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Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: American Girl Crafts- Funky Felt Pins

Reported by Maria Del Pinto

With summer quickly approaching it is a great time to plan some creative activities for my kids.  It is always wise to have some fun and easy kids crafting supplies on had to entertain the kids.  Since the American Girl dolls have always been popular in my household,  the idea of trying out the American Girl craft kits was met with enthusiasm by my girls.  The kit we tried out was the “Funky Felt Pins” which is recommended for children 8 years old and up.  The kit retails for $12.99.  

The packaging on the “Funky Felt Pins” is very colorful.  From the outside of the package, it does not look like you get much in the way of supplies.  However, I was happily surprised to find it was jam packed full of enough supplies for my girls and their friends to give this kit a try and learn some basic embroidery skills.
This kit comes with the following:
● Project & Idea Booklet
● 12 yards of embroidery floss in 4 colors
● 33 plain felt pieces
● 5 embroidered patches
● 12 adhesive pin backs
● 10 sequin flowers
● 1 piece of white practice felt
● 1 needle
● 1 needle threader
The instruction booklet does have some nice colored simple instructions for their versions of the following stitches and knots:
● running stitch
● applique stitch
● cross stitch
● french knot
● finishing knot
The kit is color coordinated with enough materials to create at least 12 pins.  Since it includes instructions and materials, it would make a fun scout troop project.  However, you would have to pick up extra needles for each girl; this kit only comes with one needle.

The first thing we did was to lay out the pieces and then pick out a few different shapes to sew together.

Then I sewed the small floral sequin onto the green felt flower using white thread to make the stitches stand out.
I then sewed the green felt flower onto the orange felt flower.

Which was followed by sewing those pieces onto the darker felt flower.
The kids took a vote and wanted to add some bling to the flower.   So I added beads to finish it off the piece.
As you can see, the steps are very simple and easy to follow.  However,  I did find that it was a little bit challenging for little fingers to negotiate the needle and accomplish the smaller stitches.   

However, even with that frustration, the project certainly kept her attention.

A different size needle did make the difference for her and she enjoyed making her project.
Here are some other projects we made with the die cut felt pieces provided in the kit.  The first is a felt owl pin.
The second is a funky felt ring.  A quick note on this one, my daughter sewed the different pieces together. However, since she wanted a ring we felt that adding glass beads would add some sparkle and interest the ring.


The third is a funky felt hair band.
The fourth is a funky felt  hair clip for one of their American Girl dolls.
These projects are so fun and easy for the kids to do.  They also provide a great surface for adding beads, buttons, rhinestones, and more.  I like this because it allows for creative self expression and personalization.  Since this kit was such a hit with my girls, I will be purchasing some of the other American Girl Craft kits this summer to keep them entertained.
Tips:

  • Lay everything out so you can pick your colors and shapes.
  • If you are using the kit for younger children, you can help avoid frustration by using white glue to adhere the pieces together.  Let dry.  Then sew together with simple stitches.
  • Use up those fun beads and charms you have around the house to use as accents for these fun pieces.
Pros:
  • Plenty of material for a fun party activity or scout craft project.
  • The materials in the kit are versatile, you can use the pieces to create more than just pins.
  • Kit appeals to more than just 8-year-olds.  My 20-year-old thought they were pretty cute and wanted to make one.
Cons:
  • The felt die cuts are a little difficult for smaller hands to negotiate.  I would recommend using a different needle for smaller hands and perhaps backing the die cut felt materials onto a slightly larger piece of felt.
  • Not enough needles, it would be nice if they included more than one needle in the kit.
  • Some of the accent stitches are little challenging for some 8-year-olds.  I would recommend sewing or gluing on beads or rhinestones, if the child gets frustrated.

GIVEAWAY
The folks over at EK Success 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.
What are some of your favorite summer projects for your kids?  Do you have any hand sewing tips for kids or kid craft ideas?  We would love to hear from you.

Winners are chosen at random. Contest closes Sunday, June 12th at 6pm CST. Good Luck!

Disclaimer

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

An Assortment of iPhone Apps

Reported by Deja Jetmir

Today I am reviewing a trio of iPhone apps. Here’s the good, the bad, and the truth of what I think about these.

iCrochet by Vector Bloom Technologies

Cost of App: Free

While I applaud anyone who tries to advance the crochet movement, I couldn’t recommend this app to anyone just beginning to learn even if it is free.

