Sew-up September


Funny, I always have the feeling that I could be doing more sewing, or some other creative pursuit, but because I write blog posts on a month-in-review basis, the process gets me to realize that I’ve done a lot more than I thought when I look back over the past 30 days.


This month was my company’s annual gala and, of course, one wants to look nice for it. I rarely have the need to wear a suit, so I only have the one. But I find an easy way to make it different, and to inject some creativity into the outfit, is sew-up a new bow tie.

I found this zingy black and white cotton fabric in my stash and had just enough for the tie. I reinforced the fabric with SF101 stabilizer and cut out the hourglass shapes. While constructing the tie, I sew the front into one long piece and leave the back as two pieces. I sew the front and back together, right sides together, and use the opening in the back to turn it right sides out. This is the most difficult part as I’m squeezing all the fabric out through the narrow opening on the back. After that’s done, and the tie is pressed, I top stitch the opening on the back closed. Now I just have to give myself enough time to tie the bow tie on!


I finally got to do something this month that’s been on my list for a while. I took a mini-class in loom weaving!


The Chicago Weaving School has a great two-hour weaving class in which you select a loom that has been pre-warped so you can jump right in with the weaving. They have about 10 looms ready to go, warped with different threads. The one I chose had an oatmeal colored wool with random gaps in the warp.


After I selected a few colors of weft threads, I was on my way.



The loom was freestanding and the heddles were operated with foot pedals. Things got a little wavy with the yellow thread, but when all was said and done, I had a nice sized piece of cloth. And now I’m hooked! There will probably be a loom in my workroom by the end of this year.


I got an interesting call this month. A friend of a friend commissioned me to sew a drawstring bag to hold a jewelry box as a baptism present. What I didn’t realize until after I agreed to do it is that she wanted it sewn out of her wedding dress! Eeek…you want me to cut up your wedding dress?


After she assured me for the 20th time that yes, I was to cut up her dress, I went ahead with the plans.


While sewing a drawstring bag out of quilting cotton is a breeze, sewing one from lace is a bit trickier. It took me a while to figure out how to hide the seems, when the lace is so open and can reveal all.


I was talking about the dilemma with my husband, who does not sew, and together we came up with the solution. Quite simple, in fact. I sewed the lace and lining together to make the exterior “fabric” and used an additional layer of lining for the actual bag lining. Doubling up the lace and lining essentially made the lace solid. I used satin spaghetti strap for the drawstring as that was the best match both in texture and color. The bag was a success and the customer was thrilled with the result.


In the midst of all this project sewing, I found some time to just sew for fun.


I saw a short documentary about Anni Albers and was inspired to make this quilted pillow. Now, I’m not saying it looks like Alber’s work, but just the application of color and form in her pieces inspired me to approach this pillow in this way.


While most projects start out with a set plan, for this pillow I decided to just cut squares. And then just piece them together. And just pull colors in whatever order felt right. And then stop when the strips were long enough.


And while I knew the size of the pillow it needed to cover, I didn’t want to put to much planning into it. It took days, sometimes only working on it for 15 minutes at a time. But I find that it’s nice to have a project waiting for me in the workroom. Helps draw me back in and gives me something to look forward to.


And then to flip-side of spontaneous sewing, I formalized the process of sewing a pillow for the purposes of the Introduction to Sewing class that I’ll be teaching in October.


While this is a smaller version of the pillow we’ll be working on in class, I wanted to get the steps down so I’d have an outline to work from while teaching.

Even simple projects like this are so satisfying to work on and complete. If you, or someone you know, is in the Evanston, Illinois area and are interested in taking a sewing class, please join me! You can learn more and register here. Thanks, and see you next time!


Summer Sewing

August’s sewing projects started with a simple but packed-with-meaning zippered tote. @marcbenja generously gifted me a stack of fabrics that he hand-dyed.


