Homebound Stitching- Updated- Erica Wilson Cross-Stitch Grande Dame

I hurt my back on Monday.  It was a pretty serious ouch, so I have been home-bound and on Percocet for the last few days.  Since the warning label on the meds says not to operate heavy machinery, sewing on the machine was out.  I can’t just sit still, I needed something to work on.  Luckily I had cleaned out a drawer a few weeks ago, and unearthed an in-progress, counted cross-stitch project.

A little history on my fascination with cross-stitch, and this project:I first discovered counted cross-stitch when I was about 10 years old.  There was this great needlework store in Sausalito, and I used to save up my allowance for weeks buy needlepoint and cross-stitch kits.  I didn’t have anyone to teach or coach me through these projects, and frequently found myself frustrated by the counting aspect of cross-stitch.  As a result, I stuck to needlepoint.

Flash forward a dozen or so years and I decided to give it another shot.  I stuck mostly to very small, ornament sized kits.  They were nice, but not very challenging.  And while I enjoyed needlepoint, I preferred the look of cross-stitch.  Someone suggested that I try Stamped cross-stitch, but I didn’t like the fact that the lines can peek through.

A few years ago, I discovered the plethora of crafting supplies on ebay, and began buying up a storm.  I bought quilt kits, needlepoint kits, and cross-stitch kits.  I was drawn to this fun sampler that used very 1970’s colors, and started on it.  Soon quilting projects took over, and the sampler went back into the drawer, forgotten until last week.

Since rediscovering this project, I have been on a cross-stitch bender!  I bought some new books, a bunch of floss, and subscribed to a great magazine from England devoted to cross-stitch!

Since I really like the design of this project, I did a little search on the designer, to see if she had more projects available.  What I found was the “grande dame” of the resurgence of needle arts- Erica Wilson.  Thanks to Ms. Wilson, America (and the world) rediscovered the art of needlecraft.  I also found out that the sampler is based off of a more complex crewel embroidery design.  Here is the complex pattern:

cntrylfcrewl_lgLooking at it, I can see how the design was translated.  I don’t do crewel embroidery, but there is a cross-stitch available for this pattern, and I’d LOVE to get that to really challenge myself.

I have been working like a fiend on this project and have made significant progress.  I have had to pick out a few of the stitches due to some miscounts, but all in all, this has been a great project to work on while recovering.

I got a couch organizer for needlecrafts:

Arm Chair Organizer

Arm Chair Organizer

This little “over the arm” organizer by DMC is fantastic!   I use the pockets to store the thread snips and the pieces I am currently using.  The larger pocket holds my thread card, and the little button holds the scissors while I am working.  Even better, it folds up into a small-ish square and fits into the project bag.

I had to pick out and re-do this flower about three times before I got it right:


Here is the “big picture”

progress!I  love the bright colors and the kitschy feel to it.  I’m not sure what I am going to do with it when I am done, but luckily, there is a needlework store near me that can help me decide!

With my renewed interest in embroidery and cross-stitch, I have added many new books to my collection.  I promise to update my bookshelf page soon!

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Student Made Samples

I had a lovely day sewing with my students today.  My first student made his own stuffy by drawing out a picture then tracing it onto the muslin (a project from Sewing School).  He decided to make a stuffy of a Minecraft character named Steve.

Introducing Steve

Introducing Steve

My second student is focusing on decorative stitching, so she is creating a letter sampler.  This is not a traditional sampler.  She is just learning how to sew, so we started with lacing cards, then moved onto posterboard lacing cards with holes punched in them.  I taught her the Straight, Chain and Split Stitches.  We decided that the Chain Stitch was a little too hard, so we settled on the Straight and Split Stitches for her project.  The next step was to use 1 inch alphabet stamps to stamp the letters onto posterboard and muslin.  I punched holes around the stamped letters using a tiny, confetti hole punch so that she could practice her stitches on a smaller scale.  Once she had mastered the stitches on the posterboard, it was time to work with the fabric.  She did a great job!

