Top Ten Reasons to Write Another Book

10. My husband has completely forgotten how unavailable I was while writing my previous book.

9. Daughter’s nine hours of gymnastics each week equals prime writing time.

8. I finally cleaned my sewing room. Why should it stay that way?

7. The rest of my house needs to be cleaned.

6. My 30th high school reunion is creeping up and I need something to talk about.

5. Sleep is overrated.

4. Nothing motivates me quite like a deadline.

3. So. Many. Ideas!

2. Writing a book should make a dent in all this fabric, thus keeping me off Hoarders just a little bit longer.

And the No. 1 reason to write another book…

Stash Books/C&T Publishing accepted my proposal! Coming Fall 2015!

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(More details to come next year, like the title. And the subject. But yay! Another book!)

 


Got Vinyl?

I’ve recently added a new tool to the Craft Addict arsenal: a Silhouette Cameo. I think I’m in love.

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The Cameo plugs into your computer via USB and lets you send cutting files so you can make die cuts, decals and iron on elements. But it really can do so much more. There are pens that allow you to draw. And you can set it up to do what they call print and cut, which tells the Cameo to cut around a particular design. So many possibilities! I’ve already used it to cut fabric appliques for a bag and now I’m exploring the wonderful world of vinyl.

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So far, I’ve thrown our initials on water bottles and the case for my iPhone. Last night was spent cutting and applying a rather large damask decal to my KitchenAid stand mixer. My dear friend’s daughter is about to head off to college and I’ve offered to make monogram decals to apply to anything she wants. Honey joked that I’d probably put decals on my laptop. Pretty sure that’s going to happen, too.

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There is a little bit of a learning curve (I’m probably going to need a new cutting mat soon because I keep slicing this one) but it’s not too steep. My biggest challenge is not being distracted by the Cameo when I have other projects I need to be doing! Of course, I had to start a board on Pinterest with tips and project ideas. I have a feeling this thing is going to get a real workout for Christmas this year.


Dreams of Millinery

I have always been a researcher. As far back as I can remember, I would read and study in great detail any topic that struck me. Birds, mythology, web design. You name it, I’ve been obsessed with it.

It should come as no surprise, then, that my Snow Queen hat-making adventure comes after seven years of periods of intense research, acquiring appropriate supplies and working myself up to actually making a hat. “Obsessed” is probably the nicest word I can use to describe my approach.

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While there are a lot of resources for purchasing ready-made buckram hat forms, I opted to make my own. Drafting a pattern was definitely a consideration but I decide, instead, to use a Victorian Riding Hat pattern by Lynn McMasters. I liked the idea of having a solid starting point so I could focus more on the technique of making the hat rather than the trial-and-error exercise that drafting a pattern for an unfamiliar object can be.

The pattern was a bit of a leap of faith. I found really no reviews online. I had previously used another LM pattern to make a Regency-era bonnet, so I figured I would at least end up with a usable product. I was right but having plenty of sewing experience under my belt — plus all that research — really came in handy since some of the pattern instructions could have been a little more clear.

If you have ever been tempted to make a real, honest-to-goodness top hat, then you should know that 99 percent of the sewing is done by hand. Through buckram. I used a curved upholstery needle for most of it with a metal thimble and a pair of needle-nose pliers on standby. No joke. I only drew blood two or three times, which is less than the amount I bled on my first corset. (Hey, I’ll celebrate any victory!)

The crown and brim are edged in millinery wire and I wish I’d picked up some shrink tube plastic to finish the ends of the wires. I also wish I’d done a better job of snipping the ends. There’s one spot in particular that’s a little bulky because the wire overlaps. I don’t think it will be noticeable while I’m wearing it but I still know it’s there.

The biggest mistake I made was sewing the crown fabric to the fabric on the sides of the hat. You’re supposed to stitch by hand through all the fabric and the buckram just below the wire at the edge of the crown. I decided to cut corners and sew it on the machine, then slip it over the hat. In theory, it seemed like a good idea. The reality, however, is less pretty. The millinery wire really affects the shape  so it’s nearly impossible to get the seam to meet right on the edge of the crown. And oh my bulky seam allowances! If I’d had more fabric, I would have re-cut those pieces and done it the right way. I also think I should have used narrower binding.

I still have more embellishing to do and need to decide if I’m going to add some ribbons inside to use for anchoring the hat to my wig (a frothy blonde concoction that weirds out my husband), but that can wait.

 

 


Lessons Learned at Summer Camp

Another June and another session of Fashionista Sewing Camp is done. This year I had six girls, aged 10-17, for six hours a day. I’m not going to lie: It wears me out. But it’s also incredibly fun and rewarding to work with these kids, who inevitably teach me something, as well.