The subtle changes in color and deep hues are the mark of a craftsman who took his time and I greatly appreciate getting to sew with them. In turn, I wanted use them in a meaningful way.


I wanted to make a gift for Ally, a Rabbi who was providing me and my family with some important and necessary support. For me, this brought the kindness full circle.


I helped Marc, he thanked me with a gift, Ally helped us, I thanked her with a gift using the gift Marc gave me. In the end, using the fabric made an already enjoyable activity even more meaningful.

So here it is, a quilted tote, with a small strap and 10 inch zipper ready to keep Ally’s things neat and tidy…and how could those fabrics do anything other than brighten her day!

The next project was small and fairly quick but is something I’m using every day. @handmadephd created several small zippered packs to keep keys, jewelry and tissue purse packs in. They were so clever in their purpose but also in that they used her small fabric scraps. Scraps too big to throw out but so small…what to do with them?

I decided to take the idea of a tissue pack and remove the pack by making my own out of fabric, and just load it up with tissue from the big boxes at home. Yes, it does mean I have to spend time folding tissues, but to fill this one with ten of ’em took me, oh, about one minute.

I’m far from being zero waste, but I do like to cut down where I can by making small changes as I go. And now I can avoid the plastic baggy that the packs come in from the store and the outer plastic packaging that a pack of packs comes in! Phew…so many words for such a simple project.

The middle two weeks of August, my family and I travelled to see family and friends. While that meant that I didn’t get to sew as much as I’d like, I did have the opportunity to try some crafts that are outside of my wheelhouse. The three of us took a glass-fusing class with Suzanne @designbalestri.

With some simple instruction, she was able to guide us through a couple of projects. I chose to make a sun catcher out of blues and greens. Some were solid pieces and others hand striped or mottled patterns. I also use some crushed up granulated of glass.


It’s amazing what happens to the sharp edges and shapes of the glass after it has been fuse. Everything turns soft and gentle, and at least for this use, the light is so delightful as it passes through the glass. This hangs in the window of my workroom and is such a delightful welcome each day.

Less Plastic More Fabric


July started out with finding this delightful black and white dandelion print during a browse through my local fabric shop. I also scored this gray and white stripe cotton remnant on the same trip and turned them into a pillow for our guest bed, which is in my workroom.


After a bit of fussing around, I chose to pair these two fabrics with a gray and a white Kona cotton. The white is a little transparent and the color of the pillow form was coming through, so I doubled up that small panel to make it opaque. But, this gives me an idea for another project…use the transparency of the white as an advantage and obscure something behind it? Perhaps a dark yarn or pieces of colorful felt? Could be cool. Could be a disaster. I’ll let you know.


In the middle of the month, I got to hang out with Lindy at The Collage Café. She generously showed me techniques to create collage art and I learned so much just by making this 5” x 7” piece. Paint brushes? Yes! But also corks, paper, plastic card, paper towels…the tools you can use are endless. I particularly love using an old credit card to apply and then scrape off acrylic paint.


I was inspired enough with my lesson that I made another collage on my own.


I don’t own any stencils, so I created a simple one of off-kilter rectangles with some overhead transparency sheets I happen to have had in my supply closet (for like 25 years? Why are they there?).


Collage is a fun medium to experiment with and just play. No rules, no expectations, but lots of learning.


My final project is something I’d like to include in my intro to sewing class. I constructed a simple cutlery roll with quilting cotton. This is a fairly simple project and could be made with just one fabric if desired. I included enough pockets to hold the items I typically use at lunch during my work day. I’ve been using it for a week and it’s been an excellent addition to my lunch box. Here’s how I did it.


Make the tie with a 24” x 4” piece of fabric. Fold in half the long way and press. Open the fabric and fold the raw edges in to the pressed crease and press. Refold the fabric along the first fold and press. Fold the short ends in and press to hide the raw edges. Sew ¼” in from the long edges to seal the fabric. Set aside.


Cut one piece of fabric to 52” x 8” or sew multiple pieces of fabric together to come up with one long 52” x 8” piece.