Split Stitch

Split Stitch

My last student of the day got a lot done!  She finished her Sewing Machine Cozy, used freezer paper to trace and cut out the eHold pattern, and started on her Secret Message Pillow (Thank you Sewing School 2!)

Sewing Machine Cozy

Sewing Machine Cozy

I am looking forward to next week to see where we go next!!!

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These Are The Things Teachers Live For!

At class yesterday, one of my students proudly displayed the thread pouch he made.  I looked at it, and could see that he had taken all of the skills that he had been taught- making knots, whip-stitch, and finishing knots- and even added a new one- adapting a pattern- to make it.  As a teacher, this is what I live for!  I love it when a student takes what you teach them and does their own thing.  This little boy has been making things each week (outside of class) and is continually refining what he makes.  He tries things and figures out what doesn’t work before he makes the next thing.  I look forward to seeing what he has created each week!

Here is his thread pouch:

A Velcro top Thread Pouch

A Velcro top Thread Pouch

The whole family is fantastic, and I love teaching all of the kids!  I started teaching the youngest this last week, and she is a quick learner!  We made lacing cards out of posterboard for her to practice a straight stitch, chain stitch and split stitch.  Chain stitch is tricky, but she is getting it!

The oldest daughter is almost finished with her sewing machine cover, and has already scoured the book for patterns that she wants.  She wants to make a lunch bag for school, and is planning on making the eHold bag.  I can’t wait to get started on that with her!

It was also quite lovely to leave with this:

Yummy chocolate cake!!

Yummy chocolate cake!!

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Teacher is the Student

As a teacher, I think it is vital that you continue to learn.  Not only is learning new things fun, but it shows your students that education is a lifelong adventure, not just something you do to get a job.

As a sewing instructor, I am by no means an expert seamstress, and I certainly have new things to learn!  That was my goal over the weekend. 

It started as an organizing project.  My sewing table was out of control!  There were magazines and books stashed in every shelf and UFPs (Unfinished Projects) lurked everywhere!  I finally decided that something needed to be done!  I started by doing a serious triage on my books.  I pulled all of my craft books off the shelf and got rid of all the books that are no longer needed (about half of them!) and went through the remaining books to find relevant projects or tips. 

Next, I went through some of the UFPs to figure out the next steps.  For the most part, they were the Block of the Month projects from Jo-Anns that required applique.  I decided to cut out the shapes using the freezer paper method, and maybe, just maybe try some applique.  I got as far as cutting the shapes out 🙂

Next I found the Red Riding Hood Quilt that I had started tying off, but was nowhere near finishing.  I have always wanted to try machine quilting (I have never finished a quilt with any method other than tying) and remembered a very simple method in one of my books.  So, I went ahead and started.

Holy Cow I'm Quilting!

Holy Cow I’m Quilting!

I now need to carefully cut out the ties and finish the quilt.  It will happen!

The lighting at my desk is terrible and lately the only work time I have is at night, so I decided on Sunday to finally tackle the hand applique work, since I can do that in another room.  I decided to keep the edges raw and use a blanket stitch.  I found a simple tutorial online, and got started.

Not Too Shabby!

Not Too Shabby!

I’m starting to get the hang of it, but my fingers are not happy!

1 of 4 Complete!

1 of 4 Complete!

It is certainly not perfect, but I like that I have finally tackled this skill!



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Yay! My First Classes Are Done!

Last Friday I taught my first classes!  A fabulous sister and brother duo had back-to-back classes!

Thursday night I made all my copies, packed up my supplies and tried to get a good-night’s sleep!  Friday morning I had the fun experience of schlepping all my supplies down our very narrow and very steep stairs.  I then put all my years of Tetris to good use in loading up my SMART Car!

