Friday, November 29, 2013

SALE on A Sewist's Notebook!

Have you snagged any great Black Friday deals yet? I confess I got up early and hit Jo-Ann's for interfacing and buttons. I had no idea how many bolts of flannel could fit in one of their carts, but apparently it's about 316.

Anyway, I have a great deal to share! From now until Monday, December 1st, the original Sewist's Notebook is on sale for 10% off. And to tempt you even further, how does free shipping sound? Enter code FREESHIP now through December 3rd. This code works on either size book, so if you haven't picked up the smaller version yet, now is the perfect time!

Make sure you also head over to Lladybird to read Lauren's review of The Sewist's Notebook, which she posted today!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Peek-a-Boo Pattern roundup...and HUGE sale!

Get your Black Friday shopping starting early with the annual Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop holiday sale! The sale starts TODAY and runs through Saturday, November 30th.

Buy 1-4 patterns and save 25% with code "Jolly25". Buy 5+ patterns and save 40% with code "Jolly40". This is Amy's biggest sale of the year, so snatch up those patterns you've been eyeing! To help you round out your selections, take a look at my projects from these patterns. There have been quite a few!

Almost all of AB's Mommy-made clothes use these patterns, I just can't get enough! Click on my "Projects for Baby" page to see all my blog posts for these garments. My favorite patterns are the Hangout Hoodie, Winter PJs, and Olivia & Oliver Pea Coat. So what's on my wishlist for this sale? I'd love to pick up the Classic Ringer Tee, Skinny Jeans, and the Comfy Cozy Robe. Oooo and the Lily Knit Blazer. And the Downton Duffle...and...and...

*This post contains affiliate links. All over-excited opinions are my own!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Project Runway All-Stars rehash!

I think I'm going to take some time off from blogging next week. AB and I have been swapping the same cold for more than a week now and I'm OVER IT. Ufh. I mean, mentally over it, not actually over it and not sick anymore. Although, I'm the kind of person who gripes for a break and then gets bored the second it starts. No PR next week on Thanksgiving, so I guess we'll all have to spend time with our families instead. Y'know, swapping yummy food and...germs.

Spoilers ahead...

Things I loved:

I love the Mood shopping trips. Pretty sure "visit Mood NYC" is on my bucket list.

Does anyone listen to Zanna? 


Things I hated:

Okay. This challenge. It was such a nice idea but WHY did they have to throw in that nonsensical Lifetime movie tie-in?! Hey, designers, be inspired by the 30's, but we're not going to show you any photos of that time period, instead we're going to show you movie clips from something else that's inspired by the 30's. Makes sense.

Can Viktor please lose the fan?

Favorite garment(s):

I agree with Korto, I want to wear her menswear jacket!

Every week somebody is hating on Christopher's simplicity, but dang it if I don't love everything he makes.

Least favorite garment:

I thought Jeffrey's coat was terrible. 

Irina clearly didn't listen to Zanna. She made a sparkly bustier AND a dramatic jacket. Although I did like the skirt.

Best line of the night:

"I hope it makes sense to the judges, because it doesn't make sense to me." --Christopher

I found this episode really interesting, because I've been obsessing over menswear this week. I'm making my husband a coat from Christmas so I've been doing a lot of menswear internet browsing. I cannot believe how much work these All-Stars accomplish in one day. It would take me a week just to design something to fit this challenge.

Sad to see Mychael go, but I guess I haven't been blown away by anything he's made thus far. And his was baaaad. He probably should have looked around the workroom and noticed that no one else made a coat out of glitter.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hand print Thanksgiving Bib tutorial

*Did you see yesterday's announcement about the newly-sized Sewist's Notebook? A slow mailman required that I posted in the afternoon. Scroll down in case you missed it!

It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only a week away. Although, I'm not hosting, so it's pretty low-stress for me (thanks to my Mom and mother-in-law for both hosting!). Today I have a project and tutorial for a cute memento to help you celebrate baby's first (or second!) Thanksgiving.

