw edges of the back panels are finished with the same binding trim I used for the piping around the outside border.

Finally, here’s the construction of the pillow, showing the right sides of the two back panels against that right side of the front panel.  You can see me starting to pin in place the piping to be  sandwiched in between all these layers:

I can’t lie, this final step was a gigantic pain to sew because of all the layers (upwards of 8 in some places if you count the batting layers).  But remarkably it came out pretty well when turned to the right side. This type of opening is ideal for a quilted pillowcase such as this one since you can turn it to the right side through the finished opening.  Otherwise, you’d have to leave a 4-6″ opening and then try to hand stitch it closed after turning.

If I were to make the pillow again I would make the overall final dimensions a bit smaller (so the pajamas really fill up the pillow). I also think wider seam allowances, including that on the piping, would also make assembly a bit easier.  None of this seems to bother Miss N, however!

We’re off to bed!

Happy Crafting!



24 Apr 2012

Ready to Roll: A Toy Stroller Makeover

2 Comments In the Craft Room

I was recently strong-armed into a sugary-sweet craft project for my daughters, much to my dismay.  My time would have been much better directed to our Fall ’12 patterns that are in process, but those two darling little girls know how to channel my sewing abilities into kiddy kraft.

We started with two worn and tattered baby doll strollers.  The picture does not do justice to their poor condition. The seats were in tatters, allowing Santa Baby* to tumble to the sidewalk amidst shrieks of horror.  Plus, the puppy dog print (left) always left me nautious. 

After ripping apart the pieces of the original strollers, I laid them out atop another super girly quilters cotton that I found at a local quilting store.  The patterns for the strollers were so basic they took no time at all.  After getting the seats sewn together, I finished all raw edges with strips of bias trim cut from the same piece and attached some quarter-inch elastic to loop around the handles.  

The result:

[Don't look too closely at the stroller at the right.  I forgot to re-attach the original seatbelt.]

Once the strollers were complete, the usually-nude Santa Baby required a matching dress.

I took rough measurements of Santa baby and quickly concocted a simple dress.  The bodice is lined to make a clean finish around the neckline and I hand-tacked a zipper in the back since my daughter strongly believes that Santa Baby should always remove her dress for sleeping.

The bottom hem was finished with leftover bias trim. (Full disclaimer: I have not read any of those books in the background of the shot).

All set for a spring stroll around the neighborhood.

Happy sewing!

*Santa Baby:  so named by my then 2-yr-old when the doll was found under the Christmas tree.

02 Apr 2012

April Showers

2 Comments In the Craft Room, Tutorials

…bring May flowers.  I promised you a tutorial on the lace applique I used on Nora’s Bunny Foo Foo shirt a few weeks ago.  Here’s my second spring shirt using the same technique–this time, my rendition of a happy raincloud spreading drops of sunshine.  I added a cute face using a simple backstitching and embroidery thread.

Before I start the tutorial, allow I  me to add the usual craft-blogger disclaimer–that I am not a trained appliquer and I am only describing my own technique. ;)  I welcome your input on what’s worked well for you!

Here’s what you’ll need, in addition to the item to be appliqued:

- lace (scraps are fine if they are big enough to match the design)

- contrasting underlying fabric in the same dimensions as your design and lace (as you can see above, I gathered a lot of options when I started to have a wide selection to choose from)–see below for some hints on choosing an underlying fabric

- thread for the applique (eg for finishing the edges of your design), as well as white thread or other color needed to match the lace–see below for some hints on thread choice

- optional ribbon (I used 1/2″ wide grosgrain)

- fusible fabric adhesive (such as Wonder Under or Heat ‘n Bond)

- lightweight interfacing

- your design, hand-drawn, printed or copied onto regular paper to the final dimensions (Google Images is great for finding simple images–the simpler the design the better or else you’ll risk losing too much detail in the process). Here’s the start of my cloud design, with a piece of lace on top to test the “effect” (note, you’ll see that I was also testing out some different eyes in the process).

To begin, cut out your motif from the paper.  Cut a piece of lace and a piece of your contrasting fabric** in the general shape of your design, leaving at least a 1″ border around the entirety of the design.   If your lace isn’t wide enough (because it’s a scrap or a lace ribbon for example), you may be able to overlap two pieces to make it sufficiently cover the design area.   I did this on the bunny shirt and even up close it is difficult to see it.

