Diane's blog

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

Setting aside for a moment the fact that I can't comprehend how it's summer already, here's a cute summer EPP project for you! I was playing around with shapes one day, and landed on this embellished hexagon that looked just like one of those inflatable pool rings to me. So I added a pool and stitched it to a readymade flour-sack tea towel.

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

I wanted this to be another instant-gratification kind of project; something you could easily piece during a leisurely afternoon in your favorite summertime spot.

You'll Need:

  • • One cotton tea towel (If you can't find them locally, here they are online.)
  • • Fabric scraps (more on that below)
  • • Hand-sewing needle, white thread
  • • Paper EPP templates (download 'em here)
  • • Glue stick
  • • Sewing machine (for the applique part)

This is an original EPP template I made. Just download this PDF, print it out, and carefully cut all the pices out on the lines. The more accurately you cut, the better your pieces will fit together later.

In terms of fabric, I used some little scraps of white and orange solid for my "pool ring," and Robert Kaufmen Metro Living Circles in Turquoise to represent the "pool." (I think you could also get away with plenty of other white-and-blue geometric or abstract prints.)

…And in fact, you could also use more colors than orange in the pool ring. Cool, right?

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

Okay. So you'll need to baste the fabrics to the templates as shown above. This video walks you through the basting process. For patches this size, I recommend basting through the fabric only, not the paper templates. (That's the first method covered in the video.)

Notice how the diamond and triangle-shaped patches have little flags of fabric sticking out at their corners?

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

Those flags aren't anything to worry about. They'll get in your way from time to time as you sew your patches together (top photo above), but you can always fold them aside (bottom photo above).

(Yes, I am reminded once again that I really should take two seconds to apply hand lotion before photographing tutorials. Sigh.)

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

The easiest way to sew the pieces together is to sew one white triangle to each orange diamond first. But wait! There's a caveat!

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

It's important to make sure you're matching the correct edges together. So, when you're pairing up a triangle and diamond, take a moment to make sure their sides match in length. If they don't, try turning the triangle to another side, or try a different triangle.

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

With the outer units assembled, it's time to sew them to the central hexagon. I like to do this in two steps: first sewing all the pieces around the edges of the hexie, and then sewing all the little side seams between them. (If you need help with EPP sewing basics, there's a video for that.)

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

When the EPP is all sewn together, give it a good pressing with a hot steam iron. And press all those little fabric flags to the wrong side, so they're hidden from the front.

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

…Then you can take out the paper templates, and give the whole thing another good pressing. (Here's a video on how to remove templates, by the way.)

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

Now, cut a 6" square from your "pool" fabric. Turn under 1/4" along all four edges. Above is my lazy-girl way of doing that: I run a basting stitch 1/4" from the edges, and then use that as a guide for folding and pressing the edge under. Fold the corners over first, and then fold the sides over them, and you get a nice miter.

…And if you fold your basting just to the inside, like this, then you can get away with leaving it in there. (I mean, lazy!)

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

Machine applique the square to one corner of your tea towel. (If your towel has a hanging loop built in, then it makes sense to applique to the opposite corner.) Pin the square down securely, and stitch 1/8" from all four edges.

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

Lastly, pin the EPP unit over the center of the square, and stitch 1/8" from all of its edges to applique it down. As you do, try very hard not to disturb the sleeping cat behind of your sewing machine. He's had a long night, and needs his beauty rest.

EPP Pool Party Tea Towel Tutorial

...And that's it! Happy Piecing, and Applique-ing!


Stylish Skirts, by Sato Watanabe

In my last book review I went off on a tangent about how few books there seem to be for intermediate and advanced sewists. And then this one showed up in my mail!

I've reviewed one other book by Sato Watanabe, whose whose work is translated into English and released by Tuttle. I'm a big fan of her garment design sensibility, and I like how efficient her books are at presenting both finished garments and instructions.

Stylish Skirts, by Sato Watanabe

Stylish Skirts: 23 Simple Designs to Flatter Every Figure is a collection that ranges from casual to tailored to fashion-forward. (I'll get to all that in a moment).

