Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Sewing Decision I Should've Made Years Ago

I finally bought myself a second bobbin case.
Unbelievable, I know.
That this is my very first Second Bobbin Case, I mean. 
Which I've desperately needed for YEARS.

It's not that I was stingy and didn't want to buy one, but Pfaff bobbin cases aren't the same shape as the generic Singer styles that you can easily find on the notions wall at JoAnn, or on typical online sewing resource sites. And I didn't want to drive all the way to the nearest Pfaff dealer (where "nearest" is used in the very loosest sense of the word) to buy one. 

And then I found one on amazon. That didn't cost an arm, a leg and a vital internal organ.

Why have I needed an official Second Bobbin Case?
Answer: tension.
Specifically, when I am on a project that requires two very different bobbin tensions, which are particularly fiddly to get absolutely perfect, it is heartbreaking to have to switch back and forth between the two states, un-setting the one to get the other, and then doing that in reverse, repeatedly.
Example 1: sewing velcro and regular fabric in the same project
Example 2: topstitching vinyl and seam-sewing regular fabric in the same project

I cannot count the number of times I've sat with my tiny screwdriver (or fingernail) poised over the tension screw of my Single Lone Bobbin Case, peering at my pathetic sketches of the Screw Position For Topstitching and scribbled upper tension numbers in order to undo my painstakingly-perfected tension setting and thinking, "if only I had a second bobbin case, I could designate this one The Regular Cotton Bobbin Case and the other one The Topstitching Through Vinyl and Leather Bobbin Case and I'd never have to touch these stupid screws."

And now, I don't have to do it (so often, anyway).
I should throw a party, I'm so happy. 

That said, I should confess that I also need several sewing machines set up in my sewing room, in the following configuration:
  1. Industrial lock-stitch machine threaded for bottomweights
  2. Regular sewing machine 1 threaded with white, set to regular tension
  3. Regular sewing machine 2 with topstitching thread, set to topstitching-vinyl/canvas tension
  4. Regular sewing machine 3 with lousy needle for sewing through plastic, paper, velcro and heavy interfacing
  5. Regular sewing machine 4 threaded with whatever color thread for current WIP
  6. Serger 1 set to 4-thread overlocking
  7. Serger 2 set to 3-thread rolled hem
  8. Serger 3 set to coverlocking

I know people whose fantasy sewing room has color-coded fabric and a huge spool rack and pretty walls adorned with embroidery hoops featuring their grandmother's handiwork, and baskets and fabric bins containing their WIPs and charming stuffed animals and yarn. My dream studio, on the other hand, just has natural light and a veritable arsenal of sewing machines, all set to specialized functions simply because I'm too lazy to repeatedly toggle tensions and needles and feet and thread. I don't care if the walls are painted, and I'm quite happy to have all my WIPs strewn over the floor like shrapnel under which I have to exhume my pedal each time I need it. 

Tomorrow I shall repent of my covetousness.
But today, buoyed with hopeless optimism from my Second Bobbin Case acquisition, I shall fantasize without limitations.

Also, just so this post isn't only about MeMeMeMe and what I want, here are two photos of the most recently finished Time Warp Zippered Bag -

technically, the most challenging bag I've made in this series so far, because of that offset in-seam faux welt front zipper. Had to stop multiple times to rethink and even unpick. But then, bags are only fun to sew if there's thinking involved, right? Otherwise, we might doze off from boredom and stitch through our fingers or something. Which I've done. 

So yes, the zippered bag tutorial series is still happening! I want to finish all the bags first, so I can have all the material to organize into something methodical and that will make sense to you guys. 

P.S. Thank you to everyone who weighed in on my Owie Doll Kit survey in the last post. I appreciate all the feedback, and I'm in the process of negotiating the next round of kits with Take&Make. If you've been wanting a kit and didn't get one in the first round before they all sold, keep checking back because we have more coming!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Need Feedback!

I hope your summer is going well!

