20 April, 2020

Making masks. My version with some sewing tips.

2020-04-20T15:50:22-05:00Everything Else, Freebies & Patterns, Sewing & Design, Tutorials, Videos|3 Comments

I posted a tutorial for working with a bias tape maker today on my social media channels (I will post that again below) and got a bunch of questions about how I was making masks and what pattern to use. So here is what I have been making. This is a version that is based on one that was posted by Fairview Health (associated with the University of MN). I have simplified the sewing instructions they provided because I saw a simpler and cleaner way to construct them. I am not going to provide a step-by-step tutorial here, but I will give you the basics.

Cut two rectangles that are 9 inches by 7 inches. They recommended using 2 different fabrics so you can easily tell the inside and outside of the mask if you need to take it off and put it back on.

Place the rectangles right sides together and stitch just the short sides, using about a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Turn right side out and press flat.

Make three tuck pleats about 1/2 inch each along each short edge of the rectangle. You can pin these. (I have a lot of practice at this kind of thing, so I just eyeballed them.) I used a wide zig-zag stitch to then stitch over the pleats about 1/4 from the edge. This is thick, so don’t force your machine or you will break needles at this step. Do this on each short edge. It doesn’t matter which way you pleat, as long as the pleats go the same way on each end.

Cut two strips of fabric to make ties. I use the full width of a piece of 45″ super soft muslin, cut 2 inches high. (I fold the fabric in half, matching the selvedge edges and cut it all the way across.) A 45″ fabric is a great length to make ties.

Use a 1 inch bias tape maker to press the long edges of your strips (see video below). Fold the strips in half (the short way) to find the center and pin that to the center of one long edge of the mask. Starting at the end of the tie strip, fold in half the long way (matching the folded edges) and stitch close to the fold. When you get to the mask (pinned to the center of the strip), slide the mask raw edge inside the folded strip and keep stitching all the way to the end of the tie. Repeat for the other long edge of the mask. You don’t need to worry about finishing the short ends of the ties, because they are the fabric selvedge, they won’t fray. These are reversible (top to bottom and inside outside)

If you’d like a wire/pipecleaner to help fit it to the top of the nose, that would be very easy to insert at the center as you are stitching the tie strips.

22 October, 2018

Designing stuffed toys with muslin mockups

2018-10-22T10:53:17-05:00Sewing & Design, Spoonflower & Fabric Design|1 Comment

The Spoonflower design challenge this week was a cut-and-sew project that fit on a fat quarter. I love designing these kind of things. Some of my very first Spoonflower designs were sets of stuffed toys (Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, Red Riding Hood) where you could make all of the little characters as dolls or finger puppets and then they had their house which was a bag to store them all in. All of the pieces fit on a fat quarter and you just cut them out and sewed them together. The way this design challenge was set up you could make a cut-and-sew anything. Many people made stuffed animal toys, but you could do things bags, headbands or bibs as long as they fit on that 21×18 inch rectangle.

I struggled with this one a little bit. I was going to re-do a sheep stuffed toy pattern that I had in my Etsy shop years and years ago. I thought it would be easy to convert since I had already pattern tested it. But I just wasn’t excited about it and it’s a little fiddly to sew together.

Then I thought about a conversation I had with my friend Megan, who owns a local yarn and fabric store called Knit & Bolt. For a class I was teaching, I interviewed Megan about trends she saw in fabrics – what sells, what doesn’t sell, what do people come in looking for. One of the things that came up was cut-and-sew panels like these. They are popular at her shop, but one of the things she noticed about them is that although they seem like a really great beginner project for new stitchers, often the actual sewing parts are really difficult. She had an example of a cute cowboy doll, but the neck and arms were very skinny, which made it hard to turn right side out and stuff. The way that other parts attached to the body was complex. The shapes that you needed to sew were tight curves, which can be challenging for a beginner.

So I decided that I wanted to design something that was actually a beginner sewing project. Of course I came up with this pretty close to the deadline for the challenge (because don’t you always do your best work on a deadline?) So I thought about it and decided to rework some artwork I had already drawn.

