Archive of ‘books’ category

Creative Habit Making :: Song Lyrics, Chalk & Inspiration { + a Giveaway!}

Here are a few things you may not know about me. 1. I’m a lyrics girl. Some people hear the music; I hear the words.  2. I love karaoke.  A lot.  3. I often spend long car rides listening to (and singing along with) all kinds of music to be prepared for any upcoming karaoke opportunities.  4. I have lots of long car rides.  5. Pop music lyrics stick in your head and are, frankly, poetic at times.  What does any of this have to do with chalk paint and creative habits? Right. It’s kind of long-winded. (The giveaway info is at the end, promise. updated: giveaway had ended). Creative Habit  Chalk Paint Lyrics

Remember that lovely book I was so impressed by a while ago, Mighty Ugly?  Well, I was determined to follow through on every directive in Mighty Ugly and that included incorporating a daily creative habit into my routine.

I have a canvas I covered in two coats of chalk paint and lovely chalk markers and I was all prepared to write a daily message to myself.  Yup.  Good, solid plan for a creative routine.  (more…)

Make It Mighty Ugly book review

Have you ever had that thing happen when you pick up a book and you know immediately it is the book you are meant to be reading? You know you will follow every rule that book lays down and you will follow it to the letter.  You are going to devour this book.  You find yourself bringing up the book in totally unrelated conversations with friends and saying, “You should read this book.  It’s amazing.”   I’m there right now and the book is Make it Mighty Ugly: Exercises and Advice for Getting Creative Even When it Ain’t Pretty by Kim Werker.

Make It Mighty Ugly book review | from a happy stitch

You should read it. It’s amazing!  For real, though.  Read it.

It speaks to creative ventures such as sewing and crochet, but the whole framework for thinking about creativity keeps coming to mind when I talk to friends who write for a living or run organizations or problem-solve with toddlers.  Anyone who has convinced a toddler to brush their teeth or wrangled words into exactly what their heart was trying to say understands everything involves creativity.   At the root of so many human endeavors is creativity and this book is here as a guide through the messy, uncomfortable, untidy spectacular mess of it all.

Also, it has helped me draw up a specific definition for the term badass but more on that later.  First, the book. (more…)

The Craft Book that Changed my Life :: Guest Post

The Pattern that Changed My Life - Guest Post on While She Naps I’m so thrilled to be sharing about the book that changed my life, Bend The Rules Sewing by Amy Karol, over on Abby Glassenberg’s blog While She Naps.  Abby’s blog is always an honest, open conversation and I always admire her willingness to tackle big questions and take what she does as a crafter and a blogger seriously.  All summer long she’s been running a series asking bloggers about the patterns that changed their life.  The whole series is really wonderful and I’m so humbled Abby asked me to participate. I’ll be honest, as I started writing this guest post I got a little more vulnerable than I expected.  I got pretty deep into my feelings about teaching sewing and my whole approach…the how of how I teach.  This book really opened up a whole new world to me and putting that out into the ether turned out to be a wee bit raw but all-over great process. I hope you enjoy the post!

Flash the Lightning Tank and Colette Knits Book Review

As I mentioned, I’ve been making lots of clothes that I haven’t gotten around to blogging about.  This Lightning Tank top is one of them.  I saw this knit lightning fabric pop up on the Wanderlust Facebook page and knew I needed it. Needed.

Lightning Tank Top

Lightining tank tops are the new summer essential, I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere. This fabric is superb..the flashes of lightning are worn and a rose gold color, absolutely perfect.  It’s thin and light with a soft hand a decent amount of stretch.  Sometimes knits I buy on-line end up cheaper feeling than I would like but not this stuff.

LIghtning Tank Top | made by a happy stitch from the Jorna Tank Top pattern

I used the Jorna Tank pattern, same as this one, with a few modifications.  Just like I did previously, I took out the flair in the tank but I also lowered the neckline and didn’t put in the called-for lining.  I just wasn’t crazy about the way the lining sat in the top. Instead of lining it, I hemmed the armhole and I tried something new with the neckline.

