It's about exploring and sharing my creative adventures (mostly sewing these days) ~
~those activities that sometimes obsess, usually inspire, occasionally frustrate
~and always provide a delightful maze to wander through.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

And We Have a Winner!

I'm still loving my frabjous new pencil sharpener (I just wish I had more pencils to sharpen....), and hope the winner of my Giveaway loves it just as much as I do!

And the winner is...   Cathy H, who was entrant #168 out of 168 entries!    Which just happens to be the most entries I've had for any giveaway - by FAR!    Goes to show just how popular this pencil sharpener is!   Congratulations Cathy - hope to hear back from you soon, so that you can claim your gift!

***UPDATE*** Cathy H did not step forward to claim her sharpener, so rafflecopter drew a new winner.....who is.... Darcy S! Entry # 28! Congratulations Darcy! I hope to hear from you soon :)
UPDATE #2 - I heard from Darcy right away, and she's super excited about her win - yay!!!!!   Here's to sharp pencil points everywhere ;-)!

And for those who didn't win, but might want their own sharpener anyway, the quick and easy way to get one is to order directly from the Classroom Friendly site - they're speedy and friendly!

And Cute.   Did I mention how cute they are?

Meanwhile, on the sewing front, I realized yesterday that all of my sewing for the past couple of months has been for gifts for others, repairs for others, or learning/class-related (including the dreaded moulage), so my next project (or 3, or 4...) is going to be something fun and selfish - for me, me me!  (with the finishing-of-the-moulage mixed in....)

I'm off to the sewing room to play with my stash and figure out what that might be.....

A Bag?

Betzina Pants?

A Tunic or dress out of this fabulously fun knit from Hart's?

Stripes!  T-Shirts!? 

All of the above actually fit into my "need" category - jeans may be higher on the priority list, but they're not high on the "fun and (relatively) easy" category, and that's what's calling me right now. I'm off to pet fabric, peruse patterns, and see what jumps onto the cutting table first.....

May we all have a bit of extra fun with our current and upcoming sewing projects!  

Friday, July 19, 2013

It's A Giveaway! One Awesome Pencil Sharpener!

My enthusiasm for my new favorite tool, the "Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener" from Classroom Friendly Supplies, has paid off for one lucky reader!   Troy over at CFS has generously offered a sharpener as a giveaway gift to one of my readers!
"Groovy Green", my new desk buddy.
You can find my  review of the fun, funky, and EFFECTIVE "Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener" here.    After a few days of use, I've found myself begging dull pencils from friends and neighbors just so that I can have the pleasure of playing with my new toy, and presenting them with Super Sharp Tools in return.   Really.  Simple things do give me pleasure.  ;-)

Not only is it just plain FUN to give stuff away, but when it's something this unique and cool, I'm honored to be a part of it :)  These sharpeners appear to be becoming all the rage in classrooms these days, so I'm stoked to help introduce them to the sewing world as well :)  Mechanical pencils may work well for some, but me?  For pattern tracing, drafting, and marking, I'll take a good, solid, sharp-pointed "real" pencil any day, thank you!

For this giveaway there are 3 requirements:

  1. You need to have a facebook account (sorry, non-fb users...this is a requirement of the Classroom Friendly Folk, and as a small business owner myself, I fully understand and support that this is their method of marketing!).   
  2. If you win, you need to have "Liked" the Classroom Friendly Facebook page, and
  3. You do need to have a U.S. mailing address.

It's all super easy to do (all except for move to the U.S., that is, if you don't already live here).
Just click on your chosen button in the rafflecopter box below (this will take you to their facebook page), then leave a comment here and let me know your color choice (groovy green, firehouse red, cool blue, or midnight black).   And please make sure I have a valid email or link to reach you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway will run for one week, and I'll let rafflecopter do its thing, then I'll post the winner next Saturday.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My New Favorite Tool is a Pencil Sharpener!!!

I blame it on the moulage.   Drafting a moulage eats up pencils; trust me on this!   The good news is my local sewing BABES all got together in a camaraderie of measuring and support, and while we were at our fearless leader Georgene's studio,  (using Kenneth King's Moulage book), I used her handy dandy professional grade electric pencil sharpener.

The bad news is that my crappy little hold-between-two-fingers sharpener had gone missing, and it was high time I had something that actually worked.   In my lifetime, I've used everything from a pocket knife to an industrial grade electric sharpener, and I thought what I wanted for home use was a nice little electric sharpener that did the job, and did the job well.   Easy to find, one would think, yes?


Not according to all of the reviews I researched...and I even visited office supply stores!  And I did NOT want to pay $50 for something that had mixed reviews, especially when most of the reviews were WAY less than positive.

