A Finish! Zippered Tote

I have very little time to spend in my sewing room these days so fast finishes are of appeal. Plus, as I've said before, I have a sickness: I keep buying bag and tote patterns even though I really don't enjoy making the things. I am in a constant search for the perfect travel bag and I really want to use up some fabrics from my stash that I love and want to keep around, but don't want to commit to turning into a quilt. So bags are sort of the perfect solution, if I can get around my dislike of the process. Since I knew I'd have a few hours as fabric therapy at my disposal this weekend, I decided to make myself something useful given the travel I'll be doing over the next couple of months. To whit: A travel carry-on for flights that would also be fine for normal running about and trips to libraries and coffee shops for school work.

I've posted the pic of a couple of the bag patterns I bought from a vendor at AQS Quiltweek in Syracuse. As soon as I got home, I started digging through my stash to see if I had fabrics that would work well with either of the patterns. I found a winner: I'd bought three fabrics from a collection a few years back, then found another fabric that worked beautifully with them. Then they sat on my shelves. And sat. And sat. They were enough for this bag pattern plus enough leftover to make a coordinating wallet or some such should I decide to do that later on.

Final results! This is the "Laura's Zippered Tote" pattern from The Creative Thimble. It really is pretty straightforward. I took my time with it and still had it done in something like 4 or 5 hours all-in. As a still-not-confident bag maker, I didn't run across anything that gave me the heebie jeebies.


Here's the inside. The pattern calls for pockets on only one side of the interior; I added another set of pockets on the other side as well. The more pockets, the better. 

I measured the divisions to fit my Kindle, phone, and some pens, etc., on the one side. 

The other side of pockets were less specifically measured but divided slightly differently to give myself more options. I also  added some little velcro dots to two of the pockets. Why dots? That's all I happened to have on hand. So I used three dots attached to each other to make it about as long as a regular rectangle of velcro would be. I didn't bother changing thread to white to attach the velcro because at that point I was tired of changing thread colors and I figured that, other than this blog post, I'd be the only one ever seeing it. So yes, the velcro is attached with burgundy thread. I can deal with that. 

There are two things I'm not thrilled with about this design. The first, and main thing, is that there's a raw edge seam at the bottom of the interior. You can see it in the above photo. The instructions have you zig-zag the edge and I used Fray Check as well, but still n' all, I'd prefer a hidden seam. I'd have had to completely re-do the pattern to get rid of that seam and that's just not my thing. So I'm living with it. 

The second thing is that it uses Pellon Decor Bond (809) as the stabilizer. It does give it good structure, but I didn't really like working with it. Plus, the fabric puckered a little when I was fusing it to the Decor Bond. Were I to make this pattern again, I think I'd probably use Annie Unrein's Soft and Stable. I really like the way that one felt when I was using it for the EIIP bag; I don't think using it on this design would make a noticeable different to the process of making the bag.

I did skip one part of the pattern--when you box the corners, the instructions have you folding those corners back into the inside of the bag and gluing them down to give the bottom more structure and stability. I don't have any glue on hand that would work and, again, I wasn't keen on a bunch of stuff hanging out in the bottom of the bag that loose coins and such could get stuck under, so I just cut those off as you normally would. 

And one other note: The numbering of steps is incorrect in one part of the pattern. I had to read it a few times to figure out why I couldn't quite figure out how she'd gotten from point A to point B, but it didn't take too long to see where the mistake was and just move on from there. She doesn't have that error posted in the corrections on her website so I need to remember to email it to her. Other than that, the pattern was pretty easy to follow, even for a noob like me. 

By the way, those are outside pockets as well--six in all. And the straps are the perfect length to carry it comfortably over my shoulder. Finally--a good carry-on bag for airline travel that zips on top so I don't have to worry about stuff dumping all over under the seats!

And I just love that I could finally use these fabrics--they've been on my shelves for a couple of years and now I get to keep looking at them in a far more useful form.

Overall, I'm pleased with the results and am giving myself grace on those parts that are less than perfect. 



A finish--woo!

Okay, so this completion isn't such a big deal as it only took me about 90 minutes start to finish; and it only took that long because I wanted to fussy cut a motif and had to keep checking back on the instructions to make sure I had it facing the right direction. 

Also--normally I wait to do a reveal on a class project until I do a review of the class. But since it may be awhile since I have another finish, I couldn't wait to crow just a little bit. 

I finished something! Woo woo woo woo! 



This is the Runaround Bag by Joan Hawley of Lazy Girl Designs, as appears in her Craftsy class Zip It Up: Easy Techniques for Zippered Bags.  (The pattern is available elsewhere as well; you don't have to take the class to make this bag.) She calls her zipper technique "ziptastic" and I have to say--it was stinking easy, at least in this design. 

It gave me a nice way to use a couple of fat quarters from my stash--which was my main purpose for forcing myself to get more comfortable with purse-making in the first place.  

I misjudged the front fussy cutting just by a couple of inches; the print on the fabric was a little tricky in terms of isolating the motif easily. I had a sense I should adjust it a little bit but I wasn't totally convinced I knew where it was going to end up. Having done it once now, of course, I'd know better next time.


I did a lot better fussy cutting the back pocket.  

If I do this design again, I would probably put a little bit of velcro or something on that back pocket. It's a good place for a cell phone but I'd want it a little more secure if I used this regularly.  


By the way, the lining is the same fabric as the top accent (see last photo). I used an invisible zipper because that's what happened to be sitting in my drawer that was the right color and size for this project. I've decided I don't like working with invisible zippers. It was okay to sew, though I had to do a lot more by feel than sight, but mostly it was very difficult to unzip after the sewing was done in order to pull everything through right-side out. For some reason, that zipper was very stubborn--I finally resorted to pulling everything through a half-open pocket. Once it was right-side out, the zipper worked fine again. 

You can't really tell from these photos but it has fusible fleece on the back to give it just a little bit of structure.  

I do like this bag; I used it immediately last night going out for dinner with my husband. It's nice to do a simple design that's actually functional. It's a good little bag for times when you don't want to carry a lot around. 

Of course, the first thing I thought as I was putting my stuff in my bag to go out to dinner was, "I think I need to find a wallet design now." My usual wallet is too big and heavy to work in this bag well. So if you've got any favorite simple wallet designs that make a smaller, lightweight, but functional finished product, lay it on me! (Tip: I don't want to have to fold my money in half to put it in the wallet, so I've already nixed several possible patterns.) 

There are two more bags in the class, so stay tuned... 

(BTW, there's a Craftsy link in this post that will help support this podcast and blog if you use it--so thanks in advance if you do!) 

June Craftsy Class Update

I didn't burn up the track in Craftsy classes, but I did get one of the biggies done! I'm actually writing this a little over a week before it'll post because I can guaran-dang-tee I won't be finishing any more Craftsy classes before the end of this month. I'm about to head out of town for a work trip and there's no time for watching classes in that circumstance.


Interior shot of my EIIP bag from Annie's class

Interior shot of my EIIP bag from Annie's class

New Completions


Classes in Progress


Classes added this month--0

Classes To Be Completed

Current count: (12, down 1 from last month) 

Completed Classes

Current count: 60 (+1--and I hit a nice round number!0

Some other random finishes

My May journal quilt project was embroidery on one of my hand-painted silks. 

I talked about this in this week's podcast episode and all the difficulties I had with it, although I learned a lot in the process; so from a learning value perspective, this was a great project. I learned that silk requires a much different treatment as a background than other fabrics I've been embroidering on. I learned that certain threads don't really play nice with silk. (The spiral center was the Razzle thread and it was just way too slippery to combine with the slippery silk. No end of headaches with that one.) 

I learned how to do the "magic chain"--a chain stitch with two threads where you alternate the colors. Cool beans.

You can see I skipped a couple of stitches in this example--that petal was a very-late-night-can't-sleep attempt. I learned I shouldn't embroider after midnight.

I also learned I shouldn't use a chalk pencil for an embroidery design. Couldn't for the life of me see what I was supposed to be doing. Hence, some very whonky flowers.

