Christmas Tree Turtlenecks

Christmas Tree Turtlenecks

Its finally autumn in New York City. The temperature dropped this past week and people broke out their jackets and sweaters and knit caps. The kids are back to school and if you’re out and about around three or four in the afternoon, you’ll likely encounter gaggles of uniform clad youngsters walking home from school and stopping into the corner bodegas for gum, nail polish, or comic books.

I was one of those super nerdy kids who always liked going back to school. I especially enjoyed getting new clothes for the occasion. When I was of elementary school age, my mom still made a lot of my clothing (and that of my three brothers). We were those kids who had matching plaid pants and skirts because Mom would buy a couple or three yards of a fabric and use it to make something for each of us. I didn’t mind so much. I thought my two little brothers were super annoying but, my big brother, who is 18 months older than me; well, I thought he was the best. I didn’t care that my red and white plaid skirt was made from the same fabric as his pants. It showed we were related and I was ok with that.

matching shorts and jumper for my birthday

matching shorts and jumper for my birthday

Mother knows best

Mom also went through this phase of embroidering designs on the fronts of plain cotton long sleeve turtlenecks for me. I have no idea where she found the time to do this. I remember having a red one with a Christmas tree on it and a brown one with flowers. I was a true child of the 70s and my Mom, always hip, dressed me like one, even when she couldn’t afford to buy me brand new clothes.

Mom made long skirt and plaid pants for Santa visit. My brother and I were very stylish.

Mom made long skirt and plaid pants for Santa visit. My brother and I were very stylish.

I also remember the huge JC Penny, Sears, and Montgomery Ward fall and Christmas catalogues. I would spend hours going through them, turning down the corners of the pages with items I hoped maybe Mom could buy for me. My parents were pretty good budget makers and keepers and somehow managed, even with four kids on a high school principal’s salary, to still be able to buy all of us some new clothes for the every year for back to school.

To Black Friday or to not Black Friday

We never actually ordered from the catalogues. I’d pick out what I wanted and then we’d all pile into Mom’s van and head to the mall where the JC Penny store was. Then, I’d spend hours searching the store for the pieces I’d ear marked in the catalogue. I thought that whole thing incredibly fun – which is rather ironic because nowadays I abhor shopping in actual stores for clothes and, on the rare occasions that I purchase new wardrobe items, buy most everything online.

Somehow, in my old(er) age, I’ve grown to dislike mass produced apparel of any kind, and shopping in general.

Unless, that is, I’m buying something cycling related. I go hang out in my preferred local bike shop even when I don’t necessarily need something. I’ve spent time thinking about the why of this and have come to the (fairly obvious) conclusion that the reason I’ll go to the bike shop in person and am completely fine with paying a bit more for things I could get at a slightly discounted rate at an online super store, is for the free, excellent cycling (and local food and bar) advice and recommendations from the bike shop owner and employees.

No flavor to savor

Everything in the stores these days looks the same to me and nothing looks like me anymore. Perhaps this is just a common occurrence, or realization, that manifests as you get older. I never wanted to look like everyone else, not even way back when I picked outfits from the JC Penny catalogue. Before everyone could buy anything they wanted from anywhere online, I used to beg Mom to take us to the mall the next county over because the stores carried different things than the stores in our local county mall. Then I was able to get things that no one else at school would have.

I think that’s probably why I loved those embroidered turtlenecks my Mom used to make me so much. Nobody else at school had a shirt just like mine. And I could even claim to have helped pick out the design. Guess I was indeed destined to end up sewing and creating for a living.

The Christmas Tree Turtleneck. Not a great photo of it but the only one I could find. Note that my brother (sitting across from me) is wearing a turtleneck in the same color.

The Christmas Tree Turtleneck. Not a great photo of it but the only one I could find. Note that my brother (sitting across from me) is wearing a turtleneck in the same color.

Be true to yourself

In this world of factory mass-produced disposable goods, individual style is truly a wondrous thing to have. So cultivate yours and that of others as much as you can. Make something for a child in your life, even if its as simple as embroidering a cheesy design on a cotton turtleneck.

