Thursday, August 30, 2012

Off the Shelf: The Art of Manipulating Fabric

I was going to write a more in depth review of this mind-blowing book by Collette Wolff, but after hopping over to Amazon to grab a link and photo, I saw a great review that really says it all. Thank you, Allison Taylor, for saving me a lot of time!


In the author's words, "this is a book of ideas about sewing cloth" but what it really is, is an awesome collection of information from a thousand different sources on the techniques sewers have used since fabric was invented, to change the surface of an initially flat textile. Wolff brings little techniques of fabric manipulation from the background to the spotlight by isolating each technique, cataloging its unique features, separating the technique from end product associations, and exploring the sculptural possibilities without regard to where application will be. For any home or professional sewers who currently (or hypothetically) maintain folders of "pleating ideas," "interesting darts," or "photos of ruffles" get this book, and fast. Save yourself the chore of assimilating all the diagrams and photos and captions because Wolff has done it so thoroughly you will find yourself engrossed just reading about the humble little fabric tuck. Granted, no technique by itself makes wearable art or couture clothing, but these are the manipulations that make up the experimental stuff on the runways and in the exclusive boutiques. Learn what they do to a plain textile and you're primed to exploit fabric, for whatever purposes your little heart desires. Wolff's chapters cover: controlled crushing (gathering, shirring), supplementary fullness (making ruffles, making flounces, making godets), systematic folding (pleating, smocking, tucking), filled reliefs (cording, quilting, stuffing), structured surfaces (darts), and mixed manipulations (combinations). If you're a collector of books on dyeing or embroidery or exquisite cut, you really owe it to yourself to add this viewpoint to your library. Until the magical moment when I picked up this volume at a fabric trade show, I had no idea someone had catalogued so fanatically the world of playing with fabric. Thank goodness she has, or I might have attempted it. And as if a jam-packed reference guide isn't cause enough for celebration among fabric junkies, she's included a modest glossary, for clarity, a very helpful bibliography of books and articles, and a really thorough index that makes textbooks look carelessly written. This isn't just for garment-makers either; I can easily see applications in quilting, weaving, home decorating, wearable art, and costuming. Sewing machine recommended for most of these techniques but they could all be done by hand-sewers. I think it would most benefit the home sewer looking to spice up their wardrobe with more sophistication and interest in the fabric handling, but could also be very useful to the professional, especially in the design fields. After each time I pick up this book I find ideas bubbling to the surface on how to make my next fabric creation really pop. It's inspired several experiments and I see no end in sight.

I purchased The Art of Manipulating Fabric over a year ago as a gift. Following a quick perusal, I realized that it was worth its weight in gold as a reference for fabric techniques and I had to have my own. I am so glad I have it, and I would definitely recommend it as an inspiring and educational buy or interlibrary loan. Amazing. In case you need a little Fall inspiration!! It makes me want to sew a puff quilt, to start, like this lovely number from Honeybear Lane:

What’s your favorite fabric manipulation method? Mine appears to be gathering right now, but I think pintucks and couching are next on my “skills to master” list.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sewing Class: Burdastyle A-Plus A Line WIP

I’m having a hard time keeping up with my proposed 5 posts per week thing. So, I’m dialing that back to 3. It wasn’t so much a decision as a reality. Sorry, but there is a lot of reality going on here :)

Right now I’m musing over some sewing projects. I just bought some lovely stretch poplin fabric in a fun green for a skirt, and I think I’m going to go with the A-Plus A Line skirt available for free on Burdastyle, designed by Twinkle by Wenlan.

It has been done as written by the ever-amusing Elaine at Selfish Seamstress. Elaine with the double-edged wit, mad sewing skills and an amazing shoe collection. I hope that if she ever discovers that I have used her photo without permission she will forgive me and believe that I was too intimidated to ask when I didn’t see a blurb abut linking with photos anywhere on her blog. Please don’t eat me, I think you’re fabulous!