Hem the two short edges ¼”.


Place the fabric right side up on your work table in a vertical orientation. The bottom is close to you, the top is far from you. Bring the bottom hemmed edge up 5” to make a fold, right sides together and press. Bring the top hemmed edge down to meet the bottom edge and press the fold it makes at the top. Do not overlap the ends, just have them meet.


Fold the tie in half and tuck it inside the main fabric so the fold of the tie is aligned with the raw edges of the main fabric. This should be about halfway from top to bottom of the main piece. In the picture above, the pin is about where the tie should be. Don’t be like me and forget the tie! I had to open up this seam and insert the tie.


Sew ¼” along the long edges. Clip your corners and turn the project right side out using the opening that’s made where the two short edges meet.


Press your piece flat. You now have an inside and an outside. The inside has the opening where the two short edges meet. Place your project on your work table inside facing up so you can see the opening. Fold the bottom of the piece up making a fold right at the opening. This should make about a 5” flap. Press. This is the beginning of the pocket.


Sew ¼” along the two side edges to make one large pocket. Make the long narrow sections by sewing approximately 1” wide intervals. Be sure to back stitch at the top.


Place your utensils in their pockets and be sure to include your tallest item, like a straw or chopsticks. Fold the top down over the utensils and mark where the crease will be. Remove the utensils, press this crease and sew along the crease. This will allow your top flap to fold at the same place each time. Mine is a little short. If you use the measurement of 52″ for the beginning piece, your’s will cover more of the utensils.


Roll it up and tie it together. Less plastic more fabric!

Questions? Concerns? Let me know!

And Just Like That, June is Over!


June is over and that means half the year has come and gone. Which also means the clock on Make Nine 2019 is ticking away! Out of nine makes on my list, I’ve got four done (but I made one of them twice, so is that five? Four and a half?).



I decided to make another Elbe Textiles Sorrento Bucket Hat because I came across a couple of old shirts in my closet that I don’t wear any more. They didn’t really fit me very well and the collars were becoming worn. So, I cut them up and turned them into a hat. I used fusible interfacing for the plaid fabric and left the checked as is.


I thought I’d be a little sneaky and cut the inside top piece around the chest pocket of the checked shirt so I could have a super secret pocket the right size for a hotel key and cocktail cash while we’re on vacation and at the pool. I’ve already worn it a couple times while we’re out and about around home and it fits well. And because it’s made from lightweight shirting material, it’s not hot and I can roll it up and stick it in my bag.


Half way through the month I was feeling a little stuck on some other creative projects. I’m working on a multi-media piece and a needlepoint…and have made very little progress and have felt very frustrated. So, when in doubt, go back to the basics. My love of color and funky patterns never fails to get me out of a rut and bring me some joy. This pillow did the trick!


Back to my Make Nine list this past week and the successful completion of a quarter-zip pullover.


My original intention was to find a pattern to follow, but because I spent so much time adjusting other patterns to suit my proportions, I thought I’d try my hand at self-drafting this pattern. It worked out terrific and fits me exactly as I like my clothes to.



The navy and, as I like to call it, peanut butter colors are both french terry with a minimal amount of stretch. This makes it comfortable to wear but provided a bit more structure while constructing. No wavy seams this time, thank you.



I have a couple of store-bought tops with an unfinished hem and I thought I’d try it on this garment. I added a narrow band of the peanut butter fabric to the inside cuff and hem to give the illusion of a layered shirt underneath.



Gratuitous photo of our dog, protector of the backyard, Boo the Squirrel Chaser.


But, the best news by far is that I will have the privilege of teaching an introduction to sewing class this coming Fall. I’m still creating the syllabus, but I’m going to structure it as three stand-alone classes that are project based while teaching the basics of machine sewing. I want participants to leave the class with a completed project, so I’m trying to balance between sharing enough information to make it interesting but not so much to overwhelm folks. I’ll share more as things progress, but I have a question for you. What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you started sewing?


