Saturday, December 31, 2011

sewing in the winter months

When the temperature drops, you can find me nestled in my wingback chair, needle in hand, stork scissors close by, slowly stitching the day away.  (Evidence found here.)

This is my latest undertaking, which involves hand-dyeing, reverse applique, and lots of embroidery or quilting, if you rather.  I can't decide if I'll call it a table runner or a wall hanging, but I promise to share more photos once I have more to show for myself!


We only have a handful of hours left in 2011, and I am not sad to see it go.  It was a chaotically busy year, during which I moved from Knoxville (my home of 9 months) to Cookeville.  I began my first semester of university, maintained a 4.0 GPA, held a part-time job, and sewed for school and for my business.  I attended craft shows in Greenville SC, Cincinnati OH, and Nashville TN during the semester, plus several other events before school began.  I learned to draw and to weave, and to manage my time like a total boss.

I look forward to 2012, don't you?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

farewell first semester!

My first semester of university is officially behind me, and I couldn't be more relieved!  At the same time, I don't quite know what to do with my newfound free time, but there are far worse problems to have.

Look!  This is my final project for Intro to Fibers:

Aaaah!  I think it's kinda cute.  The main tree and squirrel fabric (as well as the acorn) was dyed and woven by yours truly.

You know the anxiety you feel when you cut into a favorite piece of fabric, perhaps one long out-of-print or almost too adorable to hack up?  Well, imagine if you lovingly (or hastily, as it were) painted each warp fiber by hand, then threaded them individually through the dents and heddles of the loom, then tied them on to this and that beam, and finally spent hours tromping the treadles and throwing the shuttle back and forth, over and over until you have about 45" of cloth.  And THEN you have to cut it up?  Please!  I'm telling you, I had to psych myself up for a good while before I could cut into the fabric I wove by hand.

But I finally did and I am pleased with the outcome.  This is a plushie set designed with imaginative play in mind.  I appliqued Velcro to the squirrel's tum so the acorn sticks to it.  (It's backed with wool felt.)  Is the squirrel holding the acorn, or did he eat it?  I look forward to watching a little 'un play with this so I can discover the answer.

And here is my final project for Drawing I:

This class was really the first time I'd drawn since high school almost 10 years ago, and I started the semester all but convinced I didn't have the stuff to make it through Week 1.  I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful instructor, however, and now have a little more confidence in my ability!

The final assignment was to create a still life portrait of a person/people/relationship with someone, and so I chose to illustrate my relationship with a couple of my closest friends circa 2005, when we all lived together.  I put about 3 dozen hours into this drawing, which means I spent a solid week streaked with charcoal dust, holed up in my apartment and living off of canned goods like an apocalypse survivor.

And survive I did, with an A in every class.  Hooray!

I never posted about my midterm project in Fibers--an improv-pieced baby quilt, composed entirely of fabrics I dyed and printed by hand.  I'll share as soon as I take some pictures!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Holy...! School has kept me far more busy than I ever imagined possible. Among others, I am taking a drawing class and Intro to Fibers, two studio classes that together occupy the lion's share of my waking hours.

Right now we are concluding the surface design section of the semester in Fibers.  I get so excited about screenprinting fabric that I can't fall asleep; my mind is racing with new ideas!  It's kind of bad news.
Thus far, we've covered solid shade dyeing, low water immersion, itajime (that weekend's assignment of 4 yards took 22 hours to complete!), and different methods of surface design. I'll post photos of my better work soon!

Friday, August 19, 2011

blueberry pickin'

How I spent my Thursday afternoon:

Yes! I went to Hidden Springs Orchard in Cookeville with a couple of new friends, and it was a lovely time despite the heat.  The blueberry patch is indeed hidden, tucked down a dirt road deep in a holler (er, hollow?) in Jackson County.  And what could be better than gathering blueberries with friends?  Very little, except perhaps:

Fresh-baked blueberry buttermilk coffee cake!  With lemon zest crumb topping.  I've been on a bit of a baking tear since settling into my new kitchen, and am freezing about half of what I bake to get me through my first semester of college.  This recipe yields one 9" cake (which I baked in an 8" dish so it turned out very tall), of which I froze half.

