It’s Here! Cotton + Steel

I have eagerly awaited the arrival of the first line of fabric from Cotton + Steel. I love the aesthetic of each of the women involved in this collective design effort. I also appreciate the way they have collaborated to create a female-driven design effort. The fabric collections from Cotton + Steel are fresh and contemporary. This is the kind of work that will keep sewing and quilting alive with a new generation of sewists.

In my eagerness to get in on the Cotton + Steel goodness while prints were still available, I joined the Pink Castle Fabrics Cotton + Steel Club. I will receive a package of assorted Cotton + Steel fat quarters in the mail each month. The package is curated and remixed from all of the Cotton + Steel collections and basics. For me, this was a great option. I wanted to get a wide selection of prints, and I mostly make small projects. This is the first time I have tried a monthly club and I’m excited to see how it goes. Will I keep up with the arrival of new fabric each month? Or will I tire out and simply shelve it with my stash? To be determined…

The first month of the club is August. This month’s package was not something I would normally choose for myself. I rarely sew with pinks, corals, or pastels. So although these fabrics were not my favorite color scheme, I found it to be a pleasant challenge. And I will finally have a reason to use up the pink zippers, notions, and trims that always sit unused in my sewing room.

My first project was the Nice & Neat Manicure Kit designed by Rashida Coleman Hale. I used one a Sarah Watts print from the August collection as the main fabric, with a mint coordinate and some Lizzy House pearl bracelet from my stash for binding.

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This was a fun little project to make. I’d like to say that I did all of the corners rounded on purpose, but in reality I just didn’t read the tutorial thoroughly before I began and rounded all of the corners before I knew any better. 
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This project was good practice in doing continuous binding. I have attempted it several times before and I usually screw it up at least once before finishing the project. (Sometimes I never get it right and just switch to a different method and call it quits.) I managed to do it right this time.

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This was a fun little project. But I don’t really do manicures or use any manicure tools. So this will probably become a gift for someone, once I meet a friend who likes doing at-home manicures.

More to come from this month’s Cotton + Steel selections – and lots of it will be pink!

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Zip It

I have been too long away from my sewing machine. I work a lot of evenings and weekends, especially during the summer, and the rest of the time has been filled with summery activities. I do love spending time in the sun with family and friends, but I really wanted to get some time in at my sewing machine.

I needed something quick and easy to sew in just a few free hours. I searched through my downloaded pattern file and found this Zippy Pouch tutorial from Sew Mama Sew. It is simply, but it had some wonky patchwork in the design, which added interest.

I whipped up two of these pouches in an afternoon. Very satisfying quick sewing.

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This one was made from some leftover neutrals, a fat quarter that my husband bought for me, and some free fabric that I got accidentally when fabric.com messed up my order once. It was a “use up the extras” type of project, but I like the way the neutral prints play off one another.

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The tutorial calls for the zipper to be inserted in a very basic way. While this was easier to sew, it leaves this undesirable puckering at the end.

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For the second pouch, I added fabric tabs at the ends of the zippers to alleviate some of the puckering. This helps with the aesthetic appearance of the pouch and gives a cleaner finish. However, it shortens the length of the zipper, making the pouch less functional as you have less room in the opening. I wish I wasn’t so picky – but I just couldn’t live with a puckering zipper.

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This is the second finished pouch. Brighter colors! This one will be a gift for someone soon.

I’m going to make another one of these, but with slightly adjusted zipper tabs. I also plan to use that square block on the front as an opportunity to showcase some of the hundreds of hexies I basted during the cold winter months. This pouch pattern is so simple, but that front patchwork really does offer a neat opportunity to showcase something cool: embroidery, applique, a stamp or screenprint – lots of possiblities!

Divided Basket for a New Baby

Babies are teeny tiny mysteries. I don’t have one, and I never have, so I don’t fully understand what they’re all about. Lots of my friends and relatives are having babies, and as is customary, I give them baby-related gifts. My complete cluelessness about babies makes it challenging to identify an appropriate gifts for new parents and their babies. In my confusion, I usually just sew something and then add a book or two.

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Thank goodness for Anna Graham and her outstanding patterns. This is the second time I have made a divided basket as a baby shower gift, and it is such a versatile pattern. I was able to work completely from my stash (hurrah for frugality!) and fill up the basket with small but hopefully useful items for the new baby boy.

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The exterior fabric is an adorable Moda print featuring multicolored origami animals. It had a bunch of bright colors and a nice gray neutral, so it paired well with random items in my stash. I found the origami animal print while visiting Quiltwork Patches in Eugene, Oregon, and at the time I had no idea what I would do with it but I just had to have it. I am glad that I was able to put it to use – it is perfect for a baby gift.

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The basket is filled with some of my favorite board books, a small toy, and some extra onesies. I hear that babies are mighty messy. A change of clothes might come in handy.

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I used fusible fleece in addition to the recommended interfacing, as suggested in the pattern, and it made a sturdy basket that stands on its own. I wish I had done the fabric-covered handles because that would have helped bring it all together…but I was in a rush and wanted to get this sewn up and in the mail before the baby arrived. I hope the new baby (and his parents) like it!