After I finished this, I started doing some crewel embroidery on a piece of my hand-dyed cotton. Lookie so far! (Okay, I snuck a WIP in here. But one flower is finished, so it counts!)

I love crewel. I'm a crewel girl. 


And...on the spur of the moment...I decided I wanted an iPad case with a couple of pockets to hold my stylus and the little (very easily lose-able) packet of extra stylus tips during all my travels this summer. I talked about this on my podcast episode too--but the short story is that I decided felted wool would be the quickest approach, and I have a fair amount of wool. 

I actually took out my 3-in-1 color tool when I was choosing which wools to use; everything but the green flower button cover actually fall into a particular color scheme. Can you figure it out? (The green button cover is close, but I'm not super-keen on it. May change it later.)

I just took the "quick and dirty" approach in sewing these pieces together. The beauty of felted wool is that it doesn't really fray, so you can just stitch that puppy together. Depending on the type of wool, though, it can be a little stretchy. You can see where the chartreuse pocket got a little polygram-esque rather than rectangular as I stitched it on. It's a looser weave so had more stretch to it. Still, it works. I just need to figure out how I want to close the two pockets on the front so they're more secure. There's a patch of Velcro on the top under the little flower button cover. I may add Velcro to the larger pocket; would need to do more of a flap thing on the stylus pocket. Pondering. But, to all intents and purposes, it's done.

These may be my last finishes for awhile...

Craftsy Class Review: Sew Sturdy Travel Organizers with Annie Unrein


Once again, I'm doing the class review before I've finished all the projects from the class. I'm doing that in this case because it took me nearly 6 months to get the first of the two projects done for this class. Given my current schedule, it's likely to be another 6 months before I get the second project done. So, here's my review of Annie Unrein's Sew Sturdy Travel Organizers class. 

If you're a blog follower, you've already seen my reveal of the first project, an organizing bag she calls the "Everything In It's Place Bag," or as I abbreviated it, the EIIP bag. If you follow me on Twitter or listen to my podcast, you've heard me whine. A lot. With great passion and commitment to my whining.

This isn't a particularly easy project, especially for those of us quilters who didn't come at quilting out of garment sewing. I've only had limited experience doing bags or any type of accessories, and much of that experience hasn't been particularly positive. I'm not a fan, as I have pointed out on many an occasion, of fiddly bits. 

And boy, did this bag have more than it's fair share of fiddly bits. Namely, vinyl. More about that later.

It also had zippers which were a bit tricky at first. I've done a small handful of zippers in the past, but this was the first time I'd used zippers-by-the-yard, which raises the quotient of fiddly-bit in the zipper equation. I'll say, though, that by the end of doing this bag which had a grand total of 12 zippers and 16 zipper pulls, zippers no longer give me pause. I can also see the beauty of using the zippers-by-the-yard that Annie sells on her website; I'll advise, however, that you wait to watch where she talks about using those zippers before making your first zipper, which actually comes in the lesson before.

That's on my one knock on this class. It's not Annie's fault that I don't enjoy making bags. And it's not Annie's fault that I still don't enjoy making bags after taking her class. She helped me become more comfortable with certain things, but becoming more comfortable with something doesn't necessarily mean I'll start loving to do it. In any case, the one thing I will knock the class on is that once in awhile things are a hair out of order. You make the first zipper in one lesson, and then in the next lesson she explains how to work with the zippers. I was watching and working my way through the lessons so when I got to the one making the first zipper and didn't know how to put a zipper pull on a zipper, I spent 20 minutes on YouTube trying to figure it out. Then I get to the next lesson, and there she is, talking about how to put on a zipper pull. There are a couple of places like that, so just do what I didn't do:

Watch all the lessons all the way through, before starting the first step in the first lesson. 

The only thing that I really struggled with was the vinyl. That was brutal. I spent a lot of time reading through the class discussions to see if others were having some of the same problems I was having and what the suggested remedies were; I found some helpful things there, so be sure to read the class discussions as well. (I talk about that in the previous blog post about this project.) Mostly, I was being stubborn and refusing to buy a Teflon foot when I wasn't committed to the idea of ever using vinyl again. That Teflon foot probably would've been helpful. I used Scotch Tape instead. It was okay.

Annie is clearly very experienced at teaching. I had no complaints about her style. Her instructions are very thorough as well. I kept the class material print-outs in front of me while watching the related steps on video--the two pair well. Her website is great--she has great bag designs and very helpful kits for making many of them, plus she sells all the bag-making supplies separately. More helpful, though, are her YouTube tutorials (also on her website). So if you're into making bags, she's the one to get to know: www.byannie.com. I do really like her supplies--I like how the finished bag feels, using her stabilizer and such. So if I am inclined to make bags in the future, I'll definitely be going back to her site. 

So, to try to objectify this and review the class as a class, my personal feelings about bag-making aside, I'd say two thumbs up. She really takes you through a complicated process by breaking it down into very small, pretty manageable tasks. She explains and demonstrates pretty much everything; there are a couple of steps that she talked about but didn't demonstrate, and it would've been helpful to have those on video as well, but they weren't deal-breakers. I do feel pretty confident that I'd be successful at the cosmetics bag as well, whenever my schedule allows me to work on that again. And that's more than I'd have said when I started the first step of the first bag, so that's a mark in the plus column. 

The Basics

  • 7 lessons, ranging from about 18 to 52 minutes, mostly in the 30-minute range
  • The first lesson offers a short introduction, but then gets right into making the Everything In Its Place Bag.
  • Lessons 1-4 are for the EIIP bag, lessons 5-7 are the cosmetics bag.
  • Class materials are extensive--very clear, step-by-step instructions for each bag. In fact, at the start I found her instructions a little confusing because they are so complete; I'm not used to that. Once I figured out her approach, I did find them really well done. 

Annie's bag designs in Annie Unrein's Sew Sturdy Travel Organizers class are great. Can't beat the functionality. So here's to my perseverance sticking with me to get the second of the two bags done sometime before I retire. 

(Using Craftsy links in this post helps support my podcast and blog. Thanks!)



May Craftsy Class Update

Craftsy Logo

I had a pretty good month in my Life with Craftsy. I finished four, but I did pick up a couple of new ones as well. Still, I finished more than I added, so I'm ahead!

New Completions


Classes in Progress


Classes added this month


  • Bead Embroidery with Myra Wood. Don't say I didn't warn ya. Since I finished two embroidery classes I figured I could allow myself to pick this one up while it was on sale over memorial Day weekend. And then I finished a third embroidery class, so this one moved to the top of the rotation after only a few days of owning it!
  • The Essential Guide to Lightroom with Skott Chandler. I now have Lightroom on my computer and since I've already learned so much doing Chandler's Photoshop class (see In Progress, above), I decided it was worth picking this one up as well. I'm not going to start it until I've completed the Photoshop class.

Classes To Be Completed

Current count: (13, down 2 from last month) 

Completed Classes

Current count: 59 (+4)

Craftsy Class Review: Design It, Stitch It: Hand Embroidery with Jessica Marquez

Surprise, another embroidery class! This time I'm reviewing Design It, Stitch It: Hand Embroidery with Jessica Marquez. Yet another very good, very enjoyable class on embroidery! And yes, even though this is the third embroidery class I've taken in a row from Craftsy, I did still learn a few things.

Of the three, this is the most straight-up embroidery class. Jessica teaches traditional embroidery using traditional methods and traditional types of design. She's working on linen with "normal" embroidery floss; therefore, she doesn't spend a ton of time on talking about supplies: No information about types of needles or types of threads. She just mentions the type of needle she likes (not by name, but by description), and shows the one type of floss (read: DMC embroidery floss). She talks about using different quantities of strands of floss, and demonstrates the best way to separate those strands and then thread your needle. She talks a little bit about hoops, (although not as much information as I got from other classes, but different types of embroidery have slightly different needs), and how to load your fabric into the hoop. 

Based on this class, I picked up a handful of new supplies--some linen for testing and a few different types of image transfer pens/pencils.

Based on this class, I picked up a handful of new supplies--some linen for testing and a few different types of image transfer pens/pencils.