So here you go!  Recipe after the jump.  If you use this recipe, I would love to hear (or see) how it turns out.
Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake
[makes one 9" cake]
Crumb Topping:
1/4 C sugar
3 T unbleached all-purpose flour
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
3 T cold unsalted butter

2.5 C unbleached all-purpose flous
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 C buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 C fresh or unsweetened frozen blueberries, rinsed and dried

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line the bottom of a 9" springform pan with parchment paper and grease the sides.  (Alternately, you can use a greased 9" baking pan of any sort, or like me, make do with an 8" baking dish.  I didn't decrease some of the batter like I should have, and it ended up almost spilling over and needed an additional 10-15 min baking time.)

2. To prepare the crumb topping: In a small bowl, combine together the sugar, flour, and zest.  Cut in the butter until the mixture forms coarse crumbs.

3. To make the cake: In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt.  In a large bowl using an electric mixer (or, like me, a whisk and enthusiasm) combine the buttermilk, eggs and butter.  Stir into the dry mixture and beat until well blended.  Fold in the blueberries with a few swift strokes.

4. Spoon the batter into the pan, smooth, and sprinkle with the crumb topping.  Place the pan on a rack in the center of the oven and bake 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a cake tester (or fork, for the rest of us) inserted in the center comes out clean.

5. Let the cake cool in the pan 15 minutes.  Remove the sides of the springform pan to cool the cake completely, or if you are using any ol' baking pan, just let it hang out on your countertop for a while.  I wouldn't let it cool on the windowsill because it might get swiped.

Friday, August 5, 2011

a postcard from Putnam County, USA

[The view from my kitchen window.]

I now live in Cookeville, Tennessee!  My internet connection is spotty but will be worked out soon.  Some facts about my new home:
  • My apartment is next door to an abandoned house, and next to that is a small and overgrown cemetery.
  • Early in the morning I can hear a rooster crow; some afternoons, I hear what I am guessing is a donkey braying.
  • I live down a state road a couple miles from the University.  At night it is so dark I can't see the cars parked below my apartment.
  • A little further down the state road is a pasture of cows belonging to the school's Agriculture Department, as well as a field of sheep, and lots of barns and farmland.  Also: a This n' That Store and a biker bar that allegedly doubles as a bike shop.
In short: Cookeville is wonderful!  I am done with city living for the foreseeable future, and couldn't be happier.  Now, to get my sewing area set up...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

migratory birds

Pictured below are some of my favorite fabrics.  They are so beloved that in most cases, I have kept them for years, untouched, in my fabric stash.  My favorite color (and the lion's share of my fabric collection) is bright golden yellow, and I've amassed a decent chunk of that weird chartreusey-citron color that was everywhere last year.

I finally decided to stop being a crazy person and just USE these, all together, in one quilt.  So!  Thus far, I've pulled these lovelies for use in a throw-sized flying geese quilt.  For the background of the geese, I wanted to use a saturated blue, like the flowers in the central Heather Bailey print.  Not surprisingly, it's almost impossible to match!  After searching several different shops, I went to one outside of Nashville with a huge selection of Kaffe Fassett shot cottons and behold:

The perfect blue!  (For reference, this one is called Spruce.  I think.)  I often turn to shot cottons when trying to match weird colors.  I think their different warp and weft colors give them a chamelion-like versatility.

So, here it is: the start of a new quilt!  It's been far too long.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

handmade weekend

My hometown of Nashville, TN is known around the world for its main creative export: music.  This Saturday, the first ever Porter Flea is putting Nashville on the map for indie craft and I couldn't be more thrilled!

So, readers, I know some of you are from the Nashville area!  Won't you stop by the Owlette table and say hello?  And if you're in the Asheville, NC area this Sunday, my esteemed partner Jessica will be tabling for Owlette at the Big Crafty.  It's a good weekend for handmade!

Saturday, June 18, 2011


This is my first Pyrex score ever!  I bought this canister for 99 cents at a Goodwill in Dickson, TN.

