I run, I craft, I write, and I make your favorite clothes.

I've never met anything I couldn't sew. Sewing makes me happy. I specialize in heirloom-quality garments and modern but timeless design. I love the challenge of creating garments specific to your needs, whether a tutu for a sensitive little ballerina, an extra tough pair of pants that is soft on the inside for that rough and tumble kid, your every day favorite clothes, or an elaborate formal gown. When it comes to sewing, I make things happen!

It’s Sew Fab(ulous) Again!

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This post contains affiliate links. When you purchase the Sew Fab Bundle through those links I earn a percentage of the sale. Thank you so much for supporting the Sew Fab Sale! We all appreciate your business!

Sew Fab Winter 2014 Pattern Sale at www.thesoutherninstitute.com

I can’t believe it’s time again for another Sew Fab Pattern Sale, can you? It feels like the time in between sales just gets shorter and shorter! I know that many of you have been keeping up with sale updates through the Sew Fab newsletter, and have been eagerly awaiting this bundle… I think you’re going to be really excited!

This time around things are a bit different. In the past the Sew Fab bundles have covered a wide range of patterns, from beautiful girls’ dresses to unisex children’s pants. We’ve seen women’s patterns, stuffed animals, and messenger bags. Each bundle has been amazing, but what we found is that some of you already had several of the patterns in the bundle. A lot of you said that you would only use a few of the patterns, because the range of patterns was so broad, which didn’t make buying it worth it for you. The Sew Fab Team had to think long and hard about how to give you all a bundle that you could really use, so they decided to go back to the drawing board and create brand new designs for this sale! Did you hear that???

This bundle is completely made up of unreleased patterns!

The Sew Fab Winter Bundle includes ten brand new women’s patterns from indie pattern designers that you already know and love! They have been working tirelessly, comparing ideas and notes and creating an amazing bundle of patterns that will help you create an entire wardrobe for yourself! This bundle is so versatile. It will enable you to create endless combinations.

Now for the exciting part…the new patterns! Ten never-before-seen, gorgeous patterns. Here they are!

Sew Fab Winter 2014 Bundle
From Top Left, clockwise: The Parisian Palazzo Pants by E-Beth Designs, The Omega Angel Jacket by Golden Rippy, The Margot Dress by Violette Field Threads, The Extraordinary Girl by Filles a Maman, The Vintage Inspired Train Case by Gingercake, The Norah Nightgown and Panties by Greenstyle Creations, The Off the Shoulder Dress and Peplum Top by EYMM, The Capitol Hill by Straight Stitch Designs, The Jersey Glam Dress by Kelly Crawford (Sewing in No Man’s Land), The Wander Skirt by One Girl Circus.

Because they are new, these patterns are not listed anywhere on the internet right now, so for your reference, we have listed all of the pattern descriptions and size charts for you on this page. Hop on over and take a look. You’ll see that there are so many options for every woman!

Buy It Now

As you can see, this is a really amazing bundle! Each pattern was designed for this sale (FOR YOU!) and the bundle is available only through the Sew Fab Winter Sale. You will not find these patterns sold together anywhere else, and certainly not for this price! At $29.95, this is the perfect budget friendly gift for a BFF, family member, or yourself, because 10 brand new patterns at less than $3 each cannot be beat! (Bundles cannot be shared. Please purchase additional bundles if gifting them.)

If you have purchased a Sew Fab Pattern Bundle in the past you know how it works, but just in case you are new to Sew Fab here’s what you need to know…

The Sew Fab Pattern Bundle is a bundle of PDF patterns. If you’ve never sewn with a PDF pattern before, let me explain briefly how they work. Upon purchasing the bundle you will be sent links to the individual pattern files. After downloading each pattern, you will print out the pattern itself, creating pattern tiles. Simply tape the tiles together to create the full pattern! At that point you can cut out the size that you need and pin the paper pattern that you have pieced together directly to your fabric, or you can trace the pattern size that you need onto sewing paper or tracing paper and cut it out, saving the paper pattern for later when you need to sew another size. PDF patterns are so convenient because you can print them out as many times as you need and they’re stored on your laptop!