Me Made Accessories


Last month I mentioned that I started a new hobby: needlepoint. To that end, I wanted to create a tote to take my current project with me to go to some open craft studios in my area. It needed to protect my work, which is mounted to a wooden frame, as well as carry some thread, needles and scissors. And, of course, it had to look good.


And while I had plenty of my go-to color palette of fabric to choose from, I decided to incorporate some surface design as well. I like the way the bleach-stained pattern fabric turned out for my Sorrento hat but I wanted to try another technique. For this tote, I used blue fabric paint on a large swatch of mustard-yellow cotton while the rest of the bag is color blocked.

In terms of the bag’s structure, I included a divider down the middle with a layer of Soft and Stable. I feel like this will give the needlepoint canvas a bit of protection…either from the tools on the other side of the divider or an errant knee. I drafted the bag on my own, but was inspired by one of my favorite sewing books by Lotta Jansdotter.


Also in May I made an apron. The ones we have in the kitchen are looking kinda ratty and used and aren’t the easiest to use. The chest never seems to cover my shirt properly and the pockets are poorly placed…who puts a pocket right in front of the crotch?


Anyway, I still have a lot of the blue canvas in my stash and that was durable enough to fit the bill. I made the straps for the shoulders and waist one long piece and they crisscross in the back so that with one adjustment, my chest and pants are covered properly. I used quilting cotton to make the straps and loops.


The pocket—can I point out that it’s off-center—is also made from a novelty quilting cotton that I’ve been waiting to find the perfect application for. It’s sized just right for my phone, or as I call it, my kitchen-timer-measurement-convertor-recipe-holder-entertainment-provider. Since its completion, this apron has been put to good use.


My final project for the month was a simple one for a friend. Yoga weights are rip-stop nylon bags filled with ten pounds of sand and are used in restorative exercises for grounding.

They have to be durable, of course, but the rip-stop nylon is kind of scratchy and sort of kills the good yoga vibes. I thought this southwest inspired fabric would make a great slipcover for the weight. It closes with a simple hook-and-loop tape sewn into the top and can be thrown in the wash.


I have one project started that I will work on in June. I’m thinking of using this fabric as a pocket on a t-shirt, but stay tuned. Next month it might be something different…reverse applique?

Start with Fabric

With the decision to participate in Make Nine 2019, it’s easy for me and my often linear approach to take a look at my list and make a choice as to what to make next. However, it seems this month I started with fabric first and then chose the project that best suited it. I got a lot done, but not necessarily what I had intended since I got pleasantly distracted by some cool fabric.


To start with, I pulled this blue canvas out of my stash (for some reason I have 6 yards of it) and thought it would be perfect for the Elbe Textiles Sorrento Bucket Hat, which is on my Make Nine. But, I noticed that some of it had gotten stained with bleach. Not wanting to throw it out, I decided to use the rim of a glass dipped in more bleach to make a pattern. Considering this will be a casual hat for the beach or pool, I think the resulting bubble effect is perfect. I like the idea of creating surface design on fabric, although I might try something a little more environmentally-friendly next time beside bleach.



The interior fabric has been sitting in my stash for a year and I’ve often pulled it out ’cause it’s so cool, and then put it back ’cause I couldn’t decide what to make with it. Inside this hat, it’s like a secret joke just for me. The Sorrento hat is an easy pattern to follow, takes little fabric, the sizing was accurate and required no special sewing techniques. Oh, and it’s free, so you’ve got no excuses. Go make your own bucket hat!

I also came across these fun fabrics at a couple of my local fabric shops, Evanston Stitchworks and Vogue Fabrics. I’m always a sucker for bark cloth, new or vintage, and the two wackadoodle ones on the right appeal to my 1970s baby-poop green affinity. But what to make?