Mine is, except I seem to have zero time for sewing. Or swimming. All I seem to do is feed children. Maybe it's because they're home with me at every single meal (unlike during the school term), and they're constantly hungry. Even just an hour after their last meal. It's like their stomachs are either minuscule and can only hold molecules of food at a time, or their bodies are converting it at breakneck speed, or else they're asking for food simply to keep my attention on them. Are your children the same way, or is it just mine?

But busy or not, these are happy days, as they always are when the sun is shining.
Never mind the muggy humidity that gives me headaches and limits my outdoor running to the half-hour window just before darkness falls like a blessed cloak upon the sweltering world. Come January, I will be craving this pounding heat. I know it. And I don't look forward to it.

However, this post is not just phatic communion about the weather (I just needed to vent)!

It is about market research.

First, thank you all for the overwhelmingly gorgeous response to my Owie Doll kits! They have completely flown off the shelves and Take&Make and I are thrilled to see them go to new homes so quickly. 

As promised, in the wake of the good response, we are ready to talk about new skin and hair tones, so you can make dolls to reflect the different ethnicities of the little ones you love. I am so excited!

Before we make a new batch of kits, I need to find out two things:
  1. How many kits you guys might want
  2. What kinds of colors you'd like.

Here are the available skin tones:

A is the skin tone of the dolls in the first round of kits. It has a pink undertone and I'd say it's the closest to fair Caucasian skin. 

B is a little more tan. I'd say it's closer to skin that has some yellow in its undertone.

C is a rich darkish brown - like the color of cocoa - and the closest to darker skin tones. 

Sadly, these do not reflect all the wonderful shades that exist in the people of the world, and we will have to make approximations at best. My own skin color, for instance, is neither of those three. 

For the hair tones, though - being wool felt - we can be a little more varied. We don't know yet what skin/hair combinations will make it to the final kits, or whether we can do custom requests for special combinations, but this is what the market research is for, right? 

I like polling my readers to get a feel of the real interest out there, so would you be sweet enough to take a 3-question survey for me at the end of this post? I still get a warm fuzzy feeling whenever I think that it was because of your suggestions to an earlier poll that this Owie Doll kit came to be at all. 

Click on the giant button below to start the survey.
Thank you for your time and feedback!


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Owie Doll Kit!

Shall we take a walk down memory lane?

5-ish years ago, a friend underwent a critical surgical procedure. At the time, her kids were little and she told me she was concerned about how they would cope with not just the major disruption to their family routines but also how her body might change post-surgery. 

While thinking of her and her her kids, the idea for these Owie Dolls -  a toy to help her kids process what might be happening to their mom -was born.

But by the time I'd found the special fabric that would allow bandaids to stick to any part of the dolls' skin, 

my friend was well on her way to recovery and her kids no longer needed these dolls for the therapeutic reason for which I'd designed them. 

And because I was never a fan of The Unrealized Idea, I made them anyway, and put them in my etsy store in case other kids might like them.

They literally flew off the shelves. So I made another batch, and another, and then, ready to move on to other projects, I released the sewing pattern in response to readers' requests, so other hands could make these dolls for the children they loved.

People wrote to me to say how much they loved these dolls, and how glad they were that I hadn't overlooked their sons and grandsons and nephews, 

- but how challenging it was for them to find the right fabrics to make not just the doll but the whole set of accessories. 

Because it is a set with quite a few parts - easy to sew but not so much fun to shop for the supplies for it. The wool felt, for instance, was expensive and/or hard to find, and the cheaper and more widely-available acrylic substitutes didn't quite stand up to play. 

So late last year, when Take&Make, a company that produces kits for project designers, reached out to me with the invitation to come on board their beta run, I asked you guys what you'd like to see as a kit. We read all your responses (I loved the idea of a wooden cupcake kit!) and because this one was going to be all about sewing, we picked an Owie Doll kit to put together for you.

After months of collaboration, testing and fine-tuning, I am thrilled to introduce you to my Owie Doll kit!

