Review: Sew Happy

Sew Happy by Karin Ziegler

Sew Happy: Stitch yourself stylish with 25 step-by-step projects by Karin Ziegler

This book has a great introduction to sewing garments but also features a lot of patterns and instructions for smaller items that may be an easier place to start for those unaccustomed to sewing apparel. Most of the patterns in this book use knit fabrics, which may also be new or seems challenging for a lot of sewists. Ziegler includes a fun brief description of each of her own favorite sewing machines which also includes some advice for those making decisions about future sewing machine selections (and reinforces my own desire for an overlocker, though I don’t think I really have room or a serious need for one!). Most of the projects here have a distinctly retro feel, though they could be made to look more contemporary with different fabric choices or by adapting the patterns (instructions for which are included! Many of the patterns could be combined with one another for more options). I’m looking forward to trying at least one of the smaller projects where fit isn’t a huge challenge!

full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from a pal

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Review: Home Sewn

Home Sewn photo homesewn_zpsngqxasj2.jpg

Home Sewn: Projects and Inspiration for Every Room by Cassandra Ellis

This is a book that you can totally judge by its cover – what you see is a solid representation of what you’ll find inside. That is to say, a lot of linen, cotton, and other organic undyed fabrics; plenty of unfinished rustic fabric edges; and a healthy serving of billowing material in neutral-heavy rooms. Solidly inspired by Martha Stewart but with a more limited palette, these projects all fit into the trendy look that relies on light earth tones and a pride in doing it yourself (with materials you carefully purchased from curated sources). You’ll find brief instructions for each project, but none include in-depth detail – the joy here is in doing it yourself and in figuring out how to make it work for you. The tone suggests that whatever result you end up with is what you are supposed to have and that you can appreciate the beauty of your own unique creation (the degree to which it matches the photos may vary). I can definitely appreciate this aesthetic (being a relatively privileged white woman, I am its target market) but it is a bit too neutral for my own taste. That said, one could easily make any of these projects using a more colorful range of fabrics.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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gadgets guarded

K’s birthday was last week (while I was gone – sob!) so I made him a couple of Gadget Guards for his devices – useful and fun!

Gadget Guard for Karl's lappy

First we have one for his laptop. It’s Zelda-themed, with two different fun Zelda fabrics for the main fabric and the lining.

Gadget Guard for Karl's lappy

Then for his tablet, I used two Doctor Who fabrics:

Gadget Guard for Karl's tablet

Gadget Guard for Karl's tablet

Nothing like using fun fabrics to make a project extra enjoyable! And, as ever, credit goes to Dog Under My Desk for making this excellent, easy to use pattern.

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purse replacement

About a year ago I made myself this purse using the Date Night pattern by Dog Under My Desk, but expanded to 120%. I’ve been using it every day and it has been perfect for the stuff I always want to have with me (probably still more than I should require but JUST IN CASE is always on my mind). When I made it, I just used some random fabric from my stash, and it was not a very high quality quilting cotton.

Former purse strap unraveling

Just recently the strap has started to fray. I really don’t think this would happen with a higher quality fabric, but as it is this gave me an excuse to make myself a new purse. 🙂

New DUMD Date Night at 120%

This time I chose an apparel fabric, a sturdy grey and black houndstooth that is a bit heavier than quilting cotton, but not a lot as I didn’t want to add a lot of thickness (this is what has kept me from using a duck or similar heavier cotton). This fabric is super my style and I am really pleased with how it turned out.

New DUMD Date Night at 120%

For the inside, I couldn’t find any nerdy fabric that suited me – so much of what Joann has is male-focused and I am sort of tired of everything always being either men or princesses. My kingdom for some Phryne Fisher fabric! This bird fabric is cute, though, and who can resist putting a bird on (in) it?

New DUMD Date Night at 120%

I did the same double-inside-pockets that I did last time. They have been perfect for my needs! On one side, I can carry my phone, a bottle of lotion, and my favorite pen, and on the other side, my reading glasses and my sunglasses each in their own compartment. I love being able to customize my purse like this!

New DUMD Date Night at 120%

Here’s a close-up on the fabric. Isn’t this print elegant yet practical?