This Sew Fab Pattern Bundle is only available for a very limited time and will never be available again! You can purchase the bundle from December 5th at 8 a.m. EST through December 15th at 11:59 p.m. EST. There will be no late sales offered. Due to the nature of the sale there are no refunds. The pattern bundle expires six months from the end of the sale, so please download and save your patterns upon receiving them.

You don’t want to miss this unique opportunity to purchase a ready-made collection of 10 brand new PDF sewing patterns for only $29.95!

Buy It Now

The Sew Fab Giveaway!

As always we have a great Sew Fab Giveaway for you to enter! One lucky winner is going to win a whole bunch of gift certificate goodness, plus an extra little gift from Funnybone Toys and Jenny (the creator of the Sew Fab Sale)! Here’s what the winner will receive…

Winter Sew Fab Giveaway graphic

Four gift certificates totaling $225 from Finch Sewing Studio, Imagine gnats, Online Fabric Store, and Fat Quarter Shop!!! And the winner will also get a Needles, Threads, and Buttons Rolli stamp from Funnybone Toys and one yard of twill tape to make custom fabric tags! To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below, and be sure to leave the required information when asked. Facebook will not allow us to require you to “like” a page in exchange for an entry, but if you visit the page and feel led to “like” it I know the designers and giveaway sponsors would greatly appreciate it. The giveaway is open to all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sign up for the Sew Fab Newsletter to get the latest Sew Fab News! Winners will be announced in the newsletter as well as upcoming sales and other news pertaining to the Sew Fab Sale and the world of PDF patterns.

**For answers concerning sale terms and customer service questions, please see the FAQ page.


The Little Spark I needed

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My friend Carrie wrote a book.  I knew she was writing it.  In fact, I pre-ordered it, standing in her booth at Quilt Market in Pittsburgh, the second it became available.  I have already purchased 4 copies, because I love it so much I want to give it to everyone I care about.

Carrie opens up her heart in this book.  You will see. once you begin reading the introduction, that she lives her creativity, and she truly wants you to open up to yours!  The words are so beautiful I keep closing the cover while I shut my eyes to absorb and digest the words I just read. (…and to keep the tears from falling all over the pages, because I feel like she knows my heart).  

I want to put her words on posters around the house, just to remind me to stay true to myself.

I read and say “Yes” then read more and say “Oh, yes” then I close the book and try to wait, to absorb it all but I can’t wait to devour the next Spark!  For me, the best way to use this book was to read it through, soaking in the truth, then read it again and do the prompts

Do yourself a favor, buy it for yourself, then buy 3 more copies for the people you love most in the world. 

Carrie is hosting a giveaway over on her blog, (enter it to replace the one you buy for yourself and then give to your best friend).


I am so in love with her book, I will be giving one away at the Detroit Urban Craft Fair this weekend at my booth for Gentle Clothing.  I hope I’ll see you there!


click on the image to enter the giveaway on Carrie’s Blog


Teaching again!

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Oh how glad I am to be back to teaching again. I’ve been filming some video classes (more on that, later) but I’m really looking forward to co-creating with real live students. Tomorrow’s class if FREE, too!

I’ll be teaching at the Okemos branch of the Capital Area District Library.  We’ll put together kid-sized t-shirts (12 mos-6/7) from parent-sized t-shirts.

There will be supplies available, including some thrifted shirts in case you want to practice on one that isn’t your favorite 80’s Metallica concert tee.  Just bring a sewing machine and your usual sewing supplies. (A ballpoint needle would help!)

If you want a copy of Sewing for Boys, I’ll have copies available for you to purchase.


ALL14_upcycle tshirts_flyer


Guest Posting on Monaluna’s Blog

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Hey everyone!  As you know, I’ve been working with Jennifer of Monaluna to create her sewing patterns.  I have a couple guest posts (part 1 and part 2) over on her blog today to turn her Little Bee Babysuit and Yoga Pants pattern into a summery sleeveless version.


If you have any questions on this or any other Monaluna Sewing Pattern, you can feel free to email me.  I hope you give it a try!


Little Bee Tutorial


The Breeze Top Pattern Review and Giveaway

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Breeze Top is lovely for plus-sized little girls

It was an honor to teach at Whipstitch in Atlanta a couple years ago with my friend Rae. It was there that I had the pleasure of meeting Shannon of LittleKidsGrow.com when she was just getting started.  Her first pattern for Tweens arrived recently, and I knew I had to make one up for my Ella.  It’s not easy to find patterns that work without significant alteration for Plus-sized girls (other than my own, of course!) so I pre-ordered this one because I just loved the style at first sight.