Last year I made a bib for AB for her first Thanksgiving (above picture, bib on the left). She was too young for any typical Thanksgiving crafts, so I decided to trace her little hand and craft on her behalf. I loved the first bib so much that I decided to make another this year. Want to make your own? It's easy, I promise!

What you need:

  • A willing (or unconscious) child who will allow his/her hand to be traced
  • A baby bib, to trace
  • Paper, pen, fabric marker
  • Fabric, about a half yard or two quarter yards for bib front and back
  • Scrap fabric for turkey shape and turkey feathers
  • Closure: snaps, velcro, or a button
  • Sewing supplies and machine
  • Optional: Wonder Under or other fusible webbing

A note about fabrics: A non-stretch (woven) fabric will be easier to sew, but there is no reason you can't use a stretch fabric for any part of this bib. Both of my examples use a stretch terry cloth for the front, with a non-stretch flannel for the back. The appliqué pieces are made from wool and knit scraps. When in doubt, go with cotton flannel. It's very easy to sew and washes well.

Ready to get started?

The first step is the hardest: trace baby's hand onto paper. It works best if the fingers are spread out, but AB was NOT a willing participant so I took what I could get.

Using colored pencils, color-code your appliqué pieces. I wanted the body/palm to be joined to the head/thumb so that it's all one piece. Fill in any spaces between the fingers that your unwilling child wouldn't let you trace around.

Cut appliqué pieces from paper. Because AB's fingers weren't spread, I slashed the thumb away and sort of tilted it to achieve the look I wanted.

Here you can see where I overlapped the pieces.

Trace paper template pieces onto fabric, and cut out fabric pieces. You can use whatever scraps you have for the body and feathers. You can see that both of my bibs used different fabrics for the feathers, just for fun. Dig through your scrap box and see what you can come up with!

Optional step: allow your cat to swat at your pieces.

Pull out the bib you want to copy, and lay it completely flat on your bib fabric. Trace two bib pieces (front and back). Remember to add some extra all around the bib for seam allowance. 

Cut out these two pieces. Set aside the back bib piece for now.

Yay pink zebra flannel!

If you happen to have some Wonder Under (fusible webbing) at your disposal, I recommend using it to adhere the appliqué pieces to the front of the bib. The fusible web will hold the pieces down so you can sew around them more easily. If you don't have any on hand, a quick swipe from a glue stick can also keep things in place.

Determine placement of the appliqué on your front bib piece, and keep in place using either method above.

Select an appliqué stitch on your machine. For me and my Brother CS-6000i, that's stitch #11. If your machine doesn't have a stitch like this, you can use a zig-zag. If you've never used your appliqué stitch before, I highly recommend practicing on scraps. Since we'll be sewing around lots of curves, it helps to be familiar with how the stitch is formed.

Going slowly, sew around each piece, tying off your threads when you're done.

Close-up of stitching.

The hardest part is done!

Next, take your front bib and back bib and pin them together, with right sides facing.

Be sure to use whatever seam allowance you decided when originally tracing. It's not an exact science, this IS a bib after all! Hopefully it will soon be covered in mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

IMPORTANT: leave an opening! You must be able to turn the bib right-side out. It's best for the opening to be along the side where it is relatively straight. I like to use two red pins (red for STOP!) to remind myself not to sew the opening closed.

Before turning the bib right-side out, you need to use your scissors to clip the concave curves and notch the convex curves. This will allow the bib to properly lie flat.

Clip the concave curves.

Notch the convex curves.

In both cases, be very careful not to cut the stitching! Once all your cutting is done, turn the bib right-side out through the hole you left. Tuck the seam allowances from the hole inside the bib and press the whole thing flat.

Seriously, press it flat.

To secure the open hole and tidy things up a bit, topstitch around the entire bib. Press again.

For the bib I made last year, I incorporated some of my fancy embroidery stitches. Just be aware that these stitches can be hard to do around curved and/or narrow areas.

The final step is to add a closure. For both of my bibs, I used KAM snaps, but you can use sew-on snaps, Velcro, or even sew on a button and make a buttonhole. 

That's it! Imagine how fun these would be with your child's name embroidered on it, the date, or even a phrase like "Happy Thanskgiving!". What a fun way to remember a holiday and exactly how big (or little!) your child was. Questions? Ask in the comments!

