Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Great Crafty Class Action in Austin

The schedule at the Stitch Lab is bursting at the seams with loads of new classes and fantastic new guest instructors. There are some really awesome opportunities for learning everything from how to sew an adorable drawstring dress, to making amazing hats and baby slings. We're even starting to offer knitting! Hurrah! All your crafty bases are covered.

I'm still teaching hand embroidery, and there are still a few spots open in my upcoming classes. I'm really excited to be offering a special mother/child class during Mother's Day Weekend. It will be a fun opportunity for moms and their kids to learn to stitch together. (looks like it's already full, but sign up to be on the wait list if you'd like!) Be sure to check out the schedule page of the Stitch Lab for all the class listings and for more information.

And, if you've already taken my hand embroidery class at the Stitch Lab, and are looking for a way to grow your stitchery in a more artistic way, definitely check out Kat McTee's Artistic Embroidery classes at Studio 1408. You know Kat from my raves about her Screen Printing and Surface Design classes, but what you may not have realized is that she's also an amazing embroidress. She's created some amazing pieces of art that combine her surface design and embroidery. I'm dying to take her artistic embroidery class soon. My friend, Victoria, who was also in our surface design class, took the artistic embroidery class and said it was amazing.

Amazing amazing amazing amazing. I can't say it enough.

Taking craft class is the best way to learn a new skill and to force yourself to make time to work on the new skill. I can't tell you how many times I've been in a class and more than one student comments on how they wouldn't have taken the time to craft if it weren't for the class. Go make time for a crafty class now!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Book Review Bonanza: Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing

** Ack! This review was supposed to go live *last* Thursday, but got eaten up somehow so I had to redo it. Sorry for the delay in that! Enjoy! **

This is the third installment in this week's Book Review Bonanza. Check back to Tuesday's review of Susan Beal's Button it Up and Wednesday's Review of Jenny Ryan's Sew Darn Cute. Today, I'm looking at Kathy Cano-Murillo's Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing.

Artful Sewing is a perfect extension of Kathy's bright, energetic, fun personality. The projects combine her love for her heritage along with her endless optimism and enthusiasm and result in a lot of fun, inspiring projects. The subtitle of Kathy's new book is what really caught my attention: "Fabu-Low-Sew Projects for the Everyday Crafter." Hey! That's me! The Average Jane Crafter!
I love the idea of a book geared toward the crafter who is looking to have some fun and had a bit of color and personality to their lives. Perfection is not really in my vocabulary, so I appreciate the bevy of projects in this book that lend themselves to easy and "carefree" attention from the crafter. Sometimes I'm looking for a challenging project with perfect lines and precise stitching, and sometimes, I'm looking for something more along the lines of this Collage Messenger Bag where free form (read: kinda wonky) stitching is not only allowed, but is part of the actual design!
One of the things I love best about Kathy is her writing style. If you've heard Kathy speak before, you can really hear her voice as you read this book. And just as when you hear Kathy's voice, her words seem to actually ... smile. There is an energy that exudes from Kathy that has been captured in every element of this book - from the projects, to the writing and even to the colors and patterns adorning the inside covers (which makes sense, since Kathy's husband, Patrick, was the illustrator for the book)
Aside from great instructions and inspiration, Kathy has also sprinkled in random bits of fun stuff, like a listing of movies that feature sewing and tips and anecdotes from dozens of crafters. One of my favorite pieces she's included in the book is a cautionary tale of why you should always carry and emergency sewing kit. It involves a skin-tight skirt, a stapler and some chivalrous action on her (future) husband's part. It's hilarious.
What I've always loved about Kathy and her work is that she gives a great, fresh, fun, bright point of view to the craft world. I love how she embraces her culture, her personality and all her sparkle and throttles through her crafty life without hesitation and always with immense gratitude. Her voice is such a welcome and enjoyable addition to the craft world, and reminds all of us: when in doubt, hit it with a bit of glitter.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Book Review Bonanza! Sew Darn Cute by Jenny Ryan

Howdy! You are in part two of my Book Review Bonanza! Check out yesterday's post for a review of Susan Beal's Button it Up.

Sew Darn Cute by Jenny Ryan

I think I need a thesaurus.

I need to find a handful of words I can use in the place of "cute" in this review. Never has a book title been so spot on. Sew Darn Cute is just .... well ... SO DARN CUTE.

It's adorable! It's charming! It's delightful!

It's Jenny Ryan all over.

If you've followed Jenny's work at all (and if you haven't - you should!) you know how flippin' cute she is. She's cute in her crafting, she's cute in her clothes, she's cute in her home, and she's even cute in her dog. She's cute ... cubed! And to love Jenny's cuteness is to absolutely fall head over heals in love with Jenny's new book, Sew Darn Cute.