I think, having now done a couple of other classes, the portion of her introductory lesson that was most useful to me was her talking about transferring designs. I picked up information about iron-on transfer pens and water-soluble pens from this lesson. 

The next several lessons go through the different families of stitches, much the same way the other classes did. However, as I said in my review of the crewel embroidery class, every one of these classes had slightly different variations or even a couple of new stitches altogether--so I continually increased my repertoire of stitches with each class. 

My test of Sulky's iron-on transfer pen for my next embroidery project--worked beautifully, though a bit of a thick line.

My test of Sulky's iron-on transfer pen for my next embroidery project--worked beautifully, though a bit of a thick line.

There is a class project if you want something that gives you an easy opportunity to practice all the stitches. It would be extremely easy to put together. However, as per my usual...butterflies on this end. Someday I'll be done with butterflies, and I'll never want to see another one again.

At the end of most of the lessons, she shows examples of how she's used many of the stitches in her own projects. It was good inspiration, thought her style is more traditional than mine. I enjoyed seeing stitches at work in various ways and was generating ideas for where I may use some stitches in my own work.

Caution: the iron-on transfer ink did bleed through my embroidery background fabric onto my ironing board. Oops--didn't see that warning in the instructions until too late. Apparently I was supposed to have protective layer underneath. Unfortunately, the instructions offer no guidance as to whether this can be fixed!

Caution: the iron-on transfer ink did bleed through my embroidery background fabric onto my ironing board. Oops--didn't see that warning in the instructions until too late. Apparently I was supposed to have protective layer underneath. Unfortunately, the instructions offer no guidance as to whether this can be fixed!

The final lesson gives some great information about how to create your own patterns from photos or children's artwork or, really, anywhere else you get inspiration. I would have liked to have seen a finished project based on a pattern she did from a photo, though. She does show a finished product based on children's artwork that was pretty cute. That would make a great gift for a mom or grandmom!

Jessica is very easy to listen to. The first lesson felt a bit stiff until she got into the stitching, and then you could almost visibly see her relax and get into a groove. The rest of the lessons were very easy to watch. She clearly loves her embroidery--it's her happy place. I found myself enjoying watching her be so relaxed and happy with it. 

The Basics

  • 8 lessons ranging from 11 to 30 minutes long; most are in the 20-ish minute range.
  • The first lesson talks about supplies, hooping your fabric, fixing mistakes, and doing an iron-on transfer.
  • The second lesson is flat stitches, such as running, back stitch, split stitch, and so forth.
  • The third lesson is looped stitches (chain, fly, lazy daisy, etc.), plus a bit about using a lightbox. 
  • Lesson 4 is knotted stitches, such as the French Knot, coral stitch, boullion stitches, and so forth.
  • Lesson 5 is crossed stitches--here's where I ran into the most new ones compared to other classes: St. George cross stitch, star, herringbone, and leaf stitches all fall into this category.
  • Lesson 6 is fill stitches (satin stitch, long & short, fishbone, Cretan stitch), plus a bit about caring for embroidery.
  • Lesson 7 is all about embroidering on knits (t-shirts, baby clothes, etc.)--how to stabilize the knit, transfer the pattern, use a repeat pattern, using the hoop, and so forth.
  • Lesson 8 is about creating your own patterns.

So, here's the thing: Now that I've taken three of the four classes on hand embroidery in Craftsy (the fourth I'm working on now is on bead embroidery so that's a slightly different category), if I did it again, would I do them in a different order? That all depends on your goal, I guess. If you think you want to do traditional embroidery and want to learn the basics, I think this class, Design It, Stitch It with Jessica Marquez, would be the best place to start. However, me being me, I'm not entirely sure I'd have been as grabbed by embroidery if I'd started here. My design preferences are definitely closer to Sue Spargo's Embroidering Texture & Dimension by Hand than the more traditional style of this class. I think I needed to see the possibilities of Spargo's designs in order for the excitement of embroidery to take hold. I also think I'm more jazzed by the styles depicted in Stitch it with Wool: Crewel Embroidery with Kristin Nicholas. So, for me personally, I think I did the classes in the order I needed to do them in: Be grabbed by design possibilities, then backtrack to build up the technique. If you're more of a technique person, you may want to do the classes in the reverse.

I will admit, however, had I started with  Design It, Stitch It with Jessica Marquez, I might have sped up the pace of becoming confident in embroidery in general, only because I would have seriously reduced the variables. Learning stitches with a single type of thread and needle makes it much easier to focus on the stitch technique. In Sue Spargo's Embroidering Texture & Dimension by Hand, with every new stitch I tried, I was using a different type of thread and needle--so I had a whole lot to get used to and figure out all at once. Nothing like diving into the deep end. Again, just know yourself and what jazzes you and/or makes you most comfortable.

By the way, I did make a run to the needle arts store across town yesterday and picked up a bunch of crewel wool thread, so that class lives on as well. I've got ideas...

(Using Craftsy links in this post and on this site helps support my podcast and blog. Thank you!)

Craftsy Class Review: Love Your Vegetables with Anna Bullett

Time for another food class review: Love Your Vegetables with Anna Bullett. It's been awhile since I've done a foodie post. However, for this one, I don't have any photos of dishes I've made from the class since I'm holding off trying the recipes until my CSA begins in another couple of weeks. So you'll be hearing more about the recipes themselves later.

I decided to do this class because of the aforementioned CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. If you're new to my blog, just a short backstory: I've subscribed this summer to a CSA, and deliveries start the second week of June. I've done CSAs two other years but skipped last year because I travel a lot during the summer and was having problems juggling the schedule. This year, I found a CSA much closer to me so doing the weekly pick-up will be a lot easier, and I think I'm getting a smaller share, so it should be easier to keep up with the produce. I don't have time for canning and I have limited freezer space so I really do need to be able to use the produce up the week I get it, as much as possible. That means collecting a ton of vegetable-focused recipes. This class seemed just the ticket.

One of my 2013 CSA pick-ups

One of my 2013 CSA pick-ups

Anna Bullett reminds me a bit of Rachel Ray in terms of perkiness. If you love Rachel Ray, you'll probably really enjoy Anna Bullett. 

As a learning experience, it was a good one. Each lesson focused on a particular family of vegetables and, through the recipe or recipes covered in the lesson, Anna gives rationale behind different types of preparations for the vegetable in question. She also gives all sorts of good tips for washing, slicing, and storage. There are several recipes that I'm looking forward to trying when my produce starts rolling in.

Another ghost of CSAs past

Another ghost of CSAs past

Additionally, every lesson except the last includes a "Chef's Tip," or a brief tidbit of additional information about something else you can do with that family of vegetables. These were nice little additions--one of them helped me understand why my attempt at Kale chips a couple of years ago failed miserably. I think I'll be better prepared for the inevitable influx of Kale from the CSA this year. 

If you're looking to expand your repertoire for vegetable dishes--either as a side or a main--I do recommend this class. Just be prepared for the perky.

The Basics

  • 8 lessons, ranging from 15 to about 30 minutes; most are in the 15-20 minute range.
  • The first lesson starts right out with one of my all-time faves: butternut squash. Generally I want to rush my CSA through to get to fall so I can get my hands on the various forms of winter squash. I'm a fan of pretty much all of them.
  • Lesson 2 is root vegetables, lesson 3 "hearty greens" (aka Kale and the like), lesson 4 is Cabbage & Friends (including the very Dr. Seussian Romanesco broccoli)--and included a very helpful tip on keeping your cole slaw from going watery; lesson 5 may convince me to give eggplant another try; lesson 6--the beautiful tomato (yum); lesson 7 is about fava beans which I will likely never buy raw because I don't see myself putting that much work into a bean; and lesson 8 ends with a couple of ways to make easy, quick refrigerator pickles that will definitely be happening in my kitchen at some point this summer.
  • The class materials are extensive: 26 pages including 30 recipes. You're basically buying a cookbook with this class. The recipes are all quite do-able, too--only a couple have ingredients you may not already have in your pantry (depending on your fave styles of cooking).
  • The recipes are mostly side dishes but there are quite a few that either are, or could easily be, main dishes if you're going meat-free. In my case, there were a couple that I thought we could make vegetarian so my daughter could eat it, and then I could just throw in some diced cooked chicken in my portion to meet my more carnivorous needs. 