The icrochet app only comes with two patterns. One for a hat, the other for a scarf. The hat is a funny shape in my opinion, and I would never make one to wear or give as a present. The scarf is generic enough that it would suit many people’s taste. Both are easy patterns that would be great for beginners if they patterns were written in a better way.

This is a Canadian app, so they do not use US terms for crocheting. This can be very confusing for someone who has little to no experience knowing the difference. Though I knew they were not using US terms, I still couldn’t figure out the patterns because I didn’t know which stitches they were actually using without watching the videos. Plus, the patterns repeats were much too confusing for a beginner to understand.

The videos were mostly useless for any beginner, and only useful to me to see what stitches the designer is actually using. There is no sound and only minimal subtitles. The crocheter in the video has a loose tension and a strange way of performing slip stitches (it could be the fact that she was using single ply chunky yarn and was trying not to snag it). I definitely wouldn’t recommend anyone using these videos as a training tool.

Overall this app is highly confusing and not worth downloading even though it is free.

Lion Brand Yarn by Lion Brand Yarn

Cost of App: Free

I was already a fan of the Lion Brand website, so trying out the new app I had high hopes for its capabilities. I was very pleased with what I experienced.

This app has many of the same features as the Lion Brand website. You can search hundreds of patterns by type, skill level, size, Lion Brand yarn, or a combination of them all. Once you choose your pattern, it will give you an overview, materials list, instructions and the ability to add it to a database of favorites. I love the fact I can read the pattern right off of my iPhone without having to print out any instructions. It makes my projects that much more portable.

When you are choosing your materials for your new project, the app gives you a search engine to find all the stores that carry the yarn you need that are around you. You can then sort them by a list or a zoom capable map. The list view gives you the address, plus a “call store” button to dial directly from your iPhone.

There is an info screen with Lion Brands information, and even a link to Lion Brand’s Website.

This app has an easy interface and was well thought out. The fact that this app gives you access to thousands of Lion Brands Free Patterns makes this a top app in my iPhone. The fact it is free, makes this app even better.

Fabric U by Mary Beth Klatt

Cost of App: $1.99

The basic premise of this app is a reference tool to help you identify different types of fabrics using pictures and descriptions.

The list is quite extensive and I could see this being a very handy tool either when you are out at the fabric store, or are trying to identify a particular type of fabric a garment is made out.

Each type of fabric has several varying pictures of the fabric, plus a written description. You can sort the list by name (in alphabetical order) or by fabric type (putting similar types together). You can also view a slideshow of all the pictures. This is handy if you aren’t sure what you have and are looking for a picture that is similar. Once you find the right look, you can then learn about the fabric by using the link at the top of the picture.

The last feature is a comment board that anyone can use, though at the moment, most of the comments are from Mary Beth (the maker of the app) giving extra information or sales information on various fabrics as she finds them.

Overall the app is very useful. Some of the pictures seem a little dark to me, so it makes it hard to get a true feeling of that type of fabric. However, that one small set back wouldn’t keep me from buying the app for the purpose it is serving.

Have you used any of these apps? Do you have any to recommend? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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

Book Review – Sewing Clothes Kids Love

Reported by Erika Martin

I’ve been sewing since I was a little girl, so when the opportunity came up to review the book, Sewing Clothes Kids Love, I was all over it. After all, I have two kids of my own (10 and 11 years old), as well as nieces and a nephew, and lots of friends that have kids. So, why not?

The cover of the book alone is enough to make a seamstress drool. Bright colors, a variety of fabrics and lots of ruffles are what caught my eye. The book is hardcover with metal comb bound pages inside. There’s 144 pages of full color, glossy sewing bliss! Inside the front cover of the book is a pocket with all of the patterns you’ll need for each of the 10 projects included in the book, sized from 18 months to kid’s size 12. For the cost of $24.99, this is an amazing deal.

