Summer Trends: Embroidery

Summer Trends: Embroidery

Summer Vacation 2017 is upon us!

Summer Vacation 2017 is upon us!

Summer Vacation 2017 is upon us, and as could be the case for any season and time frame, it’s showing up with its own trends. There are a number of these that you can apply to your sewing, but the one that I primarily want to focus on is embroidery. According to one source, “[t]he biggest trend that is coming in 2017 is definitely embroidery,” which makes it a popular topic to explore and try your hand at. For me personally though, it isn’t my main focus in sewing, so there’s plenty of room for me to learn and grow within that category. What better way could I have to do those things than to explore and research for the sake of a new blog post?

Start at the beginning

Let’s start with the very basics, like what exactly embroidery is. In regard to the world of sewing, that definition has been given as the following: “Embroidery is ‘thread art’ used to embellish a garment, hat or some other product by adding a sewn pattern. Generally, this sewn pattern includes a design and can also include lettering and/or monograms.” If you find that a bit too far-fetched of a definition though, think of it like drawing artwork on a product or fabric. Just as you would take a marker, colored pencil, or crayon to create an image on paper, “thread or yarn” can be used in embroidery to build the picture you mean to make.

Clearly, embroidery has changed over the years, but the long-reach of this style of artwork speaks volumes to its appeal & application.

Clearly, embroidery has changed over the years, but the long-reach of this style of artwork speaks volumes to its appeal & application.

Embroidery, as it happens, is not a new concept either. It dates back to prehistoric times — “to Cro-Magnon days or 30,000 BC” — so prominently that “fossilized remains of heavily hand-stitched and decorated clothing, boots and a hat [have been] found.” Clearly, embroidery has changed over the years, but the long-reach of this style of artwork speaks volumes to its appeal and application. If it has remained for so many millennia and through the technological changes within the later centuries, it’s safe to say that it’s a topic and technique that has captured interest through the passage of time!

Your only limitation is your own imagination

One reason for that appeal is clear since, because of the many forms embroidery can take, the possibilities for design are almost limitless. If you want a picture of a flower, a bird, a house, a doughnut, or a dragon on your work, you can add any of the above — or whatever else you have in mind — so long as you don’t over-exceed your own abilities. If you can physically create it, you can do it! It’s important to note though that this is one area that merits consideration since if you try for something too large-scale on your first embroidery project, you could fall short and become discouraged with the whole process. When you start off with such a bad experience, it can be a psychological obstacle to overcome if you want to better yourself in the field. Keep in mind then where you are with embroidery, and choose projects that are fitting for your level.

If you can physically create it, you can do it!

If you can physically create it, you can do it!

In essence though, embroidery can be incredibly personal and project-specific. You don’t just have to rely on the fabric at your disposal to create a work that’s perfect for you and your purpose. If you want to sew a blanket for a friend’s baby shower, for instance, you could add to whatever adorable fabric you use for that work by personalizing it with the baby’s name. If you’re making some kind of wedding gift, you could add the wedding date right onto the material. That truly is a beauty of embroidery. Whatever you want, if you physically can do it, it’s an option — even if you have to use an embroidery pattern to make it happen!

Unlock your creativity & see where it takes you

Add to whatever adorable fabric you use by personalizing it with a name.

Add to whatever adorable fabric you use by personalizing it with a name.

Of course, this can be applied to your clothing, as is evidenced by the notion that “Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and McQueen” have all been credited with embracing this trend. The level of creativity involved with this clothing idea, again, can’t be overstated because you can tailor your designs to what you have in mind. If you want a blue top with a colorful butterfly on the left shoulder, you could make that happen even if you can’t find it in stores.

Overall, I honestly don’t know if there’s a more creative way to make your own items unique, so if you want to create a piece that’s as yours as you can manage, you might want to step into the world of embroidery! It’s trendy this summer, and a number of the popular embroidery concepts are very spring/summer-inspired — like flowers and birds. All in all, if ever there was a perfect time to step into this creative category, it’s now!

Beach Towels for Sewing Projects

Beach Towels for Sewing Projects

Much like the aforementioned buttons on a previous Pete the Cat related post, trends can show up for a while and eventually become memories. As they’re in the mainstream of their field though, it can be fun to jump on board and partake in them! These trends can bring brand new concepts, images, and characters to life, or they can just offer a new twist on something that’s familiar and ordinary. Those familiar and ordinary details are the case for the trend that will be explored in this post: Beach Towel Sewing Projects.

When I first saw that this was actually a thing, I was perhaps a little interested, but maybe just as uncertain. I’m not even sure what would lead to this trend beyond a creative eye that’s often looking for new possibilities. Whatever the reason for the trend’s existence, you can find a number of projects that are beach-towel based through some online browsing time or the links given in this post.

I think this beach towel concept is such a unique option for sewing projects, and I guess that’s for two reasons. One, using extra beach towels for projects could be a wonderful way to get your creative mind going while clearing out your closet space. Two, the end results to these possible products are so fluffy that they draw my attention like a child going after a stuffed animal! Maybe you share that appreciation, and maybe you don’t! Still, these are good options for how to put no-longer-used (or brand new) towels to use for your sewing hobbies!

This quirky accessory could stand out on your next beach adventure.

This quirky accessory could stand out on your next beach adventure.

