Archive of ‘textile’ category

the bravery of a bunk bed and a quilt to prove it

our oldest, C, is a naturally cautious and apprehensive child…he hates all bad guys and generally spends lots of time considering before he is ready to dive in and give things a try.  we have learned that the best way to be helpful is to give him his time, explain things a lot and take it slow.

and that is why I was slow to respond when he insisted he wanted a bunk bed.  and, by slow to respond I mean I did nothing until he asked again and then again.  I honestly assumed he didn’t really know what a bunk bed was.  finally, one weekend while on an unrelated errand, we popped into a store and showed him the bunk beds. we honestly expected he would realize that the top of a bunk bed was pretty high up there and decide he didn’t want one.

it just goes to show what we know because he was even more excited once he saw them.   given that his increasingly-long body was practically spilling out of his toddler bed we decided –what the heck…let’s indulge him and ‘hey, maybe they will even share a room and we can move some toys out of our living room and into the empty bedroom’.  and, that is when we went to ikea and got the perfect bunk bed.  and even after all that, when the bed was up and ready I still expected him to decide he wasn’t ready to sleep in the top bunk.  of course, he loves it and hasn’t looked back since we got it all together.

{these two don’t share a bed or even a room (yet), it is just impossible for a photo shoot to involve only one person. }

it took a little while for the whole thing to come together, though, because we ordered a healthy eco-friendly mattress from here and they are made to order.  so, in the meantime, I decided to make a quilt because I was still under the impression that he was going to need some encouraging. (I know! in retrospect it is pretty clear that I can be a bit dense sometimes).

I made a bigger version of the simple quilt from amy karol’s book bend the rules sewing and picked two prints from the sarah jane children at play collection, which is chock full of playful and adorably child-friendly prints. in addition to a white fabric, I also threw in a denyse schmidt print and used shot cotton in two different blues for a denim look with a soft hand.  I am a big fan of shot cotton, which is made by weaving together two different colors—one in the weft and one in the warp–giving a bit of depth and dimension to what would otherwise be a plain solid.  (this post at make it perfect goes more into shot cottons if you are interested.)

but the big exciting thing about this quilt is that it is my first free motion quilt!  I have done small potholders in free motion but never a full-sized quilt.  and, there is no doubt about it, I am in love.  free motion quilting involves using a free motion quilting foot, dropping the feed dogs and essentially drawing on the quilt.  it’s more forgiving in the sense that fabric doesn’t get ‘bunched up’ as easily because the foot is essentially bouncing around on top of the quilt.  it is, however, less forgiving in some ways because you have to keep the quilt moving without quilting yourself into a corner or accidentally making some wacky stitches.  this quilt has plenty of wacky stitches but no more than I would expect for a first try.  and, I can’t wait to give it another try with free motion quilting.

see how some of the curves are less than smooth? those would be the wacky stitches. 

that stuff I said earlier about our home having too many quilts was a lie.  a big lie.  our home needs many more quilts, it needs quilt everywhere. it really does.

below is the full front and back view:


inspiration :: friday & saturday

~a week-long highlight of bits and pieces of inspiration.~

I will confess that I got utterly and truly sucked into the Olympic opening ceremony and forgot to post an inspiration on friday. but, that is understandable, right? I mean that was some beautifully bizarre display.  I was gobsmacked.

but, moving on.  it’s fabric that I’m admiring now.  and, not just any fabric but the luscious liberty of london.  I resisted for a long time, years really.  but, a christmas gift card finally convinced me to splurge and take some home.  the rumors are true, it really is as soft and amazing as they say.  it’s light but with the right amount of heft and it drapes with grace. I’m not exaggerating. it feels like a sewing rite of passage.  I’m not sure what to make with it yet but that doesn’t stop me from pulling it out and touching it a lot.  it’s inspiration to strive for something good and stretch my skills.  that alone might make it worth the cost.

yes, I bought two of the same pattern in different colorways.  I really like it. and, it looks awfully nice with a linen chambray doesn’t it?

what’s inspiring you? leave a link in the comments if you want to share.