Another version with smocking instead of pleats was blogged here by Cutting Edge Stitches & Seams. Neat closeup of the smocking on Flickr here. I liked the color and fabric, but I think the smocking took away from the sleekness, though added some style in other ways. I am also fairly convinced that I bumped into a handmade version of this at a local thrift store not long ago. It was well done and pretty in a shiny golden home dec fabric, but it had too much body and would have looked like Roman soldier body armor as it moved when walking. No drape. I won’t make that mistake.

I love the yoke, but I’m not so sure about the pleats. I feel that it might end up requiring more pressing than I want to do, or that the pleats will not sit nice and flat and it will make me look chubby (there were lots of puckery and misshapen pleats in the completed projects on Burdastyle, and it made me wary). Possibly a holdover from my chubbier days, possibly because that’s what would actually happen. Not everyone is shaped like Elaine. Either way, I think I’m going to try and do what juebejue did and use the lining as the pattern and remove the pleats altogether to get a more sleek A-line. It looks lovely, and we’ll see what a muslin has to say about it. I hope to get to this soon since it should be simple and I have precious few skirts right now. I’ll show you what I come up with when it’s done.

What are you working on right now? Is there anything Fall-ish that you are dreaming about?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hit the Links: Homemade Baby Shower Gift Idea Roundup

Today I am attending a baby shower for the Best Baby. That is, the firstborn child of the Best Man at our wedding. I can’t wait to meet this little guy (who is guaranteed to be funny, smart, and have excellent taste in both food and fashion). But the question when one is known for making baby things… what to make for this special baby? I’ve made so many baby things from so many great inspiration sources, it can be hard to decide. But here are some of my favorite projects that I considered when planning this gift.

I’ve made pleated ring slings of linen (for myself) and silk or cotton (for my friends) using a great tutorial from Jan Andrea. For some reason they are always gray fabric. Go figure.

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I’ve made burp clothes, pacifier clips, bowtie and necktie onesies, baby leg warmers and simple baby blankets.

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And hospital-type newborn kimono shirts from my own pattern, blogged here and free pattern available here (though you have to figure out your own construction plan).

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I have made crib sheets and baby quilts (Disappearing Nine Patch Quilt blogged here and here).

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And the standby oversized flannel wrap (and available for purchase in my shop).

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And of course the hats! Animal ears hats in cashmere or fleece, they are always sure to please! My original sewing pattern available to purchase in my newly opened pattern shop LEVEL Design, or you can buy a hat made by me at TheJuneBride.

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So… what to make for the Best Baby? This time I decided to give an oversized flannel wrap with a matching crinkle taggie toy made based on this tutorial from Simple Things, Sweet Life. I used my pliers and Kamsnaps to make it attachable to a stroller or car seat (because babies throw stuff). I also made a matching toy tether for the same reason.


I also made an Irish green cashmere hat and matching cashmere pants using Made by Rae’s free Basic Newborn Baby Pants pattern. Did I mention that the Best Baby is a Notre Dame sho0-in since both of his brilliant parents are alumni? Anyway, it seemed appropriate, especially considering TheJuneGroom and I are also both ND alumni.

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So I added in a couple store-bought baby staples and wrapped the whole lot up in the blanket for a cute presentation, and finished it with Martha’s favorite bow.


So, what are you making for your next baby shower gift?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

DIY Tutorial: Back-to-School Corduroy Skirt


Hello, Fall! School for us starts soon (and for some, has already started!), and I’m trying to get a handle on the clothes situation. After a summer of stained, torn play clothes day after day, it’s time for some better looking duds in warmer fabrics. This is a very basic dirndl skirt, customized to my girlie and imminently customizable to yours as well. Here we go...

