Tag Archives | Erika Martin

Vendor Spotlight: C&T Publishing – Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stitch Tool Book Review

Reported by Erika Martin

I learned to embroider as a young girl, and remember watching my grandmother do beautiful work on pillow cases. I remember getting my first embroidery hoop and being excited to start doing my own free-hand embroidery work on pieces of cotton fabric. I still enjoy embroidery, and started teaching my daughter to do hand needlework a couple of years ago. What seemed to be a lost art is quickly seeing a new revival these days.
Having the opportunity to review Judith Baker Montano’s Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stitch Tool was something I was really looking forward to. I’m always looking to expand my library of hand-stitching books and tools, and I’m constantly looking for new ways to embroider. I was especially interested in learning how to use ribbon in embroidery, which is something this tool shows how to do.
The Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stitch Tool boasts over 180 stitches and combinations, tips for needles, thread, ribbon and fabric and illustrations for left and right-handed stitching. The book also has a nifty easel feature so that the book stands up for easy use.
As soon as you flip open the book, a Stitch Guide is included to know which fabrics work best with certain threads/yarns and their respective needles. Flip a couple pages in and you’ll find a Stitch Index completely alphabetized with illustrations for easy identification. Next, you’ll find a handful of pages with tips and tricks for stitching, fabrics, frames/hoops and more.
If you were doing these stitches for the first time or just needed a brush-up on how to do it, you simply go to the alphabetized stitch index at the front of the book and find the stitch you’re looking for and then turn to the page number shown under the stitch.

On each page, you’ll not only find the instructions, but there’s an up-close shot of the stitch in a thumbnail-sized photo from an actual stitched project.

I’m right-handed, but knowing some lefties (my son also happens to be a lefty), I know how hard it is for them to find instructional books that show left-handed diagrams. It’s a huge plus that this book included both left- and right-handed instructions and diagrams.

From there on out, you’ll find all of the stitches until you get to the end of the book and find the combination stitches diagrams.

I like to stitch on unusual fabrics. I chose to use the bottom of a pair of jeans that I had taken in for a friend of mine. It was perfect to make a little purse out of. I started out by doing one of the stitch combinations from the back of the book using stitches I already knew how to do.

This stitch combination uses the chain stitch and french knot.

I used a white marking pencil to draw a wavy line across the piece of denim so that I would have something to follow as I stitched.

I then stitched an olive green chain stitch along the white line. (I like to use three strands of embroidery floss for most of my stitching.)

I added chain stitches for the blossoms an light purple french knots for the little flower buds.

As you can see, my stitching very closely resembles the stitch combination shown in the book.

Next, I started going through the stitch index to pick out some stitches I either hadn’t done in a while or that I had never done before. I chose to go with the Lazy Daisy Double stitch. While I’ve done lazy daisies before, I never thought to do a double.

I stitched my row of light purple lazy daisies to create flowers along the top of the soon-to-be purse.

Then, I stitched a dark purple lazy daisy around each to finish off the double stitch look.

Because I do a lot of my stitching free-hand (without drawing out guide lines to stitch along), I realized that my flowers were open in the middle. I filled in with some bright yellow french knots to create some really cool textured flower centers.

My next step was to create some leaves and vines so I used a back stitch for the vines. Then, I looked at the book’s stitch index and picked out a leaf stitch for the vine. I chose the Fishbone stitch (one that I haven’t done in ages). I used my white marking pencil to draw out the leaf outlines.

The outline made stitching well-balanced leaves a breeze.

Along the bottom of the purse, I did another of the stitch combinations, but tweaked it up a bit to include a Colonial Knot, and used back stitching instead of the curved buttonhole stitch that it called for.

I had a bit of trouble getting the Colonial Knot down (I’d never done this stitch before) and this is where I found that my visual learning skills needed just a bit more than a diagram. With most stitches, I can usually figure them out with a little bit of time along with the diagram. The colonial knot, though, took me a good 15 minutes and about 10 tries along with cutting the floss and starting over and over again. Once I got it down, though, I found it very easy. This is where I could have used just a couple more steps in the diagram to make it easier for my learning style.

I stitched the bottom of the pant cuff up and added a couple of light yellow grosgrain ribbon handles to finish the purse off.

It was then on to the ribbon embroidery. I’ve always loved what I’ve seen done with embroidery and ribbon and have wanted to try it. Using the Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stitch Tool was a great way to start.
I bought some yarn darning needles for the ribbon embroidery. Yarn darning needles have bigger eyes which make it easier for fitting ribbon through (chenille and tapestry needles are also good for ribbon embroidery). I chose some silk-type ribbon to use for my project and some thin satin ribbon, as well.