First on the list, how about a beach towel tote? This quirky accessory could stand out on your next beach adventure, and it would be large enough to hold your sunscreen, your Frisbee, your sunglasses, and whatever else you could fit into this decently-sized bag! You can use something plain-colored like what’s shown in the image, or you can choose a more dynamic print on the beach towel to increase its stand-out quality! The needed supplies are few, and the unique look of it could be worth your sewing time! Why not give it a try?

While they lack the larger size of a tote, these can still be spaces to hold some of your beach bring-alongs.

While they lack the larger size of a tote, these can still be spaces to hold some of your beach bring-alongs.

But, then, maybe you’re more of a backpack person? If so, no worries! You can make one of those using a beach towel as well! While they lack the larger size of the tote, these can still be spaces to hold some of your beach bring-alongs, like sunscreen and a book to read in the sun. And, obviously, the use of these products wouldn’t need to be limited to the beach. Anywhere that you might think to bring a purse, these could be options if it’s a setting you’re comfortable using it in. Considering the site says this project can be finished in less than 24 hours, it might be worth your time to give it a shot!

If you’re looking for an option that deals a bit less with the carry-stuff-along-with-me aspect, there are possibilities to explore in other categories as well—like stuffed animals! These toys are a wonderful fit for this beach towel option because of that fluffy quality I mentioned earlier. If you’re going to make a stuffed animal toy—maybe a dog—it makes sense that the dog has fur, right? I personally like this elephant idea, but it’s very possible that I never got over the spotted elephant on Rudolph! If you prefer a different animal to make into a toy, browse through your options and find the right colored beach towel to match the standard coloring of that animal—unless you really do want a spotted elephant or something as out of the ordinary!

An intriguing option for creative towels use.

An intriguing option for creative towels use.

There’s also the option of creating something from a beach towel for the sake of gift-giving, if towels are a part of a gift you have planned for someone. One such option that stuck out to me was a bridal shower cake. True, this might require something less bulky than a beach towel and wouldn’t necessarily help to clean out your closet, but it’s still an intriguing option for using towels in general for creative endeavors. This cake is a method of giving very typical housewarming gifts, like towels and other items, in a lovely and out-of-the-box manner. It’s unique and striking, and a way to show the gift recipient that you cared enough to craft something artistic with your gift just for the sake of presentation. A towel cake, after all, is more memorable than some towels and utensils waiting in a box or a gift bag!

This cake is a unique twist on giving very typical housewarming gifts.

This cake is a unique twist on giving very typical housewarming gifts.

For a beach trip, a random toy, or a bridal shower, there are interesting projects that can make use of towels! These are just a handful of them, but maybe they’ll get the ideas rolling in your head enough to spark your interest!

An "Embroidery" Analysis

An “Embroidery” Analysis

Weeks ago, I did a post where I analyzed a work of art that depicted sewing — specifically a woman sewing by a window with a child nearby. I said within that post that I would return to the overall concept in the future, and the art geek in me is so drawn to the process that a return visit to the strategy is coming your way now!

Embroidery: The Artist's Mother

Embroidery: The Artist’s Mother

The work now being analyzed: Embroidery: The Artist’s Mother

The artist: Georges Seurat

The medium: Conté crayon on Michallet paper

Years Created: 1882-1883

This is supposed to be “tranquil portrait of the artist’s mother” with “a serene ambiance of quiet domesticity,” but to be honest, I don’t quite see it. Of course, art is open to interpretation, but if Seurat intended to create a piece that represented any kind of peaceful or happy sensations, for me, he missed the mark.

But I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself! Perhaps we should scale it back and cover the piece’s details before we dive into what those pieces mean.

Seruat’s work that’s now being addressed, just about the whole thing can be fitted into the focal pyramid.

Seruat’s work that’s now being addressed, just about the whole thing can be fitted into the focal pyramid.

On my earlier post, I mentioned the concept of triangular configuration, meaning a triangle — or pyramid — could be drawn generally around the central figures of the work to bring the viewer’s focus to that section. With this drawing, most definitely that concept is employed, but it’s in a much different way than what was seen in the painting that was previously analyzed. For that earlier work, there were a number of other elements at play that surrounded the pyramid. For Seruat’s work that’s now being addressed, just about the whole thing can be fitted into the focal pyramid.

Beyond that factor, the most notable detail of this work is potentially how dark it is. There’s very little light in Embroidery — so little, in fact, that there are only a small number of areas that are bright enough to fully be differentiated. Consider what’s going on behind the woman sewing, on her left side. The work gets brighter, then darker, as if something is there that changes the light in that area. Maybe it’s a bend in the wall because she’s working by a hallway, or perhaps it’s some kind of drapery that’s hanging there. The point is that the viewer can’t know why the difference is there. He or she can only note that it is there.

The work gets brighter, then darker, as if something is there that changes the light in that area.

The work gets brighter, then darker, as if something is there that changes the light in that area.

There’s a vagueness in that detail, and it’s mirrored in the blurred features of the woman herself as she sews by hand in a room that seems to be incredibly dark. In truth, without the visual proving that she’s using her hands, the viewer could easily conclude that the woman in the work has fallen asleep while sitting up. There’s no indication that her eyes are open, and a person can barely discern the woman’s mouth to know what’s happening there. Without the image of the actual sewing, the viewer could let his or her imagination run wild to decide she’s asleep and drooling, or frowning through a nightmare. The piece simply looks too vague to know from the facial expression alone.