And then I found this little puppy:
This is the "Groovy Green" version of the "Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener" from  Classroom Friendly Supplies.   Great reviews across the board!  It's available in "groovy green" (which is a bit more of a true green than my pictures indicate), "firehouse red", "cool blue" and "midnight black".  It was a hard choice, but groovy green won out (who can resist something groovy, after all?)

It arrived today - who knew I could be so excited about a pencil sharpener arriving??  I'm sorry that the only ones home to share my enthusiasm were my cats, and they didn't really get it, so I'll share with you instead.

Points!!!  Pencil points!!!  SHARP pencil points!!!!
and After:

I mean, we are talking REALLY long, sharp points.  I don't think my picture does the length of these points justice.   Awesomeness in a pencil point.

You can clamp this sharpener on to a desk or shelf, but this isn't really necessary, because there is a clamping mechanism that holds the pencil steady and feeds it in to the sharpening gears, so you can hold on to the sharpener while you crank the handle.   The clamping mechanism feeds the pencil in, and when it's done, it's done.  No over-sharpening and waste.   More awesomeness!

Here's a pencil as you place it into the clamp, which is fully extended.
(Note the desk clamp lying underneath the pencil - I may find a permanent home for the sharpener in the sewing room, but leaving it portable is a pretty nice option) 

The clamp moves in to the sharpener as you crank the handle and the pencil gets sharpened.
And don't you love the fact that there is no confusion about what it is - 
the red label on top declares to the world that this little guy is proud of what he is!

Other points [koffkoff, get it?]:
  • The body and most of the parts are metal, with only a few plastic parts, including the shavings holder, the "ears" on the clamps, and a couple of the handle parts.
  • The Blade, the shavings holder, and the desk clamp are all available as replacement parts.
  • If you're a teacher or someone else who needs a large quantity, discounts are available (starting at packs of 3)
  • Some reviewers had minor quibbles about the fact that the clamp leaves a couple of teeny tiny bites in the pencil side, but seriously?   It's a PENCIL!  They get "bite marks"!
  • It works well on a variety of pencil sizes - the skinniest and fattest pencils in my stash were all sharpened equally well.
  • No electricity needed!
  • It's just so darned cute!

Front View:

Side View:

And the moulage project that started it all:

Sharp pencil, anyone?

Two thumbs up!  

I think that the only place to order them is at the Classroom Friendly website, at a cost of $24.95 (free shipping).   I found some for sale at Amazon, (cheaper), but they appear to be a cheaper knockoff, so caveat emptor - look closely at the details and you can see the difference.

(Note:  I'll do a blog post about the moulage process if-I-mean-WHEN I finish - now that I have SHARP pencils I'm ready to have another go at it)  :)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Sisters Tilton and Their Fabulous T's! (Craftsy Class Review)

Many of you are probably already aware that Marcy and Katherine Tilton are offering a Craftsy Class called "The Ultimate T-Shirt".   This class was on my Wish List - I'd not taken a Craftsy class yet, but this was one that was definitely calling to me, so when I received an offer to review the class on my blog in exchange for receiving the class for free (woo hoo!) I jumped right on it! Regarding honest reviews, if you know me at all well, you will know that if you ask me for an honest opinion/constructive criticism, an honest opinion is what you'll get!  So I approached this class with an assumption that I would probably get some valuable info from it, but also kept a critical eye wide open, actively looking for areas I thought could be improved on.

The Class Basics, and Format - "The Ultimate T-Shirt: Fitting and Construction", taught by the Sisters Tilton (Katherine and Marcy).   This was my first Craftsy Class, and overall I'm quite impressed!   I must say that I think the Craftsy website could use some tweaking to make it easier to navigate and quit freezing up,  but that's a separate issue *(I posted some notes at the end of this review) - this class, in my opinion, is definitely a winner!  The format is easy to follow, with several segments covering different aspects of the class, including:
  • Fabric Choice - very nice, succinct review of easy to difficult choices in knits.
  • Fit (fairly basic; you are expected to already know a bit about your own body's fit needs), but their tips on fitting-as-you-go can really help take the mystery out of some fitting issues, and are fabulous in terms of working with different fabrics, which can behave very differently.  They give great tips both on marking and trying on at the pattern level, to tweaking at various steps along the way.  There are helpful hints and/or reminders for the more experienced, and some invaluable info for those who are new to knits.
  • Neckline - They each give very detailed instructions on their favorite basic necklines - Katherine teaches a wraparound bound neckline, and Marcy teaches what she calls a "classic" neckline.  I was dying to know details about some of their more elaborate and arty necklines - perhaps another class, ladies??? 
  • Sewing Tips, including seam finishes and tips for working with rolling fabric edges, several different hemming options,  and tips for sewing in sleeves.
The Pattern - (Included as part of the class fee) Vogue 8793,

Katherine's Zipper Collar t-shirt.  I already had the pattern, and have made a couple of T's from it, (blogged here).   I thought I loved this pattern because of the unusual collar; now I also love the pattern because I see how versatile the basic T is, and I have a new understanding of how to alter, tweak, fit, embellish, and design a myriad of T's from one basic pattern!   Stoked!

