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Preview: Manhattan Craft Room

Manhattan Craft Room

Tales from my manhattan craft room.

Updated: 2018-03-06T14:56:09.385-05:00


i've moved!


(image) Dear readers, thank you for joining me here on this little blog - but the time has come for Manhattan Craft Room and I to pack up and move to a spiffy new site. So please adjust your bookmarks and join me over at the new See you there!


my book is here!


(image) Hooray! After two years in development, my book is finally on sale! Read all about it and enter the first of many giveaways over on my new web site, Please move your bookmarks and join me over there!

catlady fridays: scrappy cat


(image) The perils of living with a craft lady: you get scraps of fabric stuck to your head when you try to take a nap.

(image) And your feet.

Happy Friday, all! See you here next week for the launch of my book, Sewing in a Straight Line! Hooray! I'm super excited to share the book and book videos with you, kick off my blog tour, and announce some extremely excellent giveaways. See you then! xoxo

brooklyn is big sky country


(image) The view from my kitchen after a rain storm.

new couch is here!


After a long and lonely two months of living couchless, my new sofa finally arrived! It's the Maddox from Room & Board, covered in Vance grey, which is a velvet, and which happens to match a certain furry person who lives with me.The matching of cat and sofa wasn't really intentional. I'm just loving charcoal grey these days. So you know, I picked out a cat in my favorite color then I picked out a sofa in my favorite color. And the rest is history.I wanted to get a portrait of kitty next to her matching couch, but she refused to cooperate. I swear, when she doesn't want her photo taken, she closes her eyes. Are you kidding me?That's better. Thank you. Now would you please go pose next to the couch?Fine then. You're the boss.On a side note, I have to take a moment here to acknowledge this post, which I wrote almost exactly one year before moving to my new apartment. Sometimes wishes do come true. :)Even the Blythe portion of that post materialized -- this was a gift from my friend this past Christmas:She came with a little grey kitty with a white chest. Coincidence? I doubt it.[...]

behind the scenes: book videos


Rarebit Productions and I have been hard at work making three web videos that will be released next week in conjunction with my book, which will also be released next week (hooray!). The videos will show you step-by-step how to sew three different projects, and will also give you a sneak peek at what else is in the book.We've been shooting in my apartment, which means my little space has been transformed into a bustling photo studio. There was a big green screen in my dining room, lights and stands and tripods in every room, and some of my very favorite creative people were there to help. (Top photo is Kelly from Rarebit; above photo is my friend Anthony, and Rose from Rarebit.)I made a big 'ol pile of pillows for one of the videos, which will show you how easy it is to install a zipper. (Seriously, it has become my mission to make the world see how easy zippers can be!) My friend Christina appears in this video with me, but in the shoot craziness that day I didn't manage to get a photo of the two of us.We snuck up on my building's rooftop at dusk to shoot a little scene with the city skyline in the background. The funny part was that we spotted my landlord out in the backyard 4 stories below, and since we didn't want to get busted for having an unapproved photo shoot on the roof, we conducted the whole shoot in whispers, which made it an extremely silly giggle-fest. This group is part crew, part pretend-party-goers for the pretend-party scene we were filming.Brooklyn at dusk with Manhattan across the river, and pretend-party-goer Jeff.My still-being-decorated craft room made an appearance in some shots.Rarebit worked a little stop-motion action with this set (which was actually in their apartment). They spent one of their Friday nights filming this sequence, because they are just that awesome.We hit the streets to film my friend Sara modeling a cute skirt which we show how to make in another video.This cute skirt can be all yours and the video will show you how to make it so! (My friend Amy appears in this video as well, but alas I didn't get a photo of the two of us on set.)The last project demonstrated in the videos is this set of fabric bowls, which we propped in this cute tableau.This project has been incredibly fun and inspiring to work on, and I can't say enough to thank Rarebit for all their hard work, and all the friends who have come to help out in guest spots. I also can't say enough to thank our sponsor Coats & Clark for their support in making the videos possible. It is truly a joy to do creative work you love, with people you like.I'm super excited to share the finished videos next week, along with the book's release! Be sure to check back here because I've also got some amazing crafty give-aways to celebrate the book launch... trust me, you won't want to miss them!Yay!PS: You can pre-order the book now and it will ship as soon as it's in stock, which sometimes is before the actual launch date.[...]

presenting: mancake!