**For the fabric underlying the lace, I used quilters cotton for both of my designs.  A solid fabric is probably best, but a simple pattern is fine if it isn’t too busy.  Otherwise, the pattern of the fabric will compete with the pattern of the lace.  Also, I recommend a bright contrasting color because it makes the appliqued item “pop” against the fabric of your shirt.  For the bunny shirt, I used a coral quilters cotton against a white shirt.  Here, I used a grassy green polka dot to contrast with the aqua blue shirt.

Now, make a sandwich from these 3 layers: contrasting fabric on the bottom, lace, and paper pattern piece, all face up. Pin the layers together in several spots, staying clear of the cut edge of your pattern.

With white thread in your sewing machine (assuming your lace is white) and your machine set to a short stitchlength (1.6-1.8), sew the fabric layers together following the perimeter of your design, not more than 1/8″ away from the paper pattern. (Note that you do not sew into the paper, but outside of it.) To go smoothly around curves, you may have to stop periodically and pivot your fabric with your machine’s needle in the down position.  When you have circumnavigated the entire perimeter of the design, you will have an outline of your design stitched through your lace and fabric layers.

[This is the point at which I hand embroidered the face onto the cloud.  Another change I made to this version was to add 2 small solid peach circles to the contrasting underlayer to give a hint of the cloud's rosy cheeks.]

Time to iron on the fusible fabric adhesive.  Cut a piece of the adhesive paper in the same shape as your fabric/lace and iron it to the wrong side of the contrasting underlayer, following the manufacturer’s instructions.  Remove the paper backing on the adhesive so that you can see the sewn outline you made in the previous step.  Trim away all the excess fabric close to this sewn outline.

Here’s what mine looked like underneath. (The gray thread you see is from the hand embroidery.)

Next, position your design face up on the right side of the shirt (or item to be appliqued) and iron the design onto your shirt, again following the instructions for your adhesive product. To ensure the best bond, I found it works better to iron from the inside of the shirt, rather than on the lace side.  If it appears your adhesive is not going to adhere strongly enough, don’t despair–just pin the design in place in the center of the design (i.e., not at the edges) and remove after appliqueing. Lastly, for added stability during the applique process, you can iron on a piece of interfacing to the wrong side of the shirt to cover the area of your design.

OK, on to appliqueing the design to the shirt.  It’s really important to test out your machine’s zigzag stitches on a swatch piece of fabric to get the right settings on your zigzag — you are looking for a fairly tight stitch of medium width to cover the raw edge of your design all the way around.  If the stitches are too far apart (i.e. stretched in length),  you’ll see more of the raw edge in between the stitches. I also keep the width of the stitch fairly narrow because this helps you to turn corners and navigate around curves more smoothly and it looks less chunky and overwhelming than a wider stitch.

** Note: For thread, I typically use a regular polyester thread like Gutermann’s all purpose.  However, I happened to have on hand the right color blue in a special machine embroidery thread by Coats and Clark, so I used that for experimentation purposes (with a coordinating all purpose thread in the bobbin).  I didn’t notice much difference in the end product, to be perfectly honest, so I wouldn’t bother differentiating for a small project like this.

Make sure to keep the backside of the shirt free from the needle!

If you’d like to add a bow to your finished design, I suggest making the bow using a longer length of ribbon than you think you’ll need, then trim any excess last. My technique for getting a small bow that lays smoothly is to make two individual loops with the ribbon, and tie those loops together into a bow–just as you would if you were tying your shoe only you don’t cross the ribbon ends first–does that make sense?  After sewing the bow in place, I trimmed the ends of the ribbons neatly by folding the ribbon in half hotdog-wise and cutting across the folded edge at a 45 degree angle.  Here’s a step by step: 

I hand sewed the center of the bow into place on the design, then created a few “ripples” in the ribbon ends by machine sewing a few stitches in the valleys created by these ripples (where my fingers are in the picture below). 

Finally, I chose to sew on some raindrops without lace.  I positioned the drops on the shirt and adhered them using the fabric adhesive.  I then stitched the drops in place with white thread on the inside of the cut design–this is called “raw edge applique” because it leaves a raw edge on the design, a look that I particularly like.  You could use the same applique technique described above if you want a more finished looking edge. 

Here’s the final look!

I can think of lots of other motifs that would work well with a touch of lace–an ice cream cone,  a heart, stars on a dark navy shirt to name a few. What will you come up with? 