I chose a piece of cotton patterned fabric and put it into an embroidery hoop which is something I don’t use a lot, since I tend to do better with holding my fabric in my hand as I go along. Since I was working with ribbon and the stitches were a little more unforgiving, I went with the embroidery hoop.
Using the book as my guide, I created some beautiful ribbon flowers and leaves (Couched Rose, Jan’s Antique Rose, Five-Petal Gathered Flower, Freeform Flower and Japanese Ribbon Stitch). I really like that some of the stitches use other stitches as their foundations, so once you have one down, you’re already half-way there on learning another stitch.

Two of the ribbon flowers that I liked creating the most were the Freeform Flowers and the Five-Petal Gathered Flowers. The diagrams were very clear and I loved the way they came out. I can see myself making more of these for other projects and not just on fabric projects. I will definitely be making more using a lot of the different width ribbons that I have and putting them on scrapbook pages, shadow box art and mixed-media creations.

I added some small faux pearls that I found in my grandmother’s old button tin for the centers of my small flowers.

After I added a bunch of Japanese Ribbon Stitch leaves, I used a ball point pen to very lightly write out the words I wanted to stitch on my project. I used a back stitch to embroider the words.

I readjusted my fabric, tighted the screw on top of the hoop and trimmed away the extra fabric from the back and I’m totally impressed with myself and the way my project turned out.

For my first try with ribbon embroidery, I’m very pleased, and have found myself hooked on ribbon flowers.

The Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stitch Tool retails for $22.95 from C&T Publishing. You can also purchase an e-book for $17.99 and a Book + eBook bundle for $27.99.
  • Convenient size to carry on-the-go
  • Wire bound for easy flipping and flat-laying of pages
  • Easel feature so that the book stands up for easy use
  • Very exhaustive collection of 180+ stitches and combinations – great for new stitchers and veterans alike
  • Alphabetical stitch index
  • Right- and left-hand instructions and diagrams (in full color)
  • Full color thumbnail photo of actual stitch
  • Tips, chart and “getting started” section for needles, thread/yarn, ribbon and fabric
  • Variation of stitches also included on many of the stitch diagrams
  • If you’re a very visual learner, some of the more complicated stitches might take you a little longer to master despite the illustrated diagrams.
  • The price could be off-putting for some, but when you price it out, it’s only 13 cents per stitch tutorial!
It was really hard to find cons for this product; I found it very well put-together, comprehensive and exhaustive. It’s a book that I’ll get a lot of use out of and it’s something that I can share with my daughter as I continue to teach her the beautiful art of embroidery.

Have you used C&T Publishing’s Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stick Tool? Where do you find your stitching inspiration? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Vendor Spotlight: C&T Publishing Lutradur Mixed Media Sheets

Reported by Erika Martin

As a mixed media artist, I’m always on the lookout for new media to use with my creations. I was excited to try out C&T Publishing’s Lutradur Mixed Media Sheets. The packaging describes it as a versatile cross between fabric and paper. According to the website, it’s a “fabulously versatile non-woven fabric. You can cut it, sew it, paint it, print it, stencil it, stamp it, pleat it, dye it, distress it, draw on it, die-cut it, punch it, sculpt with it, bead it, do gel transfers onto it, weave it.” That description totally fascinated me.

When I received my Lutradur sheets, the first thought that went through my mind was that it reminded me of heavy-duty type of interfacing that one would use in sewing. There are two different weights of Lutradur in the package. They are 8.5 x 11 inches in size and there are five regular sheets (70 gram) and five heavyweight sheets (100 gram).

While I don’t own the book, “Fabulous Fabric Art with Lutradur” (by Lesley Riley), there are a lot of great pictures on the back of the packaging of the Lutradur sheets to get your creativity going, as well as some cool ideas on Lesley’s site. Lesley also has some videos up that show how she uses Lutradur sheets in her own creations.
I tried a variety of different techniques and projects with my Lutradur sheets and have found myself quite addicted to them now.

For my first project, I created a canvas project and used my die cut machine to cut shapes out of the Lutradur. At first, I tried the skinnier Sizzix die (also known as Sizzlits). The first run through the machine didn’t even cut into the Lutradur.

I put about 4 thin shims on top of the die and ran it through again and while it cut through the Lutradur, it wasn’t a clean cut and I had trouble breaking the die cuts away from the Lutradur.

Next, I tried one of the biggest dies from Sizzix (the Beauiful Butterflies die from Stampin’ Up – one of the Bigz Dies) and had flawless cutting. I tried a few layers on the die at once and they cut beautifully.