The Instructors - if you've followed my blog for any time, you already know that I'm a huge fan of the patterns and artistic visions that both Marcy and Katherine have developed.   I've never taken a class from either of them, and I'm delighted to say that I would jump at the chance to take another class from either or both of them!  Their teaching manner was very easy to follow, and  they were clear, concise, informative, and easy to listen to and follow.  Their years of experience are so evident, and their friendliness and willingness to share is a delight - reading the questions put on the site by students, and their clear and thorough answers, is another treat that expands the class experience wonderfully!

Who Should Take the Class - I'm certainly no knit expert, but I've turned out a fair number of knit t-shirts and other garments that I'm very happy with, and I've picked up a lot of tips along the way....but I definitely loaded up on several very valuable hints thanks to this class!   I also got a kick in the butt to start being more consistent with a few habits that I often let go by the wayside (like always stay stitching the neckline starting at the shoulders and stitching to the center front and center back).   If you have basic sewing skills, but limited experience with knits, this class should set your mind at ease and put you well on the road to sewing knits with more confidence.  The only reason that would hesitate to recommend this class for someone who has NEVER sewn with knits before is that a few tips that really helped me when I started are not included - one for instance is the importance of finding an accurate grainline before cutting (I might be a bit anal about this, but my first experience with cutting knits was with someone who stressed this, and I've always really appreciated that!).  And perhaps at the other end of the spectrum - someone who considers themselves a Complete Expert at sewing with knits - might not pick much up.  ANYone else - go for it!

Criticisms - I messed up in one spot,  and this probably has more to do with how I tend to do things than it does with the class itself, but I'll toss it out there anyway.  I do tend to jump ahead of things when I think I've "got it", and/or I assume that a step was skipped over (as is often the case with both patterns and teachers!) so I do it my way and keep going.....and then, later on, sometimes discover that it wasn't a skipped step at all!  (and out comes the seam ripper.....)

This happened at the shoulder sewing step - only ONE shoulder is sewn, and then you move on to the neckband.  I, of course, did NOT listen to the whole class before diving in; I was sewing as I listened, and on this step I sewed up the second shoulder seam before getting to the neckband.   For someone like me, it would have been nice to say something like "We'll be sewing up the other shoulder seam AFTER sewing on the neckband."  (Note:  I prefer to have my neckband seam at the BACK of the shirt, instead of at the shoulder seam, which is why I skipped ahead here.  The Tiltons both place the band seam at the shoulder seam, but I, personally, don't like the extra bulk it adds there, so I did not unpick my sewn and topstitched shoulder seam on my first t-shirt, and did the neckband my way instead).  I did use their method on my second t-shirt, and while the neckband turned out very well, I still didn't like all that bulk at the shoulder seam, so I'll probably continue to place my band seam at the back, no matter what sort of band I use.

Conclusion - Two Thumbs Way Up, for sure!

My T-Shirts:
Using Marcy's "classic" neckband,
with double stitching details
I used 3 fabrics, all rayon jersey knits of varying weights.

For this T, I used my variation of sleeves from the Au Bonheur Asymmetric T (blogged here)...
 ...and I added some piping to Katherine's version of the neckband.  
It was so easy to make alterations on the basic T-shirt, thanks to their guidance!

For my third version, I used Katherine's neckband,
and I used the sleeve bands from the original pattern.

All three t-shirts are being worn and loved - I have summery sleeves, a warm weather featherweight fabric in the black & white T, and a cooler weather T in the brown & green fabrics.

Some details about the b&w T:   When I draped the striped fabric on my arms, trying to figure out how long I wanted to make them, a rather serendipitous folding of the fabric happened.   I really liked the way the white stripes popped out - this was the fabric actually folding itself so that the white folded outward, and the black settled back:

So I decided to play that up, and cut the sleeves long, then gathered the ends of the sleeves:

Once I gathered the seams, I stitched them in place, 
creating a curve when the sleeve was placed flat:

 The sleeve gathers at the wrist, and the white stripes pop out:

This black T is probably my favorite of the 3, and is getting the most wear - love those sleeves!