Inside are enough materials to make two Owie Dolls, with leftovers. TWO! With leftovers!

Unpack it with me?

First, the fabrics - from top to bottom: fusible interfacing, white flannel, blue cotton, white cotton, grey cotton, white fleece, and the skin velour.

Next, the 100% wool felt - for the hair, slipper soles, bandaids, eye patch and accent details on the clothes.

Then, the notions - polybeads, embroidery floss, elastic and hook-and-loop tape,

all packed in a box, ready to cut out and be turned into dolls.

Along with the materials come two downloads: layout plans to help you cut your pieces in the correct grain alignment and to maximize your fabric use;

and a Materials List to tell you what you've got in your kit and what you'll need to supply on your own (tools and stuffing).
I usually sew my doll clothes with print fabric (and you can see some of these here) but it's hard to pick prints that everyone loves, so this kit contains cotton solids, which I thought are more versatile. Feel free to use your own prints from your stash, if you prefer! Just to give you some ideas for how you can rock solids, here's what I did with mine:

The Owie Doll sewing pattern contains instructions to make all the items shown below:

  • 2 dolls with felt hair
  • 2 reversible smocks/dresses/shirts
  • 2 pairs of trousers/shorts
  • 4 slip-on sandals
  • 6 rolls of bandages
  • 2 arm slings
  • 2 arm/leg bandage wraps
  • 2 foot casts
  • 2 head bandages
  • 2 eye patches
  • Self-adhesive bandages (band-aids) - more than what are shown in the picture

There will be fabric and notions left over. For instance, the surplus skin velour is sufficient to make at least one more doll.

For this first batch of Kits, we're offering only the light skin color (but you can play around with the felt for different hair tones). Depending on the response to these Kits, there might be more skin and hair tones in future batches.

Now, while the sewing pattern also contains instructions to make a drawstring storage bag and a zippered sleeping bag, the materials for these are not included in the Kit. From feedback received, it seems that many people skip these two items when they make their Owie Doll sets, so we've streamlined the Kit accordingly.

I am confident you will love working with the materials in the Kit - one of the reasons it took this long to be ready for you is because I wanted to be sure we'd be sourcing the kind of materials I myself would be satisfied to use (and you all know how picky I am about my supplies!) I knew you guys would be happier knowing that you're getting good stuff, like the 100% wool felt and the good skin velour.

Let's talk prices and buying options now. 

Because some of you might already own the Owie Doll Sewing Pattern, there are two purchasing options - you can buy just the Kit containing the materials, or you can buy the Kit+Pattern as a bundle. This way, you only pay for what you want

We're introducing the Owie Doll Kit at a special price for the first two weeks, as follows:
  1. You can buy just the Kit at $39.99 - because you already own the pattern.
  2. You can buy just the Kit at $39.99 and the pattern separately from my blog at $18.
  3. You can buy Kit+Pattern bundle at $47.99 (with the pattern discounted to less than half price!). Your kit will come with receive instructions and a code to get your pattern.

So grab your Kit early!

Take&Make ship both domestically and internationally. They'll have different shipping profiles set up for some countries and if you don't see yours there, email them at  and they'll advise you on rates.

And now, some shop news: 
I have two Owie Dolls for sale!

I know it's been years since I've made any new Owie Dolls, but I did with this Kit, and they now need new homes. 

There is a boy doll, who comes with all the accessories you see here;

and a girl doll, with all the accessories you see here:

Find the dolls in the shop here.

Find the kits here and here.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Brag Board For Menagerie

A very clever suggestion was put to me earlier this week: let's share what we're doing with Menagerie!

I love it. I, personally, would LOVE to see what you are all doing with this pattern. I want to see Yoda! And Jabba the Hutt! And R2D2! Horses! Elephants! Beetles! T-Rexes! Doggies! Minions! Hammerhead sharks. Orcas! That marlin from Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea!

