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!

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.


i remember feeling like this…

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At the end of January, in the middle of the worst winter on record, Ella and I planned a breakfast date before going to her new school.  She was having a more than a little trouble adjusting, even though the move was her idea, and her choice.  Instead of going to Starbucks for a before-school oatmeal breakfast date with my girly as planned, I sat in the dining room, watching desperately sad tears roll down her pink cheeks as if caught in slow motion.  She was so sad.  As sad as seven years old can be (which is, incidentally, very, deeply sad).

As usual, I had just asked her to put on her coat and then I sat down to wait.  I took out my planner to jot down one more thing for today and looked up, only to notice her standing next to me.  Not putting on a coat.  Crying.

“Why do you only have me written in your book 2 times, mommy?” (choke, sob….heart breaking)

“What are you talking about?”

“You have all these things written in your book, and only two have my name by them.  And one is CROSSED OFF!!”

At which point, she begins bawling in can’t-catch-your-breath sobs. I am confounded.  This child, with whom I spend every waking (and almost every sleeping) moment, other than when she is at school, dearly wants validation in writing. As far as she was concerned I Forgot Her.

Just because we know how deeply we love our children, and even when we feel like we’re showing it, we can always take a minute to tell them, too.

It is so easy to forget how delicate children are.  She saw all the things I was writing and quickly assumed they were the most important things in my day, my week, my life.  Of course they weren’t. They were the things I was afraid I’d forget, or at least neglect prioritizing.  I told her this, but the little soul-damage had already been done.  I’m sure her little heartbreak is healed by now, but it’s made a lasting impression on me.

I never forget to prioritize my children.  I wait at home (or rush to get here) so I can be around to listen to my 16 year old tell me about his day.  I put my own projects aside so I can sit and listen with all my heart and mind when Ella practices violin. I mentioned in an interview recently that if I didn’t have children, I would just work all the time; that’s how much I love my work.  But I don’t work all the time, because these kids of mine make Meaning in my otherwise busybusybusy life.  I love them MORE. They require that I take time for nurturing, whether it’s caring for them directly, generally making time to connect, or even to take care of myself.

And how are they supposed to know that, if I don’t tell them with words?  This is the only life they have – they don’t have anything else with which they can compare their life’s experience.  They have the best mom in the world, but they can’t know that because they have never had a bad one, right?  So, I have learned my lesson in communication.  I acknowledge how important she is to me in writing.  

I put her name in my planner at least once a day.

Articulate your Love

I’d love to hear from you:

Do you tell your kids how important they are with words?  Obviously actions are more important, because that creates their baseline experience, but how do you come out and articulate their importance in your life?


Yesterday I dropped off my kid to driver’s training, and he hesitated before exiting the car.

“Mom.  I was published today. Here’s I bought this for you.”

He handed me his school’s literary journal and trod off through the snow to school after school.  My son is different from any other person on earth, and you will know that after speaking to him for more than 45 seconds.  When he told me he was submitting a poem to the literary journal at school, I had to admit, even I was surprised.  My kid is constantly surprising me.  I never knew what to expect for him, not because he’s uncomfortably unpredictable, because he isn’t.  I couldn’t picture what life for a teenager with Asperger Syndrome would look like.  He surprises me because he embraces his other-ness and wears it like a badge of honor.  He cares about people.  Connects with people, and has genuine friendships.  He is remarkable in a way I never imagined I could hope for him.

When I say I have teenagers, I am often met with a “knowing” look of shared despair, but I love having this guy in my life.  I love learning who he is, and I can: because he’s willing to share his transformation with me, and we are both better for it.

I asked Peter if I could post the entire poem because I think it’s good (and not just because my kid wrote it), he assented.


Semper Manere by Peter Andrews


In this corrupted, decrepit home

a chaotic mess expanded forth.

Spray-painted graffiti,

a myriad of photographs,

an old cuckoo clock,

half-eaten lozenges,

a nearly empty bottle of bubbles

thrown on the ground

drenching ancient magazines.

Coffee stains where a desk once was

speckling the floor,

a champion’s trophy, once glorious,

now worthless.

A once-deified idol, now broken and bent,

but the pictures looked happy, from what I could tell.

Pictures of jolly people eating pretzels covered in butter.

It looked like they were having a swell time.

There was a picture of a farmer milking a cow

while his children churned butter on the porch.

Who were these people?

What was their story?

Pictures of a sphinx fighting a Paladin,

of and old advertisement for aluminum foil,

of a Maine coon kitten, like my little Penelope.

I felt a tinge of sadness when I finally set it down.

A picture of a jungle,

where chimpanzees looked toward the camera.

Pictures of a high-voltage power pant and a little girl in a tutu.

A decrepit history book opened to a page

with images of a Pharaoh subjugating his enemies.

In this crypt

I stared with contemplation

at this heap of so-called trash;

trash filled with memories of a better time.

To the people who lived here

it was their sanctified treasure

of which I came to rob them.

So I showed them mercy and left in peace.

Semper manere; manere in memoria.


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