Interestingly, it's a book with no size chart. These skirt styles are designed to work on a range of bodies – using elastic or drawstring waistbands, or no waistbands at all, along with wrap skirts and panel skirts.

As a U.S. reader, however, I do have to take a tiny bit of exception to the "Flatter Every Figure" part of the title. Some of these designs do have a lot of size flexibility, but the more tailored ones just wouldn't work with the wider range of body sizes we have here. I suspect that in Japan, where this book was originally published, there may be less variation in body type than we see here. (It's hard to tell for sure, but I imagine that a U.S. size S - L could wear any of these skirts, given some pattern adjustments.)

So, I don't think this is a book for everyone, but I do think it has a lot of merit.

Stylish Skirts, by Sato Watanabe

…So definitely, you'll need to know your way around simple pattern alterations, and you'll want to make muslins before cutting into your project fabrics. (There are no instructions in the book for either. Like I said, intermediate sewists and beyond!)

There is a page in the center of the book, where the author offers a few suggestions for altering these patterns "for those of you who are well-rounded in the waist-hip area." (i.e, me.)

I do love all these designs. Sato Watanabe always has some great added detail that elevates the simplest garment.

Stylish Skirts, by Sato Watanabe

There are several intriguing asymmetrical skirts, playing with the arrangement of gathers, or the shape of a hemline, or panels of draped fabric.

(I will say: quite a few of the design samples are made in dark fabrics, which makes it a little hard to see the details in photographs. So I'm showing you a pretty narrow selection here. Sorry!)

Stylish Skirts, by Sato Watanabe

There are some really elegant uses of trim and embroidery in here – note the purple skirt up above as well as this one.

In case you haven't noticed, all the samples are presented on a dress form – ultimate simplicity.

Stylish Skirts, by Sato Watanabe

Actually, let me take a short break from showing you skirts, so I can show you how patterns are handled in this book. There are no printed pattern sheets. Instead, there are detailed diagrams for drafting your own pattern.

If I have a quibble, it's this: I think that, if there are no garment sizes being used here, it would have been nice to at least have some dimensions of the finished skirts as made from the the drafting diagrams. That way, I could compare them easily to my own measurements and get a sense of fit, and how I'd need to alter the pattern.

Stylish Skirts, by Sato Watanabe

Anyway. Here's one of the tailored designs. Really some lovely interpretations of the good old A-line here.

Stylish Skirts, by Sato Watanabe

…And here's one of the two balloon-style skirts. Out of the 23 designs, five (including this one) require lining, and the book gives some general instructions on best ways to do that.

Stylish Skirts, by Sato Watanabe

Here's a sample cutting diagram. And I should add that the instructions give pretty specific recommendations as to the best type of fabric for each patterm, which is something I always like to see in garment books.

Stylish Skirts, by Sato Watanabe

Interestingly, the sewing instructions are all in diagram form, with short text labels as you see here. No accompanying written instructions. I tend to like this treatment in sewing, which is why I have so many Japanese books. Visuals really work for me. The presentation is very simple and clear, but again, I think a pretty good working knowledge of garment construction is necessary.

Stylish Skirts, by Sato Watanabe

One last shot showing how much information is contained in a couple pages. If you're tired of beginner books and want a nice collection of go-to skirts, this one's worth a look.

(Disclosures: Tuttle sent me a review copy, and the title link above is an affiliate link.)


After the Edit

Image by Laura Ritchie, via Flickr. I thought it was hilarious, but should say, I've never had an editing experience remotely like this one.

In the past couple weeks, I've been in the editing phase of my forthcoming book. (Spring 2015!) And this is a phase of the book-authoring process I don't think I've seen anyone write about. Probably because it's not all that glamorous! But I do like to lift the curtain on the whole process for those who dream of book-writing, so I'll share a bit of what it's like.