I have a feeling Ella will wear this for a very long time, and we’ve already made plans for a second one.


We chose to sew up the knit version, because Ella prefers knit to wovens every day of the week and twice on Sunday.  We chose some gorgeous organic cotton knit from NearSeaNaturals (which has since changed ownership – but I’m hoping the high quality remains, because this is my favorite solid knit…) and some lovely Cloud9 Organic Voile designed by Rashida Coleman-Hale.  If you haven’t tried this voile, you must get your hands on it.   Pictured here is The Way of Flowers.

My favorite details of the Breeze Top are the cleverly constructed elastic-back yoke which lends a lot of flexibility in sizing, and a nice roomy arm opening for a full range of movement.  The gently gathered skirt portion of the top is comfortable and roomy enough for any toddler-belly a girl could still have. Shannon’s instructions are clear, and nicely illustrated.  I was able to put this top together in around 30 minutes, not including cutting.  That’s because Ella helped, and she did all the cutting (beautifully, and safely, I might add) about a week ago.

Note here, that I made the size 14, but Ella is 4’7″, so she’s really a size 8 or 10 in height.  We wanted to use the longer length of the 14 so she’d have more seasons of wear.  Of course, it’s also a style that lends itself well to adding a band for length once your darling grows too tall for her tunics.  We may end up adding a band anyway at the rate my girl is sprouting up; you can see how tall she is at 7 1/2 compared to her dad, who is not a tiny fella!



There have already been some great posts this week with some lovely versions of the Breeze Top on all shapes and sizes of girl (yay!) and more to come, so please be sure to check out the other reviews.

Breeze Blog Tour Pic
There’s a giveaway, too, so click on the image to go to Shannon’s blog to enter to win one of  (3) Breeze Top patterns and (3) $25 Gift Certificates to The Ribbon Retreat.

If you’d like to buy one of these sweet patterns for yourself, you can use the code BREEZETOUR for 25% off in Shannon’s Etsy Shop while the tour is still on.


Do you sew for a plus-sized child?  What do you wish we patternmakers would include to make fit simpler and more successful for you?  What are your favorite patterns to sew for your kid? I’d love to know, so please share your answers in the comments.


I have to take photos to share my work, but I don’t in any way consider myself a photographer. Not even a photo-enthusiast. I prefer to take close-ups of details. You know, details don’t talk back, or wiggle, or act bored. Seams don’t make a goofy face. Pleats don’t complain when you need just one more shot.  Most importantly, the details pose just how you ask them to.  Children don’t.  At least mine don’t.

I am pretty sure my discomfort in taking photos is a big reason my littlest kid doesn’t really like participating in photo shoots. I love having pictures of Ella, but they just never seem to turn out really well.

My main problem – outside of not having the skills and experience required to take good photographs can be summed up in a single word: styling.

I didn’t know the first thing about styling, which is obvious when you have a look at a standard shot of Ella:


That’s my girl, shoved up against a wall, while I hope to edit out the light switch later.

Recently I’ve been trying new things, like getting her outside (see Vintage May), but I still know so little about what makes a good photograph, that I was only guessing.  Considering that my work is making clothes, successfully capturing those in images is something I need to learn right away.

Enter: Style That Kid by Alida Lee of AlidaMakes.com

Learn to take Photos that POP with Styling lessons from AlidaMakes.com

Alida really knows how to take a photo that brings out the best in her subjects.  I hoped to learn a little of that, and in reading through the gorgeous full-color eBook, I feel like the very little I knew I should be doing was confirmed, while the other 99% of the book was totally new-to-me information I believe will really make a difference.

It’s not a “how to use your camera” manual (though, clearly, I am in dire need of that!) but she has such great advice about timing, location, and props, that I felt like I had a private lesson, and you will, too.

My Next pass was a little better:


It helps that she loves being at the horse stable. (As evidenced by her only genuine smile of the day on top.)

I took Alida’s “find contrast” advice to heart and already feel like the bottom two photos are at least 50% better than the hallway up-against-the-wall photo.

