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Apr 21 14

At Home with Modern June – review + giveaway!


When we found out that local designer Kelly McCants of Modern June + Oilcloth Addict was releasing a new book, we were beyond excited! Her last book, Sewing with Oilcloth, covered the wide spectrum of working with oilcloth, chalkcloth, and laminated cottons. In this book, At Home with Modern June, she takes it a step further by adding in all sorts of cotton prints.

at home with modern june by kelly mccants

I’m excited about this book for a million reasons, but I’ll try and narrow it down to just a few… First up, is the glossary, tips, and tricks section at the front. Kelly has covered all of the important points about working with oilcloth, bias binding, etc., but she is succinct. It’s nice that there are tips, but it’s also nice that she spent more time on the projects than teaching me how to sew. My favorite tip: when working with oilcloth or laminated cottons, it is recommend that you use a Teflon-coated or roller foot so that the fabric doesn’t stick to the foot. Don’t have one of those? Add blue painter’s tape to the bottom of your presser foot as a temporary solution!

Next up, these bunting flags:

at home with modern june by kelly mccants

Uhm… Who couldn’t love these? I think I’m going to make myself some of these to hang in my studio. They’re just so happy! And while Kelly uses vintage sheets, these would look just as cute in quilting cottons. And if you wanted to add a little something else, you could even machine applique letters or shapes on top of the flags. I think I might add some crocheted trim.

Another thing to love is that Kelly gives a little something for everyone. There a few projects that feature hand sewing, a few that feature quilting cottons, a few that feature oilcloth, etc. And she has divided the book in such a way that you can go right to the perfect project to spruce up your home. There are projects for your kitchen and dining rooms, living spaces inside and out, bathrooms, bedrooms, closets, and, my favorite, “creative space.” There’s even a quilt or two!

at home with modern june by kelly mccants

Want to see more? Kelly will be appearing at our annual anniversary celebration on June 28th. She’ll have a trunk show of some of the items in the book and will be doing a few quick demos for us. Kelly will also be able to sign your books while she’s here! We will be announcing the complete lineup for our anniversary celebration soon – this year we will be celebrating our 9th birthday.

Kelly generously dropped off a copy of At Home with Modern June for us to give away to one lucky person. Leave a comment below telling me what part of your home you’d like to spruce up first, and we’ll pick one lucky winner using random.org.  The deadline for comments is 8AM EST on Saturday, April 26th. (If you are reading this on Facebook, please click here to leave your comment on the original blog post; Facebook comments aren’t counted towards the free drawing.)

Apr 14 14

Baby Bunnies by Melly & Me – Working on


baby bunnies sewing pattern by melly and me designs

One of our favorite companies here at the shop is Melly & Me Designs. She makes some of the cutest stuffed animal patterns, including this new one, Baby Bunnies. This particular pattern comes in the format of a sewing card, so it’s also an inexpensive buy to make quick and easy gifts (or to try out a new pattern or technique!). I grabbed some of our new Confetti Dots from Dear Stella Designs (one of my new favorites) to whip up these guys.

baby bunnies sewing pattern by melly and me designs

These baby bunnies are easy to sew, although they do require a bit of forethought. There is a gusset across the bottom, which was much easier than expected, however you do need to really pay attention on the directions. They also have darts in all the right places to give them the cute, chubby feel. If you’ve sewn curves before, you’ll be fine!

baby bunnies sewing pattern by melly and me designs

baby bunnies sewing pattern by melly and me designs

Do you like the action shots? I walk to work many days, and since I needed some pictures of these bunnies, I thought it would be cute to take pictures of them “in the wild.” All of these scenes are from gardens or lawns right along the sidewalk, all it took was some imagination! I’ve always enjoyed my walks to work, but I have to say, this was way more fun than I expected. There was something about the thrill of hunting for the right place + getting some quick pictures before someone asked if I was crazy.

baby bunnies sewing pattern by melly and me designs

Some of the pictures that didn’t make the cut? The lighter bunny in a forsythia bush and the darker bunny on a bicycle seat. I’m wanting to make more stuffed animals and toys just so I can photograph them in unusual locations!

baby bunnies sewing pattern by melly and me designs


Not ready for the Baby Bunnies?

The Baby Bunnies pattern does have a gusset along the bottom, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’ve never sewn curves before, of if you’re not up for a challenge. If you like the bunnies, though, I would check out the Quick Easter Bunnies pattern from Rosalie Quinlan.

quick easter bunnies rosalie quinlan

Aren’t they cute? Because they don’t have a gusset across the bottom, they will be a bit easier to sew than the Baby Bunnies. I also love that they have have hand stitching on them – it offers many opportunities to play around!