You can find some great embroidery designs right here at Sewing Machines Plus to get you started:

A Sewing Vacation

A Sewing Vacation

I need a vacation…

In the past week, I think I’ve said “I need a vacation” about a zillion times (yes, that’s a real number – not just a sewing measurement ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ). Ideally, I want the type of vacation where I’m not tied to technology. I want to check out from the world. Reading and sewing are high on the list of things I’d do during this much needed vacation. I’ve seen knitting cruises in the past and though I’m looking to get away from people right now, if a sewing cruise existed, I might be tempted.


Fellow sewers and crafty people tend to be more fun and easier to get along with than the people I interact with regularly as a freelancer. Don’t get me wrong, I love my clients, I just need a break. As an introvert, extensive downtime is key to my survival.

Sewing is one of many ways I escape the stress and daily pressures of life, so you can understand why I’d be tempted with a sewing cruise. If any travel planners are among my faithful readers, here’s what I think it would look like. If you set one up through your travel agency, please reach out!

My ideal sewing vacation

My old singer is heavy, so if machines were provided, I’d be happy to use another machine for the duration of my trip. Also, I do like the cruise concept, even if it’s just around the coast line for a long weekend. In New England, Maine and Massachusetts both have boats that offer these type of trips. On the cruise ship, there’d be an area set up with sewing machines and the option to either choose a project offered by the trip organizers or bring one of our own.

As with any vacation, fabulous food to meet everyone’s dietary requirements and plenty of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are necessary. For living arrangements, standard rates for double rooms, of course, but I’d be willing to lay out some extra cash to have a single room and the break from people I’m looking for.

While it’s not necessarily something I’d be interested in, to keep the cruise exciting and fun for everyone, activities like speakers and classes would be excellent. By the time the ship arrivals back to port, we’d all have finished a fun project, enjoyed some serious relaxation, and maybe learned a little something and made some new friends.

What do you think? Would you go on a sewing vacation cruise?

Sew your own Bandana


This weekend my family is going backpacking. It’s the first time all four of us, my husband, myself, and our two daughters, ages 7 and 4, will go on an overnight backpacking trip together. My husband, Eric, compiled a detailed list of the things I’d need to bring (he is taking care of the girls’ packs. Rad guy, right?).

On that list was a bandana. It’s been awhile since I had a bandana but I remember how useful they were when I used to go backpacking. They can be used as sweat catchers, scarves, headbands, face masks, pot holders, to keep the sun off your face or neck, and even to tie a tourniquet. Honestly, their uses are endless. I just didn’t have one and darned if I was going to buy a bandana off of Amazon when I have a wall full of fabric bins and a sewing machine.

Getting started…


I grabbed a ½ yard of fabric which was a little over 18″ tall. If you have a bigger neck than me (that’s me in the photos) or want a larger bandana, grab 3/4 of a yard of fabric.

I cut out an 18″ x 18″ square. Again, size up if you want a larger finished piece. Once you’ve cut the square, roll it up and test it out unhemmed. Does it fit around your neck? Around your head? If you want it big enough to create a possible tourniquet, around your thigh?


Key step

Now is the most important part. Press and starch that sucker, especially around the unfinished edges.


You can make your hems as large or as small as you like. I like bandanas with TINY hems, so I rolled mine over even smaller than ¼”, pressing and starching all the way around. Then I doubled that over again, pressing and starching.


Start pinning

Done! At this point, you could pin the pressed and started hems but I have a feeling that if you used enough starch they are going to stay put while you sew.


Pick your thread. For this project I went with a purple that matched but once it was finished I wished I had gone with the lighter purple just for a fun contrast. You live and you learn.


If you are going to use a decorative stitch, make sure you have enough thread in your bobbin.


I tested out this decorative stitch on a separate piece of fabric first. I wanted a stitch that would look good and keep my hem nice and flat.



Start sewing a square. This is the easiest part after your prep work to get there.


If you have a shallow hem, use a seam ripper to hold down the corners as you go.


Admire your creation

Look that beauty! And you didn’t spend $12 on Amazon for it.


Try it on and enjoy. Happy camping!


Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at
Bringing the Autumn Vibe into Your Home

Bringing the Autumn Vibe into Your Home

Out of all four seasons that we experience throughout the year, my absolute favorite in regard to nature is autumn. A part of the reason for that is I live in mountain territory, and when the leaves start changing colors, it’s hard to find something that compares to how beautiful that is. It’s enough to try and think of ways to embrace the same visual within my home so that the beauty of fall can decorate my inside world as well.autumn-1072827_960_720

Because of my love of the season, I took to the Internet to find projects that would create that autumn vibe, and my initial thoughts about it seem to be backed up again and again through other sites.

All you need to do is to make sure you’re bringing the right elements into your sewing projects to represent fall. Sure, there are more specific notions of pumpkin-shaped pillows, but even something as basic as choosing the right fall traits to add as embellishments can make an ordinary throw pillow, blanket, or wall hanging represent the season.

Color pallet

For one thing, you should definitely consider your colors for fall projects since those bright, vivid hues melded together are synonymous with the season. Orange, yellow, red, and remnants of green are all a part of the typical fall-grasped leaf, so make sure you choose fabrics and embellishments that showcase those colors. Remember that fall leaves are often a series of these hues, so mix and match them in your projects to have a full autumn experience with your sewing project.fall-foliage-1740841_960_720

If you only have white fabric, try dying it to create the autumn theme. Anyone who has seen the final product of a tie-dye shirt knows the process leads to a series of patterned and blended colors, so you can use that general idea to mingle autumn colors on your fabric. You can blend the tips of orange in with the beginnings of the yellow, with little spots of green throughout, and the inconsistent spacing of the colors can really drive home the look of fall leaves.tie-dye-510230_960_720

Beyond your color choices, think of other seasonal elements that you can use to display autumn throughout your home. Pumpkins, candy corn, acorns, haystacks—all of these things can be used as inspiration for your projects through finding ways to represent their likenesses in sewing projects. A new quilt could look lovely with a scene that’s covered in fall elements, like pumpkins lining the area where haystacks and classic barrels are stationed. If you ground that setting in fall colors and embellishments of candy corns and acorns surrounding it, you’d have a creation to bring out of storage every fall to embrace the season.pumpkin-991825_960_720

You can shape your throw pillows, as mentioned, like pumpkins—or candy corn, acorns, fall leaves—and these little additions of autumn can boost the fall vibe in your home.

Reason for the season

One specific fall project is this leaf table runner. All you’d need to do is cut out fabric with a leaf pattern using fall colors—maybe dying them for that mixed feel—then sew them as individual leaves. You can add in the details of lines and spots of variation with fabric pens to give your leaves a more realistic feel than just a series of plain fabric. From there, you can sew them together in this slanted pattern to bring a bit of fall from one side of your table, mantle, or shelf top to the other. With the right skill and effort, this project could be finished well before the official beginning of fall later this month!Felt-Leaves-Table-Runner_Medium_ID-456743

This idea of embracing fall in your home can be applied to your kitchen as well by thinking of fall themes for potholders, in your bathroom through an autumn-inspired wall hanging, and any other room where a fabric splash of fall goodness would be fitting. Just let your imagination run with you, and you can come across a way to embrace the beauty of autumn in every single room of your home through the right colors and right embellishments!halloween-72937_960_720

Better still, once it’s time to put away your fall decorations, you can be clearing space to make room for your Christmas decorations, meaning you can trade one seasonal method of décor for another without having to do much rearranging. Keeping with the seasons by using beautiful, self-made details—with little fuss—equals a great situation from beginning to end!

Be sure to start brainstorming what elements represent fall to you, and go get the right fabric and supplies for bringing those projects to life!

Sewing for Independence

Sewing for Independence

June is wrapping up, which means that July is on the horizon. If you’re an American, that means Independence Day is right around the corner with its fireworks, watermelons, and recollections of the birth of our freedom. But along with those standard notions for the 4th of July, there’s also a sewing story to be found within the details of our nation’s birth. It’s a story you might be familiar with, and we’ll explore it a bit on this post.

Betsy Ross

Betsy Ross presenting her flag to George Washington & two other members of the Continental Congress.

Betsy Ross presenting her flag to George Washington & two other members of the Continental Congress.