Today's Thrifty Thursday deal is the Classic Chinos pattern! Great for girls or boys. Head over to Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop to get this versatile pattern for only $4!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Sewist's Notebook: Now in a smaller size!

I'm pretty excited about today's post! When I published my book, A Sewist's Notebook, I was THRILLED with it. It fit the vision that filled my dreams at night, and it has become such a useful tool to me personally. If there's one drawback to it, it's the size. Although 8.5"x11" is definitely the most useful for the sewing room, it didn't easily fit in my purse. I'm so happy today to announce that a smaller size is now available!

Everything you love about the first version returns, in a more purse-friendly 6 inch x 9 inch size (the size of a standard paperback book). All 110 design pages remain, and have been formatted to fit the new book. 

The book has a fresh new cover design because...why not? And don't worry, this version is spiral-bound as well.

When the book was featured on Pattern Review, the comments and feedback inspired me with ideas, and one of them has been incorporated into the new book. There is now a page to fill in your measurements so that you're never unsure about sizing!

Both books are available for purchase here. It would make a great gift for the holidays...maybe even a good self-gift (c'mon, we all do that, right?).

Questions? Let me know in the comments below!

What I'm Reading:'s a secret!

Just a sneak peek for today...announcement coming soon!

Any guesses?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday Tips: Marking on Knits

Geez, how many of my tips are about marking tools? Obsessed much?

Last week I was finally feeling the frustration of marking knits. It seems like every marking tool is demonstrated (either online or in a magazine) marking on heavy weight muslin or something. Knits are slippery! They stretch! Find me something that works!

I posed the question in the Facebook group for Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop. This is a fabulous group of other mommy sewers and since so many PAB patterns work with knits, I knew I'd get a variety of answers.

A lot of ladies mentioned that they just weigh down the pattern piece and use their rotary cutters. Welllll...whenever I've tried even a straight line I've screwed up. And I don't have a cutting mat. Although, I'm well on my way to winning one from my husband after I beat him in fantasy football. ANYWAY.

Suggestions ranged from this chalk rolling pen to Crayola markers and Sharpies. I decided to try a Crayola marker and fell in love!

OF COURSE test first for bleed, always mark the wrong side, and only use on a washable fabric. This was a muslin of a New Look pattern I hadn't tried before (and it's now a UFO) so I didn't mind testing on this fabric (since I have FIFTEEN YARDS of it...). The Crayola marker glided over the fabric without pulling like the fabric markers I've tried. It also had a tip with different angles, so I could make a thin, precise line or a thicker one where needed.

What do you use for marking knits? Or are you a rotary cutting master?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Musings: shop local

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite local restaurants closed. They were primarily an ice cream shop, but they also served the best turkey burger around. About a week after they closed, I found out the jewelry store where we bought my husband's wedding band is closing, after one hundred years in business. And the shoe store on the same block? Also closing.

I don't want to give you the wrong impression: the city where I live probably has MORE small businesses than big chains. It's not a ghost town of empty buildings and Wal-Marts. But it hit me hard this month when a new DSW and H&M opened, while some of my local favorites were closing.

Eleven months in and I'm still doing well on my New Year's Resolution to stop buying new clothes. I've basically given up shopping-as-a-hobby and have retrained myself to spend carefully (becoming a stay-at-home-mom helped in this area as well). With Christmas fast approaching (seriously, Thanksgiving is WHEN?) I'm trying to be more thoughtful about where my dollars go for all my holiday purchasing.

Don't get me wrong. I shop at Wal-Mart. I eat Wendy's. But I think we forget that we don't have to.

November 30th is Small Business Saturday nationwide. Instead of blowing your holiday budget at Best Buy on Black Friday, why not hold off until the next day and shop local? Most businesses have special sales, and at the very least you'll be out and about in your community, not in line wishing you could punch the lady who brought her dog to Toys-R-Us.