I used Shimmers Spray to color the butterflies. The ink from the spray turned a bit lighter after they dried, but they had such a delicate look to them with the fibers of the Lutradur.

I wanted to see if the Lutradur would hold an embossed impressions so I put the butterflies into different embossing folders and ran them through the Big Shot and I love the texture that it resulted in.

I found that the thicker sheets of Lutradur had a very pronounced embossed effect while the thinner sheets held the embossed image, but it wasn’t a pronounced as it was on the thicker sheets.

I decorated a canvas to put my butterflies on so that they resembled an entomologist’s display board. I used large safety pins for the body of the butterflies by adding beads and weaving the pins through the center of the butterflies.

I then used high-temp hot glue to secure my butterflies to the canvas.

My daughter brought this canvas as a gift to a friend’s birthday sleepover and it was a huge hit all around!

My next project included using the Lutradur in my sewing machine, printing on it in my ink-jet printer and distressing it.

Because the Lutradur sheets are sized at 8.5″ x 11″ inches, they fit in a printer perfectly. I used a thicker sheet (the heavyweight, 100 gram sheet) in my printer to print a picture of the Eiffel Tower on it. The printing went perfectly.

I used a pair of decorative scissors to give the edges a bit of a vintage and worn feel.

Next, I used some Shimmer Spritz to add a bit of distressing to the image. Because I used an ink-jet printer, my image started to bleed and it lost its detail. When it finally dried, it had a blurry and hazy look to it, but I could still tell it was the Eiffel Tower. I chose some embellishments to add to it so that the blurry picture would be complimented by them.

I sewed together a couple pieces of fabric with two pieces of denim inbetween (I didnt have any batting, so I cut a couple pieces of denim from an old pair of jeans that I had used parts of for another project) to create the cover of an artist’s journal. I pinned the Lutradur on top.

I then sewed the Lutradur onto my journal cover with my sewing machine.

I ran my embossing gun over the Lutradur to give it a bit of a worn feel. I came to realize that using the embossing gun on Lutradur is one of my favorite techniques. I love the texture that happens when the Lutradur is melted, twisted and turned with the heat from the gun.
I tore some pages out of an old book that I got from the discard pile at the library (I think the librarians would shudder if they found out all the crafty things that I do with the books I get from their discard pile) and sewed those into the inside of the journal cover with a piece of Lutrador that I had printed as a sample with a picture of the Eiffel Tower on it. These pages will be used to paint on, sketch on, journal on, etc.

My next project was to experiment a bit more with the embossing gun on the Lutradur and to do some beading on it. Beading was one of the uses for Lutradur that was advertised on the packaging so I wanted to try it out.

I cut a piece of thick Lutradur in half using my paper cutter.

Cutting with the paper cutter was efforless and it cut just as easy as any piece of cardstock would. There was no fraying at all. Just a clean cut.

I used my embossing gun to melt and shrink the pieces of Lutradur down. The effect that I got was a really pretty tattered and textured look. The Lutradur took on a harder feel to it after it was melted with the gun and that made it even more sturdy.

The sturdy feel of the Lutradur was perfect for beading. My grandmother recently sent my daughter a little baggie with a couple of fake pearl necklaces that had broken, along with a couple of maroon bows. She figured that my daughter would come up with some sort of craft project to use them on. Instead, I took the beads and bows and made something for my daughter out of it. I used black thread (so that it would blend in with the background of the little purse I was making) and threaded the fake pearls on.

I did the beading on both pieces of Lutradur that I had cut and then sewed them to the front and back panels of the little purse that I created. I recently took up some pants for a friend’s son and I saved the pieces that I cut off the bottom of the pant legs because I knew they would come in handy for a project – I turned one of the pants cuffs into a purse.

I added a couple of Lutradur handles to the purse and used my embossing gun to melt them and sturdy them up a bit. I added the two little maroon bows to the front where the handles ended.

Voila! An upcycled purse that uses the cuff off a pair of pants, fake pearls from broken costume jewelry, a couple miscellaneous bows and some melted Lutradur.

For my last project, I wanted to try dying some Lutradur to see how it would take inks. I cut a bunch of circles of different sizes using my die cut machine and the Sizzix Circle #2 die.

I then put a little bit of water in some bowls and added some re-inkers (used for re-inking stamp pads) and stirred them up.

I dipped the Lutradur circles in the water and sloshed them around a bit to fully soak the circles.

I put them all out on a piece of poster board to dry. (I also cut some circles out of old book pages – gotta love that discard pile at the library – and dyed those with ink, as well).

I then ran my circles through my sewing machine to create a fun and colorful garland.