Now, I do have a flickr pool, which you can all upload photos to. But Pinterest is so much easier and more visual, I think. So I created a board just for Menagerie

Right now, it's full of the original Menagerie critters and a couple of others I've seen around blogland. But I'd love for it to be filled with the ones you've made!

Here's how I think I'm going to do it - email me (or leave as a comment) a link to your blog or webpage where I can pin an image of your Menagerie creation, and I'll come visit and pin it to this board so we can all see and swoon. If you end up contributing regularly, I can send you an invite to pin your own Menagerie projects to the board, too.

To access this board whenever, just click on the Pinterest widget in my blog sidebar:

and you'll find the Menagerie board:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Menagerie For Sale!

I am happy to announce that you can now - finally - buy Menagerie!

Some quick links:

1 This post tells you what's inside Menagerie, how to use it, and what sort of skills and materials you will need for the projects.

2 This post has a free download sheet of hand stitches that are used in the projects of Menagerie, and which are useful for sewing soft toy in general.

3 This post introduces you to some of the tools that I have found useful when sewing soft toys and dolls, including a home-made funnel for channeling poly beads into small and deep spaces.

4 This post contains FAQs and background about Menagerie.

5 This post documents the thoughts and sewing experience of my stupendous pattern tester Grandma G (thank you, Amazing One!) as she ploughed through Menagerie and test-sewed the kangaroo and joey. Lots of photos!

Some quick facts about the pattern:

1  The file is about 13 MB. Make sure your device is able to both download the file and store it before opening the file.

2  This is a pdf pattern. I repeat: this is a pdf pattern. This means that it is not a paper pattern. It will not be delivered to you in your postbox by the mailman or the UPS guy. It will come to you via a link in an email. You will need to download it yourself, open it and print it (if you want). You will need a program that reads pdf patterns in order to open it. Adobe is an example. Preview on the iMac is another example. Microsoft Word is a non-example. WatsApp (or Twitter or Facebook) is another non-example.

3  The templates (there are 14 pages of them) have NO SEAM ALLOWANCES. This is to enable you to enlarge and shrink them more easily to make animals of different sizes. It is also to enable you to easily assemble the integrated tails and modify the base template to do different things and make different animals. Some people will prefer having SA included in the templates. To that, I say, "Tough." I also say, "Learn to lay out without included SA because once you get used to it, you will experience a liberation like no other and you will never look back; among other things, it allows you to accurately mark sewing points and lines and match up edges. But if you still prefer, you can turn the SA-less templates into SA-included ones by cutting them out with a 1/4" border (my kids call it "bubble cutting") around the relevant edges, before laying them out on the fabric."

4  When you print out the template pages, make sure to set your printer to print at 100%. This is what my printer menu looks like when I command it to print a page - it chooses 91% because it thinks it's clever.

I override it and set it to 100%. Notice that the image is now bigger. Also notice the square in the top right hand corner of the image - this is a 1" callibration square. If your page is printed at 100%, that square will measure 1". Your printer menu will not look the same as mine if your printer is different, but they can all be set to print at 100%.

Now, it is not a terrible thing if you forget this print-at-100% step. The templates will all print out proportionally smaller and you'll still get a cute stuffed animal at the end of your sewing adventure, albeit a slightly mini version. However, some parts of your animal's anatomy are measured independently from the template sizing. See red ovals:

If you are using shrunken templates, these other pieces might be a tad large and would need to be cut proportionally smaller, too. Moral of the story: don't let your printer tell you what to do; show it who's boss and make it print the right size.

5  Menagerie costs US$24. Originally, I wanted to price it at US$50,000 to reflect the amount of work that went to it, but talked myself out of it. You're welcome for the 99.952% discount.

Email me or leave comments if you have any questions, or if you have problems with the download, okay? We're going to be at some lake (i.e. no internet connection) for the Independence Day hols, but I'll be back at my computer after the weekend to help you all out.

Alright, enough talk. Go here to buy the pattern, and thank you for all your support and interest! I hope you enjoy sewing the animals of Menagerie and learning to create your own. Go forth and fill the earth!