Inspired by the great new book from Colette Patterns, The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits (affiliate link) by Alyson Clair I attempted a raw-edge rolled band.  That sounds very technical but it’s really exciting and super easy.  You know how knit fabrics don’t fray? And, it naturally rolls up a little at the edge, which always seems so annoying.  Well…this method of finishing the neckband uses the non-fraying rolling part as an advantage.  You simply sew on a strip of rolled knit fabric and that’s it! New neckband method! How great is that?

Lightining Tank Top with rolled band neckline | made by a happy stitch from Jorna Tank Pattern

It’s kind of hard to see in this picture because I actually stitched the neckband on with the roll rolling to the inside instead of the outside of the top.  But, next time I will remember to check for that and get it right.  Besides that mistake, this is kind of a life-changing neckline for me.  The book even suggests using a strip of lightweight silk in the same way for a super pretty effect.  Isn’t that genius? It’s such a great way to elevate a basic item with a touch of color and impact. I love it.

As soon as I heard about the Colette book about knits I knew I was going to buy it.  And, to be honest, when it arrived I was a little sad it didn’t include any specific projects, no patterns, nothing.  But, once I opened it I didn’t even care.  It goes through amazing, creative, beautiful options for trims, elastic lace, the best machines, great tips for knits, bands…everything.  It’s a knit lovers dream.  The first section discusses different fabric weights and stretch, proper needles and notions.  Following that is in-depth coverage on the best machines and how to use them.  The final section, which I found the most useful, includes an incredible array of great tips on how to lay out knit fabric, how to get a good fit and then stitching and finishing options.  I feel like I know a lot about sewing with knits and I learned a ton from this book.  It’s an awesome addition to my bookshelf.

Butter Yellow Leather Bag

buttery yellow leather bag from weekend sewing - made by a happy stitch

It’s my opinion that Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross is one of the more lovely sewing books out there and ever since I opened up that beautiful tome I’ve been dying to make the leather bag.  I was scared, however, of sewing with leather on my regular machine.  And, for that matter, I didn’t know how to go about getting my hands on soft, supple leather.  As a result, it took me forever to sew up this buttery yellow bag, which only makes it more wonderful to be able to say VIOLA! It’s my butter yellow leather bag! I mean, look at that scrumptious leather! I finally found it at Denver Fabrics. It’s lined with some of the Pendleton wool left over from my Wiksten dress.

butter yellow leather bag from weekend sewing made by a happy stitch

Here is the nitty gritty on this pattern and this bag.

Things I love about this pattern:  It’s simple to construct.  In true Heather Ross form the pattern is easy and clear.  It looks complicated with all the hardware and the little bit of leather at the top in the inside of the bag but it isn’t.  Same goes for the side of the bag with the strip of leather, it’s easy to make.

butter yellow leather bag from weekend sewing made by a happy stitch

Things I don’t love:  The bag is droopy. It looks cool but isn’t really practical for everyday use. I needed to use soft, supple leather so it would sew smoothly on my machine but that makes for a soft, smooshy bag and I like my bags to have more structure.  This is especially the case considering all that heavy hardware.  When I set this bag down it flops and then clanks when the hardware hits the ground and it sits there looking like a dog toy.    The bag strap is too weak & the pattern has you simply tie knots to hold the strap in place.  Considering living my life is the equivalent of being inside one of those ‘sturdiness testing’ machines they have out at Ikea (you know the kind that perpetually sucker punch a piece of furniture…of course, mine would need wheels so it could roam), I need bag straps that can hack it in harsh conditions!

butter yellow leather bag pattern from heather ross, made by a happy stitch


Of course, all in all I’m proud of working with leather and doing it on my home machine! I will totally use this bag when I go places with hooks and without my kids.

p.s. this post include affiliate links to Amazon.  If you click on them & buy something I get a few cents. Thanks!