 

Leather Bottom Pouch

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I am obsessed with sewing zippered pouches, especially this one: the open wide pouch by Anna Graham, the brilliant mind behind Noodlehead. I have made roughly 15 of these beauties and enjoyed every minute of sewing them.

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I love this pouch because the design is utterly practical. It opens wide (hence the name) and you can get at everything inside easily. This is perfect for me…the woman who throws everything into a bag willy nilly and then has to rummage around to find it later. My packing skills are truly atrocious.

The exterior fabric is from Pat Bravo’s Indie collection with Art Gallery Fabrics. I savor this print, and it’s hard for me to cut up the yardage from that collection, but this bag seemed worthy of the honor. The lining is a print from Anna Maria Horner’s versatile True Colors collection.

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I have been experimenting with sewing leather, and I decided to incorporate some into this bag. The bottom of the bag was cut from leather upholstery scraps generously given to me by my mother-in-law so that I could explore some of my sewing whims.

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I used a leather needle to sew all seams on the bottom portion of the bag. I also switched from my usual 100% cotton thread to a 100% polyester thread for the leather base. Cotton threads can be eaten away by the natural oils in leather, and I wanted this bag to last. Even though it added a few minutes to the process to re-thread the machine, I feel it is worth the extra time to have a durable product.

Tiny Pocket Tank: A Garment Sewing Venture

I am scared of sewing clothes for myself. I can’t explain this fear, because it doesn’t make any sense. I used to sew apparel all the time when I was a 4-H member. I made skirts, tops, dresses, and suits (I only made pants once, and that was hard). I sewed knits and used a serger. But I did all of it under the watchful eye of my mother, who had a lot of expertise in the area and could help me figure out the hard parts.

My last attempt at sewing a garment for myself happened back in 2010, when I tried to make a blouse from a Colette pattern. It turned out ok, but I didn’t have a serger at the time and was dissatisfied with the interior seam finishes and the quality of the fabric I had chosen. I never wore it in public. It was discouraging.

I got the itch to sew garments again after sewing the ultra cute Tiny Pocket Tanks made by talented ladies with sewing blogs. The examples from Pink Chalk Fabrics were particularly motivating. So I jumped in. I downloaded the pattern, used some Anna Maria Horner Little Folks voile from my stash, and sewed myself a tank top.IMG_0989

The pattern was so simple it was almost astonishing. I used french seams for the sides and shoulders, because I am not quite mentally prepared to tackle the serger yet. I followed the neck and armhole finishing instructions to the letter, and I am grateful, because the outcome was lovely. I have never had a curved edge lay flat like that before. Neat!

IMG_0991I did made a tiny alteration to the directions. Instead of using a straight stitch for the under-stitching, I used a narrow three-step zigzag stitch. Nancy Zieman recommends this for under-stitching, and back in my 4-H sewing days I always relied on the three-step zigzag stitch to help my facings lay flat. It still works!

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(Can you see my zigzag stitches? I think I need a better camera.)

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Here’s the finished garment on me. There are some minor fit issues around the bust, but I don’t have the confidence yet to do pattern alterations…

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…so instead I will cover it up with a cardigan! This is how I would have to wear it to work, anyway.

The minor success of the Tiny Pocket Tank has inspired me to try some more garment sewing. Nothing too fancy, just a few other tanks that can be sewn with french seams and worn casually. Next up is the Wiksten Tank. Then I have my eyes set on the Eucalypt Tank. Brianna and apparel sewing – a saga to be continued…

 

Glug Glug: Ginger Press Cocktail

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There is nothing new under the sun. I remember being in a dramatic literature course back in high school and discussing how there are really only a few basic story plots (think man vs. nature, man vs. self, etc.). Although humans have been writing stories and plays for centuries, each tale can be broken down into the essential elements of those basic plots. It’s not a bad thing – it simply means that we take the existing structures available to us and build upon them with our own ideas and talents.

I think that lifestyle blogging can be like writing a story and trying to come up with a new plot: you can’t really do it. There are so many lifestyle bloggers out there doing creative things, and it is challenging to come up with something new. So you just have to be inventive with what you have, respect the work of others, and add your own ideas to the mix.

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This cocktail is my version of someone else’s excellent idea. One of my favorite places to eat in southeast Wisconsin is Cafe Sourette, a farm-to-table concept restaurant in West Bend. Every time I eat at Cafe Sourette, I order the ginger press cocktail. It has this wonderful, bright flavor. The spicy tang of ginger wakes me up every time. After craving the cocktail numerous times and ruling out the possibility of driving an hour round trip just to have one of my favorite drinks, I decided to create my own approximation of the ginger press. It is so easy to whip up on a hot afternoon, and it makes me feel fancy. Especially with the paper straw.

IMG_0969Ginger Press Cocktail

2 oz. Domaine du Canton ginger liqueur

Lemonade (homemade is good, but I was lazy and used Simply Lemonade)

Ice

Lemon slices

Fill a tumbler with ice. Pour in 2 ounces of Domaine du Canton ginger liqueur. (I recommend wiping down the lip of the Domaine du Canton bottle after you have poured, because it is a syrupy liqueur and you will thank yourself later when you don’t have to strong-arm the cap off of the bottle next time you open it.) Top with lemonade. Garnish with lemon slices. Candied ginger would be a nice garnish too, if you have it on hand. Add a straw and sip in the sunshine.