Once upon a time in the 1700s, a widow—named Betsy Ross—who was trying to make ends meet by sewing and such was approached by none other than George Washington and two other members of the Continental Congress. Why? They wanted her to create a flag for the nation that was budding around them. It’s easy to write off this detail as unimportant since countries and states often have their own flags as standards, but when you dig deeper, you might find how significant this moment was in United States history.

“Don’t Tread on Me” flag.

“Don’t Tread on Me” flag.

Before this, not once since the colonists started struggling for freedom did they have one unifying flag. Rather, a number of flags were decorating their army, and that concept doesn’t spark ideas of unity—not to the level that one overall flag for an army can showcase. If one group is using a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, and another is waving the “Liberty Tree” one, that’s division even on a subtle level. Through Ross’s work, there would be one flag to fly for all the Colonials in their push toward independence. All of them would be united under that one flag in contrast to the subtle division they’d experienced before.

“Liberty Tree” flag.

“Liberty Tree” flag.

Ross accepted that responsibility to create the nation’s flag, and the rest is history.

But let’s take a moment to consider what could’ve happened if the United States had lost the war. I’ve heard how the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were essentially signing their own death warrants if the British had prevailed, and while I’m not saying that 18th century soldiers would’ve executed Ross for her assistance in the rebellion, it’s hard to say what her consequences would have been. Would she have been imprisoned? Banished? Would she have become a social outcast? Maybe she would have lost her business—her means of supporting her children—because she agreed to take on that duty of sewing the nation’s first unified flag.

Betsy Ross risked everything to make the USA's first flag.

Betsy Ross risked everything to make the USA’s first flag.

I’d be surprised if Ross herself didn’t wonder these same things. Imagine the unease she would’ve felt, thinking that she could’ve lost her means of providing for her children, as an 18th century widow, for such a sewing detail in the war. She could’ve passed the prospect on, choosing instead to let someone else sew the nation’s flag—someone perhaps who wouldn’t have so much to lose.

But she didn’t

She agreed to be an active part of the nation’s struggle for independence, risking so much to let her talent bring the colonists that sign of unity. And now? Now, we have flags waving across the nation and a pledge that’s to be given to that flag. Children have been taught to honor and revere the flag because what began with a handful of Continental Congressmen and one upholsterer has come to symbolize the nation as a whole and every man and woman who’s given their life or blood to keep it striving.

Did Ross know that so much would come out of her sewing project? She likely hoped the colonists would prevail to build a free nation, but knowing that it would happen is different. Even if she had known about their upcoming victory, how could she have known how much that flag would come to mean to the generations of Americans that would come in later years?

The evolution of an American tradition.

The evolution of an American tradition.

The point is that sewing was a part of our nation’s beginning, and it was a substantial moment for the United States. For once, we had a unifying flag, regardless of how much it could have cost just to agree to thread a needle and start sewing on it. Ross took that chance, and to say that the product has been significant to our nation would be an understatement. Overall, sewing has impacted our nation, and it’s linked to the struggle that allows us to celebrate our nation’s day of independence.

Enjoy the fireworks

So for the Americans reading this, happy Independence Day!

For others, even if the 4th of July is just another day on your calendar, consider how important such a small sewing project was. Will one of us sew something that noteworthy? Probably not! But clearly, each sewing project can matter—whether on a personal or public level. Tackle them with passion, because we never know how everything will turn out.

Can I Take my Sewing Machine on an Airplane?

Can I Take my Sewing Machine on an Airplane?

I’ve been doing a good job this summer of satiating (at least a bit!) my ever-present wanderlust.

I’ve been doing a good job this summer of satiating (at least a bit!) my ever-present wanderlust.

I’ve been doing a good job this summer of satiating (at least a bit!) my ever-present wanderlust. I’ve been to the Dead Sea and the Red Sea and stood in the middle of the desert in Jordan. I’ve wandered down into the depths of a pyramid in Giza and hiked to the top of Mount Sinai.

