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As of January 2016, this blog is no longer being updated.

If you've ever visited here, left a comment, or emailed me, I'm deeply grateful to you. Thank you for joining me on the best journey of my life - and thank you for being a huge part of the reason it was a great journey.

I'm still on Twitter and Instagram occasionally, so please feel free to connect with me there if you like.

The Spoonflower Handbook Review

It was back in August of 2008 that I first interviewed Stephen Fraser about his new company, a custom fabric-printing service called Spoonflower. From that day to the release of The Spoonflower Handbook, I've watched the company take an amazing journey, growing into a tremendous creative resource and community. It's been so exciting to witness, and now it's super exciting be able to review this book!


The Spoonflower Handbook Review

I really applaud the publisher, Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, for putting a book like this out. It could be seen as somewhat risky; a manual for using a specific website to make your own fabrics, wallpaper, and gift wrap. But there's so much in this book that's evergreen, and anyone interested in being a surface designer will learn a ton along the way. Really, you could even use it with printing services other than Spoonflower if you wanted to. The only prerequisite is that you're reasonably computer-literate.


The Spoonflower Handbook Review

The book contains over 30 projects, but first, there's a useful first chapter that covers:

  • The various surfaces Spoonflower prints on: quite a few different fabrics, self-adhesive wallpaper, and continuous-roll gift wrap. What kinds of projects are good for each, and where to look for inspirations.
  • The process of turning a design into a digital file, including the various kinds of image and file types you can create, and how to work with the resolution of your original image to create various effects.
  • Using Spoonflower's Color Guide and Color Map to get specific colors in your digital designs, converting a design into multiple colorways, and how to use color in patterns in general.
  • Understanding various kinds of repeats in surface design, making a seamless repeat, and taking negative space into account in your repeats.


    • The Spoonflower Handbook Review

      ...And while all that may sound a bit technical, let me assure you that a lot of effort has gone into writing about these subjects in the clearest, friendliest, and easiest-to-understand way. You don't need to be a technical genius at all.


      The Spoonflower Handbook Review

      ...So, let's move on to the project collection. These are learning projects, designed to guide you through a bunch of different ways to design your own fabric/paper/wallpaper. Things start simply, with this luggage tag that's made by placing some found objects on a scanner and turning that into a digital file to print on some cotton fabric.

      The project instructions start with detailed steps for doing the scanning, and then get into assembling the luggage tag.


      The Spoonflower Handbook Review

      Another great example: this lampshade, which was made by placing paint chips on a scanner and then printing the resulting digital file to wallpaper. Nice, right?

      This is a good moment to mention that all these projects were created by members of Spoonflower's community of designers, and sprinkled throughout the book you'll find all sorts of hints, tips, and inspirations from them.


      The Spoonflower Handbook Review

      There's a series of projects using photographs as the basis for designs, as in this fabric wall panel. And in each case, you get detailed instructions on how to choose and handle your photo, and then instructions on how to make the project. Photos are used beautifully here in projects as diverse as scarves, pillows, softies, and dish towels.

      It's worth mentioning that the craft instructions themselves are text-based, with very few diagrams. The projects are all simple enough in construction that this shouldn't be a problem for anyone who can sew a straight seam.


      The Spoonflower Handbook Review

      From there, we get into a section on converting your own drawings, paintings, and prints into designs. There's a primer on Spoonflower's tools for cleaning up and altering a drawing. The projects in this section include napkins, a necktie, a baby quilt, a shower curtain, and this awesome wallpaper that I would absolutely love to color on.


      The Spoonflower Handbook Review

      Next, there's a section on designing with text, words, and labels, which is intriguing not only for the possibilities of printing words and sayings on surfaces, but also for using type as a design element, as in this gift wrap.


      The Spoonflower Handbook Review

      The Spoonflower Handbook Review

      The thing that makes this book hugely inspiring isn't so much any individual project, although they're all beautiful. To me, it's more about the cross-pollination that happens as you flip through. You could take the found-object design concept from the luggage tag project, for example, and use it to make a custom laptop sleeve. You could use your own photographs to make light switch plate covers. I will never have time for all the projects this book has sparked in my brain!


      The Spoonflower Handbook Review

      (Tiny brag: they let me write a piece for the book on the many little projects you can make from Spoonflower's fabric, gift wrap, and wallpaper test swatches.)


      The Spoonflower Handbook Review

      If you know any aspiring designers, or creative people looking for some new ways to create, be sure and check out this book! Or if that's you, get yourself a copy.