Without the visual proving that she’s using her hands, the viewer could easily conclude that the woman in the work has fallen asleep while sitting up.

Without the visual proving that she’s using her hands, the viewer could easily conclude that the woman in the work has fallen asleep while sitting up.

So what we perceive is a woman who is sitting in what can barely be distinguished as a chair, and the only indication to us that she is sewing is we can see the material hanging from her curved hands.

See the material hanging from her curved hands.

See the material hanging from her curved hands.

If I put all of that together, I just can’t arrive at a peaceful meaning. To me, the darkness shows a sadness that’s mirrored in the idea that there’s nothing of sincere noteworthiness happening around the woman aside from the sewing. Since that sewing itself is inches below the lightest part of the painting, brightness isn’t a logical label to give to that activity either in order to offer a pleasantry to her task — and, by extension, the whole image. To me, this feels more like a rendering of a woman who is almost a drone — thus, her faded features — tending to a task that leaves her so unhappy that she’s sitting in darkness and perhaps nearly dozing in her efforts.

This, to me, is not a good representation of sewing! I suppose by applying the description of the work, I can rationalize that it wasn’t the artist’s intent to create a piece that so drearily portrays the process of sewing. The site even acknowledges a positive comment that’s been given to the work, so it could be that I’m the only one who comes to these kinds of conclusions. Still, if I was going to direct someone to an art piece that I feel showcases the mood of sewing, this might not be my choice!

What do you guys think? Is it dreary and vague, like I thought, or more pleasant like the artist seemed to intend?

May the 4th Be with Your Sewing Projects

May the 4th Be with Your Sewing Projects

Not every holiday has to be one that leaves the shelves of stores stocked with accessories and baking supplies that are that-holiday-themed. Some of them can pass by with a lot less glitz and glamour, with only those people who are interested and aware of said holiday embracing it on their own terms. National Talk Like a Pirate Day, anyone?

Pirate talk included, one of my absolute favorite holidays of that category is one that embraces a very real part of my nerdy heart: Star Wars Day.

That’s right. May the 4th is a good day for me! In fact, for this Star Wars Day, I’m planning on trying to introduce my youngest niece to the first movie of the original trilogy. Here’s hoping she loves Chewbacca as much as her Aunt Connie does!

There are a number of options for this kind of product, but one that really stuck out to me was this Death Star quilt.

There are a number of options for this kind of product, but one that really stuck out to me was this Death Star quilt.

And there are plenty of sewing projects that are fitting for the day. Of course, it’s a little late in the game to make these for this Star Wars Day, but they’re ideas to keep in your head for 2018!

For instance, you could make a Star Wars blanket or quilt. There are a number of options for this kind of product, but one that really stuck out to me was this Death Star quilt. I absolutely love the collage element that makes up the Death Star in this project, and the galaxy-esque material it’s on is a perfect fit for the theme. It’s dark and looming, just like the Death Star should be! I, personally, would be proud to be the maker of such an interesting take on the empire’s weapon!

For a person — like me — who adores baking, making a character-inspired apron like this one feels like a wonderful option!

For a person — like me — who adores baking, making a character-inspired apron like this one feels like a wonderful option!

But if you’re feeling a little more Jedi/Rebel Alliance-inclined, maybe you’d rather embrace a concept from their side of things — like R2-D2. For a person — like me — who adores baking, making a character-inspired apron like this one feels like a wonderful option! Since I may or may not have a series of Star Wars kitchen supplies on an Amazon wish list, this would be a wonderful addition to the mix. I could totally see myself wearing an R2-D2 apron and oven mitts while my R2-D2 oven timer buzzes…

Oh, & remember how I said I loved Chewbacca? Imagine your little one decked out in this Chewbacca costume!

Oh, & remember how I said I loved Chewbacca? Imagine your little one decked out in this Chewbacca costume!

Oh, and remember how I said I loved Chewbacca? Imagine your little one decked out in this Chewbacca costume! This one could double as a Star Wars Day project and a Halloween one since this would make an adorable costume for trick-or-treating time! It would include a number of pieces — like ammo belt details — so you might want to make sure you start early enough to tend to all of these aspects!

Another Star Wars project that you could make for your little one is this BB-8 skirt.

Another Star Wars project that you could make for your little one is this BB-8 skirt.

Another Star Wars project that you could make for your little one is this BB-8 skirt. It’s a nod to the more recent Star Wars movies with one of the two awesome droids that have come to the surface through them. Seriously! I adore BB-8, and K-2 is so awesome! This skirt would be something that could be worn any other day of the year as well since while it’s a nod to BB-8, it’s basic enough that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a skirt that’s Star Wars themed. It could easily just be a skirt with stripes, which isn’t day-specific! Essentially, with this product, you could have a perfect piece of clothing to wear through the day that’s general enough to wear again and again, regardless of the day.

One last project applies to anyone in need of carrying around documents & such — whether that something to carry is the sketch pad shown or a stack of papers that you, as a teacher, graded!

One last project applies to anyone in need of carrying around documents & such — whether that something to carry is the sketch pad shown or a stack of papers that you, as a teacher, graded!

