Diane's blog

CraftyPod started as a podcast back in 2005, and after adding a blog in '06, was my online home for ten years. Here, I explored creativity, the ins and outs of running my small design and writing business, and my life as a maker.

I closed CraftyPod in 2015. You're now looking at a simplified version, containing a sampling of my design and instructional writing. I've done my best to make sure all links are working, but the internet moves quickly. (And please keep in mind that at one time, a 2 megapixel camera was state-of-the-art.)

I hope you enjoy this bit of time travel!

Tumbler Fish: a Free EPP Pattern

The EPP Borders Blog HopI couldn't resist adding my two cents to the EPP Borders Blog Hop, even though I wasn't an official participant.

Several weeks ago, I had one of those flashes of inspiration and came up with the idea of turning tumbler patches into little fishies. They work perfectly! And so I contacted the lovely folks at Paper Pieces, where I get my tumbler templates, and offered them a free Tumbler Fish pattern to share on their website.

Tumbler Fish, a Free English Paper Piecing PatternThey said yes, and so I came up with five cool designs for these fishies, some fabric suggestions, and a sheet of tumbler graph paper for designing on, and set up a free PDF - which you can grab right over here.

I think these little guys work a lot like hexie flowers - they're easy to assemble, and then you can make all kinds of designs with them depending on how you arrange your fabrics. And there are good opportunities to use fussy cuts on the body and tail sections!

Tumbler Fish, a Free EPP Pattern

Tumbler Fish: a Free EPP Pattern

For this baby blanket, I used a few rows from "School of Fish," one of the five designs in the free pattern, and then added an extra row of background fabrics along the top and bottom edges. I made my fish out of random scraps, and used five blue background fabrics (some subtle prints and some solids), mixing them up randomly.

(This is a good moment to mention that these fish work great with any size tumbler template - 1/2" long, 1", 1 1/2", or 2". It all depends on how big your project is and how big you want your fish. I'm using 1 1/2" tumblers here.)

Tumbler Fish Baby Blanket

I made a 33" long strip, which was a little longer than the width of my readymade baby blanket. My original plan was to have the patchwork go all the way to the bottom and both side edges of the blanket. But then the blanket I'd ordered arrived, and lo and behold, it had a blanket-stitched edge and rounded corners. Oops!

Tumbler Fish Baby Blanket

So I decided to simply have the patchwork strip fit within the end of the blanket. I whipped out my seam ripper and shortened it a bit. In craft and in life, curveballs show up and we improvise. :-)

Tumbler Fish Baby Blanket

I pressed my finished EPP border carefully, making sure I pressed all the sticky-out bits along the edges to the back (as you can see on the right side, above). Then I peeled out the templates, and pressed the whole thing once again.

Tumbler Fish Baby Blanket

I decided to embroider my fish eyes, so I used a circle template and a heat-soluble Frixion pen to draw a circle on each fish. Then I outlined each circle with a tiny back stitch and filled in with satin stitch.

Tumbler Fish Baby Blanket

I didn't want to use an embroidery hoop for fear of stretching my patchwork out of shape. So instead I simply stitched on the unstretched fabric. This is a technique I figured out from pure laziness, and I use it whenever I have just a tiny bit of stitching to do and a hoop is impractical. You can see in the photo how I'm holding the fabric; and I'm very gently pulling it taut with my fingers. Then when I stitch, I'm careful not to pull those stitches too tight.

Tumbler Fish Baby Blanket

From there, it was super straightforward - EPP borders are like that. First I placed the border on my blanket, measuring the distance from the bottom to make sure it was straight. Then I pinned the layers together all over. And then I machine stitched 1/8" from the outside edges.

Since this is such a large applique, I also wanted to anchor it at a bunch of internal points, so it would be more bonded to the blanket. I just "stitched in the ditch" along each line where fish heads met fish tails, as shown above.

Tumbler Fish: a Free EPP Pattern

...And that's that! If you make yourself some Tumbler Fish, I'd love to see what form they take. You can tag me on Instagram or shoot me an email.

Plastic Canvas Gm Ornament

This tutorial is basically an act of sheer determination. As some of you know, I started a part-time job recently, and while that's a very good thing, it's also been quite an adjustment – particularly when it comes to creating blog content. I'm working from my home studio only three days a week, and this being Portland, the sun keeps ignoring my requests to shine on these days so I can take blog photos. (Such a jerk sometimes, that sun.)

Plastic Canvas Gm Ornament

Anyway. A couple months ago, I was noodling with some plastic canvas triangles I found on clearance at my local Jo-Ann, and discovered this ornament form. Then I spent a full month trying to get a tutorial photographed, but kept missing my light opportunities. Finally this morning, I was all "This thing is getting shot TODAY, and I don't much care what the light looks like." So, making use of some wan and paltry window light and a ridiculous amount of photo editing, I got 'er done. And thank goodness!

I'd call this an intermediate sort of PC project. The stitching's very easy, but the assembly may need a little patience. And maybe a beer. But definitely not two!

Plastic Canvas Gm Ornament

You'll Need:

  • • 8 Plastic canvas triangles (available online if your big-box store doesn't have 'em)
  • • Scrap of 7 count regular plastic canvas
  • Synthetic raffia or worsted weight yarn, 3 colors
  • • Needlepoint needle
  • • Scissors

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

OK, so let's have a little discussion about supplies first. These PC triangles have, as it turns out, triangular holes. That may make stitching on them seem daunting, but don't worry. As you can see, those triangular holes line up nicely in both diagonal and vertical rows, and that's what we'll be using to line up our stitching.

