North Country

I’m blog-sitting for Meg today over at Elsie Marley because she’s in Hawaii (?!) and has asked all of her pals who live in the cold North to write about winter. I’m pretty sure she designed it this way so she would enjoy her warm vacation even more, but maybe it’s just that she was afraid she would miss it and this is her way of getting a little winter-fix. Either way, I’m sure by now she’s already forgotten what it’s like to freeze her butt off. (Meg, you can go ahead and put a whole hand in that pina colada if you need to, I won’t tell). 

Head over to Elsie Marley to read my list of reasons I like winter (notice I didn’t say love) and see a few pictures of Clementine in that Snowblossom Hat, which the astute will notice, now has ties. Come over and say hi!

Another rockin’ crafters meetup in Michigan!

You’ll have to forgive us for being so last-minute about these things. We hope that some of you will still be able to come to our February meetup anyway!

This time we’ll be holding our fabulous event at Blue House in Ann Arbor next Monday, February 7th from 6:30 pm to 9 pm. Bring a project to work on and a snack to share. We’re also asking crafters to throw some cash in the Blue House donation bucket to cover our location costs (suggested donation: $5).

Space is limited, so if you can come, please RSVP at our fully automated reservation site: We promise you don’t REALLY have to print out your ticket in order to be admitted even though the website will insist that you do. Hee. Directions are provided from that website.

If you can’t make this one don’t worry, we already have a March date but I can’t remember it off the top of my head. I think it’s a Thursday again? Great Rae, that’s really helpful to everyone. *rolls eyes*

Other stuff of interest:

  • Want to see more about our meetups? You can see the posts from our previous meetups here here and here.  And here’s a few pictures from December’s meetup for you to enjoy:

Posted in events

Rae’s Big List of Fabric Shops

After last week’s post where I may or may not have slightly bashed one of the major fabric chains (What can I say? Sometimes I grumpy-post. So here’s my official apology: Sorry JoAnn. I figure we’re cool anyway since I ended up at your store again a mere two days later..), I felt I should sit down and talk a little bit about purchasing fabric online and elsewhere. I’m guessing that many of you are in the same place I am: I don’t have a good fabric shop nearby (in a cruel twist of fate I somehow ended up living in a weird Fabric Black Hole where all the good fabric shops are at least a half hour’s drive in any direction), so most of the time when I need supplies, I shop at a chain *gasp*. And you know what? Their needles, thread, elastic and other notions are perfectly fine and about once I month I end up at JoAnn just because I need some interfacing or something I didn’t have the forethought to purchase elsewhere. And it turns out they DO carry SOME good quality fabrics, you just need to be able to suppress the violent urges you get when you have to stand in line at first the cutting counter and then the checkout for forty minutes. Seriously, the wait time makes me want to hurt someone, and I am not proud to admit that on more than one occasion I have stormed out, leaving my package of snaps behind (I would never do this with cut fabric). But this, this, and these were all made with very nice fabric procured at JoAnn, so it’s not really fair for me to be negative about them. It’s a little bit of a crapshoot though, you know? Sorry to be crass, but “crapshoot” just seems like the best way to describe it.

I have a strong preference for supporting fabric sellers who make it clear that quality is a priority, so I usually wait until I’m in Seattle or West Michigan visiting my parents to buy fabric and supplies, especially when I need fleece, knits or other fabrics that tend to be easier to purchase in person. But it’s nice to see any fabric in person, even quilting weight cotton (which is probably the most basic of fabrics; easy to sew, easy to predict what it will feel like).

I will always have a preference for Brick and Mortar shops. Here are the ones I have shopped at personally, have reliable friends who shop there, or know the owners and feel I can safely vouch for their quality. Many of these stores also have online shops (those links are listed further down the page). Feel free to weigh in with your favorites in the comments section. I also noticed that Dana is hoping to put together a Big List at some point so you can add yours over there too, and I know there must be other more comprehensive lists online, although honestly I haven’t found one I really use.