One last project applies to anyone in need of carrying around documents and such — whether that something to carry is the sketch pad shown or a stack of papers that you, as a teacher, graded! Now, obviously, you might want to make sure that this project is okay with your employer before you carry it into a formal meeting, but if you get a thumbs-up, there’s something awesome to me about the idea of carrying a Star Wars case into said meeting with your company-important documents. This could also be used for things around the house, like keeping your receipts or pictures in, and it’s a small enough project to easily manage between today and May 4, 2018!

This is the perfect day, in my opinion, to embrace your inner nerd and run with your sewing projects! It’s for what could be labeled the epitome of Sci Fi/Fantasy movies, and there’s plenty of room to work these mentioned projects into your May the 4th schedule. Need proof? Here you go: You could grab that Star Wars quilt and the baked goods you made while wearing your apron, toss that quilt over you and your kids in the Chewy costume and BB-8 skirt, put your distractions in your carrying case, and watch some Han Solo!

Tell-Tale Traits of a Primitive Quilt

Tell-Tale Traits of a Primitive Quilt

As I step further into the world of sewing, I find that there’s plenty of information out there that I didn’t even know to look for. My primary focus in sewing has been patchwork designs, and I definitely continue to hold a passion in regard to that style of work. I’d love to have a patchwork purse, patchwork clothing, patchwork pillows…

My primary focus in sewing has been patchwork designs, & I definitely continue to hold a passion in regard to that style of work.

My primary focus in sewing has been patchwork designs, & I definitely continue to hold a passion in regard to that style of work.

But I’m not sure I fully realized how many other avenues there are to plan out a quilt before I started looking, and those are details that can be interesting finds! Some of them, though, require a bit of an explanation to truly understand what a quilt of that nature is, and this post will explore one of those types in particular.

Once upon a time

I was in a social media marketing program where, for two of the classes, I had to keep a blog for a business. For one course, I used my author career as the business. For the other, I created a could-someday-be-real quilt company. It was fine, by the way, for the company to not actually be real in the current world!

The idea was that we were to explore marketing concepts through the blog and end up with a marketing plan — at least generally — by the end of the semester. During that quilt-company semester, I came across the idea of a primitive quilt, which was a fairly new phrase to me. At the time, I focused mostly on the social media presence of one particular company, but I find myself now thinking on what exactly a primitive quilt is.

During that quilt-company semester, I came across the idea of a primitive quilt, which was a fairly new phrase to me.

During that quilt-company semester, I came across the idea of a primitive quilt, which was a fairly new phrase to me.

If I claim to be quilter, after all, it might help to know the basic terminology!

After research and consideration of a number of quilts with the label of “primitive,” I offer you a number of details that help to make a primitive quilt… Well, primitive! Note: These are commonalities — not necessarily requirements through and through!

A primitive quilt will make use of neutral colors, though things like dark red & dark blue can make appearances.

A primitive quilt will make use of neutral colors, though things like dark red & dark blue can make appearances.

Basic Coloring

By this, I don’t mean a color-equivalent to no-artificial-flavoring! I mean that the colors are typically more straightforward than neon oranges and vivid pinks. Instead, a primitive quilt will make use of neutral colors, though things like dark red and dark blue can make appearances. These quilts often employ the colors that you might think of when words like “rustic” come to mind — which rationalizes why red and blue are used in regard to red barns and blue skies. In the end, if you plan on making a primitive quilt, you might want to keep the lime green fabric stored away for another project!

Simple Fabric Patterns

Like the coloring, the fabrics, too, are less elaborate than what might be common for a more vividly styled work. Typically, patterns — rather than fabrics — steal the focus in primitive quilts, so no fabric should be so busy or stand-out that it takes attention above and beyond the level of the quilt pattern as a whole. For this, solid colors or very simple patterns on your fabric are your best bet for forming your primitive quilt.

Basic Shapes

Don’t fancy it up!

Don’t fancy it up!

While the overall quilt might have a remarkably interesting visual in regard to its structure, the pieces of fabric that make up that visual are often based on the simplest of designs, like triangles, squares, and rectangles. This doesn’t mean that only geometric shapes can be used for your quilt though! Other shapes can come into play, but make sure to keep them simple to provide that outdated appearance that’s so synonymous with the rustic, primitive design. Think to yourself what the simplest method of delivering an object or shape is — don’t fancy it up!—and you could have the right look!

Empty space

The patterns for primitive quilts are structured, but those empty spaces between the distinct pattern formations can be just as organized. Now, this isn’t necessarily the case for every quilt! It’s not unheard of though for darker, geometric patterns of multiple fabrics to be separated by pieces of lighter fabric that are larger than any individual dark piece. It creates an overall repetition to the quilt, and the result is an almost soothing effect in that the contrast softens the appearance to something calming and steady. As I said, this tactic might be more pronounced in some primitive quilts than others, but don’t be shocked if you notice it fairly often for quilts of this style.

Geometric patterns of multiple fabrics to be separated by pieces of lighter fabric that are larger than any individual dark piece.

Geometric patterns of multiple fabrics to be separated by pieces of lighter fabric that are larger than any individual dark piece.

If you keep these things in mind, you’re on your way to planning a primitive quilt!