It seems that many crafters are also ardent Pyrex collectors.  Why is that?  I am not much of a collector, but I was glad to come across something Pyrex--albeit not a coveted mixing bowl.  Now, what to store in it?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

farewell to the wigsphere

This has been the most protracted move of my life!  Everything I own is now in boxes in Knoxville, I am camping at my parents' house in Nashville, and my apartment is ready for move-in five weeks from now in Cookeville.

[Pictured above is Knoxville's Sunsphere, a relic from the 1982 World's Fair.  It is perhaps best known, depending on who you ask, for the Simpsons episode in which Bart and friends take a road trip to Knoxville, only to find the World's Fair is over and the Sunsphere is full of wigs.]

Rocky Top!  I'll always be a Nashville girl, but I have a special fondness for you...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sorbetto top pattern review

I am so glad that Colette Patterns exists.  I am gladder still that they release a free pattern every year!  This time around, it's the Sorbetto top:

...which I love!  I stitched this up the same day the pattern was released, and not counting the time I spent assembling the pattern itself and sewing the muslin, this came together in just under an hour.  No joke.  It is a very flattering, relaxed cut with darts at the bust and no shapers in back.  (I forgot to photograph the back, sorry!)

I made this while visiting my parents, and the only suitable fabric I had on hand was an old mystery jersey that was stashed in their basement.  The fabric drapes nicely, but is still stable enough to handle the front box pleat and bust darts.  It also allowed me to take some shortcuts.  Rather than finishing the neckline and armholes with bias binding, which I didn't have on hand, I just serged the raw edges and let them be.  Same with the hem!

[I promise this isn't a look of annoyance!  It's just 100 degrees already, and brick is hot.]
I made a couple alterations to this pattern:
  • The muslin was a bit too short unhemmed, and cut me off just above the widest part of my hips, making my hips appear even wider.  No good.  So I added a full inch to the hem, not remembering that even serged jersey rolls.  Next time I'll add 1.25" to the hem.
  • Being petite in the high bust and fuller at the hips, I started with a generous 5/8" seam allowance at the armscythe side seam and graduated to a scant 5/8" when approaching the hem.

This top is wonderful and I plan to make several more before summer's end!  Colette Patterns are always well-illustrated with clear instructions, and are satisfying to sew.  This pattern is suitable for a beginner; the greatest challenge is selecting an appropriate fabric.  Drape makes all the difference here!  This chart is a handy reference tool:

Alright, get to sewing and let me know if you sewed this blouse too!  While you're doing that, I'll be packing for my fast-approaching move...

See also:

Sunday, June 5, 2011

home front

Hello friends!  I've been absent from Blogland since the giveaway, but I have a good excuse: I'm moving!  Again.  You may recall I moved to Knoxville last August.  I start school in Cookeville, TN this August, and am trying to get settled well in advance.

unrelated: Ijams Nature Center!

This has turned out to be no small task.  Cookeville is a very small town (population: 30,000?), and it is almost impossible to find housing via the internet.  I've made several trips to look at apartments, which is a 3-hour drive round-trip from either Nashville or Knoxville.

All of this is to say, I am still here, I am busy as ever, and I will be writing more consistently once I have an address!  And on a side note, I am so excited to start school.  I'm working toward my BFA in Fibers, and it's going to be AWESOME.

Friday, May 27, 2011


You're all winners, but two most of all!  Thanks to everyone who stopped by and left a comment during Giveaway Day.  (Isn't Sew Mama Sew wonderful for hosting the event?) chose two winners, and while usually I would take a screencap of the image for proof, I am using a different computer and don't know how to do it on this thing.  Technology!

Unrelated: a good egg.  Because pictures are nice.

Congratulations to Viv, who won the bonnet, and Amber, who won the fat quarters!  I have your addresses and will drop your packages in the mail this weekend.

So, did you win anything?  I didn't, but then I only entered a few giveaways.  It's fun just to play the game.  My mom won a charm pack from Crafty Fox, and she was so excited you would have thought she won a whole fabric warehouse!