Children’s Book Covers as Art

reflection in the ace hotel

My husband and I recently returned from something unprecedented.  We hopped a train and headed into New York City without the kids for two whole nights.  It was an amazing feat and hadn’t been done in nearly seven years!  We indulged in afternoon beers, scrumptious oysters, explored nooks and crannies in the Lower East Side, ate one amazing meal after another, drank even more amazing drinks and meandered slowly through museums without any frantic, emergency trips to the bathroom or animated games of I Spy.  It was glorious.  (Don’t worry, the kids were with their grandparents and they enjoyed many new delights including their first taste of soda pop and ice cream bars for breakfast.  Thanks Grandma!)

We also visited The Strand bookstore for the first time.  I don’t know what took me so long to explore this incredible place!  If you’ve never been, it is absolutely worth a visit.  Especially if you have an interest in anything because The Strand will have the book about that topic that will blow your mind. Basically, everyone should see this place. (If you follow me on Instagram you already know about my trip and you also know about the wickedly naughty t-shirts at The Strand.)

I meandered over to the children’s section and asked the clerk if they had a books on the book cover art of children’s books.  There is little I love more than picture book art.  The emotions expressed in the drawings and the magic and saturated colors at the heart of children’s books are some of favorites.  I already have one book about book cover art but was hoping to find another.  Wouldn’t you know the clerk found me not one but two books about children’s illustration!  Both out of print and both around $10.  I was floored and so was she, frankly.  She was so excited for me I almost hugged her!

children's book art books

She also suggested I write another book that includes cover art beyond 1960. She was awesome. If she had suggested it, I would have started a collaboration with her.  She was seriously great and a fellow book lover.

My new books are so beautiful and I’ve admired them a whole awful lot since we got back from The City.

cover art book inside

It also reminded me that I never shared an easy, little project I did a while back to spruce up our walls.   Actually the word ‘project’ is a pretty fancy one for what I did, which is basically cut up some of my favorite book jackets and frame them (I know, it’s a little sacrilegious).

book cover framed as art.jpg

First of all, as soon as we get a new picture book in our house, I remove the book jacket and file it away. Sounds kind of silly but the book jackets just get ripped off the book or torn to bits anyway so I started saving them.

It was only natural they end up on the wall at some point.  And, I’m so pleased they did! Easy-peasy, happy wall art.

Book Jacket for children's art framed for the wall

handmade winter ebook tour

As soon as the ebook “Handmade Winter” was released I was itching to get my hands on it.  Not only does it include contributions from some of my favorite blogging mamas (all of them a part of the lovely creative mamas collaborative) it also looks so homey, warm, inviting and beautiful.  It was calling to me.  So, when I got the opportunity to review it, I jumped at the chance.

Handmade Winter - Share

It’s a beautiful book.  Really, the pictures are positively incredible.  It’s filled with recipes, projects and creative ideas all focused on the best parts of winter including entertaining and making things with kids.  There are 90 pages with over 50 different contributions and the kind of pictures that make you want to slow down and linger.  Did I mention the stunning pictures?

The projects are fairly accessible and most involve things you probably already have in the house but they manage to be super inventive at the same time.  As an added bonus, a good number of the pages cover recipes for fancy adult drinks and desserts.  Nothing says ‘happy winter’ quite like sugar and alcohol.

I thought, at first glance, I would sit down with the boys and take on one of the many tempting kid-oriented projects.  And, they are tempting…making a penguin, painting blocks with chalkboard paint, kid art cushions and more.  But, as soon as I saw the leather chevron necklace all thoughts of making with the boys went out the window.  Well, that and the fact that when I said, “Hey guys! Want to make a penguin with me?!”  They looked up from their legos with glazed, mid-game-don’t-interrupt-me eyes.  So, without guilt I made myself a new necklace.

chevron necklace

Ah-huh, I made myself a leather chevron necklace.  Squeal!  The project came from Carla over at small + friendly.