Back-to-School Corduroy Skirt

First, measure your girl. Determine how long you want the skirt to be, and how big around your girl’s waist and hips are. For width, use the hip measurement plus 1” for side seam allowances. My girl was 22” around at the hips, so a width of 23”. For the length, add 2.5” for a generous vintage-inspired skirt hem and 1.5” for the elastic casing at the waist. Mine (a petite 6 year old) was 12”, plus 2.5” and 1.5” to equal 16”. Elastic length with be the waist measurement minus 1” (or the measurement of a piece of elastic held snugly around your girl). So…

Next, cut 2 pieces of your skirt fabric (mine were 23”W by 16”L, in a standard wale corduroy). Cut 1 elastic band. Find some cute bias tape or make your own, or plan whatever other embellishments you want to fancy up this skirt (bows? appliqu├ęs?). I had considered adding another row or two of bias tape, but I may or may not make a jacket to go with this and I want to leave  my options open. I can always add more later if I can wrestle it away from my girl. She looks innocent and sweet but she can put up a good fight :)


Now you will finish the width of the raw edges (top and bottom) of each skirt panel (overcast on conventional machine or serge). Then sew and finish (or just serge) the side seams, right sides together. Fold up the bottom hem 2.5” on the wrong of the skirt, and straight stitch all around 1/4” from the fabric edge. Fold the top edge down 1.5” on the wrong side of the skirt and straight stitch all around 1/4” from the fabric edge (1-1/4” from the top of the skirt), leaving a 2” opening for the elastic. Stitch another straight line around the very top of the casing, 1/8” from the top (this will keep the elastic from rolling and bunching and will help the waistband to look neat and tidy). Insert your elastic into the opening and thread it flat through the casing  by any method you choose (I used a bodkin), keeping the far end out and pulling the other end out as well. Lap the raw edges of the elastic by 1/4” and sew together. Feed the elastic loop into the casing and sew up the opening.


Now, go forth and embellish!! I made lots of bias tapes while on vacation last week (yes, I really did) and this was a great chance to use use a bit. I used 1/2” single fold, treated like ribbon, topstitched 1/8” from top and bottom and centered on the hem stitch line for simplicity. But you do whatever you want. Never forget that the world is your oyster.


Happy sewing!!

(Disclaimer: This post took longer than 15 minutes, as gauged by the number of times the 5 year old asked to play computer games while I was typing. There will not be 5 posts this week. I’m sure we’ll all survive. See you soon!)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Real Life: What do you do on a sick day?

So, after our wonderful vacation, we are sick again. Just a bad cold this time, thank goodness. We’ve been sick a lot this summer, and it hasn’t been fun. Today I am a tired weepy basketcase (the poor stuffed up teething baby has been a real gem to care for as well), and am consoling myself by digging through my quilting fabric stash and trying to get my printer to cooperate with my plans to print some new patterns. Or, if that doesn’t make me feel better, I’m going to catch up on past episodes of the current season of Project Runway on my iPad while lying on the couch and making the children fend for themselves as much as possible. What do you do on a sick day when you can’t lie in bed all day and have someone bring you hot tea when you ring a little silver bell?

Since I don’t like to post without photos if I can help it, I’m adding a sunrise picture from our vacation. It will remind me that no matter how unpleasant today may be, tomorrow is a new day, and likely much more beautiful than I imagine…


Monday, August 20, 2012

Hit the Links: Like Mother, Like Daughter

Like Mother, Like Daughter is one of my favorite blogs, covering all manner of subjects pertinent to the daily Catholic living of one lovely large family. Recently, Leila posted about sewing bridesmaids dresses for the wedding of one of her daughters. I have found myself thinking about this post a lot, even though I am completely out of wedding land . The dresses were beautiful, handmade, well-planned and blogged with little pearls of wisdom tossed in for good measure. I suppose, truth be told, that I want to be Leila when I grow up (like my own mother, who handily altered the complicated bodice of my own wedding dress), and perhaps I just find all this to be very inspiring and educational, and it makes me want to sew adorable modest dresses too. With petticoats. In bright colors. I loved her choice of patterns, Vogue 8784, and her cotton voile fabrics by Anna Maria Horner and Joel Dewberry. The perfect compliment to the bride.