I drew these labradors for another design challenge entry for tea towels. They were inspired by a photo of a pair of mid-century ceramic statues of little black and white dogs. I thought they were really cute and it would be fun to rework them for a different kind of cut-and-sew design.

The best part is that they are really simple shapes, so they would be easy to stitch. I removed their tails and redrew them so that they were part of the artwork on the back of the dog. No skinny bits to stuff and sew. I added a wide seam allowance around each piece. The instructions say to sew with a 1/4 inch seam allowance, but I made my border a bit wider than that so there was a little room for wobbles in the sewing line. By making the seam allowance in the same color as all of the outlines in the art, you won’t see a white “gap” at the edges if your sewing isn’t quite perfect – the color will go all the way into the seam. There are still a few curves around the ears but they should be accomplishable for a novice stitcher. Then because I think that it’s always fun for your stuffed toys to be able to do something, I used the rest of the fat quarter to make reversible bandanas for the dogs, which you just fold in half, stitch the edge and then fray it out to make a fringe.

I didn’t have time to actually get these guys printed and tested before I had to turn in my design challenge entry, but I didn’t want to post something that was completely untested. So I made a muslin mockup. Because I drew this original design in Illustrator, I just converted my shapes into a line drawing and printed it out.

I taped the line drawing up to a bright window and traced my lines on to a piece of muslin with a sharpie. Then I could cut and sew a sample to scale and make sure everything worked out just right. Super fast prototyping! I can’t wait to get the finished printed sample so I can make up some with the final design, but this was enough for me to make sure everything worked and fit together.

16 October, 2018

Book Review: The NEW Spoonflower Quick Sew Project Book

2018-10-16T13:40:56-05:00Book Reports, Sewing & Design, Spoonflower & Fabric Design|Comments Off on Book Review: The NEW Spoonflower Quick Sew Project Book

Just last week, Spoonflower released their second book, The Spoonflower Quick Sew Project Book. You might know that I worked on the first book, The Spoonflower Handbook and we get a little shout out in the intro for this new book.

The author for the Quick Sew book is my friend Anda Corrie. I have known Anda for a long time, although we only met in person in 2016. Anda worked at Etsy for many years and I asked her to be a juror for a grant program that I administrated when I still worked in the arts admin world. She also was a contributor to the first Spoonflower book. She has a project (pg 85) and she did the illustrations for the book. I love the aesthetic of her fabric designs: colorful, whimsical, and simple, but in a way that has so much character.

I wanted to tell you about this new book and a little about what I think is great about it. (This isn’t a sponsored post or anything like that. Everything I say here is my own thoughts and impressions.)

The book in a nutshell

It’s a sewing book. Where the Spoonflower Handbook focused on teaching you ways to create your own design, the main focus of this book is sewing. It has a great variety of projects that use different amounts of fabric from swatch to several yards. Although there are several projects that show you how to design something that is personalized, that isn’t the main goal. In some ways, I feel like this one is the prequel to the other. The Quick Sew book teaches you how to sew some great basic things with designs you get in the Marketplace, the Handbook takes it one step further to showing you how to then design your own fabrics. They are great companions.

Sewing skills needed for these projects vary. Some are great beginner projects for those who are just learning to sew. Some are a little trickier or demand a little patience. I tried one of the trickier projects, which I will show you later in the post.

Projects I love

I picked out three different projects which I wanted to highlight. My favorite section might honestly be the Notions & Trims section of the book.

I have looked at a lot of beginner sewing books and I have never actually seen a section that breaks down and shows you how to make bias binding, piping, and covered buttons. I use these things all the time and I always make my own because I have a certain way I want them to look or a color I need to match and the premade things that are available are pretty limited. The piping is my favorite from this section. I figured it out by a lot of trial and error, which was not always successful. Did you even know you could make your own piping?

Next, I love this bear rug from the Multi Yard Projects section. He made me smile when I first saw the photo and I can imagine this would make for super cute baby photo props. He’s made from minky, so super soft and cuddly and I think the fabric design choice for this one was perfect. It’s “officially” a rug, but I can see it being so much more. I know my youngest niece and nephew would have dragged this around to watch tv with and pretend the bear was like a flying magic carpet so they could fly across the living room (because you know the floor is always lava.)

