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Free fabric scraps at this funky Chicago fabric store: The Needle Shop!

The Needle Shop - Chicago, IL
The Needle Shop – Chicago, IL

Anyone who does appliqué knows the value of a scrap. A small piece of fabric is all you need to make a big impact.  But if you rely on using scraps from your own projects AND you do a lot of appliqué… you start to run out of fresh options. So when I walked into The Needle Shop in Chicago and saw a large bin of free scraps, I got pretty excited!

What a fabulous concept! I have never seen such an offer in any fabric store, and I think it’s absolutely brilliant. After rooting through the scrap bin for a good 10 minutes, and feeling very grateful for my finds, I WANTED to find something to purchase from this totally awesome store. And this was not a problem.

The Needle Shop has tons of modem (primarily) cotton printed fabrics and many examples of garments made from their stock to provide lots of inspiration. I didn’t even go near their trims for fear that it would be just too tempting (and I haven’t done ANYTHING yet with my $40 trim purchase from Geneva.)

Don’t know how to sew? Not a problem – The Needle Shop also offers an assortment of sewing classes and from the looks of it – it’s not your grandma’s sewing school.

So if you find yourself in Chicago – make sure you drop by and help yourself to the free scraps. Just save a few for me!

Learn more about The Needle Shop, Chicago

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It’s Inspiration Sunday and I’m inspired by the World Series

World Series 2013 hat
Can’t decide who to root for?

Here’s what it looks like when I log into my Facebook account.  “Go Cardinals, Go Red Sox, Go Cardinals, Go Red Sox.” It’s actually kind of funny during and after a game because one person is happy the next is angry.

The reason why I have this situation is because my husband and I used to live in Boston so I have 7 years worth of friends that I am connected to via Facebook most of whom are Red Sox fans. Also – both of my daughters were born in Boston, so I have some love for the city (a tiny tiny morsel of love).

So you might think that I would be torn about who to root for in the World Series. But, here’s the deal.  If the Red Sox were playing some other National League team – I might be rooting for the Red Sox – but otherwise – I’m a Cardinals fan.  My husband, on the other hand, is a native Virginian who lived in Boston longer than me – so he’s a bit more torn – but still ultimately rooting for the Cardinals.  But my Boston-born girls feel a little bit sad when Boston loses a game.

When we first moved to St. Louis, my husband made the mistake of wearing his Red Sox hat into Home Depot.  He found a Home Depot employee and began explaining a problem he was having with the plumbing in our house.  The man listened politely, then responded… “I’ll tell you what your problem is… it’s that hat your wearing.” Since then my husband has been a bit more careful about the hat he wears around town.

So tonight as we are watching the game, my husband came up with a brilliant idea.  How about I make him a hat that could be worn in two ways.  I think this brilliant, so I decided to conceptualize this reversible, embroidered knit cap.  Like the concept?   I may have given you the perfect gift idea for the sports lover in your life torn between two teams.  You can thank me later. ha!

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It’s inspiration Sunday and I’m inspired by a hand-me-down worn-out dress.

Giving this old dress new life!
Giving this old dress new life!

My nine-year-old daughter has been going through her fall clothes and discovering that almost everything is too small. Clearly she’s grown a little bit since last year, and we need to go shopping!

But before I go out and buy her a bunch of clothes, I need to figure out what exactly she likes to wear, as any mother knows, kids’ tastes tend to change from year-to-year. Lately, my girls have been telling me that they can’t wear anything too restrictive because it prevents them from participating in PE to the fullest extent. So, straight denim skirts, for example, are O-U-T. My girls’ go-to outfits these days are leggings with soft or full skirts or leggings with tunics/short, sporty dresses.

When I was going through Adelaide’s closet I discovered a dress that she inherited from one of her cousins. This cousin is about 12 years older than her so the dress is clearly past it’s prime. Plus the dress doesn’t fit her very well either. The tank top is kind of stretched out and the fabric is balling a little bit. But the red skirt portion looks okay – plus it has pockets – huge bonus.

So here’s what I’m thinking: my plan is to cut the skirt portion off the dress and turn it in to a simple skirt. Then I will add some fantastic appliqué on the front. I am already envisioning this will be one of my daughter’s favs, and I am so excited to get started!  Stay tuned to see the results.

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It’s inspiration Sunday and I’m inspired by the new Boden Kids catalog

The new Boden catalog is chock full of cute ideas for embroidery and appliqué
The new Boden catalog is chock full of cute ideas for embroidery and appliqué

The new Boden Kids catalog arrived and OMG there are so many cute things in this catalog. Here are 10 inspiring ideas I got while looking at this catalog.

1) Making mix up t-shirts. Boden has these great long sleeve t-shirts that look like the sleeves came from one shirt and the body from another. Why not take two t-shirts apart at the sleeves and recombine them and maybe add some appliqué

2) Retro milk bottle t-shirt for a baby. I’m totally digitizing my own version.

3) Dandelion print. A simple dandelion blowing in the wind stitched out on clothing is a sweet nod to nature.

4) Lighting bolt appliqué. Reference a super hero without actually picking one.

5) “ROAR” applique. I just love this appliqué idea for a noisy little kid… maybe even a baby?

6) Corduroy star and heart patches for jeans. Practical, adorable and so easy to make on your embroidery machine (especially now that I know how to make patches…)

7) Simple appliqué flower where each petal is a different fabric but are harmonious together.