Today, I’m preparing for a cycling trip to the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan – during which we’re going to visit the local school and women’s sewing centre in Chirah (a vocational training project supported by the Red Spokes LVCF charity). You can read more about the center here. Red Spokes is also the company that’s organizing the cycling tour I’m about to embark on. If you happen to be interested in that, you can read about it here.

I’m super excited about both the cycling part and getting to visit the sewing center and will definitely try and spend some time communicating with the women there and learning about their lives and what sewing means to them.

Right now though, I’m exhausted after finally managing to (I think) get my bike packed up so it’ll survive both the TSA and the baggage handlers. (Wish me, or rather, my bike, luck).

Wrestling with my bicycle and bike bag this morning got me thinking about flying with sewing machines.

Can I Take my Sewing Machine on an Airplane?

Can I Take my Sewing Machine on an Airplane?

When sewing machines fly

When sewing machines fly

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve flown with a machine in tow. I think the last time I did was almost 8 years ago – and security measures weren’t as strict as they are now. I had the machine packed in a rolling suitcase and I recall that I gate checked it with JetBlue. You can also buy great sewing machine specific bags to transport your machine:

The important thing to remember though is to remove the needle and any other sharp tools if you’re going to bring as carry-on luggage.

A quick search on the TSA website does indeed confirm that you can bring a sewing machine in your carry on or checked bags.

The Sharp Objects List states that you can also bring knitting, crochet, and sewing needles and safety pins in your carry on but, scissors must be less than 4″ from the pivot point (like these):

TSA and contraband

I’ve been doing a good job this summer of satiating (at least a bit!) my ever-present wanderlust.

I’ve been doing a good job this summer of satiating (at least a bit!) my ever-present wanderlust.

Speaking of the TSA, they actually have a rather amusing Instagram account where they post pictures of confiscated items that people tried to bring on board airplanes as well as answer questions about whether or not specific items are allowed.

Travel tips

If you do happen to need to travel by air with your machine, here are a few tips:

  1. Take the lightest machine you own (only because it’ll be easier for you to carry through the airport. Most airlines don’t weight carry on bags). I know I talk about these Brother machines all the time but they really are incredibly lightweight and durable. And they sew well!
  2. Put your presser foot down on a piece of fabric and remove the needle. Make sure all your thread holders are folded or detracted if they’re foldable or retractable.
  3. Pack some foam or something else cushy around it in case it falls over on its side. I also like to put the machine inside some sort of plastic bag to protect it from water (just in case there’s a freak rain storm, or you drag it through a puddle or something is leaking somewhere).I’m a backpacker/hiker and bike commuter though so I pack everything into clear plastic drawstring bags. Because you just never know.If there’s extra or empty space in the bag or box with your machine, fill it up with something. Fabric, clothes, those air filled plastic pillows – whatever. The more secure a machine is in its case(or box) the less it’ll shift and bang around.
  4. If you happen to still have your machine’s original box and packing material, use that. You can tape the box up and either check it or carry it into the cabin with you. Be advised though, that if you’re taking it as a carry on, you’ll probably have to take it out of its box or case for security. So, bring a roll of packing tape with you so you can seal the box back up.
  5. Remember that the TSA officers are just doing their jobs and sometimes they have different interpretations of what that is or what items are allowed. I travel very often (mostly international) and if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s to always, always be kind and respectful (even if you think the person you’re dealing with doesn’t know what they’re talking about or are not understanding you). I spent almost twenty minutes at the Cairo airport explaining to an officer that I had metal bike pedals, metal clips in my bike shoes and a bicycle seat in my bag. By the end of it, we were both laughing and we both said thank you (I like to think that later, over dinner, he told his buddies or family about the crazy white girl who just biked across Jordan that went through his security line).

Fly, my pretties, fly!

I know that airport security measures can be annoying and I truly wish that there wasn’t the need for them (either real or imagined) but I’ve found time and time again that a pleasant thank you and a smile makes things go a lot more smoothly (and faster!) 😉

And with that, I’m off to JFK Airport. Safe and happy travels to all.

The (sometimes scary) Life of a Freelancer

The (sometimes scary) Life of a Freelancer

Camel fashion in Petra.

Camel fashion in Petra.