She also suggests using props and accessories to enhance the images, which is genius on two levels: 1. it creates visual interest 2. it distracts the child from the self-consciousness of being photographed.  I cannot imagine a better “prop” than a horse, so I attempted to take photos during her lesson.  Outside the barn, she was ahorse, and difficult to catch.


Inside the barn, the light was really gold.  It was beautiful in person, but I had nothing white with me to actually set the white balance on my camera, so the photos didn’t turn out as clear and neutral as I’d have liked. I am touched, however, that I was able to catch a glimpse of the care she shows the horses she rides.


In a nutshell, Alida’s book is fantastic.  Her tips are spot-on, she communicates clearly and in such a straightforward manner, you can’t help but trust her.  I know I will be using more and more techniques from this book as I continue to try to learn to use my camera.  I truly hope she writes a book about how to use your camera, ASAP, because I will be first in line to buy it.



You can buy your copy right now over at AlidaMakes – and if you hurry – you might still be able to get in on the giveaway!

It’s worth every penny to have your very own copy of Alida’s priceless advice.  I received an advance copy to review, but I bought the eBook with my own monay anyway, because it is just that good.

Go check out the other blog tour stops to see what Style That Kid! can do in the hands of a photographer who really knows what they’re doing!



Maker Mail #1 !

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I love receiving mail, that’s probably why I do most of my boring shopping on Amazon – cutting board, coconut milk, you know the drill… even  everyday stuff of life feels like a gift when I get to open a package!  Just imagine a REAL gift you give yourself arriving in the mail; something handmade, something special.  And, like a gift, the contents are a surprise (Totally not like when I simply forget I ordered 3 lbs. of flax seeds from amazon.com).  That’s the idea behind Maker Mail from Oh My! Handmade Goodness.

Maker Mail #1 from OMHG! Just a couple spots left, so claim yours now!

I don’t know about you, but I love giving gifts just as much as I love receiving them (maybe more), so I was thrilled to participate as one of the Makers in this first offering!  If you sign up to receive Maker Mail #1 you will receive a random selection of 3 handmade goodies (no duplicates, obvs) to arrive at your home directly from the artists themselves that will be a super sweet gift for you or someone you love.

My contribution is a team effort with Kimberly Kling of Joyful Roots. Kimberly is pretty fantastic in general, but especially in working with graphics.

This kit includes all the materials needed to get you started and create your own hand stitched accessory in one crafty afternoon: 3 pre-cut organic knit fabric pieces, one mini skein of embroidery floss, two hand sewing needles in an organic wool felt needle book, and instructions to complete your project.

We’re using adorable organic fabric from her Lumberjack Attack line, combined with some cotton/bamboo blend solids.  The mini skeins of embroidery floss I’m including is from Weeks Dye Works, and the needle book I have put together from each kit uses Kim’s fabric and some organic wool felt.  Kimberly has made the instruction card a thing of beauty, and we’re wrapping it all up with a sweet, reusable muslin project bag.
One of the maker mail gifts you could receive with your subscription
Of course, it’s possible you won’t get our kit in your maker mail subscription – but there are so many other wonderful makers participating; you cannot lose.


Give yourself a subscription to Maker Mail #1 today, while there are still slots available.  You deserve it!



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I know it’s right in the middle of my quilt market prep, but I have been admiring Vintage May ever since I first noticed it, so when hosts by Kristin of Skirt As Top and Jessica of Craftiness Is Not Optional invited me to participate, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist! (And I knew I wouldn’t want to miss it, even if it meant staying up later than is good for me in order to do it!) vintage may

I have always been fascinated by the construction of clothes, even as a child.  I want to know how things go together.  As I grew up and began making  and buying my own clothes, I became more and more interested in how clothes stay together.  We have so much machinery and technology available to us, and affordable to the home sewist these days,  that it’s easier than ever to whip up a garment in a couple hours at home.  I’m always surprised when I turn a vintage garment inside out to see the finishes inside. Their complexity to achieve finishes for which we have specific machinery nowadays, yet handmade look they have (even ready to wear) astounds me!