Recently my friend Rose invited me to a surprise 40th birthday party for her boyfriend, known in certain circles as Lord Kellfire. I offered to make a cake, and Rose accepted, and it all seemed innocent enough.And then...Mancake happened.Mancake is a portrait of a man! Made of cake!First let me say, I find it really hard to make cakes for dudes. For girls it's easy -- cakes are naturally girly and pretty and frilly -- but for guys, often nothing seems right. So after a lot of thinking and sketching and brainstorming, after many ideas were ideaized and tried and thrown out, it was decided that I would make a portrait of Lord Kellfire in the style of a black velvet painting. On a cake.Of course, after I had committed to the idea I realized I had no idea whatsoever how to do such a thing. Portrait on a cake? What?But I didn't let that stop me! Working from photographs, first I made several "sketches" in royal icing, then decided on a design.I gathered my ingredients and baked up four half-sheet cakes and a boatload of buttercream.Figuring out how to transfer my design to fondant was tricky, and I'm not gonna lie, I considered some non-edible solutions. (Can you trace an outline onto fondant with artists' tracing paper? Would that be safe to eat? It doesn't matter, because it didn't work -- so I didn't have to run the risk of poisoning anyone.)In the end, I devised a pinprick-transfer method that worked great. (More on that another time.)I painted the image with paint made from Luster Dust mixed with vodka. I did not drink any of this vodka, at least not until the cake was done.Creepy mancake with no face! This is how it looked before and after piping the outlines. Not very promising before the piping. This was only hours before the party, but no, I was not worried that my cake was going to be a flop and that I was going to ruin everything. Uh, not at all.The finishing touch was the gilded frame, made from fondant and royal icing, and a few different types of gold food coloring.And that's all it took, over the course of a few days, to whip up this dapper confectionery gentleman!This cake was huge. I honestly could barely carry it out of my apartment! I think the plan was for it to feed 50 people at the party, and it did all that with about half of it leftover. Last I heard, Kelly's head is still in a freezer in Brooklyn somewhere. (Take that, Walt Disney.)Also, I am pleased to report that I am dutifully sticking to my pledge to always match my outfits to my desserts!The cake was cut into and devoured with much gusto!The party was really lovely -- there were mountains of barbeque, lots of toasting and much merriment had by all.Happy ladies eating mancake!And finally, a side-by-side comparison of the man and the cake. I can barely tell which one is the cake man and which one is the flesh and blood man. Success!Special thanks to Mindy Tucker who took all of the lovely party photographs.[...]

happy 4th of july! make a jello mold!


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How To Make Stuff - Ten Layer Jello from Rarebit Productions on Vimeo.

Is it just me, or does the 4th of July make you think of Jello molds? Well, every occasion makes me think of Jello molds, so perhaps it is just me.

But nonetheless, the upcoming holiday weekend is a great excuse to get jiggly - so if you want to get your Jello on, check out this video I made with my friends at Rarebit Productions for a how-to in mold magic.

For a different style of mold, and a complete recipe, along with a story about how much everyone will love you if you make them Jello, check out this post.

Happy 4th!


craft night at etsy


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etsy on Broadcast Live Free

This week my bud Drew Emborsky (aka The Crochet Dude) hosted an event at Etsy where he was teaching folks to crochet with strips of fabric using the Simplicity Rotary Cutting Machine. (It's a machine that cuts perfect strips of fabric to any width, and also embosses. Very cool.) I got to jump in and do a little impromptu webcast with Drew, live from Etsy headquarters. It was fun!

Click the above video to watch the demo. My favorite part is Drew's story about how his whole family pitched in to crochet giant rugs when he was a kid. How cute is that??

great new yarn: Sheep(ish)


Today I'm welcoming Vickie Howell and her new yarn, Sheep(ish) to Manhattan Craft Room for a stop on their blog tour!I first met Vickie a million years ago, back in 2005, when I was a guest on Knitty Gritty. Where, apparently, we took the opportunity to immerse ourselves in piles and piles of metallic gold eyelash yarn. What was going on there? I have no idea. I'm just glad it's not 2005 anymore. Because there are much better things happening in 2011, like Sheep(ish), Vickie's brand new yarn! Which is decidedly not metallic eyelash yarn (thank goodness).This yummy, yummy acrylic/wool blend has just hit stores and is available now at Caron and at JoAnn stores nationwide. (Vickie even has a find-a-store app on her website, to aid you in finding the nearest Sheep(ish)-selling store!Don't you just love the colors?! I'd like to get my hands on one skein of each and make a technicolor crocheted chevron afghan - how great would that be?In addition to afghans, Sheep(ish) is amazing for everything from garments to accessories and more. There's a great batch of free patterns over on the Caron website, so hop over there to check out the goods and get your Sheep(ish) on! And while you're at it, swing by Vickie's blog for lots more inspiration.PS: And if you want to check out some other great crafty blogs, visit some of the other stops on Vickie's tour:May 25th: (Kathy Cano-Murillo)May 26th: (Linda Permann)May 27th: Kitschy Digitals (Danielle Thompson)May 28th: (Kathy Cano-Murillo) + (Deb Steenhagen) May 29th: Susan B. Anderson May 30th: (Robyn Chachula)May 31st: June 1st: (Sister Diane)June 2nd: (Shannon Okey)June 3rd: (Allison Hoffman)June 4th: Coquette Blog (Natalie Zee-Drieu)June 5th (Sarah White)June 6th: Manhattan Craft Room (Brett Bara)June 7th: BetzWhite.comJune 8th: (Drew Emborsky)June 9th: & (Jennifer Perkins)June 10th: Craftzine.comJune 11th: [...]

