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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Kicking Some Glass Quilt

Back in August...of 2012, I wrote about this quilt (first post and second post/pattern) that I named "Kicking Some Glass." Well, almost 4 1/2 years later, I finished. I decided to take a break from my non-blogging break to share it with you.

Why did it take me so long to finish it? Here's what I remember: I loved piecing it. It's my own design that I made with charm squares. I loved the fabric. Then I started quilting it. It took me a while to determine my approach, but I decided to go with fairly random diagonal lines. That's when the hate began. I had to use a ruler to draw the lines...and draw...and draw. It didn't take long before I got sick of drawing and quilting. So I folded it up and it sat. For over four years, I moved it from room to room. At one point, I thought that I'd rip out any quilting that I'd done and simplify it.

Then something happened. I stopped sewing and it sat in one spot in my sewing room. And I saw it every day for over a year. A few weeks ago, I got tired of looking at it and decided to take action. When I opened it up, I realized that I had quilted just over half of it, which was too much to rip out. 

My next thought was to quilt a few lines a day. So on December 31st, I threaded my machine and started with no intention of doing much. But this time, I didn't draw straight lines. I just sewed as straight as I could. I didn't care. I just wanted it to be done. And really, who sees it? Who cares!? Before I knew it, I was almost done.

I wasn't too sure what I thought as I quilted, but as soon as I cut off the excess and the quilt started to take shape, I knew that it was a keeper. Then I cut my binding...too narrow (2" rather than 2 1/4"), but again, I didn't care. And in the end, I like the narrower binding! I guess that's what happens when you don't sew or quilt for a while.

I guess my main take-away is that as much as I love the quilting part of quilting, I don't love it that much! What's wonderful is that although I haven't sewn in almost a year, finishing this has inspired me. And I think that's the added bonus of not blogging my projects; I don't get bogged down by taking pictures and writing. I just get to sew. For me.

Saturday, October 8, 2016


I began this blog in January 2012, a few months before I closed my sewing studio (SewYouCan). I've been blogging for over 4 1/2 years (well...not really. I haven't posted in months!); I've had a lot of fun reading comments, writing posts, and creating/sharing patterns and tips.

I filed my DBA in 2004 (Ms.Elaineous) and began designing and selling purses and totes. That morphed into other things...all sewing related. But a few years ago, my job, the one that actually pays the bills, began to take over most of my free time. I tried to balance sewing and working to no avail. Truth be told, I haven't sewn much in a year. Yes...a year. In fact, I know exactly what I've made: a tepee, a transit tote, a purse insert (transformed into a dopp kit), and, most recently, a pillow.

Rather than sew, I've been managing social media accounts for my running club and for my university department. It's my new creative outlet. I've been so successful that if things work out, I'll spend next year researching the use of social media for academic recruiting.

I do and I don't miss sewing. I do miss designing, problem-solving, and helping people. I don't miss the toxic notes from people who don't like my patterns (even the free ones!), or who hate how I write (then tell me how I should be doing it..."more pictures!"), or who dislike my approach (balance of text and images); people who claim that they can't download my pattern but never bought my pattern (thief!); people who claim I copied their pattern (didn't). People who bought a pattern and forgot that they bought it...and complain to their credit card company...then email me, "Ooops! I remember now!" (I still get charged a $20 fee). I don't miss the nasty competitiveness (yes, sewing is a cut-throat business). I'm not kidding. I do this for fun. It's not fun anymore. I get enough backlash from my students (I teach public speaking). I don't need it here. Sure, it's not too common and a vast majority of the people I deal with are fantastic, but it's just time to move on to other things.

I'll leave this blog here; I know that people still visit (thanks!). But from this point on, I'll keep my little sewing projects to myself!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Transit Tote Class

A few weeks ago, I taught six of my friends to make a Transit Tote. The six hour class (with lunch break) started late thanks to a brief April snow storm; and here's the thing...up to that point of the year, we had a total snow fall of about 10". So it was totally unexpected. The 45 minute drive to Penn Yan took about 30 minutes longer. Why was that a problem? All six were already exhausted when they arrived!