PC Placemat Raffia Spreading

I opted to stitch my ornaments with synthetic raffia, which adds a nice matte finish and straw-like look. But I should say, this stuff is a little more high-maintenance than yarn. You'll want to carefully spread out each strand of raffia before stitching with it, so that you can get maximum coverage over those larger triangular holes. You might want to skip all that and use yarn instead. Play around with your yarn and see if one strand or two gives you the coverage you want.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

OK, with that said, let's make an ornament. The first step is to trim the bottom corners from your eight PC triangles, as shown here. Use the bottom row of holes as your guide. Count in five holes from each corner and make your cuts.

Then, just use the first piece you cut as a guide for all the rest.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

You'll also need four little squares cut from some 7-count PC. Measure against the cut edge of the triangle as shown here. Or cut your squares to 6 holes by 6 holes.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

There's no real need for a formal stitch pattern here - we're just following the canvas. So thread up your first color and start at the bottom right corner. Bring your needle up, and then pass it back down at the next corner up, forming a long diagonal stitch that follows the diagonal row of the canvas.

Then make four more stitches like that, following the edge of the canvas along the top and keeping them all the same length.

When you have five stitches, come across to the left side of the canvas and make five diagonal stitches in the opposite directon. The first one should share the same bottom hole as the top stitch of the previous row, as you can see above. Then follow with four more stitches below that and fasten off your raffia.

(Do you need some basics on stitching plastic canvas? Try this video of mine: How to Start and End a Strand of Yarn. Raffia works exactly the same way.)

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

Next, take your second color and make vertical stitches to fill in the rest of the canvas. I find it easiest to start with the longest center stitch, and then make stitches on either side of that.

(If you look closely, you'll see that I missed a hole in my canvas here. So, you know, don't be like me.)

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

Then, with your third color, stitch a great big "X" across the piece, following the edges of the design. Run your needle under some stitches at the back of your work to secure the end of the raffia, and then use the same holes on both sides to make your "X".

You'll then make a little straight stitch to secure the point where these big stitches overlap. In the fourth photo above, you can see where I'm bringing up my needle, right at the tip of my blue triangle. That's also where I'll put my needle back down to finish the stitch.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

That's what the stitch looks like - see how it tacks down the big "X"?

Go ahead and stitch up all eight pieces in this manner.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

You'll also need to stitch your four squares, using either Color #2 or Color #3. These are super easy - just vertical stitches from corner to corner. Again, do the center one first and then fill in on either side.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

Right – so, just so we're on the same page, here's what you need to have stitched up. Then we'll move on to assembly.

(If you haven't done any PC assambly before, I recommend watching this video, Joining Two Pieces Together.)

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

Stitch all the pieces together using Color #3. Place two of the "gem" pieces together with wrong sides facing, and sew a seam between their longest edges. Start at the corner where Color #1 is stitched, and sew your way to the tip.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

…Then, open up the two pieces you've just sewn together. Add a third one, again placing it wrong sides together. Continue your seam on down toward Color #1 again. When you get to that end, fasten off the raffia.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

…And then sew the fourth piece on in the same manner. You'll end up with a pyramid shape. Make two sections like this.

A Little Cautionary Note: This is a good moment to mention that these PC triangles are a fair amount more delicate than their square-holed cousins. If you pull your raffia too hard here along the edges of your canvas, it's easy to break it. So, remind yourself to tug the raffia through these edge-holes gently, and pull the stitches snug, but not too tight. This is especially important when you're stitching at the tips of the gem pieces.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

Now, take one of those pyramids and stitch the four little squares to it, nesting them into the openings at the corners.

It's easiest to start by placing a square as you see in the top photo above – inside the pyramid, wrong sides facing. Then sew the seam, and then open out the little square. From there, you can line up the next two edges an sew them.

As you do these little seams, the triangle holes and the square holes should pretty much match up. Don't worry too much about that - stitch wherever you can get your needle through both edges, and all shall be well.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

Sew on all four of the little squares. You'll be surprised how much sturdiness this adds to your ornament-in-progress.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

…And now, see how the two pieces of your ornament will nest together? We're going to sew a meandering seam all around the middle to join the two pieces.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

If you haven't done any PC construction before, you might want to watch this video on How to Construct a Lidded Box. Many of the techniques in that video will help you out here.

Some Tips For This Step:

• I recommend starting with about a 30" strand of raffia, so you don't have to stop in the middle and reload your needle. That said, this is a seam that will tend to wear out your raffia as you go, so be prepared for some minor shredding along the way. It won't hurt anything as long as you're still getting coverage.

• Take your time and don't worry too much about the canvas-holes lining up. In some spots, they will, and in others, not so much. Again, just place your stitches wherever you can get your needle through both edges of the canvas.

• The whole thing will feel a bit fiddly until you get the first few segments of that seam done, and then the shape will start to solidify and become much easier to handle.

• And lastly, you'll need to repeatedly pause and un-twist your raffia, so you can get good coverage throughout the seam. Once it twists up, you'll see too much canvas between your stitches.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

To add a hanger, just thread a piece of raffia through the very tip of the finished ornament. Cut it to the length you want, and tie the ends in a tight double-knot.

Plastic Canvas Gm Ornament

And that's that! I really love how different color combinations change the look of this ornament, and I love how substantial-yet-lightweight they are.

I hope you have a blast making one. And, on the better-than-average chance that this is my last blog post before Christmas, let me also wish you and yours a peaceful holiday!

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.)


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.


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!


I know I've been quiet this week - I'm in deep quilt-making mode at the moment, but will have a couple new things to share soon. Meantime, here's a new video in my EPP Basics series. It covers two good ways to take the paper templates out of an EPP project. Enjoy!