egg embroidery update


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So, when I was making my embroidered eggs, I did a lot of research to try to figure out how it was done. There wasn't much out there to work with -- only a few mentions of egg embroidery online -- but I did come across some hints that others made theirs by cutting a hole in the back of the egg, which allowed you to work the stitches on the front of the egg. I tried a bunch of different methods and finally concluded that the only way it was physically possible to embroider on an egg was with the hole-in-the-back method. So that's what I did.

Well. The other day I came across this video which blew that out of the water. It turns out you don't have to cut a hole in the back of the egg -- at least not if you're a mad embroidery genius with, like, magical fingers.

Annie Garcin, the woman featured in this video, uses a method that has nothing to do with my hole-in-the-back method. Like me, she does use a Dremel tool to pre-drill tiny holes in the egg shell for the actual embroidery. But rather than cut an opening in the egg, she drills her design on both sides of the egg, and works the needle in and out through the tiny holes. (Watch the video to see this in action.)

For the record, I did try this method, and it was head-explodingly difficult. It's so hard to blindly poke around inside the egg and find the correct hole you need on the other side. Not to mention, I still don't know how you'd knot the thread. (Unless she's making attractive knots that show on the outside of the egg.)

Either way, Annie Garcin is an embroidery master. I tip my hat to you, fair lady! Or should I say, my chapeau.

PS: The video above is in French. I could understand some parts of it -- here are the details I got: Annie Garcin is an embroidery artist who lives in Corbeil, France. She studied embroidery in school, then went to work for an embroiderer in the sixties who worked for les grandes maisons. (Meaning, she worked for someone who worked for the big fashion houses embroidering couture clothes. How fabulous is that.) She uses silk thread for her embroidery. I think she said she invented this crazy egg embroidery idea herself. And at the end I think she says we need to make sure these ancient crafts aren't forgotten. (I'll second that.)

how-to: sew a gardening apron


(image) I don't actually have a garden, but this week for my Sewing 101 column at Design Sponge I whipped up a little something for those of you who do: a gardening apron!

It won't exactly keep you dirt-free, but it'll keep all your tools and seeds at your fingertips, and that's a good thing too.

(image) Pop on over to Design Sponge to check out the full how-to, including lots of step-by-step photos.

If you're a beginning sewer, this is a good one for you. It's SUPER easy, and it's made by sewing straight lines only! Imagine that!

(image) Maybe I'll wear mine when I plant terrariums, and I'll just pretend that I'm working in my fantasy garden in my fantasy brownstone house.

hello brooklyn!