27 Feb 2012

Dial ‘W’ for Wool

2 Comments In the Craft Room

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to sew a few decorative pillows for around the house.  Winter Wolle was the perfect time to sew a small-ish pillow from the same dark teal wool coating that I used for Nora’s Or-Kestral Coat in December.

The design is hand-embroidered by moi using a simple seed stitch in a random fashion. I employed two cool shades of blue cotton silk embroidery floss to give it a subtle, fading look.  (For the monogram, I pinned a cut out of the letter to the felt until I had completely outlined it with the darker shade of floss).

Melton wool like this doesn’t require finishing any of the cut edges–its fibers are essentially felted, so no unraveling or other horrors. I incorporated this fact into the final design of the pillow–by sewing the two halves of the case with wrong sides together (using a gold thread for contrast), I created a nice raw edge border to the finished pillow.  Though you don’t see it here, I sewed a zipper along the bottom edge, accessible between the two exposed seam allowances.

Far from being a home dec sewing expert, my only pillow-sewing advice for you is to sew the finished dimensions of the case to match those of the insert.  I always think you need to sew the case about 1/2″ bigger all around so that there is ease into which the pillow form can expand.  Au contraire, my friend, au contraire.  Sew it with exactly the same dimensions as your pillow form to ensure the form fills up the case fully. The pillow case here, in fact, was about 3/4″ shorter than the width of the form and it is still suffienctly roomy to allow the form to slip in easily and then fully ‘inflate’.

Looking to make some pillows of your own for a bedroom or living room? Here are a few additional wool-inspired pillow ideas discovered via Pinterest that I am mulling over for my next pillow.

Love Pillow by Honey Pie Designs  


Oxagon Tiles Pillow by PLYtextile 

Recycled Sweater Pillow by Brassy Apple 

Happy Crafting!


23 Feb 2012

The Go-Anywhere Case

13 Comments In the Craft Room, Inspiration, Tutorials

Sorry, friends, for the long delay in posting this week. It is true that I’ve fallen a little behind and I have no excuse for it!  But don’t you worry, I do have a few more wool-inspired posts to come for our Winter Wolle blog series, starting with today’s project, the “Go-Anywhere Case.”

This project started off simply enough:  a certain business partner and friend (who shall remain nameless for this post, lest she figure the suprise out) has taken an interest in embroidery.  I love embroidery–in part because it can make a nice portable project, unlike machine sewing.  So I thought I would make her an embroidery case out of felt to hold needles, scissors and a bit of embroidery floss.

First came the color inspiration.  I wanted something modern and fresh, not at all dowdy.  I kept coming back to this print, with its fun mix of grays, pinks, coral, and chartreuse-lemon, by Alyssa Nassner of SmallTalkStudio.

I sent off the picture to Janet of Felt on the Fly (remember her from last week?), who sprung into action building a color story to go with the print.  I was amazed by what she came up and she, in turn, was inspired to make her own embroidery kit from the same colorway! Her kit is up on her blog today, so be sure to visit her take on the same idea with the same colorboard!  Funny how things work out like that sometimes.

The colors decided upon, I turned to the internets for design inspiration.  For once, it yielded nothing.  Most embroidery cases I found were essentially a booklet of felt pages intended to hold a gazillion needles, which seemed less than ideal.  So, back to the drawing board.  Luckily, inspiration did strike when I was picking up around the house one day.  I came upon a tri-fold crayon roll, complete with a tiny pad of paper, which Nora had received from her dear aunt recently. A vision popped into my head and I knew this was the direction I should be heading.


The final case includes a small pocket to hold embroidery scissors, an envelope to hold floss and a single flap (attached only at the top) to hold needles–mind you, it won’t hold a gazillion needles, but I estimate you could easily fit 20 on there.

The last piece of the puzzle was how to embellish the overall design of the case.  Yes, I suppose the obvious choice would have been to hand embroider a design (duh, right?), but frankly I was running out of time. So not without a little irony, I turned to my sewing machine, complete with 300 embroidery designs, only 1 of which I have used in the 3 years I’ve owned my machine.  I spent a lot of  time playing around with the stitches (what fun!), and while the finished project is still a little rough around the edges, I pulled off my overall design, so I am pretty excited about that.