Michigan and Midwest:
Fields Fabrics / West Michigan (also online, limited selection)
Material Girls / Dearborn, MI (also online)
Haberman Fabrics / Royal Oak, MI
Guildcrafters Quilt Shop / Berkley MI
Ann Arbor Sewing Center / Ann Arbor, MI
Lake Street Mercantile / South Lyon, MI
Crafty Planet / Minneapolis, MN (also online)
Treadle Yard Goods* / St Paul, MN
Shiisa Quilts / Bloomington, IN (also online)
*added by popular demand

New England
Alewives Fabrics / Maine (also online)
Nido Fabrics / Vermont (also online)

Whipstich Fabrics / Atlanta (also online)

Birch Fabrics (home of Fabricworm online) / Paso Robles, California
Britex Fabrics / San Francisco
Pacific Fabrics and Crafts / Washington (also online, limited selection)
Undercover Quilts / Seattle

Due to my unfortunate fabric-free locale, I end up purchasing the majority of my fabric online. When I discovered online fabric shopping, there was a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to purchase fabrics without touching them, but now I’ve got a pretty good system worked out. Turns out if you stick to a few basic rules (I’ll post my guidelines for fabric shopping online soon), the outcome can be pretty great. Of course, it may take a little trial and error to figure it out, but I think I can say that I now shop online for fabrics with confidence.

So here’s a list of the places I’ve purchased fabric from online that are super. [UPDATED: I’m also adding some shops that got an overwhelming number of mentions in the comments: Pink Chalk and Hawthorne; I trust if so many of you vouch for them they are fantastic!] Since I started blogging, I’ve also developed relationships with online fabric store owners (some of whom have been or are currently sponsors; I do a giveaway, they send me fabric) and have been a contributor/board member for Sew Mama Sew (I do a tutorial, they send me fabric) and those shops are phenomenal too! I’m also re-listing the online stores that I’ve shopped at from the list above so they’re all together:

Above All Fabric
Aunt Bea’s (who just announced she is closing, waaaah!!! but be sure to check out her great sale!)
Crafty Planet (this one seems less independently-owned, more commercial-y to me, but I’ve bought bamboo knits there)
Fabric Bar (whose website seems to be on the fritz, can anyone help?)
Fabric Depot (also has a huge brick and mortar store in Portland which I regretably have never had the pleasure of visiting)
Hawthorne Threads
Material Girls
Phat Fabrics
Pink Chalk Fabrics 
Quilt Home
Sew Mama Sew
Shiisa Quilts

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention True Up, a website completely dedicated to fabric that posts a crazy huge list of online fabric sales every weekend, so if you’re into the deal-hunting, that’s a good site to follow.

OK, so there you go, I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone so I’ll update as needed. I’m quite the prolific online fabric shopper but even I have only brushed the surface here, so tell me your online favorites!

Another Pierrot

I nearly forgot that I finished this a couple weeks ago. It’s another Pierrot top for Clementine, but this one is 18-24 months. Yes, friends, that means I have digitized/begun grading the pattern…please don’t get too hopeful as I feel like my work rate is currently roughly analogous to the flow of molasses outside. And yes, if you needed any other reminders than the fact that it’s been 15 degrees outside for the last week, it IS January…. I think I’ll make the sleeve more a 3/4 length next time rather than the 1/2 length it currently is, but other than that I think it’s scaled up quite nicely.

The neckline always looks a little crazy after it’s first sewn, but after washing that ruffle will definitely calm down and still be just as cute without looking clownlike. I am so enamored with this little tunic.

please don’t use/pin photos of Clementine. thanks!

And I know I’ve blathered on about how much I love the Anna Maria Horner voiles before so I’ll spare you the love-fest and just say that this one is also just as divine as the others (it’s from the Little Folks collection if you’re having trouble finding it). I am not sure why I never noticed this print before but now I am totally in love. The photos don’t really do the colors justice. Plus it’s perfect for cutting on the bias to get a nice diagonal plaid.


Kids are in bed, am finally sitting down to the computer for the first time today….*sigh.* I was going to post earlier today but…that’s how that goes. Had a fun day with Karen + our littles. Coffee and open toddler gym at our local gymnastic center today. Just picture a swarm of toddlers climbing through tunnels, swinging from the ceiling, and bouncing on trampolines. It rocks.

There’s a nice interview of me over on Smile and Wave today if you’re interested, so go over and take a look. Thanks Rachel!

Have been working hard on “Celebrate the BOY!” stuff so if I seem less sew-y lately, that’s why. Schedules, sorting through emails, and sewing for an entire MONTH of boy posts that I am co-hosting with Dana of MADE coming up in February. We’ve pushed the dates back to February 15-March 15 to give us a little more time to plan (and email back all 200 of the people who sent us tutorials and ideas for the month…hokey pete!) so don’t worry if February arrives and you don’t see boy stuff. It’s coming mid-month, and if anything this will make it even more awesome. For those of you who are waiting to hear back from me with a post date, please don’t freak out. I’m on it.