      Disclosures: the publisher sent me a review copy, and I'm an unabashed Spoonflower fan. :-)

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Stitch Love Review

If you read Mollie Johanson's blog, Wild Olive, then you know she creates a whimsical world where anything can become a friendly character. Stitch Love is a perfect extension of the blog, adding that visual style to a series of sweet sewing-and-embroidery projects.


Stitch Love Review

Stitch Love Review

The 25 projects are all useful items and toys, with a few decorative pieces for fun. All involve some simple machine sewing that a beginner could tackle confidently, especially with the instructions being a nice combo of text and diagrams.


Stitch Love Review

Stitch Love Review

Stitch Love Review

Each project also includes some stitchery to add a little zing or, more importantly, a sweet smiley face that gives the project personality.

...And speaking of beginners, I think Mollie's embroidered designs are very beginner-friendly, too. The book has a thorough Basics section covering several ways to transfer designs to fabric, plus some simple embroidery stitches that pair perfectly with these designs.


Stitch Love Review

Stitch Love Review


To me, one of the great strengths of Stitch Love is in the collection of over 100 embroidery motifs in the back. Mollie's grouped these by themes, such as Pets, Farm Animals, Prairie, Arctic, and Outback. You get to see what each design looks like when stitched, and then you get the line drawings that you can photocopy at any size you want. (Or, you can also download full-size templates from the publisher's website.) They're all absolutely adorable.


Stitch Love Review

Stitch Love Review

When I first saw these pages of cuties, my first thought was, "Oh, clearly they all want to be hanging out together!" And so I used my phone camera to photograph the motifs I liked. Then I imported those photos into a drawing program on my computer so I could resize them relative to each other.



Stitch Love Review

Stitch Love Book Review

...And then I printed those pictures and used them to trace the designs onto tea towels so I could stitch them.

I love how these turned out! I love how the critters all form a kind of story together. I could see these guys grouped around the hem of a little girl's skirt, or across a coverlet, or even as the basis for a soft fabric picture book.

...And with this one book, you could easily embroider up cute gifties for everyone you know - there's such a wide array of critters to choose from. Picture napkins, table runners, pillow cases, tote bags and backpacks. Just have fun!


Stitch Love Review


If you'd like a taste of what this book has to offer, I highly recommend a visit to Mollie's blog, where she shares cute free patterns often. Along with a metric ton of charm.


(Disclosure Time: Lark Crafts sent me a review copy, and I'm a Wild Olive/Mollie fan. There! Now you know!)

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The Lap App The Lap App
The Lap App The Lap App

So, I went to Quilt Market recently. I'll admit, I'm not one to get too hopped up about all the newest and coolest fabrics and whizbang gadgets. But I was lucky enough to meet Joyce and William Haskins there, and they invited me to road test their wonderful invention: The Lap App.

Since I spend so much time hand-sewing, I'm always looking for ways to make that more comfortable. Sometimes I'm in an easy chair watching TV, sometimes I'm in a car or on a train, and sometimes I'm out at a cafe. It's not always easy to keep track of my tools while keeping my work close enough to my (aging) eyes so I can see it, all while preventing my shoulders from tensing up.

This is where the Lap App starts solving problems. It's a lightweight-but-sturdy lap desk that has two adjustment angles, so you can position it in infinite ways so it's just right for your body and the craft you're working on.


The Lap App

The desk surface is lightly padded for comfort - a lovely working surface for things like applique, reverse applique, EPP, or hand-sewing of any kind.

There's also a handy pocket for your scissors! Joyce is a longtime quilter and sewist, and you can tell she's really thought through all the details of what's useful.


The Lap App

In the photos at the top of this post, you may have noticed some spindles sticking up from the base. What are those? They're thread-holders, of course! And next to them, an embedded magnet to trap your pins and needles. (This is one of my favorite features - I can pop my needle on there, set the Lap App aside to go get more coffee, and come back and there it is.)


The Lap App

...That brings us to the deeper features of The Lap App. Pull off the cover, and underneath you'll find a piece of very fine-grain sandpaper laminated to the top. That's a dandy, no-slip surface for tracing and marking fabrics. I've been using it to make fussy-cut tracings for my EPP, and how lovely it is to be able to do that stuff on the go! Usually I have to save my fussies to work on when I'm at home at my table.


The Lap App

The set also comes with a cute little ironing cover. Pop off the cotton cover, slip this baby on, and you can do all kinds of close pressing or fusing work with your mini iron.


The Lap App

The thing I love best here is that this unit collapses down to a very portable size - easy to tuck into your tote for a crafternoon somewhere.

...And in the interest of thoroughness, I busted out my postal scale and weighed it: 1 pound, 14 ounces.