References:
Alcorn, J. (2014, September 10). What Is Primitive Home Decor? Retrieved from: https://www.primitivestarquiltshop.com/blogs/quilt-shop-gathering-place/24406593-what-is-primitive-home-decor
Craftsy. (2017, April 24). Can You Spot a Primitive Quilt? Retrieved from https://www.craftsy.com/blog/2017/04/primitive-fabric/
Groovy Projects for Groovy Buttons

Groovy Projects for Groovy Buttons

One of my absolute favorite parts of life is being an aunt, and my youngest niece as at the adorable age where hitting cookie tins like drums is an awesome-good time. She also adores books, and as an author, I think that’s a good thing! In fact, I spent a decent amount of time last week reading (and re-reading) her the same story, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. I had a suspicion that her appreciation of the book was linked to the interesting painted look of the illustrations, but whatever the reason, her focus on the book was real.

I spent a decent amount of time last week reading (and re-reading) her the same story, Pete the Cat & His Four Groovy Buttons.

I spent a decent amount of time last week reading (and re-reading) her the same story, Pete the Cat & His Four Groovy Buttons.

During the book, Pete the Cat has — you might’ve guessed — four groovy buttons that are on his coat, but they pop off one at a time until he’s left with just his belly button. He was cool with it though and “kept on singing his song” (Litwin, 2012, p. 23).

Just keep singing your song!

Just keep singing your song!

Precious Moments

It would be easy to write off these kinds of moments with my niece as just sentimental, but inspiration for creativity can be found in them as well. For instance, Pete the Cat has buttons, and if there’s one element of old clothes that you can keep and re-use for a number of reasons, it’s a button! Right now, as a matter of fact, I have something in need of a button replacement, and if I’d been keeping the buttons from old clothes like I could’ve been doing, I would’ve had one at my disposal to do the repair.

Something about these details — Pete the Cat’s buttons and needing a button for repair — mingled with my brainstorming for this post to lead to creative territory in regard to using buttons for sewing projects. You see, you don’t just have to use them for structural purposes. Pretty easily, they can be used for décor on a number of projects. And for whatever reason, this button-detail seems to have become its own trend to the point where you can buy button stickers for scrapbooks and projects, and there are plenty of artistic endeavors outside of sewing that use buttons.

There are plenty of artistic endeavors outside of sewing that use buttons.

There are plenty of artistic endeavors outside of sewing that use buttons.

Needle and thread

Since this is a sewing blog though, we’ll focus more on the projects that the lost, but still groovy, buttons of Pete the Cat could’ve gone to in the world of needles and thread.

This button purse idea in particular stuck out to me as a possibility.

This button purse idea in particular stuck out to me as a possibility.

I mentioned before that I would like to make a purse, so this button purse idea in particular stuck out to me as a possibility. Simple fabric could be used to make the purse itself, and the buttons could be the stand-out quality of its appearance. Of course, I’d need a lot of buttons, but it would be an interesting take for a first-purse experience! Also, if I messed up my sewing, a well-placed button might hide my mistake!

Fashion statement

Since headbands are small projects, making one for the sake of a button endeavor might not be too hectic of an idea!

Since headbands are small projects, making one for the sake of a button endeavor might not be too hectic of an idea!

Other options for using buttons include fancying up jackets, shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, and even shoes! Honestly, if someone had been following Pete, that sewing fan or crafter could’ve been assembling the materials for an interesting project, like breadcrumbs leading to a prize.

Opportunity of abundance

And two wonderful details about this scenario are that buttons are easy to come by and easy to store! A simple jar could hold dozens of buttons that you collect as you go through your clothes to see what you’re going to toss. If you’re in too big of a rush to assemble your button stash this way, you can buy new ones and still keep them in a way that won’t take up too much room. They’re just buttons, after all! You could have the means to fancy up your projects in a bowl that’s waiting by your couch!

Would I have thought of exploring this so thoroughly, and in this way, if I hadn’t spent so much time reading about Pete losing his groovy buttons? Who knows! But it goes to show that inspiration can come from anywhere, and it pays to keep your creative mind open from day to day to see what ideas simply living life brings to mind.


Reference: Litwin, E. (2012). Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. New York: Scholastic.
Sewing Project Kits: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Sewing Project Kits: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Like many things in life, sewing has a series of ways it can be done that could be different for each individual person. Once upon a time, I covered one of those details in my post about how to press your seams, and there are plenty of other ways that preference can sway the way a person sews.

Weighing the pros & cons of sewing project kits.

Weighing the pros & cons of sewing project kits.

This week, I found myself considering one of those preference details, and that involves pre-assembled kits for sewing projects. Some people might love these kits for their sewing craftiness, and others might feel that the kits come with more negative details than positive. So, as you might’ve guessed, this is the subject for today’s post: Weighing the pros and cons of sewing project kits.

Pros:

If you choose the right kit, you can have the fabric & pattern that you need to create an impressive project at your fingertips just by making this one purchase.

If you choose the right kit, you can have the fabric & pattern that you need to create an impressive project at your fingertips just by making this one purchase.

If you choose the right kit, you can have the fabric and pattern that you need to create an impressive project at your fingertips just by making this one purchase. That’s most of the project-specific details in one package, minus things like thread and general sewing requirements. All in all, these are really convenient in that regard!

You can see an example of your finished project goal before you start. In fact, you can browse project kits until you find one you feel is perfect for your taste and purpose, and you’ll have the fabric to replicate the picture without having to piece together the appearance for yourself. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a project online that I wanted to be able to create, but something as simple as not knowing or being able to find the right fabric can lead to a very different final product. The idea that a pre-assembled kit can cut out that possibility is worth thinking over.

