Archive for the ‘library’ Category

happy homemade vol. 2 in english!

happy homemade vol.2

I have been blathering on for years about how much I love the Japanese sewing book Happy Homemade vol. 2.

clothes made from happy homemade vol 2 on elsie marley

All of the clothes pictured above (and below) are made from patterns in this book. Happy Homemade patterns are my go to for pajamas, hoodies, pants, and tops. Without a doubt it is my most used pattern book.

clothes made from happy homemade vol 2 on elsie marley

And now Happy Homemade is in English! Only they renamed it Happy Homemade: Sew Chic Kids. They changed a few other things too (mostly for the best):

remade pattern pages in Happy Homemade

1. the pattern pages don’t induce vertigo

This came as quite a pleasant shock. I had resigned myself to spending a solid 15 minutes finding the pattern I need on the very chaotic Japanese pattern sheet. I actually wrote a whole post about locating your pattern for Cherie’s series on Japanese patterns.  No more! The patterns in the English version are given a generous amount of space. They have also been redrafted to fit American sizes! Every pattern comes in 4 sizes: 2, 4, 6, 8.

Happy Homemade: Sew Chic Kids

2. the measurement are in inches.

This is obviously only exciting for the Americans, because we are ridiculously anti-metric. But there are a lot of us and we do all understand 3/8 of an inch much better than 1 cm. It’s silly, but true.

3. the directions are in english

This is, oddly, not a 100% improvement. The first thing I did when I got the English version was to flip to the bits that had stumped me in the past. After reading them in English, I still didn’t understand what they wanted me to do. Sewing directions are notoriously difficult to comprehend. Sometimes it’s better just to draw pictures. Japanese sewing books have perfected the art of the sewing diagram. Turns out their written directions can be just as confusing as everyone else’s.

That said, the sewing tips, the fabric recommendations, and the general instruction are all so much better than I had ever imagined.

Happy Homemade: Sew Chic Kids

4. the clothes are just as adorable.

One thing they didn’t change: the clothes. They are as simple, stylish, and adorable as they are in the Japanese version. Now if I can make tons of clothes for my kids without being able to read any of the directions, just image what you can do now!

Be sure to put Happy Homemade: Sew Chic Kids on your Christmas wish list, because I’m planning a sew-a-long next year. We could even have a whole Happy Homemade month! February sound good?


*I was given a copy of this book to review, but my opinions are, as always, my own.


a kid’s guide to sewing

a kid's guide to sewing

I haven’t taught my children to sew. It’s horrible I know. I cook with my kids and make art with my kids all the time, but sewing I’ve always kept for myself. When sew mama sew sent me the book, A Kid’s Guide to Sewing, I figured it was high time I started  sewing with my kids too.

ice cream charm on elsie marley

My daughter picked the backpack charm project in the book. You could choose between making a flower or an ice cream cone. Even though I tried to get her to think of something else (kitty? donut? bike?) she was dead set on the ice cream cone.

ice cream charm on elsie marley

All the templates in the book are very sweet and hand drawn, but I urged my daughter to create her own pattern.  The book is actually written by an 11-year old (well, her parents helped a lot), which makes all the projects feel much more approachable for a kid–and doable!

ice cream cone charm on elsie marley

Then she cut the pattern out, traced it on felt, and cut out all the felt pieces.

ice cream charm on elsie marley

To make the cone look more like a cone, I showed her how to do a simple running stitch. She immediately ran off and came back with a piece of chalk. She wanted to draw lines on the cone to guide her stitching.  Turns out that I have been teaching her to sew, if only by sewing when she is around. They pay attention to us much more than we think.

ice cream cone charm on elsie marley

Sitting next to my daughter, watching her embroider an ice cream cone, I realized sewing isn’t all that hard. A running stitch is up, down, up, down. A whip stitch is around and around, around and around. The thing I was teaching her was patience. Sewing takes time. It took me a long time to learn that, but when I did–when I really started to love taking my time–then my sewing got better, much better.

ice cream cone charm on elsie marley

I noticed another thing about sewing while we were working on this project together: sewing is quiet. Cooking with kids can be frantic (the cookies are burning!!!), making art can be messy (who poured glitter on the baby’s head?!), but sewing is slow and contained and practically silent.

ice cream backpack charm on elsie marley

We sat at the dining room table, my daughter and I, talking about the day, stopping now and then so I could tie a knot or show her a stitch, and just having a quietly wonderful time.  Thanks to sew mama sew, and their fantastic FunStitch Studio Summer Camp, I taught my daughter a bit about sewing and learned a lot myself!