Tips on Sewing Stuffed Animals

  • Pre-wash any and all fabrics (except for wool felt) that will be made into a toy for a child
  • Always use the highest quality materials you can find. Craft felt will not hold up as well as wool felt, and you always want your cotton fabrics to have a tight weave so they don’t pop when you’re stuffing your animal. Make sure your stuffing is high quality, too.
  • Read through your pattern before sewing. One thing to look out for – see if the lines on the pattern pieces are your sewing line or your cutting line!
  • Always use a light hand with marking pencils
  • Use a thread that matches your fabric and slightly shorten the stitch length on your machine
  • Make sure to clip all corners and notch or use pinking shears along curves
  • If you are giving your toy to a small child, make sure all buttons and embellishments are securely fastened, or substitute stitched details that won’t come off (i.e. wool felt for eyes instead of buttons)

baby bunnies sewing pattern by melly and me designs


If you’re not quite ready to jump into these little bunnies quite yet, make sure to check out our Introduction to Stuffed Animals class starting in a few weeks!


Apr 8 14

Natalie’s Napkins – Working on


natalie's napkins by atkinson designs

One of our newest patterns is Natalie’s Napkins by Atkinson Designs. This pattern talks you through making these gorgeous (and easy!) napkins. They come in two sizes, Luncheon (16″ square) and Dinner (19″ square), which make them perfect for every occasion. The pattern includes yardage requirements for 2-8 napkins in either size, but you could easily figure out how much is needed to make more. And, at only $7, this pattern makes whipping up a set of napkins inexpensive and easy.

natalie's napkins by atkinson designs

We often receive requests for an easy napkin pattern, and we’re happy to finally have one in stock. These napkins use a fun technique to give a nice finished edge with mitered corners. The directions are extremely well written (as are all Atkinson Designs patterns), and easier enough that someone with little sewing experience could conquer them. All you need is a little bit of patience (and I mean a little bit).

natalie's napkins by atkinson designs

I used our new Bee my Honey line from Moda – I thought these would be a fun addition to our table this spring or perfect for a summer picnic. These napkins would also be perfect for holiday table decorations – Christmas, Halloween, Hanukkah, and 4th of July. Because they are small and easy, it would be a great way to add festive cheer without having to decorate your whole house (especially if you’re lazy like me and never take down decorations). It would also be fun to do cute conversational prints – blue crabs for a summer dinner, princesses for a birthday party, baby prints for a baby shower, and many more.

natalie's napkins by atkinson designs

Also make sure and check out the bonus direction on how to fold your napkins in two stylish ways (as seen above and at the beginning of the post). If you’re completely inept at the social graces, as I am, than it gives you a nice place to start for an extra touch to your festive table. :D

natalie's napkins by atkinson designs

The one thing I will say is that while these make great last minute additions to your holiday or party table, please allow enough time to pre-wash your fabric. Even if you don’t normally pre-wash, it is necessary here. These napkins will be washed frequently and possibly in warm water – pre-washing will save you from any shrinkage or bleeding before you make your napkins!

Bon appetit!


Apr 3 14

Quilt Batting – Back to Basics


We regularly receive many questions about batting: What are the different kinds? How are they different? Which is good for what? Should I pre-wash? How far apart can I quilt? I’m hoping that this review of quilt batting will answer all of those questions, and more!

Let me start off by telling you about the brand we carry and why. We carry, almost exclusively, Quilters Dream Batting. Quilters Dream Batting makes a wide variety of products – including wool, cotton, polyester, and blended fiber battings – all of the highest quality. Their battings are made in the USA, and even cooler (for us), is that they’re a local company based in Virginia Beach. We like Quilters Dream because it is high quality and wonderful for both hand and machine quilting. Just like fabric, there are high quality and not-so-high quality battings. I’ve found that high quality batting (in some ways) is even more important that high quality fabric. Not-so-nice polyester batting is often thick and scratchy. When you use it for machine quilting the density often means that your quilt top shifts all over the place and your quilting doesn’t look so nice. Not-so-nice cotton is not quite as bad, but if you decide to hand quilt with it, you will find that your needle often doesn’t want to go through.


cotton quilting batting checkerboard quilt

Quilters Dream Cotton in Select weight – machine quilted on every edge of 2″ blocks. Made by me, Phoebe Guider.