Some of these project kits can be fairly cheap. I’ve found some online for around or under $20—which isn’t that pricey if they come with fabric. Other options can be pricier, but if you stick within your budget, you could find a project kit that doesn’t break your bank account. Even if they are pricier, it’s worth considering how much buying the individual pieces for the projects would be without the kits since the prices might still be reasonable under that kind of inspection.

Cons:

These kits can lessen your input in projects.

These kits can lessen your input in projects.

These kits can lessen your input in projects. While providing the fabric can be a pro, as I said before, it’s also a potential con if you want a project that’s more yours than the sewing kit allows. Maybe you want a gym bag like the kit shows, but you’d rather have star-print fabric than what was provided. If that’s the case, then you’d probably do better searching for a free or cheap pattern and buying your own fabric. In that scenario, even $20 could be a bit much to pay.

The process could be so specific that it doesn’t really challenge an advanced sewing enthusiast. I find the same notion to be true in regard to pre-cut blocks of fabric. If too much work is done for you, you might not be pushing yourself to grow in your craft. Like with a number of other details in life, you have to give yourself space to grow if you want to improve. If everything is given to you pre-ready for assembling, you’re cheating yourself out of bettering your own preparation skills.

Costly regrets

If you have the wrong fabric, after all, you can’t necessarily create the project you intended.

If you have the wrong fabric, after all, you can’t necessarily create the project you intended.

I’ve seen at least one review of a project kit where someone complained that the sent fabric didn’t match up perfectly to what was on the project kit image. I can’t say for sure if this is the case, and even it is, all kits wouldn’t automatically come with the same flaw. Still, it’s worth noting that at times, this could be an issue that makes the kit less impressive than expected. If you have the wrong fabric, after all, you can’t necessarily create the project you intended. Additionally, if the fabric you do receive is so against your taste that you have to replace it, then we’re back to point #1 on the cons list because removing the fabric from the kit lowers its value to where the price could be too much. Who wants to pay for a kit that’s supposed to include fabric, then have to buy extra fabric? Not me!

Given though that con #3 is based on a review that I can’t prove or disprove, I still feel like trying one of these project kits could be worth the money for a person who’s new to sewing, or at least new to sewing a specific product. I’d love to try to sew a purse, for instance, but it’s something I’ve never done. Using a kit could ease me through my first purse and help me get some familiarity with the process before I step into the world of purse-sewing more on my own.

So, I guess my thoughts now are that these sewing kits can be great for beginners, but those with more sewing experience might find them too simple and dictated to fully embrace.

Would you agree or disagree with those assessments? Are you pro-project kit? Let me know in a comment!

T-Shirt Quilts: Superhero Style!

T-Shirt Quilts: Superhero Style!

Superhero movies are a pretty big thing these days, and I find little shame in saying that I’m a fan of some of them myself. Even in my childhood days, I remember watching the X-Men, Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers… I even liked the old-school Adam West Batman TV series.

As the years rolled on and high school surrounded me, X-Men was made into a movie and began the string of Marvel films that have been hitting theaters for years. And, sure, the X-Men movies mutilated my favorite character’s personality, but they still brought me joy in themselves, and in sparking a series of movies about characters I admittedly wasn’t overly familiar with — like Iron Man and Captain America. That might sound ridiculous coming from a superhero fan, but I wasn’t really into the comic books — just what TV and movies brought me in my favorite shows (which might be a bit embarrassing!).

Avengers assemble!

I’ve taken such a shine to some of these newer-to-me superhero characters — Avengers!!!

I’ve taken such a shine to some of these newer-to-me superhero characters — Avengers!!!

Since that first X-Men movie though, I’ve taken such a shine to some of these newer-to-me superhero characters — Avengers!!! — that I’ve fake-married a number of them in the Game of Life. Now, that is appreciation!

These characters and stories are so remarkable to me that I would love to have some kind of sewing project that’s superhero-related, and I’ve been thinking about my options. As a quilter, I could make a superhero quilt, but I’d want to do something a bit more interesting than just buy collage-types of fabrics and make squares out of them. This week, I was doing sewing research, and I came across a wonderful option: a t-shirt quilt that’s superhero-based.

Hip, cozy, fun!

This week, I was doing sewing research, & I came across a wonderful option: a t-shirt quilt that’s superhero-based.

This week, I was doing sewing research, & I came across a wonderful option: a t-shirt quilt that’s superhero-based.

There are plenty of solid reasons for making a t-shirt quilt, not the least of which is that it’s a good use of fabric you might have in your house since it’s created from t-shirts. In fact, having the shirts already is the best strategy because if you don’t have them, buying them brand new could cost you some serious money! Think about how much you’d spend by paying $20 per shirt with maybe one block coming from each. That’s an expensive project!

But, there’s an alternative if you don’t have those shirts! You could keep an eye out for used ones at local stores or online shops, like I’m thinking of doing. If you can buy them cheap, maybe one shirt here and one there, you could end up with enough tops for a whole quilt without ever breaking your bank!

If you can buy them cheap, maybe one shirt here & one there, you could end up with enough tops for a whole quilt without ever breaking your bank!