Thank you all for your nice comments on my last post. It was fun to learn that some of you have similar leaving-Manhattan stories!Well, I'm here in Brooklyn, and all is well. My biggest fear was that life here would be less convenient, and that I'd have to schlep into the city every time I needed any little thing, like a zipper or a something special for a recipe.Of course, that was silly, because Greenpoint has everything I need. There are tons of great food markets and bakeries (oh the bakeries) right down the street, and I've already found a gourmet kitchen shop and a well-stocked sewing notions/yarn shop within a short walk. So I now know that I can officially survive here. Groceries, baked goods, kitchen supplies, craft supplies -- what more does a girl need?The most exciting thing is that I have a big, fresh canvas of an apartment to play with. I have 825 square feet all to myself -- which is small by many standards, but HUGE to me! I've never lived in this much space, ever, and I honestly don't even know what my decor style will look like when I have room to spread out and get creative. I'm super excited to see everything come together.OK, want to take a look at the raw space?Yeah, this is a lousy image of the floor plan - I know it's hard to see. But it gives you an idea of the layout. This apartment is a railroad, which means the rooms are all in a row, like a train. At the front (top of the floor plan) is a nice, sunny room with bay windows overlooking a park, and that will be my work studio. Yes!Here's a view of the windows. The trees are now green and I can hear birds chirping. Which is quite a change from the chaotic sounds of Second Avenue.One wall of this room is all closets, which will be home to my craft supplies.The wall opposite the closets; this is where I'll put a long work table for sewing and other projects.Fourth wall of this room; I'll put a counter-height work table here, which is where I'll cut fabric and do other standing-up tasks.OK, note the glass blocks. The landlord installed these back in the 80s to allow light into the next room. It's a great feature light-wise, but the blocks definitely lend a certain flavor to the decor. They could be worse though; at least it's not an abstract, multi-colored mosaic backsplash!This is the next room moving down the railroad. I'm using this room as my bedroom. It's small, but it's really cozy and I'm planning to do something very zen with the decor so that it will be simple and relaxing.Opposite view of the bedroom. As I type, I'm having a closet built in the nook under those cabinets, so that the whole wall will be storage. I've also never had more than 36" inches of closet space, so I don't even know what I'm going to do with all this closet.Moving along, the next room is the living room. More glass blocks on the left! This is a long, narrow room and it's a tiny bit tricky to figure out how best to plan a furniture layout, but there's definitely enough space to play with, so I'll make it work.Other view of the living room. What do you know, more glass blocks! I kinda like the diamond shape; I'm sure I can make it into a fun focal point somehow.This is the hallway just outside the living room, leading to the main entrance to the apartment. (There's also an entrance into the craft room, but I don't use that door.)The next room is the dining room. YES -- the dining room. I can't believe I have a dining room. I have a dining roooooooooom! It's another long, skinny room, making it perfect for a long, narrow table, which I couldn't be more excited about. I can have, like, ten people over for dinner, and we can all sit at a table at the same time. This isn't just a material thing; I feel like it's going to really take my cooking to a new[...]

goodbye manhattan


Big changes have been in the works around here... Drum roll please: I moved! To Brooklyn!!!After 13 years in Manhattan, this was a big, big deal for me. I was so resistant to leaving that tiny island, but at the same time I felt the call of something new -- so I finally took the leap across the river. So far I'm loving my new place, but before I start sharing all the goods on my new digs, I thought I'd dedicate one post to my last Manhattan home. I still feel so sentimental about Manhattan, and my last apartment really was an old-school New York gem from another era.This is where I lived for the past couple of years; it was a studio in the East Village that I sublet from a friend. I was in the same one-block vicinity of the East Village for almost all of my 13 NYC years, except for a brief stint in the West Village. So, this spot was really my New York home. An imperfect home full of tourists, drunk NYU kids, passed-out bums on my stoop, major noise 24/7 and no space whatsoever -- but also where I knew the people who owned the best home-cooking Ukrainian diner, where I often bumped into someone I knew wherever I went, and where I could get anything, literally anything, within a five-minute walk.This apartment was a studio, a large(ish) rectangular main room with a separate kitchen. The main room held my bed, living room area, work area, books and clothes. The total size was about 380 square feet. Since it was a sublet, it was a mash-up of furniture that was already in the space combined with my own stuff. Ready to take a peek?My humble lil' kitchen -- more details and a before-and-after are at the end of this post.Super cute exposed brick fireplace, with my great-grandmother's mirror.The apartment had amazing bay windows with deep window seats and a great view. The light was stunning; no question, the windows were the best feature about this place.This vintage medical cabinet is the only piece of furniture I've kept with me throughout all my NYC years. I really love it.I modified Ikea Enje blinds for all the windows, removing the shade that came on the blinds and replacing it with fabric. I'll do a how-to post on that one of these days.The windows looked out over the intersection of Second Avenue and 6th Street, with a view of the famous Block Drugs store. The apartment was just one flight up so you really got a birds-eye view of the street - I spent hours sitting in these windows people watching.A couple of details. Some of my vintage knitting needles in a crystal vase, and a vintage paint-by-number horse.A little dresser and book nook.To organize my jewelry, I used these great display cases. They were perfect because I could stack them to save space, and the glass tops allowed me to shuffle them around and see what was inside without having to open the lids.There was a CD rack already installed in the apartment, and I repurposed it for books, which made it look like one of those cool skinny bookcases.Not sure why I didn't manage to clear the clutter is this shot - oops! Anyway, my "living room" was never quite complete but I always liked my clear coffee table and my cow rug. The coffee table (from CB2) was perfect for this area because it gave me a lot of surface space (since I tended to do a lot of work on the couch) without taking up visual space.The pass-through from the main room to the kitchen with my hanging vintage lamp.Another view of the pass-through.Big-scale Blythe art I made to hang over the bed. Pillows were cast-off magazine props from my former office.This corner was my teeny-tiny work space, crammed right in there behind the sofa and next to the bed. Glamorous, right? Part of me didn't want to share this photo because it's not very pretty, but I[...]

