Book Review – All Points Patchwork

All Points Patchwork book review

I may have mentioned once or twice here that I really love handwork. 🙂

I love the feel of the fabric and thread in my hands.

I love the little pop I hear when the eye of the needle with the doubled-over thread passes through the fabric, followed by the low shush of the thread.

I love that I can take it anywhere.

I love the slow, meditative pace – and the fact that it allows me to sit and watch TV guilt-free. I’m “working” while I watch. 🙂

I can not believe that it has taken me this long to try English Paper Piecing.

I got interested a year or two ago when I started seeing fun projects popping up on Pinterest – but then I heard that Diane Gilleland was writing a book and I decided to wait for that. I’ve read Diane’s books before and they are always amazing and comprehensive and inspiring.

All Points Patchwork is available now – and it’s everything I knew it would be!

Quite simply – it’s the best craft book I’ve ever read. Even better than Anatomy of a Doll – the book that got me interested in 3D sewing.

Like Anatomy of a Doll, there are no projects – it’s pure instruction and inspiration from start to finish – exactly what I look for in a craft book.

Let me show you what I’m talking about. . .

I love that the front of the book shows a block with some of the pieces flipped over. On the back of the book you see the same block, entirely from the back (so you can see the construction details) and the most basic instructions for English Paper Piecing.

All Points Patchwork book review

Really – that’s all there is to it. Choose a shape and cut it out of paper. Baste some fabric around the shape. Join the bits together.

If it’s that simple, why do we need a whole book?

Because Diane teaches you EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW.

EVERYTHING.

The pros and cons of different template materials.

Where to buy pre-cut templates.

How to design your own blocks – on the computer with high-tech drawing tools or on paper with nothing more complicated than a compass and a straight edge.

Different basting techniques.

I could go on and on and on. It’s all in here.

And she doesn’t just throw the information out there. She anticipates any possible problem you might have and helps you fix it. I love this bit on getting the perfect, invisible whipstitch seam, with good and bad seams shown, along with several troubleshooting suggestions.

All Points Patchwork book review

The tone throughout the book is warm and encouraging – like she’s sitting on the sofa next to me helping me learn this new craft. Just what I need!

The book isn’t just for beginners, though. She includes more advanced techniques too, like how to add a pieced, finished edge to your work.

All Points Patchwork book review

So fabulous for a table runner or mug rug where the back will be seen and where you don’t want to square off the edges!

Or this bit, where she shows two different ways to baste diamond shapes, and then explains when she uses each method. Throughout the book she shows exactly what she’s doing (with really terrific photos), and also explains why. This is so rare – and so helpful!

All Points Patchwork book review

After a general intro with all the basics, she moves on to more detailed sections for each type of shape you might use. This, to me, was the real meat of the book.

For each shape she shows how to draft it by hand, and exactly how best to baste it.

All Points Patchwork book review

Then she shares a couple of pages showing sample layouts, the different kinds of arrangements that each shape lends itself to.

All Points Patchwork book review

Finally, she gives tips for how to join individual pieces and larger units together.

All Points Patchwork book review

She does this for hexies, diamonds, jewels, triangles, tumblers, octagons, pentagons and even curved shapes. It’s so comprehensive!

And then there are the “Project Inspiration” pages. They’re scattered throughout the book, and each one shows a finished project, with suggestions for fabric choices and alternate ways of using it.

All Points Patchwork book review

This lovely book cover, for example, is a great way to showcase tiny scraps of favorite fabrics – really setting the bits off surrounded by a frame of solids – and would also be good for placemats, a pillow, or a table runner.

Or this one, showing a softie made with EPP fabric.

All Points Patchwork book review

Basically, she’s showing us how to create fabric using EPP, then showing us how we can use that fabric with any of our favorite patterns!

I’m not sure I ever would have thought of using EPP for a softie, but now that I’ve seen this image, I can’t stop thinking about how great Bailey Bear or Bartholomew Bunny would look with this technique. Their construction is very simple, just like this little guy, and I’m going to have to try it now.

(If you don’t have a favorite pattern for a project, go to www.allpointspatchwork.com where Diane has collected links to tons of different patterns and organized them by category. Handy!)

Most of the projects shown are small, or are larger projects with smaller bits of EPP incorporated into them, like this quilt.

