Freebie Friday

I have intended to start a regular feature like this for some time but just haven’t gotten myself going on it. Times, they are a changing!


I designed this beach bag for Westminster Fibers last year to showcase the Beach line of fabric by David Walker. It’s a nice, roomy tote with a flat bottom, exterior pocket and interfaced with Soft n Stable so it doesn’t droop. I’ve made a couple for gifts; they’re really easy to sew and can be personalized in so many ways (I’m thinking laminated cotton for the exterior!)

Here’s what you need to make one:

Exterior: 7/8 yard (.81m)
Lining: 7/8 yard (.81m)
Straps: 3/8 yard (.343m)
Pocket: 1/4 yard (.229m)
Binding: 1/4 yard (.229m)
1/4 yard (.229m) of heavyweight fusible interfacing
7/8 yard (.81m) of By Annie’s Soft n Stable
3/8 yard (.343m) of 3/8” elastic

The nice folks at Westminster have the instructions in handy PDF format here for downloading. Enjoy!


Costumed Crazy

DragonCon 2013 was a blast, as expected. Labor Day is usually a time most folks are trying to sneak in a trip to the beach but the geeks in my house all head into downtown Atlanta to spend a few days among our people.

I was an Attending Professional this year and spent a few hours on panels for the Costuming Track, which was just a joy. I love talking about sewing and getting the chance to do so with some amazing costuming professionals at a fun convention just makes me happy beyond belief.

Miss L loves dressing up just as much as I do, so I decided to sew companion costumes for us to wear one day. I was inspired to create these after reading the book The Night Circus. There’s such vivid imagery in the book and I loved the idea of playing with historical fashions to create my version of what Reveurs might wear.

L’s top is a girl’s boned ballgown bodice pattern I bought online somewhere. I drafted the skirt and used black piping between the pleated ruffle and the skirt to add a little flair. The stripes on her skirt are cut on the bias. Matching them up was fun. If you’re idea of fun means “crazymaking and dizzying.” My sweet friend Amber surprised us with the fingerless gloves she crocheted to complete the look.

My outfit used four patterns from Truly Victorian, including the corset and petticoat under the skirt. I’m so in love with the vest basque, it’s not funny. But it’s a crazy amount of fabric in this costume. Crazy. Like, 20 yards or so. Did I mention that it’s usually in the upper 80s — if we’re having a cool spell — and I was wearing a wig? Just a little bit hot in there. Major props to my Honey for helping me get in and out of that get up in a parking lot. He’s a real trouper.

We Love Summer Camp


Today was the first day of Little Stitchers summer camp at Intown Quilters and I couldn’t be happier.

This is the first time I’ve offered a camp for kids younger than 11. All my other camps (and the camps done by another teacher) are aimed at older kids. Inevitably, we get calls about things younger kids can do and have to turn them away.

After the fun we had with Miss L’s birthday party, I started brainstorming a camp for younger kids. All the projects involve hand sewing and each project builds on the skills from the previous projects.

Obviously I had to sign up Miss L, who has been disappointed that she’s not old enough for my other camps. She and two other students arrived bright and early this morning for the first three-hour camp day.

And they loved it.

Miss L is showing off the nametag she stitched up this morning. (Isn’t that fabric so cool? It’s by Timeless Treasures and has some great school coordinates.)

It was awesome to watch the girls work, contentedly sewing and then grinning broadly as they finished.

I have the best job EVER.

New Year, New Bag

I think I probably sew more bags than just about anything else in my repertoire. There’s just something gratifying about making something I can immediately use — and I literally wear out the bags I sew, which means there’s always room for another in my closet.

Daisy Girl Backpack

This bag combined two things I fell in love with on sight: Melody Miller’s Ruby Star Rising fabric and the Daisy Girl Backpack by Fig Tree & Co. Honestly, the most difficult part of this exercise was cutting into the fabric. It’s OOP! It’s the only half-yard of it I bought! Once I make something with it, that’s it! Oh em gee!

Yeah, I may get a little worked up on occasion.

I actually bought the fabric with another project in mind but couldn’t find quite the right lining fabric. I’m glad I waited because I love how this bag turned out. LOVE. IT!

The contrast fabric is Kona (if someone’s really interested, I can match to  my color card) and I used a minty cotton twill for the lining (I inexplicably bought about four yards of it and it’s a pretty nice match). A note on linings: I tend to stick with light-colored fabric for lining bags. If you’ve ever owned a purse with a dark lining, you know that a black hole it can literally be. So much easier to rummage around and find what you’re looking for (I’m looking at you, debit card) if you can actually see the bottom of the bag.

I added a swivel hook to the bag lining to keep my keys, because it’s much easier to find them if they’re always snapped to it. I also substituted a flat magnetic clasp instead of the magnetic snap to save on wear and tear of the opening (I’m rough on bags and inevitably rip the snap through, even with plenty of reinforcement). And I goofed up a bit with the interior pocket and drawstring casing (read the directions! I’d save myself a ton of heartache if I’d follow my own advice!) but it’s still functional if not quite what Joanna Figueroa intended.

