A Trip to Nancy’s Notions

I just recently returned from a trip to Janesville, Wisconsin to visit family.  When my Aunt June and Uncle Don picked me up at the Milwaukee Airport, Aunt June announced they had planned to take me to the original Nancy’s Notions store.  I was ecstatic! Now how did she knew I’d love to do that?  🙂

Of course I had to take pictures to blog the event.  It’s in a beautiful town called Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.


Uncle Don had barely parked the car and I was racing inside.


I was in Sewing Mecca!


While Uncle Don went in search of a hamburger for lunch (he’s such a good sport), Aunt June and I hit the aisles of Nancy’s Notions.  My initial search was for the new Fussy Cutter ruler by Marti Mitchell.  I’d seen it in the catalog and if there’s a new tool, I have to have it.  I also picked up some black embroidery stabilizer I’d hadn’t been able to find locally, and another pack of Amelie Scott designs to quilt my smaller projects with my embroidery machine.


Aunt June and I both picked up some tote bag blanks.  She wants me to embroider a Shih Tzu on one for a Christmas gift for one of her friends.


Then I wandered back to the Clearance section and OMG!!  A Monster Snap Hoop that will fit my Baby Lock Ellegante 2!  Do you know how incredibly expensive these are?  It had been bought and returned and was waiting for me.


Let me back up a bit…  When my aunt and I were entering the store, the basket she used had a coupon in it for 10% off your entire purchase the week of your birthday.  So I went to find a sales rep and asked if I could get the birthday discount to buy this hoop since my birthday was in two weeks and I live on the other side of the country.  She said probably not because they never forward that discount so I asked her to go find the store manager.  The store manager said probably not but she’d ask her manager back in the warehouse.  I was bound and determined to get a discount on that hoop.  It was marked down to $104 and I didn’t want to pay that even though it’s a good price.   As I waited for an answer, I got a picture with Nancy.  ha ha


When I got to the counter to check out, the store manager said she couldn’t believe it but they would honor the 10% off birthday discount!  YIPPEE!!  She asked her manager why she agreed to do it and the manager replied, “It’s a nice day in October!”  🙂   Somedays, the shopping angels are with you.


I had a wonderful visit and can’t wait to go back.  Here’s the herd.  My brother Eric, Uncle Don, Aunt June, niece Grace, me, cousin Kirk, cousin Sara, nephew Noah, Dogs Sam and Cole.  Love this group!



Check Meowout! A bag for mom on Mother’s Day

This ain’t your Grandma’s embroidery.  I found a new site called UrbanThreads [IG @urbanthreadsemb] and oh my goodness!  They have the most awesome stuff.  When I saw this cool guy, I just couldn’t pass him up.

NOTE:  A shout out to Urban Threads on their customer service.  I originally bought the wrong size of this cat for my embroidery machine.  I emailed them about my mistake and within a couple of hours, they switched it out.  Awesome!

I made this bag for my mom for Mother’s Day and this design is on both sides of the bag.  She’s down to just 4 cats now so I’m not sure if that’s still considered Crazy Cat Lady status or not.  I used the “Riviera” Pink Sands Beach Designs bag pattern and whipped this cutie up in an afternoon.  I’ll admit I had trouble with this pattern.  I’m sure all the problems were user error but I ended up not being able to have the outside pockets because the inner lining was too short.  So I just stitched them shut across the top – no biggie.  It seemed weird anyway to have the outer pocket opening only between the handles in the center yet the entire front was the whole pocket.  Seems you’d be digging around from side to side without much room to see what got down into the far corners.  The image below is not blurry…it’s your eyes.  😉

The thread on the sunglasses is a Mederia Poly Neon variegated and I chose the orange/yellow because of the other fabric I found in my stash.  Seriously, I did not buy the “floral” abstract print, solid orange, or gray all at the same time or from the same collection.  It literally was Fabric Carma that they all came together perfectly.

Having all the Pellon products for this project is the result of buying the bolt vs. just the amount needed at the time.  I’ve had the DecorBond and Peltex 70 for some time now and it’s always so nice to have what you need when you need it.  On the inside I added an embroidered monogram for mom from @TheItch2Stitch in the Natural Circle Sketch Monogram.  Due to the monogram, I had to alter the pockets on that side of the bag to be different from the pattern.  I made them a bit deeper to hold pens or reading glasses.