Oh yeah and we’re also moving the first week in April, so that should make things pretty exciting. A few people have asked about it because I vaguely alluded to it in a previous post and then didn’t mention it again. That’s mostly because we don’t really know where we’re moving to. We have no one to blame but ourselves, because we haven’t really started looking…gah! Although I think we’ve narrowed it down to staying in Michigan at least. Maybe back to California (again) but that’s a long shot that I’m really doubting. Overall the situation is good; we’re selling our house, which we bought at near-peak real estate value six years ago, to someone who really wants it (believe it or not we a got a note in our mailbox asking if we wanted to sell. Yeah, it was kinda crazy) so we decided to be just go with it, take advantage of the opportunity and rent for a while. Hopefully cut back on expenses and all the stuff that goes with owning a home like replacing a sewer main and the roof. And maybe have a little more space? That’s probably too much to ask, but anyway, that’s my non-update on the house situation.

This afternoon after Clementine’s nap we played with our marble run (Quadrilla) for nearly two hours. This toy is ridiculously awesome. It’s one of those toys that’s expensive enough that I probably wouldn’t have ever considered buying it for our kids, but one year Mr Rae asked for a basic set for Christmas and got it, and then we were addicted. The basic gist is that it’s a bunch of blocks and rails and spirals that you can build all kinds of different marble runs with. We even have the extension set that has little xylophones in some of the blocks so as the marble falls through it plays musical notes which elicited squeals from Elliot at first. I really need to take a video of ours sometime. OK, after quick blog search, One Crafty Mumma posted about theirs on her blog so you can see some pictures if you like. I can’t seem to find them for sale online but our little downtown toy store still has them, I think *slight panic at thought they may be discontinued.* When I think about how many more hours of play it gets than the rest of the $20 toys in our house, it was totally worth the investment. OK how did I end up talking about this? Can’t remember anymore.

Time to go watch Dr Who reruns!

Posted in updates

Am back from San Francisco. Am missing cable cars.

Back today from a lovely little weekend holiday with Mr Rae in San Francisco. We stayed in a little hotel off Union Square that was so close to the cable car line that you could hear the “ding ding” when our window was open. I know that sounds like it could be potentially annoying but it was actually very charming. Lovely meals without children. Our kids don’t really go for sushi (surprise!) so we took advantage of the opportunity. And it was warm, 60 degrees every day!

It’s a little pathetic really how even when you’re on vacation every toddler running around you or screaming on the plane reminds you of your own and you start to miss them. Yeah, even the screamers. But then we’d go out for dinner and sit there for a few hours and say to each other, “Isn’t this GREAT without kids?” With the kids there’d be the entertaining and the spilling of the tomato sauce all over the place and the inevitable restaurant bathroom diaper change (gah!) and if the meal lasted more than about 18 minutes we’d have to leave.

Boudin Sourdough factory
Boudin sourdough factory on the Embarcadero

I also know it’s good for our marriage to be able to take these breaks and spend time just the two of us. I don’t feel guilty if I literally forget I have kids for a few hours and just enjoy the vacation. It’s good for our sanity and nice for Grandma to get a little time with our kids to herself. Some people are wracked with guilt and can’t have a good time without their children. Those people just enjoy vacations more when they have their whole brood around them. Not us, and I like it this way. I will say this though: when the kids are a little older, we definitely want to take them back here; it’s a fantastic city to visit with kids!

 church on a hill

A brief itinerary: walking through Chinatown and dinner in North Beach on the first day, Japantown (sewing pattern books at Kinokinuya!) and Muni to Golden Gate Park, a stop at the California Academy of Sciences and a lovely dinner at our friends Rob and Jill’s home on the second day, walking along the Embarcadero from the Ferry Building to Fisherman’s wharf and then the cable car back to our hotel, dinner at Firefly on the third day.

Rainforest exhibit
rainforest exhibit at CAS in Golden Gate Park

You can see the rest of the pictures from our weekend in my photostream on Flickr (and my apologies to those of you who receive this via email and can’t see the pictures; you’ll have to click over to the blog to see them).

Posted in travel

My summer top -> Winter top!