the great pillow sham

I went to this strange warehouse sale a few years ago…in a classic New Jersey style of strange…a warehouse down the road a bit was going out of business and selling all manner of sheets and other fabric items.  I went in determined to find Great! Fantastic! Cheap! things to repurpose for quilts and other things.  well it was mostly a bust and in my desperation to have the sale be everything I wanted it to be I purchased two really not-cute pillow shams.  they only seemed cute because I had on my ‘desperation blinders’ and they were surrounded by so many unappealing items.  well, sadly, we have been using them ever since.

but no more!  desperation blinders are off! I finally made replacements and I have to say I don’t know what took me so long.  I used the lotta jansdotter choma fabric from her current line (she has another amazing group of fabrics coming out soon, bella.  they look like they are going to be great.)

I really like this fabric and sometimes when I really like a  fabric it makes me reluctant to use it, which sounds contradictory.  it’s just that I get kind of tangled up in the feeling that whatever I make needs to be amazing and perfect because the fabric is so awesome.  and that kind of pressure is too much so I back off and use a fabric I don’t like as much instead.  it’s a good thing I just wrote that down because it’s helping me realizing how super stupid this approach is!

{man, I am battling demons all over the place with this project.}

to make these pillow shams I sandwiched quilt batting in between this fabric and a backing fabric.  then, I sewed simple straight lines, with white thread in-between the yellow and grey tones.  for the back I made an envelope closure and sewed the two pieces together.

the fabric is so dramatic (that is another reason I had a hard time figuring what to do with it) but it’s drama is a great accent to our duvet.  they have honestly brightened up the whole room. even my husband who is normally VERY against the whole extra-pillows-on-the-bed thing was impressed with how nicely they bring the bedroom together.

now my goal is to spend more than six hours a day resting next to them.

summer sewing project :: the dresses

there has been some making and there has been some smocking. this first dress is made with the shards fabric from Cloud 9 fabrics…it’s a part of their affordable organic line.  I have been so impressed with the beautiful fabric coming out of this small fabric company and all of it is organic.

the pattern for this dress is my own using an adaptation of the dress pattern in the Cal Patch book “Design Your Own Clothes”.     I started with a muslin following her instructions.  she uses a side zipper and my muslin came out too loose and maternity-looking. so, when I made the ‘real’ dress I adapted the back of the dress by using elastic thread to add smocking.  it actually made construction easier and the fit better. yay!!


this is a close up of the smocked section.  the elastic thread (in the bobbin only) makes smocking so easy and it looks so good and professional. as excited as I am about the smocking and my clever adaptations, I’ll admit I’m not wild about this dress.  it just isn’t very exciting and the neckline came out a bit conservative.

so I moved onto a the next one! this dress is so simple to construct!  to make the pattern I mixed things I learned from Cal Patch and a pattern in the Heather Ross book Weekend Sewing.  the back and front pieces are the same pattern and then it’s just straps…that is it for cutting.  the top of the dress is smocked, again with elastic thread in the bobbin. then topstitch the top, adding in the straps and then just hem! and done!


here is a close up of the smocking.  yes, I voluntarily took a close up photo of my chest. the sewing has obviously gone to my head.

want to know one of the best things about this dress? the fabric is vintage and was in the collection I got from my grandma! isn’t that awesome! it’s got these fantastic peacocks dancing all over it. I can’t wait to wear it this summer and give it new life.

lucky day

 as a fabric lover and sewing teacher there is always a small part of me that is oh-so-tempted to design my own fabric. to get it just right, ya know?

so when I saw this book from the people behind one of my favorite textile blogs True Up, I knew I wanted it.  but, I played it a little too cool and it wasn’t in my stocking on Christmas morning…darn that Santa! so, you can only imagine how excited I was to find out that I won it from Christina at A Few Scraps.  and, it is just as fabulous as I imagined it was going to be. it includes great coverage on different fabric types in general and thorough, thorough discussion on the different ways to make your own fabric from stamp-making to screen printing to digital printing.  it’s very inspiring.


