Oh, What Fun Blog Hop (and the reality of life)

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Hello and happy Friday, friends! If you have popped over from the Hawthorne Threads blog, you will have seen that today is my day on the Oh, What Fun Blog Hop, and I have to start by saying oh, what fun it has been to work with these stinkin’ adorable fabrics! #icouldntresist

This line is new to the amazing in-house collections that Hawthorne Threads designs and prints digitally. If you are not familiar with their in-house lines, for the love of fabric go check them out now! I guarantee you will be awestruck and overwhelmed. When I browse their site I go into MAKE ALL THE THINGS overload.

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Upon first seeing Oh, What Fun, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. When it comes to gift giving, I often keep things simple and utilitarian. I’m a big fan of food gifts and useful things such as bath and body products, and my favorite thing about giving them is making the presentation adorable. Christmas is such a visual holiday. We can’t help but feel warm, peaceful and excited all at the same time when we see lights, Christmas trees and beautifully wrapped gifts, so I find the extra time and effort that goes into presentation is totally worth it for me.

So, I decided my post would be all about easy-to-sew gift giving vessels and adorable extras to decorate them with. Alright, so where are the projects, you ask?! Well, that’s where reality comes in.

I think we all realize, though sometimes forget, that blogs and social media are merely a glimpse at the highlights of life. I, for the most part, keep my everyday life and reality separate from my sewing adventures, and am often able to do this without interruption. But, the truth is that sometimes I fail. Sometimes it is too much to balance and we have to admit defeat. I am totally beating myself up that today is my day to share and that I am not ready, but the reality is that while I am here making pretty things, my husband is away in a dangerous country fighting for our freedom. There are fire fights, there are daily attacks, there are friendly workers who one day just decide to strap on a suicide vest and blow themselves up in the middle of the base. There are injuries and there are deaths. Too many lately. And this is my everyday reality.

The last six months have been rough, the last few weeks have been especially rough, and the last seven days have been excruciating, but all that matters at this moment as I write this, is that my husband is now home. Reality shifts again, for a little while, with different struggles and different challenges for now, and then eventually we do it all over again.

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So, on that note, I ask you to please stay tuned and pop back next week to see my finished Oh, What Fun projects, because I promise you will love them! I will be sharing some variations of my Sturdy Fabric Basket pattern AND doing a tutorial on how you can modify the pattern to create ANY size and shape basket you like! This is something I get emails about ALL the time, so I’m excited to finally get that together for you. I’ll also be showing you a few other cute patterns and embellishment ideas AND will have an awesome giveaway where you can win three yards of Oh, What Fun for yourself!

In the meantime, go check out the other stops on the Blog Hop and see all the fabulous makes!

Monday 11/14 – Sew Sophie Lynn
Tuesday 11/15 – Hawthorne Threads
Wednesday 11/16 – Olivia Jane Handcrafted
Thursday 11/17 – Holly Gets Quilty
Friday 11/18 – Lillyella (that’s me!)
Monday 11/21 – Violette Field Threads

I hope you all have an awesome weekend, I’ll be back in a few days!
~ nicole

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{Photos by Hawthorne Threads}

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Sewlebrity Sewalong & Book Giveaway!

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Hello there, friends! I’m so excited to be a part of the Just for You Sewlebrity Book Tour & Sewalong this month! I met Caroline of Sew Can She & Sarah of Blue Susan Makes at Quilt Market last fall when they were releasing their book, Just for You, and I instantly fell in love with it, and them!

The book features 24 selfish sewing projects for you to indulge in throughout the year. Garments, bags, aprons, scarves, belts, jewelry and more – all completely adorable. Though I’d say the projects range a bit in difficulty, there are amazing photographs and instructions that make every project doable for any sewist. Not only do you need a copy for yourself, but it’s perfect to give as a gift or a swap extra. AND I’m giving away a copy (giveaway closed, thanks to all who entered)! Read on, friends…

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I made the Top Stitched Belt from the August chapter of the book, which was such a perfect fit for me because I love accessories and I love wearing belts with dresses! This project was really quick and easy to sew up, and the versatility is endless. I had the D-rings and rectangle rings on hand but I’ve seen them available at craft stores, hardware stores and even Walmart. You can use a variety of hardware options from metal to plastic (shower curtain rings?! maybe!).

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I made two versions (and it was hard to stop myself there). The first I made out of Robert Kaufman Rustica Chambray which I’m totally obsessed with. Everything goes with denim, right? I have so many bold, patterned dresses that I knew it would be perfect with all of them (here I’m wearing a sleeveless version of the Washi Dress by Made By Rae).

I really love the top stitching on this belt. I hoard collect a million colors of thread just for projects like these! I had to go with yellow on the denim, because it’s my favorite color and it also goes with everything. Did you ever notice how stitching on jeans is usually yellow?