If you can buy them cheap, maybe one shirt here & one there, you could end up with enough tops for a whole quilt without ever breaking your bank!

Use what you’ve got

As I said though, having the t-shirts already at your disposal is the best tactic, but not only because there’s no additional fabric purchase for that top layer of the quilt. Another good detail is that you can use this process to declutter your home. How many times do you go through your closet and end up with clothes you never wear? How often do you find yourself needing more room to store your things? If you make use of your graphic t-shirts in a quilt, you’re clearing out space in a productive, creative way that you can use for years to come for practical purposes — and that’s not a bad takeaway from going through your clothes for things to toss!

If you use your own shirts, it also comes with the additional bonus of being able to add sentimental value to the quilt beyond knowing that it’s something you made yourself. Once it’s finished, you could look over your blocks and recall memories that are tied to each piece. Maybe you bought the Iron Man top while on a fun shopping spree with your best friend. Maybe you wore that Black Widow t-shirt to a concert you had a blast at. Maybe you were wearing a Hulk shirt when you got the news that your niece was born. A number of memories could be tucked away in a fun, energetic quilt that primarily came from clothes you had in your closet — low budget, close-to-the-heart, and organization-friendly!

Quilt block paneling

For a superhero t-shirt quilt, you have yet another bonus of the quilt actually mimicking the set-up of a comic book because comic books, too, are given in blocks.

For a superhero t-shirt quilt, you have yet another bonus of the quilt actually mimicking the set-up of a comic book because comic books, too, are given in blocks.

For a superhero t-shirt quilt, you have yet another bonus of the quilt actually mimicking the set-up of a comic book because comic books, too, are given in blocks. Honestly, the connection is so reasonable that making a quilt for comic book superheroes seems like a fairly flawless link. I’m pretty excited to put this idea into action, even if I have to build up my superhero shirts to do it!

For those of you who do have a ton of graphic t-shirts, you could get started on this kind of project in the same way you would for any other quilt. For those of you who don’t, be like me and start keeping an eye out for cheap, used options to buy and store until you get enough to make your crazy-awesome quilt!  If you do these things, a superhero quilt could be in your future, and if you’re a nerd like me, that’s a good prospect!

Sewing in 1900: Mary Cassatt's Take

Sewing in 1900: Mary Cassatt’s Take

One of my regrets in life is that I never majored in art history. Ever since my high school humanities teacher introduced me to the world of architecture, painting, and sculpture, I’ve had a hard time shaking the interest in the subject. Sure, I majored in history, but the focus was more on rulers and wars than painters and art masterpieces. Shame, right?

Art can be a window into society that allows a distinctive look into the world it was created for, and it can be so arbitrary and open to interpretation that two people can garner two completely different meanings from the same piece. Regardless though, it’s still that window, and it’s still a peek into a time past if you look at the most historic works.

This looks familiar!

This post's painting of choice: Mary Cassatt’s Young Mother Sewing.

This post’s painting of choice: Mary Cassatt’s Young Mother Sewing.

I hadn’t realized until recently that sewing was such a theme in art from the last centuries. Apparently, painting an image of sewing — which, in itself, can be art — has been a goal in more than one artistic work. This concept intrigues me so much, guys! I’m interested in looking into these works and examining them with an artistic eye and historic mindset. What are the differences in these paintings, and what can be inferred from each concerning sewing in that historic context?

So, you might have guessed, I plan to explore some of these works on this blog! Those explorations won’t be every post since I think more of a mixture of post angles creates for a more engaging set-up, but here and there, look for a sewing-related work of art to surface — complete with analysis and description.

This post’s painting of choice: Mary Cassatt’s Young Mother Sewing

This oil on canvas painting is from 1900, and it’s a part of Cassatt’s exploration of the dynamic between women and children that reportedly began a decade before the completion of this painting. Given that the people in this painting are, in fact, a woman and a child, the connection is clear, but what does the delivery say about the circumstance and, specifically, sewing at the time?

Take a pencil & draw a triangle around the main focal point of the work. That targeted area can draw attention directly to the focal point.

Take a pencil & draw a triangle around the main focal point of the work. That targeted area can draw attention directly to the focal point.

Well, first we can identify what the focal point is for this work, and that’s obviously the woman and child — both, as if they’re actually one object and inseparable. There is literally no part of this child that exists outside of the woman’s space if you include the dress she’s wearing. Attention is drawn directly to the pair because of the composition of the work, which incorporates the pyramid look that has so often surfaced in the art world. With this approach, basically, you could take a pencil and draw a triangle around the main focal point of the work, and that targeted area can draw attention directly to the point the artist wants you to notice.

Because this painting was from a period that explores the woman-and-child relationship, there’s really no surprise in the detail that the woman and child are the focal area. In fact, the overall imagery of the woman and child dominate the painting so strongly that the detail that the woman’s sewing is almost background material within the focal pyramid.

More than meets the eye

Unbalanced section.

Unbalanced section.

So what does this background trait say about the importance of sewing in the work?

I think it shows sewing as something that was simply a part of the taking-care-of-children theme rather than something that was being done out of love for the pastime, and if you consider the balance of the painting, that theory gains merit. Everything outside of the pyramid is more or less balanced, from the trees outside to the windows, except for the fact that there’s a series of items that show up on the same side of the painting as the child. The table, vase, and flowers are variations of that balance, and they tip the importance scale more in favor of the child — which happens to be away from the sewing.