Here are the construction basics–


I used Janet’s 100% felt in 6 colors.  You will need at least 2 sheets of felt that can yield pieces that are 6.5″x12″”.  Here are the dimensions for my finished case, identified by color so you can visualize each piece better:

- Grays for inside and outside covers: 6.25″x 11.75″ (I shaved a 1/4″ off the length and width of the lighter, inside gray so it would not show past the darker gray on the oustide)

- Chartreuse yellow for envelope body: 5.75″ x 7.5″

- Darker green for the envelope flap: 5.75″x 4″

- Light pink for needle flap: 3″x 6.75″

- Light pink for scissors pocket: 3″x 6″ (this will get folded in half, then trimmed to the triangle shape)

- Light pink, coral and chartreuse strips for the scallops on the front of the case: 6″x 2″ (as explained below I left these pieces wider than 6″ and trimmed them down once it was sewn to the dark gray)

You will also need about 24″ of ribbon and matching (or contrasting) thread. 

The pieces on the inside of the case are sewn to the lighter gray, and the scallop pieces + ribbon are attached to the darker gray.  Once everything is sewn on the individual gray layers, you will sew them together around the perimeter with wrong sides facing.  This double layer nicely hides all of the behind-the-scenes stitching and provides extra sturdiness to the finished case.

Outside Layer

For the color strips on the outside of the case. I first overlapped the three colors with about an 1″ of each color showing:

Sew each strip to the layer below it using a matching or contrasting thread, to suit your taste.  For the third layer (the coral in my example), stitch it to directly to the dark gray outer layer. You can use a simple straight stitch or get crazy with your machine’s decorative stitching.  I found this blanket stitching in a scalloped shape that I really liked and decided to trim away the extra felt once the scallops were sewn using my embroidery scissors.  The scallops were kind of a pain to get lined up correctly on all three layers and you’ll see that mine are far from perfect.  There’s always next time!  PS I also used a slightly lighter tension on my machine and a walking foot to help manage the bulk of multiple layers of felt.

When you sew the third layer (the coral) to the dark gray, be sure to sandwich a 15″ length of ribbon between the coral and gray, centered on the width of the gray fabric (I tucked in about 1″ of the ribbon between the two layers).  When you sew the coral edge down, you will sew the ribbon in place at the same time.  [Note this picture was taken before I trimmed the excess pink and coral fabric around each scallop.)

Finally, with the fabric strips sewn to the gray fabric, now’s a good time to trim away any excess colored fabric strips so that they are the same dimensions as your gray fabric.

Inside Layer

Turning to the inside layer, it is a good idea to first mock up the inside of the case, thusly:

Note the needle flap has about 1.5″ folded under at the top. Sew the flap to the underlayer using 3 stitch lines in two different decorative patterns on top of this folded under part (this requires sewing through 3 layers of felt).  

For the envelop, first add the scallops to the darker green along one of the longer edges using the same method as described above for the front cover stripes.  Lap the chartreuse over the darker green by about 1″.  Use a close zig zag to “marry” the point at which the chartreuse overlaps the green.  

Fold the chartreuse up not quite in half (so it is about .75″ shy of the zigzagging). Place the envelope on the lighter gray fabric and sew up both open sides of the chartreuse piece in order to attach the envelope to the underlayer.  There should be about 1/4″ of gray showing on either side of the envelope.  Fold the green flap down and stitch along the folded edge about 1/8″ from the edge.  This will keep the flap down and hide the zig zag sitches underneath.  This also adheres the green flap to the underlayer.

For the scissors, I folded the pink strip in half and estimated the length based on my scissors (these are 3.25″ Ginghers).  

I freehanded the cut you see in the final case and used another decorative stitch pattern in a contrasting thread to sew it to the underlayer.  Though not in my original plan, I decided it would be safer to make the pocket big enough to accommodate the leather case that was provided with the scissors:

Final Assembly

Once you have the outside and insider layers finished, place them together with wrong sides together.  Cut a second piece of ribbon about 9″ in length and sandwich it between the first colored strip (the chartreuse) and the dark gray (again, I tucked in about 1″ between the two layers).  Sew around the entire perimater of the case, about 1/4″ fromt the edge.  Be sure to sew the shorter ribbon in place as you do so.  And that’s it!

I call this the Go-Anywhere Case because I think the basic concept of it could be adapted for any use. I already mentioned the crayon roll, but I think it could just as readily be made into a jewelry case, a camera case, and who knows what else?

Happy Crafting!