The editing phase is the first moment in a book project where you start making a big transition, from the solitary hours you spent making and writing your book into a new collaborative space with many other professionals. It can be a little unnerving the first time, especially if you're used to blogging or tutorial/pattern writing, where you get to make all the decisions.

tsny los angeles

Image by Laura Bittner, via Flickr

…Not that you'd want to make all the decisions involved in producing a book by yourself! Making a craft instruction book requires a staggering number of them. I mean, you've made what feels like one million creative decisions designing the projects, and another million linguistic and grammatical ones as you write the text. But that's just the beginning. Your editorial team has editorial decisions to make about how your work will be structured and presented overall. Then there are spelling, punctuation, and clarity decisions to make as the copyeditor goes to work.

Your photographer, stylist, and/or illustrator have all kinds of decisions to make related to making your work look great and communicate well. The designers have decisions to make about how your work will be expressed visually in terms of typefaces, colors, page layout, and illustration. And later, they'll wrestle with decisions about making everything fit on pages in a logical order.

Book-making is truly a team sport, and here you are in the lineup.


It's a tricky space to be in, because on the one hand, you're very fortunate to have all these professionals working with you and making your book better. And on the other hand, you've put so much love and work into your book, it's hard sometimes to let other people play in your sandbox. That's a perfectly human reaction, and I end up having it with every book, even as I deeply appreciate my whole editorial team.

The important thing to remember is, your publisher is making a significant financial investment in you. (How much does it cost to professionally edit, design, print, and distribute a book, let alone pay you an advance? A whole lot.) Your publisher, then, has every right for this book to represent them as well you. And that means working within their grammatical standards and presentation style. Hopefully, before you chose a publisher, you made sure their style worked with yours. And hopefully they did the same in choosing you.

Track changes look like this. Everyone who changes the text shows up as a different color in the margin, and every little change shows up in its own time-stamped notation.

Your view of your book during this editing phase of the process isn't particularly beautiful – orderliness is way more important at this stage. Your publisher will send you a copy of your manuscript that has been combed through by one or more editors – depending on the book, this might include a development editor, a technical editor, and a copy editor. (Some publishers will have several editors look it over before you see it, and others will send it through one editor, then to you, then another editor, then back to you, and so on.)

You communicate with these editors via something called "track changes" or "track comments," which are automated notations that live in your manuscript. When you or an editor type something new in your MS, an automatic note appears in the track changes column. And you can also insert comments that point to specific blocks of text. Your editors will use these to ask you questions or point out things they think aren't clear enough, and it's your job to answer or address them all.

A sample track comment, and my response.

Sometimes your MS will contain tons of track comments, sometimes only a few. The number isn't any reflection on how knowledgeable or talented you are – although it's easy to forget that sometimes, and assume that every comment means that you suck in some fresh way. But nobody involved is trying to break you down; they're trying to make your book better.

That said, track comments can sound a bit terse. They aren't the place for humorous asides or rambling – they need to be short and to the point. Which, I won't lie, makes reading them sometimes feel a little like being scolded. But they're never meant that way, and you can't take them personally. Your book is now a business entity, and it's time to keep a business mindset. (Not that this is always easy when you've put so much of yourself into this book.)

I do find it helpful to be very, very kind to myself during the edit phase of a book – a little extra chocolate, a nice walk in the park, a fabric splurge. A little self-care helps keep you from getting too emotional.

A. Nachronism

Image by Andrew Becraft, via Flickr

Usually, you'll find that you agree with many of the track changes your editors have made. (And more than once, your editors will totally save your patootie by catching a big error somewhere in your text.) But invariably, you'll run across a few changes you don't agree with. And here's where it's time to take a step back and "choose your battles wisely." Not that you're battling here! But you are deciding what is and is not worth arguing over.

As I said before, your publisher has a right to have this book represent their style and standards – and sometimes this means they'll want things said differently than you'd say them. I think this is particularly true when you're an author who's primarily a blogger, because in blogging, it's okay to write in a conversational style, using grammar and punctuation creatively to express mood and meaning. That kind of thing has to be balanced with professional style standards. (Although personally, I think few things can suck the life out of a sentence more efficiently than rigidly correct grammar.)