Photo from Like Mother Like Daughter via Nicole Montmarquet Photography.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Get Crafty: SewFearless-Inspired Hand Silhouette Pillow


As you may know from previous posts, the fabulously talented Jodi over at SewFearless is my REAL LIFE friend (I’m amazing by association, right?). She came up with a great gift idea: an embroidered pillow featuring hand silhouettes. She give some tips here, and another post about a another gorgeous one she made is here. She’s a textile genius. I loved this idea, and I was inspired to make something in the same vein for my mother and mother-in-law with grandkids hand prints. I stitched them on my machine, sewing on the wrong side using a bobbin with pearl cotton and standard thread for the needle. It gave a nice clean embroidered effect on the right side, though experience taught me to be careful with the direction you wind the pearl cotton because it can cause a wavy line if the cotton twist and bobbin direction align properly (look closely, you’ll notice it).


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Get Crafty: Pinterest Inspiration August 2012

Like most crafty sewing types, I enjoy a good Pinterest browse. Lots of inspiration, easy to lose an entire afternoon sorting through people’s collections. I try to keep it to limited time frames and for limited purposes, and this month my searches have been for sewing project embellishment ideas. Here are a few favorites (FYI, all the gorgeous images are from their respective sources):

I love this sweet free motion applique idea from Rebecca Sower.6a00d8341c7d4253ef0168e94c6783970c-800wi

Gorgeous petal detail, from

Just a fun grosgrain ribbon detail, from

Frills! There is even a tutorial for this Frilly Apron at Spotlight.D07763_G.jpg.resized

And needle felting, of course. Inspiration at

I was loving this colorful half-scallop quilt. Beautiful. Found at Sweet P Quilting and Creations.P11803842

What are you loving right now? I want to know!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Through the Looking Glass: Rainy Days

We’ve been dying for some rain around here, and it finally has arrived. Just in time for vacation! But I like rainy days even on vacation (as long as I’m not in a tent), and my husband challenged me to capture the rain on camera. I certainly tried, and had some fun at the same time. Here are some of my experimental shots…


I hope your day is wonderful, no matter what precipitates!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

From the Kitchen: Homemade Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

So… school. Starts soon, right? I have finally begun thinking about the various and sundry aspects of the impending school year. School clothes, pencil box supplies, lunches, snacks, and backpacks. My biggest concern with this transition is having food ready for the kids so that packing lunches and school snacks and after-school snacks isn’t a disaster. I’m corralling some recipes for easy, portable food and trying to tweak them to our particular culinary preferences. One thing you should know about us is that we all love chocolate chip granola bars. The kind that come in the wrapper. But I’m cracking down hard on the food budget and it was time to perfect an intriguing recipe I had happened upon on Allrecipes. These are not too heavy, thanks to the rice cereal, and not too crunchy, thanks to the caramel that holds them together. And they are really, really tasty. I tend to double this recipe and store half in the fridge until we need them. I imagine they might freeze well too, but I haven’t tried.


Homemade Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars


2 1/2 cups crispy rice cereal
2 cups quick-cooking oats (or old fashioned)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. In a large bowl, stir together the rice cereal, and oats. Set aside. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray (if you double the recipe you can use a half-size sheet pan with a 1” rim).

2. Combine the brown sugar, honey, corn syrup and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat until boiling, stirring continuously for 2 minutes (make sure all the sugar has melted), then remove from heat and stir in vanilla until smooth. Pour over the cereal and oat mixture, and mix well. Work quickly.

3. Spread evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top and press down, compacting it with hands over a piece of waxed paper. Allow to cool thoroughly, then cut into bars (I usually shoot for about 16-18 bars).


I have made these bars about 10 times in the past few months, varying the amounts of sugar, corn syrup, butter and honey to get a shelf-stable bar that wouldn’t fall apart even in an 80 degree house. I imagine this will be less of an issue in the Fall, when temperatures will be cooler. But if you make a batch and find they are too sticky or too crunchy, don’t give up… just try again!