I have had a crazy polyester print sitting in my stash for quite a while, and honestly I never thought I would use it. Recently, though, Ella has become interested in Vintage EVERYTHING.  We went to Cleveland last weekend to see Neko Case at the Beachland Ballroom and while having Mother’s Day Brunch (gluten free biscuits with vegan mushroom gravy and a page-long cocktail list?  YES PLEASE!), we discovered a vintage shop called “This Way Out” in the basement (there was no way out, by the way) where she tried on every dress.  Because my girl is big for her age, and because she somehow still has a toddler-like belly, she can wear Adult size S clothes, though the shoulders are always too large – naturally.  John and I encouraged her to get a couple dresses anyway, and she has been wearing them constantly.

I asked her when we got home from our weekend away if she’d like a new dress from vintage fabric.  “That’s still Vintage, right?” she asked. Once I reassured her that she could still refer to her new, handmade frock a Vintage Dress, she was game! I was delighted to get the chance to make her something bike-rideable from the polyester I picked up once upon a time at a Small Craft event.  Ella and I studied the insides of the dresses we picked up in Cleveland, and chose the details I would emulate in my design.

One of the construction techniques which surprised me was the use of both facings and lining, while the facings are stitched to the lining.

Vintage Dress Inside Details - facing and lining and bound edges

I also stitched the facings to the lining, but I left off the armhole facings for two reasons:

Ella’s arms are much smaller, therefore she has smaller arm openings, and I assumed these were placed on the original dress in case the arm opening gapped so the original fabric would be visible rather than the lining fabric.

The lining fabric used on the vintage dress is very thin.  I assumed also that the facings were used to increase the durability of high-wear areas.  My lining is strong, so I omitted the armhole facings.


Ella's new vintage dress - stitched down facing, bound finishes, and no armhole facing


The side seams were finished with pinking shears: photo5

There’s not much I love more than getting out those gingher pinking shears I bought down at Whipstitch in Atlanta a few years ago.  I stitched down these seam allowances, too:

pinked side seams on new vintage dress.


There’s a sweet bow detail on each side.  Bows are tied, then stitched down. Bow detail.  Stitched down.

While it’s a different shape, I stitched down Ella’s squared-off bow as well.

Stitched-down bow for Ella's new vintage dress.


As you can see, she really loves it! Best of all, it’s bike-riding compatible!

VintageMaySeries Collage with Ella

I always prefer to use natural fibers in my sewing, especially for kids, but re-use is important to me as well, so this project was just the perfect combination of cheeseball polyester print, organic cotton muslin (lining), and the timing of this Vintage May series hosted by Kristen and Jessica!




Classic Typography. Classic Snark.

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The Fashionable Type Button

When Stacey of Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy Crafts mentioned that she was looking for typography inspired projects, I jumped at the chance to join in. This family has a teenager who’s a poet, a 7 year old who is a self-proclaimed Grammar Police Deputy (reporting to the Grammar Police Chief who is, naturally, me), and more books than we have room to store in our home. We are a WORDS family.

Peter agreed to wear whatever I’d make him because he’s a good sport, and because I guaranteed he would get vintage mom-snarkiness to keep.

Have you ever done freezer paper stencils?  I know there are tutorials all over the web.  In fact, I vaguely know of at least three, written by friends, which completely escape me; persisting in teasing the foggy corners of my brain.  If you are my friend and you wrote a kick-ass freezer paper stencil tutorial, or even if you aren’t my friend yet, and you know of the BEST tutorial for freezer paper stencils ever, please leave a link in the comments for me. Pretty please?

Once I found the freezer paper and x-acto blades in my basement, the rest was a breeze: I printed on regular paper the phrase in the font and layout I wanted.  Then I cut the paper to a manageable size.  I placed a similarly-sized piece of freezer paper shiny side down on my cutting mat, washi-taped it in place, then placed the printed paper on top of that, also washi-taped in place.

The most challenging part of the entire project (other than the recurring panic that I would ruin a hand-sewn tshirt and have to start over) was cutting the words.

