November is book month at

I Am Cute Dresses: 25 Simple Designs to Sew. By Sato Watanabe, English version published by Interweave Press; Reprint edition (September 13, 2011).

I am happy that Japanese clothing designer Sato Watanabe’s book I Am Cute Dresses is now available in English. The 25 dresses in this book are indeed cute – with sweet names such as I Am Hello Halter, I Am Jumper for Joy, and I Am Shift into Tunic. They are all styled to be filmy, loose, romantic and drapey dresses with simple construction and a few interesting details – perfect for summer cottons and light weight linens.

The dresses are simple to make but not boringly so – practice your skills with the various techniques offered: make peak-a-boo or puff sleeves, stand-up or mandarin collar, shirred pleats on the sleeves or pintucks on the neckline, an asymmetrical tunic or a Kimono cut shift dress. The dresses are designed to be one-size-fits-all – which we know is never true, but with a little measuring you may be able to adjust the patterns to fit your body.

I am just a little bit addicted to this book and will be making a dress a bit later today!

You Sew Girl by Nicole Mallalieu, Published by ABC Books, 2011, is available from the ABC Shop.

Nicole Mallalieu is a beautiful seamstress and designer – she has an online shop where you can find patterns and tools to make her bags and purses – she also makes lovely hats and clothing too!

Her first book, You sew, girl is interesting and runs like a lesson plan. It begins with a detailed techniques and pattern section where Nicole does a great job of explaining her methods – she includes step-by-step photos going through the techniques she likes to employ (such as interfacing and bias binding). Her patterns tend to be quite precise and she shows us some very neat tricks and tools to get the same level of detail and precision which she achieves. The second main section includes both accessories and bags which all use patterns and interfacing and her precision methods – you will make use of buttons and zippers and all the other techniques you learned about in the previous chapter, you will learn how to really make your homemade bags and purses look super professional.

The third section and the final chapter is where its really at for me – this section completely disregards the previous sections and tells you leave your perfectionism at the door while you make pattern-free clothing – learn how to measure and fit your body and work with stretch fabrics to make some very flattering outfits.

I think this book is very nicely done – I was super impressed with the attention to detail, the lessons, and then the ability to throw all that away to work in a completely different style – I am really looking forward to seeing what Nicole does next!

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Guest blogger: Nicole blum from one golden apple

Hello crafty ones. I am so pleased to be a guest here while Kathreen is away. My name is Nicole Blum and I blog about crafting, sewing, and the other stuff of life over at one golden apple.  As a freelance craft developer for magazines, I am lucky enough to be making something on most days, and my etsy shop ensures that some of it is sewing- my absolute favorite way to create. I just finished a sewing book, co-authored by Debra Immergut, which will be hitting the shops in the spring.  It is called Improv Sewing and will contain over 100 projects I’ve designed to inspire and encourage, new and seasoned sewists alike, to be really creative and playful with their sewing machines.

I LOVE to make clothing, and my upcoming book Improv Sewing will map out how to fill your closet without buying a single pattern. Today, however, I want to teach you to make something fun and super cool for your home. Sometimes I find myself wanting to stitch designs on fabric without even knowing what I want the finished project to be.  Pillowcases and tote bags are always a great way to showcase your handiwork, but today I came up with a way to use some tube I had sitting in the studio closet – my man builds things and this tube is a leftover piece from making footings for our barn.  If you don’t have one, they are easy to get at any building supply place.  I have seen similar projects online before, but they are usually painted.  Painting is fun, but sewing is more fun to me so here is my tutorial for a pretty and very useful…

Umbrella Holder

What you’ll need:

  • an 18” length of sonotube* (mine was 10” wide) of course, use what you can get your hands on.
  • fabric you fancy that can wrap around the tube with 2-3” to spare and is 18” tall
  • contrasting thread
  • chalk


Cut fabric to size:  Use a measuring tape to determine the circumference of the tube. I pinned the fabric around the tube to illustrate about how much extra you might want to have.

Draw your designs: I use chalk to draw out designs I am going to stitch over.  Sometimes I use vanishing ink, but sometimes it doesn’t vanish- test it first.  You can can use cookie cutter shapes, trace circles from jar lids, or you can go for it and free hand, which I recommend, because really, what do you have to lose? I drew some flower shapes – I like their imprecise form. I recommend starting with simple and large shapes.  It is easier to sew a good line around gentle curves than tight ones. Please pardon the wrinkles, they will be pressed soon.  The light makes them appear worse than they are, swear. Press yours, ladies.

Stitch your designs: Now comes the fun part. Set your machines so the pressure on the foot is decreased.  The tighter the turns, the more you will need to manipulate the fabric, so the more you want to decrease the pressure.  On these big flowers, I set my foot pressure on 2 and it worked grand. Set your stitch to a regular straight stitch or a straight stretch stitch (which is what I did here for a nice bold line). If this is your first time drawing on fabric with thread, you might want to practice making a curve on a scrap piece of fabric.

Stitch around the shape you drew once or twice and then move on to the next one. My tip for success: Keep the needle moving and gently turn the fabric as you need to.  Use the most pressure you can on that foot while still being able to smoothly turn your fabric. Straight lines should be sewn with full pressure so the feed dogs can grab and move your fabric along. Use your fingertips to push the fabric where it needs to go.