Sharing Flavored, Colored Ice

Image by clappstar, via Flickr

Anyway. When I come across changes my editors have made that I disagree with, I have to stop and assess how strongly I actually feel about it. Even now, in the fourth book project I've worked on, my knee-jerk reaction to these things is often "Stop Killing My Baby!!" Which is irrational and unprofessional. So I take a breath and ask myself: am I merely irritated that I can't use a semicolon in my own special way? Or do I truly feel like the edit is fundamentally compromising my meaning?

I also find it helpful to keep a separate running list of the edits I disagree with. Then, when I'm all done editing the manuscript, I can go back over that list and see if I'm feeling differently about any of them. (Sometimes fatigue or low blood sugar create annoyance that magically vanishes later.)

When I've narrowed down to a list of the changes I truly think are worth disputing, I then take my time crafting my notes back to my editor. Rather than saying "No way! You can't change that!", I try to explain why I think the change doesn't work. And I try to suggest one or more alternative solutions. That gives my editor and I a jumping off point to forge a good compromise.

Focus on the Point

Image by Steve, via Flickr

Incidentally, this edit phase is also a great opportunity to see your book with fresh eyes (since usually, several months elapse between turning in the MS and receiving an edited copy back.) If, as you're reading, you think something needs a revamp, this is the time to speak! Don't wait and see if someone else notices. This is the last time it's easy and inexpensive for the publisher to make changes to your book, so act on your impulses. Discuss any major changes you're considering with your editors – they're there to help.

(And in case it's useful, I always, always find at least one sentence in every manuscript that makes me facepalm and groan, "Gah! What was I thinking when I wrote that?!")

happy FUTAB, on a trellis

Image by tracy ducasse, via Flickr

Time is also a really important factor. I don't think too many of us can operate in our edit-brain for hours and hours at a time – editing is fatiguing. The trick is to cultivate enough freshness that your impressions of your work will be similar to those of an average reader. And when you're deeply, intricately bonded with the work, that's freaking tricky. I can only work on my edits for a couple hours at a time, and then I have to step away for quite a while and refresh.

If you're lucky (and I am right now), your publisher will give you a deadline with enough room in it to allow for these breaks. Though honestly, in my book-writing experience, this isn't always the case.

From here, your book moves on to the design and layout phase of the process. The next time you see it, it'll be pretty! (I'm so excited to see how mine turns out, I can hardly stand it.)


Remember this series? It's been gone for a while, but I recently had a chance to interview Lisa Clarke, and jumped at it. She's a true creative soul and a great photographer.

(As with all Image-Only Interviews, you can mouse over any image below and get more details on it.)

What are you thinking about most in your creative life these days?

I'm on a sewing kick

All images in this post by Lisa Clarke.

What colors show up again and again in your work?

Blueish greens and yellowish greens

Show us one tiny detail from your work that you love.

This is my favorite flower from my favorite crochet blanket

What is the most organized part of your stash right now?

Organized is relative. But it's the yarn. Definitely the yarn.

What is one of your creative goals for 2014?

To self-publish a crochet book

If you had one creative wish for everyone, what would it be?

More time in the day

Any advice on keeping creativity flowing, even when life gets busy?

Have a small project you can take with you

Here's a new video in my PC Basics series, covering how to build a simple box from start to finish. You can use this method to make any size square or rectangle box, with any kind of stitching on it you like.

I also threw in some tips for managing yarn tangles, ending yarn strands, and getting better coverage at corner points.

The whole series is over on the YouTubes.

The Manly Quilt

I have a younger brother. I don't mention him here often – I love him dearly, but we live on pretty different planets. We only grew up together for a short time, and nowadays we see each other once in five years if we're lucky. We try to keep in touch, but that can be challenging. We're just people with not much shared history. We honestly don't know each other all that well.