Most years, my campers don’t know each other. Occasionally, I’ll have a pair who are friends sign up to take camp together but usually Monday morning is the first time any of them are meeting each other. One of the first things I do is randomly assign partners to complete an activity together. This year, they had to interview their partner and then design an outfit for that person to wear. Each person then shared the design and explained the reasoning behind it. As I listened to the descriptions, it was clear how seriously they each took the assignment and the depth of questions they’d asked each other. Lesson: Engage the people you meet, ask questions and really listen to what they have to say.

After sharing their designs, I set up all the drawings on a table and asked each person to write down what they liked about the piece. Comments like “I like the colors you used” or “The design on the shirt is really interesting” may not seem like much but I think it’s important to encourage positive talk among kids that age. As the week wore on, I listened as they would compliment each other’s fabric choices or congratulate someone on finishing a project. Or commiserate on having to “un-sew” something. Lesson: Be supportive of others.

One of my sneaky ways of reinforcing a skill or technique is to have my students help each other. Even though they all work on the same projects during the week, they don’t work at the same speed. Having someone who has already sewn the rise of a pair of pajama pants explain to someone else how to handle that curve helps both of them. It doesn’t take long before they volunteer to help each other instead of waiting for me to suggest it. Lesson: Help when you can because sometimes you’ll be the one who needs help.

As the week wears on and the kids warm up to each other, they inevitably find out they have friends in common. It happens every year and it’s always fun to hear the kids discover the connections. This year two of my campers found out they are going to be together at another camp this summer. “I’m so glad I now know someone there!” I heard one say as they departed today. Lesson: It’s a small world — so be nice to others.

My expectations regarding their work depends on how much sewing experience they have. This year, I had two campers who have been sewing for a while, one who’d just completed my Sewing Basics class, one with a little bit of experience, and two who’d never sewn. My experienced two had a much higher bar to meet than the others, so I’d send them to rip and re-sew or press again if needed. The others? Well, I’m generally a bit more relaxed: if it’s workable, we can live with it. Otherwise, it gets redone. Regardless of who it was or how many times I sent her to fix something, not a single person complained. And when someone else made the same mistake, they’d happily share about what they did and how they fixed it. Lesson: Everyone makes mistakes. It’s not a big deal.

 


It’s Progress

I’ve had to take a close look at my costume plans for this year’s Dragoncon and do some scaling back. I’ve got a massive deadline that basically coincides with the convention (yay!) but it means the majority of my non-work time this summer will be spent working instead on that project.

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On the upside, it’s forcing me to not procrastinate when it comes to the two costumes I decided to make. I’m already in the thick of it with the most labor-intensive of the two I’m planning to make: the neo-Victorian Snow Queen. I’m using my existing Truly Victorian corset (which I need to rebind) and bustle underneath and revisiting the TV Vested Basque and Trained Skirt Ensembles for remainder. These are the same patterns I used for last year’s Night Circus costume, which makes things a bit easier on me: no drafting or working with new patterns. I am making a couple of modifications, mostly to the skirt, to accommodate trim and also to make sure I actually have a skirt that’s long enough to wear with shoes. Unlike the Night Circus costume…

Of course I have to amp up the difficulty level a bit and am making a Victorian riding hat from a pattern by Lynn McMasters. I’ve had the supplies and pattern for years but just couldn’t get started. It’s amazing what a little incentive and vision can do to get you moving!

hat in progress

Did I mention how much of this hat involves handsewing?

I more or less raided my stash for the fabrics I’m using for this project. I picked up a nice chunk of aqua no-wale (featherwale) corduroy at JA five or six years ago. It’s a lovely, lightweight but plush cotton cord that looks a bit like velveteen. I did not have enough fabric for the skirt in my stash (it’s about 5 yards) so grabbed some stretch sateen in white at JA (surprise!). I know a lot of costumers look down on fabric from the chain but I’m on a budget and wanted to be able to get more easily if something messed up.

For the vest part of the basque, I grabbed some of the Timeless Treasures Pearle in white. It’s got a bit of a frosty look to it, which I think will be a great detail to play against the aqua.

The finishing touch for the outfit will be the white faux fur I’m using for trim on the hem of the skirt and the cuff and collars of the jacket. Yes, this is for a convention on Labor Day weekend in Atlanta where the average daily temperature hovers around 90 degrees. Yes, I am going to sweat to death. Yes, I am crazy.

skirt progress

I was inspired by another Victorian gown (OK, actually several) I ran across on Pinterest and decided to embroider snowflakes on both the skirt and jacket. There are a dozen on the center front panel of the skirt and another 20 arcing up on the rear train of the skirt. I chose two colors for the skirt snowflakes — aqua and silver — which I thought would play nicely against the white. Because it is a HUGE expanse of white. I could host a circus under that skirt! And since I can’t do anything the easy way…I’m hand beading to accentuate each snowflake. All 32.