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The second belt I made out of the new line Lucky Strikes by Kim Kight for Cotton + Steel. This floral has been calling to me since I first saw. I used a purple top stitch on this one and I love how it can be worn with jeans or a dress.

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The pattern gives you directions to easily figure out measurements based on your hardware and the length you want your belt. When using O-rings, you add 1/4″ to the width, but since my rings had flat edges, I used the exact measurement of the opening and did not add any extra, which worked out perfectly.

I really hope you check out this book, I guarantee you’ll love it! You can check out more projects from the book tour and sewalong on Sew Can She and under the hashtag #justforyoubook.

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Now I get to give away a copy! US residents will receive a hard copy and international friends will receive an e-book. Simply leave a comment below and I’ll pick a winner next Monday morning. Now go do some selfish sewing just for you!

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Pattern Review: The Senna Tote

Im so very excited that my Senna Tote was chosen as a finalist in the amazing Purse Palooza event that Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness hosts each year! There were 22 bags chosen for voting from nearly 250 entries and I’m extremely honored mine is included! (Especially since I nearly lost my mind fussy cutting that star print for the handles 🙂
(Voting is closed but thanks to all who voted for me!)
This is a fabulous bag pattern and it was overall pretty quick and easy to sew up. The pattern is the Senna Tote by lbg studio for Willow & Co. You can purchase a PDF download here.
The size is perfect for an airplane carry on, a weekend getaway or for hauling around goodies at quilt market – which is how I christened mine! It’s not too large to carry around on your shoulder for a day, and while I know some people love large purses, I think it’s too big for that.

As you can see, the top folds over if it not fully stuffed, but opens up for plenty of stuffing space! There is a small pocket on the front (which you can easily add a snap to if desired) and a large pocket on the back that runs the full width of the bag. The bag is fully lined and the pattern includes a large dividable slip pocket, but you could easily customize this or add a zipper pocket, too.

I often find I need to change the layering or interfacing used on a bag to make it as sturdy as I want it, but I did not need to do that with this bag. I did, however, lengthen the handles which is something I always end up doing with bags. I wanted it to fit comfortably on my shoulder without digging up into my armpit. 
If you plan to carry this bag by the handles at your side and are not very tall, you will definitely want to take that into account if considering changing the strap length. You’ll have to find the right balance between fitting it over your shoulder and carrying it in your hand without it dragging on the ground. I also found myself carrying it hung over my forearm, which worked out well.
Im considering trying something different on my next one, making shorter carrying handles and adding an adjustable, removable single shoulder strap. My mom suggested that if you are using it as a carry on, the shorter handles would make it easier to hook over the handle of your rolling suitcase when wheeling through the airport or to hang from a stroller if using as a diaper bag. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!

Cutting and interfacing all the pieces of this bag took me much longer than sewing, but I was also cutting all directional prints or prints that required fussy cutting. I was deliberate in my placement of the arrows and where the full horse images would fall. Plus, I’m totally OCD, so there’s that.
Sewing was quick and the only part I fussed with was the areas at the end of the zippers when sewing the bag together at the last step. Topstitching around the zipper wasn’t too bad, I just didn’t get all the way to edges, but I have seen a couple leave this step out with no problem.
You will need a machine that can handle thickness for the bottom portion of the bag, but there arent any tricky or tight places to get into.
Im planning to make another one with a leather bottom and straps and will share pics when it’s done!
If you’re making this bag and have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or email me anytime! (nicole@lillyella.com)
Thanks for visiting!
~nicole

Pattern Review: The Piper Top & Dress

I can’t remember where or when I first saw this top, but I was hooked at first glimpse of that adorable big bow on the back. This is the Piper Misses Top & Dress pattern by Violette Field Threads and you can find it here.
This is the third garment I have made, the first two being the Wiksten Tank and the Flirting the Issue Skirt which are very simple, so I thought it was time to step up my game with gathered sleeves and bust darts.

This pattern was definitely more complex than the other garments I’ve made, but overall I’d still call it easy. 

The pattern calls for regular seams (vs french seams) and to finish the raw edges with a zig zag stitch, if desired, or a serger. There is a simple gather on the shoulder and you use 1/4″ bias tape around the neckline, which was tiny, but lots of pins and a slow stitch speed did the trick.

I made a muslin in medium to check the sizing and found it a bit large, but I was worried the small may be too small so I went with a hybrid in-between size. In the end it still came out a bit larger than I wanted, mostly in body width, so I will try a regular small next time but may need some adjustments in the armholes and placement of the bust darts because of my height and long torso. That being said, I think the pattern sizing runs a tad large. 
It isnt meant to be form fitting but the problem I found in having the width slightly too large is the shoulders are more likely to slide down because of the wide open back, so even though the fit throughout the body isn’t as important, getting the proper width in the shoulder area seems to be.
I made this top using a polyester for the body with lace collar and bow accents. NEITHER were easy to work with, though I am very happy with the drape and feel. The polyester was slippery, similar to working with rayon, so it was hard to cut accurate pieces and required lots of pinning. Same went for the lace.