Two thumbs up. Basically, Love Your Vegetables with Anna Bullett is just increasing my yearning for Tuesday, June 9, when I get to do my first CSA pick-up of the season. I can't wait to dig in!

(Using Craftsy links on this website helps support my podcast and blog. Thank you!)

Craftsy Class Review: Stitch It with Wool with Kristin Nicholas

Once again, I loved doing an embroidery class! After doing Sue Spargo's class and still having a boatload of butterflies to finish, I figured the next best bet was Kristin Nicholas' Stitch It with Wool: Crewel Embroidery. I assumed it would be pretty easy to incorporate any new stitches I might encounter into the butterflies.

I wasn't positive what "crewel embroidery" was and how it differed from regular embroidery before I took this class. As I've now learned, the only real difference is the thread. With crewel embroidery, you're embroidering with yarn. There is actual crewel embroidery yarn, but you can also use regular yarn as long as it's a smooth yarn that will glide easily through your fabric. I have a couple of thicker perle cottons that I decided fit the ticket, so I was able to practice one or two of the stitches even though I don't have actual crewel yarn. It's now on my shopping list, though. 

Most people likely associate crewel embroidery with Jacobean design, as crewel was hugely popular in that era. Click here for a great Pinterest collection of Jacobean design in fabrics. However, it doesn't have to be Jacobean to be crewel (which sounds like a song title): You can do any ol' embroidery you want with yarn. Mary Corbet has a nice description of crewel on her website. The thickness of the yarn may dictate a bit what stitches you're able to do, but for the most part, it's the same thing. 

I dig Jacobean design, so that was part of what attracted me to this class--if you do the actual class project, it's got a bit of a Jacobean flair to it. Or maybe it just reads that way to me because they're done in wool. Whatever: they are cute projects, but I chose not to do any of them at this stage: I just wanted to focus on finishing those dang butterflies. I have a couple of books on Jacobean applique that I inherited from my Mom and have never used--I'm now imagining them as embroidery patterns instead of applique patterns. I suspect I may be using those books any time now!

Satin stitch worked in perle cotton

Satin stitch worked in perle cotton

Many of the stitches were the same in this class as in Sue Spargo's, which one would expect; there are certain foundational stitches to embroidery that will show up in any class. It's how those stitches get built upon and layered that can make the difference. That means, of course, that Kirstin Nicholas has few new variations and stitches in this class, even if they were the same stitch "families." Plus, every teacher will have slight variations on technique which are helpful to learn--it gives me more options when trying to figure out which technique I wear most comfortably. Additionally, she gives some tricks to making stitches work as well with wool as with floss, or in terms of helping you learn how to choose the best stitches for success with wool, and so forth.

I enjoyed Kristin Nicholas' teaching style. She's very straightforward and clearly demonstrates each stitch. She also has an excellent lesson at the end about how to keep your skeins of stitching yarn from becoming a tangled mess (something I had to learn the hard way, unfortunately), as well as how to block and steam an embroidery project when it's completed. This wasn't covered at all in Sue Spargo's class, but the difference in materials makes it less necessary for a Spargo-style embroidery project than the Nicholas-style. 

I've only got the one project picture above for this class as now I'm in sort of a free-style mode on the butterflies--just picking and choosing what stitches I want to use from all of the Craftsy classes I've done (another review coming today!), plus a couple of books I've picked up. But the next embroidery project I'm designing in my head is heavily influenced by this class, and I may well end up picking up some crewel wool so I can get a feel for how it works. Unfortunately, most of the yarn scraps I've collected from friends are "weird yarns," or the type that need to be couched rather than used in embroidery.

So, in summary, I did enjoy this class and I feel like it added to my general repertoire and comfort level with embroidery. I don't recommend either Sue Spargo's class or this one higher than another--they have both been great for me!

The Basics

  • 7 classes, ranging from 24 to 34 minutes in length. 
  • The first class discusses supplies, how to begin and end a stitch, how to deal with a mistake (helpful to start right out with that!), some ideas for finishing, and how to transfer a design onto fabric.
  • Lesson 2 is basic stitches and lesson 3 is how to embellish those same stitches to add layers of interest. 
  • Lesson 4 addresses what she calls "fancy stitches," which are largely stitches that involve knots of some kind, such as pistils and bullions.
  • Lesson 5 are fill stitches--I got some good ideas here, although on my butterfly project I don't need much in the way of fill stitches. But they'll likely play into whatever my next project is.
  • Lesson 6 is sculpted stitches, such as Turkey Work and the Spiderweb stitch.
  • Lesson 7 is finishing and inspiration--she has a nice gallery of work, although her examples are all pillows and relatively simple designs. She discusses her focus on beginners which is why I think she only had those examples--they're an "easy bite" of embroidery, so to speak. However, I always like to see what we could aim for as our expertise grows: I'd have enjoyed seeing more complex pieces as well. 

So, my review of Kristin Nicholas' Stitch it with Wool: Crewel Embroidery is definitely two thumbs up. I may actually make a trip this weekend to one of the two places near-ish me that sell crewel wool so I can really go to town!

(Using Craftsy links in this post and on this site help support my podcast and blog: Thank you!)



Craftsy Class Review: Painted Pictorial Quilts with Annette Kennedy


I've been working on Painted Pictorial Quilts with Annette Kennedy for awhile. Let me clarify that: I've been watching Painted Pictorial Quilts with Annette Kennedy for awhile. I've owned this class almost since I first joined Craftsy a couple of years ago. I'd started watching it back then but decided that I needed to have the time and space to commit to the project, so I set it aside. This time around, when I pulled it back into rotation again, I decided not to do the class project but, instead, to watch the lessons and apply techniques to my own projects.

Therefore, there are no pretty pictures of projects-in-progress on this review. That's not to say that the two class projects aren't really wonderful projects--I seriously debated one of them because it's of a calla lily that is gorgeous (and calla lilies are a personal fave). But ultimately, I determined that I didn't need one more project on my list that would distract me from other things already in my head, so I focused instead on watching the lessons and absorbing her techniques.

I had to debate how I was going to approach this review a little bit--I'm not able to be as completely enthusiastic about this class as I have been about most others, but the primary cause of my lesser-enthusiasm has to do with how Craftsy approached the class, not anything to do with the subject or teacher. So let's get that out of the way first...

You can tell this is a very early Craftsy class. They've definitely fine-tuned their methods over the years. To whit: There are some difficult patches in the earlier lessons where the camera was zoomed so close in on Annette's hands doing the painting that it was actually difficult to follow. She encourages you to move the fabric around so you can always be painting from a comfortable angle--great tip, but with a close-in-zoom it actually triggered my motion sickness a bit as the project was constantly flipping back and forth and often moving off-camera, so the camera had to zoom out quickly and then zoom back in to catch up with where she was positioned again. There were several periods in which I just had to close my eyes and wait until things settled down. You don't see that in more recent classes--they've gotten much more professional and polished in their video.

The other thing that Craftsy does much better now is fades/cuts during longer processes. In this class, you are watching every single stroke she makes with the paint brush. Annette does a great job "vamping," or talking while she's painting and occasionally giving additional tips or information, but this class could have been a whole lot tighter without losing any of the content if they'd shown her doing a particular technique for a couple of minutes, then either sped up or cut back in after she'd finished that section. There are a ton of lessons and they're all pretty long--I had to keep sort of gearing myself up to take on another lesson, and I watched most of them at double speed. I think the class could easily have been cut by about a third and we wouldn't have lost any value whatsoever.

It struck me that there are times in this class you are quite literally watching paint dry.

Now, those are my only knocks on this class and, again, it has everything to do with Craftsy getting better at what it does than anything having to do with the content or teacher. So let me get back to the more positive aspects.