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100 Days

It’s a little more than 100 days until DragonCon and I’m thinking I need to actually get started on sewing if I want to have my costumes ready in plenty of time. I always start out with the best intentions but procrastination gets the best of me and I’m lucky to have my plans solidified by August 1.

I tend to start thinking about costumes before the current con has even ended. This year is no different! I think I actually had four or five ideas on the table but practicality is winning out and I’m going to have to scale that back to two or three costumes. Fortunately I actually have been buying fabric — and even decided on one that will use a fabric from my stash — so now I need to just force myself to get working.

1174569_10151722137223387_505476339_nFirst up is a costume based off this work by artist Michael Dooney, an 1887 version of Selene from Underwood. I seriously have a thing for Victorian-era costumes and I’m thinking about doing the corset in leather — always a great choice for Atlanta in the dog days of summer. *eyeroll*

riddlersuit

Frank Gorshin’s Riddler from the 1960s Batman TV show has always been a favorite of mine. My version will be much more feminine. It may also be the only non-period costume I make for DC. I’m not 100 percent certain whether I’ll cover the suit in question marks — but I have some great ideas for doing them if I go ahead with them!

4a682d87262d6279ecf32b18cede4fcbI fell in love with this Victorian ensemble the moment I saw it. It’s serving as the inspiration for another costume — again, seasonally appropriate — that I’m planning to embellish with lots of machine embroidery and beading. I have nearly all of the fabric for this one and will use the same Truly Victorian patterns I used for last year’s Night Circus costumes as the starting point. I’m also thinking of blogging my progress with this one as the summer progresses, to help keep me motivated.

 

 

 


Gettin’ my block on

I never intended to make quilts. My mother was a quilter, meticulously piecing and quilting by hand. The idea of following in her footsteps never crossed my mind. Yet here I am, decades after swearing I’d never make a quilt, not only making them but designing them. And now I’m teaching others how to piece quilts. Crazy!

Sarah and I just finished the second session of our block-of-the-month at Intown Quilters. It is so incredibly fun to go and encourage people to make these blocks each month with one of my dearest friends! When she brought up the idea of us doing this back in November, my first reaction was “Me? Really?” But then we started bouncing quilt ideas off each other and were in love with many of the same things and, well, one thing led to another…

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The Starfall quilt by Fresh Lemon Quilts was the starting point for our BOM. The designer graciously allowed us to use it for this purpose, which meant adding enough stars to it for the program to work as a block-of-the-month quilt.


Sarah and I took completely different approaches to the quilt when it came to choosing our fabrics. Both quilts were quilted by Regina Carter — I love how she chose quilting patterns that are so different yet work so well to play up the design of each quilt!


Magical Holidays

Our Christmas gift from my parents this year was a week-long trip to Orlando with visits to Disney World and Universal Studios Florida. It was, in a word, magical. The weather was perfect and our anticipation of the heavy holiday crowds helped us prepare for the parks and get the most out of our trip.

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This was our second trip with Miss L to Disney but the first since the Fantasyland expansion opened, so it was a must-see for us. Her grandparents were up for spoiling her on this trip so we started the visit with a makeover at the Bippidi Bobbidi Boutique, then hit up the rides. She loves meeting characters so there was a fair amount of getting in line for those experiences — including a mad dash to Belle’s storytime cottage when we arrived on the second day — but it was worth it. We also managed to convince her to try Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain Railroad, which were hits.

The crowds were pretty insane — Christmas Eve, especially — but we still managed to see and do everything we wanted during our two days there. I even had my first Dole Whip (it was good but I don’t know if I’d wait in line that long for a second one).

I was really looking forward to visiting Universal Studios Island of Adventures for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I loved the books — and the movies — and couldn’t wait to experience it. Miss L, on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less. She’d never seen the movies and wasn’t terribly interested in the first book, which I’d downloaded to the Kindle she received for Christmas.

Until our second day.

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I don’t know if it was the fourth butter beer of the week or her third time on the Flight of the Hippogriff coaster but 90 minutes into the day, she grabbed my hand while standing in the middle of Hogsmeade and proclaimed, “I’m going to become a Harry Potter fan, Mama!”

The girl who showed zero interest in Harry Potter before that day then chose Ginny Weasley’s wand for her trip souvenir (surprisingly less expensive than I would have thought — seriously, the T-shirts at Universal are $28; the wands, $32.95). And then she read. And read. And read.

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She’d nearly finished the first book in the series by the time we made it home. She’s since finished two more and would be further along if she didn’t have to wait for next month to roll around to borrow the next book from the Kindle Lending Library.

And, yes, she’ll be a Gryffindor for Halloween this year. I’m already collecting items for her costume.