Zipper installation was easy by the instructions.  However I chose a sport zipper vs. just the regular one called for in the pattern.  I thought it would look cooler – like the cat. 😉
I really tried for a pattern match…believe me.  But the print was so wonky on the fabric, I’m grateful being “on-grain” wasn’t required.  Hey, good enough for government work, right?

Well, needless to say, SHE LOVED IT!!  She’s traveling from Tennessee to Wisconsin this coming weekend for a family wedding reception and she said she’s going to take it with her.  She was always good at hanging my school projects on the refrigerator and now she’s taking my bag to show off at a family event.  🙂   What a great mom!

Have you made any bags lately?  Link to them please!




Downton Abbey Tote

Confession, I’ve never seen the show.  I know, I know…I can’t believe it myself.  We don’t watch much PBS in this house (like none) and if I were to start watching, I’d have to buy the entire series, all 7 or 8 years of it, and go from start to finish.  I have hundreds of books written in this era and I swear I was there in a former life.  I snagged this kit a couple of years ago from the Fat Quarter Shop and it’s been waiting patiently for me to get with the program.

I used the Pink Sands Beach Designs Tuscany  pattern that came in the kit and it was SO easy to follow.  I really like these patterns because inside, she has these great arrows that point to which fabric is what.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve used patterns where I was like “Is this fabric 2 or 3?” and “Where the heck does this go?”  Not a problem with these patterns.

This tote has a lots of inner pockets and if I had to do it over again, I’d of skipped a couple of seams that divide the pockets to double the pocket space by making two into one larger spot.  But otherwise, this tote is great.

I fussy cut the fabric as best I could to make sure the Downton Abbey was center in the outside accent piece and the directional print was right-side up for the lining.

I love that these patterns use a really stiff bottom so they don’t flop over or sag.  And I’m a real stickler for side seams that match.  Nothing screams “home made” more than mismatched side seams.

I’ve got the Riveria Pink Sands Beach Designs pattern with a zipper top that I’m going to use for my next tote.  I scooped up this adorable Loralie panel on a recent shop hop and it’s demanding to be shown off.  Can’t wait!  What are your favorite patterns and do you have a recent favorite tote you’ve done?  I’d love to see.  🙂



Completed – Passport Wallet

My son is the new Youth Pastor at Mesa Hills Christian Church in Colorado Springs, CO and he’s going through the details of getting a passport for upcoming missionary work in Haiti.  I recall when Lladybird made a passport wallet for her trip to Paris so I thought I might make him one.  Why does someone need a passport wallet?  Well, because (and take it from one who knows first-hand) you want somewhere to keep the Customs Form you get on arrival so you have it handy when you are in the airport on the trip home.  I lost my form on my last trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico and what a MESS that was at the airport!  And… it’s really nice to have that valuable piece of documentation protected in a nice wallet from mom on a trip too.

Teethy McGee Digital download from Etsy

Teethy McGee Digital download from Etsy.

A couple of years ago, he asked me to make him a replica Goruck Gym Bag and it was made from a new fabric called Cordura.  It’s a super high-end military grade synthetic fabric that’s darn near tank-proof and I was surprised at how it easy it was to sew on.  Its like a light weight, plastic coated canvas and he liked the bag so much that I thought it would be good material for the wallet.  I wanted something that would slide easily in and out of pockets or be found quickly in a carry-on so there wasn’t an inconvenient tug factor when taking the passport out for Customs.  I ordered a yard in Smoke Gray for his wallet.

To give the pattern a try, I decided to make a wallet for his wife out of some beautiful quilting fabric I got from Fat Quarter Shop.  It’s Town Lake Morning Walk by Leah Duncan.  She lives up near Austin and the designs are inspired by her morning walks in South Texas.  (I just ordered that Portside Travel Set pattern from Grainline Studios on the FQS blog!)  Quilt fabric by a Texan that aren’t cowboy boots and cows?  You betcha’!  Don’t get me wrong – I have both of those …cowboy boots and cows… but we Texans are so much more than what the media decides to put on TV.  Like beautiful morning walks in God’s Country.  Just sayin’.  🙂
Town Lake Morning WalkI love this wallet because it has a place for credit cards.  I don’t put credit cards there though, but Texas has a card that can be used for local border crossings that is the same size as a credit card.  Its for frequent border crossings and takes the place of a passport.  It came in handy before the border became too dangerous for this blondie to cross even in the daylight.  I think I’ve used it once since I got it in 2009.  But you never know, one day the shopping might be safe again.