Annette Kennedy is an excellent teacher. Earlier lessons talk about how to design a painted project, as well as all the supplies you'll need. She spends one lesson each on how to assemble the two class projects before starting in on the painting, so you pick up some good information about creating applique from photos and how to turn photos/drawings into pattern pieces, and so forth. She explains why different types of strokes are most appropriate for different parts of the painting; she spends a lot of time talking about blending colors and getting different values of a single color. There's a whole lesson devoted to color blending and another devoted to depth and dimension. Even with all the work I've done on color over the last few years, I still picked up some very useful information from these lessons as things work differently in paint than in fabric or other media. 

The class projects really are very cool. If you're looking for some guided projects to help you really have these techniques sink in, I would highly recommend doing the class projects. The class materials include all the patterns and painting guides you need to follow her techniques. As I was watching her paint (and watching, and watching), I did mentally design about five different painted quilts based on what she did. 

Even though I didn't do either of the projects, I did pick up a couple of additional supplies after I had the opportunity to watch how she used them. I've only just recently started playing with fabric paints and hadn't understood what a floating medium was for until I watched this class; I also realized that mixing colors with the brush was far less useful than using a palette knife as she does--so I now own a few inexpensive plastic palette knives, thanks to Joanns. This whole fabric painting thing will go much more smoothly in the future, I think, thanks to Annette Kennedy.

I'm very much looking forward to being able to put Annette's techniques into use in future projects. At the moment, I'm just debating whether my next journal quilt will involve textile paints (and her techniques) or colored pencils (and Lola Jenkins' techniques). Or it may, instead, be straight embroidery based on the crewel wool embroidery class I'm about to finish. So many options, so little time...

The Basics

  • 15 lessons, ranging from 12 1/2 minutes to 1 hour and 8 minutes. Several lessons are around an hour; several others are between 30-45 minutes. Only a small handful are about 15 minutes. You really get a huge volume of material, here.
  • The class materials (9 documents) are several pages long, mostly because of the patterns. There are some helpful reference pages among them.
  • The first lesson spends time on an introduction of Annette Kennedy and of the Craftsy platform, and then she talks a bit about the two class projects.
  • Lessons 2-4 give a nice foundation to what's to come: how to create visual depth, turning photos into designs (you don't need to know how to draw, BTW), and various brush strokes.
  • Lessons 5-7 focus on the calla lily project, which gives you a lot of experience in blending, shading, and creating dimension.
  • Lessons 8 and 9 are on color and depth and dimension, including selecting color schemes, how to achieve different color effects with paint, how to create distance and scale, and so forth.
  • Lessons 10-13 focus on the canyon project; this gives you the opportunity to take what you've learned on the calla lily even further.
  • Lesson 14 is on quilting and finishing, with useful tips about how to emphasize the focus of your project through quilting, and a little bit about painting after quilting as well.
  • Lesson 15 is a "bonus" lesson that describes how to do a sun print collage with fabric paints. If you've never seen how to do this, the lesson will introduce you to a very cool way to create fabric. 

I have sort of a one-thumb-up, one-thumb in the middle on Painted Pictorial Quilts with Annette Kennedy. I want to emphasize, though, that the thumb in the middle would be very much up if Craftsy had done this class using the parameters it has now worked it's way into: in other words, if it had been a bit tightened up and had better camera angles in the earlier lessons. If I only look at content and teacher, it's two thumbs up. 

April 2015 Craftsy Class Update

Craftsy Logo

Oopsie. Missed April by a day. The week sort of got away from me.

It was a good month for Craftsy class completions, but not a great month. I'd have liked to get one more done. (Don't even say the words "travel organizer" to me!) But still, poking away. 

New Completions


Classes in Progress


Note: I removed Fabric Patterning with Wax Resist at the moment as it's not going anywhere until I have a bit more time available. It'll reappear on "in progress" again soon, I hope.

Classes added this month


Classes To Be Completed

Current count: (15, -1 from last month due to completing two but adding one)  

Completed Classes

Current count: 55 (+2)

Craftsy Class Review: Embroidering Texture and Dimension by Hand--with Sue Spargo

Oops. I wanted to get this review done in April. When did it suddenly become May? I think when part of April suddenly became winter again it threw my whole sense of the calendar off. 

If you've been listening to my podcast or following my blog at all in the last few weeks, you'll know that I've just completed a Craftsy class that probably had just as much impact upon me as Jane Dunnewold's The Art of Cloth Dyeing did a couple of years ago. This time it was Embroidering Texture and Dimension by Hand with Sue Spargo. I am off and running with this embroidering thing now! Woo--just watch me go!

I have been a fan of Sue Spargo's designs for years, starting back when I went through my first felted wool stage probably a decade ago or so. I enjoy Spargo's slightly more bright and fun primitive style. She can do the Americana/country thing (popular in the felted wool world), but she also does straight-up funky, which I love. I had bought her Creative Stitching book a year or two ago; it's pricey, but especially after doing this class* it's also become my go-to. Love that book. I'd tried teaching myself some embroidery from books before but there's absolutely no substitute for watching someone do it, so when I saw she had a class on Craftsy, I bit.

I decided to, for once, do the class project. It's been awhile since I've done that, as I usually use techniques on things I've already got going or had already planned to do. But as I looked at her design, I realized it would be a great way to use some of my stash of felted wool that was languishing. Plus, her "project" is more a lot of design suggestions that you can put together any way you want--which suits my "independent cuss" nature. When I started working with her suggestions for building a layered background, I ended up with something I really kind of dig. I went an entirely different colorway than she has (she used brights), based on the wool I already had in my collection. It took me so long to pull fabrics for this that I took some short-cuts on building the background--I fused, rather than needle-turn applique like she does, and later I learned why a standard applique technique would've been far preferable. But that's why we take classes, isn't it? Now I know.

She suggests 15 butterflies for the project, so 15 butterflies I did. I ended up ordering just a little more felted wool for the butterflies because I didn't have quite enough in a color range that really worked together. As a point of interest here, I bought my wool fabrics from Erin Rissberger of Quilting Acres on Etsy. She'd sent me some samples years ago when I interviewed her for the podcast (Episode 45)  and I just love her colors, so I was thrilled to be able to use them in this project.

The butterflies took a long time to put together too, as you layer those as well. I'd approach how I did all that layering very differently next time, so I really should've payed better attention to Sue's advice in the class (and in class discussion). Here's a tip: watch and read before doing! Another note--I also ended up buying her book Creative Texturing to help me make some decisions here. This book walks through the process of fabric selection and layering to create more visual interest on your projects. I'll be referencing that book a lot more in the future too.

Finally, I got to the embroidery. This class walks through several stitches, generally in order of complexity, which often means in order of difficulty. However, I did find stitches in later episodes that were actually easier for me to manage than ones in earlier episodes, so it's not entirely a progressive thing. 

Some stitches I took to like a duck to water. Others took a little more trial-and-error. One was my Waterloo--just couldn't quite get that Rosette Chain stitch down. I'll go back to it again after I've got more experience to see if I can't conquer that darn thing. (She does say it's the hardest one she teaches in the class, so there is that.)

And this ain't the half of it...

And this ain't the half of it...

Mostly, I had a ball taking Spargo's advice to heart--play with as many threads as possible! There is so much more to the world of embroidery than DMC embroidery floss and a #8 perle cotton, for as much as both of those are quite nice. Still a fan of the perle cotton, especially hand-dyed types. Yums.

I've used a huge variety of threads in this project so far, and still have more to try. Fair warning: It easily becomes a new addiction. It does also make learning embroidery slightly more complex because threads behave differently and require different needles, so every new stitch I tried was a test of trial-and-error before I finally found the right combination for what I wanted to do. But that's also just practice and experience--after just a few weeks of this I already have a better eye for what types of threads are likely going to give me more immediate (read: stress-free) success for certain stitches. 


I also got into adding beads to my embroidery based on one of her lessons. Another dangerous addiction.

So, can you tell I loved this class? It's definitely two thumbs up! If you're brand new to embroidery (like I was, for the most part), I advise making liberal use of the "30-second repeat" button and changing the speed of the video to go more slowly for certain stitches. (I had to watch the cast-on stitch technique a few times since I'm not a knitter.)

