Sew Together Bag WIP (+ Fat Quarterly Retreat Link-Up!)

I’m writing this post to share a project, but also to take part in the Fat Quarterly Retreat linky party! It’s only a couple of days away now and I’M SO DAMN EXCITED! I never thought I’d get the chance to go, so it’s an extra-special treat for me and I seriously can’t wait to meet everyone!

There’s me, up in the right corner over there, and I’m taking the hand quilting, screen printing, lampshade making, Touchdraw, Getting Into Print, and Fracture quilt classes. PHEW. We’re going to learn all the things! It’s like nerdy sewing summer camp!

As soon as I was sure I was going, I decided to make a Wiksten Tank (so, so far out of my comfort zone, but been on my list for ages) and a Sew Together Bag (also on my list for ages, and I’d need to carry all my sewing junk around anyway, right?). Well, I ran out of time before I even got to the tank, but my Sew Together Bag has been an epic journey.

Not that it’s that difficult really, just that I managed to make an already high-maintenance project even more complex. Because I couldn’t just make a zippered pouch with three zippered pouches inside. I had to make it with a hand-stitched, paper-pieced exterior –

Sew Together Exterior

– which I quilted (even more than this progress photo) and then stitched –

Stitching on Sew Together Exterior

– using a vintage embroidery pattern from the 1930s. Naturally.

Sew Together Interior

Here’s my interior, basically finished. I couldn’t find a piece of felt that matched (how do I not have a piece of felt that matched?!) so I skipped the needle landing, though I did want to include it. Maybe I can hand-stitch one in later. And I used some of the Cotton + Steel pretties that I’d pre-ordered from The Village Haberdashery – I cut right into them almost immediately upon delivery. (And now I’m slightly panicked and will absolutely need more, STAT. Especially those tigers. Oh, the tigers!)

I hope to get it the last bits of construction done today. I better, because I still have a ton of materials to gather and prep before Friday. If you’re coming to the Retreat, I can’t wait to meet you – just look out for the goofy American with dark hair and glasses, or my high-maintenance Sew Together Bag. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram or Flickr, you’ll probably recognize me by my avatar, ’cause I’ll wear my stitched nametag while I’m there!

And for the rest of you, I’ll show you my finished bag next week!

Christmas in July & embroidery pattern discount code!!!

Put your jingle bells on, people, because today is the beginning of Christmas in July here at button button! Mom and I have been planning this for a while because we know that December is, let’s be honest, the most hellish month. We crafters know that good intentions alone are not enough to get all of those fun decorations and thoughtful handmade gifts done before the big day!

So join us this month for Christmas in July here on the blog and get an early start! We’ll be sharing new Christmas-themed Little Dorrit and Co. embroidery patterns and tutorials to turn them into lovely finished decorations – and just generally being Christmassy. :)

Our little gift to you is a month-long discount code for 20% off in the Little Dorrit and Co. embroidery pattern shop – just use the code CHRISTMASINJULY at checkout (this code will expire on August 1st)! See our current Christmas-themed patterns here and stay tuned for new holiday patterns throughout the month!

YAY! Shiny new button button!

It’s here, my shiny, pretty new blog! Oh, how I love it so!

I actually finished working on it last week, but I wanted to point it out to anyone reading along in a feed reader or by email – I hope you’ll pop over to the actual blog and check it out! (Actually, I’d be really grateful if you would have a poke around and let me know if you see anything not behaving the way it should.)

As well as just making everything super-pretty, I’ve updated my About page and added a Gallery of a nice selection of my needlework. I also updated my Tutorials & Freebies page to include my recent projects with Sew Mama Sew and the list of posts related to my Year of Samplers Project – and cleaned up my sadly under-maintained Links page!

There’s a few little bits and pieces I still want to tinker with here and there, but overall, I’m the happiest little blogger there ever was. Yay for new pretties!

Blog Hopping!

I interrupt this irregularly scheduled blog silence (while I work on my new blog design – I’ve not gone anywhere, promise, and I’m almost done!) to take part in a blog hop, as invited by my dear friend Carina. So a wave and a howdy to any newcomers who hopped here from Carina’s blog – and today I’ll answer a few questions about what I do, as all the hopped blogs have done before me, and send you hopping along to someone new at the end of my post. So let’s go:

What am I working on?

ALL THE THINGS. Seriously, I am trying very hard (and succeeding, somewhat) to stick to a small number of projects to focus on at a time. But even so, there’s still any number of embroideries, knitting projects and little bits of sewing floating around in various stages of completion!

Vasilisa Crewel Embroidery In Progress

But besides planning and starting new embroidery patterns for the shop, which is always happening, and a project or two that’s just for relaxation, there is usually one big thing I’m focused on at any given time. Right now, it’s our embroidered illustration of Vasilisa, which I’ve blogged about before.

Vasilisa embroidery in progress

I haven’t been able to get my greedy stitchy fingers on this as much as I’d like lately, but this is not a finish-in-a-week project. (I’m not generally that big a fan of finish-in-a-week projects anyway, to be honest, I like my embroidery to be a bit juicier!) I’ll be working on this embroidery, and then a second embroidery that will make this an illustrative set, for a looooong time. Sometimes I sit down and really move forward on it, sometimes it has to take a backseat to other work. I hope to show you all some new progress soon though!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’ll answer this one on behalf of Little Dorrit & Co., because that’s what I think of when I think of ‘my work’. So far, the stuff I do on my own is mostly dabbling and trying and seeing what’s what – in fact, the whole point of my Year of Samplers project.