I’ll be honest, my first wallet attempt was a fail.  I used the wrong type of interfacing (fusible fleece – don’t ask, I can’t say why), I didn’t leave enough room to turn it right-side out and ripped the stitching, and my final seam didn’t turn in properly (fleece issue).  So I gave it another shot and TA-DAA!  Success!  I also trimmed my time off of completion by 20 minutes.  I hope she likes it.
IMG_3543_new(1)IMG_3545_new(1)I’m looking forward to the Cordura fabric getting here so I can make one for my son and one for hubs.  🙂  We still travel to Playa del Carmen occasionally or take a cruise here and there so he’ll use it eventually.

Sewing Classes & Essentials for Newbies

Many of my friends have told me that for Christmas or in the past year, they have a new sewing machine in their life. The popularity of this hobby called “Sewing” has exploded recently and I’m not sure why, but I’m going to chalk it up to an inherent need to put the phone down and get back to basics.  There is something so comforting about the entire process of putting a needle into a piece of fabric and forging ahead on the desire to create.  This is true whether you are sewing quilt tops, bedding, tote bags, or clothing.  Or maybe you just want to hem pants, sew on a Scout patch, or make a zipper repair.  Whatever you’re about to dive into, here’s some classes and advice to hopefully make your life much easier.  Some of the classes are free and some are paid, but all are worth your time.

In the previous paragraph, I mentioned four types of sewing: Quilting, Home Dec, Bag Making, & Fashion Garments.  While each of them share many skills that can build off one another, each one has its own special construction techniques, fabrics, threads, and machine accessories, not to mention its own share of frustrations.

This post is about what I wish I’d known years ago or sources to valuable things I’ve discovered in my sewing journey.  The very best piece of advice I can give to newbies is to take a class before your first project, and that includes those who have sewn before but it’s been years and years.  Today’s machines are very different from the non-computerized machines of the past.  You will save yourself time, money, and an incredible amount of disappointment, frustration, and swearing by taking a class before you ever make a bobbin.  You WILL make mistakes…a lot of them (and you’re in amazingly good company!).  The second best piece of advice I can give is to be patient and accept any failures as a lesson.  Learn from them, chalk it all up to experience, and press on.

If you don’t have a sewing machine yet but you want one, you’re going to want to know the best one to get. The best one to buy is one that you can afford and there’s a factory-authorized maintenance shop nearby.  You don’t want to have to send your machine away for maintenance and incur the expense of shipping as well as the repair or tune up.  If you have a non-computerized machine, your local machine repair shop will work fine.  However, if you’re getting a computerized machine (and I highly recommend that you do because they’re nothing like the old ones and they make life SO much easier) then know that a local machine repair shop may not be able to order new parts from the manufacturer.  They cannot do much more than a simple tune up or make timing adjustments.  When the power supply on my Brother PE-770 embroidery machine blew up during a storm, I had to take it to an authorized Brother repair shop after I spent the time and money to be told by the local repair guy that he couldn’t order the part.

Classes – The classes I mention below are courses that I have taken myself so I can recommend them from first-hand experience. I must be enrolled in 50 Craftsy classes and while the information is sound, sometimes the instructor can drives you bats.  I’m only going to recommend classes that have good basic instruction and info that I really got something out of and I was able to listen to the instructor for a couple of hours.  Any money spent on classes will be worth every penny even if it is to just brush up on your skills.

If you are just getting acquainted with your sewing machine, this free class, Sew Ready, Machine Basics will get you started with understanding how today’s computerized machines work.  This course covers everything from how to make a bobbin to the different types of sewing machine feet, threads, needles, troubleshooting, etc.  In this video, she is using a Baby Lock machine, but it is identical to the Brother machines on my Power Tool Arsenal page.  They are the same company!  The Brother machines are less expensive than Baby Lock and I’ve not found a difference between the two at all.  Think of them like GMC and Chevy.  Same-same.
Craftsy Sewing Basics ClassQuilting – For basic block construction, your best bet is any video produced by the Missouri Star Quilt Company.  Jenny Doan makes the complex seem simple, and the introduction of fabric pre-cuts solves the basic problem of “Do these fabrics match?”  A single pre-cut will contain a sampling of each design in a fabric line and will be cut in anything from 10″ squares to 2.5″ strips.
Missouri Star Quilt CompanyIf quilting is your thing, or you want it to be, sign up for Missouri Star’s Daily Deal, add it to your favorites, and hit the site first thing every morning.  Shipping is always $5, and the cost of the deal is around half or less than what you’d pay in a store.  They also recommend the right shade of background fabric and a pattern to use that goes with the daily deal.  You simply can’t go wrong!  The daily deal can be anything from fabric, to rulers, or quilting accessories like thread, pins, clips, …you name it.  I’ve built my entire stash from the MSQC for a fraction of the cost I’d of paid at a quilt shop.