The Lap App in Action

Here's my Lap App in action as I hang out on my bed sewing and watching Food Network Star, complete with red socks (keeping it real). I've worked on several projects using this tool, and I absolutely love the comfort it provides.

Not only that, the base makes a handy place to slip small items like bags of EPP templates, glue sticks, etc so they don't scatter all over the place while I'm working. If you do lots of hand-work, I highly recommend picking up one of these babies.

You (or the person in charge of your holiday gift wish list) can visit The Lap App website and order one, or check with your local quilt shop.

EPP Octagon Doll Quilt

This project was an unexpected creative journey from start to finish, and a great illustration of the meandering, make-it-up-as-you-go-along way I like to work.


Izabella Peters Fabrics

It all started when the nice people at Izabella Peters contacted me and offered me some of their new fabrics to play with. These are digitally printed, so at first I was hesitant. I've tried several digitally-printed fabrics in my EPP, but they always have a coating on them from the print process that makes hand-stitching very hard going.


Izabella Peters Fabrics

...But the company suggested I play with ways to make the fabric more malleable, so I jumped at the chance. I selected this pretty range of baby blue prints specifically because these are colors I almost never work with. (If we're experimenting here, I thought, let's go all the way.)

...So happily, making the fabrics soft enough for hand stitching was as simple as washing them with a little detergent and borax, and then drying them in a hot dryer. The Izabella Peters lines are printed on a nice hefty woven cotton base, but it works fine with a sharp needle.


EPP Octagon Doll Quilt

Then it was time to start playing around with a design. These prints are somewhat large in scale, so I thought an octagon shape, which has a lot of surface area, might be a good pairing. But I wasn't thrilled with only plain octagons, so I started looking at how I could piece some of them. That's where the striped fabric came in. I liked using it as a frame for the smallest print elements.


EPP Octagon Doll Quilt

So for a while, I just made octagons in the six fabrics, playing with how fussy cuts and piecing could showcase the most interesting bits. And after a while, I had enough of them that the whole thing started to resemble some kind of quilt.

(I rarely like to decide what I'm making at the start of a project. I prefer to play with shapes first and then see what those shapes tell me they want to be. It's not the most efficient way to design, but it sure is a good time.)


EPP Octagon Doll Quilt

I decided to anchor the quilt around those stripey-framed octagons, because they were the boldest and most unlike the other patches. Then I just let my other patches fall randomly in the spaces between. And after playing with several colors in the little squares between octagons, I decided I liked the sparkle created by several hues.

I pieced until I started running low on striped fabric. Then I decided my quilt would need to be a doll quilt instead. (Theoretically it could also be a baby quilt, but there's noooooo way my hundreds of hours of hand-sewing are ever getting near an actual, fluid-spewing baby. No offense to spewing babies, of course.)


EPP Octagon Doll Quilt

To finish things off, I decided to make an EPP edging, which is something I covered in All Points Patchwork. I made this one a little differently, because I wanted to quilt my quilt before adding the edge.

...So I pressed the finished top well, especially around the outer edges. Then I peeled out all the paper templates, and pressed again. Normally, it's a dicey proposition to remove templates from the edges of an EPP project before it's finished. But the way I baste my templates, I leave in the basting when I remove the paper. And that holds the shapes together around those outer edges nicely.


EPP Octagon Doll Quilt

With all the paper out, I sandwiched, thread-basted, and quilted. For this kind of edging, it's best to keep your quilting a good 1/2" away from all edges. (Or, to put a finer point on it, no quilting off the edges!)


EPP Octagon Doll Quilt

Then I carefully trimmed the backing and batting so they followed the scalloped edge of the top, but just a little smaller. (If you try this, just keep checking and re-checking that you're not cutting into your beautiful quilt top at the same time.)


EPP Octagon Doll Quilt

EPP Octagon Doll Quilt

...Then I made a large EPP ring of octagons and squares like you see above, using the quilt top as a pattern. And then I placed it right sides together with the quilt and whipstitched all the way around the outer edge. Remember, the outer edges of the quilt have no stiffening paper templates at this point. So it requires a little extra attention to make sure all the edges are lining up well, and that you're easing the segments to the same length where needed.


EPP Octagon Doll Quilt

With the border piece sewn on, then I removed its templates and turned it right side out. That flips the border to the back. I gave it a good pressing all the way around, and then slip-stitched the inner edge to the back of the quilt.


EPP Octagon Doll Quilt

...Aaaand lastly, I machine-sewed through all layers about 3/8" from the edge of the quilt, just to give the outer scallops a little crispness.


EPP Octagon Doll Quilt

I'm really enamored with my little project. It's something I would never have arrived at if I hadn't just started messing about with stuff I don't normally do. And now I have a little more comfort with baby blues and pinks, and some new ways to use octagons in my toolkit.

