Nov 222011

I finally finished my trench coat, sewed the buttons on during the Patriots game last night. Go Pats!


Sadly, the pattern I used, Simplicity 4084, is out of print.  It was a freebie from Threads Magazine a few years ago, so some of you may have it kicking around.  I like that the styling is classic. After all that work, it’s not going to go out of style anytime soon.


Here’s the coat unbuttoned, which is how I’m sure I’ll wear it 99% of the time.  Likey.  🙂


Here’s my review of the pattern.

Pattern Description: Lined Single or Double Breasted Trench Coat – I made view A, the double breasted version with piping. (Far right on the pattern cover.)

Pattern Sizing: 6-14, According to my measurements I should have made the 14, I made the 10. It’s a little tight across the shoulders, I can’t wear a sweater or jacket under it, but it should be perfect once I reach my final weight goal. 🙂

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I thought the instructions were easy, but there were a LOT (91 steps and 28 pattern pieces!) With four views to choose from, my eyes kept jumping around on the instruction sheet. I finally started using a pencil to check off each step as I completed it, this kept me on track.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love all the interesting details: pocket flaps, front & back yoke, sleeve tabs.

Fabric Used: I’m not sure of the exact content, my local fabric store was going out of business (boo!) and this was labeled “Rain Wear.” It feels (and ravels) like a rayon, has a very tight, unforgiving weave, and water beads up on it. It wasn’t the easiest fabric to work with (easing the sleeve heads drove me crazy) but I’m happy with the results.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I made bound buttonholes, just for a challenge. I like the professional look they give.

I could not find a 2″ belt buckle anywhere, but found this buckle on a belt at Salvation Army for 99¢. So I made the belt 1.5″ to work with this buckle.

I used 1/8″ cording for my piping, instead of the 1/4″ called for and didn’t use a contrast fabric for the trim. I prefer the more subtle look.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? When I bought this red fabric, I also bought enough of the same Rain Wear in blue. I also have buttons, the lining and a gorgeous silver belt buckle, so I think I HAVE to make another one at some point. 🙂 It won’t be any time soon, though, as this was a huge project.

Conclusion: This pattern is not for the faint of heart. None of the steps are overly complicated, but there are a lot of them. The final result is worth it though.  It would probably be worthwhile to make a muslin, using just the main pattern pieces, to get the fit you want.

If you’re interested in making a trench coat yourself you might try McCalls 5525, which has many similar details.


Happy creating!

Nov 212011

This year will be our first holiday season with an empty nest.  It’s kind of a happy/sad time for me.  Happy because we really are enjoying the peace, quiet and lower electric bills; sad because I miss all the crafty little things I used to do with my kids around this time.

Projects like these leaf painted napkins are great because you not only get the fun of spending time creating something special with your kids, but they get to experience the joy of making something for others to enjoy. (And then the guests exclaim, “Ooooo, did YOU make these?” and the kids beam. 🙂 )

The below directions ARE NOT MINE, I found them here and want to be sure kayte terry gets full credit for putting together these step by steps.  (Just wanted to save you the bother of clicking over to another site.)

I think these napkins would be especially elegant in dark shades of red or green, painted with gold, silver or pearl paints.  Save yourself some bother and buy the napkins already made up!

What you’ll need (makes four napkins):

  • A selection of leaves in different shapes (make sure they aren’t too brittle)
  • 1 yard solid cotton or linen
  • Waxed paper or newsprint
  • Sponge brush
  • Fabric paint 
  • Brayer
  • Iron
  • Rotary cutter and mat 
  • Sewing machine and thread

Printing the Leaves
1. Lay your fabric out on a large, flat surface. Make sure your surface is protected with waxed paper or newsprint.

Here we're using autumnal colors for the leaves, but shades of green would be pretty, too.

2. Lay out another small sheet of waxed paper, and lay one leaf front side down on it.

Daub, rather than brush, fabric paint on the leaves to coat. Don't forget to get a little paint on the stem.

3. Put a small amount of fabric paint on a sponge brush and daub the back of the leaf to coat.

Place the leaf on your fabric, then roll over the entire leaf with a brayer to print it. Don't roll too hard.

4. Flip the leaf over, and lay it on fabric as desired. Roll a brayer over the leaf to print it. If you have never done this before, you might want to practice on a few scraps of test fabric first.

(Sandy’s note:  If you make a mess, and get some splatters, just do some “creative splattering” all over once you’ve printed the leaves.  Of course you meant it to be that way!)

5. Continue with the design as desired. Let the paint dry, then iron on the wrong side of the fabric to set the paint.

Making the Napkins
1. With a rotary cutter and mat, cut fabric into four 17 x 17-inch pieces.