Truth be told, this is not a fast project. There are a lot of little steps, and my Inside-Out Zipper Technique is counter-intuitive and unlike most zipper techniques. So there's not a lot of "Oh, I know what we are doing next" moments. But, there is good news: once you make one, you'll probably say, "Wow....I get it."

But Amy was a trooper. Out of all six, she was the least experienced. As I watched her, she'd read step at a time. And really, that's the best way to tackle this pattern.

And here's she is:

Yes, there's a lot going on.

Toward the bottom of the picture, you'll see the zipper bottom with the mesh pocket. Looks fab!
Paper and a zipper!

Done! Here's the inside. I love the red ribbon zipper tabs!

Here's the front!

Nice work Amy!

You can purchase this pattern in my Craftsy Store and on Etsy.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Purse Insert

One of my Craftsy customers contacted me about the Pocket Pouch Purse Insert pattern. After she made it, she sent me a picture! Her purse insert looks fantastic - and I love the matching goodies. Way to go Carol!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reno Finished! Almost...

I recently undertook the renovation of the second floor of my Cape Cod bungalow. I think it's considered a 1/2 story due to the sloped ceilings. The original owner build the house in 1945...and, well, he wasn't a carpenter. According to my contractor, there was a lot of scrap wood used. It posed some problems, but nothing they couldn't work through. For thirteen years, I planned was to raise the ceiling, move the knee wall, and expand the closet. 

When planning this, I kept the history of the house in mind. It's old and flawed (it survived a flood!). I wanted to maintain the 1945 cottage charm. So here it is...


There are two rooms on the second floor. This is the main bedroom. I had to add insulation to the closet door because there was a breeze blowing through the door!

The queen bed takes up quite a bit of room. Getting a queen sized bed up the stairs was a feat worthy of an award. The box springs are split. It's the gift of an old home!


This is the other room. It's small - maybe 8' x 8'. I did not renovate it....eventually it will be turned into a bathroom. project at a time.

Originally, it was the closet. Everything had to be removed prior to the reno. We wrapped the mattress in plastic and stored it in here...there was no other place in the house that we could put it.
This is the only dormer. It's at the back of the house. The ceilings were 65" high. Yes, I wanted to duck every time I walked up stairs.

As for the floors...yes, I LOVE the reclaimed lumber (I pulled the carpet up last year). BUT...they were too thin to refinish and too expensive to patch where the knee wall was moved.

And here is the small closet. The bedroom doors are on each side of the closet. 


They replaced the banister with black pipe. The bedroom doors where moved about 12" toward the stairs so the closet could be moved out. 

The guys made the barn doors for the closet. My contractor told me, "If you have a picture, we can build it." In the process, he learned about Pinterest! I pinned...a lot. They are made from rough wood.

We added pocket doors to the rooms. There isn't a lot of space up here and regular doors would be awkward. It was worth the expense.

Yes...I still have some painting to do! BTW, the walls are Benjamin Moore Quiet Moments. The floor is from Home Depot - Distressed Hickory.

The bedroom went from 10' x 15' to 16' x 15' - they moved the knee wall back about 3'. It's taken some getting used to - I've hit my head on it a few times! The final knee wall is 48".

They replaced the window, rewired (and added a lot of outlets!), and installed LED lights (on a dimmer).

The A/C unit will be reinstalled in the spring. There are no heat ducts up here. =) The heat just comes up the stairs. It is chilly, but that makes for great sleeping!

Looking into the bedroom. I was standing in the other bedroom when I took this picture. 

The closet. It's about 6' x 6' with sloped ceilings. Planning the layout of the closet system will be tricky.

Looking toward the dormer window and stairs. The ceilings make this once claustrophobic area seem really open.