Add some lines along the raw bottom and top edges: Instead of hemming the raw edges, simply stitch lines of straight or zig zag (or any stitch, really) stitches along that edge.  This will stop raveling edges and it defines the edge nicely.

I use my presser foot to space my lines.  Line up the the toe on the right side of the foot with the first line (and it was aligned with the raw edge to start).  I used a straight stitch for speed and I spaced them evenly (mostly, not perfectly).  You could stitch several lines and let them undulate gently too- crossing sometimes even.

Sew seam to create the sleeve: When your decorating is all done the way you like it, fold the fabric in half lengthwise and stitch your tube up.  Draw a line with chalk at the correct distance- you want it to fit snuggly. Stitch one line with a regular straight stitch and then try it on the tube for size.  If it isn’t tight enough, your next line of stitches can make it a little tighter.

Continue stitching the way you desire- meandering lines, a new stitch type for each line, whatever.  I made straight, evenly spaced lines for this project and then pinked the edges.

Slip it over your tube and you have a really nice little holder for whatever is tall and doesn’t fit in the usual places.  I could have one of these just for the swords that my 6 year old makes.  It would be a great place for roles of colored art paper- nice and protected- or to display branches for a winter bouquet. I ended up painting the tube yellow because the fabric was a little short- measure twice, cut once.  Oh well.

*Sonotube: Round, large cardboard tubes designed to hold wet concrete in place until it hardens – found in hardware stores.


Guest blogger: Cam from CurlyPops

Well, hello there dear readers, my name is Cam and I have a little crafty blog named CurlyPops. I’m super chuffed to be guest blogging here today.

My sister recently bought me an e-Reader, and so I desperately need to make a padded pouch so that I can throw it in my handbag without worrying about it getting scratched or damaged. I thought that whipping up a little crafty project for myself presented the perfect opportunity for sharing a tutorial so that you can also make your own.

I’m currently testing out some samples from my new fabric range, and so I’m using my granny square fabric as a feature in this project. Enjoy!

Download the 4 page PDF tutorial here.


Guest blogger: Nat from ByNight


Hi everyone! I’m Nat from the blog ByNight.  I live in Belgium, a tiny, mini, little European country. I am a graphic designer during the day and a self-taught sewer at night and you have no idea how happy and honored I am to be here with you today as it is pretty much thanks to’s inspiring features, great tutorials or amazing guests that I learned how to sew a couple of years ago… It now seems totally natural that I, too, share a tutorial with you all.

A few weeks ago, my friend’s daughter had her 6th birthday and since every time I see her all she wants to do is draw, paint or make collages, I made her this creativity suitcase so she could carry her art supplies everywhere she goes. What I hadn’t expected is that many of my blog readers would kindly ask me how I did it as they wanted one for their kids or even themselves. I had no other choice to promise them to write a tutorial for it… whenever ;-) Kathreen’s invitation to be here today seemed like the perfect moment.

This Creative Suitcase fits an A4 (letter sized copy) paper block. It has many pockets for your markers and colored pencils. You can also slip in some scissors, a watercolor box, a smaller drawing book or some crayons. It also has a removable zippered pouch where you’ll want to put the supplies you just can’t live without…

Download the detailed 12 page tutorial and pattern as a pdf document here.
I hope this tutorial will help you all to feel artistic anywhere and any time…
Merci Kathreen, for having me over!

[Head on over to Nat’s blog ByNight where she has a French version of this tutorial.]


Sandra is a textile artist and designer and the head behind the playful and imaginative world of herzensart. She also writes a blog where she shares her working process and inspirations.

This is a quick and easy sewing project I had much fun with and I hope you´ll like it too. I came up with the idea of making a pin pouffe when I held some samples of woven ribbons in my hands, that I had designed for a German weaving mill and wondered what to use it for. The straight standing British Guards just seemed perfect to wrap around something, as some kind of banderole so to say.

Of course you don´t need a Guardian ribbon for making a pin pouffe, you can choose any ribbon you have at your fingertips, or just leave the ribbon away and use fabric only. It´s all up to you.

This is what you´ll need:

– one fabric rectangle of 34cm x 9 cm (Cotton fabric works best)
– two fabric circles with a diameter of 10.5cm (4inch) each (looks nice if you choose different fabrics for the top and the bottom of the pouffe)
– sewing thread
– woven ribbon 34cm (14 inch) in length (optional)
– polyfill stuffing
– sewing machine
– pins
– a stick for stuffing (a wooden spoon or chopstick works well)

1. sew ribbon to right side of rectangle fabric piece.
2. fold down about 5-10 mm (1/4-1/2 inch) of the rectangles short sides to the wrong side and sew across.
3. pin rectangle piece around the edges of the bottom circle (right sides facing).
4. and pin it the same way around the top circle edges.

5. sew along the bottom and the top edges.
6. turn the pouffe right sides out.
7. now stuff your pouffe firmly with polyfill, a wooden spoon or chopstick is helpful.
8. you can close the opening of the pouffe with one stitch using a strong thread.

Voilà, you are done!

For some extra cuteness you can now decorate your pincushion with deco pins. For example I made little red busses out of FIMO, or just pronge tiny pompoms to pins.

Have fun creating! I´d love to see your pouffes :)