(Sandy’s note:  Personally, if I’d bought a yard of fabric, I’d cut the squares to 18″x18″, just to not waste anything.  Having an extra 2″ would drive me nuts.  I’d probably find a way to use the 4″ strip on the other end too, lol.)

2. On one side of one napkin, fold over the edge 1/4 inch, press, and fold over 1/2 inch. Press again. Repeat on the other side. Sew down both sides close to the seam. Backstitch at each end. 

(Sandy’s note: If you own a serger, here is an excellent time to be super speedy and use the rolled hem instead.)

This is what your hems should look like at the corners.

3. Repeat on the other two sides.

4. Repeat with the other napkins. Clip all threads.

Happy creating!

Nov 162011

Today’s workdesk shows that dratted trench coat buried under what promises to be a much simpler project. It’s McCalls 5970, they call it a “Comfy Blanket,” but YOU know what it is, a snuggie!  (It doesn’t get much easier than a blanket with sleeves, lol.)


I’m always looking for something to make for my husband and two sons for Christmas and this fit the bill perfectly.


You might notice there are FOUR pieces of fabric on the table, not just three.  Of course I have to make one for me. 🙂

Wish I had time to babble some more, but I’m off to do errands.  Go here to join in the What’s On Your Workdesk Wednesday fun.

Happy creating!


Nov 152011

Since I haven’t been able to work on my lampwork beads for quite some time, I’ve gotten back into a variety of sculpture that doesn’t require torch, kiln or special studio: polymer clay.  After having an idea for some fun potential products, I got sidetracked in my research by Christi Friesen’s book, Steampunkery.

Christi is a riot. Even if you never pick up a package of polymer clay, you’ll love reading her descriptions of how to go about making each project. It’s a hoot!

I got so sidetracked, in fact, that I spent a blissful Saturday afternoon creating this little steampunk chameleon. steampunk-chameleon-002

Isn’t he adorable?

(It helps to have friends who repair clocks for a living. They were able to supply me with all kinds of fun brass gadgetry. I also ordered some smaller bits and bobs here

Still working on a name for him, any suggestions?

Next I’m going to try for the dragonfly, them maybe a steampunk kitty cat.  Oooooo, the possibilities…

By the way, if you want to dip your toes into Polymer clay, I highly recommend any of Christi Friesen’s books.  These are a few I own, love and use.

Happy creating!


Nov 052011

You know, I’ve always been just a bit suspicious of those blue water-erase marking pens. They seem almost too good and too easy to be true, and I wondered about the long-term results.

Now I’m thinking I was right to wonder.

About 10 years ago I made this quilt.  mini-mariners-compass-quilt

It’s from Fons & Porter’s Fat Quarter Friendly, and was not a simple project. Those paper-pieced stars are only 5.5″ across; some of the triangles are itty-bitty. Anyhow, I just pulled it out to put up with my autumnal decor and discovered this:


No, those blue marks were NOT visible last year. (Btw, please don’t judge my appliqué work and machine quilting too harshly; I have improved a lot in the last 10 years.  😉 )

I tried spritzing with water, but this time around the marks did not disappear.  I then washed the entire thing in a load of laundry.  No joy.

After an online search, I found someone who said a white vinegar solution helped.  I let the quilt soak for a day in a 50% white vinegar solution, then ran it through the laundry again.

The results?


Only minimally better.


My suspicions were confirmed.  Whatever it is in those pens that makes the marks does NOT go away after spritzing with water.  It may no longer be visible, but the chemicals are still in there and can possibly become visible again at any later date.

I suggest you only use these kinds of marking pens on projects you aren’t going to care about in 10 years.  If you must use them, consider thoroughly immersing your entire piece to completely wash out any traces of the marking pen. (If that’s even possible.)

For me?  I’m going to stick with more traditional methods of marking from now on, such as chalk or a very fine, light pencil line.

Oct 312011

Perhaps some of you, at one point, have read my About Me page, and have read there that I love to do lampworking. Perhaps you have wondered why I never post any lampwork projects.

The sad story is that I haven’t been able to get out my beloved torch since three years ago for my birthday hubby said he’d build me a studio for lampworking. This sounded like an excellent idea, as the basement sawdust and hot glass don’t mix very nicely. (Burnt carbon makes black streaks in glass beads. Ick.) Anyhow, all my tools got packed away and work commenced. It’s been slow, but he is making good progress, and hopefully I’ll be back in the business of playing with fire very soon. 🙂

In the meantime, today’s holiday reminded me of some beads I made a few years ago. This kitty cat is a favorite of mine. The quality is not the best, I need LOTS more practice to get good, but I like it and wear it.