I plan on covering this window with a roman shade made out of a burlap coffee bean bag. Who knows when I'll get around to it. But I've learned not to rush things. At least I have my sewing room back!

I still have some work to do - mainly painting the trim and touching up some other spots. The entire project took about one month. It was mildly disruptive. There were no major issues. No drama. And I was $46 over budget. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Understanding the Transit Tote

When I decided to create the Transit Tote, I was inspired by this cosmetic bag that I had been using every day to store my make-up. I think it was from Lancome? Clinique? Estee Lauder? Who knows. I loved it and knew that I could modify it to fit my traveling needs. 

I had to adapt my Inside-Out Zipper Technique quite a bit to make this, but in the end, it's something that I'll be using to design a lot of other patterns.

I am not a fussy sewer. In a way, I'm more of an engineer who sews. That seems odd to those who know me. I'm not an engineer. In fact, my math skills end with geometry. I teach college...and I teach nothing remotely close to engineering... or art for that matter. I teach communication. But I've always loved technical writing, so writing patterns is fairly easy (and fun) for me. I am an efficient person; I streamline just about everything I come in contact with. Maybe I watched the original Cheaper By The Dozen a few too many times. FYI...if you watch the original, you'll be introduced to Frank and Lillian Gilbreth - pioneers of time and motion studies. Lillian Gilbreth invented lots of things that make our lives easier - like the foot-pedal trash can and egg/butter trays in refrigerators.

So figuring out how to make this cosmetic bag became a challenge. I made a few rough drafts and got it on the third take.

Here's what you end up working with:

1. A lid and a bottom.

 This is the lid (inside).

The lid (outside). The gray dotted fabric is the handle.

There's a bottom piece that is similar.

2.  A zipper panel.

This goes together using the Inside-Out Zipper Technique.

When the zipper panel is complete, it looks like this.

And those three pieces get sewn together:

Sewing the bottom to the zipper panel. It's a bit cumbersome, but nothing too difficult. There are a lot of layers, so I used a jeans needle and went slowly.

The bottom is on! Now I'm sewing the lid to the zipper.

Those Wonder Clips are a life-saver!

The assembly is counter-intuitive. If you bought the pattern you'll probably wonder what I was thinking...but don't give up. Just take each step one at a time. Trust looks more complex than it actually is!

Here it is. This was the third one I made.

And the back.

I'm back to work soon, but I plan on developing a backpack pattern using this technique. I bought a cute artist notebook at TJ Maxx and already began sketching it.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Transit Tote Pattern Review

I recently sent my Transit Tote pattern out for review to have someone make it and test the pattern. OK...the someone was my sister. And if you have a sister, you probably know that they are the best pattern testers! I knew I'd get honest feedback.

My sister knows a lot about sewing. She makes clothes, slipcovers, curtains, etc...; a few years ago she took up quilting. And I'm not biased (really!), but she's talented. Much more detailed than I am. She's more of a traditional sewer who sews from store-bought patterns. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous. 

She ended up making three of them - they are for her two daughters and one daughter-in-law. I love the red zippers!

The good news is that she had very few corrections - and they were additions to help someone who's familiar with traditional patterns.

Here's her review on Craftsy:

Have been sewing for decades but always used traditional patterns. Loved the pictures of the Transit Tote but when the pattern came was a bit confused by the nontraditional way it was made. Decided the best thing to do was trust the designer. I followed the directions carefully (good pics! great instructions!). LOVE IT!!! Made 3 for my daughters for Christmas. NOW the pattern makes perfect sense!! (Note: The Peltex was difficult to sew through, probably won't use it next time.)

I agree with her review of the Peltex. I prefer a tote that I can squish into my bag! You can purchase this pattern on Craftsy and on Etsy

You can read more about this pattern here.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Purse Insert with Double Zipper

In mid-November, my friend Aparna contacted me...she and her son were flying in from Australia and traveling around the US reconnecting with family and friends. She was wondering if I could meet up in D.C. - and hang out with them and our mutual friend Dereece and Dereece's niece. YES!! I wouldn't miss it!