Thanks again to everyone who participated!

Monday, May 23, 2011

It's Giveaway Day!

Hello Sew Mama Sew friends!  Let's get down to business: I am giving away two prizes to two lucky readers.  Pictured below:

Three cheerful fat quarters!

L to R: two from Denyse Schmidt's ever-popular Katie Jump Rope line, and one sweet little retro floral, by a designer whose name I forgot.  Oops!  They are all so cute together, I almost wish I wasn't giving them up!

One Bear Cub Bonnet by Owlette!  (That's my company!)

This bonnet is sized to fit about 6mo-12mo.  It features a fun birdie print for the shell and back of ears, and a bright green geometric for the lining, front of ears, and ties.  More specific measurements can be found here!


1. The giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only!  Sorry.  Money is tight right now.

2. In order to be eligible to win, you must comment on this post.  That's it!  Please be sure your email is public in your Blogger profile, or leave it in your comment.

3. If you would like a second entry, follow or subscribe to my blog and leave a comment saying you've done so!  (If you're already a follower, leave a second comment saying so.)

4. Comments will be open until 11pm CST May 25th, at which time a TWO winners will be chosen at random and notified via email.

5. I would really like for these prizes to go to people who will use them!  I understand not everyone sews or knows a baby, SO: If you would rather win fabric, please let me know in your comment.  Likewise, please make note if you are in it for the bonnet and have no use for the fabric!

Thanks, and best of luck!

**comments are now closed; thanks for participating!**

Sunday, May 15, 2011

my mama loves me.

Not to brag, but my mom is pretty great.  Last year for my birthday, she made this quilt for me.  The design is her own, and she spent many hours agonizing over it.  It is ranked among two or three possessions I would run into a burning building to save.  For my birthday this year, she made this quilt:

I absolutely love it!  The prints are entirely from Anna Maria Horner's Innocent Crush line, with some Gee's Bend hand-dyed solids and Kaffe Fassett shot cottons thrown in.  I think they compliment each other nicely.

I remember when my mom first bought all these fabrics, and couldn't decide how to best use them.  She finally settled on equilateral triangles (sometimes called Thousand Pyramids) and I think the geometry suits the prints nicely.

[my favorite photo of this quilt!]
I don't know how much time she spent cutting out these triangles, but it must have taken days!  She said she gave the quilt to me because she knew I could appreciate all the work that went into it.

My mom quilted it with free-form wavy lines, reminiscent of my twiggy quilt, which was inspired by the hills of Tennessee.

This quilt was on my bed until recently, when Knoxville was suddenly boiling in 90-degree weather.  Summer happens all at once here!  It's been cooler the last few nights, so perhaps I can get a bit more use out of this beauty after all.

You can see more of my mom's work on her Flickr site, here!

One more thing before you go: I will be hosting a giveaway here next week for Sew Mama Sew's annual Giveaway Day!  It begins May 23rd so be sure to check back!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tennessee springtime

A storm blew through yesterday evening and wrecked a tree two houses down from us.  It lasted about ten minutes and just look:

It's hard to gauge the enormity of this tree, but it's covering two cars.  That's my little red Honda down the road--a little too close for my liking!

The tree made short work of the neighbors' wrought iron fence.  I heard that winds were 50-60 miles per hour.

And there it is from the back.  It doesn't look like too awful much from this view until you realize it's fully covering several cars and over half of the street!  It's kind of stunning; I wanted to share before I get on the road to Nashville!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Betty Dear

I love this fabric.  LOVE.  And it's so hard to find!!  I was lucky enough to score several yards from this Etsy seller.  If I had the bank account for it, I'd buy a whole bolt!

How about you--is there one fabric you absolutely adore?  That you hoard and never use, or buy over and over again because you use it in every project?  Links please!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Flora & Fauna

Things have been a bit quiet around here, but not for lack of activity!  I've been spending long hours at the sewing machine getting Owlette ready for spring craft shows.  I am really excited about our new series of screenprinted goods, called Flora & Fauna:

Little Acorn Bonnets

Last week I was in Nashville with my beloved business partner, Jessica, screenprinting our little hearts out.  The kind folks at Friendly Arctic Printing allowed us to use their very professional setup, which made for my first successful experience with screenprinting.  Hooray for that!