I think Diane a CraftyPod said it best when she reviewed SDC:

I have to say that this book comes closer than any other US craft book I’ve seen to resembling the aesthetic of a Japanese craft book. (I hope the trend continues.) The simplicity of Jenny Ryan’s designs, and the thoughtful placement of perfect embellishment details, is really refreshing.
I couldn't agree more. There's a level of cuteness in Japanese craft books that cuts right to your heart and begs even the most cynical folks to "squeeeeeee" in delight. Jenny's book hits that same vein. She's taken some traditional projects (tote bags, quilts, hand towels) and infused them with her delightfully unique adorableness that makes them truly special.

Jenny also gives loads of great beginner sewing information, so it's a fantastic book to give to someone who is new to sewing but also wants to get some fun projects on top of their instruction. There are several sweet, simple projects that sewers of any level can tackle. Let's face it, sometimes you'll find a really aesthetically pleasing craft book with cute projects, but when you sit down to actually do them you realize their cuteness does not come in the form of simplicity. Don't fret - that's not what you'll find in Sew Darn Cute. It is filled with projects you not only want to do, but that you actually can do.

There are also some fantastic adorable details in the book. Case in point: baby ric-rac with contrast stitching. It may be difficult to see in the picture above, but there are a few projects that use this contrast stitching technique with ric-rac. It's a simple over-and-under stitch, but the effect is ... I can't help but say it ... Sew Darn Cute! It kills me. Just when you thought baby ric-rac couldn't get any cuter .... leave it to Jenny to take it to a whole nutha levol.

Two projects I'm looking forward to making as soon as is humanly possibly are the Ladylike Laoptop Tote and the Nifty Needlebook. And I've got a vintage embroidered table cloth from the Knitten Kitten that would work perfectly for the Sewing Machine Cozy. I'm also swooning over the Apple Tree Fabric Collage.

Sew Darn Cute is bursting with sheer adorableness. Grab a copy today and see if you can make it past the first page without squealing, "OHMYGAWD! It's Sew Darn Cute!" Just try it - it's impossible, I tell ya!

And - just so you know - Jenny is also the mastermind behind LA's wildly successful Felt Club, as well as the founder of Home Ec at Reform School in LA (which is the only time I've ever wanted to live in California - to be able to take classes at Home Ec). She also creates amazing projects weekly for Craftzine (and has been a fantastic mentor to me there) and is the craft contributor for Apartment Therapy LA. Hot dang! I'll have what she's having!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Book Review Bonanza! Button It Up by Susan Beal

In the last month, some of my favorite crafty gals have released new craft books. This week, I'll be taking a look at each of them, and doing a round up of a few other finds that have recently landed in my lap. Today, I'm taking a look at Susan Beal's Button It Up. Tomorrow, it's Jenny Ryan's Sew Darn Cute, and on Thursday I'll be reviewing Kathy Cano-Murillo's Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing.

One of my favorite things about each of these ladies (aside from them being really nice, creative, fun people) is that I've been able to follow their progress on each of these books through their various blogs/Flickr/Twitter. There's something to be said about getting to be "along for the ride" when someone you admire is tackling a great feat. I'm happy to report that none of them disappoint, and - in fact - they all have blown me away with the variety of projects, contributors and spectrum of styles represented in these three titles.

Let's get started, then!

Button It Up by Susan Beal

I've admited before that I don't have much of a button collection. It's expanded a bit since the CRAFT Release Party back in June, when I ended up with the remains of the picked over buttons we'd provided for the craft project (Which, incidentally, was from Susan's previous book, Bead Simple) but I'm still a few rounds shy of a respectible collection.

That may need to change ... quickly. I've become enamoured with the projects in Button It Up enough that I'm starting to get the button itch in a big way.

Oooooh! So pretty!
Let's talk astehtics. Like Bead Simple, Button It Up is simply and beautifully designed. Pictures are gorgeous, illustrated instructions are easy to follow, and it's a book that's as much fun to flip through an ogle as it is to sit down and work from. If you're someone who's easy to swoon at the sight of colorful vintage button goodness, grab a paper towel 'cause you're going to be sent to drooling the minute you lay eyes on this book.

But what about the details?
Button It Up isn't just beautiful, it's incredibly informative as well. The introduction chapter is a "Vintage Button Primer" and gives a rich history of these fascinating fasteners. (sorry, couldn't resist) Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from this chapter:

"Buttons became tiny canvases to display exquisite art or artistry, tell a story, or reflect on an event or an exciting new trend in politics, literature, fashion or society."
(from the section on The First Golden Age)
"In the 1860s, young women in the United States collected buttons on a string... The superstition was that when a woman's string numbered 999 or 1,000 buttons, her true love would appear. Another version says that upon a woman's engagement or marriage, her husband-to-be would add the thousandth (final) button to complete her charm string."
I defy anyone to read through this chapter without becoming insanely interested in buttons. These few pages alone gave me an incredible appreciation for buttons and left me really excited to see how Susan and the guest contributors used them in the book.