If you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been traveling a bit recently (And I’m actually preparing to head out tonight for one more adventure in a far-flung land). I tend to go on trips solo, often joining an organized group expedition that most likely involves riding my bike through some foreign country.

…you can’t keep putting off the things you want to do or the places you want to go on the assumption you’ll have time in the future to do them.

I meet lots of different people on these trips from all sorts of places and backgrounds. But two of the questions that every single person on this planet always seems inclined to ask are:

(1) What do you do for work?

And (2) some variation of How do you get so much time off work?

Different strokes for different folks

How do you get so much time off work?

How do you get so much time off work?

I give different answers to the first question depending on who’s doing the asking. Sometimes I just say I’m a tailor and pattern maker, though this confuses many people, as the fact that such a thing could be a career never occurred to them. Their idea of a ‘tailor’ is someone like their grandmother sitting at home in a rocking chair darning socks and patching jeans.

Sometimes I say I’m a tailor for film and television shows which usually elicits an “oh wow, that’s interesting!” I always answer that sometimes it is but most times it isn’t all that glamorous (I spend a lot of time hemming jeans and shortening men’s jacket sleeves) though I do enjoy what I do.

If the conversation continues from there it usually enters into the murky waters of “so you’re a freelancer?” Well, yes, sort of. But also, sort of no.

Am I a freelancer?

I am a freelancer - in a sense.

I am a freelancer – in a sense.

I’m a freelancer in the sense that I’m never completely sure where my next job might come from but I’m not in the sense that I belong to a union and therefore have excellent benefits and salary protection. Not all movies and television shows are union ones (if they’re not we call them independent films.) My particular local in NYC does not have what they call ‘a hiring hall’, meaning I’m responsible for procuring my own jobs; the union doesn’t send me on jobs or anything like that.

And I’m also not a freelancer in the way I get normally get paid on a project. Almost all film and television jobs use one of two payroll companies: Entertainment Partners or Cast & Crew. I get paid through them with taxes taken out and a W-2 at the end of the year. The nice thing about both of these companies is that they keep track of all your earnings throughout the years with all the different shows you’ve worked on so you can use them for employment and salary verification when you’re applying for things like mortgages (banks like employment verification!). They are, legally and technically, your employer of record.

Each show or movie sets up its own production company (usually an LLC) independent from whatever parent company it may have (NBC Universal, Disney, etc.) that in turn, enters into contracts with the payroll company and the unions.

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em & know when to fold ’em

My answer is very simple: “I just say no.”

My answer is very simple: “I just say no.”

If I get through all this mumbo jumbo financial stuff and the person I’m talking to is still actually listening, they’ll then ask about how I get time off.

My answer is very simple: “I just say no.”

…its good not to be available all the time.

It’s taken me a very long time to get to the point where I’m able to say no to things. When I was just starting out, I said ‘yes’ to absolutely everything. You kind of have to when you’re beginning, before you’ve built up your reputation. But now that I’ve been doing this for a bit over 25 years, I can turn down things I don’t necessarily want to work on and say ‘no’ to gigs if I’ve planned a trip or vacation.

Free spirit

It’s a glorious thing to be able to say no to something that sounds horrifying (like, for instance: an over night shoot way out in Queens or a huge period television show that some network executive thinks can be made with half the manpower than what is really needed).

Nancy Reagan just says no - you can too!

Nancy Reagan just says no – you can too!

It can be scary, for sure, because I never truly, completely know if I’ll get another job (freelancing is wrought with all kinds of anxiety!). But, if history is any indication, I will. And I try to trust that.

Another thing I’ve learned is that you can’t keep putting off the things you want to do or the places you want to go on the assumption you’ll have time in the future to do them. Because you won’t. Sometimes you just have to have a little faith.

I’m not saying it’s easy to get to the place I’m at. It’s not. I worked extremely hard for almost 20 years while never taking any sort of vacation or going anywhere. But, in my old(er) age work/life balance has become more important to me and, my connections and work reputation are strong enough to allow me to leave town for a couple weeks without jeopardizing my career.

Plus, its good not to be available all the time. Unless they’re a close friend, I never tell people why I’m not available, I simply say, “Sorry, I’m booked up for the next two weeks.”