All Points Patchwork book review

These are a few EPP appliqués added to a whole cloth quilt, and she also reminds us that we can add them to a store-bought blanket, or even use them as patches to give a second life to a stained or worn quilt. I love that!

But I also love this. . .

All Points Patchwork book review

It’s a feature of someone who actually made an entire hexie quilt – in less than a year! She shared exactly how she did it – a totally doable approach for anyone who wants to tackle a big project.

All Points Patchwork is a craft book designed for the way most of us actually use craft books. It’s got. . .

  • Instruction! All the information we need, and a lot we didn’t even know we needed – the kinds of tidbits that you pick up from your mother or grandmother, or from years of practice and trial and error.
  • Clear organization with a solid table of contents and index.
  • Beautiful illustrations – terrific photos for all the how-tos and clear diagrams for all the layouts.
  • Inspirational eye candy – also beautifully photographed, and with extra tips for how to take each project in your own direction.

I just finished my first EPP project – this doll quilt.

my first EPP project!

It was so much fun to make that I already started a new project last night – and you can bet there will be more projects to come – including some free patterns here at Shiny Happy World. I know I’ll be referring to this book again and again for years to come. It’s an incredible reference book for anyone – of any skill level – interested in EPP.

Get All Points Patchwork here. And get it now. The first free pattern is coming soon and summer is the perfect season for hand work. 🙂

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
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Why I Use Wool Felt

Why I Use Wool Felt

This is why I use wool felt.

I designed the pattern for this little gizmo cozy (it’s free here) in February 2011. I’ve been using it to protect my MP3 player in my purse ever since.

That’s 3 1/2 years this little thing has been tumbling around in my purse and look at it! It still looks great!

Why I use wool felt - a side by side comparison

The photo on the left is from the day I finished it in 2011. The photo on the right is from today.

The corners have gotten a little smooshy and rounded. The threads of the embroidery are a bit more embedded in the felt. The edges of the applique aren’t as crisp. The big lazy daisy flower in her hair is definitely looking a little flattened.

But there’s no pilling! If this were made of cheap acrylic felt I would have thrown it away long ago because it would have looked so grubby and terrible.

How do I know this? Because when Jo was little I made her a felt board. Not knowing any better, I used cheap acrylic felt from the craft store. Honestly, I didn’t know there was anything else!

Jo wasn’t any especially grubby or rough kid, but within DAYS those felt pieces started to look terrible. They pilled awfully. They seemed to pick up and grab onto every speck of dirt or dust. And in no time at all they had lost almost all their cling. The feltboard quietly disappeared and I didn’t work with felt again for a long time. Why put a lot of work into a material that’s going to look awful almost right away?

And then I discovered wool felt. Online – of course – because there’s not a single brick and mortar store in my area that carries it. People wrote about how durable it was compared to the acrylic stuff. How it doesn’t pill. They didn’t mention how nice it feels in your hands, and how pretty embroidery looks on it, but I discovered that on my own pretty quickly. 🙂 I fell in love with felt! I couldn’t buy it locally, so I started carrying it in my shop.

I’ve made a lot more felt projects since then – so many things that I had to create a whole section in my shop for felt patterns! But it all started with this little gizmo cozy. 🙂

If you’ve never used wool felt before, give it a try! There are a bunch of free felt patterns here. Enjoy!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi
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I Turned Abby Glassenberg’s Duck into a Bluebird – and You Can Too!

Bluebird - made by Wendi Gratz of Shiny Happy World with a pattern by Abby GlassenbergRight after I finished the Bird Quilt I was still kind of obsessing about birds. That’s when Abby from While She Naps made a new version of this duck pattern with safety eyes instead of felt eyes. I loved the look and immediately saw a blue bird in my head.

I had to make that guy a reality – and I had to make him out of Cuddle Fleece. Bright blue Cuddle Fleece! 🙂

Abby sent me the pattern and I cut out the pieces – and then they sat on my work table for a while because life intervened. As it does.

But yesterday I finally got this guy sewn up – and I’m so happy I did! Isn’t he a cutie?

I’ve made Abby’s patterns before and they’re always excellent. On this guy I particularly like the shape of the head and the smooth curve of the body. Abby really does a lovely job with gussets and darts! She also got the neck just the right width – thick enough that it will take years of love to get floppy, but thin enough to still give the bird a good bird shape.