During my harrowing process, I would have appreciated these 3 tips:

1. Use a Sharp (new) blade. You will be cutting through two layers of paper.

2. Keep track of the floaty bits in the letters you may want to keep.

3. Don’t forget to place those little bits before you add paint!


I inserted a cardboard buffer behind my shirt front, so I would keep the ink on one layer only of the tshirt. I then pressed the freezer paper, shiny side down, directly onto my shirt front. Using a natural sponge, I dabbed color into the stencil, using some leftover shimmery screenprinting ink from my Yudu.  Do you remember those screen-printing kit thingies from a few years ago?  I HAD to have one.  Used it precisely once.  Decided to keep it anyway, you know, to enhance my craft tool/supply archive?  Someday I know I’ll actually do some screenprinting.  In my spare time. Anyway – I’m really glad I had that silver ink.  I love how it’s kind of subtle, but kind of sparkly at the same time. I tricked my son into wearing sparkles!

WP_20140510_006 (1)

Speaking of “spare time” I somehow always make time for handstitching, as seen on the raglan shirt / sleeve seam below.  I cannot resist.  Someday he’ll stumble across this post and demand that I take it down.  For now, What the Helvetica:



Not only did Stacey put together a fantastic lineup, but there are giveaways and prizes!  Go check out her blog and enter to win some really fun typography-related prizes.


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PAINT Collection from Carrie Bloomston

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inspiration printed on fabric

For Carrie Bloomston, celebrating your inner artist is a life’s mission.  In her last collection, Collage, she blew everyone away with the uniqueness of her concept and the richness of her colors.  You can see what I made last time here.

Since then, Carrie has written a book, and continued to inspire her local community with classes. Her newest collection picks right up where she left off.  Carrie is an abstract painter, so naturally it was time for Paint as the theme.  This collection continues to highlight her collage technique, and brings it along even further. 

PAINT Collection

I asked Carrie what she’d like me to create for her this time, and she said – Oh, Karen, do your thing!  We had a really short time period in which to actually create the garment, so drafting a custom dress was out of the question this year.  I checked out Carrie’s To Make board on Pinterest.  What better way to delight Carrie than to make her something she already admires?  I knew the Simone Dress from Victory Patterns was The One as soon as I saw it.  I had never heard of Victory Patterns before, but I’m so happy I found this in her collection of desired makes, because it seems to be the perfect dress for Carrie.


I wanted to use as many fabrics as I could, while not visually overpowering Carrie’s tiny frame.  I was relieved that the dress came together so easily, since it does appear to be quite complex.  I made only minor construction modifications to finish the inside with a full bodice lining so I could enclose all the seams, knowing Carrie will be wearing this often.  We also wanted to show the fabric on the inside of the dress because the asymmetrical hem, while beautiful, tends to show a lot of the wrong side of fabric when worn.  I partially lined the back skirt to prevent the wrong side of the fabric from showing.  I also bound the raw edges visibly, instead of turning them to the inside for a clean finish for one last POP of color.


Windham Fabrics put together a beautiful lookbook here, and catalog within a very tight timeline. I shared some details along the way during the day and a half I used to make and return the dress for the photo shoot you see above.

Carrie’s fabric allows for fussy-cutting to be meaningful.

Piping detail on the dress back.

A wide bound hem for weight and beauty.

Thanks for stopping by.  Please be sure to check out the rest of the Blog Party here:

April 9 April Rhodes
April 10 Sally Keller + Julie Goldin
April 11 Shea Henderson
April 12 Ramona Burke + Jenny Kelly
April 13 Sam Hunter A Vintage Fairytale (Staci Barrett)
April 14 Rachael Gander + Erica Sage
April 15 Karen LePage + Tia Curtis
April 16 Shelly Figueroa + Fabrications2b (Bonnie Bobman)

PAINT is now selling to shops so tell your favorite local fabric store to place an order soon to get the fabric for you in July/August.

The PAINT collection celebrates creativity and expression. As a creativity enabler, Carrie intends to help you Celebrate your inner artist™! The collection includes bold, playful prints inspired by a painter’s tools. Color wheels, paint swatches, paint brushes and other collaged images create an artful pastiche of sewing possibility. Carrie loves to make something from nothing. She showcases up-cycling and recycling by creating her imagery from brown paper bags, paint swatches and colorful newsprint. PAINT tells the truly inspiring story of stepping into a creative life. Additionally, we are pleased to rerelease her wildly popular Newsprint in three color ways.

You can read more about PAINT on Carrie’s blog, leave a comment below to enter a drawing to win a charm pack of PAINT from Windham.

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