how to sew a terrarium


I'm just in love with terrariums. I love the idea of a teeeeny-tiny little private world, I love the fact that you can create an ecosystem that can survive completely on its own, and I love that they allow you to display cute miniature figurines in a way that doesn't make your house look like a knick-knack collecting old lady lives there.So when my Design Sponge editor challenged me to think of a Sewing 101 project that combined sewing and planting, somehow the idea of a sewing a terrarium popped into my head. Could it be done?Turns out, the answer is yes, and it's very easy to boot! All it takes is some clear vinyl (available by the yard at the fabric store) and your sewing machine.I came up with designs for three different shapes - a rectangle, a vertical container with inward-slanting sides, and an abstract circular fluted shape. They're all really quick to sew, and simple, and fun.Sewing the vinyl is just a teeny bit tricky, as it won't feed through your sewing machine normally since it's so sticky. But fear not! My post will show you an easy work-around for this, which involves simple tissue paper and paperclips.In the post I also give some simple tips for planting a terrarium. I know lots of people think terrariums are hard to keep alive, and I've had that experience too. The biggest problem for me is that when you use several different plants, some of them die while others get all scraggly. But I've found that planting simple moss is the best way to go. It looks really lush and gorgeous, it's easy to maintain - and honestly, I think it looks just as good (if not better) than using lots of different plants. I have a couple of glass terrariums at home with lids, and I never, ever even have to open them - they live completely on their own, with the lids closed. It fascinates me. With a container like these ones though, with open tops, you would have to mist the plants every so often - but that's it. Easy, I promise!So hop on over to my post on Design Sponge to learn how to sew your own terrarium!PS fun fact: this ladybug figurine is from my childhood, I've had it probably since I was five years old, or even younger. As I kid I was obsessed with ladybugs and I had a little collection of ladybug goodies. When I was home about a year ago, I noticed this little lady in my old bedroom, and snagged her for terrarium use. She really makes me happy and I love having a way to incorporate a childhood memory into my adult home![...]

sewing machines (and me) on your tv


If you've been thinking about buying a sewing machine, or if you already have one but could use some new tools, then tune in to ShopNBC this Tuesday, April 26, for a sewing bonanza! I'll be live on-air three times throughout the day demonstrating a great collection of Singer sewing machines and Simplicity sewing tools -- there will be loads of good bargains and some really excellent products to check out.

For the past few months I've been working with the machines we'll be demonstrating (a great computerized machine, a heavy-duty mechanical machine, a serger (!!!), a bias tape maker, rotary cutter machine, bobbin winder -- and more -- and I gotta say, these are all really excellent tools. Well-designed, easy to use and understand, and really great for anyone from a beginner to a more advanced sewer.

So! Flip your dial to ShopNBC Tuesday, April 26 at 8am EST, 1pm EST, and 7pm EST. The complete program guide is here so you can check the air times in your time zone. And here is a preview of the items that will be up for grabs.

Three full hours, completely live, packed with hundreds of demos and sewing machines as far as the eye can see? It's going to be crazy for sure. Wish me luck!

embroidering on eggs


Recently I came across an image online of an eggs that had been embroidered, made by Ukrainian artist Forostyuk Inna. (See the original image here.)We're talking real eggs with real embroidery on 'em. It seemed to defy the laws of physics - and it combined two of my favorite things, egg decorating and sewing. I couldn't get it out of my mind.How were the stitches worked? Was it all done, magical-surgeon style, through the tiny holes made when blowing out the egg's contents? Was there another trick? And most importantly, how did the egg not smash to smithereens?I had experimented with cutting eggs a few years back when I made some Faberge-style eggs based on an article in Martha Stewing Living. The article instructed you to cut the egg open with a Dremel tool, which sounded impossible but turned out to be completely doable. You really can cut an egg shell with a Dremel, and once you get the hang of it it's not hard at all. (Use a diamond cutting disc, or other disc meant for fine work. And, uh, watch out for the egg-spray. Let's just say I had liquid eggs in my hair and on my kitchen walls. Not classy.)So, okay, I knew egg shells were cut-able. But how were they sew-able? I dug and dug online to see how embroidered eggs were made. There really were no tutorials out there, but I did find a few clues indicating that they were made by cutting a hole in the back of the egg. (First I tried working the embroidery through the small holes made my blowing out the egg, and it really seemed quite impossible. Maybe it could be done, but it wouldn't be my idea of fun.)After figuring out the hole-in-the-back secret, the rest was cake. I picked up some micro drill bits for my Dremel and tried drilling holes in the hollowed-out egg shells to make the embroidery. I was nervous that this would create a lot of breakage, but it really didn't at all. I tell ya, the Dremel is my new best friend.After that, all that was left to do was make stitches in the pre-drilled holes using regular embroidery floss and a long needle.I created a full how-to of the process over on my Sewing 101 column at Design Sponge - so pop on over there to see lots of detail shots of how this technique is done.And there you have it, embroidered eggs! (All the eggs shown in this post are by me.) There are so many ways you could run with this technique -- embroider names, monograms, traditional cross-stitch patterns, crazy-quilt stitches -- the list goes on and on.What about you, would you give this a try or does this fall in the crazypants crafting category? :)All photos by Brett Bara.[...]