Sue Spargo is an excellent teacher, by the way. I really feel like this class gave me a very firm foundation in embroidery, even if I never took another class again. That being said, I'm now working on my second Craftsy embroidery class, already bought a third, and the fourth is sitting in my wishlist for later. I haven't finished the butterflies yet, so I'm currently using it as the project for these additional embroidery classes--meanwhile, I'm already mentally designing my next embroidery project.

The Basics

  • 7 lessons ranging from about 17 minutes to 30 minutes.
  • The first lesson is about creating the project you'll later be embroidering. I could've done with a little more information here, I think. I suspect the issue is that she's not giving directions for a specific pattern but, rather, making suggestions for things you may want to do; I think, since it was a new technique for me, I'd have preferred seeing her walk through a specific project first, and then talking about how to launch off from that to whatever you wanted to do yourself. In any case, I did figure it out and, of course, you don't have to do a specific class project at all, if you don't want to.
  • The second lesson talks about tools--needles and threads. I found this very helpful the first time, but even more helpful when I went back later after I'd done a lot of embroidery and watched it again. That time I had a better frame of reference for what she was talking about. The second lesson also gives the first couple of stitches--the Pekinese stitch (one of my faves!), and couching.
  • Lesson three is decorative edging stitches, including the fly stitch--which quickly became one of my go-to stitches, crested chain--another great one, and the aforementioned Waterloo stitch, the Rosette chain.
  • Lesson four is dimensional stitches and I had great fun here--bullion knots, drizzle stitches, bullion cast-on stitch, and double cast-on stitch (which I skipped because by then it had taken me so long to circumnavigate a butterfly with bullion knots I wasn't inclined to take on the even-longer-term double cast-on).
  • Lesson five is woven stitches--loved doing the circle with a gorgeous thread on this one.
  • Lesson six is beaded stitches. "Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!" I now have a storage container specifically for the beads that somehow magically appeared in my house after doing this lesson.
  • Lesson 7 is finishing touches, with another couple of slight more extensive stitches, plus a lot of really cool ideas for using embroidery in bindings. Can't wait to get my butterfly project finished so I can revisit this lesson.
  • The class materials are so-so; 6 pages, three of which are templates for the suggested project. There's an extensive supply list that felt overwhelming at first--and you don't actually need all of it to do the project, but you're likely to want all of it and more if you really get into this! The second page gives some hints and tips, which were partially useful.

A long review, I know. But I. Loved. This. Class. Remember, embroidery doesn't need to just be for embroidery projects and crazy quilts. It's easily done as an accent on any quilt or quilted project. I'll definitely be using a lot more of it in my art quilts. If you think you may even vaguely be thinking about adding embroidery to your quilting repertoire, you really need Embroidering Texture and Dimension by Hand with Sue Spargo.

*You don't need the book to do the class, but it was quite helpful to have on hand when I was practicing the stitches she demonstrated.

(Using Craftsy links and banners on this page helps support my podcast and blog. Thank you!)

2015 Quilty Resolutions: April Journal Quilt

Okay, Sandy here, once again cutting myself some slack.

I realized that the prayer flag I've been working on is all one big experiment, so I'm now counting it as April's journal quilt, even though it's not 8"x10" or even, arguably, a quilt. It has two layers, not three, and it's embroidered but not quilted.

Work with me, here.

I present to you my April Journal Quilt project: a prayer flag.

The front is a piece of cotton batting I had experimented on in my dye studio--it was originally a normal cotton batting-cream color; I dyed it black. You can see how mottled it came out. Kinda cool.

I then did some needle felting on it with some dyed wool rovings I'd had in my stash for about a year (not dyed by me). I had fun blending the colors. I've done a little needle-felting here and there but nothing really terribly extensive, so I'm still getting the knack of it. Not hard at all, of course, but now I probably should start actually reading up on it and really figure out what I'm doing.

I also wanted to play around with beading, and I'd picked up some really wonderful beads at a bead shop recently. Dropped a bundle in that bead shop, so you'll be seeing a lot of beads on future projects. That bird (which is likely a swallow given the tail feathers but I'm choosing to call it a peace dove) is one of my faves.

I started working on this prayer flag shortly after I'd received word that I'd been accepted into the D.Min. program (listen to episode 180 if you'd like to hear more about that). At the time I started working on this project, I hadn't really decided what my prayer flag would be about--but then I ran across this great quote from William Shakespeare and it just seemed to completely fit where I am in my life right now: "To unpathed waters, undreamed shores...." Now, to be clear, the quotation is from A Winter's Tale which is one of the few Shakespeare plays I haven't seen or read so I don't know the storyline; it's actually taken from a speech in which the speaker is advising others NOT to go off in unpathed waters but to stay on a more known course. But I choose to rip it heartlessly out of context and cast it in a much more positive light. I'm rather enjoying, for the moment, being in unpathed waters and heading towards undreamed shores.

So there, nyah. It's my prayer flag. I'll do what I want.

I finished it off with a little embroidery accent in the swirls (yummy variegated Razzle thread from Sue Spargo's website), and then put a black felt backing on it and did a blanket stitch around the outside. The stitching isn't nearly as visible in person as it is in this picture; it's largely buried in the felted sections--you really almost can't see it. This picture does demonstrate the great lighting I have in my sewing room, I guess. 

My April Journal Quilt/Prayer Flag is now hanging near my office desk to help me remember this positive attitude when the blood, sweat, and tears start.


2015 Quilty Resolutions: March Journal Quilt

It's been awhile since I've posted about a journal quilt, so let me recap: My 2015 Quilty Resolution was to do one journal quilt per month. In my definition, a journal quilt is a small project (approximately 8"x10") that allows me to experiment with a technique, a theme, a color scheme, or whatever. My main focus is on experimentation (my 2015 word of the year).

January's journal quilt was Sunset in Bagan, in which I was experimenting with netting. 


I had to cut myself some slack on defining February's journal quilt. That whole month was experimentation! I was playing around with a lot of different design experiments based on having taken the art quilt class as well as some other things that caught my creative eye, as it were. So I decided that, rather than getting all legalistic on my own butt about how I was defining "journal quilt," I'd focus on the "quilt project that involved experimentation" concept, and thus declared Neumes my February journal quilt, despite the fact that it's quite a bit bigger than 8"x10".

March was a very busy month, and I wasn't home much. But I was still experimenting. I did Cindy Walter's fabric painting class on Craftsy in March, and was just having all sorts of fun messing around with all the different types of fabric paints and inks I've amassed over the last couple of years. In her class, she showed a way to do an abstract paint design that brought back to mind my favorite way of coloring when I was in high school--basically just sketching random lines and shapes that connect together and then going to town with the color. I used to do a lot of this when I was a kid!

March Journal Quilt--just named "March Journal Quilt"

March Journal Quilt--just named "March Journal Quilt"

So, my nostalgic painting experiment became March's journal quilt. I'm pleased to announce it's finished! It measures out to 8 1/2" x 10" but that was happenstance--I was just using a spare piece of muslin I had on hand to do the painting and it happened to be almost journal quilt size--phew.

Please note that I did this without any concern for color scheme. My goal was simply to use every paint or ink I had on hand (except my Tsukeniko inks--those remain for another day). Thus: almost every one of the sections in this piece is a different paint. I had a couple of spaces more than I had paints on hand so I did repeat a couple, but probably not as many as look repeated in this photo; some were two different types of paint in basically the same color; another one or two were experimenting with a Pearl-X powder mixed into paint (the Pearl-X isn't showing up well on the photo); I started by mixing one of the purples and, when I was unhappy with the result, I went out and bought a pre-mixed purple that I liked much better so I also painted over the original yuckier one, and so forth. Still working on mixing colors--Joen Wolfrom is very helpful on that!

It took me until the end of April to finish this because (1) you have to let the paint dry and (2) you have to let it cure. All that can take 2-3 weeks, depending on how thick a layer of paint you have. Mine's pretty thick in some places. I sat down this past weekend to add the finishing touches: I used invisible thread to quilt along all the lines to make it look a little more like it was pieced or appliqued. For the most part, I was able to stay in the lines but don't look too closely at the yellow. (Besides, the yellow ended up having the stiffest hand when dried so the needle just poked holes right through it.) I just did a fast fused border using the remainder of my hand-dyed black fabric that I'd used for the backing. This will never go in a show so I didn't want to spend much time on binding.