The book has not only patterns, but a lot of great information packed in the first half of the book. From making your own “Kinderquin” (the author’s version of a homemade mannequin to fit your child’s size perfectly), to tracing & altering patterns, adding embellishments, sewing must-haves, to including a sizing chart and more, the authors obviously put a lot of work into making sure they covered as much as possible.

I made three articles of clothing from this book and they all turned out amazing, though there were definitely things I learned along the way and even some things that I did for the first time and know that I will continue doing and enjoy.

Before I even started cutting anything out, I traced the patterns onto heavier paper so that I could have one of each size. When I was a teenager, my mom, sister and I used to have a custom sewing business and it was my job to do the pattern transfers. The book goes into detail on how to do this, but since this was something I’d done many, many times, this was a piece of cake for me. I went to the print shop in town and asked for some large paper to fit my pieces and came home with a generous roll to be able to transfer ALL of the patterns in the book. I placed my patterns onto the paper and traced around them with a Sharpie marker and then made sure to also include the grainline and fold lines on the pattern along with the sizing and name of the pattern. Since these won’t fit inside the pocket in the book cover, I will be putting all of the pieces in manila envelopes to keep them separate and stored safely.

One big difference with the patterns and sizes in this book from other books is that the patterns are made in the European tradition. There are no sizes on the actual pattern pieces. There are lines with specific patterns that correspond to each size, unlike a US pattern that has the size number next to the pattern lines.

There’s a size chart for each pattern to make sure that you are taking correct measurements to fit your child and there are US and Euro sizes for each. There’s also a box on the pattern sheets that have the sizes on them along with the corresponding pattern line for cutting. It can be a little confusing in tight spaces of a pattern where lines converge so I had to make sure to pay very close attention when cutting my patterns. It can also be difficult when tracing patterns, as well.

I was so excited to get started on making a pair of pants for my daughter that I failed to read the part in the book about European patterns not including a seam allowance, so when I got the pants ready for her to try on, they didn’t fit, as I hadn’t cut extra around the pattern for a seam allowance. Unlike US patterns that have a seam allowance already incorporated into the pattern, traditional European patterns do not. At first I thought the sizing might be all wrong in the book and on the pattern for the pants, but when I went back to the book, I realized it was my own error for not FULLY reading all the details about European patterns vs. US patterns. This was my first time using European patterns, so I had no clue that seam allowances weren’t included. While this isn’t an issue for me, since I’ve been sewing for so long and have a lot of experience with tracing patterns and cutting, for a new sewer, this could be a bit of a challenge. It takes some patience extra time and a seam gauge or transparent ruler. Hem allowances also need to be added, which are not included on the pattern.

Another difference between US and Euro patterns is that there are no notches, though there are short lines drawn on the patterns to show where two pieces should align. This takes a little bit of mental adjustment, but after you get the hang of it, it’s not really too big an issue. I did pretty well without them, though as I’ve said, I’ve been sewing for a long time.

I chose to work with the Insa Skirt as one of my projects. I made one for my niece and one for my daughter. My niece is 3 years old and when she came to visit and tried on the skirt, it was a perfect fit. Little Jasmine loved it so much that every time my sister-in-law tried to put her in something else over the weekend, she would change right back into her new skirt. It was quite apparent to me that I’m going to be making quite a few more of these skirts so that her mom can wash them in between wearings.

Each of the projects in the book are labeled with a skill level (there are three levels in the book – simple, intermediate, masterpiece). The easiest are in the beginning and they work up harder as you go toward the back of the book. The Insa Skirt was labeled as intermediate, but I found that it was incredibly easy to make. There’s only 3 pattern pieces for this project and the seams are so quick to sew, this could have easily been labeled as a simple project.

The way these patterns are designed, they’re perfect for mixing fun patterns, bright or muted colors, adding trims and embellishments and great for using up odds and ends that you have in your sewing stash. For my niece’s skirt, I used all fat quarters that I found at a local quilting shop. I was able to add some die cut fabric flowers as zig-zagged appliques on the front of the skirt by taking left over fabric and running it through my Big Shot die cutting machine with a flower die. I used my machine to sew the buttons on and also used my zig-zag stitch to add color and variety to the skirt.

The over and under skirt concept of this project allows for lot of twirling and swirling by the little girls that wear it, and I really like that the book suggested putting some elastic along the vertical seams of the overskirt so that it scrunches them up a bit for more of the underskirt to poke out, but also for more “twirl factor.”