Now can someone tell me where to get a good turkey burger?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Project Runway All-Stars rehash

Can we talk about Colette patterns for a hot minute? I am IN LOVE with their two new patterns released this week (go here NOW if you haven't seen them yet). I have searched high and low for a decent men's coat pattern, and this one could not be any better. Especially given the quality of their instructions. AND it's unisex? AND the instruction booklets lay flat? AND there are two very useful views? I almost peed my pants I was so happy. And the new bag wonderful. If I had $60 to plop down on the kits I would have been all over that. Their pop-up Christmas shop has so many lovely things in it...le sigh.

So that's what I've been obsessing thinking about for the last three days.

Spoilers ahead...

Things I loved:

Did anyone else think of the melted-crayon-Pinterest-art project when they went into the school? Other than that, there wasn't really anything I loved about this episode. 

Things I hated:

Every time I see Elena's sketches I barf a little. ALWAYS THE SAME!

Every now and then I like the Unconventional Challenges, but I didn't like this one. "Here are a bunch of craft supplies. Now make something, but not a craft. Okay bye."

Hmmmm Viktor. He didn't cheat, per se, but I think it's obvious he was influenced by Elena's advice. Also, Elena, if it bugs you that he listened, DON'T TALK! I don't care if he stole her idea (especially since she willingly gave it) but pretending to Zanna that it just came to him is kind of shady. Give credit where credit is due.

Favorite garment(s):

I thought Viktor's was just plain beautiful. It was a good idea (no matter whose idea it was!), but then he also carried it out very well.

Least favorite garment:

Korto was on track for something pretty but it was waaaay too ambitious.

Ugh I'm over Elena's designs. Did not understand all the praise she received.

Jeffrey. He should have just stood up in the middle of the runway show and walked out.

Best line of the night:

"I'm not going to even designer-talk it. That s*** is bad." --Mychael

HEY! Did you hear, Tim Gunn is getting his own show?! It will premiere in January and be like Project Runway, only in teams. Or something.

I'm glad Mychael made it through even though his garment was literally a hot mess. I would have been fine if Jeffrey left but I think it's fair to keep them all after an unconventional challenge. Although it does make ME feel like I wasted my time watching. I can't imagine how annoyed the designers feel after stressing about an unconventional challenge, all for nothing.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

PJs, dresses, and pullovers oh my!

It snowed this week. Boo. I like snow as much as the next Midwestern person, but it belongs in December, January, and February. Not November. Unless it's the day after Thanksgiving. There are a lot of rules.

Anyway, it was time for some winter clothes for AB. I typically buy her jeans and pants (second-hand) and focus on making fun things like long-sleeved t-shirts, pajamas, and play clothes (with a fancy dress thrown in every now and then). I spent a weekend being productive and churned out a few things for her.

The first is a pair of pajamas. These are made with the Alex & Anna Winter Pajamas pattern from Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop. Fabric from an accidentally purchased all-chevron bargain bin (so. much. chevron.) from Girl Charlee. My favorite part is the extra topstitching I did on the elastic waistband.

These are a size 18 months even though AB is 21 months old. They fit fine (PJs are meant to be tight) except next time I'll increase the rise of the pants to accommodate her cloth diapers. Rib knit is upcycled. (Last year's A&A Winter PJs blogged here.)

Next up is an upcycled t-shirt dress that I made from the Peek-a-Boo Varsity Cowl Neck Pullover (can you tell I have a thing for Amy's patterns? I was a fan long before I became an affiliate). The original t-shirt was given to me by my parents, specifically to make into something for AB. I made the top portion from the pattern, and then added the bottom of the shirt as a skirt to complete the dress.

Lastly, I made this hideous top again using the Varsity Cowl Neck Pullover pattern. This is the last of the ice cream cone knit, so I promise you won't have to see it ever again! This is strictly an outside/play/go ahead get dirty kind of shirt. At least the placket looks nice :)

Like I said, I made these in a weekend, and mostly with my serger (<--- aff link, but believe me, that is a REALLY good price!). It makes everything go so much faster (and without cursing over wavy seams!). People are right when they say to buy a serger if you sew with knits a lot.

So that's what I've been up to lately! A lot of stash busting and upcycling. Time to turn my attention to holiday sewing. With or without the snow.