And the beak is very expressive! It’s sewn into a curved seam which makes the beak “cup” a little – which allows you to flip it up or down for different expressions which hold really well. Nice!

It’s so interesting to me as a designer to see how other designers solve problems! We all do things a little differently and I have to remind myself while making to follow the instructions instead of branching off my own way. 🙂 That’s where the learning comes in, after all.

That said – I did make a couple of changes. . .

I’m not crazy about the way topstitching looks on Cuddle Fleece, so I usually avoid it. I went ahead with it here on the beak because I thought it would need it to help define the shape – but I left it off the wings and tail and just stuffed them lightly. I think they still look very cute – I like the flippy tips quite a lot. 🙂

I moved the stuffing opening from the base to the back. The original opening was on the curved edge at the base of the bird and I really struggle with ladder stitching around curves. Yes – the back of the doll is more visible – but it’s a straight seam and I know I can make a completely invisible ladder stitch if I’m working a straight seam, so I was ok with that opening being in a more visible spot. That’s all about me knowing my particular skill set – not any criticism of the pattern. 🙂

If I make the pattern again I think it would be fun to try a patterned quilting cotton for the beak and feet. You’d still get the cuddliness of the fleece in the body, but with a pop of pattern and a different texture. It could be super cute!

Want to make your own? The fun thing about birds is that they come in so many lovely colors. Go crazy! And get the pattern here.

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
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Book Review – Stitched Blooms

Stitched BloomsWhen I was working on the Finished Stitches project, I contacted Lark Crafts about contributing a copy of Stitched Blooms – a fun new embroidery book by Carina Envoldsen-Harris of Polka & Bloom – as one of the prizes.

They offered to send an additional copy for me to review. Why thanks! I’d love to!

It always takes me a while to write a review because I like to live with the book for a while and, whenever possible, make one of the projects.

Want to see what I made?

This fun Dala Horse!

Dala Horse Ornament from Stitched Blooms

This isn’t exactly one of the projects from the book. That’s where my review comes in.

Stitched Blooms has a very nice introductory section with all the basics you’d expect – a thorough discussion of tools and materials, a nice stitch glossary, and information on how to transfer a pattern – though she doesn’t include my beloved Magic Embroidery Stuff. 🙂

It has a really comprehensive section on color theory with very specific information about how it relates to embroidery and some helpful suggested Color Exploration Exercises. Lots of great color information from an artist I always associate with skillful use of color? Awesome.

Stitched Blooms also has some really fun (and different) projects that use your stitching. I especially like these luminaries. . .

Embroidered Luminaries from the book Stitched Blooms. . . and these pretty tea towels.

Mehndi Tea Towels from the book Stitched BloomsI’m planning on stitching a few of these up for myself on my favorite colorful tea towels. 🙂

But here’s what really sets Stitched Blooms apart. It includes 300 motifs (that’s a lot!) you can use – all on a CD so you can easily resize and recombine them. Fun!

Dala Horse from the book Stitched BloomsI decided to make this Dala Horse – with a few variations, of course. 🙂 The one in the book is quite large – more like a stuffed animal. Mine is a Christmas tree ornament. Here’s what I did. . .

  1. Blow the dust bunnies out of my CD drive. I don’t think I’ve ever used the thing.
  2. Pop in the disk and find the Dala Horse. Easy.
  3. Open it in GIMP (my photo editing software – kind of a free Photoshop) and resize it. Easy.
  4. Duplicate the image and reverse it (so I’d have both sides of the horse) and then do the same thing with the saddle. Nice! It all fits easily on one page.
  5. Print it out on a sheet of The Magical Embroidery Stuff (aka Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy).
  6. Cut the pieces apart (leaving extra around the edges). Peel off the backing and stick the pattern down to some nice wool felt. Oooh. . . soft!
  7. Stitch all the designs in front of a nice crackling fire.
  8. Cut the pieces out around the edges and soak off the stabilizer. Let them dry flat overnight.
  9. Applique the saddle pieces to the horse pieces.
  10. Sew the horse pieces together and stuff them with a few pinches of stuffing.
  11. Get fancy with some DMC Memory Thread to make the reins.
  12. Add a hanging loop for the tree.
  13. Take pictures so I can show it to you! Here it is again. 🙂

Dala Horse Ornament from Stitched BloomsIt was so easy to pull the image off the disk and play with it! And so much fun!

I hope you enjoy Stitched Blooms too! You can get it here or wherever books are sold.