This garland can be strung up on a wall, across an archway or doorway, along a mantle, as well as wrapped around a tree or bush.

To keep it all in one place, I wrapped it around an empty glue bottle that I had hanging around. This keeps it from getting it all tangled and ready to hang up in the next place I want to add some color.

The final color and intensity you get with dying Lutradur will depend on the kind of ink that you use and how much of it you use. While I was dying my circles, I found that the color was too light, so I added more re-inker to the water. I tried alcohol inks, but found that some of the inks didn’t want to fully disperse in water and beaded up on the Lutradur so dye-based inks worked better for a dye bath.
  • Two different thicknesses in one package
  • Great price point for 10 sheets total – $9.95
  • Can be used in a multitude of ways – sewing, cutting, printing, etc.
  • Can hold a lot of different artist’s media – gels, paints, inks, etc.
  • It can be melted and molded
  • Convenient 8.5″ x 11″ inch size for putting through a printer
  • Not easily found in most big-box craft stores. I called around to the different crafting stores in my area (7 stores in all) and only one store carried this product (a high-end fiber and quilting shop). The upside is that it’s easily found online.
  • Die cutting has to be done with heavy duty die cuts to get a clean cut (Sizzix brand “Sizzlits” don’t give a clean cut)
  • While the 8.5″ x 11″ inch size is great for putting through a printer, this is the largest the 75 and 100 gram weights come in (although the Ultra-light comes in a 20″ x 72″ inch piece)
Honestly, I found the con list so inconsequential and just loved working with this product!

Lutradur Mixed Media Sheets can be found on Amazon for $9.95 (10 sheets, two thicknesses).
C&T Publishing also carries Ultra-Light Lutradur (25 grams – $9.56) on Amazon. Though I personally didn’t have the opportunity to work with this product, now that I’ve tried the other two thicknesses, I’m definitely interested in trying the ultra-light out.
If you’re looking to expand your crafting library and learn 27 techniques and 14 projects with Lutradur sheets, Lesley Riley’s book, “Fabulous Fabric with Lutradur,” can be found on Amazon for $14.25.

Have you tried Lutradur Mixed Media sheets? How do you use them? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Shapelets

Reported by Erika Martin

If you’ve never heard of “silly bandz” or “shaped rubber bands,” then you may just have been living under a rock. They’re all the rage in kids circles and schools. My daughter trades these shaped bands with her friends and has quite the collection going. Remember when we used to trade jelly bracelets in school back in the 80s? Shaped rubber bands are the jelly bracelets of the new millenium, and they’re taking the world by storm.
If you ask my daughter, “What’s better than silly bands?” she would say, “Making my own!” And that’s where Shapelets come in!
Shapelets is the “stretchy band design system” that allows you to create your own designs right in your kitchen! Shapelets bands are formulated to take on the shape you create on a peg board after you put it in your oven or toaster oven.
There are different ways that you can purchase Shapelets.:
  • The Shapelets Design System is a kit contains 1 pegboard, 32 pegs, 24 specially formulated bands, and 3 cut and punch templates. This kit retails for $9.99.
  • The Shapelets Class & Party Pack is a kit that contains 10 pegboards, 320 pegs, 96 specially formulated bands, and 30 cut and punch templates. This kit retails for $49.99.
  • You can also purchase refill bands when you run out so that you can continue creating. The refill packs come with 24 bands and Shapelets offers 4 different pack choices. Basics, Brights, Glow and Glitter. The refill packs retail for $4.99 each.

The Shapelets website includes a gallery that anyone can put their designs on and you can access it for ideas to use with your own bands.

The process behind Shapelets is a very easy one. There are 5 simple steps, according to the Shapelets website:
Step 1: Insert pegs into the pegboard to create the outline of a Shapelet shape you would like to make.

Step 2: Thread a new Shapelet band around the pegs to form the shape. Make sure the band is not stretched too tight. If you need to you can move the pegs to loosen the band a little bit.
Make sure that you choose the correct size band that your template calls for.

Step 3: Ask your parent or another grown-up to preheat the oven to 225°F. Then bake the Shapelet band for 10 minutes. CAUTION: PARENTAL SUPERVISION REQUIRED! (The pegboard and pegs are rated to withstand the 225° oven so they will not melt during normal use. Make sure not to forget them in the oven because they WILL melt and make a mess if you turn on your oven later on to a higher temperature.)
Step 4: Wait 5 minutes to allow the system to cool down. Then remove the Shapelet band from the pegs.
Step 5: That’s it! You’ve made your own Shapelet band with the Shapelet Stretchy Band Design System! Now you can wear it, show it, trade it, and much more.