Are you making a pretty dress for the holidays? Try the Elaina Pintuck Party Dress pattern, today's Thrifty Thursday deal! Get the pattern for $4 today only.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What I'm Reading: BurdaStyle magazine

Burdastyle. That mysterious European magazine with a related-but-not-exactly website, and containing infamously confusing patterns with numbers instead of names.

I signed up for Burdastyle emails a while back, and after seeing lots of patterns I liked on a consistent basis, I decided to pony up and subscribe to the magazine. Yes, it's expensive, but luckily you can order in small quantities. I paid $25 for 3 issues. It seemed reasonable, given that one magazine will run you that much on eBay, and that there are LOTS of patterns in each issue.

I'm going to cut to the chase: I adore this magazine. I was pleasantly surprised by how fashion-forward the patterns are. If you're tired of the offerings from the Big 4, and stressed over the prices of indie patterns (am I the only one who can't afford $20 for a skirt pattern?? now an awesome coat, THAT I can do...), then you want this magazine. And no, I don't work for them and I'm not an affiliate! 

Every issue lays out the designs like a fashion magazine. Beautiful people in beautiful surroundings look like they're trying to sell you beautiful clothing, but in reality, you can make what you see! The clothes are unique and surprising (sometimes in an oh-whoa-wtf kind of way haha). There are coats (oh the coats!) dresses, skirts, pants, and sometimes even accessories. There are extra features like what's hot on the runway and designer interviews.

Now for the down side. This is not Threads. It's not going to teach you to sew. The patterns are just as crazy as you've heard. The instructions are minimal. A confident sewer? Sure, you'll be okay. A beginner? No way. First of all, the patterns are printed on top of one another using different colored inks. There are twenty different languages all over them. There are no seam allowances. I traced off a very basic toddler leggings pattern (yes, there are kid's and men's patterns!) and it took me a long time to figure it out.

BUT! Just as my subscription ran out, they announced a US version of the magazine! It's on newsstands now, including my Jo-Ann's. I flipped through it and the fashions are just as cool, with patterns that seemed much easier to decipher. I really wanted to buy it, but it was $15. Yikes. Evidently they want you to subscribe, because it's $25 for 4 issues (go here for the info). Orrrrrrr...sneak over to Jo-Ann's and take one of those postcard thingies out of the premiere issue (pictured below). Then it's only $20 for 4! 

Have you tried Burdastyle? What did you think? I'm super bummed that my subscription is up, time to make strong hints to my husband for Christmas :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday Tips: sewing in small bursts

I'm sure we've all heard this advice before: "sew a few minutes at a time and it goes a long way". But I think this advice lacks a critical component: planning! If you don't have a plan or method in place, you'll spend those few minutes trying to remember what in the world you were doing last, and what you need to do now. Just as you start, your few minutes are up, and you're frustrated until another day.

For me, it starts with my Sewist's Notebook. It keeps my queue nice and organized so I can flip to an idea and get going right away. I always make sure to write down which pattern view I intend to make, and usually the individual pattern piece numbers I need for that view. If I only have a few minutes, I can quickly see that I need pattern piece number 6, I locate it, and cut.

If you have plenty of fabric, you can use the cutting diagram with your pattern and follow it to cut as many pieces as you can in the time you have. I prefer to cut all at once so I don't make any mistakes like three waistbands or not mirroring a certain piece.

Once all my fabric is cut and marked, I read the instructions (again) all the way through, looking for shortcuts or confusing bits. Again, this is a step that can be done if you only have a few minutes.

Here's where I give you my best tip: plan even when you aren't in your sewing room. I often think about projects when I'm falling asleep at night, going over the steps and deciding what to do next. When I wake up in the morning, I set a reasonable goal for what can be done that day, given my other wife-mom-household tasks. Washing dishes, putting the baby down for a nap, driving: all these times are perfect for mentally preparing to sew. When I sit down at my machine, I've done the thinking part, and all that's left is sewing.

These are the steps that work for me! Of course, your best bet is to make sewing part of your routines and daily life, so you never feel like you have to squeeze it in somewhere. 

What tips do you have for efficient sewing?

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