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi
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Getting My Quilting Mojo Back

Getting My Quilting Mojo Back

I used to be a quilter – with a capital Q. I entered my quilts into shows and sold them in galleries. I liked making the quilts, but I hated everything else about the process. I hated writing Very Serious Artist Statements. I hated entering quilt shows. I hated worrying about how much time I was spending on a quilt, knowing that that was pushing up the price. I didn’t like thinking about my designs in that way.

So I stopped. And I started Shiny Happy World and I didn’t make a single quilt for a few years.

Buttonholes Quilt PatternI started making cute toys instead of expensive quilts. And then I started designing patterns for those cute toys so other people could make them too. And that was awesome!

But then I made a quilt. I made the Buttonholes quilt and it was really fun to design a quilt pattern especially for beginners – with no places where the seams needed to match up and no stress whatsoever.

And then I made the Scary Squares quilt and had the Most Fun Ever. And then there were a few more quilts – including the Puppies quilt which I love, love love. Scary Squares quilt pattern from Shiny Happy World

And all of a sudden I realize I have my quilting mojo back. And you know why? Because I’m making quilts that I LOVE. These quilts will never appear in any gallery. They’ll never win a prize in a show. But they make people smile and they keep people warm and they’re really fun to make. I’m not stressing about points or matching seams – I’m playing with color and shape and cuddly monsters and cute puppies. And I love it!

Why did this come as a revelation?

12_puppy_applique_patternsI reviewed Quilting Happiness here, and in responding to some people’s comments about the book and the review, it really made me think about my own quilting journey. I feel like I fell into this trap of always pushing my skills – always making more and more complicated quilts – until I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. I was designing for the galleries and the judges and my own weird internal measuring stick.

It’s like I had to give myself permission to make quilts that were “below” my skill level. Where does that come from? I have the technical skills to make a mariner’s compass quilt. Or a Baltimore Album quilt. That doesn’t mean I HAVE to make one! Making one (for me) will be stressful and sweaty and I’ll probably say a lot of bad words. I can do it – but it won’t be fun. And I want my quilting to be fun, dang it!

I’m writing this because I know a lot of you have struggled with the same thing. I read it in a lot of private emails after I posted my Quilting Happiness review. You don’t need my permission – but I’m giving it here just in case hearing it from another source helps.

You do not need to challenge yourself with every project you make. If you want to learn a new skill – awesome! But don’t feel like you have to. It’s ok to just make things for the joy of it. You can make beautiful, stunning, gorgeous quilts for the rest of your life without ever worrying about chopping off points or matching seams.

There. I’m off my soapbox now. 🙂

Starry Night quilt in progress - 10 starsAnd now that I have my mojo back, I’m planning a LOT of new quilt patterns for next year. Most of them will be of the easy peasy Buttonholes variety – with no fussy points and no seams to match. A few of them will be skill stretchers, like the Starry Night quilt. (Update – I’ve pulled the Starry Night pattern temporarily while I reformat it to be released as a regular pattern. Sign up for the newsletter to make sure you know when it’s in the shop.) I hope all of them will be fun – and that all of you will make things you love, whether those things are simple rag dolls or complicated quilts. Think about what makes you happy when you sew and follow that path!

Have a wonderful day!

Happy sewing! Or quilting! or stitching! Or whatever you love to do!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi_Gratz_Shiny_Happy_World

Book Review – Quilting Happiness

Quilting_HappinessWhen I read a book to review it, I read it with a notepad next to me so I can capture my thoughts as I go along. My notes for Quilting Happiness – a terrific new book by Diane Gilleland and Christina Lane ended up being a long list of things I loved.

So let me tell you what I love about Quilting Happiness. . .

I love the title. My business is called Shiny Happy World. How can I not immediately pick up a book called Quilting Happiness?

I love the quote mentioned in the dedication. “You’ll never notice it on a galloping horse.” That – in a nutshell – sums up my quilting spirit. It’s something I often tell my students when they fixate on a tiny “mistake” in a big, beautiful quilt.

I love the list 5 Things About Quilting That Makes Us Happy.