and, because Christina is just plain awesome she even threw in a fat quarter of the first fabric she designed.  it’s called ‘selvedge on steroids’, she made it on spoonflower, which is one of the digital fabric printing studios.  (one warning: it is incredible and if you click on the link and head over the spoonflower, I cannot be responsible for the many lost, happy hours that may result.)  isn’t the fabric perfect!! especially given how much time I spend discussing selvedge! now…the find the perfect thing to make with it!

the past arrived in the post

last week over 50 pounds of fabric arrived at my house.  and, not just any fabric but amazing lightweight wool that my grandmother had saved for decades.  she is leaving her house and moving into a smaller apartment and in going through the house full of things one accumulates over the course of 90 years she decided that I should acquire her fabric.  some of it was hers and some of it was even from my great-grandmother(!);  all of it was in perfect condition.  my grandmother and great-grandmother were both prolific sewers in a time when sewing was more wide-spread.  they made jackets, button down shirts, dresses and quilts because their family needed them to but also because they loved it. I have always carried them in my mind as I’ve sewn but I literally have them with me now, in the form of fabric.  it feels like a great responsibility as well as a great opportunity.

there were some cottons, too.  but, look at this stack of wool!  all of it beautiful and lightweight and begging to be sewn.  and, what to make? my head is spinning with ideas about iPad holders, throws, quilts, couch pillows, skirts and more.  maybe even a jacket for myself?!

so dear readers, have you got any good ideas? what is your favorite wool item?

oh yes, there were also around 5 pounds of lace, rick rac and bias tape. so, I am stocked.

valentine idea :: from the archives

I thought I would share of my past valentine creations this week starting with these cards from last year.  I’m particularly proud of them because I got to use up fabric scraps AND sew on paper, which is a weirdly satisfying thing to do…it feels almost naughty. they are pretty simple and it’s probably pretty obvious how to make them but indulge me while I share what how I went about it.


I started by ironing my fabric scraps (cut cleanly using my trusty clear ruler, rotary cutter, and cutting mat) onto freezer paper.  freezer paper is this crazy stuff with paper on one side and a waxy coating on the other side and it just so happens that it sticks to fabric superbly when ironed.  you can find it in the grocery store, sometimes it requires a bit of hunting but most places seem to carry it.  I used the freezer paper to stabilize the fabric so that my cutting and tracing could be more precise.  next, I traced some hearts using cookies cutters onto the fabric using a fabric marking tool to make uniform heart shapes.

after cutting out my hearts, I peeled off the freezer paper and held them in place while I sewed them onto the paper.  you can’t really pin through the paper without actually making things more difficult and/or sloppy.  other than that, it’s just regular sewing, except it makes a cute punch-y sound while you sew.  I used alphabet stamps and standard stamping ink to print the letters.

easy-peasy.  and, so cute and modern looking…in my humble opinion. I had a few clear vellum envelopes leftover from some other card-making escapade and I especially liked how those looked when you could see through to the card as below. 

handmade holidays :: gifts for family

this was my surprise gift for family members (and one friend, too). rice packs, sprinkled with a bit of lavender oil.  the rice itself is in its own separate sack.  the linen shell is to make it all look nice.  it closes neatly with velcro.  in the microwave for half a minute or so and they transform into an aromatic, cozy heat source. imagine one of these in the bed before you crawl in…mmm, warm toes! now that is what winter is about.  i got the idea from this tutorial at the ever-inspiring sew mama sew.

I have been crazy about linen lately. I love, love, love the way it feels and how it creases so easily…makes it easy to work with. it’s got such fluidity and softness. also, it’s made from flax. and, that is just neat. check out this incredible site with one of a kind linens. oh, so hard to steer clear from needless fabric shopping!

I will admit it was a little hard to let these go because, of course, I didn’t get around to making one for our family.  but, that is one of the best things about January.  it’s a big strip of time, energy and efficiency stretching out in front of me. so much that can be done! and, it will be done well! and cleanly!  and I will be fitter! I promise to keep you abreast of how that all works out.

in the meantime, watch for more handmade holiday gifts to come. and, happy new year!

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