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Author Archive | Jen Geigley

Vendor Spotlight: Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts

 Reported by Jen Geigley

If you’re going to brush up on your sewing skills or try something new, there’s no one better than Martha to show you how. The latest addition to the Martha Stewart Library is Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts, which covers everything you need to know about sewing, from thorough explanations of techniques, to over 150 classic and contemporary sewing project ideas. 

This book is ideal for anyone, from a beginner who has just purchased their first sewing machine, to sewers of all experience levels who are comfortable with the basics but want to learn different techniques.

Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts is beautifully divided into two sections, and is organized encyclopedia-style, which I love. The first section, Basic Techniques, gives guidance on sewing, appliqué, embroidery, quilting, dyeing and printing. 

In these sections you’ll find thorough explanations, photos, and diagrams, that cover everything from hand sewing to machine sewing, hems, the anatomy of sewing machine, batik dyeing, patchwork, embroidery stitches and gorgeous applications of stripes, patterns and Japanese sashiko. The topics covered in this first section will give you tons of ideas for projects (before you even get to the ‘projects’ section of the book!)

The second section of this resource is called Projects A to Z, and this is where you’ll find tons of ideas for: animals, aprons, bags, bath linens, bed linens, bibs, blankets, books, clothing, coasters, cozies, curtains, decorative pillows, dolls, flowers, handkerchiefs, nursery, organizers, pets, pincushions, pot holders, quilts, shades, slippers, table linens, upholstery, and wall decor (it’s Martha, after all).

One thing that I really enjoyed about this book is that for each project idea, there are several projects to choose from (for instance, under ‘bags,’ you’ll find sixteen bag project ideas with photos and how-to’s). This book is truly chock-full of sewing inspiration.

Another thing that I adore about this book is that it includes a CD with full-size clothing patterns and project templates that you can print at home – no paper templates that you have to enlarge at a copy store.

And of course, in true Martha fashion, the styling, photography and design of the book is clean, modern and pristine. And so inviting.

The project photos alone make you really want to whip up a quilt on a Saturday afternoon. The thorough explanations and diagrams make you actually believe that you can sew your own custom classic Roman shades. Below are a couple of my favorite projects that I decided to try from the book.

First, the felt garland, page 253.

I made this for my daughter’s room and she and I both love the pop of color it adds above her bed.

And then I had to make an heirloom tomato pincushion, page 278.

Both projects were obviously easy ones, and they turned out to be extremely cute. My next project from this book is a quilt; I’ve started cutting the pieces and can’t wait to get started on it!

Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts covers it all, and I think this beautiful and practical reference material belongs on every crafter’s shelf. It is truly a good thing.

Product details:
150+ projects
400 pages
Author: Martha Stewart Living Magazine
Publisher: Potter Craft
Hardcover
List price: $35.00

Pros:

  • Beautifully organized and photographed.
  • In-depth explanations and guidance in all sorts of sewing techniques.
  • Includes a CD with full-size clothing patterns and project template that you can print at home.
  • This book is a timeless, all-inclusive resource that you can turn to again and again for years to come.

Cons:

  • If you regularly pore over Martha Stewart Living magazine, you may have already seen some of the projects in this book.
  • If you’re an advanced sewer, you may find that some of the projects in this book are geared more toward beginners and intermediates.

GIVEAWAY
The kind folks at EK Success Brands will be giving one lucky winner their very own collection of Martha Stewart Holiday Gift Boxes and Bags. To enter, just leave a comment on one of today’s articles. Answer any one of these questions in the Comments Section right below this article on our website.

Have you used the Martha Stewart Gift Boxes and Bags? Did your recipient love them?

One comment per person, per article, please. You have until Sunday, November 21st 6pm CST to enter.

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Book Review: Vampire Knits

Reported by Jen Geigley 

Whether you’re Team Edward, Team Jacob, a True Blood fanatic, or not exactly a huge fan of the blood-sucking variety, Vampire Knits: Projects to Keep You Knitting from Twilight to Dawn may be worth sinking your teeth into this fall and winter. Author Genevieve Miller became so inspired by her favorite vampire flick that she began designing her own vampire-themed knitting projects. Through the magic of the internet and Ravelry.com (an online knitting community), Genevieve collaborated with other designers and vampire/werewolf fans across the country to create a collection of patterns paying homage to some of their most beloved vampires and shape-shifters.

The book is full of gorgeous, wearable knitting patterns that anyone would love, like these Bella Swan-inspired mittens.

Or these lovely ‘Pulse Protectors.’