Aside from the primer chapter, the book is filled with a beautiful variety of projects from home dec items, to jewlery to gifts. Most are in the easy to medium category of difficulty, and most seem to be doable in a short amount of time (big points for that!)

Susan, Susan, Susan! Who else can I fawn over?
There are loads of great contributors in this book. I was so happy to see projects from Diane Gilleland, Christina Loft, Jennifer Perkins, Linda Permann, Cathy Callahan, Amy Karol, Leah Kramer and more. Each crafter brings a great new flavor to the book, and leaves the final product very well-rounded.

Right, we get it. You love the book. What else?
More than anything, I'm constantly impressed with Susan's prolific ideas and energy. When I first met Susan last summer in Portland, she was toting her beautiful daughter, Pearl, in one hand, and the proof pages for this book in the other. I was dumbfounded. As a mother of two, I sometimes don't even get a shower every day, let alone find time to write books. And yet not only does Susan write books, blog, freelance, cheer on the Blazers and parent a beautiful child, but she does it all really well. And she does everything with a kindness and sincerety that's hard to come by.

The book is fantastic, and you need to get a copy today (it's official release day!) Want the perfect way to buy one? Susan has generously donated not one, but TWO signed copies of the book to be sold to raise money for Baby Ike. You can head over to her shop right now to purchase one (or both). It's a great way to donate to Ike's cause and get a beautiful, autographed gift for yourself or a friend. Enjoy!

** Edited to add: COOL! It looks like Susan's web site ButtonItUpBook.com will be a place where she'll be blogging regularly about button projects, book updates and more! She's even started a Button It Up Flickr group. I can't want to see what goodies end up there. Check it out!

(and, no, Susan's generous donations did not - in any way - sway my feelings on Button It Up. It's really that darn good!)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ike-a-saurus update & Thank you!

WOW! The response to last week's post about Baby Ike was incredible. I've had loads of emails offering donations and support, and offering items for our silent auction. There have also been lots of fantastic items posted on Etsy with proceeds going to Ike-a-saurus. If you are wanting to donate to baby Ike, this is a great way to do it. You get to send funds to Ike, show support to the crafters who are donating to Ike, and get a litte something special for yourself. You can't lose! I'll be posting a final update of all the crafty donations once they are all in, but for now I'd like to post a shout out to folks who have offered items on Etsy for Ike. Please check them out, support them, and tell them "thanks" for helping sweet Ike.

Susan Beal - West Coast Crafty
Susan immediately stepped up to the plate for Ike and offered *all* the items in her Etsy shop for the Ike-a-saurus fund. Amazing! She's already sold tons of her Bead Simple jewlery kits, but there are a couple left if you want to grab one while you can. While you're there, be sure to check out info on Susan's new book, Button it Up, and tell her thanks for being so generous!

Andreanna - Glamasaurus
What a perfect name for a business helping out Ike-a-saurus! Andreanna has donated the sale of these super cute dinosaur hair clips for Baby Ike! And it appears Ike's cause has gone global: Adreanna is in Lenzburg, Switzerland! Wowza!

Timary Peterson - TimaryArt
Timary is an Austin crafter and makes beautiful crocheted items. Her crocheted, felted, nesting bowls were a huge hit with Diane when I visited her in Portland last summer. She's designated five items in her Etsy shop (including some nesting bowls!) for Baby Ike. They are bright and colorful and super cheery - be sure to check them out!

Tina Lindquist - Craftiness
Tina is also right here in Austin, and she and her husband, Dave, are incredibly creative and talented. They've offered up two items in their Etsy shop for Baby Ike. They are beautiful pieces that are hand crafted and lathe turned. Gorgeous!

FaerieRebecca - FaerieRebecca's Workbench
FaerieRebecca has offered a gorgeous Waldorf doll in Ike's name. Her dolls look gorgeous and cozy and would be well-loved by any child.

There have also been loads of people who have blogged about sweet Ike and have helped spread the word. Here's a list I have going so far (from my crafty peeps) - if you've blogged about Ike and I've missed your post, please shoot me an email at averagejanecrafter[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll get it listed as soon as I can.

Diane at CraftyPod
Vickie Howell
Mama Sings the Blues
Slow Family Living
Marsbars Designs

Thank you so much to all the people who have offered up their Etsy items for Ike and who have blogged about the cause. I can't tell you how much every tiny bit helps. It's been amazing to see so many "tiny bits" come together to forge a great big huge helpful lot for this sweet family.

Stay tuned for more shout outs as items come in for our big silent auction, and stay tuned for more information about a local crafty event I'm trying to put together for next month. Thanks again for all this support. Please keep spreading the word, and keep up with the Ike-a-saurus cause on Ike's web site, and with Kari's updates about Ike's condition on her blog.