The cat is actually made of two beads, the head and the body are separate.  I love how the sparkly bead in the middle looks like a fancy collar.


I wear the cat year round, I only strung the candy corn beads on for pre-Halloween wear.

And here’s a funny story about the candy corn beads. You might notice that they aren’t shiny like the cat beads. In order to make them more realistic I dipped them in an acid etching solution which gives the beads their matte finish.


Shortly after I’d made them I proudly brought my new beads to show my friend, who had taught me how to lampwork. My teenage son, her teenage son and one of their friends were hanging out at her house that day. The friend, who was a nutty kid, spotted the pile of “candy”, dashed into the room, tossed them all into his mouth and sprinted out. It was only a few seconds later he came back into the room, looking appalled and spitting out my awful tasting acid etched glass beads.

I only wish I had a picture his expression, it was priceless.

Fortunately, no beads or teeth were broken in the ordeal, lol.

May all your Halloween candy be real and yummy!

Happy Halloween and happy creating.


Oct 262011

Since I’ve only found the time to sew once in the past week, my workdesk today looks much the same as last Wednesday.  (The bound buttonholes are coming along nicely, I’ll show you the results soon.)

Instead of boring you with a repeat workdesk, I thought I’d show you what I bought today.  Quilt fabric!


Don’t those cupcakes look too yummy and adorable? (I’m on the last day of a very restrictive phase of a diet, so I must have food on the brain cuz I HAD to buy this fabric, lol.)

And these jungle critters:


Don’t you just want to squeeze them?

These will be for charity quilts that my guild is making.  Here’s a link to the pattern we’ll be using.   Here’s how it’s laid out. four-patch-quilt

Many of us in the guild love this pattern because you can showcase a large scale print in the bigger squares and add coordinating fabrics all around.  It goes together quickly and easily. I’ve used it to make several baby quilts for gifts, too.

The fabric on the left in each photo is the backing, the fabric on the right is for the large squares (and the outer border for the jungle quilt.)    The stripes are for the narrow inner border.

I’ll try to remember to take pics when these quilts are done.  🙂

Happy sewing and creating and happy What’s on Your Workdesk Wednesday!

P.S.  Just what IS WOYWW, you may be asking?  Go here to find out, it’s lots of fun!

Oct 212011

Hi all! Sorry I haven’t posted in the last couple of days.  I spent all day yesterday organizing my attic. Phew! My attic is a walk-up – picture a giant closet the size of the footprint of our house.  It’s nice to have all the easily accessible storage, but there’s the ever present danger of accumulating Too. Much. Stuff.

Anyhow, it’s done and looking as beautiful as an attic can get.  I’ve made lists of stuff to give away and lists of stuff to sell, listed a bunch of stuff on Craigslist, sent out emails, and now I finally have time to show you this project I picked up from Renaissance Leather this week.


That’s my cat, Oliver, helping with the photography.

I’m not much of a knitter, but I think I’m going to love this felted tote bag.  The handles may look long in proportion to the bag, but they’re a perfect comfortable length for carrying on the shoulder.  I like the leather handles a lot more than if I had done knitted ones.

Here’s a rough outline of how to make your own felted tote:

Buy two 100 gram skeins of a wool yarn that specifies it’s good for felting.  I used Paton’s Classic Wool.  One skein was a solid, Royal Purple, and the other was a variegated that had the same purple in it, Palais. Make sure it is good for felting, some wool yarns are coated so they won’t felt.

Cast on 100 stitches onto a largish pair of circular needles (I think I used 11’s.)

Stitch around and around, changing colors of yarn whenever it pleases you.  (The pattern I had said to change the yarn every two rows, but that was way too much work.)

When your tote is not quite twice as long as you’d like it to be, throw in some decreases  for about six rows if you feel like it.  This will give your bag a tapered bottom.  My bag measured 27″ long x 14″ wide before felting, and felted down to 14″ long x 11.5″ wide.

The pattern I had said  once done with the decreases to cut the yarn to a 12″ length and use a tapestry needle to thread it through all the remaining stitches on the needles, sliding them off and using the yarn to pull the stitches into tight gathers.  This is what it will look like. I wasn’t sure I cared for the look, but did like not having to cast off!


Because I couldn’t stand the thought of those extra bits of yarn hanging around, I made them into a pocket.


(See what I mean about not being much of a knitter?)

All the felting directions I’ve ever read said you need a top loading washing machine to do felting.  I don’t have access to a top load machine, so I went looking online for directions how to felt by hand.  Everything I saw, again, looked like WAY too much work.  So I threw my bag and pocket into a lingerie bag and put in a front load machine.  It worked just fine. I threw it in for two cycles and got a nice, thick felt.