Weights of batting

When you hear someone talking about batting, you will often hear them use the word loft to describe the weight of the batting. However, what that word doesn’t tell you is how heavy the batting is. Our wool is high loft, but I wouldn’t compare it to our highest loft cotton because they are A) different thicknesses, and B) different densitites. So the first thing to keep in mind about loft is that it’s all relative. Some battings only really come in one loft (see our blends, wool, and puff battings, below). So for this discussion, I’ll really just be focusing on the cotton and polyester battings.

Our cotton batting comes in 4 lofts: request, select, deluxe, and supreme. Request is a super-light batting that is the best for hand quilting. Select is not much heavier (nor much harder to hand quilt through), but does add just a touch more thickness – this is probably our best seller. Deluxe and supreme both add much more weight and a little bit of thickness. It’s hard to explain the thickness of these via the internet as I don’t have anything that you can reach through the screen and touch, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. :D

Our polyester comes in request, select, and deluxe, and those weights are comparable to the cotton versions.


cotton quilting batting

Quilters Dream Cotton batting in Select. My wife, Selina Guider’s, first (completed) quilt. Machine quilted by Rebekah Richardson.


Types of batting

Cotton – Cotton batting is what most people think of as the “traditional” batting. The cotton fibers are needle punched together similarly to the way felt is created. Quilts made with cotton batting are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Quilters Dream doesn’t use scrim (a polyester base) or glue in their cotton batting, which makes hand quilting a little bit easier. The cotton batting can be quilted up to 8” apart. It shrinks a very little bit when washed, which gives it that nice “quilted” look. It can be machine washed and dried, although I do recommend checking frequently to make sure your quilt hasn’t twisted itself in the washer or dryer. Cotton batting comes in natural or white.

Polyester – Polyester batting has a bit of a bad reputation among quilters. And I can see why when you compare polyester batting to what it was 10 years ago (or even just compare it to the not-so-nice stuff). Quilters Dream polyester batting is some of the nicest stuff I’ve ever touched. It’s just as soft as their cotton batting because it’s made with smaller pieces of polyester (microfibers). As with their cotton batting, the polyester is needle punched and doesn’t use a scrim or glues. It can be quilted up to 12” apart, and can be machine washed and dried. Quilters Dream regular poly batting comes in black and white. There are two more variations on polyester batting, though:

  • Green: Quilters Dream makes a special batting called Quilters Dream Green. It is made the same way as the regular polyester batting, but with recycled plastic bottles! Here is what they have to say about it: “Each pound of Dream Green Batting keeps 10 plastic bottles out of our landfills. Plastic bottles are cut into chips, washed, melted and extruded into fine polyester fibers. These recycled fibers are indistinguishable from “virgin” polyester fibers yet are made without depleting our precious natural resources. To avoid additional processing we have kept the soft “natural” green bottle color – but you can rest assured that Dream Green is colorfast and compatible to all your finest quilts and projects.
  • Puff: Dream Puff is a super-soft, high loft polyester batting that is bonded instead of needle punched to create a high, airy loft. The loft is approximately 1/3-1/2”, but it maintains all the softness of the other Quilters Dream polyester battings. It’s warmer than regular polyester batting and still machine washable. It is wonderful for trapunto and what I like to think of as the 70s/80s quilted look – lots of poof! Quilting can be up to 10 inches apart.

Wool – Quilters Dream wool is made with merino wool and has been carded and bonded in a process similar to the way the Dream Puff is made. The wool is scoured and washed before being turned into batting to ensure cleanliness. The batting has a fairly high loft, giving it a lot of body. It is a warmer batting, and can be quilted up to 8” apart. Can be machine washed and dried on a cool setting. Just like the Quilters Dream Puff, this makes beautiful trapunto and accentuates your quilting!

Blends – Quilters Dream makes two types of blends. The great thing about blending fibers is that they provide a different type of texture and stability than you can get with single-fiber battings.

  • Cotton/Poly – Dream Blend is 70% cotton and 30% polyester. Blend is done on a scrim to help prevent stretching of the fibers, and should be washed, dried, and ironed on a cooler setting. Ideal for any machine quilting. Available in select weight.
  • Bamboo/Silk/Tencel/Cotton – Known as Dream Orient, this blend of fibers gives you an exotic and drape-able batting. Bamboo has natural antibacterial properties, and by itself feels like silk. Silk provides drape and strength. Tencel is a type of rayon made from eucalyptus trees, and gives even more drape. And cotton gives the stability that offsets all of this drape! This batting will shrink up to 3% and can be quilted up to 8″ apart. Cool wash and cool dry.