The photography and styling of the book is beautifully done and is refreshingly light, while maintaining that necessary hint of looming darkness. The Twilight feel is really well-represented, and it’s easy to envision your favorite vampire characters wearing the hand-knits in the photos.

 

The Lore Hoodie is my personal favorite project from Vampire Knits, although there are several patterns I hope to try out in the future. All of the patterns are very creative while still being quite practical (for the most part). I admit I was a bit wary before I looked through this book, anticipating a potentially campy/costumey vampire theme. But I was quite impressed with the patterns themselves and many of the projects will appeal to knitters who have never picked up a Twilight book in their life (below are several more photos from the book).

I was excited to pick a pattern to knit right away when I received my copy of Vampire Knits, and I instantly decided I had to knit a pair of Alice Cullen-inspired fingerless gloves. While I didn’t have the exactly perfect color of variegated yarn on hand, I knew I had something close enough to make the cut (I used a skein of blue/green Classic Elite Montera from my stash).

The pattern was easy (and quick!) and I’m loving my new Alice-ish Palm Readers (page 58). Such a perfect fall accessory, and they’d look great knitted in any color!

Curious to know more about this book and how it all came about? I had the opportunity to interview author Genevieve Miller. Here’s what she had to say about Vampire Knits.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.
A little about myself?  Hmm… I’m a California native. I’ve been married for 13 years – I met my husband in a comedy writing class in Los Angeles. We have 3 great kids – one boy and two girls. Before having kids I was a teacher. I love vampires, Harry Potter, and thanks to my kids I’m now a Star Wars geek, too!

How were you first introduced to knitting, and how long have you been a knitter?
I learned to knit when I was 11. My mom was pregnant with my youngest brother and we learned together. My first project was a big pink blanket knit with 2 colors at the same time on huge size 17 needles. I took a break from knitting during high school and college and picked up the needles again when I was pregnant with my son, 10 years ago. I rarely go more than a month or two without knitting something.

Out of all the most recent vampire movies, books and television series, which is your favorite and why? Do you have any favorite characters in particular? 
Oh, gosh. Well, of the recent vampire stories, I’d have to say the Twilight saga was what got me back into vampires, and sparked my interested in designing. I love the movies, but the books are where I fell in love.  I like Alice, the hyper, stylish little pixie, but I love Edward!  My favorite “bad boy” would have to be Damon Salvatore from the Vampire Diaries. I confess I haven’t read the books, but Ian Somerhalder plays Damon so deliciously it’s hard to resist loving the scoundrel.

What inspired you to write a book and compile a collection of knitting patterns dedicated to vampires?
Twilight inspired me, actually. I just thought the characters were so varied and interesting that they could inspire a lot of creative ideas for knitting projects. It grew from there, since there are so many vampire stories to draw from. Vampire stories have been around for centuries, as has knitting – they seemed a perfect combination!

How did Ravelry.com play a part in the making of Vampire Knits?
I mentioned my idea in a group on Ravelry and it was met with tons of enthusiasm from fellow knitters.  In a matter of days I had several designers on board and we got to work. I started my own group where we could brainstorm, call for test knitters, bounce ideas off each other, and call for designs. I don’t think the book would have become a reality without Ravelry.

The designers who have contributed patterns to Vampire Knits include all ages and walks of life. How did you find, choose and bring together this diverse group of contributors? 
I met most of them on Ravelry. When I called for submissions, they delivered!

What’s your favorite project in Vampire Knits (and why do you love it?) 
Oh, gosh!  It’s so hard to pick a favorite – they’re all gorgeous!  I love the Lore Hoodie by Cirilia Rose. I want to knit it for myself! I also think the Palm Readers are going to be on my Christmas list for friends. I love the Blood Bottle Cozies, too… they’re so fun!  I can’t choose a favorite and I hope to knit everything at some point! 

The photography/styling in the book is gorgeous. Where were the photos shot, and by whom? 
The photography was done on the publisher’s end. My acquisitions editor, Betty Wong and I discussed what we wanted for the “look” of the models, and they were hired by an agency in New York. I love that the redhead looks like Victoria in the Twilight movies. The outdoor shots were in New York, although they look like they could be in Forks, WA. (There is a photo of Forks at the end of the book that was taken by my sister-in-law, Tere Mendez on our trip to the Olympic Peninsula last July.) The photographer who shot the models and projects is Heather Weston, and my author photo was taken by my other sister-in-law, Candice Eley.

And because I have to ask (you knew this was coming) … Team Edward or Team Jacob? 
TEAM EDWARD!!!