Here’s the pocket:


After taking the bag out of the wash, I decided I hated that rounded gathered bottom.  Thankfully, the gathering yarn pulled right out, even after felting.  Here’s the bag after I flattened out the bottom.felted-tote-bag-after-felting-removing-stitching

Here’s a fun trick for giving any bag a square bottom.  First stitch straight across the bottom of your bag.  Now meet the bottom seam to one side of your bag, forming a corner.


Mark a line perpendicular to the bottom seam.  The length of this line will be how wide you bag bottom will be.  Repeat on the other side and stitch on these lines.


Now your bag has a square bottom!

The next step is optional, but I think it gives the bag a nice finish.  Find a book or other large rectangular object the same size as your bag.  If need be, protect it from moisture by putting it in plastic bags.  Dampen your tote bag, then insert the blocking form (the book.)  Pull, pat, tug and shape your tote to just the size and shape you want.  You’ll find the damp felt is quite malleable.  Now let it dry completely on the form.


(This photo was taken before I decided to throw the bag into the wash for a second time, btw.)

I really, really like how the leather handles add a finishing touch, much better than knitted handles, I think.

Now if I could just find that dang pocket, I’ll use my one last piece of yarn to sew it to the inside of the bag.   Probably by the time I find the pocket I’ll have lost the piece of yarn, lol.

Here’s another look at the completed bag.


Happy crafting and creating!




Oct 192011

Today’s Woyww finds me working on this trenchcoat:  (It’s Simplicity 4084, which is now out of print. If you’re interested in it there are a few for sale in various places online.)  simplicity-4084

I’ve had the pattern in my stash for ages and only remembered it when I saw some rainwear fabric on sale.  I’ve never owned a trenchcoat, never felt the need for one, but decided to go for it for some reason. (Maybe cuz I’m always a sucker for a challenge?)


I’m making view A, the one on the far right, it’s double breasted with piped trim.  You know what the hardest thing was to find for this coat?  The belt buckle!  There isn’t much to choose from in the fabric stores, and what is there is boring.

So today I stopped in at my local Salvation Army and got a way ugly belt attached to this very cool buckle (center of above photo)… for 99¢.  Oh, yeah.  While I was there I also got two nice suit jackets (one is wool and both are lovely shades of purple) for $3.50 and $3.  Woot!

Anyhow, I’ve cut out all the pattern pieces (there are 28!), interfaced and marked them, and made the piping and a carrier strip.  On Pattern Review someone who made this pattern mentioned that they’d done bound buttonholes in theirs.  I’ve never done bound buttonholes so thought it would be a nice touch as well as a challenge.

I whipped out my copy of Vogue Sewing, found the section on bound buttonholes and commenced.

Now, for your amusement, I will show you my attempts at making bound buttonholes.

First try:


Ummmmmm, NO.

Second try:


A tad better, still wonky.

Third try:


Almost there!  Just have to make sure to pull that little corner all the way to the wrong side.  (That little bit you see to the right.)

Do I dare make my fourth on the actual coat?  Yikes.  Since I rarely wear coats buttoned, these have to be good.  Oh, the pressure…

The moral of the story, make sure you practice new things on scrap fabric.  Imagine if I’d done that first nasty buttonhole on my nice coat.  ::::::shudder::::::

Even though they have the best and clearest directions I’ve found, it wouldn’t be ethical to reprint Vogue’s directions here.  If you own the book or are thinking about buying this excellent sewing reference, you’ll find the directions on pages 266-270, (I used the one-piece folded method.)

However, this site gives excellent step-by-steps for making bound buttonholes.  It’s a different method than I used, but I think it might be easier.  Bound buttonholes are a beautiful detail and they’re not so bad, you just have to pay close attention to each step and take your time. (That third example was only accomplished after turning off my audio book and following each direction to the letter.)

Happy creating/sewing/playing and happy What’s on Your Workdesk Wednesday!

(What is WOYWW?  Go here to play along.  Careful now, you might get addicted.)

Oct 172011

Much to my surprise, this blog’s most popular post ever is How to Make Zipper Flowers.  Who’da thunk it?

teal and gold zipper flower

So many creative people have inspired and taught me over the years through their books, magazine articles, blogs and videos that it always thrills me to hear I’ve been a source of inspiration to some one else.

Recently I received a thank you note from a reader who was inspired by the zipper flower tutorial and made this biker babe wedding bouquet.

Isn’t it the coolest?

Wedding Bouquet - Black Leather and Lace for the Biker Babe

Thanks for sharing, Maggie, and happy creating everyone!