Booked up on my own personal vacation maybe,  but they don’t need to know that.

Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.

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!

Somewhere in the Desert

Somewhere in the Desert

Camel fashion in Petra.

Camel fashion in Petra.

I just spent a week cycling from the Dead Sea in northern Jordan to the Red Sea in the south – spectacular views and a whole bunch of those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences. Among other things, I spent a day wandering around The Lost City of Petra and a night in the desert in a Bedouin camp. The Bedouin are Arabic speaking nomadic people of the Middle Eastern deserts.

One of the most interesting things I noticed were the beautiful and unique fashion styling the Jordanian men displayed, especially in Petra. In the depths of that city, amongst all the rocks and caves and roman ruins, I saw where Johnny Depp’s Pirates of Penzance look was born.

Many of the young men lined their eyes with a dark substance made from the ash of a burnt tree and mixed with olive oil. As well as having a soothing humidifying affect, the mixture protects the eyes from the sun. It’s really a brilliant concoction. And it makes the lashes look especially luxurious. The camels, as well, were decked out in beautifully colored tapestries. The whole city of Petra was simply stupendous.

Desert fashion

As most cultures who live in a desert climate, Jordanian’s dress in clothing that covers most of the skin. The young men were most often in skinny pants of some kind and flowing tops, sometimes in layers. But the most fascinating and beautiful component of their attire were the creative and intricate ways they wrapped their head scarves – many of them were truly works of art.

Young men in Petra.

Young men in Petra.

I watched one gentlemen as he wrapped his, twisting and turning and tucking it in a series of complicated moves I couldn’t even hope to follow. When done, the scarf was piled high on his head in twists with two twirling pointed ends hanging down to his shoulders on either side. Some men implemented designs with one cascading side corner, others in the more traditional technique of shielding the back of the neck.

The scarves, or keffiyeh as they are called in the Arab world, were in various colors, though the most prevalent were the ones us westerners are used to seeing – the back and white checkered and red and white checkered varieties. This pattern is thought to have originated from an ancient Mesopotamian representation of fishing nets or ears of grain.

In Jordan, the red and white keffiyeh, also know as a shemagh mhadab, is associated with the country and its heritage. They have decorative cotton or wool tassels on the edges – the bigger the tassels, the greater the garment’s value and the status of it’s wearer.

My cycling guide, Anas, wore a black and white one that he told me was representative of his Arabic heritage. I asked him where to buy a traditional good quality authentic scarf, not one from tourist shop. He told me that downtown Amman was the place to buy them and that they would be cheaper there than in the stores catering to tourists. A scarf like his, with smaller tassels and no border, would cost anywhere from 5.00JD to 10.00JD. A fancier one with a border all around could cost up to 20.00JD. He also told me that men tied the shemagh in different ways for no other reason than how they were feeling that day. I love that.

(Just a note on currency: the Jordanian dinar is a pretty strong currency: 1.00 JD equals about 1.40USD.)

Making friends around the world

Me with a one of the Beduoin people.

Me with a one of the Beduoin people.

I also loved the long garments worn by the Bedouin. They were most often dressed in light colored pants and a long matching light colored tunic (down to mid calf) with button closures on the front. They all looked extremely well put together. The long dress like tunic is called a thoab and is made of lightweight fabric. Under the thoab, the men normally wear a t-shirt and the long wide leg trousers called a serwal. I love how, though they all basically wear the same garments, there was still so much individual style and personality conveyed through their clothing. I think one of the most fascinating things about fashion is individual expression and how people are able to wear something in a way that allows their personality shine through.

I absolutely loved my time in Jordan. Everyone was extremely welcoming and hospital. Everywhere I went, I was greeted with, “You are welcome in Jordan.” What a truly wonderful thing.

I’m in Egypt now, writing this as I look out over the Red Sea in Dahab (I need a day of relaxing after cycling through Jordan). I know I promised to write about Egyptian textiles and the markets and I will. I’ll be in Cairo tomorrow trying out my bartering skills and will provide a full report next week.

Until then, take care and don’t forget to let your own personal style show through in whatever manner you desire.
Ma’is salama.

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!