Quilting_Happiness_listI really connected immediately with both authors of the book – but especially with Diane’s last point. “Give me some hand quilting to do, a cup of coffee, and a Doctor Who marathon, and I’m one happy woman.” That’s exactly how I feel about all hand work – quilting, embroidery, finish work, etc. Although I’d also add in Sherlock, Downton Abbey, the Phryne Fisher Mysteries and lots of other favorite TV shows. 🙂

I love the many quizzes sprinkled throughout the book. They can help you articulate what kind of quilter you are – something I sometimes find difficult to do. And I love how the results of the quizzes point you to specific quilts in the book. It’s a fun “Choose Your Own Adventure” way to work your way through the projects.

I love that every single project has very specific suggestions for quilting each quilt.

Quilting_Happiness_Ideas_QuiltingSo many books just say “quilt as desired.” That’s not helpful at all! And not only does the book have specific suggestions – it has multiple suggestions for every project! And they range from simple line stitching to more complicated free motion stitching and even some hand quilting and tying suggestions. That is fantastic – and very unusual!

I love that the instructions for each quilt are super clear – with excellent diagrams.

I love that there are detailed instructions for cutting the fabric. A lot of books will tell how many of each shape and size to cut, but leave it up to you to figure out the most efficient way to do that. This book breaks it down step by step. It tells you how many strips to cut of each size, then exactly what pieces to cut from those strips. Very nice!

Crazy_Strips_Quilting_Happiness I love this Crazy Strips quilt. I think it’s my favorite in the whole book. It’s pieced improvisationally, but within a structure. That helps keep things balanced and can be less overwhelming to someone just getting started with that kind of loose approach.

I love the range and variety of projects. There are bold, dramatic, modern quilts. There are traditional quilts made with vintage-style fabrics. There are quilts for beginners and quilts for more advanced stitchers. There are small projects like pillows and tote bags, and there are large bed quilts. This is an especially great book for beginners who know they want to try quilting, but maybe aren’t sure what kind of quilts they want to make. They can take some of the quizzes to get pointed in one direction, then stretch their skills as they learn.

I love the “Happiness Practice” exercise about Finding Inspiration Guides. It’s a great guide to studying a quilter you admire – breaking down just what it is about their quilts that really works for you so you can apply that to your own work without copying them directly. What a terrific exercise!

I love the general instructions at the end of the book. They’re very clear and cover all the basics – how (and why) to square up your fabric, piecing curves, basting and binding your quilt and more. It’s a great reference.

Haphazard_Chevron_Pillow_Quilting_HappinessI love this Haphazard Chevron Pillow. It’s similar in many ways to the Crazy Strips quilt I mentioned above – in that it’s irregular piecing within a structure. But it’s a smaller project and one I could realistically tackle right now.  So I decided to make one for myself!

I strayed a bit from the instructions (of course) – not because they were unclear – they’re terrific! But I have overflowing scrap bins, I knew my daughter would really like a rainbow pillow, and I wanted to try a quilt-as-you-go technique I’ve been toying with. So here’s my Scrappy Rainbow Chevron Pillow. 🙂

Scrappy_Rainbow_Chevron_Pillow_quilt

My pillow form was a bit larger than the one in the book, but I used the same suggested range of widths for the strips I cut so it would have a similar effect.

I love it! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

Are you ready for some Quilting Happiness of your own? Get the book here.

Happy quilting!

Best,
Wendi
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Book Review: Flip Dolls & Other Toys That Zip, Stack, Hide, Grab & Go

Flip Dolls coverAs soon as I saw the name of this book I knew I had to have a closer look.

I LOVE softies that do something! And the toys in this book do the most clever things!

There’s a stacking tree that unstacks to make a forest of individual trees.

There’s a frog with an elastic tongue that can grab things.

There are cars with wheels that turn.

There are some trule amazing flip dolls. It’d be more accurate to call them reversible dolls – but that’s nitpicking. They’re incredibly fun and creative no matter what you call them! And she includes terrific instructions for a base doll to use to design your own. Score!

There’s a ukelele with elastic strings. Love! Speaking of ukeleles – here’s a link to my favorite ukelele video. Yes. I have a favorite ukelele video. Ukeleles are cool.

There’s a terrific crocodile with zipper teeth.

There are so many fun projects in here!

FD turtlesI asked my daughter which one she thought I should make for this review.

She flipped through the book – oohing and aahing a lot.

She tagged a ton of projects, including these incredibly cute turtles with removable shells.

So sweet!

FD horseShe also really liked this horse with the button-on wings.