By chance, I had everything I needed already.  I realize this might not be true of everyone but I went through a pretty big jewelry-making phase long ago and I hoarded anything I came across.

leather necklace supplies

As luck would have it, I also picked up a thrifted suede jacket sometime last year. It’s always a good thing when I can complete a project and not leave the house.  It’s pretty much my dream situation.  It’s the real reason I do all that hoarding.

cutting leather adventure on a happy stitch

I struggled a little to cut the leather perfectly and, as a result, my two chevrons aren’t identical but I went with it.

chevron necklace

chevron necklace made by a happy stitch

The book includes a scrumptious spinach salad recipe and a comfort food-style brussel sprout dish I might have to make for dinner.  Maybe by then my crazy boys will want to make the penguin or just photo bomb!

crazy boy : leather necklace

Want to know more about the book? Be sure to check out all the reviews:
Train to Crazy, Tag and Tabby, The City Sage, Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky!, Crafting Connections, Very ShannonDelia CreatesThat Mama Gretchen, & A Golden Afternoon.

You can purchase it here.

Disclosure: I was gifted the book and asked to write about it.  I might have begged to review it, just a little.  Still, my opinions about it are my own.

a book project courtesy of C, who is (eep) a first grader {and a book winner!}

I’m a huge fan of the incredible illustrator Oliver Jeffers and so are the boys.  and that made our latest library discovery super fantastic.   the day the crayons quit project from a happy stitch

we discovered the book “The Day The Crayons Quit” by Drew Daywalt with Mr. Jeffers as illustrator.  it’s so funny and so adored in our house (and sadly returned to its library home now).  the story line is that the crayons all decide to quit one day and they write letters to their owner explaining why.  each page is a letter from a single crayon and most of them are exasperated.  for example, blue crayon writes he is pleased with his work but a bit overused and now stubby and short.  yellow and orange crayon fight over who is the real color of the sun.  at the end of the book the crayon owner uses all of the crayons in an unconventional way, it makes the crayons happy and he is rewarded for his creativity. it’s hilarious, inspiring and sweet.  the whole thing is appealing to adults but still accessible to kids.  (it makes me so sad when picture books seem aimed at making grown-ups laugh.  my kids already feel left out of so much humor, they don’t need books to do that.)

green crayons page from crayons quit

C, who is dead set on being an author-illustrator when he grows up, loved the book and took it upon himself to make his own.  this was completely led by him, I had nothing to do with it.  I do try to keep lots of bare books around (I love them so much, they are well-made empty books with lots of pages.  we discovered them through the amazing soulemama).  C pulled one out of the dining room art cabinet and started getting to work.

his copy is on the right up above and is called, “The Day the Markers Quit” (just in case you needed a translation. *wink*.)

here is a page from his book.  it reads, “Green Marker. I hate getting chased by my drawings.  I mean, give me a break.”

day the crayons quit project

the picture is of an alligator eating the marker.  so fantastic, isn’t it!   his funniest page is red marker: “Red Marker.  Why did you take off my cap? I lost my head.”

oh my goodness, I love this kid! his sense of humor and his willingness to explore a little creative seed.  I love the way that kids aren’t afraid to imitate other artists and are also free to take it in a new direction.  I love seeing creativity come to life like this!

red marker page from crayons quit project

it was so simple and such a great idea and I thought it would make a good gift to give someone, not his book itself but a copy of this book and a few bare books.  or, maybe, hmm, maybe it needs to be the next summer series.

I suppose it’s C’s first contribution to projects on my blog!  that is certainly something to make a mama’s heart swell.  I think the best projects come when he makes them up.  I know this was completely his project but I can’t help but feel proud that he had the tools available to make it happen.  the boys both started school yesterday and are so excited to be back but I know we are heading into the world of homework (yes, in 1st grade!) and learning to sit still and pay attention and follow the rules.  all those things that aren’t always conducive to the inevitable motion and activity and disorder that encourage creativity.  so I’m keeping my eye on my kids and hoping to follow their lead in creative projects at home!

along those lines, I’m awfully glad I’m equipped with backyard ART camp when they need a nudge from me.  speaking of backyard ART camp…we have a book winner!

congratulations to Jessica Herir of Sugar and the Spice   ( a lovely food and family blog) who wrote: “These are such fantastic ideas! I just had to share the link on my page too. Thanks for the great inspiration… we can’t wait to get out our art supplies!

enjoy the book Jessica!

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