Fusible – We carry the Quilters Dream Fusion and the Hobbs Fusible batting (in limited sizes). The Quilters Dream Fusion comes in both cotton and polyester in the Select weight. The Hobbs is cotton, with a similar weight to the Dream Fusion. Fusible batting helps eliminate the need for basting. Fusion is fusible on one side and Hobbs is fusible on both sides.


cotton quilting batting

Quilters Dream Cotton batting in either request or select weight. Hand appliqued, embroidered, and quilted by my grandmother, Marie Hartley. This quilt has been washed to give what I call the “quilted” look when the batting shrinks slightly.


Sizes of batting

All of these battings come in a variety of sizes and some can be bought off the bolt. Keep in mind that if you are having your quilt machine quilted, you need at least 4” extra of batting (and backing) all the way around the quilt.


wool quilting batting

Quilters Dream Wool batting. Closeup of the Marti Michell Set L Medallion block of the month. Pieced by me, Phoebe Guider, and custom quilted by Michelle Eno.


Choosing the right batting

Okay, here’s the important part – how do you chose your batting? The first question I usually ask people is “cotton or polyester?” And I usually get an “I don’t know!” in response. :D Here’s what you need to know about choosing cotton or polyester (or anything else):

  • Will your quilt be washed a lot (like a baby quilt)? If so, polyester will stand up better to repeated washings.
  • Do you like the “quilted” look where the fabric is drawn up just a little bit? If so, you want cotton batting – polyester won’t shrink to give you that look (or the Dream Orient blend)
  • Is your quilt made of dark fabrics? If so, you may want to consider the black polyester batting.
  • Will your quilt be used frequently – meaning will this be on someones’ bed every day or will it be in a closet? Polyester will probably store better than cotton, and last better than cotton, so either way, you want to give poly battings a fair chance.
  • Will you be hand quilting or machine quilting? The great thing about Quilters Dream’s battings is that both their polyester and their cotton are nice enough to hand quilt through! I would recommend the request weight, no matter the material, if you are going to be hand quilting. If you will be machine quilting, make sure to also check out the Quilters Dream Blend.
  • Will it hang on a wall? If so, polyester may be better, as it’s less likely to shift.
  • Will your quilt sit in the sun at all (it shouldn’t anyway)? Don’t use anything with fusible. At all. Ever. If it will be in the sun.
  • Do you want only natural materials? While cotton is an obvious choice, make sure and check out the Dream Orient and the Dream Wool, too!
  • Are you making a bag? Use polyester.
  • Are you making a table runner or placemats? Use polyester, they will survive the repeating washings better.
  • Does the person who will be using this get really hot or really cold? People who are really hot will like one of the lighter weights of cotton. People who are really cold will like the wool, the heavier polyesters, or the heaviest cottons.
  • Are you giving this to someone who can’t lift a lot? I know that this sounds crazy, but high-loft cotton batting is really heavy. I would probably never make a king size quilt with a high-loft cotton batting because it would just weigh too much. Go for lower loft and an extra blanket, or an airy polyester or wool instead.

Here’s the upshot – many quilters will not consider polyester because they’re used to the not-so-nice stuff, but in reality, the polyester that we carry is really nice and can even be hand quilted. The other thing you need to keep in mind that is that polyester never goes away. Ever. Plastics don’t disintegrate or degrade the way that all natural fibers eventually will, so you know that batting will not start to come apart. But of course the flip side to that is that your quilt is made of cotton fabric and cotton thread, so it eventually will come apart (I’m talking decades, here). The reality? It’s a personal decision. And while I can tell you how wonderful our polyester batting is, I really only ever use cotton batting in my quilts, for a variety of personal and not-so-personal reasons. My favorite: Quilters Dream Select.


Right now we don’t have any batting our website because we haven’t quite figured out what would be best to sell online. It’s so hard to ship because it is so bulky! So, until then, if you need us to ship you batting, please use the contact us form on our website. We will continue to carry a wide variety of battings in our store, and if we don’t have what you need, we can certainly special order it for you! If there are questions I didn’t answer here, please ask in the comments!



Mar 31 14

Tote Bag DIY (with pockets!)


diy tote bag


I love making bags, especially tote bags and other simple bags. But I find that many times I have trouble with the more simplistic bags because I can never find anything when I need it! I especially love the look of tote bags, but they never have any pockets. So here you will find my tutorial for what I like to think of as my pocket-ful tote.