8) Multiple instances of an appliqué on a long sleeve T. Boden’s butterfly t-shirt is fantastic as is the retro birds arranged in a grid on the front of a t-shirt.

9) Oversized monster pillow. If you made each eye as big as the hoop would allow and a set of teeth and you have a HUGE crazy monster pillow.

10) DOTS. Why not applique a bunch of dots in fun colors on a bottom of a skirt.

I might just do that last one for myself.

If you have never seen the Boden catalog, check them out on-line.

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It’s inspiration Sunday and I’m inspired by the gift my sister brought me back from Colorado

Making Smart Clothes: Modern Methods for Cutting, Fitting and Finishing
Making Smart Clothes: Modern Methods for Cutting, Fitting and Finishing

I really didn’t expect to get anything from my sister’s trip to Colorado. I was kind of joking when I suggested that I might get some cool fabric from the fabric store she discovered out there so I was really surprised when she brought over a little souvenir from her trip. And what she brought me was even better then some more fabric: an antique book about sewing that she discovered at an antique store in Pagosa Springs Colorado.

The book is pretty awesome it’s called, Making Smart Clothes: Modern Methods in Cutting, Fitting and Finishing (copyright 1930). It is full of retro, hilarious (and sometimes still relevant) advice. Here are some of the finer snippets that still ring true.

Frocks should be gay, charming and frivolous and delightful, not grim, haggling, budget-bound necessities.

Never buy anything but the finest grade of material.

Materials that are luxurious in themselves should be made by patterns of suitable simplicity or they will entirely swamp you.

Black has a tendency to make figures appear slimmer.

The strong royal purple is a difficult color for almost anyone to wear.

Now only if the contestants on Project Runway followed this advice… I can already tell I’m going to really enjoy this book. But here’s the sweetest thing about owning this book: the signature in the inside cover. It is inscribed: “Property of Virginia L. Selby, Pagosa Springs, Colorado.” I will take good care of your book, Virginia!

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It’s inspiration Sunday – and I’m inspired the headbands my kids made at sewing camp!


Last week my two girls went to a sewing class at Jackman’s Fabric in St. Louis. I don’t often write  about Jackman’s because I don’t go there that often – it’s a bit out of the way for me.  Also, they are a Babylock dealer – not Bernina  (and I own two Berninas), so I can’t go to them when I have issues with my machines. Anyway – Jackman’s is a great fabric store and I have been going there for years. But, what really impressed me about them lately, is their sewing classes they offer for kids.

Sending the girls to sewing class was kind of a last minute decision. My sister had signed up her 10-year-old daughter for the class, and my two girls just happened to be available. The only issue was that the class was for 8-12 year-olds and my little one (Ilse) is only 7-1/2. So… we had to stretch the truth a bit to get her in. (Sorry Jackman’s)

The title of the class was “Pajama Pants,” and the objective was for each kid to make a pair of pajama pants after the 2 day, 2 1/2 hour sessions. But after the first day – both my girls had nearly completed their pants! Impressive.

On the second day the girls got to do a couple of extra side projects. Adelaide (my older daughter) made a little bag, and my niece made a super cute headband. The headband is made with a small piece of cotton fabric doubled over and secured with a piece of elastic. The great part about this design is that it can be easily embroidered prior to construction (as opposed to the pre-made knit headbands – which I find to be a huge pain in the ass to embroider). I also think this style has a more high-end look.

So the girls and I now have plans to make some headbands embroidered with some cute designs and names.  Once we get to it, I will be sure to post our finished products and a template to help you make the headbands too.

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Free embroidery design Monday: simple star appliqués

Ideas for the star applique design
Ideas for the star applique design

It’s free machine embroidery design, Monday, and my mission today is to provide you with a design that might be useful for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday. It’s a simple star appliqué in 2 different sizes: a larger one 3.76″ x 3.76″ and a smaller one 2.78″ x 2.78″.

Think about all the possibilities here… a t-shirt, a dress, something for a boy, something for a girl… Or combine the small and large star appliqués to make something unique.

My little one would like to have an outfit for the Fourth of July so I decided to mock up some possibilities.  I hope you like my visualizations, and I’ll let you know what she thinks.

Download Star Applique Files

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Inspiration Sunday: pillowcase dresses from Hannah Anderson

Pillowcase dresses from Hannah Anderson
Pillowcase dresses from Hannah Anderson

I was walking through the mall the other day, (something I rarely do), but in doing so I noticed some adorable dresses in the window of the Hannah Anderson store. They were simple, colorful sheaths that tied at the neck, and Hannah Anderson was marketing them as “pillowcase dresses.”

I remember seeing tutorials on-line for pillowcase dresses, and they seem incredibly quick and easy to make. Pillowcase dresses actually get their name from how they were first constructed. You can make a dress for a small child from a pillowcase – hence, the name. I won’t be using a pillowcase when I try to make this dress, as ours are either white or some hideous shade of brown and purple after the kids have tie-dyed them at camp. What I do have is a lot of fabric that I purchased at all my recent fabric shopping trips in fantastic prints that would be perfect for a sweet, summer dress for one of my girls.

Like the Hannah Anderson dresses, I imagine making some pillowcase dresses with a design on the front – either a flower on the chest or a series of flowers up the front. However I would appliqué or embroidery the design. So you can look forward to seeing my version of the pillowcase dress in an upcoming post.