I learned an absolute ton on this project. I've got a much better feel for what different types of paint are good for, things to consider when approaching a paint project, and so forth. 

April's journal quilt may end up being another "cutting myself some slack" project as I'm still doing a lot of experimenting but not specifically on a journal quilt project. I suppose I could say that my journal quilt resolution has already served its purpose: I wanted to do it to encourage myself to experiment. So far, in 2015 I've been doing very little other than experimenting!

Craftsy Class Review: Clever Cuts for Efficient Quilting with Debbie Caffrey

I don't have this ebook from Craftsy yet but it looks interesting, doesn't it? I think I'll grab it as soon as I'm done writing this blog post. 

So, in the name of finding more efficient ways to make progress on quilts as my time grows ever-more-limited, I once again looked to Debbie Caffrey. Well, to be clear, I bought this class primarily because I'd enjoyed her other one so much. Clever Cuts for Efficient Quilting, like her first class (Cut To It: Strategies for Smarter Quilting), is an excellent reference class that you'll want to keep referring back to for years to come!

Like Cut to It, this class doesn't have one specific project for you to do in order to practice techniques, but there are several patterns included in the class materials if you do want to put one of her cutting methods immediately to use. For me, however, I was just watching the lessons to see what was there so I'd know where to go for future reference. Hence, no pretty pictures to go with this review--sorry.

For my general thoughts on Debbie Caffrey as a teacher and the usefulness of the techniques she teaches, see my review of her first class. I can just keep saying "Ditto, ditto, ditto." I can't say it enough--these are both excellent classes to have. 

Do you need to do the other class before doing this one? Not really. However, I do think they build on each other to a degree, and she does reference the other class periodically in this one. However, you could easily do this class as a stand-alone and be just fine, I think.

This class includes a few more tips on organization, accurate cutting and piecing, and general ideas about when these techniques would be useful. She then discusses tube piecing, diamonds and set-in seams, lots of information about working with Tri-Rec rulers, and then some ideas and tips for piecing borders. 

The Basics

  • Seven lessons, ranging from 24 to 38 minutes
  • Lesson 1 is fundamentals of cutting and piecing, including tips for accuracy; lesson 2 focuses on organization, as well as tips for sewing, pressing, and cutting; lesson 3 is strip-tubing (I've done that before and it's fun, fun, fun!); and she demonstrates a fish block that would make a very cute baby or child's quilt; lesson 4 is all about diamonds and set-in seams, as well as a bit of drafting of templates; then lessons 5 and 6 focus on Tri-Recs in a variety of ways. Finally, lesson 7 gives several ideas and demonstrations of different types of borders; I really liked one of those and could see it on one of my UFOs, so I'll be referring back to that lesson again in the next few weeks.
  • She addresses left-handed cutting considerations, too, for all you lefties out there!

Once again, as with her other class, I highly recommend Clever Cuts for Efficient Quilting with Debbie Caffrey. If she does a third one, she'd have a hat trick! For now, it's just an excellent pair.

(Using Craftsy links on this post helps support my podcast and blog. Thank you so much!)

A Finish! Disappearing 4-Patch Done

It's finally done. It's a little ridiculous it took me this long to get around to getting the binding on, but there it is. I had the blocks done before I went to Burma in December ; got the center pieced together in January, got the quilting done in early March and had the binding strips cut about two weeks ago. And it just sat, n' sat, n' sat...


The center is a charm pack by Moda--I've had it for awhile, but I think it's the "Good Morning" line or something like that. I had two of the same charm pack and used one for a lap quilt for a friend of mine last summer who was going through cancer treatments. I like the fabrics--it's nice and cheery. It's supposed to be a non-gender-specific baby quilt but, frankly, it's definitely more girly according to our societal definitions of color assignment (!) so I went with quilting feathers in the border and free-form flowers in the center. I used this to practice some of my developing FMQ skills.  They're a little whonky but better than I used to do. The inner yellow border is a ribbon candy design--gol dang, but that's hard to keep even! 

Still n' all--it's done, and it ain't half bad. And best of all, it's done. Did I mention, it's done?

No intended recipient. It'll hang out on my shelves until some sort of appropriate occasion presents itself. 

March 2015 Craftsy Class Update

If you're looking for my 5th Podcastaversary Giveaway, click here.

Hey, did you know that Craftsy now also has some downloadable ebooks? Check out this one on hand embroidery--it's free! Just click on the image to the left to find it.

This month wasn't stellar for me in terms of progress because I was gone for pretty much the last two weeks of the month--one week on vacation, the next week for work.  I did manage to get a couple of classes done, though--woo for me! Plus, while traveling, I did make some progress here and there on other classes. I'm so glad I now have embroidery to take with me on trips. I don't often get time to just sit and relax with a hand project (even on vacation!) but it was nice to have it with me for those spare moments that I did have that opportunity. That being said, the beginning of April is a little hairy as well, but by mid-month things settle down again and I should be happily ensconced back in my sewing room on a more regular basis.

New Completions


Classes in Progress

(7--I know, it seems like a lot all at once, but it all depends on if I'm on the road or at home, doing class projects or just watching, etc. Note that they're "in progress," not "being finished as we speak.")

Classes added this month


  • Clever Cuts for Efficient Quilting with Debbie Caffrey--got so much out of the first one of hers (see review here) that when this one went on sale, I went ahead and got it. It's technique more than project so I'm just watching the lessons for now and will apply techniques to future projects.
  • Stitch it with Wool: Crewel Embroidery with Kristin Nicholas--this has been on my wish list for a long time; I'd just decided to do Sue Spargo's class first. Again, when it went on sale, I figured I may as well pick it up to have it at the ready when I'm done with the other.
  • Love Your Vegetables with Anna Bullet--I'd just signed up for another CSA (Community Supported Agriculture--a delivery of fresh produce weekly from a local farm) for this summer earlier on the day I got the Craftsy sale announcement and decided this might help me find new ways to use some of the heaps of greens I tend to get. I didn't do a CSA last summer, but you can see posts from previous years here. (I was recently re-reading my posts to refresh my memory about recipes I'd developed and decided my favorite line from all of my CSA posts was this: "Basically I assess most foods on a how-are-they-as-a-goat-cheese-delivery-device scale." True dat.)
  • The Essential Guide to Photoshop with Skott Chandler--I use Photoshop all the time for work and play but have never really learned more than the basics and a couple of nifty tricks. So when I saw this new shop posted on Craftsy, I grabbed it. 

Classes To Be Completed

Current count: (16, +2 from last month since I'd finished a few as well)  

Completed Classes

Current count: 53 (+2)

Craftsy Class Review and some reveals! Fun Techniques with Fabric Paints with Cindy Walter

Online Quilting Class

Dyes are great. I love dyes. But using fabric paints as well just gives me more ways I can create really, really cool original fabrics.

So the #madquiltscientist has expanded her repertoire.

Now, here's a true confession moment: I've owned a lot of different types of fabric paints for awhile. I kept collecting them, swearing to myself that I'd immediately spend time figuring them out. And they were all neatly organized and sitting in labeled bins in my dye studio in the basement. Collecting dust.

Finally, last weekend, I got the fire lit under me to pull them out and start playing. I honestly can't remember what the catalyst was, but whatever it was, the bug hit fast and hard. I spent a couple hours on Saturday messing around with my PROfab opaque textile paints. They come with instructions but not much in the way of guidance beyond that and, as usual, I didn't bother to first go on YouTube or sit down with one of the many art quilt books I now own. I just pulled out the paints, grabbed a piece of the PFD fabric that's always sitting at the ready in my dye studio, and went to town. It wasn't bad, but I wasn't getting quite the results I was going for. Then I remembered--Doh! I owned a Craftsy class on this, didn't I?