Here’s what I made

I decided that I needed to make something if I was going to do a proper review, so I decided to make the Tiny Circle Purse, which is one of the projects in the Swatch projects section. I had some scraps of faux suede left over from one of my own projects, so I used those scraps instead of a swatch to make my little bag.

I have to admit that I cheated a little bit. I didn’t have a 10″ zipper that the pattern called for, so I shortened a 12″ one. I also didn’t have extra wide bias binding, which is used to finish and connect the ends of the zipper, so I just used a couple of scraps of fabric and turned under the edges to make it work like bias tape. To draw 4″ circles, I traced around the lid to a container which just happened to be the right size.

The raw edges of the fabric and the zipper on the inside are contained inside bias binding, which is tricky to sew in a little tiny circle, but looks pretty cool. I had some premade in neon green, so that’s what I used for this step. Because bending that zipper around in a tiny circle is challenging to sew without wobbles, if I were doing it again, I would just hand baste the zipper in first and then sew the seam, zipper and bias binding all in one step. It’s a cute little pouch and I think I am going to use it to keep bandaids and such contained in my purse. A fun project; a great use for a swatch or two.

What didn’t I love?

I don’t think it’s an honest review if I only write about the things that I love about the book and didn’t tell you anything else. So here are things that I noticed that bothered me. The fabrics featured in the book are beautiful and there are some great designers featured, but I would have loved to see more of the wonderful weirdness that makes up Spoonflower. I had exactly the same feeling about the designs featured in book I worked on. For me, part of the reason I love Spoonflower is that there is EVERYTHING there that you could ever want to find on a fabric. Corgis with sushi, oboes, vintage calculators, or steampunk robot whales. As Kermit says at the end of the Muppets Take Manhattan:

That’s it! That’s what’s been missing from the show! That’s what we need! More frogs and dogs and bears and chickens and… and whatever!

I get so very tired of everything looking like a perfectly photographed, exquisitely vanilla Pinterest or Instagram feed. Snore. But that’s a pretty personal thing and it’s just not my style. That being said, there are some really great simple modern and geometrics featured throughout the book. If that’s your vibe, you will see some things there you love and you won’t have a hard time finding similar fabrics to make your own versions of the projects.

You can get both books at Spoonflower or on Amazon. If you try something from the book or even just spot it in the wild, post a photo on Instagram and tag @andacorrie so she can see it (and me too, I always love to see your projects!) After working so hard on a project like a book, just a little note saying that you’ve seen it is like giving the author a chocolate cupcake. It seems like just a little but it means a lot.

8 June, 2017

Pop Up Class: Intro to Embroidery

2017-06-19T12:15:13-05:00Classes & Teaching, Embroidery, UpcomingClasses|Comments Off on Pop Up Class: Intro to Embroidery

Don’t wait to sign up! I have added a class for this summer and you are invited. I am partnering up with Knit & Bolt (formerly Crafty Planet) in NE Minneapolis to do a pop-up class. In three sessions, you will learn all you need to know about beginning hand embroidery. We will cover the basics of tools, threads, needles, and to hoop or not hoop. Each session we will focus on a group of related stitches, like variations on a theme. We will talk about how to stitch a pre-traced pattern as well as free-form embroidery, which is my favorite. I broke the class up so you will have time to practice between sessions and come back with questions. We will work in the awesome new classroom space at Knit & Bolt and you can get all of your materials there at the shop. (I will post the supply list here very soon and email it to you after you register.)

Intro to Embroidery
Tuesdays June 20, 27 and July 11 • 10:00 – 11:30 am
at Knit & Bolt

Open to ages 10 and up. No embroidery or hand sewing experience necessary.

THIS CLASS IS FULL. If you are interested in learning about future classes, please sign up for my email newsletter.

Supply list

All of these items are available at Knit & Bolt. You can pick them up ahead of time, or we can take a little time right at the beginning of class to get everyone set with supplies.