salad for dinner

salad for dinner by Jeanne Kelley

It hasn’t been as godawful hot here like it was last week, but still it’s hot. Dinnertime is of course the hottest part of the day, which makes for a very crabby cook. I’ve tried to make myself a little easier to be around by making cold salads pretty much every day for dinner. This book, obviously, has helped.

nicoise salad

Salad for Dinner,by Jeanne Kelley, is not a vegetarian cookbook, though it may sound like one. One chapter of the book is dedicated to meat free salads, but the rest are focused on seafood, fish, poultry, and meat. The salads are substantial, inventive, simple, and really just beautiful. She has some classics in the book, like salade nicoise. My nicoise salad (above) is actually not at all like the one in the book–which has artichokes and peppers and a delicious sounding anchovy vinaigrette–but hers is not very much like the classic salad anyway.

thai beef salad

Some salad seem to be an idea of a dinner turned into a salad: Vietnamese pork meatball banh mi salad, spicy sriracha buffalo chicken salad. And some salads are beautiful, seasonal ingredients that come together to make a perfect salad: Oregon summer grilled chicken salad (with peaches and blackberries). The book is a fantastic resource for different kinds of salad greens, dressings, lists of make-ahead salads, and how to make up your own salad for dinner. I may have checked the book out from the library, but it will be on my shelf for good soon enough.

three salads

I’m going to leave you with a salad recipe that isn’t from the book at all, rather from another excellent cookbook, River Cottage Everyday. This salad was so damn simple and good I had to share.

Fresh Peas and Ricotta salad

adapted from river cottage everyday by hugh fearnley-whittingstall

  • 1 lb peas (fresh if you can get them)
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (again, the fresh stuff is so much better)
  • 3 or 4 green onions thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • a herb (thyme is nice or basil or mint or even tarragon, but not all of them together)

Cook the peas in salted water. Rinse them in cold water until they’ve cooled off. Mix with onions and herbs.  Pour a few big glugs of olive oil and squeeze about a 1/2 lemon on top. Make sure everything is coated and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Gently mix in the ricotta and serve. If you want to make this into a meal, some chicken would not be out of place.



reinvention by maya donenfeld



reinvention by maya donenfeld

Reinvention: Sewing with Rescued Materials is a beautiful new book by Maya Donenfeld . You are probably familiar with Maya’s blog, MayaMade, where she writes about parenting and making with the seasons. Years ago, Maya sent the craft blog world into a sewing frenzy when she came out with the burlap bucket pattern and for good reason: it is simple, beautiful, useful, and recycled.  So too is every project in her new book.

color block zippered pouch

Each chapter in the book is dedicated to a specific material: linen, burlap, jersey, wool, denim, tyvek, and vintage. The projects are, yes, made from recycled materials, but they don’t scream, “I’m recycled!” like say, a pop top vest would. They all subscribe to the same natural aesthetic, even the most seemingly unnatural of materials, tyvek.  When my copy of the book came I was immediately draw to this chapter, because I’ve always loved tyvek, oddly enough, and I was excited to see someone else out there did too!

painted tyvek

I chose to make the color block zippered pouch, but after painting a bit of tyvek I was less than thrilled.  I used a silver metallic acrylic paint that ended up looking a sad gray and the blue was nice, but it brought out the texture of the tyvek more than I wanted. It is actually a nice effect, sort of like a faux leather, but it wasn’t what I was after.

tyvek and leather zip pouch

Maya suggests painting the tyvek or simply drawing on it with a permanent marker, which of course makes sense as tyvek is as much like paper as it is like fabric. I picked up my ultra fine point Sharpie and went to town. The leather-like effect I got with the painted tyvek made me want to use some actual leather. A few snips from a vintage, buttery leather jacket and I had the makings for a fine recycled zip pouch.

tyvek zip pouch zipper

I didn’t use the exact dimensions she specifies for the pouch, but the patterns in this book are meant more as guidelines. Maya even says, “…ultimately the size, shape, and color of each rescued piece informs the final outcome. If you listen carefully, the fabric will tell you what it wants to be.”  This tyvek envelope told me to draw a geometric pattern on it, then sew it to some leather and attach an aqua zipper. Sewing the tyvek was easy, just like sewing paper, so use an old needle in your machine. It was my first time sewing with leather and that was simple too. My machine didn’t know what was going on when I tried to sew the tyvek to the leather, and I had to help it along quite a bit.