Pippi Longstocking Pattern

So from Little Dorrit & Co’s perspective, I think the main difference is that we think of ourselves as an illustrating team, who happen to use embroidery as our medium. Our design focus is on illustrating a story, making sure the best details are included.

Lizzie & Darcy

Our Lizzie & Mr. Darcy Pride and Prejudice-themed pattern is by far our most popular, and I honestly think it works so well because of the tiniest detail: Lizzie’s facial expression. Close enough to touch, but looking away from each other, these two are clearly the always-at-odds romantic leads from Jane Austen’s classic. But Lizzie’s worried expression really makes the whole thing, if I say so myself. It’s just so Elizabeth Bennett! The details make our designs successful as story illustrations, and we get such pleasure out of getting them right!

How does your writing/creating process work?

As Little Dorrit & Co., Mom and I have a very semi-structured work pattern. When it comes time to work on a new design, Mom and I both read our subject book, then meet for a brainstorming session. Together we will come up with a general design plan and determine what exact details from our source should be included. Then Mom will go away for a while, work some kind of wizarding art magic and come back with a beautiful design plan. (Although Vasilisa is not a pattern in development, we’ve still worked the same basic way. You can see a bit of Mom’s original Vasilisa drawing below, littered with our notes on thread colors and stitch placement.)

Today I'm watching Noir and working on our Vassilisa crewel embroidery. Cozy!

Then I will take her sketch and turn it into a pattern with Adobe Illustrator, until recently, but now Inkscape. I love dem tools. The design will be tweaked and stretched and prodded until it’s juuuuust right, then stitched up. I do most of the embroidery, because it’s the part I love and, I like to think, excel at – and the part I want to always continue to improve. The design may be adjusted slightly as I stitch, if something doesn’t work right, and I try to pick stitches that make good use of the design elements and keep the customer interested in what they’re working on. Basically, I want the finished pattern to make a fellow embroiderers’ stitchy fingers twitch!

Why do I write/create what I do?

This answer, as a general needleworker (not specific to embroidery patterns or any one project) is so simple: because I don’t like doing anything else half as much. Sometimes people comment that I’ve done so many projects over the years, or that I have tips for nearly every needlecraft, and I have to remind them that I barely do anything else. My friends all have other hobbies, things they love and split their crafting time with – I don’t have that. I stitch and sew and knit – or write about them, or plan for them – with every possible waking hour, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Always Stitching!

Ok, I do love movies, and hunting for the perfect vintage pin dish and learning about music from the 1930s – among loads of other other things that interest me. But if I do give those things some attention, I’m probably knitting at the same time. I think about thread (or yarn) and fabric, and what I can do with them, with at least 80% of my brain at all times. I don’t really know why anyone does what they do, except that perhaps everyone has something that just seems to make sense to them, above anything else. I see a ball of yarn, a skein of thread or a fat quarter and it’s almost as if my mind becomes clear and focused. I just get it, you know?

Eels Lyrics Embroidery - WIP

Not to say it’s some sort of natural skill! I made a lot of really crappy crap before I started making anything nice, and my unspoken goal of every day is to learn more about the needlecrafts I love. I work my ass off at it and over many years, it’s started to pay off. I’m only now starting to make things that are as good as I want them to be – but I doubt I’ll ever stop trying to make them better!

* * * * *

Thank you so much to the lovely Carina for her kind introduction to me last week, I hope you’ll go check out her blog if you’ve never been there before, she makes such wonderful, colorful and happy things!

So many people have already been included in this hop that I only have one person to carry on the blog torch from here: the ridiculously talented Cate Anevski, the creative brains behind Bee’s Knees Industries (which is just so fun to say, don’t you think?!). I took a slightly embarrassed leap asking Cate to blog hop with me, because we’d never officially met, but I think her illustration and embroidery designs are simply wonderful! I’ve been a silent fan of hers for a long while, so I’m very happy to pass you over to her!

Take it away, Cate!

Giveaway Day Needlecrafter’s Pampering Kit Winner!

Ok, who’s ready for some WINNING up in here?! Drumroll …

Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day - Needlecrafter's Pampering Kit Winner

Number 60 – Leo from Strandkorbtraum! Leo shared a particularly messy crafting fail: “We were mixing the Pulp for paper making in a stand mixer and someone forgot to make sure the lid was on tight .. yep parper Pulp spraying in every direction was the result.” Yikes! I will be emailing you in a few moments, Leo, and I sure hope this little pampering kit soothes some of the pain of that incident!

Thank you all so much for playing and for sharing your disaster stories – I apologize for laughing, but boy oh boy, did some of you guys have some terrible tales of woe to share! I’m slightly concerned by how many of us have sewn through our fingers (I myself have not, though I did badly smoosh my finger under the moving bits around the presser foot once, sewing too close and too fast, and that was bad enough.) and sewing pattern pieces upside-down or to the wrong place seems a common mishap, so don’t feel bad if it’s happened to you. My heart especially went out to those quilters who weren’t happy with the actual quilting on something they worked their fingers off on – unpicking quilting is the worst – and to those who hoarded precious fabric only to mess it up in the end, you poor things! You all made me groan in sympathy and belly laugh at the same time – I’m so glad you joined in and that we could all share in our funny miseries!

I hope some of you stuck around to hang out with me here at button button, and for the rest, I’ll see you all next Giveaway Day!

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