I was excited to have the chance to make him a T-shirt quilt – there are so few opportunities to do anything meaningful for him. But when I received his box of shirts in the mail, I was all "Hmmmmmmm. What the heck am I gonna do with these?!" They're all black, grey, and army green. They have liquor companies, a tattoo parlor, a firearms manufacturer, and other equally masculine things on them. How to blend all that with the warmth, comfort, and prettiness a quilt "should" have?


But in taking photos for Instagram, I found that I actually quite liked the range of hues in the shirts, and the weathered quality of their graphics. And I reminded myself that what I like in a quilt doesn't matter so much here. These shirts represent his life, and so should his quilt.

So I decided to go with it, and keep the whole thing neutral with no added colors. I gave it a hashtag: #manlyquilt. Once I had that moniker, I was 100% into the adventure.


I had a little challenge in that the quilt blocks these shirts yielded were huge – my bro is, after all, a strapping bodybuilder kind of guy. But with such big blocks, it was impossible to create any cohesion in the design. So ultimately, I took the two shirts with the biggest and most nondescript designs and cut them into narrower slices. Popping these between the larger blocks really helped it all hang together. (And I hope the folks at Xtreme Couture will forgive me.)

The more I worked on this project, the more I loved it. It was a big step outside my design comfort zone, and a fun opportunity to converse with my brother (via text message, our preferred channel). I'd send him in-progress pics, and get back an "[Expletive] Sweet!" – high praise – and then I'd feel newly excited.. He really seems to like the thing, which, even as I type this, makes me tear up a bit.

As I'm sure many of you can relate, there's a big swath of my family to whom my crafty and bloggy existence means little. What an awesome opportunity to use these skills in a bandwidth my brother and I can both relate to – not to mention, to think of him chilling out under this thing, watching TV on a cold night.


My bro is not a cat-lover (see what I mean about the different planets?), so of course I've been tormenting him with pictures of Pushkin anointing the finished quilt. "Get that [expletive] cat off my quilt!" he replies. And I cackle.

In all seriousness, though, making this thing has felt a lot like getting to hang out with my brother for a week, and that's been wonderful. If you have far-away loved ones, I can't recommend this experience highly enough: get them to ship you a dozen or so t-shirts, and turn them into an emissary of your love. You'll both benefit.

(If you want to learn how to make a T-shirt quilt, remember you can RSVP to be reminded of when my CreativeLIVE class broadcasts.)



This is one of those projects that had many points of genesis. First, I've been decluttering lately and got rid of all my assorted vases. Then someone gave me flowers, and I was all, "Oh crap, I have nothing nice to put these in." And then, given that I'm making quilts like crazy these days, I've been wishing for a really quick EPP project to relax with. And then, I was washing out an empty peanut butter jar for the recycle bin one day, and all these little data points came together in my head with a bang. Result: The Instavase!

You'll Need:

  • • A clean, fairly large jar from your recycle bin – glass or plastic
  • • Several pretty quilting cotton scraps
  • • Two large scraps of linen, or quilting cotton, or both
  • • One scrap of batting
  • • Diamond English paper piecing templates (see below)
  • • Hand-sewing needle
  • • Thread that coordinates with your fabrics
  • • About 5" of elastic cord
  • • Removable fabric marking pen
  • • Two 1" sew-through buttons

EPP Instavase Tutorial

First, we need to get the dimensions of your Instavase wrap. Measure the circumference of your empty jar. Then add another 2" to cover seam allowances and overlap. (So I'm using a fairly standard peanut butter jar here, which is 11" around. Adding another 2", I get 13" in length.)

How tall does your wrap need to be? Again, measure your jar. You're looking for a height that covers most of it. Then add another 1/2" to cover seam allowances. (My jar needs 3 3/4" in height to cover. Adding the extra 1/2", I get 4 1/4".)

EPP Instavase Tutorial

Cut two pieces of fabric to these dimensions. I'm using one piece of linen and one of quilting cotton, but you can make them both the same. Also, cut a piece of batting that's 1/4" smaller on all sides. (Instead of doing math, I just cut the batting to the same size as the fabric and then lop off the extra 1/4" from each edge. Because I'm lazy like that.)