  • 1/4 – 1/2 yd of plain colored woven cotton fabric. I recommend RJR solids or Kona cotton. Choose any color.
  • 3-5 colors of six-stranded embroidery floss (thread). Choose any colors.
  • Embroidery needles. I recommend John James, assorted sizes 5/10.
  • One 9×12” rectangle of craft felt or wool felt. Choose any color.
  • One 5-7” embroidery hoop. Wooden or plastic is fine.

Bring a pair of scissors with you. You might want a pen and paper to take notes. You are welcome to take photos/video with your camera/phone as I demonstrate stitches.

A note about colors. If you don’t know what colors to choose, here are some suggestions.

  • Contrast is great. Choose white/charcoal/black as a fabric color and three bright colors like red, turquoise and green for your threads.
  • Think of a theme like “ice cream”. That doesn’t mean you are going to make a picture of ice cream, but it gives you a hint about colors.
    • Ice Cream: Vanilla background fabric, brown, pink and pale green threads.
    • Ocean: Pale blue background fabric, tan, turquoise, yellow threads.
    • Paris: Pale grey fabric, blue, red and pink threads.

Download this supply list.

13 March, 2017

My love of art supplies: Fiskars Microtips

2017-03-12T22:22:04-05:00Sewing & Design|Comments Off on My love of art supplies: Fiskars Microtips

Another post about the art supplies I love and why I love them. I think I have 5 pairs of these Fiskars Microtips. They are my favorite scissors. More than my fancy Gingher sewing scissors. I have 5 pairs because eventually I do something dumb and they get a little too dull for working with fabric things and they get retired to being paper scissors and then I have to replace the fabric ones. I think there’s one pair so beat up that it has been retired to the garage.

Why do I love them? They fit my hands so that my hands aren’t getting tired when I am cutting endless little things like this.

They are sturdy and never get loose or wobbly feeling. I don’t use them for cutting out garments or pattern pieces; that’s not what they are for. Those tips are tiny. I can cut little threads and trim seam allowances or clip curves. I can cut out intricate paper shapes and not worry about the scissors mangling the curves and corners. They are sharp. And they only get too dull for fabric things because I tend to use them for everything, whether I “should” be using them or not. I think one of the things that was the most frustrating when I was teaching beginning sewing classes was scissors that belonged in the garbage. Cutting out is always the first step. And if your scissors chew up your fabric, then you can’t match it up, and then the seams don’t line up and the seam allowances are all over the place and it just spirals from there.

Good scissors are way more important than a fancy sewing machine. My friend Jane, my next door neighbor for my entire childhood and the one responsible for me knowing about cross stitch and hardanger and making button holes, gave me a pair of nice scissors as a highschool graduation present. I still have them. They are still sharp. I use them all the time. She was a smart lady.

13 September, 2016

I’ve got stickers!

2016-09-13T16:37:44-05:00Everything Else, Sewing & Design|Comments Off on I’ve got stickers!


And I don’t mean the sticky paper kind. Apple has a new thing for iOS that lets you put super-sized emoticons on your iMessages and they call them “stickers”. And when you are an artist (and a geek) and you are married to a guy who writes software for a living, it means that you get to have sticker packs released the day the feature goes live! I am so excited.

I have been working on these for ages very quietly behind the scenes and I have 3 “Sticker Packs” that are up in the App Store today. We were all tapping our fingers and waiting for the approval emails yesterday.


One set is the much sought-after yarn emoji“I Love Yarn” is a whole pack of knitting and crochet. Smiling yarn balls, an angry tangled skein, stitch markers and more.

“Sew It Up” is all sewing machines, scissors, pins and my friend the seam ripper.

“Black Kitty” is a gift for a friend who just lost his sweet black kitty, but also for my mom and sister, who both have goofy black kitties.


Here’s a little bit about how stickers work and here is a good article about how to install them. I have more design ideas that I am working on, naturally. These are really fun to do.

You can get them in the App Store for $.99 each. I added a tab to my menu bar up there at the top of this page that says “Shop” so there is always a link to them and any future sets I do. (It also has links to my Etsy shop and other places to get my designs.)

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