I wasn’t able to finish the edges of the lace on my machine so I’m not sure how it will stand up to washing, but I did prewash the lace before making the top and I think it will hold up pretty well.

I found adding the sleeves to be the trickiest part for me. The technical skills required weren’t difficult, but I did have a little steam coming out of ears trying to figure out the proper way to lay out all the pieces and attach the sleeves. Ultimately it’s not complicated, but the photos in the pattern are too close up to see what you’re actually looking at. At this step, the front is one piece but the back is in two pieces and they are attached at the should seams. It just takes a little logic and maybe simply more garment experience!

I made a couple minor changes along the way. First was the collar. The pattern includes a cute peter pan collar but I wanted to use the pretty scalloped edges of my lace so just did a little improv there and am so pleased with how it came out. I also shortened the top several inches. I found the length for the top as written in the pattern to be much too long for my preference and a little awkward. If I had made the length as specified, I would have had to modify the width at the bottom to fit around my hips and rear as it was tight before I trimmed and hemmed it.

The pattern includes a long sleeve option with gathered cuffs as well. I made the short sleeves as written though may shorten them to more of a cap, which is just a personal preference. Also, as the name indicates, the pattern includes instructions for making a dress, which I may just try!


Overall I am very happy with my finished top and will definitely be making another. I recommend checking your size with a muslin first, as this top was time consuming enough to want to get it right the first time! If you are unsure, try sizing down first. Between cutting and all the assembly steps, you can expect to spend the good portion of a day, if not a full day, working on it.

I love the look, feel and drape of the polyester and lace, but it was hard to work with. I wouldn’t recommend a stiff or thick cotton because I think the body needs some movement, but any quilting cotton or voile would probably be lovely. The collar and bow also lend themselves wonderfully to creative fabric choices.

If you are adventurous and have experience with bias tape, this would definitely not be too difficult to attempt as a first garment pattern.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email nicole@lillyella.com.

Happy sewing!

A new tote for Quilt Market

I had to do some selfish sewing yesterday to keep my mind of my horrible cramps and pounding headache (the joys of being a woman!), so I made a new tote to take to Quilt Market in October!
Overall this bag was fairly quick and easy to make, but it did take me all day because I was figuring most of it out as I went. If I were to make another it would probably take half the time, if even.
The design is based off the tutorial by Sara Lawson (Sew Sweetness) for the Sawyer Bag, which you can find here. I changed the size, interfacing/lining and added a front pocket (specifics below).
I wanted something big enough to hold my camera, a bottle of water, food for the monster (my belly), as well as whatever else I pick up along the way, but I didn’t want to carry a beach bag on my shoulder all day. This bag ended up being about 13.5″ square by 4″ deep.
I cut my main panels 18″w x 17″h and increased the corner seam distance to 2″ for a slightly deeper bag than the original. I cut the lining panels to the same width but 1″ shorter on height so it wouldnt be bunchy inside.
I wanted it to be strong and sturdy so for the main outer panels I fused fusible fleece to my body fabric (robert kaufman rustica chambray) and then basted it to a layer of canvas. I used shapeflex interfacing on the lining and used a piece of peltex in the bottom of the bag. 
My old necchi handled the bulk like a champ, so as long as you have a machine that can handle thickness, it was easy to sew. No tricky corners or awkward maneuvering, just long straight seams. I’m very pleased with how it came out and would not change anything about the lining or interfacing next time.
I made the straps slightly wider and set them in 3.5″ from my outer edges before assembling the bag. I wanted to see a little more body from the front (the original has the straps at the edges of the bag.) I also adjusted the length to my preference.
I only added an outer pocket on one side, mostly because I wanted to finish the bag in a day, but I also like the simplicity of it without a pocket. Realistically I’ll always have one side against my body so wouldn’t use it much anyways.
I had the metal rings on hand and love how they look but you could use different shapes (such a D rings or rectangle rings) or even leave them off completely and make one long strap without the split for the ring.
I used two fat quarters I had on hand (fabric is Harmony by Jessica Swift) for the lining and added a divided slip pocket. If I had more time or patience I may have added a zip pocket on the other side of the lining, but for the purpose of this bag, I don’t think I’ll miss it.
I’m just in love with this chambray. I want to make all the things out of it and a skirt is definitely next on the list. The outer pocket fabric is from the Botanics line and the strap is Indelible. The combination of patterns and textures just makes my heart sing.
What do you think? 
Have a great week friends!