Don’t Fear the Fabric–with Dana and Kate

by Dana on November 26, 2014

It’s been a while since I did a fun series here on the blog.
And when I held that survey a while back (thank you for taking it!  It was very helpful!)….many of you mentioned that a series is something you’d love to see more often.

So let’s do it!

We’re calling it Don’t Fear the FABRIC.
And I’m hosting it with Kate from See Kate Sew!

We hope this is an ongoing series throughout the year, focusing on various fabrics that you may (or may not) be scared to try.  Because fabric should never be feared!–which is the whole premise of my book Fabrics A to Z.
So let’s arm you with the info and tips you need to get out of the cotton rut….and jump into the world of interesting textiles!

This round we’re focusing on Oilcloth and Leather.
Cause, well….it’s oilcloth and leather!  Who doesn’t love the look of those fabrics?!  I’m always amazed at how a mix of textures can really bring a project to life.

Kate will share expert tips for sewing with leather, where to buy it, and what to make with it.

Then I’ll tackle Oilcloth with a bunch of projects for sewers and NON sewers.

Looking for handmade Christmas gift ideas??
You’ve come to the right place!

The series will be happening on both our blogs from 12/3 to 12/12.
It’s just me and Kate, no guests, and 8 days of fabric fun (and some freebies of course!)
So enjoy your Thanksgiving meal and come back ready to sew!


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I’ve been meaning to share this with you for two months now.
I got a new sewing machine!
And I love it.

Sorry for all the exclamation points.
It’s just really exciting to get a new toy.

And this little baby (heh, heh, baby).….is called Lyric, by Baby Lock.

Have you ever walked up to your front door and seen a pile like this??
Okay. You probably have.
But if your pile is filled with sewing machines?? rather than diapers and mulch for the front yard??….then jump up and down and start (carefully) ripping those boxes open!

Yay for Baby Lock!
I’m so happy I get to partner with them.
They’ve let me try out the Lyric machine before it’s on the market (it comes out in spring of 2015).   So this is a little preview for you all.  Of course Baby Lock offers many wonderful sewing machines so if you’re ready to jump in, the Elizabeth and Melody machines are comparable and just as fantastic.

Over the years you guys have asked me for a recommendation on sewing machines. 
Maybe you’re even asking Santa for one for Christmas??
So here are my thoughts on selecting a new machine….

When it comes to picking any kind of sewing machine, I think two things are important:
1 – Quality
2 – the Basics

A good quality sewing machine can make the difference between really enjoying sewing, and being frustrated by it.  And no one wants to be frustrated with a new hobby.   Of course those decisions are hard to make if you’re just starting out—it’s hard to know how committed you are to it.  But if you think sewing is more than just a passing interest for you, I would definitely recommend getting a quality machine.  It will truly make a difference, especially when sewing with knits.

I love that Baby Lock offers a wide range of sewing machines for all skill levels.
If you’re new to sewing there’s a whole series of machines with cute names like Molly, Rachel, and Elizabeth.  Isn’t that adorable?  And if you’re a high-tech gal, you can jump up to the Destiny and Unity and do some top-of-the line fancy stitching.
So I would go for the best quality machine your budget allows.

Now,”quality” doesn’t have to mean that it can do 400 different things…..because I really believe that if you have a quality machine, then all you ultimately need are the basics—a straight stitch, a zigzag stitch, and a button holer.  And you’re set.  That’s all that I’ve used for years.

Now that being said….
I really do love all the extra things my machine can do, cause they make the process a whole lot more fun and more efficient!  And many Baby Lock machines offer similar features as well.

So let me give you a little tour of Lyric….

I’ve never had a machine with so many stitches!  I think there are over 250?
I know I will never use that many, since I’m not into embroidery and stuff like that.  But what I do love is that it offers multiple “overcasting” stitches which are meant to stretch with your fabric, so they’re fantastic with knits.  It doesn’t replace the overcast stitch that a serger machine can do (I’ll have to talk about sergers in another post) but it’s fun to play around with all the different stitches to see what they can do.  I’ll be showing you the overcast stitch in some upcoming videos.

Okay. Next happy-dance feature: Automatic Needle Threader!
Ummmmm.  Where have I been???  This function alone has changed my sewing life.

I thread my machine like normal, following the little guides.  And when I get to the needle, I just push that level on the side, and boom!  The machine threads the needle for me!  It’s such a time (and sanity) saver.