But I’ve been working on a removable wing thing of my own for a few weeks now and didn’t want to start looking at a whole other technique.

Plus, I’m not crazy about making standing stuffed animals like that. I know they’re great to play with – I just don’t enjoy making them and I’m ok with that.

Gulp the Whale from the book Flip DollsJo’s favorite toy in the whole book was Gulp the Whale.

So anxious-looking!

And so weirdly cute!

Now – I recently made a whale from a Zooguu pattern. And I have a whale pattern in my own book (Creature Camp, coming in November). I didn’t really feel like making another whale right now.

But that pocket! When I was a kid my favorite teddy bear had a hole in her neck. I used to hide things in there even though it wasn’t a pocket and they sometimes got lost in the stuffing. In fact – my diary key is still in there somewhere. 🙂

Ever since I started making softies I’ve wanted to make one with a proper pocket for hiding secret treasures. I included one in the proposal for my book but ended up cutting it for space reasons before I actually made it. This is a project I’ve sketched out and made in my head a hundred times, but never actually made in real life.

The time had finally come!

So I made a doll with a pocket mouth using the construction technique in the book, but my own pattern. Laura’s technique was very similar to what I had envisioned, and her instructions were very clear with just enough illustrations. And she had a nice tip for stuffing the softie before tucking the pocket inside which really helped keep things nice and full and smooth.

Want to see a sneak peek at my guy?

Glutton softie from Shiny Happy World

Hi there! I’ll be a pattern soon!

I’m not happy with the antennae and – now that I’ve played with him a bit and have a better idea of his personality – I have an idea that I like better.

Oh yes, I played with him. 🙂 A lot. I wanted to make his limbs long enough to really be playful. What I didn’t anticipate was how expressive he would be!

Scared Glutton softie from Shiny Happy World

Sometimes when I’m scared I chew on my toes.

This little photo shoot was so much fun!

Hand-eating Glutton from Shiny Happy World

Now what did I have for lunch?

The first thing Jo did was stuff one of his hands down into his belly. 🙂 Updated to add: You can find the pattern for Munch here!

I rarely make actual projects from the many (MANY) craft books I buy. They’re a source of inspiration and a way to learn new techniques – and Flip Dolls & Other Toys is all kinds of inspiring.

Maybe your kid isn’t into cars, but he LOVES windmills. Use the technique for spinning wheels from the book to make a windmill with spinning vanes!

Maybe your kid doesn’t care for robots (is that even possible?????) but loves those I Spy books. Use the very cool technique for the nuts & bolts robot to make pocket search games for the car. Or a little aquarium with fish that swim in and out of view!

That’s the thing about this book. The ideas are so clever and so fresh – the possibilities for spinning off the ideas are endless! For me that’s a great book – one that doesn’t just give me instructions for a handful of projects, but one that fires my imagination and gives me instructions for techniques I can use a lot of different ways.

For those who DO want to make the projects just as they see them in the book – here’s a little tip. The patterns all need to be enlarged. As someone who lives in a remote area a long way from a copy shop this is a real pet peeve. BUT! Lark now has full-sized templates on their website that you can easily download and print. Yay! Just save this link because I couldn’t find this nice feature or the link mentioned anywhere in the book itself.

So. Are you ready for some really clever softie designs unlike any I’ve seen before? Get this book! Flip Dolls & Other Toys That Zip, Stack, Hide, Grab & Go by Laura Wilson of We Wilsons. And get ready to have some fun!

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
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Book Review and Giveaway – Sweet Booties!

51iywc7bxel-_sy498_bo1204203200_Back before I started publishing my own patterns I used to contribute projects to a lot of different books.

One of those books was the fabulously titled Sweet Booties! And Blankets, Bonnets, Bibs & More.

This book is a tremendous collection of handmade projects for new babies. I know a LOT of us started sewing (or got back into sewing) for a special new baby or grandbaby. Sweet Booties is chock full of cute projects for those cute babies.

Teeny tiny little shoes to keep those adorable toes toasty warm? Check. I contributed these bright yellow fleece boots.

bootiesHats and Bonnets? Check. Take a look at the artsy black beret I designed for boho babies.

beretI ended up giving the sample to a friend who lived in NYC. She thought it was very chic. 🙂

Cuddly soft blankies? Check.

blanketThis is a blanket I’ve made many times from super soft fur. It’s like wrapping a baby in a big teddy bear hug. 🙂

Of course there are also bibs, toys, and lots of other fun projects. It has all the basics covered in a general sewing instructions section, with special tips on sewing for babies. And the new paperback edition comes with a terrific disk with full-size patterns. Yay! No enlarging!