There’s a drawstring closure of the bag top which uses grommets and I deviated from the instructions here to do them more like corset grommets. The biggest difference is that I use an awl to work holes for the grommets rather than cutting the fabric. It works on smaller grommets — I can’t see how the technique would work on the big drapery grommets — but is incredibly tedious. It probably took me about 90 minutes but I think it helps keep the fabric stronger around the grommets since there’s no cutting involved. Obviously YMMV.

The bag size is pretty good for my needs. It holds my checkbooks, wallet, iPad and/or Kindle with room to spare. But not so roomy that it will end up a bottomless pit of old receipts, coupons and forgotten mail. Oh, who am I kidding? I am, after all, the woman who can junk up a wristlet!

Miss L was crushed to learn the bag was not for her, so I am fairly certain I’ll be sewing another of these in the near future.

Remember DragonCon?

When I was in Houston last week, the delightful Jessica Levitt razzed me about not finishing up my DragonCon costume posts. Sigh. She’s right; I’ve been really slack in the blogging department for a while now. But I’m reforming my lazy ways and catching up with something that happened on Labor Day seems like as good a place as any to start.

Steamed at Dragoncon

This costume sort of came together at the last minute, in that I had a vague idea that I wanted something Steampunk with a corset but no clear plan for it. The boots were a given (my fabulous Fluevog  Babycakes that I got for a steal at Squash Blossom in Decatur) but the rest of it just sort of fell into place.

And yet I love it so!

I do need to give a major shoutout to the amazingly talented and sweet Ana Aesthetic, cosplayer and costumer extraordinaire. I met her at DragonCon in 2010 and am so happy to call her my friend. In addition to introducing me to some of the better dining spots in the area, she also looked at corset muslin #8 and steered me in the right direction on the fit issues I was having. Thanks to her help, I actually pulled off a wearable corset.

I used the Laughing Moon Silverado and think I may add the hip gores next time to make it fit just a wee bit better over my badonkadonk. LOL! The fabric is by Quilt Gate and such an amazing  Asian stripe. I do wish I’d cut out both sides independently, rather than with the fabric doubled over, just so I could have spread out the stripes a bit more evenly. Still, I had so many people comment on the corset and that just made my day.

The tiny top hat is a pattern from the Quilted Fish. I like it but I will probably make a full size top hat to wear in the future. My hair does not do well with combs, clips and barrettes, so I spent all day trying to keep the hat from migrating even further down my head. It does look super cool, though.

I made just a basic, elastic waist skirt from a purple stretch sateen and dressed it up with some embroidery from Urban Threads. Underneath is a simple petticoat that I whipped up with some lining fabric and layers of gathered tulle. It’s kind of a hodge podge of tulle (I was working my way through my former tutu supplies) but it gets the job done.

I need to add some Steampunk gear to really make the costume work but it’s definitely a great start. And insanely comfortable, in spite of all the steel boning.

Sew Fun Birthday


Is anyone else addicted to Pinterest? I swear, I go back and forth between cursing and praising that site. On one hand, it’s such a time suck. On the other…well, I’ve definitely been inspired.



Pinterest played a key part in Miss L’s seventh birthday party, which started with this blog post. I instantly fell in love and just knew my bunny would love to celebrate her 7th with a sewing party.


I did a little appliqué and embroidery on linen for the party invites, scanned them in and added the rest of the details in Photoshop.


On Saturday, our guests were met at the door with a fun “wreath” made for the occasion.


We started out with some fun crafts with each girl making a little embroidered piece to take home and a funky felt floral headband.



A lunch of heart-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches, baby carrots with ranch dip, caramel drizzled apple slices, yogurt with fresh berries and sewing themed sugar cookies was served.






A cute-as-a-button cake and raspberry lemonade completed the meal.


We played a laugh-filled game of “put the spool on the sewing machine” and trotted out the props in a photo booth session.


The day ended with a piñata, also themed for the occasion (a giant spool of thread)!


Our birthday girl thanked each guest for coming with a handmade goodie bag and chocolate button lollipop.

The little miss deemed it “the best birthday ever,” which made it worth all the work.


Candy button molds, sewing cookie cutters, polka dot paper straws: Bake It Pretty

Flower Frill Clover template, party hats and crown pattern by The Quilted Fish, Michael Miller fabrics (polka dots from Children at Play, ginghams from Mini Mikes): Intown Quilters

Fabric pinwheels: tutorial by Sandi Henderson (modified)

Ruffled chair garlands: tutorial by Hank + Hunt

Cake: me and Publix (story to come)

Sugar cookies: Recipe from Cake Central, royal icing by CK from Cake Art Party Store, decorating tutorial (my first time decorating cookies like this!) by Sweetopia.