tyvek and leather pouch detail

Maya also suggests leaving a bit of the original printing exposed, “ that its reinvention efforts are not forgotten.” I think this quote sums up the book nicely. You get to make all these wonderful pouches and hampers and poofs from old materials, but hidden in these newly sewn things are little reminders of what they once were.

full zip pouch

The lovely people at Wiley Craft have offered a copy of Reinvention to one of my readers. Please leave a comment telling me about your favorite recycled material to be entered in the drawing. The giveaway will close Wednesday May 9th at noon central. I’m sorry but this giveaway is only open to US residents. Please follow along with the rest of the tour to see more of this lovely book!

reinvention: sewing with rescued materials blog tour
week one
5/2- Craft
week two
5/7 Whip Up
5/10 Annekata
week three
5/15 Etsy (tuesday tutorial)
5/17 Made


book review: little bits quilting bee by kathreen ricketson

little bits quilting bee

Kathreen Ricketson has come out with a phenomenal new quilting book called Little Bits Quilting Bee. All the quilts in the book are made out of charm squares, jelly rolls, layer cakes, and fat quarters. If you think I’m talking about delicious pastries you are not that far off. Although those are all names for packs of fabrics, sewers ooo and ahh over them like kids in a candy store. I know I have drooled over a jelly roll, but had no reason to buy such a delicacy.

The book is beautiful, the designs are young and graphic, and the directions are thorough. That is practically a given when you pair Kathreen + Chronicle books. But lets get to the fun bit: choosing fabrics. I picked a favorite quilt from each of the four categories in the book and then stood staring in front of the giant wall of fabric that is the internet.


LAYER CAKE: pre-cut 10 in./25 cm squares that usually come in packs of 40

sunny day mat

I think the sunny day mat is the perfect project to make for your best friend who is finally having a baby. I would love to do it mostly in navy and white (because she will of course know babies love looking at high contrast colors), then play around with some beautiful blue and white hand printed fabrics for the inner circle and all those prairie points!

  1. brushstrokes in teal
  2. blue jars fabric
  3. huts handprinted fabric
  4. organic cotton block printed fabric
  5. weave hand screenprinted fabric


CHARM SQUARES: packs of pre-cut 5 in/12 cm squares

cloud song

Cloud song is everyone’s favorite quilt from the book. Maybe because it’s gray and cold outside right now, but I think this quilt would be amazing with a blue/gray color scheme. Wouldn’t some liberty of london prints make a lovely sky? Look it there, they sell a charm square pack that is just perfect.

rainy day quilt colors

  1. blues for you fat quarter stack
  2. liberty of london muted palette charm squares
  3. kona shades of gray and charcoal scraps


FAT QUARTERS:  a quarter of a yard measuring about 18 x 22 in/46 x 56 cm

garnets and gold

I love the Garnets and Gold quilt in the book mostly because I reminds me of my first quilt, but also because it’s so stinking cheery. Done in vintage floral sheets, you couldn’t help but be happy making it–and sleeping under it!

vintage sheets fat quarters


 JELLY ROLL: pre-cut 2 1/2 in/6cm strips of fabric cut selvage to selvage

step lively

I would love to tone down the rainbowness of this bold quilt with some muted, hand dyed fabric. Actually, while I was looking around the internet for fabrics I found it very difficult to find handmade fabrics made up into packs like this–jelly rolls were by far the hardest to find. If there are any screen printers or other fabric makers out there–here is your niche! Quilters are crazy for fabric. Cra. Zy. And I’m betting they would love make a quilt from your hand printed goodness.

hand dyed jelly rolls

  1. cool fall leaves hand dyed jelly roll
  2. hand dyed cotton jelly roll, AUTUMN

As a little treat I have one book to giveaway! So leave something lovely in the comments and I’ll pick a winner tomorrow evening. Good luck! And follow along on the book tour to see more lovely quilts from Little Bits Quilting Bee.



Wednesday, November 9 – luvinthemommyhood & Elsie Marley
Thursday, November 10 – True Up
Friday, November 11 – House on Hill Road & CraftyPod

Monday, November 14 – Handmade by Alissa & Hello My Name Is Heather
Tuesday, November 15 – West Coast Crafty & Foxy Art Studio
Wednesday, November 16 – Patch Andi & The Last Piece
Thursday, November 17 – In Color Order & Duo Fiberworks
Friday, November 18 – Kristin La Flamme & Camp Follower Bags & Quilts

Monday, November 21 – Quilt Dad
Tuesday, November 22 – Pat Sloan & Pleasant Home