Please don’t let me dissuade you from frequenting your local quilt shops – they are a wonderful experience (most of the time), and you’ll be able to sign up for classes or Shop Hops (tours), fondle yummy fabric, and make many new friends.  I also hit the local shops for backings, batting, and specialty threads.  What I’m about to say however is very controversial, but it must be addressed if you aspire to be a quilter.  I believe that forewarned is forearmed about what I consider to be quilting’s dirty little secret.  Don’t be intimidated when you walk in your local quilt shop – just waltz in like you own the place and browse or shop to your heart’s content.  If your local shop is full of quilt snobs – and they are out there in droves – find the fabric you want, then go home and buy it cheaper online or look elsewhere locally where you feel comfortable in the store.  Do not reward snobby shops with your money.  These snobby quilt shops are behaving to their own detriment and being replaced one-by-one by technology.  As Jenny Doan from MSQC says, “Finished is better than perfect.”  Find a store that supports you no matter your skill level.  And if that shop is online, then so be it.

A note about quilting cottons from big box stores like Wal-Mart, JoAnn’s, or Hancock Fabrics.  You get what you pay for in feel, color fastness, and wear.  Balance the level of effort you’re going to put into the project against the cost of the fabric.  As your skills progress, you’ll want quality quilting cottons for projects whether heirloom or not.  However, if you’re just starting out with your first table runner, it might be a good idea to start with less expensive fabrics until you figure out the piecing aspect of the blocks.  It’s so frustrating to spend a ton on fabric only to screw up the project.  Again, the MSQC Daily Deal is a good way to start so you get quality fabrics at a fraction of the cost.

When it’s time to put the quilt top together and make the magic happen, this is probably the best class I’ve found. Ann Peterson is very thorough and explains the why’s and how’s of making all your time and effort on the quilt top turn into a successful finished quilt.  Small Machine, Big Quilts, Better Results  You don’t need a big long-arm quilting machine to finish your quilt.  If you’re just starting out, use some clear thread and stitch in the ditch through where the blocks intersect – easy peasy!  All the fancy quilt designs can come later.  My first quilting project was a MSQC Christmas table runner and it was a success.

For Home Dec – This is a great class for making duvet covers. Custom Bedding: Designer Duvet Covers.  If you want to make curtains or learn how to recover a chair or make cushions & pillows, search Craftsy and find a course you think will work for you.  I haven’t taken any so I can’t recommend one.

Bags & Totes – Bag Making Basics by Kristen Link.  This is a free class on Craftsy and will show you how to make two different types of tote bags.  This is also a good basic sewing class.
Are you pretty familiar with your machine and just need to brush up on some garment skills? Then Design and Sew an A-Line Skirt and Mastering Zipper Techniques are for you.  The instructor in the zipper class is Sunni Standing and from this class I began to also follow her blog, A Fashionable Stitch.  She’s an amazing garment seamstress and her blog links to many advanced sewing tips and tutorials.

Making clothing for adults or tweens with curves is a real challenge. Fit has always been my nemesis.  Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, can take a commercial pattern straight from the package, make your size and have it fit right on the first go.  So don’t even bother.  Most commercial patterns are a B-cup, and even if you are a B-cup, there are a ton of things that need adjusting before it will fit right.  If you are going to attempt to make clothing from scratch, do yourself a huge favor and invest in Sure Fit Designs.  It is worth every…single…penny.  The basic dress kit contains everything you need to make your own basic body blueprint with step-by-step DVD’s and templates for full-bust adjustments, darts, plus size, and a gazillion other things.  There’s also a segment on adjusting commercial patterns to your perfect fit.  You need the commercial patterns for design elements and instructions, but you’ll need your body blueprint (called a sloper in the industry), to make adjustments to the commercial pattern lines.  Really, I mean this…just pony up the cash and consider the investment in Sure Fit Designs just as important as the machine itself.  I can’t tell you how much time, effort, and money I’ve wasted making myself garments that don’t fit.  There are some SFD videos on YouTube so you can check it out before you buy.

So that’s it! I wish each of you the best of luck in your new sewing adventures!  I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and I wish you all a Happy and Safe New Year!