Vampire Knits: Projects to Keep You Knitting from Twilight to Dawn (by Genevieve Miller) 
Potter Craft
Sells for $18.99
Paperback
144 pages
25+ projects
 
Pros:
The majority of the patterns in this book will appeal to both Twi-hards and people who aren’t so into the vampire thing. The photography and overall look of the book is beautiful, not morbid or overly vampy.
Cons:
If you aren’t bi-stitchual (meaning you only knit and don’t know how to crochet,) you may notice that a couple of the patterns in the fourth section of the book (Bloody Accents) require some crochet know-how.

Are you a knitter who is inspired by Twilight, True Blood and other vampire books, television series or movies? If you’ve knitted a project from Vampire Knits, share it here!
Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Gifted: Lovely Little Things to Knit & Crochet

Reported by Jen Geigley

Knitting books are my most favorite resource, and I have to admit that I get excited when I see anything with ‘gift’ in the title (because that little word usually means quick-knits or smaller items that are easy to finish). So I was happy to have the chance to check out Gifted: Lovely Little Things to Knit & Crochet by Mags Kandis. If you love to knit, and enjoy giving your hand-knit items as gifts, you’ll adore this book.

A peek inside Gifted reveals a wide variety of projects for both knitters and crocheters, including scarves, mittens, hats, and baby items… but then also venturing into more creative territory with things like trivets, coasters, a wrist rest, notebook sleeves, knitting needle cases, and more. The book is divided into two sections: Gifts for the Body has patterns for lots of accessories, and Gifts for the Soul includes non-wearables and several felted projects. The best part is that all of the projects really are small and perfect for gift-giving.

I loved the little details and embellishments included throughout, like these crocheted flowers. This book also includes cool ideas for sewn fabric gift bags and sachets to pair with your handmade gifts
.
Mags also shows examples on how to add these small additions to accessories, and ways to personalize projects with beads, needle-felting, embroidery or applique.
Several projects in the book explore sewing techniques and use scraps of felted knitting or even re-purposed items like old sweaters, which was really fun to see!
The first project I decided to try was ‘bevy of bangles.’ This is the perfect starter project if you’ve never attempted felting something you’ve knitted before (you really can’t screw it up… and look at how cute these bracelets are!).
You start by knitting a narrow strip of stockinette using 100% wool yarn, or another fiber that will felt well. I used Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Full o’Sheep in two different colors.

Using a three-needle bind off, you end up with huge rings that look like this (before felting). You can hand-felt these using hot water in your sink, or do what I did – throw them in the washer and dryer. Just check on them periodically to make sure they don’t shrink down too far.

Mine ended up looking like this. I used extra strands of Full o’Sheep to wind the contrasting colored stripes around the bangles.
I love how soft (yet solid!) these are! Mine turned out a little bit chunkier than the ones shown in the book, but all yarn felts differently. This is the perfect stash-buster – it hardly used up any yarn at all. Such a fast and fun project!

The second pattern I wanted to try was the ‘linen summer wrap.’

The photos of this scarf/wrap were just too pretty and I couldn’t resist!

I love the yarn they used in the book (Berocco Linen Jeans unbleached muslin) but wanted to use something I had on hand, so I grabbed a skein of I Love This Cotton in olive green.
In one evening – and using only one skein of yarn – I had this awesome lightweight scarf! I love how it drapes and cotton yarn totally works for this. I love it so much that I think I’m going to make another one in black right away! It’s totally wearable with just about anything.

Here are just a few more peeks at fun patterns this book includes:(I love the ear warmers!)

Gifted: Lovely Little Things to Knit & Crochet (by Mags Kandis)
Interweave Press
Price: $24.95
Paperback
136 pages
30+ projects and patterns

Pros:

  • This book offers a wide variety of small projects.
  • Gifted is not just a pattern book – it includes sewing, repurposed, recycled and felted projects.
  • In my opinion, the majority of the patterns are very usable and/or wearable. (And very gift-able!)
  • The little felted bits, gift tags and hearts are super cute and fast to make and would be a cute addition to just about anything you make.


Cons:

  • Some projects are knitting patterns and some are crochet patterns. If you’re not bi-stitchual (meaning you only know how to knit or crochet) you may not be able to make all of the projects in the book.

  • There are quite a few felting projects in this book. (I believe 15, to be exact.) If you’re not keen on felting, this seem like a lot to you. On the flip side … if you’ve felted anything before, it might get you excited to try it! 
  • Some of the projects take a bit more time to complete, like the fair isle or felted granny square bag. (Lots of the patterns included are fast and easy ones … but not everything can be a one-night project!)

Have you picked up a copy of Gifted yet? With autumn coming fast, what do you think you’ll be knitting and gifting this season?

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!