Drink bottles: Starbucks single-serving Frappuccino, saved for me by my son’s super sweet girlfriend (thanks again, Laura!)

Birthday banner: tutorial coming!

Spool piñata: tutorial coming!

Goodie bags: tutorial coming!

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Sounds Like…

Earlier this week, I made a phone call I never thought I’d make: I called Hellmann’s Mayonnaise to ask if my sister-in-law’s song was used in their newest commercial.

First, a little backstory.

My love for my sister-in-law Jenn Cristy and her music is no secret. I’ve blogged before about her music and her work (and my work to help her music). And my husband (her brother) and I are just about the biggest fans we can be from three states away. Two years ago, I spent hours listening to the tracks for her then-unreleased CD, Hotel Confessions, while I worked on the album and merchandise design. Jenn’s song “Betty” quickly stood out as one of my favorite tracks.

On Tuesday morning while simultaneously half-listening to the Today Show and surfing the Internet, some familiar music came through the TV speakers. My oldest, who was sitting next to me on the couch, popped his head up from his work. “Is that Aunt Jenn?” he asked. It sure sounded like it to me, so I fired off an email to her:

To: Jenn
From: me
Subject: Weird
OK there was a hellmann’s commercial on just now that had music that sounded just like the intro to “Betty.”

When I got in the car to go to work about an hour later, I noticed that I’d missed a call from Jenn. So, like any responsible adult, I waited until I got to work to return her call. Yeah, no. I called her from the car. (I did use the speakerphone, Honey. I promise.)

Jenn said a friend of hers had contacted her a couple of weeks ago about the same commercial so she’d looked it up online to take a listen for herself. “It’s the exact same chords from ‘Betty’,” she said. And, no, neither Hellmann’s (a Unilever brand) or Ogilvy & Mather (the agency who made the ad) had contacted her about using the song.

Here’s Jenn singing ‘Betty’ in Aug. 2010 on WTIU’s Weekly Special show — first seven seconds (via YouTube):

And here’s the Hellmann’s Mayonnaise commercial-first seven seconds (also via YouTube):

I’m not a trained musician but they sound awfully similar to me. Jenn, who is, thinks they do, too.

Jenn is an independent musician. That means she doesn’t have a label or a recording contract. The albums she’s made? Money came out of her pocket to pay for it. And I’ve got to be honest: I don’t think playing 100-some shows a year (some of which require travel and overnight stays for she and her band) is so lucrative that she and her elementary-school-teacher husband aren’t having to make some sacrifices for her to fund her business. Even the idea that someone is using her music for a commercial endeavor without compensating her makes me see red.

I called Unilever’s consumer contact line Tuesday afternoon to ask about the song used. The customer service agent I spoke to (Rose) said the commercial’s info was not in her system so she would have to pass on my information and someone would have to call me back. Because it was close to the end of business, she said, I likely could not expect a return call until Wednesday, at the earliest. (I explained to Rose that I was going to blog and tweet about the similarities in the music but wanted to give the company a chance to respond first. Newsroom habits die hard.) It’s now Friday and I’ve yet to receive a response to my call. Or, as we used to write at my previous employer, “a Unilever spokesperson did not respond to calls before press time.”

I’ll update this post if and when they respond.

Days at Dragoncon

If ever there was a question about my geeky-ness, it’s answered with one word: Dragoncon.

Yes, I am exactly that geeky. Not only am I enough of a geek to hang out with other sci-fi/fantasy/comic geeks for four days but I dress up. And now I’m also dressing up my offspring.


Less than two weeks before DC, I found out I was going to be on a panel about making costumes for kids. I was excited and a little nervous, as you might imagine. While I’ve sewn costumes for them, I wouldn’t describe many of them as “quick and easy,” which was the description of the panel.

Around that time, Miss L told us she wanted to attend DC with us instead of spending the weekend with her grandparents. And so an idea was hatched. I had already convinced my oldest and his girlfriend to dress as Dr. Who and Amy Pond for the con. Why not have L dress as a Dalek? She would coordinate with the young adults and I could have her model for my panel. Brilliant!

The skirt is a modified (read: wider) version of the No-Hem Skirt from my book. I used Heat n Bond to fuse 3″ felt circles to the skirt and slipped featherlight boning into the hem band to give it shape.

The headband is covered in the same fabric as the skirt and sealed with Mod Podge. I used battery-operated tea lights and clear plastic shot glasses for the lights, attached to the headband with elastic straps.

All told, I think I spent less than $20 on the whole costume. The felt circles were the most time consuming part but I still managed to pull it together in a couple of hours.

The payoff was definitely in the attention she got at the con. Passersby started complimenting her in the parking lot and the comments didn’t stop until we got back in the car at the end of the day. The three took off for about 90 minutes to hit the photo spots and I’m told they were quite a hit. They’re already talking about next year!

Boy, am I glad they can both sew. Mama’s got her own costumes to sew, you know.