First up, I used the bark cloth to make a dopp kit tall enough for the full-size bottles of shampoo and conditioner my daughter and I use. As it’s cotton, I can throw it in the wash when one of the bottle inevitably leaks.

I used the same fabric to make a simple wallet for my dad (he liked the one I made for my aunt last month, so he put in a special request). Just big enough for the essentials on a casual day.

I used the groovy green fabric to make microwavable bowl cozies. I know, sounds like a silly thing, but pulling out a hot bowl of soup from the microwave isn’t so fun. And because these are insulated and made from machine washable cotton, I don’t even have to take the bowl out of the cozy to eat my soup (I mean, when I’m alone. I wouldn’t serve guests like that.) Keeps my hands cool and soup warm. And . . . our kitchen has, you guessed it, green accents. You can’t have your microwave cozy clash with your cabinets. If you’d like to make some, you can find the instructions on Helen’s Closet‘s blog. Again, easy to follow, minimal fabric and free.


I’ve given into the fact that I just want to try out new fiber crafts on a fairly regular basis. One craft informs the other and they keep me interested and active. So, this month I’ve been giving needlepoint a go. I bought some plain canvas in 12 mesh and some appropriately sized thread in gray, white, light blue and two greens (there’s that color again). The owner of The Needle’s Excellency was very knowledgeable and eager to help me get started. I’m thinking of using a painting I made a year ago and converting it into a needlepoint canvas. Stay tuned . . . nothing like jumping in at the deep end, eh?


And finally, I’ve come across a new podcast on Sound Cloud. The Lisa D Show has 20 minute unedited interviews with creative folks of all types. As listening to a podcast is my favorite entertainment while crafting (and work, and cleaning, and cooking, and driving) I’m so excited to have another terrific one in my queue. Now, the fact that she’s based in my town AND RECORDS 5 BLOCKS FROM MY HOUSE is a bonus to me, but even if you live across the globe, you should give her a listen. She’s enthusiastic, quippy and clearly has a deep respect for the creative individuals she interviews.


And speaking of podcasts, the highlight of my month—scratch that—the highlight of my year has to be that Helen and Caroline chose to include my letter to them in their listener feedback podcast episode of Love to Sew. It feels so nice to be included in the wonderful on line and over the air sewing community that they’ve created. Love those Love to Sew ladies.

Helen and Caroline from the Love to Sew podcast.

Thanks for reading this month. May you be happy, healthy, safe and at ease. See you next time!

March Makes


March was a busy month, but not so much as a maker. With a trip out West to see family and friends, and the Daughter’s two (two!) plays, I had less time to sew, quilt and knit that I would have liked. I made no progress on my 2019 Make Nine. But, the things I did make were satisfying nonetheless.

One of the chairs in my workroom is a black folding chair and that metal can get pretty cold, and uncomfortably unforgivingly hard, especially in the winter. Using solid pre-cut strips and fat quarters from my stash, I made a chair cushion with ties to give it a much needed boost of comfort.


I used concentric echoed stitching on the larger swathes of fabric and kinda just did a partial echo on the stripes. Even though I’m sitting on it and not lounging on it, the texture of the quilting still makes me happy!


My aunt asked me to make her a small wallet, so I was happy to do so. I got to pull out some fabric from my stash that doesn’t quite suit me but is perfect for her. And luckily I had some basic gray solid fabric and a nylon zipper to match.


This is pretty much a coin purse, but sized to hold a credit card and bills when folded in half.

I’d like to develop my skills at crocheting and knitting with needles, but I’ve stalled out and my progress is nil. In the meantime, I still enjoy using the circle looms to knit. I finally found some yarn that is chunky enough for my skill level that also has a subtle natural texture and color to match my design aesthetic.


And the result is a knit hat in gray and gray. Certainly keeps me warm in this third reprise of winter that we’re having. (I know I shouldn’t be, but every March I’m surprised at how long winter seems to stick around).


Here’s hoping my next blog post brings some progress to my Make Nine and warmer weather.