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Blythe Swap: Blythe Loves Rock and Roll

Last month I participated in a Blythe Swap with the theme: Blythe Loves Rock and Roll. What an awesome theme! And I had an AWESOME swap partner! We actually ended up doing some of the same things for each other because we both have great taste!

Blythe Swap: Blythe Loves Rock and Roll - what I sent

Here’s what I sent: 1 dress, 2 crop tops, 2 skirts, 1 faux fur vest, Blythe-scale record albums, a notebook, ribbon, guitar applique, and mini lip-gloss guitar

My swap partner and I are about the same age and loved some of the same albums in our youth, so it was fun to pick out some of her favorites to make the mini record album sleeves. I was also kind of impressed with myself for free-styling the faux fur vest. I found some faux fur “ribbon” at Joann and just sewed it together into a vest. I think it’s pretty appropriate for this swap theme!

Amazing Blythe Loves Rock and Roll Swap goodies from Traci

And here’s what I received! SUCH A HAUL! Top, pants, and collar for Blythe; top and 2 pairs of pants for Middie; 1 pair of shoes each for Blythe and Middie; Blythe headphones; mini guitar; adorbs mini stereo; and of course, record albums!

Amazing Blythe Loves Rock and Roll Swap goodies from Traci

Aren’t these outfits just perfect? The off-the-shoulder top for Blythe is so perfect, and all of these rock star pants are perfectly tailored! They fit like a glove but aren’t a pain to get on AT ALL, which is massively refreshing because it virtually always feel like a pain to get anything tight on Blythe’s legs. The tiny studded collar for Blythe is also just perfect! I know I’m overusing the word perfect here, but I basically can’t even with how spot-on this swap package is. Thank you, Traci! You yourself are a rock star!!

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WIP Wednesday: little witches

My Fall Frolic quilt is continuing to take shape, slowly but slowly. This past weekend I worked on the witches.

Art quilt WIP:Fall Frolic

I came up with their robe-shapes and cut those out freehand, and then half-traced half-sketched some Blythe heads for the witches’ heads.

Art quilt WIP:Fall Frolic

These paper templates are really more to keep me in line while I’m free cutting – it keeps everything in scale – and isn’t a 100% pattern that I’ll follow for sure.

Art quilt WIP:Fall Frolic

These witches are on a much smaller scale than most things I’ve done before, so the pieces are itty bitty. I kept having to cut them down to be the right size.

Art quilt WIP:Fall Frolic

Because these pieces are so small, I decided to hand stitch them all in place.

Sewing tiny eyes #annearchy #artquilt

As tedious a task as this could be, I actually really enjoy it! The early morning sun kept my work desk well-lit and I knocked out both faces in not very much time. I don’t know what it is about working with tiny things that is so satisfying for me.

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WIP Wednesday: even more leaves

Last week I got a start on cutting out a zillion leaves for my Fall Frolic quilt, and this weekend I continued working on those trees.

Art quilt WIP: Fall Frolic

Art quilt WIP: Fall Frolic

I want to provide a background for the trees themselves, since I’m not planning on showing any exposed branches. I didn’t want the edges of this background to show as distinct from the leaves that will go over top, though, so I used my leaf templates to cut out leaf shapes along the edges of the background pieces.

Art quilt WIP: Fall Frolic

These pieces may very well end up completely covered, but I just wanted to be sure that the foliage seemed solid underneath the individual leaf pieces.

Art quilt WIP: Fall Frolic

I also started working on the foreground, with this cauldron and flames. I started working on the witches as well, but didn’t get too far yet. Next weekend I hope to get those complete!

Art quilt WIP: Fall Frolic

It has been pretty busy in CraftyTown lately – I have a lot of things on the work table (and still trying to find a good replacement work table).

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styling Blythe: sunny yellow spring dress

Last weekend I made a little time for sewing a new dress for my Blythes. It was nice warm weather again for a few days and all the sunshine and melting snow had me really craving spring.