Overall, I highly recommend this class, and I'm delighted to have it in my repertoire!   Once you've purchased a Craftsy Class, you can refer to it over and over, so it's kind of like having your personal instructors right there in your sewing room with you!   Thanks so much to you, Katherine and Marcy!

*I e-mailed Craftsy and received immediate responses to my issues about navigating through the site.  I don't know yet if all of my issues were addressed satisfactorily (I still sometimes have to switch browsers in order to fully access the class), but I will say that the folks at Craftsy were VERY responsive and helpful, so big pluses there!   One note about the class reviews - they ONLY publish the most recent positive reviews for any given class, which annoys me because you don't get to read about what folks did not like - that's constructive criticism, and in my mind, is VERY valuable information.   However, you CAN contact the Craftsy folks and ask for a full set of reviews for a class you're interested in, which they will provide.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sneaking back into Blogworld with a Head-Wrap thingy.....

It appears that my blogging muse went missing for awhile.   I have no less than four (4) unpublished, half-written blog posts sitting in the wings that may or may not ever be published, but in the meantime, a little bit of sewing and a whole lot of life just happened, and the bottom line is that I'm still here.  :)

A couple of my dear friends are also still here, but are experiencing the chemo thing, and I wanted to make them some head coverings that didn't scream "I'm balding and I'm wearing a chemo hat!" One would think that this issue has been dealt with so much that you just find a pattern and whip something stylish out, but I wasn't finding it all that easy...

Until I came across McCall's 6521:
I REALLY liked the largest pic, with the bunched up knot at the side of the hat - elegant, fun, comfy-looking, and minus the whole "I'm covering up a bald head" image, so I snatched the pattern up the moment it went on sale (which conveniently happened the same day I discovered the pattern - isn't it nice when that happens?)

For my first version I used a soft knit for the band, and a thin cotton for the body of the scarf.

It's a nice color combo, albeit a bit flying-nunish, bit the knit was really a bit TOO wimpish, and the cotton a bit too heavy.    I wanted to be aware of the possible sensitivity of the skin, due to the chemo treatments, so really soft & comfy fabric was a priority, but the length of the scarf on this one really added weight, and the headband needs to support that weight, so the 2 fabrics need to work together well.  I cut the scarf fabric on this one about 6" shorter than the pattern called for, just because of the weight of the fabric, which was probably fine for most purposes, but I wanted to be sensitive to the needs of someone who was possibly both weak and might have uber-sensitive skin.

I decided that a heavier, but still soft & comfy, fabric for the band is necessary, and a very lightweight fabric for the scarf is also important.   For my second version I chose a tightly woven & heavier weight bamboo for the band, and a lightweight rayon challis for the scarf.

The cool aspect of this particular version of the pattern is that it can be worn in SO many different ways!:
Hangin' Loose:

Knotted at the top, and looped with an elastic scrunchie (scrunchie  included in the pattern):

Scarf looped and tied at the nape of the neck, and held in place with two mix-n-match scrunchies:

Scarf moved to the side, so that the bunchy knot is at the ear:

Scarf twisted & wrapped around the cap, then pinned in place:

One hat/scarf thingy, numerous different looks, what's not to love?!?   And the pattern has a number of other different views to sew - 2 thumbs way up on this one!

I did make a couple of construction changes.   The pattern just calls for stitching the band to the scarf, and then trimming the seam.   I might have been going into over-kill mode, but in an effort to be sensitive to the tender skin aspect of someone experiencing chemo, I didn't want any raw edges, so I  gathered the edge of the scarf a bit, and trimmed the scarf layer and the inner layer of band close to the stitching...:

...then turned the outer layer of the band under, enclosing the trimmed edges, pressed it, and sewed a hem, enclosing the raw edge so that only the softness of the hat band would be felt against the skin.

Some other notes:   To achieve the finished look of the lovely knot in the pattern envelope pic, I REALLY think that a pin (safety pin, fun or elegant pin....SOME sort of pin) is really a necessary accessory.   Getting that knot to lie so perfectly against the side of the head like the pattern envelope shows does not happen without some manipulation, trust me!    But with a bit of futzing, it's really a very cool look :).

I'm about to send these off to recipient #1, and will make another couple for recipient #2, and wait for the feedback.

If anyone has other pattern ideas or thoughts for more fun and/or elegant versions of "chemo hats", please feel free to chime in!

And yes, I'm back!   I have a LOT of blog reading to catch up on, and a whole lot of blogging to catch up with as well, but I'm still here with y'all! :)