Okay: Speed Control
Are you a fast sewer?
Me too.  I sew like I talk.
And sometimes it gets me in trouble because I really just need to slow down and take my time around the curves.  So the speed control helps me do that—kind of like setting the cruise control on your car.  You just set the speed where you’d like and it will control how fast the foot pedal can go.  Then you’re always IN control. I never knew I would appreciate such a function.

But I definitely knew I would love this feature—the Thread Cutter!
Oh wow.
This little button makes me a much faster sewer.  Haah.  Weren’t we just talking about slowing down?

What I meant to say is that it makes me a more efficient sewer.  When I’m done sewing I just push the little scissors function and it cuts the thread for me!  I don’t even need my real scissors around.

Game changer.   For sure.

And finally…this machine is digital.
I know many of you have been sewing on digital for years. But I’ve always been a little old school, turning knobs and clanking along (which believe me, works really great).  So it’s pretty spiffy to have a nice digital display with menus and info to keep me organized.

And there are so many more things I could tell you about this machine, like the knee lift (which lifts the presser foot), the extension table, the programming features….but I’ll have to show you that in future posts.

Let’s just say:

One last thing to address before buying a new machine….
Where DO you buy a machine?
Well you can buy them online, in fabric stores, on craigslist, all over!

And when you buy Baby Lock machines (and other comparable brands) you buy them from a retail store that’s certified to sell them, with experts who help you get to know your machine right there in the store (click here to find a retailer).

Sometimes they even offer a few free lessons with the purchase of your machine so you feel comfortable sewing with it.  This is how it was when I bought my serger years ago.  And it was wonderful!….because that step always feels intimidating, especially if you’re new to sewing.  For some reason you’re scared to pull it out the box and thread it for the first time—worried that you might do something wrong?!  Which of course is a bit silly, but we’ve all been there.  So don’t worry!  Those store experts are there to help you get started.
And of course I am too.
This is why I love blogging and sharing and helping where I can and asking for your advice in return!

So there you go.
Those are my tips for picking a new sewing machine!
I’m excited to see what you decide!
Happy shopping.


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So let’s share some Fall favorites!
Because November is always one of my favorite months.

The air is crisp, the colors are changing.
And it’s the perfect pause before Christmas to remember what you’re thankful for….
Like kids who let you dress them as pilgrims and eat Candy Crunch Yams?  Yep.  I’m thankful for both.

I’m thankful for families, and the experience of being a parent.
And I’m thankful for teachable moments—both for my kids and me.  I learn from them daily.  And I get excited about the world of knowledge that’s ahead of them!
Of course I’m also thankful for the everyday comforts.
Like fuzzy socks and cereal in a box and time to enjoy the creative side of life.
I’m thankful for color.
All colors.
And for white.

I’m thankful for Never Fail Pie Crust.
Seriously it works! Every. Time.
Thank you mom for teaching me that.
And for being a fantastic mom!

I’m thankful for computers.
I’m thankful for cars….and air conditioning.
I’m thankful for felt!
What a wonder fabric.

I’m not always thankful for messes (as you know) but I love the result when I’m done.

I’m thankful for the circle of life and how all things work together.
I’m thankful for our home.
I’m thankful for good school teachers for my kids.

I’m thankful for days when I am WARM!  I hate, hate, hate to be cold.
I’d rather be really hungry than really cold….which is hard say when this photo is staring at me….

…because I’m very very thankful for Pumpkin!….and corn bread…..and pumpkin french toast.

I’m thankful for a good man and husband, who likes to can beets, and wrestle with the kids, and go on adventures in the backyard.

I’m thankful for this blogging community and that I can connect with another mom, half-way across the world, who speaks a different language than me….yet she has similar interests.  Amazing!  Yep.  Still thankful for computers!  And the internet.  And all that social network jazz.

I’m thankful for a healthy body.
And I’m thankful for sleep…..(though I sorta wish I was a vampire so I could stay up all night working while everyone else slept)

I’m thankful for Cool Whip, because I think it’s better on pie than real whipping cream.
Sorry–I grew up in the 80s.

I’m thankful for good movies, and music, and art.
I’m thankful for people who can do things I can’t do.
I’m thankful for all the men and women who fight for our country and for freedom.
I’m thankful for friends….which means, I’m thankful for YOU!
Thank you for reading along all these years and for sharing your tips, ideas, and families with me. You guys keep me going!