Edited to add: Giveaway is now closed! But you can still purchase Sweet Booties here. Want to win a copy of the new paperback? Leave a comment here telling us about a favorite handmade baby gift. It can be the go-to gift you make for every new baby or the best handmade gift your baby received.

I’ll draw a random winner on Wednesday September 4 and Lark Books (the publisher) will ship the prize to the winner. And they’ve said they’ll ship anywhere in the world. Thank you, Lark!

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
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Meet Abby Glassenberg – Softie Designer Extraordinaire

abby-glassenbergToday I’d like to introduce you all to a fellow pattern designer who makes softie patterns I think you’ll love to make. Meet Abby Glassenberg! She’s the author of Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction. She blogs at While She Naps, and sells digital patterns for softies in her shop.

I started following Abby several years ago and I’ve loved watching her work evolve and her business grow. I can’t wait for you to meet her, so let’s jump right in!

Hi Abby! Thanks so much for spending some time with us here at Shiny Happy World!

Those of us who run solo businesses tend to wear many hats – and that makes it hard sometimes to tell people what we do. But that’s the first thing I’m going to ask you to do! Tell readers a little bit about you and your work. How do you introduce yourself and what you do to a stranger?

I’m a sewing pattern designer, craft book author, sewing teacher and craft blogger. I design sewing patterns for dolls and stuffed animals. My patterns help you create softies that are adorable and look professionally made. Each pattern includes step-by-step photos and clear instructions written in language you can easily understand. I love sewing toys and I want you to have a great experience, too!

I love that you think of designing patterns as helping other people have a great sewing experience too. That’s terrific! So – in a sea of patterns out there, what makes your work unique?

My stuffed animals are truly three-dimensional. I like gussets and darts! I love the puzzle of drawing flat pattern pieces so that when they’re sewn together you get an oval-shaped sphere, for example, or a curved horn. While you sew you’ll see how the language of softie pattern pieces works and perhaps you’ll be inspired to design toys yourself!

Tell me a little bit more about your latest pattern. What made you decide to make it and what were some decisions you made along the way in the design process?

Emma dollMy latest pattern is Emma the Doll. She’s a big doll at 20”, she’s entirely machine sewn and she’s made from fleece. I’m a mom of three young daughters, ages 9,7, and 2, so I have a good handle on how kids really play. A few weeks ago my kids spent the afternoon on the front lawn with a huge pile of toys having a funeral for a pink stuffed boar!

When I dreamed up this new doll I wanted her to be big and sturdy, to have jointed arms and legs so that she can be posed, and to be machine washable. Emma achieves all of these things, and with style.

I love the Emma doll pattern! She’s so totally kid-friendly! And I was completely captivated by this photo of her (smiling) in the washing machine. As a mom – that really says it all. 🙂

It's ok! I'm just having a bath!

It’s ok! I’m just having a bath!

Emma’s a very playable doll, kid-friendly doll. But you started out making sculptural birds – definitely not toys. (Abby’s first book, The Artful Bird, teaches you how to make them.) What made you switch gears and move into stuffed animals designed to be played with?

I think my years designing and sewing birds were a great way to explore three-dimensional shaping in fabric. I learned how to control bulges and how to pull shapes inward in order to achieve the particular body shapes of each species. After I wrote my first book I felt free to delve into children’s toys and I’ve really enjoyed designing teddy bears and baby lovies, dolls and elephants, hobby horses and turtles, and everything in between!

So tell me about your new book. How did it come about? What was the most challenging part of writing it? What’s your favorite project from the book?

il_570xn-452002987_td5k1-570x600My new book is Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction and it was published by Lark Crafts in May. This book is all about designing your own stuffed animals and it’s perfect for beginners as well as those with more sewing and design experience under their belts. I actually thought of writing a book that would be a comprehensive guide to soft toy design like this one long before I wrote my first book, The Artful Bird. It took many years of research and experimentation to create a book of this depth and I’m really proud of it. I enjoyed every aspect of writing Stuffed Animals, even the tedious parts! It truly was a labor of love and a book that I felt I was made to write. My favorite project is the 16th pattern in the book – a dinosaur with a zippered mouth!