The other day I was rooting through the closet looking for something new to wear when I found the yellow plaid shirt. I put it on and was pretty thrilled with the summer-turned-winter outfit and then went online to see the pictures from when I posted it. Summer Top Week ’08? WAAH?? Can it really be that old? The problem with having a blog where you catalog all the things you make is that you always know exactly how old your clothes are. This top is now 2.5 years old but I’ll wager y’all have much older stuff in your closet, am I right? Thought so. And the thing is, I do still really like the collar, it’s pretty classic, and man I was ahead of the times with the whole yellow trend which has hit it’s stride of late, so I still think this makes a rather lovely outfit for winter.

looks nice w/ cozy shawl collared sweater!

This shirt was made with a designer cotton which I have never been able to find online and am pretty sure is no longer available. But that’s not really important, what I want to point out is how well this shirt is standing up over time. The fabric is just as nice today as the day I bought it. And this may seem obvious to some but I’m not sure that everyone knows this so I’m just going to say it again: there’s a pretty big difference in quality when it come to buying high quality designer fabrics and the stuff they sell at the major fabric chains. I know because I’ve made alot of clothing with both, and guess which clothes are already pilly or cut up into cleaning rags? $4/yard or $6/yard seemed like a bargain at the time but it’s just a waste now that I can’t wear the stuff I made out of it anymore. Another thing I’ve noticed lately is that the quality of many of the fabrics at JoAnn seems to be getting worse (has anyone else noticed this with their fleece? I can’t even stand to touch it lately…it makes my hair stand on end. And don’t even get me started on the flannel…).

would have been a pretty fine picture had it not been so blurry. meh.

I make a point of mentioning this because I’ve just recently become aware of the fact that worldwide cotton shortages are already causing increases in the price of designer cottons (thanks to Deborah for writing such a nice economics-for-dummies post about this) and I just want to make sure I say that I for one am not going to be a whiner if the price of my designer fabric goes up. That’s all.

Guess who else has new jammies?

I found it pretty awesome how many of you reacted with near-outrage at my using the word “dorky” in reference to the suggestion of making matching doll PJ’s for the girl. Consider me schooled. Now Bee-Bee has jammies. And they’re pretty cute if I do say so myself. Not dorky at all.

I eyeballed these (meaning, measured Bee-Bee’s waist and height and then just started cutting out fabric) so they’re not a perfect fit but who cares? The closure is velcro and already Clementine has been testing its limits. I’m not exactly sure she gets that her doll has PJs that match hers, but we do, and that’s what’s important. 


PJs for the little boy

You didn’t think I forgot the E when making Christmas jammies? This mama may be negligent and unfit for parenting* but I did manage to make him pajamas out of his very favorite fabric.

Me: “Those are moons, Elliot, MOONS.”
E: “No, they’re pumpkins.”
Me: “Child, you make me CRAZY LOCO!” (what can I say I pick up the lingo when I’m in Mexico)

*Monday on a trip to the bakery I accidentally opened his car door not realizing he was leaning on it from the inside and then watched in slooooooow motion as he literally landed on his HEAD (!) on the bare concrete. Then he insisted on walking into the bakery with a cut lip, bloody nose, and gravel bits embedded in the 3-inch bump on his forehead. He must have known that Bakery Jan would give him a free chocolate chip cookie. And thank goodness she did because it actually seemed to make everything better. I however am still suffering emotionally from this event.

This was an easy and quick sew; top pattern is the Tee for Two previously lauded in this space which I know seems like nearly the only thing I ever make for him anymore. It’s a great pattern, but don’t worry Boy Month is coming and I promise I will make something else. I kindof botched these a little by making the neck too big but no bigs, it’s pajamas. Besides, I have to pull it over the giant bump on his head, so it’s the perfect size (I’m kidding; At two inches in diameter now said bump is nearly almost gone. Downright wee.)
when he saw this picture: “that’s me feeling sad” (taken BEFORE he fell, I would like to add!)

Bottoms are from the Oliver+S PJ pant also previously lauded in this space; this time I added a few inches to the bottom instead of the bias tape binding so that I can let them down a little as he grows like a weed as nearly 4 year olds are apt to do.

And I do need to talk about this lovely knit fabric because it is truly the most lovely soft stretchy fabric you can imagine. It’s a crying shame that solid knits don’t photograph like glamorous prints do and almost never get the praise they deserve because basic solid knits are the most versatile fabrics for children’s clothing. It’s the same crazy stretchy soft stuff I always use for my baby tights (some of you have been commenting that you can’t get the baby tights to fit over cloth dipes? This fabric will work. Promise.) I believe it is Robert Kaufman Panda Knit and if I could find the cream somewhere online I would link it (although Phat Fabric has the black on super-sale!).

It’s snowing today! Time to go play!