great new crochet book: LITTLE CROCHET


I'm very pleased today to welcome crochet author/designer (and my friend) Linda Permann to Manhattan Craft Room for a stop on her worldwide blog tour promoting her new book, Little Crochet. Hello Linda!!!Linda and I go way back. Well, a little bit back. We first met about five years ago when we worked together at a craft publisher. I was the editor of Crochet Today and Linda worked on an adorable (sadly, now defunct) magazine called Adorn, and we often had lunch with a couple other crafty co-workers at a yummy Mexican place called Lupe's. (Ah, memories!)We've since both moved on from those jobs, and Linda has moved far away to Texas. But we keep in touch online, and of course through the crochet world. I was a big fan of Linda's first book, Crochet Adorned - and I'm super excited about her new book, Little Crochet.Little Crochet is chock-full of contemporary baby and toddler crochet projects - you won't see a single pastel or fuzzy duckling in the mix. Linda really did a great job of designing projects that appeal to a more modern sensibility, in great yarns that grown-ups will love as much as the little ones will.So without further ado, let's get to it!BB: I love how fresh and non-traditional-baby your designs are. What's your philosophy for baby & kids crochet designs? LP: My philosophy is pretty much the same when it comes to anything I design: let the yarn and color choices speak, don't over-complicate the pattern, and try to give the stitcher "breathing room"—ie parts of the pattern that are mindless, so they can alternate between focusing and relaxing. Just by picking some amazing yarns and color ways and making sure that you finish the pieces properly (blocking, seaming, etc), even the simplest patterns become show stoppers.BB: You don't use many "baby" yarns in your patterns. What's your advice on choosing yarn that's baby-friendly, yet not labeled "baby"? Any do's and don'ts? LP: I like to use sock yarn for babies, because it's designed to be durable. Wool is great for soakers, nylon blends and cotton are perfect every day wear. I think it's okay to splurge a bit on fiber if you want to and you know the family will take care of it—when I crochet, I want to enjoy the process of working on the item as much as the finished piece. The main thing, of course, is to consider the recipient. And by that, I mean the parents. Will they hand wash or not? Many won't because they have bigger things on their minds—so look for superwash wools, washable cottons, and acrylic blends. If you take the time to swatch—which you totally should—go ahead and put your swatch through the washer and dryer before you start your project. This will give you a good idea of how it will hold up. A lot of yarns say they are "dry clean only" as a precaution—you can definitely get away with at least washing them. But, always test it out on a swatch before you put the effort into a project. BB: Which projects from the book would you recommend for newbie crocheters? LP: There are a few beginner-friendly projects in the book. I like the Felted Play Rug—which is only labeled "Easy" (not beginner) because of the color changes. It's a repetitive pattern using super bulky yarn, and the felting will erase any boo-boos.The No Fuss Party Bibs are pretty simple, too. There is plenty of information on how to make basic stitches in the appendix, so if someone has a little crochet experience, they should be able to tackle the projects in this book. What's your favorite project in the book? It's so hard to pick a favorite! I have a special fondness for the Mix and Match [...]

modern log cabin baby quilt


I am so behind on giving so many baby gifts. It's the curse of the crafter -- I can't bear to give store-bought gifts, because I want to make things myself, but of course I never keep up with it all, and then I end up giving no gifts. Sigh. Um, it's the thought that counts?Well, I made some progress recently when I gifted a little quilt to my new little friend Evan (brother of Sophie who I made this quilt for).Is he a cute little peanut, or what?This quilt is made of very simple log cabin blocks - it's so quick and easy, you really could whip up in a weekend.If you've made log cabins before, you know how easy they are. If you haven't but would like to learn, I posted a photo tutorial on making modern log cabin blocks in my Sewing 101 column on Design Sponge here. The post takes you through the whole process step by step, so you'll see how easy it really is.The best part? You only have to know how to sew in a straight line to make a quilt like this!I don't think I could ever get tired of log cabins....or this cute little face.Don't you want to squeeze him?! Trust me, he is extremely squeezable.Do you ever get stumped trying to pick colors for a quilt? Here's my trick. I find a patterned fabric I love for the backing, then build the colors from that. I think a lot of quilters tend to plan the front before the back, but I do it in reverse - and I find it really helps to keep me on track with a palette and tone. Try it!Yay for babies and quilts![...]

catlady fridays: spring is here


A few weeks ago, all of Kitty's winter hair fell out, almost instantaneously - it only took a few days (and a lot of brushing) for her whole winter coat to take its leave.