My car is like a TARDIS

My car is like a TARDIS

My first student is taking the soon-to-be-added Simple Sewing Machine Basics class.  She has had a sewing machine class before, but it was time for a brush up.  We both had difficulty with the Singer bobbins (seriously Singer, you need to re-think the side load bobbins for machines marketed to kids!) but finally got the thing figured out!  She learned some machine skills like a lock-stitch and turning corners.  Her first project was a Stitch Sampler.  She wasn’t quite finished with it when our class time was over, but I was proud to see her continue to work on it while I started her brother’s class!

The brother is taking the Simple Sewing Basics, and he caught on right away!  I start my class with the Discount School Supply Alphabet Lace-Up Cards.  I like these cards, because they are two separate pieces.  I teach the stitch with the letter, then they learn how to hold two pieces of material together by “stitching” the letter to the square card.  Once he grasped the basic concept, we moved on to his first project- the Needle Case.  He was very excited to learn that he gets to keep all of his patterns.  He wants to make projects for his sisters.  Awww!

Time went by very quickly, and soon it was time for car Tetris and good-byes!  I have my second class session with them tomorrow where Pincushions will be made!

Happy Students!

Happy Students!

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Round Two of Project Samples

I have my first student tomorrow- yay!!  To ensure that I am ready for class tomorrow, I’ve spent the last week planning, buying supplies and making samples.  This class is so new that it isn’t even up on my class list yet (coming soon, I promise!) and is a crash course in machine sewing skills.

The first project I made is not specific for this class, but rather an addition to the sewing kit project.  It is called a Chalk Pocket:

Chalk Pocket

A Pocket to Store Your Tailor’s Chalk

No one wants to get chalk dust all over their sewing kit, so here is a little pocket, closed with Velcro, for storing your chalk.  I modified a pattern and project from Sewing School to make this by hand.  I thought about adding a button, but decided against it.

Next up is The Stitch Sampler.  When you first learn to use a machine, there is nothing more exciting than just trying out stitches and going free form, so this project is just that!



My Janome Sew Mini hasn’t arrived yet, but one of the projects for this class is the Sewing School 2‘s Sewing Machine Cozy.  I modified the pattern, and made mine reversible:

Which Side to Use?!

Which Side to Use?!

The next project is a pillow with a pocket:

Desmond is Not Quite Sure About the Pillow

Desmond is Not Quite Sure About the Pillow

The final project I selected for this class is a Zippered Pouch (also from Sewing School 2).  I have never sewn in a zipper, but the instructions were so clear, that it was a piece of cake!  I’m glad that my student will get a chance to learn this at a younger age than 41!

A Nice Pouch For Sewing Notions!

A Nice Pouch For Sewing Notions!

I had a lot of fun today making all of these projects, and I can’t wait to work with my student tomorrow!


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Round One of Project Samples

I spent my Independence Day happily working at my new little table while watching The Revolution on The History Channel.  It was a good day!

Happy work spotI am really thrilled with how well my adapted table is working out!  The real test will come on Saturday when I attempt to use the sewing machine!

The first two projects I worked on are from the Sewing Basics class.  The Needle Case comes from the fantastic book- Sewing School.  The Pincushion pattern is a Winky Cherry creation.

yay felt squaresUsing felt squares will make it easier for young children to trace and cut a pattern for the first time.

Finish 1The cover of the Needle Case

finish 2The inside of the Needle Case

The Sewing School book has a great pattern for an apple pincushion, but I wanted to do something a little different.  Since some of my students will be more advanced, I wanted to create a pincushion that was a little more challenging.  I took the small heart and large heart patterns from the My First Sewing Book pattern set, and decided to make a layered pincushion with decorative stitching.

double heartDecorative Stitching attaches the smaller heart to the larger one

pincushionThe finished pincushion

Next up was a simple Stuffy with another Winky Cherry pattern.  I can’t tell you how many of these I made as a child in Winky’s classes.  It was great fun getting to feel 8 years old again!

bunny patternThe Bunny Pattern

BunnyThe Finished Bunny

Next up was patterning out two embroidery projects.  The first one is the classic Winky Cherry name sampler (my mother still has mine somewhere!)