If my next cat turns out to be very feminine, she might just inherit this piece. :-)


EPP Octagon Doll Quilt

Many thanks to Izabella Peters for touching off a really nice creative journey. (You can see all the fabric ranges, including some lovely Christmas things, over here.)

getstartedquilting1

It's been forever since I last reviewed a craft book. So let's get back on the horse with a really excellent one: Jessica Alexandrakis' Get Started Quilting: The Complete Beginner Guide.

You may remember Jessica from her book on English Paper Piecing, Quilting on the Go, which is one of my favorites. I was excited to learn that she was working on a basic quilt-making book with Interweave, because she has a wonderful way of teaching technical processes while at the same time inviting you to play and add your own creative stamp.


getstartedquilting2

This shot of the title page summarizes the book's approach nicely: Jessica leads you through 22 different methods for making quilt blocks. Each one teaches you specific basic skills, and as you work your way through an master them, you can start combining the blocks in all kinds of ways to make amazing quilts. Here's a partial (and impressive) list:

  • Strip piecing
  • Chain piecing
  • Half square triangles
  • Quarter square triangles
  • Bias-edge triangles
  • Blocks on point
  • Flying geese blocks
  • Curved piecing
  • Foundation paper piecing
  • Whipstitched applique
  • Reverse applique
  • Hawaiian applique
  • Applique with patterned fabrics
  • English paper piecing
  • Improvisational piecing (several methods)



  • getstartedquilting3

    I think Jessica writes about choosing, curating, and using a fabric stash better than anyone. Her section on fabrics covers so many helpful ideas: using an inspiration board, mixing fabrics for best impact in a quilt, using a color wheel, paying attention to contrast, scale, direction, and intensity when combining fabrics, plus storing and sorting your fabrics. Really good advice for beginners without making the subject of fabric feel overwhelming.


    getstartedquilting4

    getstartedquilting5

    I applaud Jessica's thorough coverage of the basics in this book. I've made no secret of my frustration with craft books that present a collection of pretty projects while giving the foundation techniques a glancing pass. In Get Started Quilting, you get several pages of step-by-step photo guides to using a ruler and rotary cutter to make common fabric cuts for quilt-making. And you get some of the best-documented instructions I've seen on the all-important sandwiching and basting steps of making a quilt.

    These techniques can make or break a quilt, and they take a little practice to master. This book offers a thorough, encouraging guide through them.


    getstartedquilting7

    So then, moving on to the techniques from that list above… each one is presented in the format of a specific quilt block, such as this one that teaches how to piece with bias-edge triangles. The section starts with fabric suggestions and a cutting guide.


    getstartedquilting6

    Next, you get a "Design Wall" section that shows this block in a couple different quilt configurations, both on its own and combined with another block in the book.


    getstartedquilting8

    …And finally, you get beautifully-documented instructions for assembling the block, with lots of useful hints and tips.


    getstartedquilting11

    As you work your way through the book, mastering block after block, you can build a sampler quilt like this one. There's a full set of project instructions for constructing one.

    (And just a side note: Jessica has done a beautiful job of fabric selection throughout, using a bold color palette that shows these blocks to advantage while mantaining a lovely visual flow through the whole book.)


    getstartedquilting9

    getstartedquilting10

    In addition to the sampler quilt, the book also offers four other smaller-scale projects: a pillow, a sewing machine cover, a table runner and a doll quilt and pillow. Good basics that you could make over and over again using different blocks from the book to get different looks.

    This is what I call a really smart integration of projects into a technique-based book!


    getstartedquilting12

    …And then lastly, there's a super-useful math reference, covering how to estimate fabric yardage for a project, plus standard sizes for beds, quilts, and packaged batting. You also get several pages of actual-size templates needed for the various blocks.

    All in all, this is a spectacular book for beginning-to-intermediate quilters. It's thorough, it's friendly, and it covers so much variety, there will be something new to learn from it for a good long time.


    (Disclosure Time: Interweave sent me a review copy, and the title links here are affiliate links.)

Categories: 

Mini Pumpkins

Halloween-EPP-Blog-Hop-Button-250We're entering the home stretch with these monthly All Points Patchwork blog hops - just one to go after this one!

...But this month, we're all about Halloween. I think English paper piecing and Halloween go well together because the contrasty color scheme lends itself well to complex patchwork designs, and Halloween fabrics can be such fun to fussy-cut.

We have an all-star cast for this hop:



...And the linky below will update all week with links to their awesome Halloween projects. Check back often, and Happy Halloween!

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