You know I got all crazy-cat-lady and saved it in a bag. What?

(image) It fascinated me that the quantity of fur she shed was literally as large in mass as her remaining body.

(image) I heaped it all back on her just to see what it would look like. It's a kittysheep!

(image) Then she was like, stop it already you weirdo, and throw away my old fur. So I did.

(image) Cutest kitty ever, right? She's still an incredible fluffball, even without the winter coat. It's quite impressive.

DIY large-scale wall art


I needed a large piece of art to hang above my bed, and I wanted something cheap, quick, fun, and DIY.Thanks to the internet and some international generosity, this doe-eyed gal is what I made!I've had a soft spot for Blythe for a long time now, ever since I discovered Gina Garan's first book, This is Blythe, many years ago. That fabulous little doll is such a... doll, isn't she? (Click here to visit Gina's site and see tons of rad Blythe pics.)For the image I used, I found a Blythe photo I loved on Flickr and emailed the photo's creator, one Alberto Rodriguez from Spain, to ask if I could use it. Alberto immediately replied and said I was more than welcome to use his photo - wasn't that nice?!Next, to make the piece big, I used the awesome site with a terrible name, The Rasterbator. For the bargain price of FREE, you can upload any regular-sized image to this site, and the robots that work there will turn it into a huge image (up to something like 20x20 feet!) which -- this is the best part -- you print out at home on a regular printer, on regular printer paper. Then you piece together all the printed-out pages to create the final enormous image.So I uploaded Alberto's image to The Rasterbator, and in mere seconds I had a pdf file that was about 30 pages long. I printed them all out in color on a regular office printer. The pages themselves looked like nothing but pixellated randomness - I totally didn't believe that the image would come together. But once I started laying them out in the correct order, a big, beautiful Blythe sprang to life before my eyes!Next, I got a piece of foam core and cut it to the necessary size to fit my image. I adhered the printed pages to the foam core one by one, using double-stick tape. I wasn't as precise as I could have been, and so my grid got a little off, causing some gaps between the pages in some spots. I ended up coloring them in with a black marker and it wasn't that big of a deal, but next time I'll be a little more careful, maybe draw a grid on my foam core before I start taping.And that's it! Isn't she cute?Total time: a couple of hoursTotal cost: whatever it costs to buy foam core + make printoutsThe best part is that since I live on a low floor of my building, she can be seen through my windows from the street at night. I like the thought of sharing a little bit of art with the East Village. (Don't worry, I close my shades before it gets too late.)Thank you, Alberto, for sharing your wonderful photo with me. It makes me happy every day! [...]

red & white


I'm about to say something scandalous.Here goes.I'm not really that into quilt shows.I know, I know. As someone who sews, and as someone who quilts, that is just wrong. Right? But the truth is, I don't know the last time I've seen a quilt show that's really excited me. Of course, there's always something wonderful about so much handmade work all in one spot. But most quilt shows tend to be more traditional, and my taste in quilts leans way more modern. And so that's why, when someone says quilt show, my mind tends to wander.But when a friend invited me to Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts at the Park Avenue Armory in NYC this past weekend (otherwise known as The Red and White Quilt Show), she assured me it was something I couldn't miss. The truth? I hadn't done my homework on the show, didn't know what I was in for, and agreed to go more for the company than for the quilts.I didn't expect much.And then? I had my mind blown into a million little pieces.First I have to say, my pictures don't do this justice. (All I had was my camera phone. What a shame.) Second, keep in mind that the venue for this exhibit was at least as big as a football field, and maybe four stories tall inside. The scale was enormous. Look how little the people are.So. This is the sight you saw when you first walked in the door. A towering spiral of red and white quilts surrounded by more and more quilts that floated in the air behind it, seemingly into infinity.I gasped, broke out in goosebumps, and almost cried.My stomach hurt a little bit. I'm not kidding. I'd never seen anything like this, and it was truly moving. I kept saying strange things in my head, like what is this place? Who did this?Am I on another planet? One with a landscape made of quilts?Surrounding the center spiral were a series of huge hanging cylinders of quilts. The pieces were hanging from simple cardboard tubes (each tube double-hung so that there were two quilts hanging from each one, both with their right sides facing out), and the tubes were all joined together, both vertically and horizontally, with thin cable. It created a beautiful metaphor for the connectedness that's inherent in quilting. It made me think of quilting bees, of quilting circles, of women joining together to make these creations and of families who passed them down.In the very center, below the huge spiral, was this ring of empty chairs, each draped with a quilt. This was a lovely nod to the anonymous stitchers who made these masterpieces.Every time I looked up close at the detail on one of the quilts, I got a lump in my throat just thinking about the women who made all those painstaking stitches. I wonder if they worked by candlelight, or sitting out on their porches, or gathered in a church hall?At the very back of the hall was a wall of quilts hanging in a sweeping arc.Every single quilt -- all 651 of them -- was perfectly lit, creating brilliant spots of red and white floating on a black background. It was so beautiful.Most amazing of all? This show is only open for six days. That seems almost cruel. If it had been open for even one more weekend, I would have demanded that my mom cancel whatever she was doing and come see it. (And that you do, too.)This collection, amazingly, belongs to one woman. Joanna Semel Rose has been collecting red and white quilts for decades. She has amassed over one thousand pieces, and says she made the collection by memory, never checking to see if she already owned a pattern before buyin[...]