I intended to photograph the process, but didn't break out my camera at the right time.  Perhaps next time!  It's really neat to watch.

Bee is for Bloomers!

We printed some bloomers with bees and some with octopus.  (Octopi?  Not pictured, anyhow.)  I happen to really love the bee, but the... er, cephalopod, is pretty classic and gender-neutral.

We redesigned our bloomers to be smaller and more underwear-style, so they fit more like shorts or diaper covers for the summer months.

Our next craft show is this weekend so I must get back to sewing.  You can find us at Crafty Feast, part of the Indie Grits Film Festival in Columbia SC!  If you're in the area, please stop by our tent and say hello.  It's going to be a lot of fun!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

postage stamp.

Here it is!

All these feedsacks ended up here, and I think they look downright sweet all together!  This is a custom quilt for a lady in Indiana.  She chose the pattern and wanted feedsacks paired with white.

My mom and I worked on it together, although I must say she did most of the work.  I was in town for a weekend and functioned as her sous chef: cutting, ironing, arranging, subcutting, and occasionally seam-ripping.  I think she and I make a good team.

Here's a detail photo of the top before basting and quilting.  The quilt measures 40.5" by 49", and contains 891 total 1 1/2" squares!  I hope it is well-loved in its new home.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

little bitty

Does it seem to you that feedsacks are getting harder to find?  Reproduction feedsacks I mean.  It just seems that shops these days are cutting back.  And I happen to love these tiny little prints!

They are so cheerful.  Pictured above: elephants playing croquet, babies riding ducks (or geese?), cats playing the piano, and all manner of sweet little florals and geometrics.

These fabrics are being made into a very sweet, very intricate baby quilt at the moment.  Photos of the pieced top to follow!

Oh, a question for you, dear reader:  Can you recommend a good source for buying [reproduction] feedsacks online?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

45mm of Fury: A Cautionary Tale

I don't recall quite how it happened, but here's how it ended:

Beware the new blade!  I didn't feel anything at first but knew I nicked myself (oh, what a nick!) because I watched my hand bump into the rotary cutter.  When I inspected the damage, blood was dripping down my wrist and I could see inside my skin.  I know, sick right?!

Notions for my fellow accident-prone, blade-wielding seamsters:
Got any gruesome rotary cutting tales to share?  Comment with your story or a link!!

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Cool Cottons love

    PORTLAND.  It is home to my favorite octogenarian AND my favorite fabric shop!  What more can you ask for in a city?  I recently flew to Portland to celebrate my Grama Dona's 80th birthday, and made the customary visit to Cool Cottons on SE Hawthorne.

    Behold, the spoils:

    Okay.  I've said it before: I love this shop, and in case you need convincing, I took some photos!  Looking them over, I find myself wishing I could board a plane to PDX today just to be among the bolts.

    I love that the shop is organized and uncluttered!  There seems to be a gene shared by most fabric store owners which compels them to amass great piles of junk and present them as though they were salable.  Pam and Marie don't seem to carry that gene, and it makes for a most pleasant and inspiring visit.

    If you keep up with my blog you know that much of my sewing in the past year has been for Owlette and not for the heck of it.  Well, sometimes it is enough just to shop for fabric.  I actually bought exclusively for my personal stash at Cool Cottons, which hasn't happened in many months.

    When my mom and I arrived in Nashville, our first order of business (before eating dinner, naturally) was to show my dad our new fabric.  My mom joked that now her stash really was too big, to which my dad replied, "Well if it's nice fabric that you like, there's no such thing as too much."  Correct!!

    Pictured below is the cutting area, and to the left under the window you'll find tons and tons of shot cottons, including stripes!

    I am not certain but I believe Cool Cottons stocks nearly every solid shot cotton there is--at least enough to where you won't miss the ones they don't carry.

    If you can't tell, this is my Happy Place.  Cool Cottons, you're the best!