So here are a few projects that might keep you going, before the world turns green and red…..
Just click on a button below for the full tutorial or recipe.

And if you’re looking for a fun way to do service with your family, here’s a fantastic daily service challenge download. It’s a great way to Give with Thanks!

And….I’d love to know what you’re thankful for!….either big or small.
It’s fun to see what makes your life happy.
Happy Monday friends!


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Halloween 2014: Lala Lucy and Lil Squirt

by Dana on November 12, 2014

I know.
Halloween is so two weeks ago.
BUT….I must share the girls costumes with you!
Because they’re so much fun!
And if by chance you have a LalaLoopsy loving girl at your house, you can tuck this post away till Halloween rolls around again.

Here’s part 2 of our holiday.
Unlike Owen, Lucy knew what she wanted to be for Halloween months ago….in fact, she told me in the summer that she and her friends were going to dress as Lalaloopsies.

They just love these little dolls.
They can’t get enough of them!   I keep a small bag of them in my purse and it keeps the kids occupied when we go out to eat—even Owen.  He likes to be Patch.
For her birthday, we got Lucy the collectors book and she looked at that thing for a month straight (now we’ve been giving copies to friends on their birthday!)

One thing I love about these little dolls is their story—it’s all about sewing and having your own unique personality.  Lalaloopsies are rag dolls that came to life when their last stitch was sewn.   And their outfits are repurposed from other items.  Fantastic!

Of course picking WHICH doll to be isn’t easy….there are so many cute ones.
But Lucy decided on Peanut—Peanut Big Top.
According to the collector’s guide (heh heh), Peanut has a special talent for making people laugh, and she’s never afraid to show her silly side.  And her costume is made from an old clown costume.
I love it!

When it came to sewing Lucy’s costume, Lucy had the whole thing figured out….
Mom you can just make me one of those circle skirts, and a little polka dot shirt like those jammies you made me, and then some tights! 

Great plan Luce!  Great plan.
And so the week before Halloween, it all came together.

And she totally loved it…which is always the best reward for your labors.
Happy, excited kids.

Here’s what we did….

I made a triple-layer circle skirt using 100% quilter’s cotton.  I wanted it to be a little stiffer—so the layers would stand out without needing a petticoat underneath—and the fabric worked great.  You could also make Peanut’s skirt from tulle (if you look online, there are various versions of her outfit and various ways you could make it)

For the shirt I used the First Day Dress pattern, adding some ruffled flutter sleeves and a lacy placket to the front.  I love it when I have patterns all ready to go for this stuff!

And I really love how the shirt and skirt turned out.  She might actually wear these again as normal clothes.  And…. I kinda want that shirt for myself!

Now the key to really looking like a Lalaloopsy is the yarn wig….which I’m going to have share more about in a separate tutorial.  It’s not hard to make, but they are some tips that will help.  To get you started: it’s a knit beanie hat underneath, with yarn sewn into a part on top.  It’s not perfect and every once in a while you could see her bits of her beanie.  But overall it worked great!

Then we threw it all together with some pink shoes, red laces, a pair of tights (I purchased these) with a heart on the right knee (we just taped a felt heart on because sewing it in place was too complicated.  Ding!)

And we added a pair of fingerless gloves.
I just cut two rectangles of fabric, folded the tops and bottom under and sewed them in a tube. Then I cut a small hole for the thumb.  No hemming or finishing.  And she actually lost this pair when she wore the outfit to dance class, so I whipped up another pair in red fabric and liked those even better.

And there you go!  Just as she had planned.

And to top it all off,
there’s this girl.

YES!  We finally dressed Clara in a real costume!
Cause did you know that Peanut has a little sister???
She’s Squirt Lil’ Top!  Too perfect.

And she wears this darling romper, also made from an old clown costume (according to legend).   So I came up with a make-shift romper using the KID shorts pattern and the circle skirt tutorial for the collar, and it worked out pretty well.
I made yarn pom-poms using my tutorial here, then measured felt circles the size of the poms and sewed them to the romper first, and then hot glued the pom-poms to the felt.

I wish I had added one extra inch in the length, cause it’s a bit snug on her bum and shoulders….but it only makes her more endearing.

Then I sewed up a quick pair of leggings, added the wig and shoes and shew was ready to go!

One Lala Lucy and one Lil’ Squirt.
Sounds about right.

Oh I lala LOVE you girls!
I hope you stay friends forever.

And that is officially a Halloween wrap.
On to the other holidays….

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