super-duper exciting announcement: MY BOOK!


I am over-the-moon excited to finally announce the publication of my first book! Sewing in a Straight Line: Quick & Crafty Projects You Can Make by Simply Sewing Straight, published by Potter Craft, will hit shelves everywhere July of this year.I've had "write a book" on my to-do list for, oh, like seven years now, or maybe my whole life, so I'm thrilled that this is finally a reality. Can I just say, YAY!Sewing in a Straight Line was born when I realized that although I really like to sew, and I've been sewing pretty much my whole life, the vast majority of what I make is sewn with straight seams only. No reason - just because lots of projects require nothing more. I also knew that people were often telling me they'd like to learn how to sew, but that it seemed so hard. And then I was like, lightbulb moment! I could write a book where I show people all the things they can make by sewing straight lines only, and then they wouldn't think sewing is so hard after all, and we would all live happily ever after in crafty bliss!I wasn't sure if it could be done -- would I end up with a book full of boxy, blocky, lame-looking "beginner" projects? It turns out, thank goodness, the answer is no! I made a collection of 28 projects that I truly believe are sophisticated and cute. Take the cover skirt, for example. It features a tailored waistband, pleats and button plackets -- I think it's super adorable, and it's made with straight lines only. Can you believe it?Inside the book there's lots more where that came from, like a silk chiffon blouse, sundresses, totes, quilts, curtains, pillows, stuffed toys, a faux-leather purse, and much more. I worked really hard on writing instructions that are easy to understand, so I hope that even beginners will be able to take this book, dust off their sewing machine, and sew away. (There are also quite a few challenges in there too, so I think non-beginners will find plenty of inspiration as well.)But enough about me! What about you? Well, for starters, the book is available NOW on pre-order, so you can reserve your copy today! You can order it from your favorite retailer, including Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Borders, or from a local independent book retailer through IndieBound.And watch this space for lots of book goodies to come over the next few months, including fun videos, tons of how-to's, and even some juicy giveaways. It's gonna be a sewing party up in here!For now, I have a question for you. What are the sewing techniques you'd most like to learn? What are your greatest stumbling blocks? What would you love to make? Let me know -- I'm preparing some how-to's and would really love to have your input. Thanks!xoxoBrett[...]

NYC sewing eye candy


Some yummy sewing sights I spied recently in my travels in the city...

(image) rainbow ric rac at Daytona Trimming and wall of vintage sewing machines at AllSaints Spitalfields

(image) zippers, zippers, zippers at SIL Thread

(image) jewel-like spools at SIL Thread and cool old-timey storefront on 25th street

clean-out-the-fridge DIY flower arrangement


I've never been much of a flower-arranging expert (though I wish I were). But last week I got inspired to whip up one of those minimalist arrangements where you put a bunch of single stems in a bunch of little jars. So simple, so sweet -- and easy enough for flower-challenged types like me.

Problem was, I didn't have a bunch of cute little jars. As a tiny-apartment dweller, I don't allow myself to hoard cute little jars. No matter how cute they are, if I don't have an immediate reason to reuse them, into the recycling bin they go.

So I felt a little bummed that I couldn't execute my cute-little-jars flower arrangement. That is, until I took a peek in my nightmare of a fridge and realized I had way more jars of ancient, almost-empty capers, horseradish, pesto and who-knows-what-else than any self-respecting lady should have.


So you know what's next. All the ancient foodstuffs went into the trash, the jars went into a hot soapy bath to be relieved of their labels, and a few simple stems of ranunculus and little yellow pom flowers went into the jars.

Instant flower arrangement, clean fridge.

And that, my friends, is what I call a win-win!