Yep, several weeks ago I'd bought Fun Techniques with Fabric Paints with Cindy Walter. Woot woot! I spent several hours on Sunday just blasting my way through watching all the lessons, then descended back into my dye studio freshly armed with knowledge and a few new techniques to try. I had an absolute ball.

I switched to the Dye-na-Flow paints I also owned (ahem) and tried the same effects I'd been going for on Saturday, but to much better end results this time after watching Cindy Walter's techniques. 

I did a colorwash on a cotton PFD piece I had left over from a previous project, and then (again, testing out something she teaches in the class) salted it with Kosher salt, the largest salt crystal I had in my house, my husband having used up the last of our rock salt on the driveway in the most recent snowstorm. 

I also had a leftover piece of what I think is silk--although I bought it at a sewing guild's rummage sale and it was unmarked, and once you get me out of the world of cotton and wool, I'm a bit lost in the fabric-identification department. But it's shiny. And it feels like silk. So that makes it silk in my world. 

I also salted this one.

Part of what I love about paints versus dyes is they're not fiber-specific. I can use my dyes on silk but the colors come out a little different than they do when used on cotton. With paints? It makes nary a never-mind what you're painting. I could paint my dogs and it would still work just as well. (Whether the dogs enjoyed it would be another story.)

Then I did some colorwashes and, instead of salting, did some scrunching and folding to test out some other things that Walter teaches in the class. Being my first time out of the gate on this one, I learned a lot about how much I need to scrunch or fold to get the volume of lines I want. But still, as a test, it's all good. And these can still be overdyed or painted again or whatever, so it's just a start.

I've heat-set all of these, but they have to cure for a bit before I can run them through the wash and really finish the process, so you can still see some leftover salt-crunchy that's embedded in the fabric until I can give them a good wash, and lots of wrinkles that didn't want to come out with just using a dry iron. 

A little tired of being in the basement, I moved my operations to the kitchen table to do some more work with the thicker PROfab paints. I'll post pictures of that one later on when it's finished. I also (sigh) couldn't resist running out Monday evening to an art supply store in the city that carries a decent selection of fabric paints. I picked up a couple more Dye-na-flow colors, plus some Jacquard Textile Colors, Jacquard Neopaque, a handful of Jacquard Lumiere (and I already have a specific project in mind for those), and one Jacquard Pearl-Ex Pigment so I can add it to my other paints to turn anything I want into a Lumiere-style paint.

So much like Jane Dunnewold did to me a couple of years ago with hand-dyeing, Cindy Walters has now done to me with fabric paints. It's a logical addition to my arsenal of textile art and surface design. And I'm just having a blast. 

Ah, you want to hear about the class now, is that it? 

It's just boatloads of fun. If you need more detail than that: She does an excellent job giving tips about setting up a work space, the difference between the types of paints, how to dilute thicker paints for different effects, and a variety of techniques for using several types of paints. She also shows examples of how to use the painted fabrics (and garments too!), so there's a lot of visual inspiration alongside the practical information. 

I think this class most likely marks another turning point for me in my development with art quilting. I've owned Painted Pictorial Quilts with Annette Kennedy for a couple of years now--it's one of the first Craftsy classes I ever bought, but I always found it a bit intimidating to think about diving into that one. Now I feel so much more prepared--it's just gotten bumped up to the top of my "next class" list! I've also pulled out my art quilt books and am going over anything related to fabric paints, and spent a pleasant hour or so reviewing Mickey Lawler's SkyDyes, which my BFF/BQF gave me a few months ago. I enjoyed it then, but I'm enjoying it even more now!

The Basics

  • 7 classes, ranging from 14-45 minutes--most are around 25-30 minutes.
  • Lesson 1 gives an overview of fabric paints in general, and she talks about the difference between dyes and paints, and color theory as it relates to fabric paints. 
  • Lesson 2 goes into more detail about types of fabric paints, how to buy paints, and how to set up your work space.
  • Lesson 3 and 4 are about doing color-washes and variations; lesson 5 is about using thick paints (stamping, stenciling, and painting); lesson 6 gives direction for painting a miniature quilt in a couple of different ways (this is the project I'm currently working on, to be revealed later); and lesson 7 goes into mixed media--including 3D paints, ink pens and pencils, oil sticks, and using yarns and embroidery for embellishments. 

Do you even need to ask? Two thumbs up for Fun Techniques with Fabric Paints with Cindy Walter.  Way, way, way up with a bit of dancing around involved to boot. 

(Using Craftsy links in this post helps support this podcast and blog. Thank you so much!)

Craftsy Class Review: Secrets to Cooking Fish: Eight Essential Techniques with Joel Gamoran

As I've referenced in other posts, my husband and I periodically talk about how we really should eat more fish. I'm a bit iffy on fish in general; I have a few types of fish and a few ways it can be prepared that I can almost say I enjoy. He likes fish better than I do, but it's still not something he really looks forward to. I have been wanting to learn more about different ways to prepare fish (in the ever-diminishing hope I'd ever find something I really, truly loved), so I was thrilled when I saw that Craftsy now has a second class on fish. I had already done Fire up the Fish with David Bonom and enjoyed it (here's my review of that one). So, here's my review of Secrets to Cooking Fish: Eight Essential Techniques with Chef Joel Gamoran.

Joel Gamoran is executive chef at Sur La Table. You can tell he's used to teaching classes--he's very easy to watch: he's dynamic without being over the top, and makes you feel immediately comfortable. One very nice twist to this class is that he brings in a student for each lesson; the student serves as a visual "stand-in" for you as the viewer, of course. It's nice to see someone slicing and chopping as slowly as I might, and giving him the occasional uncertain look. I enjoyed how that made this class feel a bit different from other cooking classes I've done on Craftsy. 

Because he's associated with Sur La Table, there is a certain amount of product placement in this class. And I did almost "bite," so to speak, because my fish spatula is a very cheap one that's not at all flexible when I try to get fish out of the pan, so I tend to end up with crumbly bits on the plate rather than a pretty filet. Still, I decided I'd wait to treat myself to a decent fish spatula for if I ever start cooking fish on a more regular schedule than Once in a Blue Moon.

Each lesson introduces different ways of cooking fish by going through a recipe for that technique. There were only a couple of the recipes that I thought my husband and I would be able to agree on, so I ended up making the Sole with Browned Butter, Lemon and Almonds recipe, although I substituted tilapia for sole. In the grand scheme of fish, I will say I enjoyed this fish more than most, and it was certainly a very easy recipe to throw together on a weeknight. Next time I make it, though, I think I'm going to throw a little Panko crumb on that fish as my husband and I both like our fish to have a bit of a crispier outside. 

On the other hand, by the time it's soaking in that very tasty butter/lemon sauce, you've probably negated the vast majority of the health factor to eating fish in the first place. But that's beside the point.

I did really enjoy the class, despite my half-hearted feelings about the main course. I feel like I understand a little more about fish and what types of fish work best with what kinds of preparations, and I really appreciated his discussion of sustainability in the second lesson; great information there. There was a decent amount of information in regards to blending flavors and what kinds of sauces, salsas, or side dishes work well, although I always wish for more along those lines.

Still n' all, I do really recommend this class. For this non-fish-aficionado (see what I did there?), it was a good class. For someone who actually likes fish, it would be a great class!

The Basics

  • 8 classes; absent the 2 1/2 minute introduction of lesson 1, the other 7 range from 14 minutes to 26 minutes.
  • Lesson 2 is an excellent overview of types of fish, what to look for when buying fish, and sustainability; it also has a no-cook recipe included.
  • Lessons 3-8 go through grilling, roasting, poaching, sauteing and pan-frying, steaming, and curing and smoking. The recipes range in complexity but none are very difficult--they're all quite achievable by the average home cook. Some excellent tips for testing for doneness and how to slice and serve certain fish dishes are also useful.

I can't allow my two-thumbs-sideways attitude about fish to color my review of Secrets to Cooking Fish: Eight Essential Techniques with Chef Joel Gamoran, so I'm giving the class two thumbs up. And if you act fast, it's on sale right now!

(Using Craftsy links in this post helps support this podcast and blog. Thank you so much!)