Dinosaur with zippered mouth

Roar!

I love this book so much! My “official” review is here.

What are your dreams for the future of your business?

My business is really two-fold: I design sewing patterns for toys, and I also write about running a creative business. I’d like to grow both sides of what I do. In the realm of sewing patterns, I’d like to teach an online class on sewing softies. I was a middle school teacher in my former career and I still really see myself as a teacher. And, of course, I have tons of ideas for new softie patterns. I truly feel that I could design stuffed animals and dolls for the rest of my life and never run out of ideas! In the realm of writing about running a creative business I will continue to seek out and speak with those in power about the craft industry and share my experiences running my own business. I love reporting about what’s going on in my niche and feel so thankful to have found a large audience who shares my interest.

Can you tell us about a typical day? Where do you work and what’s your routine like?

We wake up early in the Glassenberg household! I’m up at 6:10 every morning. I get the kids off to school and then I go running. I’m at my computer by 10:15 and I work until about 2:30. Those hours include a combination of writing blog posts and patterns, doing research, responding to emails, posting on social media, drawing, sewing, photographing my work, editing photos, and doing graphic design for my site and my patterns. Oh wait, there’s packaging orders and shipping, and sourcing supplies, too. Like most people who run a small business I do everything there is to be done, even the weekly bookkeeping. But I seriously do love it all. I also work in the evenings from 8-9:30pm.

What’s your favorite sewing tool?

Hemostats. I may have 12 pairs. Or 13. When I travel I panic that if my luggage gets lost I may be without my hemostats and that would be serious issue for me.

I should have known that’s what you’d say. 🙂 You rave about them so much that I finally tried a pair (you know that, I guess, since I bought them from you) and they really are a pretty awesome little tool. But 12 or 13 pairs? That’s true devotion.

What’s your most popular pattern? Why do you think it’s so popular?

lovey doveyThe Lovey Dovey. It’s a great go-to project to make for a new baby and everyone wants to make something special to give as a baby gift.

This pattern comes with four variations (a bunny, a puppy, a bear, and a kitty) so you can customize what you’re making for each recipient. The pattern is also very approachable. You look at it and say, “Okay, I can handle that!” And it’s cute! You can’t deny the importance of cute when it comes to toys.

stella owlImagine someone with no sewing experience. She just took her first sewing machine out of the box and figured out how to thread it. She’s eager to make something – but also a little bit scared. Which one of your patterns do you recommend?

I’d recommend Stella the Owl. She’s a very straightforward design, but still really clever! Her wings come together with a bit of Velcro so that she can embrace her little owlet.

She’s so cute! And I think it would be really fun to choose fabric for the contrasting wings.

rubber duckieWhat’s your very favorite pattern? Why?

I’m really fond of my plush Rubber Duck. He’s a bath time favorite in plush form!

This pattern includes several really cool, but easy, construction techniques and the finished softie looks really professional.

I think this pattern is a really nice representation of my design style.

Can you suggest another designer that beginning sewists might like to get to know better?

I’m a big fan of Raynor Gellatly, a Scottish plush pattern designer whose business is called Elf Pop. Her dolls and toys have a very sweet, innocent look and I think they are ideal for relatively new sewists looking to create toys that kids will immediately want to hug!

Thanks so much, Abby!

I hope you all enjoyed getting to know Abby!

Happy sewing, everyone!

Best,
Wendi
Applique Wendi (with fabulous hat)

Addi’s New Sock Rockets!

Have you heard of Addi’s sock rockets?

Addi Sock Rockets

They’re a line of circular knitting needles from Addi that are pointy like their line of lace needles, but with a nickel finish like their Turbos.

Until now, they’ve only been available in ‘sock’ sizes (size 0-2), but I just found out that in August, Sock Rocket needles will be available in sizes 3-13!

Addi sock rocket

You may recall me saying previously that I really disliked the brass finish on the Addi Lace needles (because it made my hands smell all brass-y), so I’m pleased with this nickel coating.

If you already own the full line of lace needles, I’m not sure it’s worth splurging on the new sizes of Sock Rockets. However, if you want a pointy tip and are in the market for new needles, you might want to wait until the new Sock Rocket sizes come out and give them a try!

No word on whether Addi will change the name of the line, given that they’re no longer only for socks! 🙂 giggle