When I took the Shapelets templates out of the oven, I got a strong whiff of plastic melting. I have chemical sensitivies (yes, I know, I use all sorts of crafting supplies, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off) so the smell bothered me a bit. I have a really sensitive schnoz, so others might not notice the smell. If you want to keep the odor contained, you could place the templates in a covered casserole dish so it doesn’t “hit you” when you open the oven door.
When you purchase the Shapelets Design Kit, you’ll receive a piece of newsprint type of paper that includes 3 “cut and punch templates.” These templates are a great starting point for using the kit and especially for younger kids that aren’t quite confident yet in creating their own designs. Directions are included on the sheet to instruct you on how to use these easy templates.

There is a useful FAQ section on the Shapelets website and this came in helpful for my daughter and I when we had bands break in the oven when we were creating. We had too much tension on some parts of the affected bands. This can also happen if you’re using a size of band that is too small for the template and pegs.

The bands that had even tension turned out great.

Another thing that we discovered is that you should make sure all of your bands are untwisted between each peg before you put them in the oven. If the band is twisted in between the pegs, you’ll get weak spots in your bands after baking. This could cause them to snap and break when being stretched later on. Some twisting of the bands between the pegs might also have played into why the bands in the above photos broke during baking, besides being tight on some of the pegs.

The FAQ section also gave us the idea to do up to 5 of the same shape at once. This way, my daughter could make a bunch of matching bracelets all at once. It cut down on the time and also on the electricity for our oven.
I think the one of the best resources that Shapelets offers, though, is their Create page on their website. You can create your own templates using the grid provided. You can add pegs, move the pegs and the band, print the template, submit your design to the gallery and the program even tells you which size band would be ideal for your design. It’s really important that you separate your bands by size so that you don’t put the wrong size on your pegs and ruin them in the baking process.

I tried my hand at creating a heart template. It takes a little bit of patience to figure out how to move the pegs and band on the program so that they’re going in the right direction for shaping but once you get the hang of it, creating new templates becomes addictive.

When I was done with creating my template, I printed it out on a piece of computer paper. It will also print with instructions and takes up a half page. To make the most of your paper, create another template and put the paper back in your printer in the opposite direction that you originally had it in so that you can print the next template on the black half of the page. Each template you create should have the size of the band needed at the bottom of the template, just like the cut and punch templates that come in the Shaplets Design Kit. However, the heart design that I made printed out as an “invalid size” so I tried different sizes of bands until I found that the smallest of the bands was a perfect fit.
Computer paper can be hard to poke the pegs through so use something sharp to make the holes in your paper to line up with the pegboard underneath. I used a seam ripper to poke the holes and the pegs went in really easy. You could also use a pin, a pen, the small end of a stylus, etc.
I lined up 5 bands and put them into the oven and they turned out great!

My daughter was excited to make some bands for the Penny Fair that we’re going to be having at our house on the last day of school (to benefit our local humane society). Look how serious she is about getting the bands just right.

We need prizes for the prize booth and since these bands are all the rage with her friends, we thought this would be a great addition to what the kids can earn at the fair.

Really, now…could you have asked for a cuter model to show off these Shapelets bracelets? Of course I’m biased, so I’d say no. *wink*

  • Great price point for Design Kit ($9.99)
  • Shapelets offers a Class & Party Pack at an affordable price with plenty of materials for a fun party activity
  • Shapelets offers refill bands at a great price
  • Even though you’ll eventually use up all of bands in the kit, you still have the peg and pegboards to keep creating
  • The Shapelets website offers a gallery of designs, as well as a grid program to create your own designs to print and share on the site
  • Just as much fun for adults to create as it is for kids to create


  • Only 3 cut and punch templates in the design kit, though you can find and print more on the Shapelets gallery and Create grid
  • For people with sensitive noses, there is a melting plastic type of smell that comes out of the oven when you take your templates out but this could be easily remedied by placing the templates in a covered casserole dish while baking
  • Some of the templates I created on the Create grid printed out as an “invalid size” – if this happens, you’ll need to experiment with different size bands to find one that fits well
The cons were not that big of a deal and we had a great time creating together. I can see this being a great activity for my daughter and her friends/cousins to do when they get together.

The folks over at Shapelets are giving away kits to two lucky readers. To enter simply answer any of the questions below in the Comments section of this article on our website. One comment per person, please.
Are you or your kids sporting these bracelets? Would you purchase this to make your own designs and what shapes would you pick?
Winners are chosen at random. Contest closes Sunday, June 12th at 6pm CST. Good Luck!
Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!