This tote bag is quite large, so in parenthesis you will see the dimensions for making a slightly smaller size. If there are no parenthesis, than the measurement doesn’t change. Keep in mind that you can use this pocket technique with other bags, or even add and subtract pockets to this bag. Depending on the style of the bag, you can omit the zippers and just do open pockets this way.

tote bag diy



5/8 yd linen/cotton blend for outer (I used Essex in Natural from Robert Kaufman)
1 yd quilting cotton for lining and straps (I used Pearl Bracelet color B2 by Lizzie House)
1/3 yd quilting cotton for pockets (I used Confetti Dots in Delft by Dear Stella)
2 7/8 yds of 20” wide interfacing – Pellon Sheerweight or Pellon Shapeflex (I used Sheerweight for a fairly un-structured bag)
2 – 14” zippers (I used color Marshmallow)



Cut 2 – 19” squares (16”)

Cut 2 – 19” squares (16”)
Cut 2 – 6” x 25”

Cut 4 – 19” squares (16”)
Cut 2 – 6” x 25”

Cut 4 – 10 1/2” square



*1/2” seams are used throughout unless otherwise noted

Step 1 – Fuse interfacing to the wrong sides of both outer bag pieces and both lining pieces. Fuse the 6” x 25” of interfacing to the wrong side of the 6”x 25” handle pieces.


Step 2 – Take 2 of the 10 1/2” squares and mark them as follows:

    *Draw a line 1 1/2” from the top edge and a second line 2” from the top edge of the fabric square

inserting a zipper into a tote bag

    *Draw a line 1 1/4” from either side of the fabric – this will form a box shape

inserting a zipper into a tote bag


Step 3 – Find the center top of your outer bag pieces and your marked pocket pieces. Place the pocket piece, with the marked edge along the top (the first line will be 1 1/2″ down), 3 1/2” from the top edge of the outer bag piece with right sides facing. Pin.

inserting a zippered pocket into a tote bag


Step 4 – Sew along the marked line. Trim through the center until about 1/4” from either end. Trim diagonally to the corners. Stop just within the sewing line.

inserting a zippered pocket into a tote bag


Step 5 – Turn the pocket piece through the slit and press.

inserting a zippered pocket into a tote bag


Step 6 – Center your zipper, right side up, behind the pocket slit. Pin, making sure that your zipper pull is within the pocket space. When pinning make sure to keep the edges of your fabric straight – the opening should always be 1/2″ high – I needed to use a ruler for this step. If you wish to do your pocket without the zipper, skip to the next step.

inserting a zippered pocket into a tote bag


Step 7 – Topstitch 1/8” from the edge, all the way around. If you wish to skip inserting the zipper, topstitch 1/8” around, but without the zipper behind the opening.



Step 8 – Turn the whole piece over and trim the excess zipper tape 1/2” past the line of stitching on both ends.

inserting a zippered pocket into a tote bag


Step 9 – Place the remaining pocket piece right sides against the pocket piece attached to the outer bag. Pin. Sew all the way around, making sure to not catch the outside of the bag in the seam.

inserting a zippered pocket into a tote bag


Step 10 – Put the two outer bag pieces right sides together with the zipper closest to the top edge. Sew across the two sides and the bottom. Press seams open. Repeat with the lining pieces, leaving a 6” gap along the bottom edge for turning.


Step 11 – Flatten the corner so that the bottom seam is against the side seam with the right sides together. Pin. Measure down 2” from the corner, mark, and sew. Repeat with remaining corner, and both corners in the lining.

making a fabric tote bag


Step 12 – Trim the excess fabric 1/2” past the seam line. Turn the outer bag right side out.

making a fabric tote bag


Step 13 – Take the two handle pieces and fold them in half, lengthwise, with the wrong sides together as shown. Open the handles and press the edges to the center crease. Fold in half and pin. Topstitch 1/8” from both edges on each handle.

  making tote bag handles


Step 14 – Mark the center top of your outer bag. Measure 3” on either side of the center and mark. Place your handles right sides against the bag, with the inner edge of the handle on the marks. Pin.

making a fabric tote bag


Step 15 – Slide the outer bag, with the handles pinned, inside the bag lining. Pin along the top edge, matching the side seams. Sew – I sew around the top edge twice to add strength to this seam.

making a fabric tote bag


Step 16 – Turn right side out through the gap in the bottom of the lining. Fold in the edges at the bottom gap and pin. Topstitch 1/8” from edge to close the gap, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end. Alternately you could hand stitch this closed.

making a fabric tote bag


Step 17 – Push lining into bag and press along top edge.  Topstitch 1/8” from top edge.

tote bag diy


Have fun with your new bag!