EPP Instavase Tutorial

Now, make some EPP! I'm using a 1 3/4", 60-degree diamond template here. You can print my free PDF template and cut them out, or buy readymade templates online.

EPP Instavase Tutorial

The number of diamonds you'll need depends on your jar. For my peanut butter jar, I needed 11. Just lay your paper diamond templates out on top of your cut fabric and see how many of them fit. Remember to leave space at the edges for a 1/4" seam allowance. My diamonds come right to the edges of that size. If you want less of a tight tolerance in your seams, you can reduce the size of the diamond templates a little.

This video explains how to baste the templates. I'm basting through the fabric only here – the first method shown in that video. This video explains how to sew the patches together.

EPP Instavase Tutorial

For diamonds arranged horizontally like this, I like to sew two long zig-zag seams: one that attaches the top row to the middle one, and one that attaches the bottom row.

I opted to arrange my fabrics fairly scrappily here, but feel free to come up with a more formal arrangement of colors if you like.

EPP Instavase Tutorial

Now you have a pretty applique unit, full of nicely-matching points. While the paper templates are still in there, give the whole thing a good pressing with a hot steam iron. Aim to flatten out all the patches.

EPP Instavase Tutorial

Then, take a look at those points of seam allowance that stick out from the edges. We need to hide those puppies, so fold them to the back of the work and press them well.

Do the same thing at the ends of the strip – fold the flags at the tips over so they're hidden. (If you see any fabric sticking out at the edges of these points after pressing, you carefully can trim it away.)

Now that everything's neat and pretty, you can take out the paper templates. This video explains how. Then press the strip one more time once all the templates are out.

EPP Instavase Tutorial

Now we'll applique and do a little quilting. So pin the batting to the wrong side of the fabric you're using for the front of the wrap, centering it there. Then pin the applique unit you've made to the right side, centering that as well. Use plenty of pins so it won't move around as you're sewing.

Incidentally, these little shorty applique pins are dandy - they let you pin all over without needing to move the pins around during sewing.

EPP Instavase Tutorial

Machine stitch 1/8" away from all edges of the applique strip. Then, make some additional quilting stitches as you like. I decided to follow the shapes of the diamonds, but you can really do anything you like – including not quilting it at all!

EPP Instavase Tutorial

Now let's make an elastic loop closure. Cut two 2 1/4" lengths of elastic cord. At the right side of your finished top, measure 1" in from the top and bottom edges and make a mark with a removable marking pen.

Bend one piece of elastic cord at its center, pressing the fold with your fingers to help the cord hold it better. Place the folded cord on top of the first mark you made, lining up the raw edges of cord and fabric. Baste over the cord with about a 1/8" seam allowance, reversing your stitching once to make it more secure. Repeat this process with the other piece of cord, basting it over the second mark you made.

EPP Instavase Tutorial

Pin the finished top to the backing fabric now, right sides facing. Sew around all four edges with a 1/4" seam allowance, leaving about a 3" gap near the center of the bottom edge. Your seam will catch those elastic cord loops.

Clip the four corners and turn the whole thing right side out. Poke a bodkin or chopstick into the corners to make them nice and sharp. Then press the whole thing flat. The elastic loops should now be sticking out from one side.

EPP Instavase Tutorial

If you like, stitch 1/8" from all four sides – that will finish the edge nicely and close the opening. Or if you'd rather not, then just close the opening with a ladder stitch. (Wendi Gratz has a great tutorial for that.)

EPP Instavase Tutorial

Wrap the Instavase around your jar now, overlapping the looped edge on top. Use a removable fabric marker to make a dot inside each of the loops. These marks are where you'll sew on the buttons.

Sew two buttons to the non-looped edge of the Instavase, right over each of your marks.

EPP Instavase Tutorial

Aaaaand you're done! Go get some flowers!