Ash, wearing a new sunny yellow AnneArchy dress and an old but loved Katie Cardigan

It’s a basic empire waist dress for Blythe (modified version of the Pucci Collective pattern that doesn’t seem to be available online anymore). I have a template for the bodice that I modified from the pattern years ago, and I pretty much always just freehand the skirt these days. I did make the bodice a bit shorter than usual when I put the dress together this time. I was going for a more exaggerated empire style and I think it worked well. For this dress I used some fabric from my yellow scraps pile (have I mentioned that I have a rainbow of scraps piles? I can’t bear to get rid of fabric unless the piece is so small that I can’t conceivably find a use for it, and since I do so much small-scale sewing, a piece has to be truly tiny to not have a potential use!), so the fullness of the skirt was mostly determined by the size of the fabric scrap I chose. I neglected to take a close-up of it, but you can kind of see that I used a decorative floral stitch in an off-white/tan thread at the hem. This is one of the standard fancy stitches my machine is programmed to do.

Ash, wearing a new sunny yellow AnneArchy dress and an old but loved Katie Cardigan

I also added a couple of scale off-white/tan buttons to the bodice. Totally decorative, not functional, but in this case that doesn’t bother me.

My original goal when I started to make this dress was also to spend a little time styling Ash.

Ash, wearing a new sunny yellow AnneArchy dress and an old but loved Katie Cardigan

I tried a few different things but ended up with my standard trusty pair of lace tights, a pair of grey suede(esque) boots, a Katie Cardigan (in Pennyroyal Aloft by Knit Picks), and of course the new yellow dress. The color of the cardi is a light, silvery purple, but I think that it goes quite well with the brownish-based off-white of the buttons and embroidery on the dress. It’s not a pairing I would have picked without looking, but after putting things next to each other, it worked! I really need to make myself some more of these cardigans. I love this pattern and I could use one in a variety of colors.

I’m pleased with this overall look. It’s sunny and springy in the yellow, but the cardi and boots show that it’s still solidly winter here, and we’re just trying to feel the coming season.

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Hufflepuff! Hufflepuff! Hufflepuff!

K and I have been taking the dogs to obedience class the last month or so. Hermione hasn’t had any training that we know of, and Coraline (and we) could use a refresher.

It’s going quite well! Hermione is learning to sit (she’s so stubborn about it!) and stay like a champ (a relatively slow-moving champ, but she’s making progress). Coraline totally remembers her training from before and we’ve been challenging her to more difficult “leave it”s and other tasks that require more focus. Both the girls are very food-motivated, so we generally make them earn their dinner at class and when we do practice at home. We started out loading up a ziplock bag with each of their kibbles (of course our very special Bostons require special food – Coraline is allergic/sensitive to a bunch of stuff and can only eat a specific type of limited ingredient food that we’ve determined doesn’t cause her to break out in hives, and Hermione is actually on an rx kibble that is super neutral and doesn’t upset her delicate constitution). But we found that the ziplock-in-pocket system wasn’t working out very well so we asked awesome seamstress and embroiderer Susan to make us some treat pouches. She really came through! They are awesome!

I forgot to take a pic of K’s, but it has Godzilla on it and is awesome. Mine is, naturally, Hufflepuff. Eff yeah Hufflepuff!

Awesome Hufflepuff treat bag by Susan of AnneArchy

How incredibly cool is that?! I just heart it so hard.

Awesome Hufflepuff treat bag by Susan of AnneArchy

Here you can see how awesomely it works – it fits right on my belt and is SO HANDY for doing training. Susan has a lot of experience with this type of thing so of course it’s perfectly designed and functional as well as looking cool as hell. I am in serious danger of asking Susan to embroider everything I own with this Hufflepuff crest.

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vintage silk and lace

After finishing my big art quilt project and clearing off my work table, I was ready to make something quick and easy. Recently I scored some vintage scarves at an estate sale end this offer to an apartment for rent toronto and though some of them have long set-in stains that I wasn’t able to remove, portions of them are perfect for making Blythe clothing!

Dahlia in a new dress made from a vintage silk scarf and matching lace

This cream-colored silk scarf is quite sheer, so I knew I was going to combine it with some lace from my fabric stash. I grabbed a piece (thank you, remnants section at Joann!) and realized it worked perfectly!

Dahlia in a new dress made from a vintage silk scarf and matching lace

I used muslin as the lining for the bodice, since the silk is so fine and doesn’t have much structure. I did take extra care while turning the bodice so that I didn’t put any undue stress on the silk. It was tricky to press it and keep the silk looking good, but I managed it. The skirt is silk with lace on top and I used the existing hem of the scarf as the hem of the skirt – easy as pie!

Sometimes a simple dress can be really elegant given the materials you use. What have you been making lately?

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