Name samplerFor younger children, the pattern will be transferred in pencil to the gingham fabric.  For more older students, it will be an introduction to counted cross-stitch.

The second project was inspired by a blog that I read on the San Francisco Chronicle’s website, sfgate.  One of the blog’s authors was given a great note by his 7 year old son after being told “because I said so.”  He posted the note and story on the blog and the regular commenters all had a great time with it.  One of them suggested turning it into a “Bless This House” style sampler and the idea was born.  The post is here, but for some reason the comments are showing up.  There was some debate over the spelling of “worst.”  I read it as “werst” but the author thinks it’s spelled correctly.  Here is the pattern I made:

Ode to PoopI went with my spelling- werst!

WerstIt is hard to read in this picture, but here is my sampler!

I have to work tomorrow, so I probably won’t be able to do anymore samples until the weekend.  Until then- happy sewing!

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Quilt-Hack: In Which I Adapt a Camping Table for Sewing

What do you do when your apartment has the world’s narrowest living room (seriously, the room is so narrow we were forced to get a flat screen TV) and so you can’t have coffee table?  You get creative!  I spent some time online looking for a low, folding table that could easily be stashed in a corner.  No luck, until I found this.  It’s a bit too rich for my blood, and the slats would make crafting difficult.   The reviews also put me off a bit, but it gave me the idea to look at a sporting goods store for a camping table.

I popped into Big 5 Sporting Goods and found this little table.  It was the perfect height, and very lightweight, but there were those slats again.  What’s a girl to do?  Suddenly it hit me- a cutting mat!  If I could find a cutting mat slightly smaller than the table, I could use Velcro to adhere the mat to the table (I want to make sure that the mat will stay still while working) and have a multipurpose surface to work off of.

I found the perfect mat at Michael’s.  It is almost the exact width of the table, and two slats shorter.  Materials

I spaced out the Velcro to be every other covered slat:


Then put the mat on:

Cutting Matand voila!  A small workspace that will fit neatly in the corner!

In the end, I did spend more than I intended to, but I’m going to take the table with me on my next camping trip.  That way I can justify this as dual purpose!



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What’s In The Box?

I spent an enjoyable afternoon at Jo-Ann Fabrics today buying materials for my sample projects.  I came home with a big box of fun!

Sewing BoxSo, what’s in the box…

Inside the BoxLots of felt, embroidery floss, crochet thread and COLOR!  These materials will soon become stuffed animals, embroidered pillows, pin cushions, needle cases and much, much more!

I also bought fabric to make the patternless dress, tank top and skirt.  I should have bought fabric that was made for children, but I found some gorgeous fabrics and I just couldn’t resist making adult-sized samples that I can wear!

Dress FabricSoon to be a belted, patternless dress (I promise to share the steps to make this when the time comes!)

Tank Top FabricFabric for the dressy tank top.  This is the patternless dress, minus several inches.  I am working on a way to add a decorative band to the bottom.

Skirt FabricFabric for the simple skirt.  I am going to add a ribbon belt to hide the elastic waist band.  Also, the fabric is somewhat sheer, so it will lined with the same fabric.

I can’t wait to get started on these fun projects!

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Introducing Simple Sewing With Miss Tracy!

It has been a long-held dream of mine to offer sewing classes for young children.  Well, now that dream is a reality!  I am now offering in-home classes for children ages 4-12.  I offer both one-on-one classes and small group classes, with a discount for the host family.

My classes are designed to be progressive, but more experienced sewers can jump levels to focus on what interests them.  For a full list of classes, click here.

In addition to my formal class offerings, I offer project coaching for students looking to expand their skills beyond the Simple Sewing track.

Coming soon: Simple Sewing classes for adults!

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