When it came time to add trim to the skirt, I bought some white ruffle at the craft store, but found that they didn’t have a huge selection of colors or variety of trims. What they did have was a bit expensive ($3 yard and more!) for the amount that I needed for my skirt. The book gave the idea of using patterned ribbons as trim so I simply pinned the ribbon to make my own ruffle and I’m now addicted to making my own ruffled trims! I bought some white ruffle for the skirt and paid $3 per yard and took home 4 yards. It was a total of $12, but when I made the pink and green ruffle on the over skirt, I only paid $1 on the roll of ribbon (4 yards) from the bargain bin. Sure, it took a little more time, but it was much cheaper and because there are so many ribbons to choose from, I have a lot more options open to me. I found it very relaxing and therapeutic to pin the ribbon while watching a documentary or sitting on the couch while the hubby read the kids a book in the evening. When I sew something I really like, I don’t like to rush the process. I like adding details and enjoying the creative process, so slowing down a little to make my own ribbon ruffles is definitely welcome to me.

My daughter loved the skirt that I made for her cousin and asked for one for herself. I found some beautiful brown fabrics with stitched detail and then used some green fat quarters for a soothing and early color combo. She proudly put on a pair of tights this morning and wore the skirt to school today.


For my daughter’s skirt, I decided to do green and brown trims with ribbon, but my ribbons weren’t long enough on the bargain spools to go all the way around the hem of the over and under skirts, so I changed gears a bit and modified the plan by alternating trims on each panel of the skirts.
Another difference between this book and patterns that you buy in a craft/fabric store is that the envelope packaged patterns have step-by-step illustrations for every process of making the garment. This book does not. It has written directions for every step, but not every step has an illustration to go along with it. This can be challenging for people that are visual learners. This book also doesn’t include a layout and cutting guide for your pattern pieces.

My first article of clothing that I made with this book is the Dortje Trousers. This is the pattern that I missed adding the seam allowances to. After I had my daughter try the pants on, I could see that if I’d just added those allowances, they would have been a perfect fit. Still, they turned out adorable and now I just need to find someone to fit them so their adorableness doesn’t go unseen.

I modified this, as well, by not adding the back pockets and forgoing the optional fake fly. These pants can be sewn as solid, unpieced legs or you can piece the legs with different fabrics as two or three pieces. The leg pieces can be gathered at the knee with a bit of elastic or left as is. I also modified the waist band so that I didn’t have to cut into the fabric to make a hole for the elastic as shown in the book.

I’m a big fan of ruffles, as I don’t have to hem the bottoms. I simply run it through my serger so that the edges don’t fray and then add the ruffle over the top.

What I loved about this book is that it’s a good guide for beginners, but for those of us that have been sewing a while, it’s also a great jumping off point to try new things and to easily modify the patterns to what suits us best. I could modify things to cut time down, to add extra details, to make adjustments, etc. and they all worked.

I may have only made three items from this book so far, but I know they won’t be the last. The projects are all unique and very well designed. With a little bit of a work-around here and there, I was able to adapt to using European patterns compared to using the US patterns I’ve used for years. I know I’ll be using these patterns again and again.

Pros:

  • Book includes lots of tips, techniques, suggestions, variations, sizing chart, etc.
  • 10 patterns included
  • Patterns range from 18 months up to kid’s size 12
  • Great value at just $24.99
  • Hardcover and metal comb bound book is sturdy and will hold up to consistent use and is great for laying flat when working with it
  • Projects are very varied and one-of-a-kind designs – very unique

Cons:

  • Not all steps include illustrations so this might be a challenge for visual crafters and learners
  • If you’re not accustomed to using traditional European pattern designs, it will take a little bit of flexiblity and adaptation to to the way the pattern is drawn out (no size numbers on pattern, no notches, no seam or hem allowances)
  • If you want a pattern of every size, you’ll need to trace the patterns out onto paper (though it’s still a great deal at $24.99 even if you have to trace your patterns out to keep one of each)

So, how about you, Craft Critique readers… Do you have this book and what patterns have you sewn from it? Have you ever worked with European patterns? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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