She’s tunnel-focused on that sewing project as the child leans over her & stares outward.

She’s tunnel-focused on that sewing project as the child leans over her & stares outward.

Hidden messages

Still, even if sewing is only being shown as a means to care for the child, it’s worth noting that the woman doesn’t look unhappy while sewing. Her brow isn’t crinkled in any way that shows frustration, and her lips aren’t overly drooping in a frown. Rather, she’s tunnel-focused on that sewing project as the child leans over her and stares outward. Perhaps then the sewing message to be inferred from this work is that sewing was just another piece of the puzzle, and the woman in the painting is capable of seeing to that task perfectly — and without visible frustration — while still keeping the child as the primary priority.

This would fall in line with the notion that Cassatt was exploring that woman-and-child relationship, and it’s a tactical outlook on sewing that doesn’t include any sort of negative expression from the woman. All in all, it was a part of life for the historic time frame, and the woman is committed to seeing to the task — for the sake of her child, but not with any real disgust for the job.

But, as I said, art is open to interpretation! What do you guys think can be inferred about sewing in 1900 from this painting?

The Deeper Side of Toy Sewing Machines

The Deeper Side of Toy Sewing Machines

I remember being a child in a store when my mom was deciding to buy another child a toy sewing machine. I was too young for it, making it what could’ve been a dangerous option for me, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t jealous of the other child who would get the sewing machine!

Fast forward a couple of decades or so, and my brother asked me if a toy sewing machine he was thinking about buying would work. My response was something like, “No, they never do.”

Toys are for kids

In a world of game systems & electronics, toy sewing machines that may or may not work are still on the shelves.

In a world of game systems & electronics, toy sewing machines that may or may not work are still on the shelves.

This might be a misconception on my end of things in assuming that toy sewing machines will be, simply put, less than adequate. In fact, one or two of them probably do at least basically stitch together the small projects they come with. But it’s led to a question in my mind that I’d like to explore for a bit. That question is why sewing continues to be an intriguing prospect as the years roll by, to the point that in a world of game systems and electronics, toy sewing machines that may or may not work are still on the shelves. Even for adults, sewing can be seen as a throwback hobby, so why is it so appealing that a younger generation would still add a sewing machine onto their lists to Santa along with the latest Wii and the most impressive riding toy on the market?

Pass it on

Here’s a pass-it-on quality that goes along with sewing.

Here’s a pass-it-on quality that goes along with sewing.

Well, for one thing, there’s a pass-it-on quality that goes along with sewing, and as children, we were kind of prone to looking at what our parents were doing for inspiration. It’s no surprise this tradition passed on to today’s world if you think about things in that context. Our great-great grandparents may have needed to create their own clothes, blankets, etc. in a world that was very different than ours, and even when society changed enough to start negating that need through things like the division of labor, there were still probably little eyes looking up at the quilters and such who continued their crafts in spite of the changes, maybe out of genuine love of the endeavors. That generation could’ve kept the tradition going for another group of young eyes to latch on to, on and up to recent times when little eyes are looking at that little sewing machine that looks so much like the one at home.

Invaluable skills

Sure, you can pay a seamstress to sew the rip in your coat’s lining, but in the long run, being able to sew that lining yourself saves money.

Sure, you can pay a seamstress to sew the rip in your coat’s lining, but in the long run, being able to sew that lining yourself saves money.

It’s also practical! No matter who you are and what you do, you’re probably going to need something mended at some point in your life. Not only does this increase the odds of those little eyes seeing sewing in action, but it provides usefulness to the hobby that makes it a logical thing to learn. Sure, you can pay a seamstress to sew the rip in your coat’s lining, but in the long run, being able to sew that lining yourself saves money. I admit that most kids probably aren’t diving into the sewing world with money in mind, but being able to contribute with such a grown-up task could be appealing to them. Don’t believe me? Try baking a cake in a room full of kids and see how many offer to help!

A family that sews together stays together

Sewing, as it happens, has the added bonus of being so convenient that I can sew & watch my superhero movies at the same time!

Sewing, as it happens, has the added bonus of being so convenient that I can sew & watch my superhero movies at the same time!

Sewing, as it happens, has the added bonus of being so convenient that I can sew and watch my superhero movies at the same time! Because of this convenience factor, it can be an endeavor that comes with good memories and feelings for children. Think about it. If I were making a rag quilt, I could sit with my nieces while a cheesy cartoon played and fray the edges for the quilt. It’s a hobby that allows time for them, and that’s a detail that a child could easily appreciate. With those kinds of good feelings and that pleasant context, picking up a sewing interest isn’t that shocking!

A generational tradition

On the flipside, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles… We might appreciate the interest as well. Why? For one thing, it’s creative, which helps a child expand in imagination and think outside of the box. The little sewing enthusiast could construct a final product that really took time and effort, and that pride could be something that proves fulfilling enough to warm the nearby adult’s heart. Another appealing detail for the adults buying these toys and encouraging the interest is that sewing is a relatively safe activity for a child who’s reached an appropriate age. Clearly, you shouldn’t hand a three-year-old a sewing needle, but an older, more mature child would be able to dive into the hobby with little worry over injuries.

For child and parent then, this could be an easy interest to embrace! So, why was I confused about the continued existence of toy sewing machines again?!