I wanted to make something for her son...who I shortchanged about ten years ago. friend moved to Australia...and I sent her and her daughter a few things....purses. But I sent nothing to her son. I know. I'm a total loser. I make purses. That's my defense.

I knew that I had to do something especially for him, so I redesigned my purse insert and made a Dopp Kit for him (that's a fancy term for a men's toiletries bag). Although my home was being renovated, I dusted (literally) off my sewing machine and engineered this double-zippered bag.

It's just a redesign of my purse insert. I wanted to add two zippers so the bag would open wide, allowing easy access to items. I used my Inside-Out Zipper Technique. I sketched and thought about it. Eventually I just dove in and did it. The double zipper was a bit tricky, but I didn't overthink it. And it worked. 

Here one side. I had to add a piece above the zipper.

Easy access to all the contents. Which might be video game stuff rather than toiletries.

I extended the zipper flap and added a snap to keep it closed.

I'm painting my newly renovated space, but once I'm done, I plan on fine-tuning the design and posting a pattern for this bag.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sewing While Renovating

My sewing has come to a standstill thanks to dust, displaced clothing, and random furniture!

I bought my house in 2002 - it's a Cape Cod Bungalow built in 1943. Every year, I've done some updating; some minor (painting) and some not-to-minor (adding and moving kitchen cabinets). But last week, I began my most extensive renovation...gutting most of the second floor to expand the master bedroom.

The original room was about 15' x 10' - tucked into the sloped roof; in the hallway, the dormer ceiling was low...6'5". It was claustrophobic. I wanted to duck whenever I stepped on the top stair.

I worked with my contractor on finalizing a design that I had envisioned since I moved in. Move the knee-wall back, move the door, raise the ceiling, and expand the hall closet.

This is what it looks like after week one! The room is HUGE - 16' x 15' !! 

But that insulation? It's everywhere. Even with plastic sheets covering the doors. My daily routine is this: get home from work. Remove coat. Swiffer. Change Swiffer pad. Repeat. Repeat. Vacuum. Dust. Change water in cats' water bowl. 

The other consequence of renovating a 72 year old home? Lots of vintage ceiling lights (that I'm replacing with recessed LED lights). According to my contractor, these all need to be rewired. One was so bad, that they clipped the wires so no one could hang it.

Isn't that blue on dreamy? The one next to it is identical, but pink! Too bad I don't need them. When I get a chance, I will probably sell them to someone who appreciates their unique qualities!

Around this time, I'm usually dreaming up Christmas gift ideas - something that I can make. Not now. But I can handle that!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Basic Back Pack Pattern Update

From time to time, I make some minor changes to my patterns. This usually making sentences shorter and moving diagrams. My most recent update was one of my favorite beginning sewing patterns...The Basic Back Pack.

This was really popular with the kids in my studio - they'd make a bunch for their friends. I even modified it for one girl who was a regular - I embroidered "Cheer" on it!

 Why is it a great project for a beginner? 
  • The 1/2" seams leave some wiggle-room for mistakes. Everything doesn't need to line up perfectly.
  • The cording is threaded through a casing at the top rather than a seam. More room for error!
  • The final step involves sewing side/bottom seams rather than inserting the lining in the outside and sewing along the top...and hoping it fits. 

 There's a divided  pocket inside.
 Here's a close-up of the side tabs. I wrapped the cording in tape to get it through the eyelets.

Thread the cording through the casing with a BIG safety pin or a cord threader. I have a collection of

FYI: I've used both for years. One of the "eyes" snapped off on the blue one, but I still use it. I LOVE this product!!

This pattern is only $3.99!

Purchase on Craftsy
Purchase on Etsy.

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